Tag:Nebraska
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:35 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2010 5:38 pm
 

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 21, 2010 1:02 pm
 

Saturday Thougths, 11/20: Top 3 Take the Week Off

With the top three teams all off this weekend, I was afraid that I would be hard pressed to come up with ten interesting topics.  Instead, I was treated to what was (in my opinion) the most enjoyable Saturday of college football so far this season.  During every time slot there were multiple nail biters.  I had the pleasure of being on the edge of my seat for the majority of the afternoon.  Without any further ado, here are my ten thoughts on this weekend's action.


1.  Texas A&M is Back, and that's Good for College Football


Very rarely do you get to use the words “defensive battle” and “Big 12” in the same sentence.  That was exactly what we saw Saturday night in College Station.  Nebraska made its final regular season trip to Texas, losing 9-6 to Texas A&M.  Taylor Martinez left the field early in the game with an ankle injury and missed the remainder of the first half.  Tied at three after halftime, Martinez returned to try and lead his team to victory on one leg.  Unfortunately for Nebraska fans, he was only able to gain 124 yards (107 passing and 17 rushing) for the game.

Earlier this season, the Aggies lost three in a row to Oklahoma State, Arkansas, and Missouri (All in the AP top-15).  Head coach Mike Sherman’s job was on a less-than-firm foundation.  Since that losing streak, Junior Ryan Tannehill took over at QB and has led TAMU on a five-game winning streak, including two wins over top-ten opponents (Oklahoma two weeks ago and now Nebraska).  Mike Sherman’s boys now have a chance to end rival Texas’s season early next week in Austin.  With Oklahoma State and Oklahoma’s blowout wins this weekend, a trip to Dallas for the conference title game seems to be out of the question.  Stranger things have happened though.

There are some programs that, when they are winning, make college football more fun to watch.  Texas A&M is one of those programs.  Watching the game, the intensity of the 90,000-plus fans in Kyle Field could be felt through the TV over 1,000 miles away.  When the Aggies are good, the 12th Man makes for one of the best game day environments in the country. 

The sudden resurgence of the Texas A&M program came at just the right time.  Next year, the Big 12 is losing two of its historically strong football brands.  A strong Texas A&M gives the conference more marquee games to sell when looking for its next TV deal.

In spite of its loss, Nebraska remains in control of its own destiny in the Big 12 North.  Now in a tie with Missouri, the Cornhuskers hold the head to head tiebreaker.  A win at home against Colorado will send Nebraska to one final Big 12 championship game.  Don’t discount Colorado though.  CU won a big game against Georgia earlier this year.  With their bowl hopes on life support, the Buffs have pulled consecutive upsets against Iowa State and Kansas State.  Thanksgiving weekend in the Big 12 is starting to look like a great one.

 

2.  Boise State Routs Fresno on Senior Day

Saturday started early with Boise State’s senior day dismantling of Fresno State 51-0 late Friday night.  Fresno State was considered by many to be the first real test to Boise since the Bronco’s match up with Oregon State nearly two months ago.   

The experts were correct, as the Bulldogs forced two first quarter turnovers and trailed 3-0 at the end of one.  Boise came out firing in the second, putting up 17 to extend its lead to 20-0 at the half.  As a side note, BSU’s 20 points was tied for the lowest first half point total all season with the week one game against Virginia Tech. 

Boise built on its 17-point second quarter by matching the point total in the third.  The Broncos added two more fourth quarter touchdowns for good measure.  Next Friday’s trip to Reno is all that stand between Boise and a fifth undefeated regular season in the last seven years (third in a row).

 

3.  Ohio State Perseveres in Iowa City

When Ohio State fans looked at the 2010 schedule, there were two key games that made most of them nervous.  The trip to Madison last month was the first, and Saturday’s visit to Kinnick Stadium was the second. 

The Buckeye fans’ fears proved to be well founded.  Ohio State found itself in an old-fashioned Big Ten defensive battle.  The Hawkeyes won the battle in the trenches in the first half, heading into the locker room with a 7-3 lead.    OSU was able to battle back in the third, and the game went to its final period tied at 10. 

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Buckeye linemen finally took over the game on both sides of the ball.  Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron managed to engineer a game winning drive in the final minutes.  With the win,

Ohio State is one win away from tying its own record for consecutive Big Ten titles (six).  However, the Buckeyes need some help from Northwestern if they are to make a return trip to Pasadena.  New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl seems to be the likely end point for the Ohio State season.

 

4.  Sparty Keeps Rose Bowl Hopes Alive with Comback vs Purdue

Michigan State came off its bye with what appeared to be an easy Senior Day matchup with Purdue.  The Boilermakers were on a four game losing streak, suffering three blowouts at the hands of Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin followed by a heartbreaker at home against Michigan.  Danny Hope’s team had other plans.   

