Tag:Hawaii
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:35 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2010 5:38 pm
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Saturday Thoughts, 12/4

Due to the minimal number of meaningful games this weekend, I chose to take the two major off-field stories and include them in this week’s Saturday Thoughts.


 1. Oregon Wins Civil War, Headed to Glendale

The Oregon Ducks secured their place in the BCS Championship game with a 37-20 victory over rival Oregon State in Corvallis.  Over the second half of its Pac-10 schedule, the Ducks defense has really stepped up.   

Oregon held Washington and Cal to 16 and 13 points, respectively.  Though the defense had trouble in the first half last week, it stepped up in the second half and held Arizona to 10 points after intermission.  The Ducks had another solid showing this week, holding Oregon State to 13 late into the fourth quarter before allowing a late Beavers TD. 

If the Ducks are to walk away from Glendale as National Champions, their defense will have to step up again with Cam Newton and the Auburn offense joining them.

 

2. Auburn Hammers South Carolina

It took until Game 13, but the Auburn Tigers finally have a dominating performance over a quality opponent.  South Carolina provided little resistance to an Auburn team on a mission, falling 56-17. 

Prior to today, the Tigers survived close calls against Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama.  Additionally, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia played Auburn well early before fading later in the game.  This was the first game all season where Auburn showed the world its full potential on both sides of the ball.  Assuming Newton is eligible (I’ll get to that later), Auburn should be the favorite come January. 

This record-setting loss is yet another black eye for the SEC’s Eastern Division, which is experiencing a down season, to say the least.  For the regular season, the division finished with a 36-37 (.493) record.  Included in that record was a 3-16 record in matchups against the SEC West (1-15 in games that didn’t include Western cellar-dweller Ole Miss).  The East’s season is easily the worst performance by a major conference (or conference division, as is this case) that I have ever seen, including the Big East’s 2004 and 2010 seasons.


3. Cameron Newton’s Status

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last month (or Auburn fans in a severe state of denial), issues have come up to question Auburn QB Cameron Newton’s amateur status.  Long story short, multiple sources have reported that Newton and/or his father Cecil solicited money from Mississippi State University during Newton’s recruitment last year.   

Recently, the NCAA ruled that Newton’s father did solicit money.  However, since there was no proof Newton had any knowledge of his father’s actions, the NCAA ruled him ineligible.  The Rev. Cecil Newton did not get off without punishment.  The NCAA has severely limited his access to Auburn and its football program.  From my understanding, any time a parent says or does anything on behalf of their child, it is as if the student-athlete took said action.  I also thought that as soon as money was solicited from any source, the student lost his/her amateur status.  Based on these two rules, as well as the facts in the case, it would seem to me that Newton should not have been eligible at any point this season. 

Enter the conspiracy theorists.  College football message boards have been lighting up all week.  Some people have said that the NCAA and SEC commissioner Mike Slive have been conspiring to maintain the conference’s position atop college football (in spite of uncharacteristically bad years from the many SEC schools, particularly in the East).  Others have claimed this is a conspiracy to keep TCU out of the title game.

I wouldn’t go that far, but I would not put Newton on my Heisman ballot if I had one.  The Heisman is the ultimate individual prize in amateur football.  As I understand the rules, Cameron Newton no long qualifies as an amateur.


4. TCU and the Big East

To me, TCU’s marriage to the Big East Conference is a match made in reactionary heaven.  It is my belief that when the history of this round of conference expansion is written, neither party will be viewed as a winner (many more will be seen as losers).   

With TCU, Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii, et al., the MWC was still on its way to BCS-AQ status (especially if it were to add Kevin Sumlin’s resurgent Houston program).  I also think the Big East’s AQ status was never at risk.  There are too many people living in the Northeastern United States (especially New York and Philadelphia) for the BCS to risk abandoning those markets.  If the MWC were to get AQ status, it would not have been at the Big East’s expense; instead, there would have been a seventh AQ conference. 

TCU’s decision moves it to a conference where the closest school is over 600 miles away (the majority of the Big East is 1,000 miles from Fort Worth).  Though not a problem for football, this could become an issue for TCU’s non-revenue sports, particularly baseball.  Moving TCU’s strong baseball program from the MWC to the Big East is at best a lateral move. 

The decision to expand in the name of football has the potential to lead to a split of the Big East to two (or three) conferences.  Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was the first to express his displeasure.  This decision would likely be enough to drive Syracuse to the Big Ten, should the conference choose to expand again.   

