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Tag:Notre Dame
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 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: 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 24, 2010 12:11 pm
 

Saturday Thoughts, 10/23: #1 Falls Again

Ten thoughts on this weekend's action and my updated top-10 list.

 

1.    Number One Falls on the Road  Where have I heard this before?

Another week, another number one gets picked off away from home.  Missouri came in better prepared than Oklahoma and beat the Sooners in every aspect of the game.  This season is beginning to look very similar to 2007.  No team is safe, and I’m pretty confident that we haven’t seen the last of these upsets.  Oregon (AP #1) still has three very losable games left on their schedule.  Playing in the SEC West leaves Auburn (BCS #1) vulnerable every week.  Michigan State and Missouri face huge road challenges next week (Iowa and Nebraska respectively).  It is becoming more likely that pollsters will have to eventually decide if a one-loss power conference team is more worthy than an undefeated TCU, Boise, or Utah.

 

2.    Auburn Looking Like the Nation’s Best, Newton IS Nation’s Best

Every week I have a new concern regarding the Auburn Tigers and their bid for an SEC/National Championship.  This week, Cameron Newton torched the SEC’s best defense for 200+ rushing yards while leading Auburn to a 24-17 victory over LSU on the Plains.  Newton is clearly the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, as he should be.  Auburn should win their next two before hosting a Georgia Bulldog team that suddenly looks like a contender in the SEC East.

I really like this Tiger team, but I feel the same way about them as I do Oregon.  Both have painfully obvious weaknesses and have yet to face a team with the personnel to exploit them.  In the case of the Tigers, a team with a strong front seven and solid passing game should have a good chance against them.  Both Georgia and Alabama fit that description.  Also, South Carolina came close at Auburn last month; there is no reason to believe they would have an even better chance on a neutral field in Atlanta.  Don’t get me wrong; I think Auburn has an outstanding chance of running the table, I just think there are several teams left on their schedule who could give the Tigers a run for their money.

 

3.    Michigan State Survives Close Call in Evanston

Northwestern nearly spoiled Mark D’Antonio’s return to the MSU sideline.  The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-0 first half lead that they held until the middle of the fourth quarter.  Kirk Cousins showed the poise of an upperclassman as he led the Spartan offense to 28 second half points and a come from behind victory in their first game outside of Michigan.  This season’s team is beginning to remind me of the 2002 Ohio State team (for which D’Antonio served as defensive coordinator).  Their games aren’t going to be particularly pretty, but you get the feeling that they will always find a way to get the win.  Sparty will face its greatest test of the season next weekend at Kinnick Stadium.

 

4.    The Road to Pasadena Runs Still Through Iowa City

Even though the Hawkeyes lost this afternoon, the Big Ten champion is going to have to win a game in Iowa City.  It is likely that the five games featuring Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Iowa will be the key factor in deciding the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl.  Of those five games, three are going to be held in Iowa City.  The Hawkeyes can cause complete chaos by beating Sparty next Saturday and forcing a five-way tie at the top of the conference (the aforementioned teams along with Purdue) that will take at least a month to sort out.  However, an MSU win should lock up the conference title for the Spartans.  Things could get REALLY interesting in the Big Ten next Saturday.

 

5.    Ohio State, Arkansas Rebound at Home

Last weekend, both Ohio State and Arkansas suffered disappointing losses on the road in front of a national television audience.  This weekend, they returned home looking to take their frustrations out on inferior conference foes.  Homecoming combined last week’s loss in Madison and revenge for last year’s game in West Lafayette led to a very motivated Buckeye team.  Ohio State racked up 400+ first half yards on their way to a 42-0 halftime lead.  Joe Bauserman and the second team added a second half touchdown and the defense held on for a 49-0 shutout, the first of the season for the Buckeye defense.  With only one conference loss on their record, the Buckeyes are still very much in contention for a Big Ten title and BSC Bowl bid.  It will take a lot of luck for them to get to Glendale for the title game, but stranger things have happened.