Needing to win out to become bowl eligible, the Boilermakers jumped out to a 14-7 first quarter lead and went to the half up 21-13.  The lead grew to 28-13 heading to the fourth.  It was then that Kirk Cousins and the Big Ten’s version of the Cardiac Kids made their most impressive comeback of the season.  Over the final 15 minutes, the Spartans were unstoppable, outscoring Purdue 22-3 to get a hard fought victory. 

Sparty still has an outside chance at going to Pasadena, but will need help from “big brother” Michigan.  The Citrus (my mistake, Capital One) Bowl in Orlando seems to be the likely landing place for MSU.  It is a real shame that teams like MSU, Oklahoma State, and Stanford might be left out of the BCS so that the ACC and Big East champions can get in.

 

5.  Ole Miss Gives LSU all it can Handle

The LSU Tigers entered this week’s game with Ole Miss as the pick of many for best one-loss team and best defense in the nation.  Because they play in the SEC, many people will still give them the benefit of the doubt on both.  Jeremiah Massoli put up 250 total yards and led the Black Bear (err, Rebel) offense to 36 points, 12 more than any previous opponent. 

While the defense struggled, the Tiger offense had its best day of the season, putting up 468 yards and 43 points against Mississippi’s awful defense.  Ole Miss had a chance late, taking a 36-35 lead on a TD pass from Massoli to receiver Markeith Summers.  Summers then incurred a bad unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving into the endzone.  LSU took advantage of the good field position provided by the penalty in its game winning drive. 

LSU still has an outside chance at the BCS title game, but could just as easily end up playing fellow one-loss team Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl.  The Tigers still have an important match up against rival Arkansas next weekend that could determine if the SEC can get a BCS at-large bid.

 

6.  Arkansas Wins Double OT Thriller in Starkville

This was the game that nobody seemed to want to win.  ESPN’s prime time game featured two teams from the middle of the SEC West.  The game went back and forth all night with Mississippi State losing its first quarter lead before halftime.  Arkansas jumped out to a 14-point lead with ten minutes to go.  After a Bulldog TD, Arkansas managed to bleed the clock and force MSU to use all of its timeouts. 

Just when Mississippi State appeared finished, a Knile Davis fumble gave the Dawgs one last chance.  A last second field goal sent the game to overtime.  In the first OT, a Vick Ballard fumble cost MSU a scoring opportunity.  A rare miss by Arkansas freshman kicker Zach Hocker sent the game to double-OT.  A Ryan Mallett TD and Arkansas stand ended one of the day’s best games. 

Next weekend’s game between Arkansas’s dynamic pass offense and the LSU defense should be a great one.  A win could return the Hogs to the top-ten and give them a good shot at a BCS at-large bid.

 

7.  NC State Controls its Own Destiny, Maryland can Still Play Spoiler

This afternoon, the NC State Wolf Pack headed to Chapel Hill and got all the fight they could handle from the Tar Heels.  A back and forth game that saw UNC make one final push before a safety sealed its fate.  Interestingly, the win pushes Tom O’Brein’s record at NCSU to 4-0 over Butch Davis and the Tar Heels since both coaches took over in 2007.  Sometimes one coach just has another’s number.  

Later that night in College Park, the Florida State Seminoles kept their hopes for a conference title alive with a win over the Terps.  In a close game that was moved to ESPN3.com in the Cleveland market, an interception in the final minute finally clinched the game for the ‘Noles. 

Heading into the final week of the regular season, FSU is in the clubhouse in the ACC Atlantic race with a 6-2 mark.  5-2 NC State controls its own destiny due to the tiebreaker it holds over the ‘Noles.  Even though Maryland is out of the race, it still has the chance to play spoiler with a win next week in Raleigh.

 

8.  Virginia Tech Locks up ACC Coastal

While the ACC Atlantic was very much in contest, Virginia Tech started the weekend with a two-game lead over Miami (FL) with two to play.  A win at Dolphin (or Land Share, Pro Player, Joe Robbie, or whatever they call it now) Stadium would clinch the Hokies a return trip to the ACC title game in Charlotte. 

The Hurricanes put up a bigger fight than I expected.  Freshman QB Stephen Morris played about as well as could be expected with starter Jacory Harris missing yet another game.  The game was tied at 17 heading into the fourth, but VT ran away with two touchdowns in the final period.  Tyrod Taylor didn’t light up the stat book, but he did enough for his team to win. 

Credit to Frank Beamer for rallying the troops following that embarrassing loss to James Madison.  Things could have gotten ugly very quick for the Hokies.  However, they regained their focus and are now one win away from an undefeated conference season.  Boise State supporters are cheering loudly as this win further helps the Bronco’s SOS as we approach the final BCS poll.

 

9.  Stanford, Oregon State Win Big Out West

With Oregon off this weekend, I wasn’t sure if there would be any Pac-10 news worth comment.  Two blowouts were the only games that made much noise. 

Stanford went to California Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon winless in Berkeley in its last four attempts.  The Cardinal losing streak was ended emphatically with a 48-14 blowout victory.  Andrew Luck continues to look like the best true QB in the country and the likely No. 1 overall pick in this spring’s NFL Draft.  16-20 for 235 and 2 touchdowns. 

