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College Football Awards Week 12 (2021) November 24, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Ryan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Lucky guy: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin;  also:  Shane Beamer, South Carolina

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska; also:  Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Dan Mullen, Florida

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Traylor, UTSA

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Notre Dame (defeated Georgia Tech 55-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: San Diego State (defeated UNLV 28-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Duke (lost to Louisville 62-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Arkansas (lost to Alabama 42-35)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Ohio State (defeated Michigan State 56-7)  

Dang, they’re good:  Ohio State
Dang, they’re bad:  Temple

Another one bites the dust:  Wake Forest

Did the season start?  Florida
Can the season end?  Texas

Can the season never endHouston

GAMES
Play this again: No. 15 Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 28

Play this again, too:  TCU 31, Kansas 28

Never play this again: No. 1 Georgia 56, Charleston Southern 7

What?  Missouri 24, Florida 23 (OT)

HuhSouth Carolina 21, Auburn 17

Are you kidding me??  Clemson 48, No. 10 Wake Forest 27

Oh – my – GodNo. 23 Utah 38, No. 3 Oregon 7

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 6 Michigan 

also:  No. 13 Oklahoma @ No. 9 Oklahoma State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Boise State @ No. 19 San Diego State

also:  Army @ Liberty

Upset alert: Nebraska @ No. 17 Iowa; also:  South Carolina @ Clemson

Must win: No. 15 Wisconsin @ Minnesota

They have the same record?  Florida @ Florida State

Offensive explosion: No. 13 Oklahoma @ No. 9 Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Maryland @ Rutgers

Great game no one is talking about: UTEP @ UAB

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mike Leach of Missisippi State vs Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss

Who’s bringing the body bags?  No. 1 Georgia @ Georgia Tech

Why are they playing? No. 24 Houston @ UConn

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ New Mexico State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  No. 22 UTSA @ North Texas

Week 12 Thoughts:

So here we thought that No. 7 Michigan State lining up against No. 4 Ohio State in The Horseshoe was going to be the barn-burner of the week.  Let us all briefly pause while we laugh at ourselves for such an erroneous prognostication.  It is not as if the Spartans are a bad team.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, the Buckeyes are simply that much better. 

Let us put it in greater perspective.  Two top-four teams but their opponents senseless, 56-7.  One was the aforementioned Buckeyes.  The other team was No. 1 Georgia.  The latter’s flattened opponent was Charleston Southern (yes, an FCS team), while the former was, again, top-ten Michigan State. 

Let us now thus ask ourselves:  which of those two wins is [considerably] more impressive?  The obvious answer is that for Ohio State, and is thus proof-positive that the Buckeyes are a legit playoff team.  All they have to do is close the deal against Michigan in the Big House next week.  To be sure, that is not the easiest of tasks, but if they do so, their case should be all the stronger.

Notice that Kansas almost got their second consecutive conference win.  Looks like the Jayhawks are no longer the instant win on the schedule that everyone usually hopes to have.

A quick side note:  we now have all those pointless body bag games played by SEC teams are behind us now.  Thank heavens.

Finally, with Oregon, for all intents and purposes, knocked out of playoff contention, can we* all get over ourselves and acknowledge that Cincinnati belongs in the Top Four for the playoffs?

*By “we”, I really mean the Playoff Committee.  Seriously, in light of recent events, Cincinnati belongs in the playoffs.  Make it happen, guys.

Looking ahead to Week 13:

Rivalry Week is now upon us.  Let us drink it in with full enjoyment.

Indiana @ Purdue

If Purdue wins, at home, to their traditional rival, they shall accomplish two things.  For one, they reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket trophy (fun fact:  that bucket was found on a farm in the same county where I graduated from high school) But more importantly, they shall finish the regular season with eight wins for the first time since 2006.  Not a bad consolation prize to shoot for, given that Purdue is out of contention for the BIG West division.

Penn State @ Michigan State

Not a traditional, bitter rival, you observe?  Okay, not in the strictest sense.  Bu-ut, anytime two tough Big Ten teams get together, it becomes a rivalry in the moment.  This should be a great game in any case, so let us enjoy it accordingly.

Alabama @ Auburn

This was going to be a great game.  Probably not now, though, in light of Auburn coming up short at South Carolina.  If the Tigers have the same offensive miscues against the Crimson Tide, Alabama will crush them without remorse.  More the pity, too, for a good Iron Bowl is always a hallmark of a memorable Rivalry Week.

Houston @ UConn

Not so much a rivalry game, this is a weird juxtaposition for the head coach – in this case, Dana Holgorsen – of a non-Power Five team having to play the role of pitiless executioner during Rivalry Week, as it’s almost a given that Houston shall demolish the Huskies.

Nebraska @ Iowa.

Do not let the lop-sided matchup of records fool you.  Yes, Nebraska is unranked at 3-8, whereas Iowa is no. 17 with a 9-2 record.  But the Cornhuskers lost to Wisconsin on the road by only a touchdown in yet another heartbreaker for them.  Anyone who has witnessed Nebraska’s performance these past several weeks would notice a team that has become increasingly strong, and could possibly flip the script at home this Friday.

Georgia @ Georgia Tech

This used to be a decent rivalry game.  Not right now, though.  If Notre Dame managed to crush Georgia Tech 55-0, what is an even tougher team in Georgia going to do to them?

Louisville @ Kentucky

Louisville lost a heartbreaker to a down Clemson team earlier this month.  Immediately afterwards, they bounced back and played “on fire”.  Meanwhile, Mark Stoops is coaching one of the strongest Kentucky teams in recent memory.  The Cardinals seem to have peaked just in time to give the Wildcats a tough game in Lexington.  We shall see.

BYU @ USC

Wait, doesn’t that matchup sound like a bowl game?  That’s how good it sounds on paper.  Too bad that, in reality, USC sports an anemic 4-6 record.  The game could still be interesting regardless.

