Posted on: November 28, 2010 12:47 am
1. Boise State’s National Title Hopes end in Reno
As is usual, Boise State jumped out to a large first half lead (24-0) and it appeared that Chris Ault’s Nevada Wolf Pack were nothing more than the Broncos’ next victim. However, Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada offense had other plans. They finally broke through and got a TD as the game neared halftime. The offensive improvement fired up the Wolf Pack defense and it shut down the high-powered Boise offense for the first 25 minutes of the 2nd half.
The Nevada rushing game really got going after the half. Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua passed SMU’s Pony Express (Eric Dickerson and Craig James) for most career rushing yards by teammates as they led Nevada’s comeback. With the game tied at 24, Kellen Moore and the Boise offense were finally able to get a TD, only to have it immediately answered by Nevada.
In the final 10 seconds, Moore completed a miracle pass that set up kicker Kyle Brotzman with a chip shot FG to win the game. His wide-right miss sent the game to overtime, where he proceeded to miss a second kick, this time wide-left. The 34-31 Nevada victory ended Boise’s hopes of playing for the National Championship.
You have to feel bad for Brotzman who will likely have an unfair share of the blame on his shoulders. The fact of the matter is that unlike most opponents, Nevada didn’t roll over after Boise jumped out to its lead. Instead, they punched back, and I’m not sure Boise knew how to respond. When playing a schedule like Boise’s, you can’t be sure how your team will respond when challenged. There were times in the second half when Bronco players looked like deer in headlights.
I’ve heard several begin talking about Boise’s “glass jaw,” I disagree. To their credit, the Broncos managed to put together two drives that should have been game winners in the final minutes of regulation. I’m not sure where Boise will end up this bowl season, but they will deserve better.
The hometown Humanitarian Bowl is the most likely option, but I have another thought. With the Big Ten likely to be unable to fulfill its commitment to the Motor City Bowl, the folks in Detroit can invite any bowl eligible team to the game. The Las Vegas Bowl may also be looking for a team to fill the spot the Pac-10 can’t.
In Detroit, Boise would play likely MAC champion Northern Illinois. If they chose to play in Vegas, the Broncos would likely face MWC runner-up Utah. I’m not sure the Broncos would be willing to make either trip, but those games have the potential to be one of the better games of this bowl season (much like the TCU-Boise Poinsettia and Louisville-Boise Liberty Bowls from previous years). My preference would be for a BSU-NIU Motor City Bowl. That way, I could drive up from Cleveland for the game.
2. Auburn Survives Toughest Test of Season in Tuscaloosa
Every time the Auburn Tigers appear to be finished, Cam Newton pulls another rabbit out of his hat. As a four-point favorite, the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped out to a 24-0 first half lead (sound familiar???) and appeared to be well on its way to ending Auburn’s miracle season. A field goal late in the second quarter would begin a run Tiger that would bring the Alabama lead to under a touchdown at 27-21.
Newton would engineer two key drives in the fourth quarter. The first gave Auburn its first lead of the game, 28-27. The second drive drained the final seconds off the clock as the crowd at Bryant-Denney sat in stunned silence.
Auburn still has another big challenge ahead of it. The same South Carolina Gamecocks that nearly won on the Plains back in September. At this point, I see no reason to pick against Auburn again this season. The Tigers keep finding ways to win. Even when they don’t show up (Kentuky, Clemson), seem overmatched (Alabama), or out schemed (Arkansas, LSU) Auburn keeps winning. Kudos to Gene Chizik.
Lovers of defensive football should probably not watch the potential Auburn-Oregon National Championship Game. I’m not sure what the record is for most points in a BCS Title Game, but I have a hunch that the Tigers and Ducks would break it.
3. Oregon and TCU Roll
While Boise lost and Auburn struggled, TCU and Oregon met little resistance from their opponents Thanksgiving Weekend. Mike Stoops and the Arizona Wildcats became the most recent defense to be unable to slow down the Oregon attack Friday night at Autzen Stadium. At halftime, it seemed like the Wildcats had the answer. The 19-14 lead wouldn’t hold up as the Ducks outscored their opponents 34-10 in the second half.
Coming off their bye and a close win over San Diego State, the TCU Horned Frogs had a predictable blowout win over New Mexico in Albuquerque, 66-17. The Frogs are the first team in the clubhouse at 12-0. With the notable exception of the San Diego State game, the Frogs have dominated their opponents all season and are certainly worthy of being in the conversation for the BCS Championship. Should either Auburn or Oregon fall next week, TCU looks like it will be able to hold off one-loss teams Wisconsin and Stanford to secure a spot in the BCS Title Game. If not, a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl is one heck of a consolation prize. A TCU-Wisconsin match up in the Rose Bowl Game might be the best game we see all bowl season.