One thing that has always struck me about the Pac-10 is the severe disparity between the conference’s haves and have-nots.  Every season it seems like the conference has two or three dominant teams; the other seven are varying in degrees from mediocre to downright terrible.  The other major conferences seem to have more depth and competitiveness from top to bottom. 

Later Saturday night, the Oregon State Beavers kept their slim bowl hopes alive with a dominant victory over USC.  The Trojan struggles in Corvallis have now reached three consecutive trips.  Matt Barkley was injured (and may possibly miss next weeks game against Notre Dame) in Oregon State’s 36-7 victory. 

The Beavers need one more win either at Stanford or at home in the Civil War to become bowl eligible. Losses to Washington, Wazzu, and UCLA have been the killers.

 

10.  Utah Rebounds With Hard Fought Victory in San Diego

After a pair of disappointing road losses, the Utah Utes got back on their winning ways with a come from behind victory Saturday night in San Diego.  The Utes trailed 27-24 at the half, and the San Diego State lead was extended by a touchdown in the third quarter.  Jordan Wynn led two touchdown drives (79 and 97 yards respectively) in the final seven minutes to win the game for Utah.  The go ahead touchdown was scored with just under a minute remaining. 

The Utah win was important for voter perception of the Mountain West, more specifically, TCU’s strength of schedule.  TCU is going to need help from Utah, SDSU, and old rival SMU if it is to maintain its lead over Boise State in the BCS.  Even if all three schools win out, it is still very likely that Boise will overtake the Frogs with a win next Friday in Reno.


Bonus Thought: Gridiron on the Diamond

Yesterday, New Yankee Stadium hosted its first football game while Wrigley field hosted its first (and likely last) game in the last 40 years. 

While a novel idea, there were far too many issues to ever consider returning football to Wrigley’s friendly confines.  Only one sideline was useable, since putting players on the other would block fans’ view of the game.  Not to mention that the right field wall was deemed too close to the back of the endzone for that half of the field to be useable.  However, it was a memorable experience to watch the game.  Unfortunately, in the Cleveland market ESPN decided to air VT/Miami and NASCAR practice instead, forcing me to watch the game on ESPN3.com. 

That evening, Yankee Stadium proved to be more suited for football than Wrigley.  Seeing Army and Notre Dame play in the Bronx was a treat and throwback to an older time.

Top Ten (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (3)

4.    Boise State (4)

5.    Wisconsin (5)

6.    Stanford (6)

7.    Ohio State (8)

8.    Oklahoma State (10)

9.    LSU (9)

10.    Alabama (10) 

The Next Five:   Michigan State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri

Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:46 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2010 11:04 pm
 

Saturday Thoughts, 11/13: Survival Saturday

Many of the top teams struggled this weekend, but all survived (for the first time this year my top-ten remained unchanged).

 

1.  Oregon Passes Biggest Test of the Season  

My biggest question/concern regarding Oregon this season has been how the team would react when they faced a defense that kept them in check.  In short, the Ducks responded well.  Though the offense was unable to accomplish much, the Oregon defense stepped up and kept the Cal offense in check.  The Oregon team kept its composure even though things didn’t go as well as it was used to.   

This weekend’s close win taught me more about Oregon than any of their previous blowout wins.  I’m really starting to like this team.  Granted, had California converted a short field goal early in the fourth quarter, I would probably be singing a somewhat different tune.  However, if a team is to win a national championship (an undefeated championship none-the-less), it will need to win a game or two that it shouldn’t.  I get the feeling that yesterday was that game for the Ducks.  

 

2.  Auburn Survives Again  

Auburn has been making a season of winning games close games against teams they should beat handily.  Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, and now Georgia have all given the Tigers fits.  The Bulldogs game to the Plains with a solid young quarterback and college football’s best receiver and gave Auburn all they could handle.  Freshman Aaron Murray had one of his best games so far against Auburn's porous pass defense, throwing for 273 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  In the end, Cam Newton and the Tiger offense proved too much for a young and overmatched Georgia team. 

Auburn now has two weeks to prepare for the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.  There they will face the SEC’s most balanced team.  The Crimson Tide has a solid offense, capable of running and passing the ball with equal effectiveness.  Greg McElroy and company is complemented by a top-15 defense.  In two weeks, Alabama will provide the toughest test Auburn will face all season.  

 

3.  San Diego State Gives TCU a Scare

A solid first drive followed by a defensive touchdown gave SDSU a two-touchdown lead six minutes into their game in Fort Worth.  At that point, the TCU offense woke up to score 34 unanswered points to close out the first half.  However, San Diego State’s second half was probably the best half of football played against TCU this season.  They kept the Frogs out of the end zone while scoring three touchdowns of their own, nearly making it all the way back to pull the upset of the season. 

The Aztecs were the final test of TCU’s season.  The Frogs have a bye week before traveling to Albuquerque to take on the hapless New Mexico Lobos.  While it looks like TCU will finish the season undefeated, its bowl opponent will certainly be watching tape from the second half of yesterday’s game.  