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State

With so many rivalry games already, it might be easy to overlook this one.  If so, one would deny oneself a great game.  So many memorable “Egg Bowl” games capped off my family’s Thanksgiving Day evenings in style, and this one could be a ‘dandy’ among the others in this longstanding rivalry.  Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are currently ranked no. 8 in the AP poll, while Mike Leach’s Bulldogs can take down a stronger team at a moment’s notice should the latter ever let down its guard.  Be sure to make this game part of your Thanksgiving tradition!

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State

Notwithstanding the Sooner’s loss to Baylor on the road two weeks ago, the Sooners are still a tough team.  The catch is, this time, Oklahoma State could be better still.  On top of that, the game takes place in Stillwater this time.  So sit back and enjoy another memorable game in the Bedlam Series!

Ohio State @ Michigan

There’s a reason this storied rivalry is simply called “The Game”.  And this time, The Game should live up to its storied hype.  Michigan is officially out of its head-scratching slump from the previous couple of seasons, playing back up to the potential a Jim Harbaugh-coached team should possess.  Out of the opposing corner, Ohio State is currently playing like yet another Playoff-contending team, and carries all the legitimate prowess that comes with that well-earned status.  A worthy challenger on its home field ties to knock off the playoff-ranked team:  let The Game begin.

College Football Week 11 Awards (2021) November 14, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Glad I’m not him: James Franklin, Penn State

Lucky guy: Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech

Poor guy: Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Shane Beamer, South Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dana Holgorsen, Houston

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama (defeated New Mexico State 59-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (defeated Samford 70-52)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UConn (lost to Clemson 44-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (defeated Texas 57-56)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Louisville (defeated Syracuse 41-3)  

Dang, they’re good:  Ohio State
Dang, they’re bad:  South Alabama

Another one bites the dust:  Oklahoma

Did the season start?  Florida
Can the season end?  Indiana  (also: Texas)

Can the season never endBaylor

GAMES
Play this again: No. 6 Michigan 21, Penn State 17

Play this again, too:  No. 15 Ole Miss 29, No. 11 Texas A&M 19

Never play this again: No. 2 Alabama 59, New Mexico State 3

What?  Mississippi State 43, No. 17 Auburn 34

HuhNo. 15 Ole Miss 29, No. 11 Texas A&M 19

Are you kidding me??  No. 13 Baylor 27, No. 8 Oklahoma 14

Oh – my – GodKansas 57, Texas 56 (OT)

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 12)
Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Michigan State @ No. 4 Ohio State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: SMU @ No. 5 Cincinnati; also:  Louisiana @ Liberty

Upset alert: Nebraska @ No. 18 Wisconsin; also:  No. 3 Oregon @ No. 24 Utah

Must win: No. 7 Michigan State @ No. 4 Ohio State; also:  Texas @ West Virginia

They have the same record?  Florida @ Missouri

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech

Defensive struggle: Illinois @ No. 20 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: Virginia @ No. 21 Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Luke Fickell of Cincinnati vs Sonny Dykes of SMU

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Charleston Southern @ No. 1 Georgia

Why are they playing? Prairie View A&M @ No. 11 Texas A&M

Plenty of good seats remaining: Southern Miss @ Louisiana Tech

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  New Mexico State @ Kentucky; also:  Wofford @ North Carolina

Week 11 Thoughts:

Lots of great games and lots of head-scratchers for week 11.  On one hand, we were treated to great games such as Michigan @ Penn State, then Texas A&M @ Ole Miss in the evening.  But we also saw a number of games that left us scratching our heads.  Not the least of the latter was Texas’ shocking loss to Kansas, at home.  Apparently, the defense decided to take the night off, allowing the Jayhawks to score a total of 57 points in the game, and to snap Kansas road losing streak in the conference that began back in 2008.  No, really.  Even Steve Sarkesian acknowledged that the Longhorns played a bad first half of football, spotting KU three touchdowns before they decided to start playing in earnest.  It is quite clear where he needs to make adjustments both now and in the offseason.

That aside, Michigan is playing incredibly well right now:  this is easily their best team since 2016.  Ohio State is also playing up to their potential.  No “Spoilermakers” for Purdue yesterday, but in all fairness, it was too much to ask them to pull off two massive upsets in back-to-back weeks.  Moreover, the talent gap was too much to overcome for Purdue, as the Buckeyes were firing on all eight cylinders and demonstrated that they belong in the playoff discussion.

As for the No. 1 team, Georgia demonstrated their continued worthiness of their current top ranking by beating – in methodical yet convincing fashion – an increasingly formidable Tennessee squad.

Looking ahead to Week 12:

It’s the time of year again.  This time around, week 13 will be Rivalry Week.  That means that the week before then, week 12, will have lots of games that, frankly, should not even be on the schedule.  The SEC is the worst offender at this, scheduling body bag games that are ludicrous on the very surface of things.  To be sure, some already had their easy-gimmies this week, and they have seized the opportunity to play more worthy opponents.  Case in point, Alabama plays No. 25 Arkansas, in what could amount to a decent game.  Also, and oddly, Missouri and Florida, who unbelievably have identical records at 5-5, play each other this weekend in what could be a competitive game, even though, on paper, it shouldn’t be.  South Carolina might be a relatively weak team in the conference, but at least they are playing Auburn.

But then there are the clear mismatches.  The wrinkle this year is that some look even on paper because of similar records, but the reality is, the talents gaps are a mile wide.  This includes by Louisiana-Monroe playing LSU, and South Alabama playing Tennessee, and Prairie View A&M plays Texas A&M.  Tennessee State plays Mississippi State as well.  In each of these cases, the question “why are they playing” practically screams in our minds.  If that is not enough, New Mexico State, at 1-9, plays Kentucky, in what is perhaps the most lop-sided matchup of all that week, save for Charleston Southern – of all teams – playing No. 1 Georgia.  If they Bulldogs are serious about remaining at the top of the heap, perhaps they could do better than schedule a cupcake team so late in the year.  Indeed, much of the SEC could do better in that regard, and should.