There are multiple rumors about what the next move will be for the Big East’s non-football members.  The first option is the formation of an eight-team basketball conference.  The other popular option is slightly more convoluted: Marquette and DePaul (possibly Notre Dame, too) have discussed the idea of working with Dayton, Xavier, St. Louis and the private schools of the Horizon League to form a new conference of Midwestern private schools with an emphasis on basketball. 

Essentially, the Big East sacrificed its status as the nation’s best basketball conference to slightly upgrade its football status.


5. Sooners Send Huskers to Big Ten With a Loss

Earlier this week, I wrote an article claiming that the Okahoma-Nebraska Big 12 title game would be the most entertaining of the five conference championship games.  I caught quite a bit of flack from members of SEC fanbases.  The primetime performance of these great rivals certainly vindicated me. 

Nebraska jumped out to a 17-0 lead early on, but was unable to hold off OU.  The Huskers were unable to move the ball effectively in the second half as Oklahoma’s defense proved too strong and too fast for NU.  Very rarely in a Nebraska game does the other team’s defense outplay the Blackshirts, but that was clearly the case Saturday night. 

Barring a bowl matchup, tonight’s game was the last chapter that will be written in this once-great rivalry for the near future.  The earliest these two programs will be able to resume their rivalry will be in 2020 and 2021.  Negotiations are already in progress.  Hopefully an annual OOC game can eventually find its way onto the schedule.  However, even if it does, I fear the rivalry will never be the same.  We may have just witnessed the last great Oklahoma-Nebraska game.

 

6. Virginia Tech Runs Table in ACC

When James Madison embarrassed Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium, many experts left VT for dead.  The Hokies responded with the heart of a champion, rolling off 11 consecutive wins.  Only Georgia Tech and North Carolina State provided a significant challenge to VT.  The Hokies beat GT 28-21 in Blacksburg and won 41-30 at NC State.  No other team managed to get within two touchdowns of Virginia Tech for the rest of the regular season.  Atlantic Division champion Florida State didn’t put up much of a fight, losing the highest-scoring ACC Championship game in history, 44-33.  

The Orange Bowl committee must be disappointed.  In Florida State, the Orange Bowl (played in Miami) would have had a school with a strong local following as an anchor.  Virginia Tech travels well, but won’t be able to sell as many tickets in South Florida as the ‘Noles.  With only UConn and Stanford to choose from, the Orange Bowl is destined to be the biggest loser when BCS pairings are announced. 

As far as the ACC is concerned, this game was a huge success.  The ACC Championship game has been plagued by less-than-desirable matchups the last few years.  Due to this, it has been difficult for the ACC to sell tickets for the game (previously held in Tampa and Jacksonville).  The matchup, combined with the game’s new location in Charlotte, give the league its best title game to date.


7. Three-Way Tie Atop Big East, UConn to BCS


This has been a rough season for Big East football, clearly its worst since 2004.  The conference tallied a net record of 52-44 (.541).  Two-time defending champion Cincinnati finished a disappointing 4-8 (including a 2-3 OOC mark).  Greg Schiano’s Rutgers team matched Cincy’s record. 

In an attempt to find the silver lining, all was not lost this season in the Northeast.  Syracuse alumus Doug Marrone led the Orange to its first bowl since 2004, and is clearly the favorite for conference (and possibly national) Coach of the Year.  South Florida was solid, if not spectacular, in Skip Holtz’s first season (including a win at Miami).  Charlie Strong appears to have the Louisville program back on track.  West Virginia had a typical season and just missed another Orange Bowl bid. 

Congratulations to the University of Connecticut on clinching its first-ever BCS bid (either Orange or Fiesta).  The Huskies won an incredibly ugly game in Tampa Saturday night, scoring no offensive touchdowns in their 19-16 victory.  Unlike his Boise State counterpart, Huskies kicker Dave Teggart calmly sent his 52-yard FG attempt through the uprights to give his team the lead with less than 20 seconds remaining. 

Listening to the game, you could tell that ESPN is worried about the ratings that Connecticut will be able to earn in its BCS game.  The announcing crew spent most of the second half trying to sell viewers on the legitimacy of the UConn team. 

This was clearly the biggest win in the history of Connecticut’s football program.  The Orange Bowl will have an interesting decision to make Sunday: It has to choose between 8-4 UConn and an 11-1 Stanford team that doesn’t travel well.