 

4.  Notre Dame Bounces Back, Utah Doesn’t  

The last month has been an incredibly difficult one for Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  After dropping two in a row to Tulsa and Navy, combined with its off the field tragedy the Irish were left reeling.  Their bye couldn’t have come at a better time.  In spite QB Dayne Crist missing the game due to injury, the Notre Dame offense saw almost no falloff.  However, the real heroes of this game were members of the Notre Dame defense. 

With two weeks of prep time, the Irish were able to knock off a Utah team yet to recover from their manhandling at the hands of TCU last weekend in Salt Lake City.  Though important for ND’s bowl hopes, this game likely had the greatest effect on TCU and its hopes for the national championship.  

 

5.  Fresno State and Nevada Will Test Boise  

Those of you who turned in early last night missed an amazing game between two of the WAC’s better teams.  Fresno and Nevada played arguably the weekend’s best game in the Silicon Valley.  Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick accounted for over 320 yards (171 passing and 153 rushing) in a back and forth battle.  The Wolf Pack finally pulled ahead for good with just under five minutes to go on a 23-yard Vai Taua touchdown run. 

One thing is for certain: the Boise State Broncos are going to have to show up ready to play the next two weeks.  They host Fresno next week before heading to Reno for what may end up being their toughest game of the year against Nevada.  

 

6.  Blowouts in the Big Ten  

The Wisconsin Badgers built on their offensive explosion last week at Purdue by putting up 83 against Indiana yesterday.  Wisconsin’s best offensive performance in nearly a century came without its biggest offensive threat, tailback John Clay.  Montee Ball and James White more than made up for Clay’s absence, combining for 311 yards on 41 carries.  Given the big win over Ohio State and recent blowouts of Purdue and Indiana, there is no doubt in my mind that Wisconsin is the best one-loss team and should be first in line should two of the top-four fall. 

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio State had what can only be described as a come-from-behind blowout of Penn State.  The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-3 lead on two touchdown passes from Matthew McGloin in his first game as Penn State starting QB.  At halftime, the Buckeyes regrouped and shut out Penn State 35-0 in the second half.  Credit to McGloin though; he showed poise, especially in the first half.  Between Freshman Tailback Silas Redd and Mcgloin, the Penn State offense has a bright future ahead. 

Michigan State hammered conference doormat Minnesota 31-8 in East Lansing.  While the other three conference leaders won big, the Northwestern Wildcats beat Iowa again, 21-17 in Evanston.  This is the second consecutive year that the Hawkeyes were caught looking ahead to their showdown with Ohio State.  

 

7.  Oklahoma State Beats Texas, Controls Big XII South  

The Oklahoma State Cowboys scored 23 in the second quarter in Austin on their way to a 26-3 halftime lead.  The final score ended up 33-16 as the Cowboys exorcized all their demons from the last 12 years of defeats at the hands of Texas.  Kendall Hunter ran for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns while Justin Blackmon caught nine passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.  OSU appears to be on a collision course for a rematch with Nebraska in Dallas for the Big XII title.  All they have left to do is win at Kansas next week and defeat the rival Sooners in the Bedlam game at home. 

As for Texas, the ‘Horns must win out to get bowl eligible.  While FAU next week shouldn’t be a huge problem, Texas will finish at home against a surging Texas A&M team that would love to end the Longhorns’ season.  

 

8.  Pitt Loses, Still in Control of the Big East  

Thursday night, Pittsburgh headed to Connecticut with a two game lead in the Big East.  UCONN came out and battled the Panthers all game and came out with a hard-fought 30-28 victory.  Also this weekend, the Big East finally got its first teams bowl eligible.  South Florida and West Virginia both won game number six while Syracuse won its seventh (when a team plays two FCS opponents, it must win seven).  With a 5-4 team still in the drivers seat to earn an automatic BCS bid, I again ask: why is this an AQ conference when the Mountain West isn’t.  Because the Big East has an automatic bid, a group of seven teams (LSU, Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU, Boise State, and the Oklahoma State/Nebraska loser) that are all more deserving than any Big East team will have to battle it out for the final spots in the BCS.  

 

9.  Three Games to decide the ACC Atlantic Title  

With two games left in the regular season, there is still a three-team tie at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division.  Florida State “leads” with a 5-2 record, but 4-2 Maryland and NC State both control their own destiny, not the Seminoles.  In the next two weeks, the division title will be decided.  NC State plays at UNC next week while Maryland travels to Tallahassee.  In two weeks, Maryland will play NC State in Raleigh while the ‘Noles face off with out-of-conference rival Florida. 

Only Florida State can clinch the division next weekend with a win and NC State loss.  Any other result and the division will be decided by the final game between NC State and Maryland.  Given the way the ACC has been all season, my guess is that this race won’t be decided until the final day.    