Meanwhile, the B1G gets a pass.  No body bag game for those teams, they keep playing other teams within their conference.  Purdue plays Northwestern; Rutgers plays Penn State; Illinois plays Iowa; Michigan plays Maryland; Minnesota plays Indiana; Nebraska plays Wisconsin.  Best of all, Michigan State plays at Ohio State in what is clearly the game of the week.

Similar credit is due to the Big XII teams that are playing each other this upcoming week, as well as to the Pac-12, American Conference, C-USA, Mountain West, and Sunbelt teams who do the same, respectively.  The ACC teams also deserve credit for keeping up the conference schedule, save for one or two (looking your way North Carolina:  you can do better than play Wofford).

College Football Week 10 Awards (2021) November 9, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Josh Heupel, Tennessee

Glad I’m not him: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dan Mullen, Florida

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Georgia (defeated Missouri 43-6)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Cincinnati (defeated Tulsa 28-20)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to Wisconsin 52-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Tulsa (lost to No. 6 Cincinnati 28-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  South Carolina (defeated Florida 40-17)  

Dang, they’re good:  Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Temple

Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State

Did the season start?  Florida
Can the season end?  Texas

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again: Tennessee 45, No. 18 Kentucky 42

Play this again, too:  Kent State 52, Northern Illinois 47

Never play this again: Utah 52, Stanford 7

What?  Illinois 14, No. 20 Minnesota 6

HuhTCU 30, No. 12 Baylor 28

Are you kidding me??  North Carolina 58, No. 10 Wake Forest 55

Oh – my – GodPurdue 40, No. 3 Michigan State 29

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 11)
Ticket to die for:  No. 14 Texas A&M @ No. 16 Ole Miss also: No. 8 Oklahoma @ No. 12 Baylor

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Nevada @ No. 24 San Diego State

Upset alert: No. 19 NC State @ No. 9 Wake Forest

Must win: No. 7 Michigan @ Penn State

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma @ Baylor

Defensive struggle: Minnesota @ No. 22 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: North Carolina @ No. 25 Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M vs Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss

Who’s bringing the body bags?  New Mexico State @ No. 2 Alabama

Why are they playing? UConn @ Clemson

Plenty of good seats remaining: Tulsa @ Tulane

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Bucknell @ Army

Week 10 Thoughts:

Just when Michigan State looks red-hot, they go and lay an egg at Purdue.  In their defense, though, strange things have been known to happen to the Spartans in Ross-Ade Stadium over the years (witness the 1997 and 1999 games, for example).

Conversely, just when one is apt to give Purdue up for dead after a lackluster performance against Illinois and losing a winnable game on the road to Minnesota, they turn around and beat then-No. 2 Iowa and just defeated then-No. 3 Michigan State.  With still more to ponder, the Boilermakers are now 6-3.  Hard to give up a team for dead when they currently have a record like that.

Moreover, this is the second time in one year that Purdue has taken down a top-five team (Iowa was the previous team to fall in such a manner), giving further credibility the Boilermakers’ nickname-within-a-nickname of “Spoiler-makers”.

Similarly, just when one is about to give South Carolina up for dead, they trounce Florida, 40-17.  To be sure, the Gators started off the season very strongly, but mysteriously seem to have gradually declined in performance over the past few weeks.  On the other side of the ball, is this a sign that Frank Beamer’s son is building the Gamecocks into an increasingly strong team?  They close out the season with home games against Auburn and Clemson that shall answer that question.

Looking into Non-Power Five upstarts, if Cincinnati truly wants to be taken seriously as a legitimate playoff contender, then the last thing they want to do is to squeak by a team like Tulsa by only one touchdown when the ESPN College Gameday crew comes to their campus that very day/week.  Oh wait…

In the Big XII (what shall soon be left of it), is it safe to start calling Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium the Death Valley of that conference?  Because quite a few teams with far greater pedigrees have gone there to die during head coach Matt Campbell’s tenure with the Cyclones.

Moving to the SEC, the A&M-Auburn game surely lived up to its billing as a slugfest.  Now that the Aggies survived that war in the trenches, can they turnaround and survive a different sort of slugfest in Oxford against the Rebels?

Finally, nice to see Tennessee win a thriller over Kentucky in Lexington.  Head coach Josh Heupel is clearly building the Vols back to the strong program they used to be.  Such a development is very good for college football.  Just how far they have yet to go to be “back” shall be ascertained when they face the legitimate no. 1 team in the land, Georgia, this upcoming weekend.

College Football Week 9 Awards (2021) November 1, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Dana Holgorsen, Houston

Poor guy: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Hugh Freeze, Liberty

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Liberty (defeated UMass 62-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Iowa State (lost to West Virginia 38-31)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to Oklahoma State 55-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Penn State (lost to No. 5 Ohio State 33-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia (defeated Florida 34-7)  

Dang, they’re good:  Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity: San Diego State

Did the season start?  Iowa
Can the season end?  Vanderbilt

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again: No. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

Play this again, too:  No. 5 Ohio State 33, No. 20 Penn State 24

Never play this again: Liberty 62, UMass 17

What?  Mississippi State 31, No. 12 Kentucky 17

HuhNo. 18 Auburn 31, No. 10 Ole Miss 20

Are you kidding me??  Wisconsin 27, No 9 Iowa 7

Oh – my – GodNo. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 10)
Ticket to die for:  None compared to last week.  Within this week’s lineup, No. 18 Auburn @ No. 12 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Liberty @ No. 15 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 23 UTSA @ UTEP

Upset alert: North Carolina @ No. 10 Wake Forest; also, Tennessee @ No. 18 Kentucky

Must win: Texas @ Iowa State

Offensive explosion: No. 11 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Kansas State @ Kansas

Great game no one is talking about: Mississippi State @ Arkansas

They have the same record??  Penn State @ Maryland

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs Greg Schiano of Rutgers

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Missouri @ No. 1 Georgia

Why are they playing? Idaho State @ No. 17 BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: North Texas @ Southern Miss

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  No. 21 Coastal Carolina @ Georgia Southern

Week 9 Thoughts:

Georgia vs Florida

Remember what I noted last year regarding Florida historically giving Georgia fits in this came?  That obviously did not happen this time.  The Bulldogs have proven that they are the legit No. 1 team for now.  If they keep up this next-level intensity, it’s going to be one epic showdown for the conference title in Atlanta.