8. Central Florida Wins C-USA, Improves Bid for Big East Membership


Saturday afternoon’s Conference-USA Championship game was clearly the best of the noon kickoff games.  UCF was just too talented for SMU to handle this afternoon as the Knights won 17-7.  This win certainly helps UCF’s case as it seeks an invitation to join the Big East. 

Credit June Jones for building this SMU program, though.  When he took over three years ago, SMU was one of the most pathetic programs in the entire Bowl Subdivision.  After a 1-11 first season, Jones has won 15 games over the last two seasons, taking the team to its first two bowls since the NCAA Death Penalty in the mid-80s.  SMU has shared the C-USA West title each of the past two seasons, but this year marked the program’s first visit to the Championship game.  No matter where SMU ends up after realignment, Jones will have them contending for conference titles. 

Both programs have been subject to expansion rumors over the past several months.  UCF has been widely touted as a potential 10th member of the Big East (joining in 2012 with TCU).  SMU has come up in some conversations as an expansion candidate for the Mountain West.  It’s pretty clear to me that both programs have their best days in front of them.


9. Miami (OH) Completes Turnaround Season with MAC Title


Last season, the Miami University RedHawks struggled to a 1-11 (1-7) record under first-year coach Michael Haywood.  Most picked them to finish last in the MAC East again this season. 

Out of nowhere, Miami finished the regular season 8-4 (7-1), surprising even its coach.  The RedHawks needed some help from Kent State in the final weekend to secure their place in Detroit.  Kent knocked Ohio University last weekend to give Miami sole possession of first in the MAC East.  Miami came in to Friday night’s game a heavy underdog to West Division Champion Northern Illinois (I believe I had them losing by 20 in an article from last week…oops).  Miami hung tough for the entire game and put themselves in a position to take the lead late.  A poor decision by an NIU defensive back on 4th-and-long gave Miami one last breath.  The RedHawks capitalized, found the end zone and won the game, 26-21. 

Believe it or not, the MAC Championship game was one of this weekend’s best games.


10. Good Week on the Field for MWC’s Newest Members

The last week must have been difficult for Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson.  Since realignment got rolling this summer, the MWC has lost all three of its “anchor” programs (Utah, BYU and now TCU).  Beginning in 2012, the Mountain West will look to Boise State and its fellow newcomers from the WAC (Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada) to bring some stability back to the conference. 

On the field, all four programs had impressive weekends.  Boise, Nevada, and Hawaii had throwaway games against bottom-feeders from the WAC and MWC.  The schools beat Utah State, Louisiana Tech and UNLV by a combined score of 144-52. 

Fresno State had the biggest game of the four teams.  The Bulldogs welcomed a second opponent from a BCS-AQ conference to Fresno this season.  For the second time, the Bulldogs walked away with a win.  Illinois put up much more of a fight than Cincinnati earlier in the season, falling 25-23. 

If Thompson can find two more solid programs, the MWC may still have an outside chance at BCS-AQ status, but I highly doubt it.  If nothing else, the conference is far and away the strongest non-AQ league, and any unbeaten team should have no trouble locking up a BCS berth (a trip to the Championship game isn’t likely, though).



Top 10 (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    Wisconsin (3)

4.    TCU (4)

5.    Stanford (5)

6.    Ohio State (6)

7.    Michigan State (7)

8.    Arkansas (8)

9.    Texas A&M (9)

10.    Oklahoma (NR)

The Next Five: Missouri, LSU, Nevada, Boise State, Virginia Tech


Bonus Thought: My Heisman Ballot

Obviously, I don’t have a Heisman vote.  If I did, here is what I would submit.  Keep in mind that with Cameron Newton’s amateur status in question, I chose to leave him off my ballot.

1.    Andrew Luck—QB, Stanford: Over the course of this season, Andrew Luck established himself as the best pure passer in college football.  He led Stanford’s pro-style offense to a top 15 ranking this year.  I’m sure the Bills can’t wait to get their hands on this kid.  Luck finished the regular season with 3,051 yards passing, 28 TDs to seven INTs and three rushing TDs. 

2.    LaMichael James—RB, Oregon : The sophomore running back was the straw that stirred the drink in Chip Kelly’s option-based offense.  He ran for 1,548 yards (6.1 per carry) and scored 20 total TDs (19 rushing, one receiving) while leading the Ducks to Glendale. 