4. Wisconsin Hammers Northwestern, Heading to Pasadena
At kickoff, Wisconsin knew that a win on senior day would essentially guarantee it a trip to the Rose Bowl. A win would put the Badgers in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten. Per conference rules, the highest ranked BCS team (currently Wisconsin) earns the conference’s automatic BCS bid. To say they took care of business would be an understatement. This time, Northwestern was the victim. The Wildcats were unable to accomplish much against Wisky on their way to a 70-23 defeat.
To give you an idea of how dominant Wisconsin was this season, over its Big Ten schedule (7-1), the Badgers have averaged over 40 points per game. In its last three games (Indiana, @Michigan, and Northwestern), the Wisconsin Badgers have put up 201 points. The Badgers were the only team that managed to cross the 30-point threshold against Ohio State’s top-five defense. Today's win was Wisconsin’s third game of 70-plus points and sixth win by 20 or more. The three-headed monster at running back (Clay, White, and Ball) has been unstoppable.
I like TCU and think that they have had an outstanding year, but I cannot in good conscience leave them ahead of Wisconsin in my top-ten. The Badgers have dominated its Big Ten schedule in a way that no team has in recent memory. I honestly don’t see a team I would call a favorite over Wisconsin.
5. Ohio State Extends Winning Streak to Over Michigan
Did anyone really expect the Wolverines to make a game of this one? Traveling to one of the most hostile environments in the nation a week after getting smoked by Wisconsin is usually not a recipe for success. That proved to be the case today as the Buckeyes rolled Michigan 37-7. In all honesty, the game wasn’t that close. The seven game winning-streak is the longest Ohio State has ever had over Michigan and is also the longest in the series since UM won nine in a row from 1901 to 1909. OSU goes for number eight next November in Ann Arbor.
The win put the Buckeyes in a three-way tie for the Big Ten Championship with Wisconsin and Michigan State. This marks the sixth consecutive year in which Ohio State won or shared the conference crown, tying its own record from the 1970s. With Wisconsin heading to Pasadena, a Sugar Bowl match up with either South Carolina or Arkansas seems to be OSU’s most likely destination. If not the Sugar Bowl, a game against Virginia Tech or Florida State in the Orange Bowl is almost guaranteed. Ohio State fans travel too well to justify leaving an 11-1 Buckeye team out of a BCS bowl game…sorry OSU haters.
Today’s loss moves Rich Rodriguez’s record to 0-12 against teams with a winning record in conference play. I’ve been saying it all season: until Michigan can improve its defense, it has no chance of competing for a Big Ten Title. Calls for change continue to get louder from Michigan fans, but the UM athletic director has said no decision will be made until after the Wolverine’s Bowl game. Some reports are saying that Michigan is already putting out feelers to Jim Harbaugh of Stanford (a UM alumnus). Time will tell, but one thing is for certain: defensive coordinator Greg Robinson won’t be back.
6. Bedlam Lives up to its Name
Once again, ESPN/ABC gave the Cleveland market a bummer by putting Notre Dame-USC on ABC and two SEC/ACC rivalry games on the ESPN networks, forcing me to watch the night’s only meaningful game on ESPN3.com.
Now that I’ve said my peace about that, I can get off my soapbox and get on with commentary. After three quarters, the game was tied at 24. That was the point that Bedlam earned its name. Oklahoma and OSU combined for 40 points in the last period. The Sooners scored on their final five possessions, three FGs and a pair of 75-plus yard TD passes by Landry Jones. Not to be outdone, OSU widoout Justin Blackmon threw a touchdown to QB Brandon Weeden and Justin Gilbert took an OU kick 90 yards for a score. A poor Cowboy onside kick attempt sealed the game for Oklahoma.
With the win, the Sooners forced another three-way tie in the Big XII South. In the BCS, Oklahoma will likely be ranked highest, followed by Texas A&M, with OSU third. Unless TAMU can get within one place of OU, the Sooners will be playing for the conference title game instead of a team that beat them. Texas A&M is going to be punished in the BCS for being the only three-loss team in the tie. The Aggie loss came at the hands of Arkansas on a neutral field. The Hogs are a top-ten team and the strongest OOC opponent that any of the Big XII South contenders played this season…by a long shot. The Big XII is essentially punishing TAMU for scheduling a tough OOC opponent. Congratulations Big XII for screwing up…again.
7. Arkansas Keeps BCS Hopes Alive with Win over LSU
Ryan Mallet’s 320 yards passing and 3 touchdowns were enough to get the Razorbacks past LSU Saturday afternoon in Little Rock. The Razorbacks outplayed LSU in all aspects of the game on their way to a convincing 31-23 victory. In the last two months, Sophomore RB Knile Davis has emerged as one of the SEC’s best ball carriers. Between Davis and Sophomore QB Tyler Wilson (who has looked good in relief of Ryan Mallet), the Hogs seem to be set offensively for the next couple of seasons.