Mississippi State vs Kentucky

Either Kentucky decided not to show up at the level they have been playing the previous several weeks, or the Wildcats simply did not match up well with the Bulldogs.  On one hand, the running game was almost non-existent, the fumbles were more frequent than usual for Kentucky.  Apparently their defense showed up in name only, too.  No time to lick their wounds after an ugly loss, as Tennessee comes calling next week, hungry for revenge after losses to the Cats in recent years.

Iowa @ Wisconsin

Wisconsin defeated Iowa, 27-7.  This game proved two things.  One, it proved FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd that Iowa is “the fake ID of college football”, as it sadly seems that every time the Hawkeyes receive a high ranking, they never can demonstrate they are for real when put to actual test in the regular season, they never sufficiently prove themselves.  Indeed, they only reason they defeated Penn State earlier in the year was due to knocking PSU’s starting quarterback out of the game.  The other thing this game proved is that Wisconsin is playing back to the level we expected them to be at earlier in the year.  Whatever slump they were in recently seems to have vanished, making things all the more interesting in the West division of the Big Ten.

Michigan State vs Michigan

The clash of top-ten titans lived up to its billing in East Lansing, giving fans both in the stands and in living rooms across this great nation a thrilling game.  The Wolverines proved to be a legitimately strong team, possibly the best of the Harbaugh era, but made one too many mistakes in the end to triumph over an inexplicably resurgent Spartans squad.  The fact that A) Michigan lost by only a few points to B) a team that continues to prove they belong in the top ten has not been lost on the voters, as C) the Wolverines, even after this tough loss, fittingly remain in the top ten at no. nine.

Penn State @ Ohio State.

Penn State clearly played back to form, as they gave Ohio State a strong challenge, wire-to-wire.  The Nittany Lions are clearly good once again.  Had they played the same way the entire game in Iowa, they would not have lost that game.  This time, the Buckeyes’ superior talent won out, and sadly Penn State has sustained its third loss of the season, knocking them out of the rankings for now.  A team this good shall not likely be out of them for long.

To broaden the scope, the East division of the Big Ten is as loaded this year as it has been in recent memory, possibly even living memory.  Already, we have experienced two outstanding games from great teams in one day.  Better yet, this is only the beginning:  For example, Michigan has yet to play Penn State or Ohio State, and these two teams continue to loom large on Michigan State’s schedule, too.  Furthermore, as we get into November, the stakes only get higher from here on.  It’s going to be a thrilling ride.  To quote Southpark’s satirical portrayal of Caitlyn Jenner, “Buckle up, buckaroos!”

Looking ahead:  Texas @ Iowa State

After three tough losses, can the Longhorns bounce back, on the road, and take down the giant killers known as Iowa State?

Tennessee @ Kentucky

It used to be that Tennessee owned this border rivalry.  How else can one describe it, when, from 1985 through 2010, The Volunteers won every matchup between these two teams?  That streak ended in 2011, and Kentucky managed to win two more within this series, one in 2017, as well as last year.  If Kentucky wins, it would be the first two-in-a-row for them in this series since 1976 and 1977 (during the Fran Curci era, of course).  What makes this upcoming matchup all the more intriguing is that the Wildcats have an exceptionally strong team this year compared with most teams they typically field, while at the same time, Tennessee is resurgent, clearly clawing its way out of the doldrums that have plagued them for more than a decade.  All this adds up to the most interesting context surrounding an SEC game in a very long time.

Maryland vs Penn State

If someone told you that, going into the first weekend in November, Maryland and Penn State would have identical records, you would likely say that this someone was crazy.  Yet, here we are.  To be sure, Penn State played back to their earlier, strong form in Columbus, Ohio, last night.  If they keep it up, they should bag another ‘W’ without too much trouble.

Texas A&M vs Auburn

The Aggies have already taken given Alabama a loss.  Can they also fend off a dangerous Auburn team?  The Tigers proved how dangerous they were in their convincing handling of Ole Miss last night.  Can they keep up that same intensity against a foe that, one could argue, is just as dangerous?

Wake Forest vs North Carolina

In one of the surprises of the year, Wake Forest is currently 8-0, and ranked No. 10.  Conversely, North Carolina may only be 4-4, but they seemed to finally live up to their potential last night, losing to No. 8 Notre Dame by only ten points.  If that sort of Tarheels squad shows up in Winston-Salem, then maybe the Demon Deacons shall experience their first loss of the season.

College Football Week 8 Awards (2021) October 25, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Lucky guy: Jimmy Lake, Washington  (hon. mention:  Brett Bielema, Illinois)

Poor guy: Jedd Fisch, Arizona  (hon. mention:  James Franklin, Penn State)

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Traylor, UTSA

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dave Doeren, NC State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Arkansas (defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma (defeated Kansas 35-23)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UMass (lost to Florida State 59-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to No. 3 Oklahoma 35-23)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Ohio State (defeated Indiana 54-7)  

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity: NC State

Did the season start?  Penn State
Can the season end?  Akron

Can the season never endSMU

GAMES
Play this again: Illinois 20, No. 7 Penn State 18 (9OT)

Play this again, too:  No. 10 Oregon 34, UCLA 31

Never play this again: Florida State 59, UMass 3

What?  Miami (FL) 31, No. 18 NC State 30

HuhAppalachian State 30, No. 17 Coastal Carolina 27

Are you kidding me??  Iowa State 24, No. 8 Oklahoma State 20

Oh – my – GodIllinois 20, No. 7 Penn State 18 (9OT)

