Tag:Nevada
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 28, 2010 12:47 am
 

Saturday Thoughts, 11/27

1.    Boise State’s National Title Hopes end in Reno  

As is usual, Boise State jumped out to a large first half lead (24-0) and it appeared that Chris Ault’s Nevada Wolf Pack were nothing more than the Broncos’ next victim.  However, Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada offense had other plans.  They finally broke through and got a TD as the game neared halftime.  The offensive improvement fired up the Wolf Pack defense and it shut down the high-powered Boise offense for the first 25 minutes of the 2nd half. 

The Nevada rushing game really got going after the half.  Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua passed SMU’s Pony Express (Eric Dickerson and Craig James) for most career rushing yards by teammates as they led Nevada’s comeback.  With the game tied at 24, Kellen Moore and the Boise offense were finally able to get a TD, only to have it immediately answered by Nevada.   

In the final 10 seconds, Moore completed a miracle pass that set up kicker Kyle Brotzman with a chip shot FG to win the game.  His wide-right miss sent the game to overtime, where he proceeded to miss a second kick, this time wide-left.  The 34-31 Nevada victory ended Boise’s hopes of playing for the National Championship. 

You have to feel bad for Brotzman who will likely have an unfair share of the blame on his shoulders.  The fact of the matter is that unlike most opponents, Nevada didn’t roll over after Boise jumped out to its lead.  Instead, they punched back, and I’m not sure Boise knew how to respond.  When playing a schedule like Boise’s, you can’t be sure how your team will respond when challenged.  There were times in the second half when Bronco players looked like deer in headlights. 

I’ve heard several begin talking about Boise’s “glass jaw,” I disagree.  To their credit, the Broncos managed to put together two drives that should have been game winners in the final minutes of regulation.  I’m not sure where Boise will end up this bowl season, but they will deserve better. 

The hometown Humanitarian Bowl is the most likely option, but I have another thought.  With the Big Ten likely to be unable to fulfill its commitment to the Motor City Bowl, the folks in Detroit can invite any bowl eligible team to the game.  The Las Vegas Bowl may also be looking for a team to fill the spot the Pac-10 can’t. 

In Detroit, Boise would play likely MAC champion Northern Illinois.  If they chose to play in Vegas, the Broncos would likely face MWC runner-up Utah.  I’m not sure the Broncos would be willing to make either trip, but those games have the potential to be one of the better games of this bowl season (much like the TCU-Boise Poinsettia and Louisville-Boise Liberty Bowls from previous years).  My preference would be for a BSU-NIU Motor City Bowl.  That way, I could drive up from Cleveland for the game.  


2.    Auburn Survives Toughest Test of Season in Tuscaloosa  

Every time the Auburn Tigers appear to be finished, Cam Newton pulls another rabbit out of his hat.  As a four-point favorite, the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped out to a 24-0 first half lead (sound familiar???) and appeared to be well on its way to ending Auburn’s miracle season.  A field goal late in the second quarter would begin a run Tiger that would bring the Alabama lead to under a touchdown at 27-21. 

Newton would engineer two key drives in the fourth quarter.  The first gave Auburn its first lead of the game, 28-27.  The second drive drained the final seconds off the clock as the crowd at Bryant-Denney sat in stunned silence. 

Auburn still has another big challenge ahead of it.  The same South Carolina Gamecocks that nearly won on the Plains back in September.  At this point, I see no reason to pick against Auburn again this season.  The Tigers keep finding ways to win.  Even when they don’t show up (Kentuky, Clemson), seem overmatched (Alabama), or out schemed (Arkansas, LSU) Auburn keeps winning.  Kudos to Gene Chizik.   

Lovers of defensive football should probably not watch the potential Auburn-Oregon National Championship Game.  I’m not sure what the record is for most points in a BCS Title Game, but I have a hunch that the Tigers and Ducks would break it.  


3.    Oregon and TCU Roll  

While Boise lost and Auburn struggled, TCU and Oregon met little resistance from their opponents Thanksgiving Weekend.  Mike Stoops and the Arizona Wildcats became the most recent defense to be unable to slow down the Oregon attack Friday night at Autzen Stadium.  At halftime, it seemed like the Wildcats had the answer.  The 19-14 lead wouldn’t hold up as the Ducks outscored their opponents 34-10 in the second half. 

Coming off their bye and a close win over San Diego State, the TCU Horned Frogs had a predictable blowout win over New Mexico in Albuquerque, 66-17.  The Frogs are the first team in the clubhouse at 12-0.  With the notable exception of the San Diego State game, the Frogs have dominated their opponents all season and are certainly worthy of being in the conversation for the BCS Championship.  Should either Auburn or Oregon fall next week, TCU looks like it will be able to hold off one-loss teams Wisconsin and Stanford to secure a spot in the BCS Title Game.  If not, a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl is one heck of a consolation prize.  A TCU-Wisconsin match up in the Rose Bowl Game might be the best game we see all bowl season.  


