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The College Football Bowlgame Breakdown for 2014-2015 December 17, 2014

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NewMexicoBowl2012

The 2012 New Mexico Bowl between Arizona and Nevada turned out to be a thrilling, high-scoring affair. Let us hope that when the Wildcats line up against Boise State in this upcoming Fiesta Bowl, we the fans will be treated to similar fireworks!

Yes, folks, we are but a few short days away from looking LIVE at a bevy of bowl games.  This plethora of postseason pigskin contests will span two weeks and change, and we will likely be satiated with college football, at least until the Spring games in April.  So, here is a break-down of what not to miss, and a few that you’d like to miss, but will not be able to help yourselves just the same.

Ticket to die for:  Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1.  Actually the real ticket to die for is the playoff championship game held a week later, but the semifinals must be played first to determine who plays then.  Fair enough, you say, but what about Bama vs. the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl?  That’s a good one, to be sure.  But in the minds of most fans and commentators, the Ducks vs. the Seminoles seems to have just a slightly greater degree of sex appeal, that’s all.

Best non–Power Five vs. Power Five match–up:  Utah vs. Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20.  For one, this might be the only worthwhile bowl game to watch on the first day of the post–season.  For another, there are actually a few other decent match–ups to keep one’s eye on as said post–season unfolds, namely Illinois (wait, they’re in a bowl this year?) vs. Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and N.C. State vs. Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl (wait, what happened to it being called the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl?), both on Fri., Dec. 26.  Indeed, the latter line–up might be cause to reconsider who merits the “best” distinction. The reason I say that is, with the Rams’ coach having bolted to take the Florida job (who can blame him for taking such a prestigious post?), nobody knows what sort of team will show up to face the Utes.

Then again, this is the mystery that shrouds most bowl game line–ups.

Best non–Power Five match–up:  Marshall vs. Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tues., Dec. 23.  So Florida Atlantic is going to host a bowlgame?  Apparently they’re good for something after all. Sorry, Owls, but things haven’t been the same since Coach Schnellenberger retired.  The Huskies won the MAC decisively in Detroit, while Marshall has been a strong non–Power Five team all year long, notwithstanding almost coughing it up to the La. Tech Bulldogs recently.

Upset alert:  Oklahoma vs. Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Mon., Dec. 29.  This is the safest upset to predict because whereas the Tigers are ranked (No. 17), the Sooners are not, and Clemson’s postseason performance is unreliable, right, Dana Holgersen?

Must win:  Ole Miss vs. TCU in the Peach Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31.  The winner of this game will be the team that is the least disappointed to be there after having much higher aspirations during the regular season.  A win here will also help them salvage some consolation from not having lived up to said aspirations.

Offensive explosion:  Boise State vs. Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31.  At least, this match-up has a good a chance as any to rack up some points.  The Wildcats and the Broncos both have been fairly adept at that this season, after all.  The bonus in this game is that there is great potential for snazzy colors in the team uniforms on both sides of the ball!

Defensive struggle:  Boston College vs. Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27.  Neither team really lit up the scoreboard this year, did they?  Add cold weather on top of that (it will be played in Yankee Stadium, after all), and that is likely to put a further damper on offensive output.

Great game no one is talking about:  Iowa vs. Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Fri., Jan. 2.  This used to be called the Gator Bowl for the previous 67 years, fyi.  What makes this game so good is that the Hawkeyes have been very quietly winning a critical mass of games this year, while the Volunteers are a year away under Coach Butch Jones before becoming really good.  Translation:  this is a closer match–up than most SEC fans would be willing to acknowledge.

Intriguing coaching match–up:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs. Urban Meyer of Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1.  This is a no–brainer.  They’re arguably the two best coaches in the business, no what it takes to win, and both of multiple national championships under their belts.  Moreover, the two have gone head–to–head before when Meyer was coaching at Florida.  This oughtta be a good one, folks!

Who’s bringing the body bags?  LSU vs. Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30.  The only way this game is remotely competitive is if the Tigers just lie down for most of the game, for the Irish have been exposed time and again as overrated frauds late this year.

Why are they playing?  Florida vs. East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, Sat., Jan. 3.  The only reason in any known universe that these two programs would be playing each other in a bowl game is because the Gators are that far down as a program at the moment.

Plenty of good seats remaining:  Western Michigan vs. Air Force in the Idaho Potato Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20. Nothing against Western Michigan and the fine year they have had (by MAC standards, at least).  Nothing against Air Force, because they’re the troops.  But still, it will be in frigid Boise, Idaho.  Unless you’re going there to ski, why bother being anywhere near there this time of year?

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Nevada vs. Louisiana–Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20.  Yes, I know, these past 13 years, the New Orleans Bowl has been the traditional kick-off game for the bowl season, but let us be honest:  this strikes us as only a slightly better–than–average non–Power Five early season match–up.  Do I lie?

That said, an honorable mention for pointless match–up is Toledo vs. Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl (played in Mobile, Ala.) on Sun., Jan. 4.