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 9)
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 Michigan @ No. 8 Michigan State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Virginia @ No. 25 BYU

Best non-Power Five matchup: Fresno State @ No. 21 San Diego State  also:  No. 19 SMU @ Houston

Upset alert: No. 9 Iowa @ Wisconsin

Must win: No. 20 Penn State @ No. 5 Ohio State

Offensive explosion: Texas @ No. 16 Baylor

Defensive struggle: No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Purdue @ Nebraska

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Mike Leach of Miss. State

Also:  Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia vs Kalane Sitake of BYU

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Kansas @ No. 4 Oklahoma

Why are they playing? (no game worth mentioning this week)

Plenty of good seats remaining: La. Tech @ Old Dominion

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Texas State @ Louisiana

Week 8 Thoughts:

Penn State vs Illinois

Two weeks ago, Penn State QB Sean Clifford’s injury at Iowa was literally a game-changer.  After out-classing the Hawkeyes for almost three quarters, the Nittany Lion’s loss of their starting quarterback began a negative trend that allowed Iowa to stop their own bleeding and turn things around in a positive direction, resulting in a huge upset, of sorts.

Fast-forward two weeks to the present day.  Clifford was back in the proverbial saddle, but no where near his former self.  It showed with Penn State’s offensive struggles.  They could muster only one touchdown in regulation, with the score tied at 13-13 with 0:00 left on the clock, and this against a mediocre – at best – Illinois team.

The game would go into a record nine overtimes, with five consecutive of them being scoreless.  In the end, the Illini triumphed by managing just one more two-point conversion than the Nittany Lions. 

My takeaway:  unless Sean Clifford returns to full health, Penn State’s season is essentially lost.

Army vs Wake Forest

In what sane universe does the matchup between these two teams add up to an offensive explosion?  The Demon Deacons – on a considerable roll, this year – triumphed over the Black Knights, 70-56.

Purdue vs. Wisconsin

My suspicions that Purdue’s ranking of No. 25 was suspect at best was confirmed, as the Boilers experienced a semi-drubbing at home by Wisconsin, 30-13.  Conversely, the Badgers played as though their previous week’s woes are behind them.  What we saw of that team yesterday suggests that they are playing back up to how we would expect a Wisconsin team to perform.  This resurgence shall be put to the test next week when Iowa comes calling.

Pittsburgh vs Clemson

Speaking of sane universes (see:  Army vs Wake Forest, above), in what sane universe is Pittsburgh ranked and Clemson unranked?  This quandary is brought on by Clemson’s fearsome reputation which they have rightfully earned since 2015.  This is why, despite this Twlight Zone-esque ranking of the two pitted teams, it still feels like an upset when the Panthers triumphed over the Tigers, 27-17.

Indiana vs Ohio State

The fact that Ohio State steamrolled over Indiana 54-7 does not mean that this was supposed to be a body bag game.  Far from it.  The Hoosiers, in truth, have a solid team this year.  Indeed, the game could have been a “trap” one for the Buckeyes, as they face Penn State next week.  What the results of this game thus shows is that Ohio State’s coaching staff has quietly and gradually made fine-tuning adjustments to their team as the season has progressed.  If this game’s score is any indications, the Buckeyes’ ranking of No. 5 is legitimate, and this rate, they could make the playoffs yet.

Alabama vs. Tennessee

The Volunteers played with heart, and there is some talent there.  But the Crimson Tide is still considerably better, talent-wise, and the score (52-24) demonstrated that.  It shall take another good recruiting class or two from Josh Heupel to bring this bitter rivalry back up to the level of drama and stakes that it deserves.

Looking ahead:  Michigan @ Michigan State

Two top-ten titans clash in East Lansing as a resurgent Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines take on a quietly-rebuilt Spartans squad led by up-and-comer Mel Tucker.  How these teams perform against each other – as bitter rivals, no less – shall say much as to how far each respective team has come.

Penn State @ Ohio State

On paper, with one team ranked No. 5 and the other ranked No. 20, this sounds like it could be almost as good a game as Michigan State vs. Michigan, right?  Wrong.  While Ohio State is currently proven legit at their current ranking, Penn State has been struggling offensively since Sean Clifford’s injury at Iowa.  If the Nittany Lions continue to struggle to put points on the board, this could be a rout in Ohio State’s favor.

Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville

Not to call too much attention, but there’s this World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party about to commence this upcoming weekend in Jacksonville.  Georgia is currently ranked No. 1 (and rightfully so),  but historically, Florida has given the Bulldogs fits in this game.  Hence, it behooves us all to keep an eye on this game in case things get potentially interesting.

Ole Miss @ Auburn

Coming off a huge win over hated LSU, the Rebels now go into Auburn to take on ranked Auburn.  This could be another great slugfest worth watching.

Texas @ Baylor

The Bears have proven to be a potent team.  Texas’ offensive output has proven to be strong – for three quarters, at least.  Regardless, get ready for a potential shootout in Waco.

Louisville @ NC State

Here is an interesting ACC matchup for fans.  The Cardinals won over a cagey BC team in the rain.  Now they venture into Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack, fresh from an upset loss at the hands of Miami (Fla.).  Louisville passed a test (winning a game in adverse weather conditions) this weekend.  Now can they pass an even greater one?

