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Tag:Utah
Posted on: November 21, 2010 1:02 pm
 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

 

2.  Boise State Routs Fresno on Senior Day

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

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

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

 

3.  Ohio State Perseveres in Iowa City

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

5.  Ole Miss Gives LSU all it can Handle

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

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

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

 

6.  Arkansas Wins Double OT Thriller in Starkville

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

8.  Virginia Tech Locks up ACC Coastal

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

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

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

 

9.  Stanford, Oregon State Win Big Out West

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

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

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

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

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

 

10.  Utah Rebounds With Hard Fought Victory in San Diego

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

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


Bonus Thought: Gridiron on the Diamond

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

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

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

Top Ten (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (3)

4.    Boise State (4)

5.    Wisconsin (5)

6.    Stanford (6)

7.    Ohio State (8)

8.    Oklahoma State (10)

9.    LSU (9)

10.    Alabama (10) 

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

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

Saturday Thoughts, 11/13: Survival Saturday

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

 

1.  Oregon Passes Biggest Test of the Season  

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

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

 

2.  Auburn Survives Again  

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

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

 

3.  San Diego State Gives TCU a Scare

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

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

 

4.  Notre Dame Bounces Back, Utah Doesn’t  

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

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

 

5.  Fresno State and Nevada Will Test Boise  

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

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

 

6.  Blowouts in the Big Ten  

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

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

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

 

7.  Oklahoma State Beats Texas, Controls Big XII South  

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

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

 

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

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

 

9.  Three Games to decide the ACC Atlantic Title  

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

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

 

10.  Army Defeats Kent State, Gets Bowl Eligible  

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

 

Bonus Thought   

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

 

Bonus Thought #2  

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

 

Top Ten (Last Week)

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (3)

4.    Boise State (4)

5.    Wisconsin (5)

6.    Stanford (6)

7.    Nebraska (7)

8.    Ohio State (8)

9.    LSU (9)

10.    Oklahoma State (10) 

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


Posted on: November 7, 2010 10:57 am
 

Saturday Thoughts, 11/6: Blowout Saturday

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

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

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

 

2.    There Will be a New National Champion  

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

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

 

3.    Stanford Runs it up on Arizona  

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


7.    Nebraska has Stranglehold on Big XII North 

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

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

 

8.    Does Anybody want to Win the ACC Atlantic?  

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

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

 

9.    Arkansas Pounds South Carolina  

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

 

10.    Will Texas get Bowl Eligible?  

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

 

My Top Ten (Last Week)  

1.    Oregon (1)

2.    Auburn (2)

3.    TCU (4)

4.    Boise State (3)

5.    Wisconsin (8)

6.    Stanford (9)

7.    Nebraska (8)

8.    Ohio State (10)

9.    LSU (N/R)

10.    Oklahoma State (N/R) 

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


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

Saturday Thoughts, 10/30: 2 Less Undefeated Teams

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

 

1.  Oregon Rolls, Makes a Believer Out of Me

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

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

 


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

4.  Nebraska Regains Control of Big XII North

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

 

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

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

 

6.  ACC Florida School Lose on the Road

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

 

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

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

 

8.  Notre Dame Loses at Home, Bowl Unlikely

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

10.  Florida and South Carolina Remain in SEC East Race

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

 

My Top Ten (Last Week)

1.  Oregon (1)

2.  Auburn (2)

3.  Boise State (3)

4.  TCU (4)

5.  Alabama (6)

6.  Utah (8)

7.  Wisconsin (9)

8.  Nebraska (NR)

9.  Stanford (10)

10.  Ohio State (NR)

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


Posted on: October 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