Red–and–Black Special:  Louisville vs. Georgia in the Belk Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30.  These two teams seem too good for the Belk Bowl.  Still, the bowl itself has managed to climb its way up the prestige ranks a bit over the course of a decade.  It must be the sponsor:  “Belk Bowl” has far better ring to it than “Continental Tires Bowl”.  Yes, that’s what it used to be called.  Honest!

Most exotic location:  Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Wed., Dec. 24.  Do not adjust your screens, for you read that correctly.  Yes, there is now a bowl game in the Bahamas (Nassau, specifically), an obvious “first”.  Let’s hope the teams have the opportunity to enjoy things and live it up a bit.

Two great programs in a so–so bowl:  Miami vs. South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27.  Maybe after these two proud programs get down knocking heads, the bowl game will be a bit less so–so, and more reminiscent of recent times when the likes of LSU and Notre Dame slugged it out (1997) or when Mississippi State and then–Big XII rep Texas A&M duked it out in a blizzard (2000).  It already has made us forget the less–than–memorable match–ups of the past few years.

The explosive offense meets the immovable defense:  Baylor vs. Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, Thurs., Jan.1. Plus, there will be lots of green!  Seriously, though, the Bears have put up scorching numbers on offense, but the big knock against them has constantly been, whom have they played this year?  On the other hand, Michigan State has proven themselves to be a force with which to be reckoned after upsetting Stanford in the most recent Rose Bowl.  Lesson learned:  Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are not to be taken lightly.

Consolation game:  Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1.  Similar The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, if Mississippi State wins this, it will be because they overcame their disappointment of not making the Top 4 in the playoffs.  With that said, when was the last time that the Bulldogs have made it to such a prestigious bowl game?  Certainly not in my lifetime!

The “Troubled” Song from 80 Years Ago Still Has Energy Today. December 11, 2014

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Eighty years and three weeks ago, a very seminal recording was produced by a band that legends in music who were up-and-comers at the time.

Of the many interesting parallels between the start of the Swing Era and the start of the Rock n’ Roll Era, one that readily stands out is the 20-year gaps between the two.  Rock’s era started in 1955, and most historians agree that Swing began in earnest in 1935.  But just because those are when the genres’ eras began does not mean that those forms of music did not exist prior to then.  Far from it.  Indeed, anybody remotely schooled in popular music from the 1950s would readily recognize a plethora of recordings from 1954 that would rightly have their place in the era that started the following year.  From “Sh-Boom” by the Chords to “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner and “Sincerely” by the Moonglows, records like these contributed greatly to the energy that led to Rock’s explosion in 1955, even though they all date from the year before.

Similarly, key records from 1934 contributed to the build-up that led to the unleashing of Swing’s energy onto the scene in 1935.  One of the most important records, therefore, to come out of this year was “Troubled” by Frankie Trumbauer.  “Tram,” as he was known, was a key contributor to the early era.  His primary instrument was the C melody saxophone, a rarity unto itself, especially in the modern era of B-flat and E-flat saxes (tenor and alto, respectively).  But he also cut records with legends, both current and soon-t0-be, from Bix Beiderbecke to Bunny Berigan.

The first few, haunting notes at the instrumental’s beginning establish the record’s key signature tone.  After those notes, one experiences the establishment of a more upbeat tempo.  One thing that makes the record unique is that it is both upbeat with a minor key — no doubt reflecting the song’s intriguing title — something more of the exception than the norm.

The real strength of the record is its powerful solos, the largest plurality of which comes from the trumpet of the great Bunny Berigan himself.  His first brief solo teases the listener early in the tune, but Tram’s C-sax solos tide said listener over until he returns.  His (Berigan’s) return solo more than satisfies, for it immediately grabs both the audience’s attention and imagination with its sizzle and flare.  What one also comes to notice on the track are excellent clarinet solos, the keen talent thereof clearly shines.  Upon learning that the clarinetist in question is none other than the King of the Clarinet himself, Artie Shaw, all is explained!

The song’s title may have been “Troubled”, but its melody certainly was not.  Indeed, this important, seminal record foreshadowed the incredible, einmalig musical energy and genus that was soon to arrive, and soon to define an entire era of culture in America.

Nebraska fans are delusional. December 5, 2014

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bo-pelini-450x300In case any reader has missed the news, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has been fired…for going 9-3.  Most fan bases would be happy with their team having such a record.  Of the fan bases that would not, most would at least tolerate it if they sensed that the program was still headed in the right direction.  Of the few remaining fan bases that would not tolerate such a record, let us put them through a litmus test.  Test Item A:  are you an upper-tier program in the Southeastern Conference?  Yes or no?  If no, are you Florida State, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU or Texas?  No?  Then the problem is not with your coach, it’s with you.

Specifically, it is with “you” in two ways:  first and foremost, it is with your school’s geography.  Second, it is with your unreasonable expectations in this new era.  This includes you, Nebraska, and I shall explain. 