College Football Week 7 Awards (2021) October 17, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Dino Babers, Syracuse

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Desperately seeking … anything:  Greg Schiano, Rutgers

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama (defeated Mississippi State 49-9)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oregon (defeated Cal 24-17)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rice (lost to UTSA 45-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (defeated No. 2 Iowa 24-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Colorado (Arizona 34-0)  

Dang, they’re good:  Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Iowa

Did the season start?  Arizona State
Can the season end?  Southern Miss

Can the season never endCincinnati

GAMES
Play this again: No. 13 Ole Miss 31, Tennessee 26

Play this again, too:  No. 12 Oklahoma State 32, No. 25 Texas 24

Never play this again: Virginia 48, Duke 0

What?  LSU 49, No. 20 Florida 42

HuhUtah 35, No. 18 Arizona State 21

Are you kidding me??  Aurburn 38, No. 17 Arkansas 23

Oh – my – GodPurdue 24, No. 2 Iowa 7

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 8)
Ticket to die for:  LSU @ No. 13 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: BYU @ Washington State; also, No. 16 Wake Forest @ Army

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 15 Coastal Carolina vs. Appalachian State; also, No. 22 San Diego State @ Air Force

Upset alert: UCLA @ No. 10 Oregon

Must win: Wisconsin @ Purdue

Offensive explosion: (inconclusive)

Defensive struggle: Syracuse @ Virginia Tech

Great game no one is talking about: Clemson @ Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs Josh Heupel of Tennessee

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Kansas @ No. 4 Oklahoma

Why are they playing? UMass @ Florida State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Washington @ Arizona

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Arkansas-Pine Bluff @ Arkansas

Week 7 Thoughts:

Oklahoma State vs Texas

For the second week in row, Texas has blown a 4th-quarter lead to a ranked opponent.  Here’s a fairly disturbing stat to back up this observation.  In the 4th quarters of games against Oklahoma and then Oklahoma State, the Longhorns have been outscored 41-7.  Head coach Steve Sarkesian clearly has his work cut out for him on that side of the ball.  On the other side, it wouldn’t hurt to work on his offense’s performance, either, as scoring only 7 points in those two quarters combined is clearly unacceptable.

Purdue vs Iowa

File this under “Boy, did we get that one wrong/Boy, we didn’t see that one coming”.  In what could have potentially been a “body bag” game for Iowa, given Purdue lackluster performance against Minnesota two weeks earlier, the Boilermakers actually showed up to play, and both thrilled their faithful fans and stunned the college football world in the process. 

There are many layers one can slice-and-dice this game and the surrounding conditions that came with it.  Start with the premise of Iowa’s No. 2 ranking prior to said game.  Yes, they were undefeated, but that alone came about under questionable circumstances.  In the prior game against Penn State, the Hawkeyes were being outclassed by the Nittany Lions for more than half the game, before the latter’s quarterback was out of the game’s remainder due to injury.

Even had that injury to Penn State’s QB not occurred, and somehow Iowa would have righted the ship anyhow, I nevertheless must propose a thought experiment.  If an undefeated Iowa team (that of this season) were to go head-to-head against a one-loss Alabama team (likewise the current team of this season), which squad do think would emerge victorious?  Answering ‘Alabama’ would be a no-brainer.  Would it not thus be logical that the Crimson Tide be ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes, not withstanding the teams’ respective records, going into this week?

All that aside, the sad fact of the matter is that the Hawkeyes failed to live up to the prestigious ranking that had attained.  To close out the broadcast coverage, one of the commentators for ABC observed that “Purdue out-Iowa’d Iowa”.  Say what you will about head coach Jeff Brohm, but he put the extra week that he had with last week’s bye to very good use in preparing to take on this strong foe.

Going forward, it shall be very interesting to see how each of the two teams react to this big upset.  This time, the Hawkeyes have the bye, with their next game after that being a surprisingly winnable one against Wisconsin.  Indeed, the remainder of their schedule is all winnable.  Can they bounce back to seize such a opportunity, and to make a great season out of things regardless?  Last I checked, 11-1 for a program like Iowa is a great achievement.

For Purdue, can they stop celebrating long enough to re-focus and properly prepare for what lies ahead?  Many treacherous teams await the Boilers, starting with Wisconsin next week. 

Kentucky vs Georgia

Kentucky is a great team, but face it:  Georgia is that much greater.  This was plainly discernable going into the game, and the outcome therefore surprised no reasonable party.  That said, the Wildcats acquitted themselves well by covering the spread in the last minutes of the game.

Ole Miss vs Tennessee

For the first time in a long time, it felt as though Tennessee was returning to its glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s.  Neyland Stadium was positively electric last night when Ole Miss came calling.  They put up a valiant effort against a loaded Rebels team headed by their own former head coach, Lane Kiffin.  Despite being outmanned, in the end, they were only several yards shy of the opportunity to tie the game at the end of regulation.  It’s never a disgrace to lose to a better team, and, moreover, if the players continue to buy in to Josh Heupel’s vision, and the latter can bring in another good recruiting class or two, the Volunteers could continue to be on the upswing and legitimately bring back their glory days.

All that said, shame on the Tennessee fans who threw everything from water bottles to golf balls onto the field near the end of the game.  That is very classless; it reflects poorly on the fan base, and on many southern fans at large; the perpetrators of such a classless act need to see the error of their ways, and if some degree of ostracization to help guide them to the light is what is necessary to do so, then so be it.  Tennessee fans, do better and be better, so as to be worthy of such aforementioned glory days, should they return.

Looking ahead:  Oklahoma State @ Iowa State

Can the Cowboys now handle their own prosperity?  They are currently undefeated, ranked No. 8, and now head up to Ames, Iowa, where lately many ranked teams have gone to die.  The Cyclones are never to be taken lightly under head coach Matt Campbell.  Can he prepare his already-strong team to take down an undefeated foe?  Can Oklahoma State’s head coach Mike Gundy prepare his squad to be ready to face proven giant-killers?  We’ll find out shortly.

Clemson @ Pittsburgh

Queue the theme music from “The Twilight Zone”.  In this upcoming matchup, the Pitt Panthers are ranked (No. 23), whereas the Clemson Tigers are not.  It should thus be a very interesting matchup at Heinz Field.

Tennessee @ Alabama

No time for the Volunteers to lick their wounds after a close, emotional loss to Ole Miss.  Now they must travel to Tuscaloosa to take on their traditionally most-hated rival.  Such is life in the SEC.