3.    Colin Kaepernick—QB, Nevada : The best dual-threat quarterback who I feel is eligible for the award this year.  Over the last four years, he ran Chris Ault’s pistol-based option attack to perfection.  Last week he led the Wolf Pack in a furious comeback to finally knock off the Boise State Broncos.  Kaepernick passed for 2,830 yards, 20 TDs and seven INTs.  He also rushed for 1,184 yards and 20 more TDs.



Posted on: November 19, 2010 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2010 3:12 pm
 

Hawaii to join Mountain West, What Move is Next?

Overnight, news began to break that the University of Hawaii will be moving from the WAC to the Mountain West for football and the Big West for basketball and non-revenue sports.  The addition of Hawaii pushes the Mountain West to a total of 11 teams.  To my sensibilities, this indicates that at least one more move will occur between now and the start of the 2012-13 academic year.  Either TCU will leave for the Big East (or Big XII) and the MWC will stand pat with 10 teams, the Mountain West will add one school to bring the league to an even 12 and add a conference championship game, or TCU will leave and the MWC will replace the Frogs with two teams.  Here are some of the possible moves, and my take on how likely they are.


TCU Joins the Big East

The popular rumor over the last several weeks has TCU taking its football program (and possibly entire athletic department) to the Big East in an attempt to increase the football relevance of both parties.  The short-term benefits for both parties are pretty obvious.  The Big East gains some of the football credibility that it lost in recent years and TCU gets a path to the BCS (and national championship) that many perceive as easier. 

The Big East intends to add at least two teams in the near future.  TCU and Central Florida are the current favorites, followed by East Carolina, Villanova, Temple, Memphis, and others in no particular order.  Currently, the Big East wants to add these schools as football only members, but the schools are holding out for full membership.  Should TCU join as a football-only member, it would likely move all other sports to the Missouri Valley conference as the MWC has indicated it won’t allow member schools to maintain membership without a football program. 

I think that in the end, TCU will choose the MWC over the Big East.  Geographically, the MWC is a better fit and TCU has a history with those schools that it doesn’t have with the Big East.  Over the long run, I feel that the prospects for the MWC as a football conference are greater than those of the Big East.


TCU Joins the Big XII

This is a move that makes a whole lot more sense than a move to the Big East.  If the Big XII is to survive over the long run, it will need to return to a 12-team, 2-division format.  In my book, TCU is on the short list of best options for Big XII expansion (along with Memphis, Houston, and BYU).   TCU provides another strong football program to bolster the conference.  It also adds another baseball power to rival Texas for conference supremacy. 

However, there are many negatives that get in the way of TCU joining the Big XII.  There are still many left over bad feelings from the breakup of the old SWC.  Also, TCU may add respect for the Big XII in football and baseball, but it detracts from Big XII basketball (currently the conference’s strongest sport).  Houston, BYU, and Memphis are all stronger basketball options.  Lastly, the Big XII already has the Dallas-Fort Worth Media Market well wrapped up.  Financially, the conference has little to gain from adding another Texas-based school.  Memphis and BYU (Colorado State or New Mexico as well, but not likely) serve as better choices for expanding the media “footprint” of the conference.


Expansion Options

When push comes to shove, I don’t see either of the previous options as workable for TCU.  Instead, I see the most likely move for the MWC is the addition of a 12th program to improve the conference’s ability to reach BCS-AQ status.  Here is a list of the candidates ranked in order of likelihood/benefit for the conference.

 

#7 Rice

Advantages: Rice has a history with many of the Mountain West schools from its days in the WAC immediately following the breakup of the SWC.  Rice adds the Houston TV market to the MWC.  Could add a potential geographic rival  

Negatives: Rice is not exactly a football power.  The Owls are not very competitive in C-USA, so I don’t think they will be able to be competitive in the MWC.  Rice won’t add anything to the conference’s profile and would likely detract from a bid for BCS-AQ status.  In terms of the media market, Rice has one of the smallest alumni bases in the Bowl Subdivision, and the Houston market would be better served by adding UH.  Houston is a geographic outlier in the current MWC. 

Likelihood: Zero—Rice is better off in C-USA and the MWC is better off without them.

 

#6 Tulsa

Advantages: Tulsa has a history with many MWC schools (same WAC connection as Rice).  The Tulsa market would be a welcome addition for the Mtn. Network.  The football program is stronger than Rice. 