First, let us point out the obvious:  gone are the days of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne when the Cornhuskers were regularly competing for the national title.  For, you might acknowledge, but why?  The reason is simple.  Thirty years ago, Nebraska was one of the relatively few teams that regularly got on TV.  Therefore, if a prized high school football player was being recruited nationally, that recruit had a vested interest to play for a Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan or Penn State if he wanted to get national attention.  All that changed when college football television coverage started to expand, as it did in earnest starting 15 years ago.  All of a sudden, top-ranked recruits with options did not need to go to cold, isolated, academically-rigid schools in order to get on television regularly and earn their fame.  Now, with a much-expanded list of school options, they quickly noticed that schools in the Sunbelt did not have the problems of snow drifts in winter, did not have the academic rigidity of most schools up north, and best of all, the co-eds were much prettier.  You’re an 18-year old kid who can run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, and can pick any school you want.  Are you going to go to Lincoln, Nebraska, where it is cold, is isolated, and you have to deal with snowbanks for four months out of the year, or are you going to pick USC or Texas, where it’s 70 degrees in January, and the girls are [mostly] knock-outs?  These days, it’s a no-brainer.

Second, Nebraska is not exactly the kind of state the produces its own in-state talent.  States that do not are at a structural, geographic disadvantage from those that do.  Usually, they have to go several states away to get the players they need, be it California, Texas, or even New Jersey.  Now that Nebraska is out of the Big XII, their recruiting pipelines to Texas have been largely severed.  Moreover, most 17 and 18-year old kids don’t even know who Tom Osborne is/was (heck, they were toddlers when he retired), let alone give a hoot about the tradition of Nebraska’s team, or even Notre Dame’s for that matter.

Given that the key to success in college football is talent acquisition, when you have a host of schools that can offer more to prize recruits than you can offer, that puts you at certain structural disadvantages.  It is not anybody’s fault per se, but it speaks to the fact that the patterns of life in America themselves have changed.  Sorry, but those are the breaks.

But that is not all.  The other issue is finding good coaches themselves.  It used to be, again, in the days of Daveney and Osborne, that being an assistant coach at Nebraska was a relatively plum job, as far as assistant coaching went.  Not anymore.  To be sure, the Cornhuskers do pay their coaches a bit better than more Big Ten schools (their offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, got a raise in January of 2013 from $365K to $700K), but that’s still chickenfeed compared to what most coaches make in the Southeastern Conference or even at, say, Texas.

Again, you’re a coach with options.  You have a pretty wife and good-looking kids.  Are you going to be able to persuade her to move with you to cold, isolated Lincoln, Neb., when you also have the option of taking her to Tucson to coach for the Arizona Wildcats, to Tempe to coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils, or to Austin to coach for the Texas Longhorns?  It’s a surprisingly easy sell to persuade her to let you take an assistant job at TCU, since that plugs you into the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  If you take a coaching job at Georgia, that puts you within an hour-plus of Atlanta, and in Athens, Georgia, one of the most ‘happening’ college towns in America.  So, wives of assistant coaches, what’s it going to be?  Lincoln, or Tucson?  South Bend, or Austin?  Ames, Iowa, or Atlanta?  State College, Pa., or Los Angeles?  This, my friends, is the “game within the game” that nobody ever mentions, but plays a huge roll inmany a football program’s fortunes, especially in this day and age.

Given all that is working against the Husker Nation’s favor these days, Bo Pelini’s job of going 9-3 is, frankly, miraculous.  This is to say nothing of the job he and his staff have done (remember the aforementioned challenges of putting together a good coaching stuff in the Corn State?) regarding player development, because keep in mind of the other aforementioned challenge of not having the pick of the recruiting litter anymore.

And yet he was fired, for a 9-3 record this year.  Does the deluded fan base of Nebraska think they will be able to do any better than Pelini?  If so, who?  Granted, the man had a rather abrasive personality, and he could thus easily rub lots of people the wrong way.  But behind closed doors, away from the cameras, all coaches can be at least occasionally abrasive.  It goes with the territory.  So I ask again, whom does Nebraska intend to find that will do a better job than Pelini?  The reason I posit this question is, if the Huskers no longer have the first dibs on prize recruits, what makes them think they will be able to attract a prized head coach?