LSU @ Ole Miss

Speaking of hated rvials, there is never any love lost between these two.  While recently this rivalry has been a bit one-sided in LSU’s favor, the Rebels are now the favored team, and could make this season full of questions for LSU and their head coach Ed Orgeron (who was previously the head coach at Ole Miss) all the more painful.  Then again, the Tigers pulled off a mild upset win over Florida, which leads many discerning fans to believe that this game could be a reasonably even, tough matchup on paper after all.

Final thought:  can we bring back the “Twlight Zone” theme music for a second?  Because Cincinnati is now the No. 2-ranked team in the country.  Ponder that for what it is worth.

College Football Awards Week 6 (2021) October 11, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Glad I’m not him: James Franklin, Penn State

Lucky guy: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisivlle

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mack Brown, North Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Aranda, Baylor

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kalani Sitake, BYU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Ed Orgeron, LSU

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Cincinnati (defeated Temple 52-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Wake Forest (defeated Syracuse 40-37 in OT)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Maryland (lost to No. 7 Ohio State 66-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  FIU (lost to Charlotte 45-33)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated LSU 42-21)  

Dang, they’re good:  Cincinnati
Dang, they’re bad:  Vanderbilt

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  BYU

Did the season start?  North Carolina
Can the season end?  UConn

Can the season never endIowa

GAMES
Play this again: Texas A&M 41, No. 1 Alabama 38

Play this again, too:  No. 6 Oklahoma 55, No. 21 Texas 48

Never play this again: No. 7 Ohio State 66, Maryland 17

What?  Florida State 35, North Carolina 25

HuhNo. 17 Ole Miss 52, No. 13 Arkansas 51

Are you kidding me??  Boise State 26, No. 10 BYU 17

Oh – my – GodTexas A&M 41, No. 1 Alabama 38

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 7)
Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Kentucky @ No. 1 Georgia

Next-best game of the week:  No. 18 Auburn @ No. 13 Arkansas

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: No. 19 BYU @ Baylor

Best non-Power Five matchup: UCF @ No. 3 Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 10 Michigan State @ Indiana; also, No. 13 Ole Miss @ Tennessee

Must win: No. 12 Oklahoma State @ No. 25 Texas

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma State @ Texas

Defensive struggle: Nebraska @ Minnesota

Great game no one is talking about: No. 22 NC State @ Boston College

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs Mike Leach of Mississippi State

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Purdue @ No. 2 Iowa

Why are they playing? Army @ Wisconsin

Plenty of good seats remaining: Arizona @ Colorado

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Yale @ UConn

Week 6 Thoughts:

Iowa vs. Penn State

This week provided some incredible games, one of which was an unusual clash of titans (No’s. 3 and 4, respectively) during the second time slot of the day, in Iowa City.  For the first 25 minutes of the game, Iowa was being outclassed by Penn State, and the score showed it at 17-3.  Then the Nittany Lion’s starting quarterback, Sean Clifford, went down with an injury, either to back or the ribs.  Penn State was not the same with their backup QB in place.  The offense only managed a field goal after that, while the Hawkeyes gradually clawed their way back, eventually winning, 23-20.  Let us hope that Clifford’s injury does not derail the rest of the Nittany Lions’ season.  Still, it was a thrilling comeback for the Hawkeye faithful to witness.

Oklahoma vs Texas

In yet another exciting edition of the Red River Showdown, Oklahoma bested Texas yet again.  This time it was full of twists and turns.  The Longhorns scored quickly on the Sooners, tallying 38 points in their favor by halftime.  A new, major wrinkle occurred when Lincoln Riley benched QB Spencer Rattler after two turnovers and replaced him with Caleb Williams.  In hindsight, Texas coach Steve Sarkesian had no gameplan for this wrinkle, and it showed with his lack of answers for this more-capable replacement.  The Longhorns also failed to established a running game, despite having Heisman candidate Bijan Robinson in their backfield.  On the other side of the ball, they hardly mounted any decent pass rush against Williams, giving him time to complete one inexplicable pass after another.  In the end, the Sooners triumphed in an admittedly thrilling game, 55-48.  The main takeaway for Oklahoma is that they could best either Iowa or Penn State, both of whom, on that day, were ranked ahead of the Sooners.

One takeaway for Texas is the Sark must shore up his defense.  Another is that he must work on better establishing the running game.  A third is that freshman receiver Xavier Worthy holds much promise as a playmaker, but the Horns cannot win games on long bombs to him alone.  Texas might not be “back” yet, but they could be soon with a couple of key adjustments and another good recruiting class from Sark.  In the meantime, he did not see this game’s outcome as a devastating loss, but rather, something to make the team hungrier for potentially bigger things to come.  “Ultimately, you know my mindset is I’d love to get another crack at these guys hopefully in December, so that’s that,” he said.

Texas A&M vs Alabama

Think about this for a second:  the last regular season game that Alabama lost was on Nov. 30, 2019, to Auburn (hey, it’s the Iron Bowl, where crazy things happen.  Anyone remember the “Kick Six”?).  Since then, the Crimson Tide has remained undefeated, with another national title under their collective belt, until last night.  Last night, Texas A&M ended that streak in front of the second-largest crowd at Kyle Field (106,815).  Moreover, this marks Alabama’s first loss to an unranked team since 2007 (!).  The Aggies maintained a lead for most of the game, until the Tide tied the score in the 4th quarter.  A key stop late in the game gave Texas A&M the ball back, allowing them to kick a winning field goal at a comfortable distance for one incredible night to remember in College Station for a long time to come.  All that said, if the familiar pattern of Nick Saban’s dynasty in Tuscaloosa holds, Alabama shall refocus and redouble its efforts, and continue to perform at the highest of levels in the college game.  Nevertheless, this is the first time a former assistant (Jimbo Fisher) has bested him.  We shall now see if Fisher can maintain his team’s focus.  Immediately, that might not be too difficult a task, as they face Missouri next week, followed by South Carolina thereafter.  But come the first week of November, they face a dangerous Auburn team, wherein another key test awaits.