Arkansas’s loss at Auburn moved them to 1-2 in the SEC, leaving them tied for last in the SEC west.  The Hogs benefited from two weather delays to hold on and defeat former head coach Houston Nutt and Ole Miss 38-24.  The Razorbacks jumped out to an early lead, but watched as Mississippi chipped away at their advantage.  The Black Bears…err Rebels scored just inside the 10-minute mark to cut the Razorback lead to 31-24.  Play was stopped for weather for a second time following the Mississippi touchdown.  With Ryan Mallet sidelined after showing more concussion symptoms, Tyler Wilson led a Razorback touchdown drive after the weather delay.  An Ole Miss fumble on the goal line sealed the Arkansas win.

 

6.    South Carolina Back in SEC East Driver’s Seat

The South Carolina Gamecocks won their showdown in Nashville to take sole possession of first place in the SEC East (3-2 in conference).  However, three teams still have a realistic chance.  South Carolina has two losable games left on their conference schedule (home vs. Arkansas and at Florida).  The Florida Gators (coming off a bye and sitting on a three-game losing streak) still control their own destiny.  They host South Carolina in three weeks in what will likely be a winner-take-all match up.  Georgia (who started 0-3 in conference) has a tough road to go.  They must defeat Florida and Auburn then get some help.  To win the conference, South Carolina will have to lose two of their final three.  Even Kentucky and Vanderbilt still have outside chances, but will need more help than is reasonable to believe they can get.

 

7.    Big East Leaders Fall at Home

The preseason favorites to win the Big East Championship, Cincinnati and West Virginia both fell at home this weekend.  The Bearcats lost Friday night to a South Florida team that found it necessary to bring sideline heaters so they could withstand the “frigid” Southern Ohio weather.  The Mountaineers allowed a far less talented Syracuse team to push them around all game.  This was their first loss in Morgantown since 2008 and their first loss to the Orange sine 2001.

The losses by Cincy and WVU made the Pitt/Rutgers game a showdown for sole possession of first place in the Big East.  The Panthers manhandled Rutgers at home a week after thumping Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last Saturday. The Panthers are in the drivers seat and appear to be the class of the Big East by a long shot.  However, given their 4-3 record and the volatility of the Big East, I wouldn’t expect that to remain the case all season.

 

8.    The Giant Killers from Ames Strike Again

Last season, Paul Rhoads took his Iowa State Cyclones to Lincoln and upset the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  The Texas Longhorns became ISU’s most recent victim.  Coming off of their upset win over Nebraska, the ‘Horns were perfectly set up for a let down against a Cyclone team that has looked less than impressive in blowout losses to Utah and Oklahoma.  Iowa State came to Austin, pushed Texas around for 60 minutes, and walked out with their first ever victory over the Longhorns.  There is still a long way for the ISU program to go, but this is the most promise they’ve shown since they had Seneca Wallace under center.

 

9.    Navy knocks off the Irish Again

Four years ago, I sat in the stands in South Bend after Navy beat Notre Dame in overtime for their first win over the Irish in 40+ years.  All you could hear in the stadium were several hundred Middies celebrating.  Everyone else was in stunned silence.  It’s still hard to believe that Navy victories in this series are no longer shocking.  The USNA has won two in a row and three of their last four against the Irish.  ND now sits and 4-4 and bowl eligibility is not a given.  After cupcake Tulsa next week, the Irish have a bye week before hosting current top-10 Utah, returning to New York to face a much improved Army team, and finishing the season in Los Angeles against a USC team with a chip on its shoulder.

 

10.    Oregon Wins Big, Set up Showdown Next Weekend in LA

Oregon received USC’s message from last week and responded in kind.  The Ducks scored on all but two of their possessions and blew out UCLA 60-13 to move to 7-0.  This marked the third time this season that the Oregon offense has crossed the 60-point threshold.  They head to the Coliseum next Saturday to face a Trojan team coming off their bye.  With two weeks to prepare and legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin on their sideline, USC provides the toughest challenge to Chip Kelly’s offense so far this season.  Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense should be able to put up some points against the porous Oregon defense as well.

 

My Top Ten (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (2)

2.    Auburn (3)

3.    Boise State (4)

4.    TCU (5)

5.    Michigan State (9)

6.    Alabama (7)

7.    Missouri (NR)

8.    Utah (8)

9.    Wisconsin (NR)

10.    Stanford (10)

The Next Five: Ohio State, Oklahoma (1), LSU (6), Nebraska, Arizona


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