College Football Week 14 Awards November 30, 2014

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AuburnvsAlabama112914(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 14] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Rich Rodriquez, Arizona

Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, N.C. State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Mora, UCLA
Desperately seeking … anything: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Kansas State (defeated Kansas 51–13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Utah (defeated Colorado 38–34)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Notre Dame (lost to USC 49–14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kentucky (lost to Louisville 44–40)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: N.C. State (defeated North Carolina 35–7)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: South Florida

You know, they’re not so bad: Georgia Tech
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Mississippi State

Did the season start? South Carolina

Can the season end? Notre Dame
Can the season never end? Arizona

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 11 Arizona 42, No. 13 Arizona State 35

Play this again, too: No. 22 Louisville 44, Kentucky 40
Never play this again: Louisiana Tech 76, Rice 31

What? Western Kentucky 67, No. 24 Marshall 66,OT

Huh? No. 16 Georgia Tech 30, No. 9 Georgia 24
Are you kidding me? Stanford 31, No. 9 UCLA 10

Oh – my – God: No. 19 Ole Miss 31, No. 4 Mississippi State 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 14, pre-week 15)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 17 Missouri

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: None

Best non-Power Five matchup: UCF @ East Carolina

Upset alert: No. 12 Kansas State @ No. 7 Baylor

Must win: No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Ohio State

Offensive explosion: No. 11 Arizona vs. No. 2 Oregon

Defensive struggle: Temple @ Tulane

Great game no one is talking about: Oklahoma State @ No. 20 Oklahoma

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bill Snyder of Kansas State vs. Art Briles of Baylor

Who’s bringing the body bags? Iowa State @ No. 5 TCU

Why are they playing? Fresno State @ No. 23 Boise State

Plenty of good seats remaining: SMU @ UConn

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Houston @ Cincinnati

Week 14 Random Thoughts:

As Colin Cowherd so wisely predicted, the landscape of college football has been seriously altered after this, the rivalry week. Start with Ohio State losing their second quarterback to injury. Already on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, at No. 6 and with a third–string QB, it is unlikely they will have the credibility to be let into the top four of the playoff, even if they beat a coming–on–strong Wisconsin.

South Carolina was already a team that we know what they were this month: a team that blows 4th-quarter leads (notwithstanding beating Florida at game’s end a couple of weeks ago). Such a tendency has already ruined their season. Such ruination was given an exclamation point when they laid down and died to in–state rival Clemson. “I the guys, 6–6 might be what we are,” he sighed in the post–game press conference. Let us hope this is not the last we have seen of the Ol’ Ball Coach, and that he has an opportunity to go out on a high note (along with a better record) next season.

Of course, nothing has altered the current college football picture like Mississippi State losing ignominiously to their arch–rival Ole Miss. All they had to do was beat the Rebels –– a tall order, to be sure –– and they would likely have secured a coveted spot into the top four playoff picture. Not anymore, in all likelihood, and more the pity.

Meanwhile, chippy UCLA had a golden opportunity –– wink –– to play for the Pac–12 title as the south division representative against Oregon. All that was before they dropped the ball to an apparently resurgent Stanford, thus giving the south division championship berth to Arizona instead. Hello, offensive explosion!

My prognostication for the final four playoffs? Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU –– if these shadows remain unchanged, which, at this rate, they will not.

College Football Week 12 Awards November 18, 2014

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USP NCAA FOOTBALL: NORTHWESTERN AT NOTRE DAME S FBC USA IN(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 12] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Bret Bielema, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Lucky guy: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Poor guy: Al Golden, Miami
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Todd Graham, Arizona State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Desperately seeking … anything: Curtis Johnson, Tulane

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Tennessee (beat Kentucky 50-16)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: TCU (defeated Kansas 34-30)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to Tennessee 50-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kansas (lost to No. 4 TCU 34-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Wisconsin (defeated No. 16 Nebraska 59-24)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: Tulane

You know, they’re not so bad: Iowa
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Arizona State

Did the season start? Notre Dame

Can the season end? Eastern Michigan
Can the season never end? Wisconsin

GAMES
Play this again:  Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40

Play this again, too: South Carolina 23, Florida 20
Never play this again: Western Michigan 51, Eastern Michigan 7

What? No. 5 Alabama 25, No. 1 Mississippi State 20

Huh? No. 15 Georgia 34, No. 9 Auburn 7
Are you kidding me? No. 20 Wisconsin 59, No. 16 Nebraska 24

Oh – my – God: Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40

Told you so: Arkansas 17, No. 17 LSU 0

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for: USC @ No. 11 UCLA

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: South Alabama @ South Carolina

Best non-Power Five matchup: Western Michigan @ Central Michigan

Upset alert: Louisville @ No. 18 Notre Dame

Must win: South Carolina @ Florida

Offensive explosion: North Carolina @ No. 21 Duke

Defensive struggle: No. 10 Ole Miss @ Arkansas

Great game no one is talking about: Northwestern @ Purdue

Intriguing coaching matchup: Jerry Kill of Minnesota vs. Bo Pelini of Nebraska (also:  Bobby Petrino of Louisville vs Brian Kelly of Notre Dame)

Who’s bringing the body bags? Charleston Southern @ No. 15 Georgia

Why are they playing? Western Carolina @ Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida International @ North Texas

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Savanna State @ BYU

Week 12 Random Thoughts:

  • Forget Notre Dame being overrated. They are frauds. Allowing Purdue to be competitive against them early in the season was one thing. Struggling against mediocre North Carolina and Navy teams raised an eyebrow or two. Getting embarrassed in the desert completely exposed the flaws in the façade. But losing at home to one of the worst Northwestern teams in Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure? Inexcusable, whether you are an Irish fan or foe.  Look for Bobby Petrino and his Louisville Cardinals to come into South Bend and make like hard for ND.