 

10.  Army Defeats Kent State, Gets Bowl Eligible  

The Army Black Knights easily defeated Kent State on the road to become bowl eligible for the first time in 14 years.  They will likely be headed to Fort Worth for the Armed Forces Bowl.  An interesting fact: this is the first time ever that all three service academies will go bowling in the same season.    It doesn’t matter what teams you lover or hate, everybody should be able to get behind these three schools.  The players at Army, Navy, and Air Force are the only athletes who are truly worth of the title “hero.”  

 

Bonus Thought   

Congratulations to Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks on winning their first SEC East title.  Good luck against Auburn…you’re going to need it.  

 

Bonus Thought #2  

The Division III Mount Union Purple Raiders from Alliance, OH defeated Muskingum to complete a 10-0 (9-0) season.  This season marked the 19th consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference Title for the Raiders!  There are actually some players on the team that were not even alive the last time Mount Union failed to win its conference.  Regardless of the level you play at, winning 19 conference titles in a row is an absurd statistic.  Congratulations Mount Union.  

 

Top Ten (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (3)

4.    Boise State (4)

5.    Wisconsin (5)

6.    Stanford (6)

7.    Nebraska (7)

8.    Ohio State (8)

9.    LSU (9)

10.    Oklahoma State (10) 

The Next Five: Alabama, Michigan State, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M


Posted on: November 7, 2010 10:57 am
 

Saturday Thoughts, 11/6: Blowout Saturday

1.    TCU Thumps Utah, Best Win by a Non-AQ to Date 

I honestly thought that Utah would come out and give TCU a game Saturday afternoon.  It had been over two years since a team came to Salt Lake City and walked away with a win.  The Utes were a top five team that seemed to have proven themselves while climbing the rankings all year.  TCU proved that it is on a completely different level than Utah (and even Boise) by rolling Utah 47-7. 

Remember that it was a blowout win, on the road, against a top five team.  There are no wins on Boise State’s schedule that can even come close to this.  TCU already had a lead in the computers; this win will only increase their lead over the Broncos.  Now that Alabama has lost a second game, I will be interested in seeing if a one-loss Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-10, or SEC team will jump ahead of an undefeated TCU should Auburn or Oregon fall.  

 

2.    There Will be a New National Champion  

Les Miles and the LSU Tigers ended Alabama’s hopes of a national championship Saturday in one of the few big games of this weekend that didn’t end in a blowout.  As has become expected over the last few years (and weeks for that matter), LSU’s hopes relied on a stingy defense and some miracle payoffs on big Les Miles gambles.  The LSU win in Death Valley was an oddity in this series that has been dominated by the visiting team in recent years. 

Heading in to this weekend’s action, the general consensus was that if Alabama were to win out, they would have an SOS good enough to push them past TCU and Boise State.  It will be interesting to see which team becomes the new favorite of the anti-Boise/TCU crowd now that its favorite has fallen.  

 

3.    Stanford Runs it up on Arizona  

If there were any doubt as to the Pac-10’s second-best team, Stanford put that debate to bed with its win Saturday on national TV.  Andrew Luck padded his Heisman resume with nearly 300 yards through the air and two TDs.  Stanford's RB by committee put up over 200 yards rushing for the Cardinal offense.  Stanford’s big win raises the question: can anyone out west play defense? 

Mike Stoops is considered by many to be one of the best up and coming defensive minds in the college game, and Arizona was believed to be the Pac-10’s premiere defense.  It was the Arizona defense that led me to believe that they had the best chance of knocking off Oregon.  After giving up 42 points and 500 yards of offense against Stanford, I’m beginning to balk at that statement.  If the Arizona defense won’t be good enough to stop the Ducks, will any defense?  

 

4.    Joe Paterno wins 400th Game, an Accomplishment that May Never be Repeated  

With Penn State’s 35-21 win over Northwestern in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno became the first head coach in major college football to pick up 400 career victories.  He trails only John Gagliardi (St. John’s Minnesota, DIII) and Eddie Robinson (Grambling State, DI-AA) in total victories.  Fittingly, PSU’s comeback from 21 down matches the best comeback in JoePa’s distinguished coaching career.  Given the current state of college football and its coaching carousel, I highly doubt anyone else will ever come close to 400.  

 

5.    Iowa and Wisconsin Get Wake-Up Calls in Indiana  

Big Ten leaders Iowa and Wisconsin both had more trouble than expected while visiting the Hoosier State.  Wisconsin was manhandled in the first half by the Purdue Boilermakers and went to the locker room lucky to only be trailing 10-6.  Had it not been for several Purdue mistakes and a few questionable calls, the lead could have been much larger.  The Badgers woke up in the second half with Sophomore Montee Ball leading the team on four touchdown drives. 

The Iowa Hawkeyes suffered an even bigger scare in Bloomington.  They went to the half tied at six and spent most of the second half playing catch-up with the Hoosiers.  IU held the lead until late in the 4th-quarter when Ricky Stanzi hit Marvin McNutt on a long pass play to grab the lead.  A dropped fourth down pass in the end zone sealed Indiana’s fate.  Iowa will have to remain focused as it travels to Northwestern next weekend.  In last season’s game, the Hawkeyes were caught looking forward to their game against Ohio State.  