Negatives: Much like Rice, Tulsa has a very small alumni base.  Though a relatively strong market, MWC games would play third fiddle to Oklahoma and OSU games.  I think there are some better markets.  The football program adds little to the conference’s resume.  Tulsa is a geographic outlier for the conference. 

Likelihood: Slightly better than Rice, razor thin—Tulsa is a better fit for C-USA

 

#5 Utah State

Advantages: Heading into this season, the MWC had a stranglehold on the Utah media market via BYU and Utah.  Starting next year, the MWC will have neither school, adding Utah State will keep the MWC relevant in Utah.  Utah State was offered and declined a to the conference several months ago.  The Aggie basketball program adds to an already strong MWC and helps cushion the blow of losing BYU and Utah.  USU has history with most of the MWC schools. 

Negatives: Though Utah State keeps the MWC on Utah televisions; USU is clearly the number three TV draw in the state and likely won’t help ratings in Utah.  When Utah State was invited, it was seen by most as a last-gasp attempt to keep BYU from leaving due to the close relationship between the schools.  The Aggies will likely not draw enough TV viewers to justify adding their weak football program and hurting the BCS-AQ bid.  Though good, the basketball program doesn’t make up for the lack of a strong football program.  As we all know, football is the driving force behind realignment. 

Likelihood: Slim—The football program just isn’t good enough and it doesn’t provide a strong enough TV draw.  It is not the best option for a non-Texas school, should the conference want to go in that direction.

 

#4 Montana

Advantages: The Montana football program is the class of the Championship Subdivision.  Having the Grizzlies should help the MWC football resume.  Montana has two national championships (1995-2001) and has appeared in five National Championship Games in the last decade (2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009).  Montana is an untapped market for FBS football. 

Negatives: The Grizzlies have already declined one invite from an FBS conference (the WAC) and appear to be happy remaining an FCS powerhouse.  The Montana media market doesn’t compare to the markets available in Texas. 

Likelihood: Moderate—This is the best non-Texas option for the conference.  Though Montana said no to the WAC, the MWC is a potential BCS-AQ conference and has much more stability than the WAC.

 

#3 Houston

Advantages: UH is a traditionally strong school for both football and basketball.  The university is planning on investing heavily in upgrading its athletic facilities.  UH grants access the Houston media (and recruiting) market for the MWC schools.  The addition of a second Texas school helps solidify the conference’s foothold in Texas. 

Negatives: Houston is a geographic outlier for the MWC.  UH doesn’t have a traditionally strong fan base.  Texas A&M and UT are the big draws in the area.  Houston might be holding out for an eventual Big XII invitation.  UH doesn’t have the kind of history with MWC schools as the next two options. 

Likelihood: Strong—There are more advantages than disadvantages to adding Houston.  The MWC couldn’t go wrong with this one.

 

#2 UTEP

Advantages: The El Paso media market is stronger than many would expect.  Not only is there a large population, but also UTEP athletics have no competition for attention.  El Paso is a better geographic fit in the MWC than C-USA.  UTEP has a history with most of the MWC. 

Negatives: The football program probably the fourth best option strength-wise for the conference.  The addition of UTEP still leaves TCU as the major geographic outlier in the eastern half of the conference. 

Likelihood: Very Strong—This is really a case of 1 and 1-A in my book.  There are several factors that lead me to putting this option second.

 

#1 SMU

Advantages: SMU football is historically the strongest program on the list (its resume is comparable to TCU, minus the Frogs’ recent success).  Under June Jones, the Mustangs appear to be on their way back to national relevance.  SMU has a strong and rich alumni base that is more than willing to support the team.  Adding TCU’s primary rival in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has two advantages.  First, it provides incentive for TCU to not leave should a “better offer” come around.  Second, it provides insurance should TCU leave, as the MWC will still have a foothold in the very important Dallas-Fort Worth market.  The University has a brand new football stadium. 

Negatives: Though traditionally strong, SMU has been less than stellar since receiving the NCAA death penalty.  Adding SMU would involve betting that the program will continue to improve under June Jones and/or his successor.  The University offers little in terms of adding to the conference’s media footprint.  SMU doesn’t bring much to the conference in sports other than football.  Adding SMU has the potential to be a very dangerous gamble. 

Likelihood: Very Strong—SMU is a sleeping giant of a football program.  Having the Mustangs is important both for keeping TCU and in a potential post-TCU apocalypse.

 

Thoughts?