 

 

College Football Awards Week 11 November 11, 2014

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ASU_NotreDame2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Todd Graham, Arizona State

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (hon. mention: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame)
Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tony Levine, Houston

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Desperately seeking … anything: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 11 Ole Miss (defeated Presbyterian 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Indiana 13-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to No. 20 Georgia 63-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Wake Forest (lost to No. 21 Clemson 34-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Marshall (defeated Southern Miss 63-17)

Dang, they’re good: TCU
Dang, they’re bad: Iowa State

You know, they’re not so bad: Louisville
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State

Did the season start? West Virginia

Can the season end? Buffalo
Can the season never end? Ohio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Auburn 35, No. 3 Ole Miss 31

Play this again, too: No. 24 Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48
Never play this again: Marshall 63, Southern Miss 17

What? Texas 33, No. 23 West Virginia 16

Huh? No. 9 Arizona State 55, No. 10 Notre Dame 31
Are you kidding me? No. 14 Ohio State 49, No. 8 Michigan State 37

Oh – my – God: Texas A&M 41, No. 3 Auburn 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Mississippi State @ No. 5 Alabama

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Temple @ Penn State

Best non-Power Five matchup: East Carolina @ Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 16 LSU @ Arkansas

Must win: South Carolina @ Florida

Offensive explosion: Missouri @ Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Duke

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Ohio State @ Minnesota

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 TCU @ Kansas

Why are they playing? Georgia Southern @ Navy

Plenty of good seats remaining: Troy @ Idaho

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 12 Michigan State @ Maryland

 

Week 11 Random Thoughts:

  • So many good games took place from 19:00 or later on the 8th of November. Start with Louisville at Boston College, which should not have been interesting on paper, but was, unfortunately, due to the Cardinals’ inability to get it together for the first half (they did in the second). Then again, the Cards have always had their troubles with BC!  But then came TCU vs. Kansas State. Bill Snyder has put together an excellent team for this year, and the Wildcats being well-coached shows on the field (especially against Auburn early on in the season). But even a good time like KSU was no match for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, who are making every statement they can in order to vie for the playoffs.

Or, look at Ohio State vs. Michigan State. After the Buckeyes laid an egg at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech squad, everybody was skeptical as to how good a team they truly were. Leave it to Urban Meyer to coach his talented bunch up to be more than a match for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans.

But it turned out the most important game, and the one with the biggest national title implications was the Alabama-LSU game. In typical fashion, it was a defensive struggle, and just to make things even more exciting / to heighten the already high degree of urgency even further, the game went into overtime. The Crimson Tide still have a brutal slate of games ahead, but their win is certain a step in the right direction for them

  • As I have noted before, Notre Dame is overrated. To be sure, I also noted (in other article) that they are enigmatic. But the overrated question mark remained; lurking, hidden, just waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. Thanks be to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils to confirm that which us skeptics felt all along. After all, to have the Irish be among the final four, thus displacing a far-more deserving second SEC team in the process, would have been a travesty beyond words: a travesty, thankfully, that will be pre-empted before it even began.

College Football Week 10 Awards November 3, 2014

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(Kyle Allen, Joey GautneyNote: All rankings are current AP [week 10] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Poor guy: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Rhule, Temple

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Richt, Georgia
Desperately seeking … anything: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 13 Baylor (defeated Kansas 60-14)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Texas A&M (defeated Louisiana-Monroe 21-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Iowa State (lost to No. 18 Oklahoma 59-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: LA-Monroe (lost to Texas A&M 21-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Iowa (defeated Northwestern 48-7)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State
Dang, they’re bad: South Florida

You know, they’re not so bad: Arkansas
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Georgia

Did the season start? South Carolina

Can the season end? Eastern Michigan
Can the season never end? Kansas State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Auburn 35, No. 3 Ole Miss 31

Play this again, too: No. 24 Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48
Never play this again: No. 18 Oklahoma 59, Iowa State 14

What? Temple 20, No. 23 East Carolina 10

Huh? UConn 37, Central Florida 29
Are you kidding me? No. 22 UCLA 17, No. 12 Arizona 7

Oh – my – God: Florida 38, No. 11 Georgia 20

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)
Ticket to die for: No. 9 Kansas State @ No. 7 TCU

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: (none)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Memphis @ Temple

Upset alert: No. 10 Notre Dame @ No. 14 Arizona State

Must win: No. 16 Ohio State @ No. 8 Michigan State

Offensive explosion: No. 13 Baylor @ No. 18 Oklahoma

Defensive struggle: No. 6 Alabama @ No. 19 LSU

Great game no one is talking about: Michigan @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Helfrich of Oregon vs. Kyle Whittingham of Utah

Who’s bringing the body bags? Presbyterian @ No. 4 Ole Miss

Why are they playing? Tennessee-Martin @ Mississippi State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Iowa State @ Kansas

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Colorado @ No. 12 Arizona

 

Week 10 Random Thoughts:

  • The special, throwback helmets that Texas A&M wore looked positively awesome. Indeed, these are some of the coolest-looking, most college football-appropriate special helmets I have ever seen. Period.