 

6.    Big Win, A&M’s Upset Leaves Oklahoma State in Driver’s Seat  

We entered this weekend with three teams in contention for the Big XII South.  After today’s action, the Oklahoma State Cowboys control their own destiny.  Brandon Weedon (QB), Kendall Hunter (RB), and Justin Blackmon (WR) looked like the Dallas Cowboy’s triplets in the Poke’s 55-28 wood shedding of Baylor.  With games left against TAMU and Oklahoma, it appears that Baylor’s miracle run may be nearing its end.  There is hope for the future though, as Robert Griffin is only a Sophomore. 

Meanwhile, in College Station the Oklahoma Sooners found themselves upset by the Texas A&M Aggies.  For the second time this season, Oklahoma was outplayed in every aspect of the game.  With the win, the Aggies have entered themselves in the conversation for the Big XII South title.  Win out, and with a Sooner victory in Stillwater, the Aggies will end the season in a three-way tie atop their division.  


7.    Nebraska has Stranglehold on Big XII North 

The Iowa State Cyclones gave Nebraska all it could handle Saturday afternoon in Ames.  It took a failed fake-PAT in overtime to finally put the Cyclones away.  Nebraska’s offense played quite well in the absence off all-world freshman QB Taylor Martinez.  The Huskers will have to lose twice to miss the Big XII Championship Game.  It appears they will have no trouble locking up their division, and should be the favorites in Dallas. 

Later that night in Lubbock, Texas Tech helped Nebraska extend their divisional lead with a home win over Missouri.  Mizzou is now a game back and loses the head to head tiebreaker with Nebraska.  More importantly, Tommy Tuberville has a season-defining win for the first year of his tenure in Lubbock.  The homecoming win against a top-12 team should buy the River Boat Gambler some time to install his system, which is a complete departure from what Red Raider fans are used to under Mike Leach.  

 

8.    Does Anybody want to Win the ACC Atlantic?  

Saturday began with three one-loss teams sitting at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division (NC State, Maryland, and Florida State).  The Wolfpack had the inside track given their win over Florida State last Thursday.  When they went down in the final minutes at Clemson, Maryland and FSU were left with a great chance to grab the brass ring.  Both failed…miserably. 

The Terps had a 17-15 halftime lead at Miami and held a 20-18 advantage with three minutes remaining.  However, true freshman QB Stephen Morris led an 82-yard drive in the final minutes to give the ‘Canes a season saving victory.  Meanwhile, upstate in Tallahassee, Florida State fell to North Carolina 37-35 on a last second missed field goal (wide right)…welcome to FSU Jimbo Fisher, you should probably get used to this.  

 

9.    Arkansas Pounds South Carolina  

Every week I swear that I’m not going to rag on the SEC East, but every week I’m given a new reason to do so.  The Arkansas Razorbacks marched in to Columbia and laid a 41-20 beatdown on Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks.  After the embarrassing home loss, USC needs to recover for the division “championship game” next weekend in Gainesville.  Neither team deserves to be ranked, nor do they deserve to play for the SEC title in Atlanta, but those are the rules.  The winner of the game will likely play Auburn regardless of the result in the Iron Bowl.  Considering how crazy this year has been, the east champ will likely win in Atlanta and cost Auburn a chance at the National Championship.  

 

10.    Will Texas get Bowl Eligible?  

At the beginning of the season, one thing seemed pretty clear: the Texas/Oklahoma winner would likely represent the South in the Big XII Championship Game.  Now, we find ourselves with Oklahoma State in the driver’s seat in the division and the Longhorns needing to win two of three to get bowl eligible.  The Horns have lost home games to UCLA, Iowa State, and Baylor already.  Three home games remain against Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic, and Texas A&M.  A loss next Saturday doesn’t end their hopes, but it leaves them with an even tougher uphill climb in the Lone Star Showdown.  Given UT’s play (especially on defense), I wonder if Will Muschamp’s coach-in-waiting designation may be in jeopardy.  

 

My Top Ten (Last Week)  

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (4)

4.    Boise State (3)

5.    Wisconsin (8)

6.    Stanford (9)

7.    Nebraska (8)

8.    Ohio State (10)

9.    LSU (N/R)

10.    Oklahoma State (N/R) 

The Next Five: Alabama, Utah, Iowa, Michigan State, Arkansas


Posted on: October 31, 2010 4:45 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2010 9:46 pm
 

Saturday Thoughts, 10/30: 2 Less Undefeated Teams

I think it's safe to say that I have some crow to eat after this weekend's games.  Here are my ten thoughts from this weekend.