This is where I come down on this issue.  What do you think?  Is there anything I misses?  Comments are encouraged and appreciated.

 

 


Posted on: October 17, 2010 11:26 am
 

Saturday Thoughts, 10/16

My Ten thoughts on this weekend's action, followed by an updated top ten list.

 

1.    #1 Knocked Off Again  

Another week, another #1 loses on the road.  Surprisingly, poor defense played a large role in Ohio State’s loss in Madison.  It’s clear that John Clay’s 100-yard rushing game (the first since Joe McKnight of USC in 2008) was the key to Wisconsin’s success.  Not so surprisingly, special teams also proved to be a problem.  When Wisconsin ran back the opening kickoff, you knew Ohio State was in trouble.  Clay extended the lead to 21-0 with two dominating TD runs before a field goal finally put Ohio State on the board.  A big interception and questionable personal foul put the Buckeyes in a position to bring the game close, but poor offensive execution left OSU with a long FG attempt that went wide left.  Terrelle Pryor led a furious comeback in the second half, reducing the deficit to a field goal early in the 4th quarter.  However, 10 consecutive Badger points and a late Pryor interception sealed Ohio State’s fate.  

 

2.    Shootout in the SEC  

What happened to the “great SEC defenses” people have been talking about all these years?  All I saw were 108 total points in the SEC game of the week.  All kidding aside, I said last week that if Auburn were to beat Arkansas, they would see a significant rise in my rankings.  True to my word, the Tigers have moved up.  However, I still have my reservations.  Up until the middle of the 4th Quarter, the Hogs were threatening to pull the upset.  After seeing the way their defense performed against the Arkansas backup quarterback I’m a little nervous about putting them in the top 3.  There are still 3 very losable games left on their schedule (next week against LSU, the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, and a potential SEC title game in Atlanta).  If Auburn wins out (LSU too), they should find themselves in Glandale.  Cameron Newton cemented his place as Heisman frontrunner.  I will be interested to see how he plays next week against the conference’s best defense, his first real test.  

 

3.    Texas Defense Comes up Big  

Leave it to Will Muschamp and the Texas defense to draw up the scheme that shuts down Taylor Martinez and the potent Nebraska offense.  Much like South Carolina last week, I think the bye played a large role in the success of the Longhorn defense.  Much like Michigan, Nebraska doesn’t have enough pieces around their young star quarterback to compete when he has a tough day.  Hats off to the UT offense as well, they didn’t move the ball much, but they moved it enough (especially on the ground) to win the game.  A question worth asking is which Texas performance is the truest representation of this team’s quality, getting manhandled at home by UCLA or the one that got a big win in Lincoln?  As is typical, the truth likely lies somewhere in between.  

 

4.    What About the Rest of the Big XII  

Lost in the commotion of Nebraska and Oklahoma’s undefeated runs and the struggles of Texas, there are several 2nd tier Big XII teams that have been quietly putting together solid years.  Both Oklahoma State and Missouri moved to 6-0 this afternoon with wins in the Lone Star State (OSU at Texas Tech and Mizzou at A&M).  Both teams will face their first big tests next week though, as the Cowboys welcome an angry Nebraska team to Stillwater and the Tigers welcome an Oklahoma team that is still very much in the National Title race to Columbia.  Additionally, Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats are 5-1 after a lopsided win over Kansas Thursday evening and had a great win to open their season against UCLA.  Lastly, Robert Griffin has the Baylor Bears one win away from their first Bowl game in 14 years after defeating Colorado in Boulder.   

 

5.    Illinois Better than Expected, Sparty has Big Ten’s Best D  

In the first half of the game in East Lansing, Illinois put the fear of God in Michigan State, leading 6-3 at the half.  In the second half, Kirk Cousins, the 2 headed monster at RB, and the rest of the Spartan offense looked much better as they ran away with the game 26-6.  After the way the Ohio State and Iowa defenses looked in their games against Wisconsin and Michigan respectively, it is a safe bet to say that Sparty has the Big Ten’s best defense.  MSU holds its BCS destiny in its own hands with only their game at Iowa as a big concern.  

 

6.    Bad Defense, Trouble Through the Air Cost Michigan Again  

There were points in their match up with Michigan that Iowa looked like the stereotypical Big Ten team that many people nationally accused of being “too slow,” especially on the defensive side of the ball.  Michigan was able to move the ball easily in large part due to its superior athleticism.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Michigan comeback was sparked by Tate Forcier’s entrance in to the game.  Given Denard Robinson’s struggles with going through reads and throwing accuracy, coming from behind can prove to be a problem.  Though I’m not advocating Forcier as the starter in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines are going to need an improved passing game if the want to win against the Big Ten’s better teams.  11 new starters on defense would help, too.   