In case the significance is lost on people, this design of helmet was meant to be a throwback to the kind of      helmets  the Aggies wore when they won their only national championship – in 1939. Do the math, and this year marks the diamond anniversary of that occasion, hence the throwback-looking helmets. Way cool, in any case. Let’s hope they break them out again before the season ends!

  • The South Carolina-Tennessee game seemed to leave more questions asked than answered. Just what accounts for South Carolina’s gross inconsistency? Is it their weak defense, or is it something more systemic than that? Will another good recruiting class help the Ol’ Ball Coach rectify this problem? Will Dylan Thompson’s QB play improve next year, with the experience he is gaining this year?

On the other side of the coin, Tennessee seems to be one year away from having a really good team. All Butch Jones appears to need is to bring in one more recruiting class of players with the right kind of talent, but also who buy into his system, his approach, his way of doing things. Starting next year, they should be the team in the best position to win the SEC East, barring needed improvements on South Carolina’s end.

  • Speaking of more questions asked than answered, the results of the Florida-Georgia game have certainly muddied the waters regarding Will Muschamp’s future. Everybody was prepared to write his epitaph and obituary notice before he pulled off a massive upset over the Bulldogs in Jacksonville, Fla. Does this win save his bacon for one more year, or is the die already cast? After all, Texas defeating arch-rival Oklahoma in 2013 did nothing to preserve Mack Brown’s tenure as head coach of the Longhorns (the connection being, Muschamp was once Brown’s defensive coordinator). Food for thought.

College Football Week 9 Awards October 27, 2014

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Leonard Fournette

(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Lucky guy: Les Miles, LSU

Poor guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Desperately seeking a wake-up clue: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Desperately seeking … anything: Brady Hoke, Michigan

 

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Wisconsin (defeated Maryland 52-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: East Carolina (defeated UConn 31-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UAB (lost to Arkansas 45-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kentucky (lost to Mississippi State 45-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Georgia Tech (defeated Pittsburgh 56-28)

Dang, they’re good: TCU
Dang, they’re bad: Kent State

You know, they’re not so bad: Arkansas
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Minnesota

Did the season start? BYU
Can the season end? Michigan
Can the season never end? Michigan State

 

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 5 Auburn 42, South Carolina, 35

Play this again, too: No. 24 LSU 10, No. 3 Ole Miss 7
Never play this again: No. 10 TCU 82, Texas Tech 27

What? Illinois 27, Minnesota 24

Huh? Miami 30, Virginia Tech 6
Are you kidding me? North Carolina 28, Virginia 27

Oh – my – God: No. 24 LSU 10, No. 3 Ole Miss 7

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 9, pre-week 10)
Ticket to die for: No. 4 Auburn @ No. 7 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: No. 6 Notre Dame vs. Navy

Best non-Power Five matchup: San Diego State @ Nevada

Upset alert: No. 2 Florida State @ Louisville

Must win: Tennessee @ South Carolina

Offensive explosion: No.10 TCU @ No. 20 West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Florida vs. No. 9 Georgia in Jacksonville
Great game no one is talking about: Kentucky @ Missouri

Intriguing coaching matchup: Rich Rodriguez of Arizona vs. Jim Mora of UCLA

Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 12 Baylor

Why are they playing? Old Dominion @ Vanderbilt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia State @ Appalachian State

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Cincinnati @ Tulane

 

Week 9 Random Thoughts:

  • There is a reason they call Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. It is the place where dreams go to die – other teams’ dreams that is. Ole Miss was having the most phenomenal season of the program in about 52 years, and seemed to be on a collision course for vying for the national title. After a neat playing at LSU, that is now seriously in doubt. The really interesting aspect of it all? The score: the Tigers triumphed over the Rebels 10-7. Such an old-fashioned score was, ironically, a great nod to the classic rivalry and the memorable games during the Eagle Day and Billy Cannon eras thereof.
  • One cannot recall a more valiant effort given on the part of South Carolina the previous evening. Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier knew going in that he was out-gunned and undermanned going into Jordan-Hare Stadium to face a fearsome Auburn Tigers squad. But the Gamecocks gave it their all, took incredible risks on 4th down throughout the evening – mirabile dictu, they converted more often than not – and almost succeeded in the end. Almost. What ultimately turned out to be South Carolina’s undoing was their quarterback, Dylan Thompson, who had a habit of throwing fade route passes towards the sideline and almost always failing to connect with his receivers, overthrowing them constantly. Granted, over-the-middle passes are always more risky than those thrown towards the sidelines, but Thompson succeeded more often in the middle of the field, and it is a shame that he did not go on that same instinct late in the game. Had he done so, the Gamecocks might have pulled off one of the grandest upsets of the year.
  • Few fans outside of the Pacific Time Zone might have witnessed this, but the No. 19 Utah Utes defeated the No. 20 USC Trojans, 24-21. How fitting a score for two teams ranked literally right next to one-another, with the correct, higher-ranked team, winning? Every now and then, the pollsters literally do get it right!
  • Pride commeth before the fall. Since a Michigan player made a “little brother” comment about their in-state, intra-conference rival Michigan State at a press conference several years ago, Sparty has gone 6-1 in said rivalry. In an established rivalry between two programs, Rule No. 1 is that you show said rival respect. With the Spartans having humiliated the Wolverines yet again, 35-11, we have just witnessed the potential penalty made manifest for violating said rule. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

