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Tag:Ohio State
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: 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 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


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)


Posted on: October 11, 2010 4:07 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 9:10 am
 

Saturday Thoughts, 10/9

10 thoughts from this weekend’s action, followed by my top 10 list: 

1.  2 weeks ago, Arkansas showed the world the blueprint for beating Alabama.  4 quarters of good quarterback play combined with a solid defensive effort was what was needed to take down the nation’s best team.  Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the team played well through the first 3 quarters before falling apart in the fourth.  Alabama was proven to be beatable, the question became “what team would be able to pull the upset?”  It ended up being South Carolina with Garcia and the Gamecock defense stepping up after their bye week and a loss @Auburn. 

2. Denard Robinson is a great athlete. By his senior year, Michigan's offense will be one of the nation's best and he'll have a legit case for the Heisman. Right now, he has to improve his throwing accuracy and get through his reads faster. Rich Rodriguez needs to put better offensive pieces around him and completely overhaul the Wolverine D. Until then, teams with solid passing games and competent defenses will have little trouble winning against Michigan.  Iowa, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are all left on the Wolverine schedule and fit the description.  Michigan will lose 2-3 more games this regular season.  On the other side of the coin, Michigan State is for real.  Sparty should be undefeated heading to Iowa City in two weeks.  A win there, and MSU should earn at least a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena. 

3.  If Terrelle Pryor plays at the top of his game (ie, Saturday vs. Indiana, vs. Miami (FL), and in the Rose Bowl), Ohio State is nearly unbeatable.  The Buckeye defense is one of the best in the country, and Pryor is the necessary component for OSU’s offensive success.  If Pryor is playing poorly or (God forbid) gets injured, the Buckeye offense goes from solid to below average and the team goes from national title contender to 2-4 loss team out of the BCS.

4.  Speaking of Ohio State, their hard-fought victory in their Big Ten opener against Illinois doesn’t look as bad after the beating the Illini laid on Penn State in Happy Valley.  If Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are the top Big Ten teams, Illinois fits solidly in the 2nd tier with Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana.  Conversely, Penn State is looking like the 9th best team in the conference and will be fighting with Purdue to try and get bowl eligible.

5.  Auburn needs a statement win.  Right now, the Tigers are the highest ranked SEC team according to the AP.  However, I’m still waiting for them to really put on an impressive performance.  They have struggled in both of their road games against clearly inferior opponents (Mississippi State and Kentucky).  It took overtime to beat Clemson on the Plains. Auburn needed Stephen Garcia and South Carolina to collapse in the 4th quarter to keep their undefeated season alive.  A win next week over Arkansas would go a long way for Auburn.  However, I still think Arkansas should come away with the W. 

6.  Les Miles must have made a deal with the devil.  How else can you explain these 4th quarter comebacks, lucky fake FGs, and wins despite horrible clock management?  LSU has a national championship caliber defense.  If either Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson can figure out how to lead the offense, LSU can make a legit run at the SEC title and a record 3rd BCS championship.  If no, the Tigers are doomed to lose at least twice as their schedule will only get tougher from here on. 

7.  The SEC East isn’t very good.  Other than South Carolina, the top 5 SEC teams all come from the West.  The Gamecocks are in the drivers seat to win their division.  The Old Ball Coach has no excuses for his team failing to reach Atlanta this year, let’s take a look at the competition.  Florida is one of the best programs in the country, but is in the middle of a down year.  This is not a knock on the Gators, this usually happens when you lose an all world QB like Tim Tebow.  Georgia lost their first 3 SEC games and then got beaten by Colorado.  Tennessee has been blown out twice, nearly lost to UAB, and blew a 4th quarter lead despite LSU’s best effort to give them the game.  Kentucky couldn’t seal the deal against Auburn and got blown out in Gainesville.  Vandy is Vandy. 

8.  Oklahoma’s blowout win over Florida State earlier this season is looking even better after the beating FSU laid on Miami (FL).  Right now, the Seminoles are the best team in Florida and are the clear favorites in the ACC.  They are in the weaker division and should be the favorites in all of their remaining games. 

9.  At some point this season, a Pac 10 team will come up with a scheme to shut down the Oregon offense.  If the Ducks don’t put up at least 40 points, they are in danger of losing on any given Saturday.  To say their defense is a weakness would be a massive understatement.  Though they lost this weekend, I think Mike Stoops and his Arizona Wildcats have the best shot at the end of November.  Arizona is the best defensive team in the conference and should still have a chance at getting to the Rose Bowl.  Other teams that have a shot are USC at home in 2 weeks and Oregon State in Corvallis the last week of the season. 

10.  After a convincing win in Ames, the Utah Utes have earned the right to be in the conversation for best non-AQ team with Boise State and TCU.  As an outside observer I find it shocking that Utah isn’t getting any press right now.  Though they are not the sexy pick, Utah has as strong of a BCS busting track record as either of the other teams.  The beaten 2 AQ school already and have a chance to knock off a third when they go to South Bend next month.  A win over TCU in Salt Lake City will change the way both teams are viewed.  The Horned Frogs will be the favorite (possibly a heavy favorite), but given Utah’s recent track record at home (only 5 losses in 5+ seasons under Kyle Whittingham, nonce since September ’07) I certainly wouldn’t bet any money against them.

My Top 10:
1.    Oklahoma
2.    Ohio State
3.    Oregon
4.    Boise State
5.    Nebraska
6.    TCU
7.    Auburn
8.    LSU
9.    Alabama
10.  Utah

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