An Auburn win over South Carolina next week will likely put Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State while Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina end up in the Cotton, Citrus, and Outback Bowls (not sure who goes where). Should Carolina shock the world again, the Hogs and Gamecocks will likely switch places.
I’m not sure what has gotten into the LSU defense the last couple of weeks. After going the first 10 weeks without giving up more that 29 (against Florida in the Swamp), the Tigers have been torched by Ole Miss and now Arkansas for 36 and 31 points respectively. I’m going to guess that part of the problem is the ineffectiveness of the LSU offense. The defense has been spending WAY too much time on the field and is probably running out of gas as we approach the end of the season. Hopefully for LSU, the month rest will get the D back on track. If it doesn’t, the bowl season won’t be much fun for the Bayou Bengals.
8. Florida State Dominates Florida, Heading to Charlotte Thanks to Maryland’s Help
Urban Meyer’s undefeated streak over Florida State has ended with the Seminole’s 31-7 victory in Tallahassee. For the first time in nearly a decade, there is no disputing that Florida State is clearly the best team in its state…by a long shot. The win over Florida gives Jimbo Fischer a good first season from which to build. Though he will want to forget the blowout loss in Norman and consecutive losses at NC State and at home to UNC, this has arguably been the most successful season at FSU since the Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
The only thing that would make this season better would be a trip to Charlotte to play for the conference championship. The loss a month ago in Raleigh took FSU’s fate out of its own hands. Instead, the ‘Noles had to rely on the same Maryland team that they beat last week. Needless to say, the Seminole faithful had one eye of the Florida game, and the other on the game in College Park, MD. The Terps came through with a 38-31 victory over NC State at Byrd Stadium. Florida State and Virginia Tech will meet in next week’s ACC Championship. The game feature two of the league’s “football powers” for the first time since these same two schools met in 2005’s inaugural game, a 27-22 Seminole victory.
9. West Virginia Wins Backyard Brawl, UConn Controls Big East
In spite of their 6-4 overall record, the Pittsburgh Panthers went into Friday’s Backyard Brawl with West Virginia in the driver’s seat for the Big East BCS bid (likely to the Fiesta Bowl). That ceased to be the case when WVU manhandled Pitt 35-10 in front of the Panthers’ home crown at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh loss combined with Connecticut’s win over Cincinnati Friday creates a three-way tie at the top of the much-maligned Big East. Due to its wins over both Pitt and WVU, UConn controls its own destiny. Win next week in Tampa, and the Huskies will be headed to Glendale to play the Big XII champion or the Orange Bowl to play the ACC champ.
Should UConn fall, WVU goes to the desert with a home win over Rutgers. Pitt is still alive, but will need help from USF and Rutgers. For those of you keeping score at home, four-loss UConn controls its own BCS destiny while three-loss WVU and FIVE-LOSS Pitt are still alive. Meanwhile, one-loss Michigan State appears destined for the Citrus Bowl and one-loss WAC co-champs Boise State and Nevada are looking at trips to the Humanitarian and Fight Hunger Bowls respectively. There is something seriously wrong with that statement!!! Hopefully, the new-look MWC will eventually get a BCS-AQ bid and end this nonsense.
10. Notre Dame’s Post-Tulsa Rebound Continues In LA
After losing to Tulsa, many people (myself included) left Notre Dame for dead. The Irish needed to win two of three against Utah, Army, and USC. After a bye, ND responded by blowing out Utah and Army to get bowl eligible. They then took an 18-year old QB to the LA Coliseum and won a 20-16 defensive battle, reversing a near decade of dominance by USC.
I have voiced many very different opinions about Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. I still believe that there are some serious character issues given some of his past decisions. One thing that I will never do is take away from his reputation as an offensive guru. If he can continue to bring in top-10 recruiting classes, I feel Notre Dame has found their man. Kelly can build a program.
The win also makes a big difference in terms of where the Irish will go bowling next month. A loss would have left them at 6-6 and in the Motor city or Las Vegas Bowls. With the win, the 7-5 Irish become an attractive option for the Champs Sports Bowl (due to the ND tie-in with the Big East) or the Sun Bowl (due to the lack of eligible Pac-10 teams). A Sun Bowl against old rival Miami (FL) would be an outstanding game. Catholics vs. Convicts, take two.
Top Ten (Last Week)
1. Oregon (1)
2. Auburn (2)
3. Wisconsin (5)
4. TCU (3)
5. Stanford (6)
6. Ohio State (7)
7. Michigan State (10)
8. Arkansas (NR)
9. Texas A&M (NR)
10. Nebraska (NR)
The Next Five: Missouri, LSU, Nevada, Boise State, Oklahoma
Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:46 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2010 11:04 pm
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.”
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
Tags: Air Force, Army, Auburn, Boise State, Boise State, California, Connecticut, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, Mount Union, Navy, NC State, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, South Carolina, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 31, 2010 4:45 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2010 9:46 pm
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