College Football Week 8 Awards October 19, 2014

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FSU-NotreDame2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Lucky guy: Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Poor guy: Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Desperately seeking a wake-up clue: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Art Briles, Baylor
Desperately seeking … anything: Will Muschamp, Florida

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 8 Michigan State (defeated Indiana 56-17)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated North Carolina State 30-18)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to No. 22 USC 56-28)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kansas (lost to Texas Tech 34-21)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: No. 7 Alabama (defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 59-0)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: SMU

You know, they’re not so bad: Minnesota
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Baylor

Did the season start? Texas A&M
Can the season end? Georgia State
Can the season never end? Florida State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 2 Florida State 31, No. 5 Notre Dame, 27

Play this again, too: No. 20 Utah 29, Oregon State 23
Never play this again: South Carolina 41, Furman 10

What? Nevada 42, BYU 35

Huh? No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Are you kidding me? No. 7 Alabama 59, No. 21 Texas A&M 0 (the shear blowout)

Oh – my – God: West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)
Ticket to die for: No. 3 Ole Miss @ No. 24 LSU

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: (none, notwithstanding the “Why Are They Playing” entry)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Temple @ Central Florida

Upset alert: Texas @ No. 11 Kansas State

Must win: No. 22 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State

Offensive explosion: No. 15 Arizona @ Washington State

Defensive struggle: Miami @ Virginia Tech
Great game no one is talking about: BYU @ Boise State

Intriguing coaching matchup: Urban Meyer of Ohio State vs. James Franklin of Penn State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 1 Mississippi State @ Kentucky (also:  UConn @ No. 18 East Carolina)

Why are they playing? UAB @ Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ UTSA

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Florida Atlantic @ No. 23 Marshall

 

Week 8 Random Thoughts:

  • While Michigan State is a solid choice for the “Thought you’d kick butt, you did” weekly award, the truth is, a number of teams ended up kicking butt, that in hindsight made sense that they would. Start with South Carolina (see: last week’s “Why are they playing?” nod), who beat relatively hapless Furman 41-10. In hindsight, a resurgent Ohio State team against a Rutgers team still learning to navigate the terrain of the Big Ten was also a clear would-be drubbing (result: 56-17). Even more obvious was the Colorado @ USC match-up. The Buffaloes still cannot get things together, while Steve Sarkesian is slowly building the Trojans back to national prominence. The 56-28 result, therefore, came as not surprise.
  • While Alabama could not be a more obvious choice for the weekly “Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did” award (59-0 over Texas A&M, their biggest lopsided shutout in 35 years), other games would have been decent choices as well. Start with Marshall’s butt-kicking of Florida International, 45-13. Even more of a surprise, though, was TCU’s drubbing of Oklahoma State, 42-9. On paper, these were closely-matched teams (No. 12 vs. No. 15, respectively). Turns out that in reality, they were not that close in terms of competitive prowess after all. Further down the food chain, Appalachian State – a newcomer to the FCS – beat up on Troy unexpectedly, 53-14. Sounds like the latter is a “Can the season end?” candidate. Stay tuned.
  • Last night’s Notre Dame @ Florida State slugfest is already an instant classic. Clearly one of the biggest, best games of the season thus far, it wins the “Play this again” award hands down. That said, despite some lop-sided victories in football this past weekend, plenty other games merit a second look nevertheless. Start with the late Thursday night game on the West Coast, Utah @ Oregon State. The Utes went into Reser Stadium, took the Beavers into overtime, and walked out victorious. Speaking of the West Coast, take a look at the final score between UCLA @ Cal (spoiler alert: 36-34). Consider that you have the Bruins vs. Golden Bears, and two different shades of blue and gold going head-to-head, in the same conference, no less. With such similarities, such a score result is only fitting. In the Big Ten, one was able to enjoy an interesting matchup between Minnesota and Purdue. On one hand, the Golden Gophers have quietly risen to the top of their division in the conference, while Purdue has quietly improved from their doldrums. Indeed, the Boilers almost won on the road.
  • Notre Dame remains an enigma. After so many close calls against inferior teams, surely they would not have played No. 2 Florida State as closely as they did on the road. Not when having to result to strokes of luck to win against Stanford. Not when allowing Purdue to play them as closely as they did in Indianapolis. Yet on Saturday night, they played in Tallahassee like they deserved to be the 5th-ranked team in the nation. Further monitoring of the team will be in order to make sense of this inconsistent behavior. Fortunately, the schedule is such that it will allow for further clarity to be reached as it plays out. The Fighting Irish journey to Tempe, Ariz., to play Arizona State in three weeks, followed by Northwestern and then Louisville at home. Then, they cap off the season in Los Angeles against USC. One takes any one of those teams lightly at his own peril (translation: if the Irish fail to bring their A-game to any one of these matchups, they’re doomed).
  • As an aside, part of Ole Miss now being taken seriously in the national rankings (No. 3, currently), is that their defense is given plenty of respect with an up-and-coming brand: the “land shark” defense. One must admit, that has a nice ring to it!