Even in a losing effort, Michigan showed the rest of the Big Ten how Iowa can be beaten.  If a team can play ANY defense and takes advantage of Iowa’s less athletic secondary, they have a great shot at a win.  In spite of their loss in Madison, Ohio State seems to be the Big Ten team most equipped to take down Iowa.  Though I am being critical of Iowa, I do acknowledge how difficult Big Ten road wins (especially in Ann Arbor) are to come by.  

 

7.    Vandy Controls its Own Destiny is SEC East  

This SEC’s eastern division is light years behind the west.  Last week I said that 4 of the league’s top five resided in the west.  However, the case can even be made that ALL FIVE of the SEC’s best teams (Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, AND Mississippi State) are from the western division.  In inter-divisional games this season, the east has won only two games (Vanderbilt won at Ole Miss and South Carolina beat Alabama in Columbia).  Following South Carolina’s loss in Lexington, it is likely that a 5-3 (possibly even 4-4) team will go to Atlanta.  The Gators lost their third straight (all in Conference) for the first time since 1988.  Right now, 2-loss Vanderbilt (who lost to UConn) is tied for first and controls its own BCS destiny!  Even the 3-loss teams Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee  

 

8.    No Dominant ACC Team  

Since expanding to 12 teams, parity has been the only thing that can be counted on in the ACC.  Every time a team appears ready to separate themselves from the pack, they put in a performance that gives people cause to pause.  So far this season, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, and Georgia Tech have all fallen into this trap.  Florida State nearly became the most recent victim at home against Boston College.  In what was clearly a letdown game after the big win in South Beach, the ‘Noles found themselves trailing early in the 4th quarter.  I still stand by my statement that FSU is the best team in Florida this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a trap waiting for them down the road.  

 

9.    Late Night Games Hurt Boise State  

Boise State’s national title bid took a minor blow this week, as both Oregon State and Nevada lost on the road.  Oregon State’s 35-34 double overtime loss at Washington is another downturn in what has been a Jekyll and Hyde season for the Beavers, losing on the road to top ten Boise State and TCU while winning at then top ten Arizona.  In what most thought would be the highest scoring game of the weekend, Hawaii defeated Nevada at home by a modest score of 27-21.  This represents Nevada’s 6th consecutive road loss in the Central Pacific, a place they haven’t won since 1948.   To put that in perspective, the last time the Wolf Pack won in Honolulu was the same year that the Cleveland Indians won the World Series.   

Both losses further weaken Boise State’s already questionable strength of schedule, as Nevada and Oregon State were their only two opponents ranked in the top 25.  These losses likely will knock both teams out of the polls, possibly for good.  The BSU/Nevada game next month in Reno goes from a top 15 match up and possible College Gameday site, to nothing more than a trap game against a team with a solid offense.  The Beavers have three more potential losses on their schedule, playing USC at home, traveling to Stanford, and hosting Oregon in succession to end their season.  

 

10.    Trojans Win Big, 2 Weeks Until Showdown With Ducks  

USC had their best performance of the season in their last game before welcoming the Oregon Ducks to town in two weeks.  The 48-14 beat down of the California Golden Bears should be seen as a statement made directly to the Ducks.  The Trojans are one of the few Pac-10 teams that have the defensive talent to shut down the high-powered Oregon offense.  Like South Carolina last weekend and Texas yesterday, having two weeks to prepare is going to give Monte Kiffin the best chance of any defensive coordinator this season.  Last week, I stated that Mike Stoops was the best defensive mind in the Pac-10, forgetting that Monte moved with his son from Tennessee to LA.  Right now, they are 1 and 1A in the conference.  I think it’s safe to say that whoever shuts down Oregon first is the best.  

 

My Top Ten (previous ranking)  

1.    Oklahoma (1)

2.    Oregon (3)

3.    Auburn (7)

4.    Boise State (4)

5.    TCU (6)

6.    LSU (8)

7.    Alabama (9)

8.    Utah (10)

9.    Michigan State (NR)

10.    Stanford (NR)

The Next Five: Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State (2), Florida State, Nebraska (5)


 
 
 
 
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