4.    Wisconsin Hammers Northwestern, Heading to Pasadena
 

At kickoff, Wisconsin knew that a win on senior day would essentially guarantee it a trip to the Rose Bowl.  A win would put the Badgers in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten.  Per conference rules, the highest ranked BCS team (currently Wisconsin) earns the conference’s automatic BCS bid.    To say they took care of business would be an understatement.  This time, Northwestern was the victim.  The Wildcats were unable to accomplish much against Wisky on their way to a 70-23 defeat. 

To give you an idea of how dominant Wisconsin was this season, over its Big Ten schedule (7-1), the Badgers have averaged over 40 points per game. In its last three games (Indiana, @Michigan, and Northwestern), the Wisconsin Badgers have put up 201 points.  The Badgers were the only team that managed to cross the 30-point threshold against Ohio State’s top-five defense. Today's win was Wisconsin’s third game of 70-plus points and sixth win by 20 or more.  The three-headed monster at running back (Clay, White, and Ball) has been unstoppable. 

I like TCU and think that they have had an outstanding year, but I cannot in good conscience leave them ahead of Wisconsin in my top-ten.  The Badgers have dominated its Big Ten schedule in a way that no team has in recent memory.  I honestly don’t see a team I would call a favorite over Wisconsin.  


5.    Ohio State Extends Winning Streak to Over Michigan  

Did anyone really expect the Wolverines to make a game of this one?  Traveling to one of the most hostile environments in the nation a week after getting smoked by Wisconsin is usually not a recipe for success.  That proved to be the case today as the Buckeyes rolled Michigan 37-7.  In all honesty, the game wasn’t that close.  The seven game winning-streak is the longest Ohio State has ever had over Michigan and is also the longest in the series since UM won nine in a row from 1901 to 1909.  OSU goes for number eight next November in Ann Arbor. 

The win put the Buckeyes in a three-way tie for the Big Ten Championship with Wisconsin and Michigan State.  This marks the sixth consecutive year in which Ohio State won or shared the conference crown, tying its own record from the 1970s.    With Wisconsin heading to Pasadena, a Sugar Bowl match up with either South Carolina or Arkansas seems to be OSU’s most likely destination.  If not the Sugar Bowl, a game against Virginia Tech or Florida State in the Orange Bowl is almost guaranteed.  Ohio State fans travel too well to justify leaving an 11-1 Buckeye team out of a BCS bowl game…sorry OSU haters. 

Today’s loss moves Rich Rodriguez’s record to 0-12 against teams with a winning record in conference play.  I’ve been saying it all season: until Michigan can improve its defense, it has no chance of competing for a Big Ten Title.  Calls for change continue to get louder from Michigan fans, but the UM athletic director has said no decision will be made until after the Wolverine’s Bowl game.  Some reports are saying that Michigan is already putting out feelers to Jim Harbaugh of Stanford (a UM alumnus).  Time will tell, but one thing is for certain: defensive coordinator Greg Robinson won’t be back.  


6.    Bedlam Lives up to its Name  

Once again, ESPN/ABC gave the Cleveland market a bummer by putting Notre Dame-USC on ABC and two SEC/ACC rivalry games on the ESPN networks, forcing me to watch the night’s only meaningful game on ESPN3.com. 

Now that I’ve said my peace about that, I can get off my soapbox and get on with commentary.  After three quarters, the game was tied at 24.  That was the point that Bedlam earned its name.  Oklahoma and OSU combined for 40 points in the last period.  The Sooners scored on their final five possessions, three FGs and a pair of 75-plus yard TD passes by Landry Jones.  Not to be outdone, OSU widoout Justin Blackmon threw a touchdown to QB Brandon Weeden and Justin Gilbert took an OU kick 90 yards for a score.  A poor Cowboy onside kick attempt sealed the game for Oklahoma. 

With the win, the Sooners forced another three-way tie in the Big XII South.  In the BCS, Oklahoma will likely be ranked highest, followed by Texas A&M, with OSU third.  Unless TAMU can get within one place of OU, the Sooners will be playing for the conference title game instead of a team that beat them.   Texas A&M is going to be punished in the BCS for being the only three-loss team in the tie.  The Aggie loss came at the hands of Arkansas on a neutral field.  The Hogs are a top-ten team and the strongest OOC opponent that any of the Big XII South contenders played this season…by a long shot.  The Big XII is essentially punishing TAMU for scheduling a tough OOC opponent.  Congratulations Big XII for screwing up…again.  


7.    Arkansas Keeps BCS Hopes Alive with Win over LSU  

Ryan Mallet’s 320 yards passing and 3 touchdowns were enough to get the Razorbacks past LSU Saturday afternoon in Little Rock.  The Razorbacks outplayed LSU in all aspects of the game on their way to a convincing 31-23 victory.    In the last two months, Sophomore RB Knile Davis has emerged as one of the SEC’s best ball carriers.  Between Davis and Sophomore QB Tyler Wilson (who has looked good in relief of Ryan Mallet), the Hogs seem to be set offensively for the next couple of seasons.   