College Football Week 7 Awards October 13, 2014

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(MissSt_Auburn2014 Note: All rankings are current AP [week 7] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Wish I were him, too: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Lucky guy: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Charlie Strong, Texas
Desperately seeking a wake-up clue: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jim McElwain, Colorado State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Desperately seeking … anything: Paul Petrino, Idaho

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Tennessee (beat Chattanooga 45-10)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 6 Notre Dame (beat North Carolina 50-43)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Chattanooga (lost to Tennessee 45-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Purdue (lost to No. 8 Michigan State 45-31)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: No. 13 Georgia (defeated No. 23 Missouri 34-0)

Dang, they’re good: Mississippi State (and Ole Miss)
Dang, they’re bad: UConn

You know, they’re not so bad: Central Florida
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Missouri

Did the season start? Texas
Can the season end? Idaho
Can the season never end? Ole Miss and Mississippi State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Baylor 58, No. 9 TCU 61

Play this again, too: LSU 30, Florida 27
Never play this again: Arkansas State 52, Georgia State 10

What? Iowa 45, Indiana 21

Huh? USC 28, No. 10 Arizona 26
Are you kidding me? Duke 31, No. 22 Georgia Tech 25

Oh – my – God: No. 3 Mississippi State 38, No. 2 Auburn 23

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8)
Ticket to die for: No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 2 Florida State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: (none, notwithstanding the “Why Are They Playing” entry)

Best non-Power Five matchup: Fresno State @ Boise State

Upset alert: No. 10 Georgia @ Arkansas

Must win: No. 21 Texas A&M @ No. 7 Alabama

Offensive explosion: No. 4 Baylor @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Kentucky @ LSU
Great game no one is talking about: Utah State @ Colorado State

Intriguing coaching matchup: David Shaw of Stanford vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State (also, Bill Snyder of Kansas State vs. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma)

Who’s bringing the body bags? Colorado @ No. 22 USC

Why are they playing? Furman @ South Carolina

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ Idaho

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Southern Miss @ North Texas

Week 7 Random Thoughts:

  • This weekend was almost as epic as the previous one. True, there were the amount of upsets to match last week, but there were great matchups and key tests therein. Both flagship schools from the Magnolia State proved that they not only could stand prosperity, but that last week’s wins proved to be no flukes. Indeed, Ole Miss went in to College Station, Texas, in front of the largest crowd ever to assemble for a football game in the Lone Star State (106,000 fans), and beat the Aggies in convincing fashion, 35-20. Meanwhile, Mississippi State had just as huge a challenge as they had the previous week, if not even more so in a cagey Auburn squad. The fact that they beat the Tigers/War Eagles at home shows that the Bulldogs are for real, and that their No. 1 ranking is no happenstance.
  • Last week I observed of the inconclusiveness of Purdue’s win over Illinois. The unanswered question at the time was, had the Boilermakers improved that much from their inept showing against Iowa the previous week, or were the Illini just that bad? After their respectable showing against a very tough Michigan State squad, I am compelled to conclude that they have, in fact, improved: clearly a positive trend.

Josiah Price, Ja'Whan Bentley

  • So what was up with those God-awful, all-white uniforms that Purdue wore at home? It turns out that they intended to use neon-yellow trim on their uniforms for some sort of breast cancer awareness gesture. For some inexplicable reason, Nike refused to make a black jersey for them in that sort of trim, so the Boilers went all-white instead. Sounds like the Boilers should switch to Under Armor, for such a refusal for a team is most unbecoming. Seeing things another way, would Nike have a refused such a thing to, say, Oregon?
  • They say that the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. The Longhorns demonstrated that in spades against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Statistically, they dominated the Sooners, but too many miscues, penalties and turnovers caused them to give up the game. Even more ironic was that the Sooners were ranked ahead of Texas anyhow. Now we know why. Charlie Strong has his work cut out for him in terms of stemming such mistakes in the near future.
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