 

1.  Oregon Rolls, Makes a Believer Out of Me

For the last several weeks, I (along with many others) have been pointing to last night's showdown with USC in the Coliseum was going to be the first big test of the season.  Logic would suggest that a Defensive Coordinator with nearly 40 years of experience would be able to develop a scheme to at least slow down the Duck's attack.  Add in the fact that he had two weeks to prepare and one of the most talent rich rosters in the country and you have a situation that should prove to be quite the test for Chip Kelly's offense.  Not so much...the Ducks went through the Trojan defense like a knife through warm butter on their way to rolling up 52. In the interest of full disclosure, the Oregon defense gave up 32 points (the highest total they have surrendered all season).  However, the defense stepped up when it counted, shutting out the Trojans in the 4th quarter when the game was still relatively close (Oregon's lead was only 11 after three quarters).

Possibly more important than Oregon winning is USC losing.  Will this end up being the game that people point to when talking about the final fall of Pete Carroll's Pac-10 empire?  This, along with the 55-21 thrashing by Stanford last year are proof that the rest of the conference has caught up with the Men of Troy.  For the second consecutive year, the Trojans have lost multiple home games after losing only once at home in the previous seven years.

 


2.  Cam Newton and Auburn Take Care of Business in Oxford

Cameron Newton only had 250 yards of total offense this weekend, not because he was incapable of getting more, but because the Tigers didn't need anything else to take care of Ole Miss 51-31.  Jeremiah Massoli and the Rebel offense had a good showing, but the game was never in doubt after halftime.  This was a big victory for the Tigers, as their previous two games away from Jordan Hare Stadium have been less than impressive (17-14 win in Stakville and a 37-34 victory in Lexington).  Had Auburn's road struggles continued, I would be have been much more hesitant about their ability to win the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.  Yesterday's win proved that Auburn can enter a hostile environment and still play at the top of their game.

On a side note, could you imagine a National Championship Game between Oregon and Auburn?  Both teams have top-10 offenses and defenses outside of the top-35.  If I were to set the over/under at 110 points, which way would you bet?

 

3.  Michigan State Dominated by Iowa, Four Team Tie at the Top of the Big Ten

Michigan State has been living on the edge all season, and finally a team came along to knock them off.  After last week's home loss to Wisconsin, you got the feeling that Kirk Ferentz would not lose consecutive games at Kinnick Stadium.  The pink locker room and crazed Hawkeye fans would not allow Iowa to lose again.  Not only did they win, but the Hawkeyes won big.  Kirk Cousins has had some magical games this year, but there wasn't enough magic in the world to bring MSU back from a 30-0 halftime deficit.  Even with the loss, it has been a great run for Sparty, and I'm convinced that as long as D'Antonio is on the sidelines, Michigan State's best days are ahead of them.

As for this season, the Spartan loss creates a four-way tie for first in the Big Ten (could have been five-way if Purdue won in Champaign) between Iowa, Sparty, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.  OSU's visit to Iowa on 11/20 is the only game remaining between the top four teams.  It is likely that this season will end in a three-way tie at 7-1.  With two losses and a #18 AP ranking (after last week), Iowa appears to be out of the conversation for a BCS bid.  However, if two or three one-loss teams are left standing, the Big Ten still has a chance to put two teams in BCS bowls (though a national championship appears to be out of the picture).  The Spartan loss also puts Ohio State back in control of their conference championship destiny.  If the Buckeyes win out, they will tie their own record of six consecutive Big Ten titles.

 

4.  Nebraska Regains Control of Big XII North

Call it a hangover if you want, but I think Nebraska was just the better team yesterday.  Just like Mizzou dominated every aspect of their showdown with Oklahoma, the Huskers dominated the Tigers yesterday.  The Nebraska offense had to attempt only three second half passes on their way to a 31-17 win at home.  It is a shame that Nebraska got tripped up against Texas, because they have the talent on both sides of the ball to compete with Auburn and Oregon.  Nebraska is back in the driver's seat in the Big XII North and well on their way to the conference title game in their final season before departing for the Big Ten.  Missouri and Iowa State are still both in the race should Nebraska trip up.  Bill Snyder's Kansas State Wildcats are still mathematically in the race, but will need a miracle.

 

5.  TCU and Utah Win, Set up showdown in Salt Lake City Next Saturday

The biggest game of the season to date will be played at Rice-Eccles stadium next weekend.  Utah won a close game at Air Force while TCU travelled to Las Vegas and easily took care of UNLV.  The winner of this game should get a pretty big boost in the computer polling.  This is going to hurt Boise State supporters, but the winner of this game has a better chance of getting to the title game than the Broncos.  Regardless of who wins, their victory will be the best that any non-AQ school will pick up this year.  It isn't fair, it's just fact.  For the record, I'm picking Utah to pull the upset.  The Utes have lost only five home games in five-plus seasons under Kyle Whittingham.  Their last loss at home came in September '07.