An Auburn win over South Carolina next week will likely put Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State while Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina end up in the Cotton, Citrus, and Outback Bowls (not sure who goes where).  Should Carolina shock the world again, the Hogs and Gamecocks will likely switch places. 

I’m not sure what has gotten into the LSU defense the last couple of weeks.  After going the first 10 weeks without giving up more that 29 (against Florida in the Swamp), the Tigers have been torched by Ole Miss and now Arkansas for 36 and 31 points respectively.    I’m going to guess that part of the problem is the ineffectiveness of the LSU offense.  The defense has been spending WAY too much time on the field and is probably running out of gas as we approach the end of the season.  Hopefully for LSU, the month rest will get the D back on track.  If it doesn’t, the bowl season won’t be much fun for the Bayou Bengals. 


8.    Florida State Dominates Florida, Heading to Charlotte Thanks to Maryland’s Help  

Urban Meyer’s undefeated streak over Florida State has ended with the Seminole’s 31-7 victory in Tallahassee.  For the first time in nearly a decade, there is no disputing that Florida State is clearly the best team in its state…by a long shot.  The win over Florida gives Jimbo Fischer a good first season from which to build.  Though he will want to forget the blowout loss in Norman and consecutive losses at NC State and at home to UNC, this has arguably been the most successful season at FSU since the Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma. 

The only thing that would make this season better would be a trip to Charlotte to play for the conference championship.  The loss a month ago in Raleigh took FSU’s fate out of its own hands.  Instead, the ‘Noles had to rely on the same Maryland team that they beat last week.  Needless to say, the Seminole faithful had one eye of the Florida game, and the other on the game in College Park, MD.  The Terps came through with a 38-31 victory over NC State at Byrd Stadium.  Florida State and Virginia Tech will meet in next week’s ACC Championship.  The game feature two of the league’s “football powers” for the first time since these same two schools met in 2005’s inaugural game, a 27-22 Seminole victory. 


9.    West Virginia Wins Backyard Brawl, UConn Controls Big East  

In spite of their 6-4 overall record, the Pittsburgh Panthers went into Friday’s Backyard Brawl with West Virginia in the driver’s seat for the Big East BCS bid (likely to the Fiesta Bowl).  That ceased to be the case when WVU manhandled Pitt 35-10 in front of the Panthers’ home crown at Heinz Field.  The Pittsburgh loss combined with Connecticut’s win over Cincinnati Friday creates a three-way tie at the top of the much-maligned Big East.  Due to its wins over both Pitt and WVU, UConn controls its own destiny.  Win next week in Tampa, and the Huskies will be headed to Glendale to play the Big XII champion or the Orange Bowl to play the ACC champ. 

Should UConn fall, WVU goes to the desert with a home win over Rutgers.  Pitt is still alive, but will need help from USF and Rutgers.  For those of you keeping score at home, four-loss UConn controls its own BCS destiny while three-loss WVU and FIVE-LOSS Pitt are still alive.  Meanwhile, one-loss Michigan State appears destined for the Citrus Bowl and one-loss WAC co-champs Boise State and Nevada are looking at trips to the Humanitarian and Fight Hunger Bowls respectively.  There is something seriously wrong with that statement!!!  Hopefully, the new-look MWC will eventually get a BCS-AQ bid and end this nonsense.  


10.    Notre Dame’s Post-Tulsa Rebound Continues In LA  

After losing to Tulsa, many people (myself included) left Notre Dame for dead.  The Irish needed to win two of three against Utah, Army, and USC.  After a bye, ND responded by blowing out Utah and Army to get bowl eligible.  They then took an 18-year old QB to the LA Coliseum and won a 20-16 defensive battle, reversing a near decade of dominance by USC. 

I have voiced many very different opinions about Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.  I still believe that there are some serious character issues given some of his past decisions.  One thing that I will never do is take away from his reputation as an offensive guru.  If he can continue to bring in top-10 recruiting classes, I feel Notre Dame has found their man.  Kelly can build a program. 

The win also makes a big difference in terms of where the Irish will go bowling next month.  A loss would have left them at 6-6 and in the Motor city or Las Vegas Bowls.  With the win, the 7-5 Irish become an attractive option for the Champs Sports Bowl (due to the ND tie-in with the Big East) or the Sun Bowl (due to the lack of eligible Pac-10 teams).  A Sun Bowl against old rival Miami (FL) would be an outstanding game.  Catholics vs. Convicts, take two.


Top Ten (Last Week)
1.    Oregon (1)
2.    Auburn (2)
3.    Wisconsin (5)
4.    TCU (3)
5.    Stanford (6)
6.    Ohio State (7)
7.    Michigan State (10)
8.    Arkansas (NR)
9.    Texas A&M (NR)
10.    Nebraska (NR)
The Next Five: Missouri, LSU, Nevada, Boise State, Oklahoma

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: 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