 

6.  ACC Florida School Lose on the Road

At the start of this season, Florida State and Miami were picked by many to win their divisions and meet for the ACC title.  Both teams were dominated on the road and no longer control their own destiny.  Miami's loss in Charlottesville has allowed Virginia Tech to open up a two game lead in the Coastal Division, making the Hokies a near lock to make it to Charlotte.  Florida State's road loss Thursday Night in Raleigh has created a three-way tie for the top spot in the Atlantic Division between the Seminoles, Wolfpack, and Maryland Terrapins.  NC State and Maryland both control their own destiny, but have difficult schedules ahead of them.  FSU has a relatively easy schedule, but needs NCSU to fall to win the Atlantic.  Along with the Big XII South, the ACC Atlantic should have one of the most exciting races that will continue through most of November.

 

7.  Pitt Wins again, has no Excuse to not Win Big East

After three weeks of Big East play, the Pittsburgh Panthers (3-0) have a one-game lead over Syracuse and Rutgers (both of whom they have defeated).  The other five teams in the Big East are all 1-2.  West Virginia removed themselves from the conference title picture with their loss at Connecticut.  Syracuse (2-1) dominated Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium and Rutgers (1-1) had a bye keeping their slim hopes for the conference title alive.  To recap, the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3 with losses at Utah and Notre Dame and an embarrassing home loss to Miami) will need to lose twice in their final four games to not make the BCS.  At the same time, and undefeated MWC champion will need Boise State to lose in order to guarantee themselves a spot in a BCS bowl.  Why does a three or four Big East champion still have an automatic BCS bid while the MWC champ needs to go undefeated AND get help to play in the same bowl?!?

 

8.  Notre Dame Loses at Home, Bowl Unlikely

**Before I begin with my commentary, the death of Declan Sullivan is one of the greatest college football tragedies in recent memory.  We can only hope that things will be done to prevent something like this from ever happening again**

Up until this week, I have said that Brian Kelly is an outstanding Xs and Os coach who deserves the benefit of the doubt in spite of the losses so far this season.  I would like to make a 180 on much of what I've said about Kelly this season. The Notre Dame football program is in trouble.  They suffered a blowout loss last weekend at Navy, leading some to question Kelly's ability as a coach.  Kelly's troubles were magnified tenfold by the tragic death of a student employee during Wednesday's practice, which has led some to question Kelly's character for putting a student in such a dangerous situation (Ohio State's Jim Tressel elected to stay inside Wednesday, citing safety concerns for staff as a key reason in a morning press conference).

In these situations, players will either quit on their coach/themselves, or unite as a team and play through the adversity.  Attitude reflects leadership, and this team has clearly quit.  Notre Dame now has two weeks to think about their last two losses and the recent tragedy before getting they play their final three with slim hopes of going bowling.  The Irish will now need to win two of three at home vs Utah, vs a much improved Army team in Yankee Stadium, and at USC.  Good luck, I'll be really impressed if Kelly can get this team to rally and save face. 

To recap, in the last week, Brian Kelly has allowed his team to quit on him.  He also made a decision regarding his team that has led many to question his character, as they did after how he handled his departure from Cincinnati before the biggest game in school history.  Though he is still one of the better Xs and Os offensive coaches in football, I don't think that I would be comfortable sending my hypothetical son to play for him.  Right or wrong, rival coaches will use this week's unfortunate events against him in recruiting.

 

9.  Big XII South is Best Race Heading Down the Stretch

With four weeks remaining in the regular season, there is a three-way tie in the loss column at the top of the Big XII South.  Oklahoma and Oklahoma State shouldn't surprise anyone.  However, the third team still in the race is Baylor.  Robert Griffin has led the Bears to a 7-2 (4-1) record with only three games remaining.  Included in their seven wins, includes a huge victory in Austin yesterday afternoon (their first since win since 1997 and first in Austin since '91).  The Bears head to Sillwater next week for the first game of a round robin that will determine the division champion (barring any upset losses along the way).  OSU has the advantage of hosting both Baylor and Oklahoma while the Sooners will play both Baylor and the Cowboys on the road.  With Oklahoma's offensive rating (14th) being the lowest of the three teams, the final month of this season should provide quite a few fireworks.

 

10.  Florida and South Carolina Remain in SEC East Race

Florida's win over Georgia in the Cocktail Party leaves the Gators and Gamecocks as the only remaining teams in the SEC East race (Vandy is technically still alive, but who are we kidding...it's Vandy).  The November 13th game in Gainseville will decide who gets to go to Atlanta for the right to lose to the Iron Bowl winner.  I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but the SEC East is horrible.  The six teams from the East currently have only two wins against teams from the West.  To further illustrate the struggles of the SEC East, its teams have a combined record of 23-27 (.460 winning percentage) and 12-23 in conference.  Compare that to the the much maligned Big East that has a 35-27 (.564) record as a conference.

 

My Top Ten (Last Week)

1.  Oregon (1)

2.  Auburn (2)

3.  Boise State (3)

4.  TCU (4)

5.  Alabama (6)

6.  Utah (8)

7.  Wisconsin (9)

8.  Nebraska (NR)

9.  Stanford (10)

10.  Ohio State (NR)

The Next Five: Missouri (7), Oklahoma, LSU, Arizona, Iowa


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)


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com