Kentucky vs. LSU

Last week, I noted that Mark Stoops needed to refocus his team after a huge win over Florida.  Well, he succeeded in spades, this time triumphing over LSU, in convincing fashion, 42-21.  Granted, the Bayou Bengals are not quite what they were when they caught lighting in a bottle with QB Joe Burrow and a coaching lineup of young, talented coordinators, which generated a wave that they rode all the way to another national championship.  Since then, those assistants have left for other things, and Orgeron has been struggling to keep LSU a contender in the admittedly brutal SEC West.  On the other side of the proverbial coin, everything seems to have come into place for Mark Stoops and Kentucky.  The Wildcats are 6-0 for only the first time since 1950, when Bear Bryant was their head coach (they went on to defeat national champion Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl that season).  Put as many asterisks on this win as some critics may, but for two consecutive weeks, Stoops and the Big Blue Nation have turned Commonwealth Stadium into a top-tier SEC environment.  That might not last forever, but it’s quite the achievement to behold regardless.  But now is the time to refocus the team’s efforts yet again, this time for the Wildcats’ toughest opponent to date.

Looking ahead:  Kentucky @ Georgia

That aforementioned toughest opponent to date for Kentucky is now-No. 1 Georgia.  Furthermore, unlike facing Florida and LSU in the friendly home environs, this time they travel to face the Bulldogs “between the hedges”.  Even though both teams come into this game at 6-0, Kentucky’s magical run thus far might come to a temporary halt, for Georgia, along with Alabama, is clearly well above the rest of the competition for now.  The reasonable hope is that the Wildcats keep the game respectable.  That will be something to build upon as they could then continue their incredibly strong run of a season.  That season will continue to get more interesting, as afterwards, they face Mike Leach’s cagey Mississippi State team (one Bulldog team after another!), followed by Josh Heupel’s quietly, gradually resurgent Tennessee squad.  So it goes in the SEC, where there’s never any rest for the wicked.

Ole Miss @ Tennessee

Speaking of the Volunteers, they face Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels, along with their high-powered offense that he has put together.  This game shall be a key test for both teams.  For Ole Miss, can they maintain their level of intensity after winning a shootout at home over a suddenly resurgent Arkansas?  Speaking of resurgent teams, Tennessee has regained in strength under lots of peoples’ radars (easy to do, given that the Volunteers have struggled since the waning days of Phil Fulmer’s coaching regime).  Now that the players seem to be buying into Josh Heupel’s potentially winning vision, they have a chance to show how far along they have come in a short time if they can pull off the upset at home over the Rebels.  This test could be a good one to watch.

Texas vs Oklahoma State

The Longhorns just lost another close one to their hated rival Oklahoma.  Now, without time to lick their wounds (mostly to their pride), they have to turn around to face the Cowboys at home.  Oklahoma State has quietly risen up the ranks to No. 12.  As the rankings (barely) held in Dallas this past Saturday, now we shall see if they continue to hold in Austin.  If Steve Sarkesian can make a defensive adjustment or two and work to establish the run more effectively, this time, it might not.

College Football Week 5 Awards (2021) October 9, 2021

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Better late than never.

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Lucky guy: David Shaw, Stanford

Poor guy: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Chip Kelly, UCLA

Desperately seeking … anything:  Lance Leipold, Kansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Iowa State (defeated Kansas 59-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated Boston College 19-13)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 11 Ohio State 52-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Western Kentucky (lost to No. 17 Michigan State 48-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Nebraska (defeated Northwestern 56-7)  

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oregon

Did the season start?  UCLA

Can the season end?  Tulsa

Can the season never endIowa

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Cincinnati 24, No. 9 Notre Dame 13

Never play this again: Tennessee 62, Missouri 24

Play this again, too:  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

What?  Mississippi State 26, No. 15 Texas A&M 22

HuhArizona State 42, No. 20 UCLA 23

Are you kidding me??  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

Oh – my – GodStanford 31, No. 3 Oregon 24

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Penn State @ No. 3 Iowa

Next-best game of the week:  No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: North Texas @ Missouri

Best non-Power Five matchup: Boise State @ No. 10 BYU

Upset alert: No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma;  also, LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Must win: No. 13 Arkansas @ No. 17 Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: No. 18 Memphis @ Houston

Defensive struggle: LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about: Virginia @ Louisville

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Steve Sarkesian of Texas vs. Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma

Who’s bringing the body bags?  No. 11 Michigan State @ Rutgers

Why are they playing? Temple @ No. 5 Cincinnati

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Texas State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  UConn @ UMass

Week 5 Thoughts:

Notre Dame vs Cincinnati

Sure, the Bearcats have had some big wins before, but this one felt differently.  For the first time in living memory, if ever, Cincinnati was A) a top-ten team that B) defeated another top ten team, and C), accomplished this on the road, in a hostile place to play.  As corny and hackneyed as it may sound, this win had to be the greatest in the history of the UC program.  Good job, Luke Fickell.

Georgia vs. Arkansas

Arkansas may be a legitimately strong team this year, but Georgia is considerably stronger.  The 37-0 score in favor of the Bulldogs demonstrated how much stronger.  So far this year, the top two of Alabama and Georgia appear to have separated from the rest of the pack.  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be one memorable game in Atlanta come early December.  That matchup may seem routine by now, but the evenness of it will make the [potential] game exciting nonetheless.

Kentucky vs Florida

The last time Kentucky beat Florida at home (or any time, perhaps?) was in 1986, when the late Jerry Claiborne (part of Bear Bryant’s “coaching tree”) was the head coach.  Thirty-five years later, the Wildcats have suddenly, almost stealthily come onto the scene as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC East.

Looking ahead:  LSU @ Kentucky

Now that the Wildcats have demonstrated they are not to be taken lightly this year, can they maintain, even build upon their success?  An ideal test comes up at home this week.  LSU is strong, but inconsistent, with recent close losses starting to raise questions about Ed Orgeron’s coaching abilities – as well as his tenure – in Baton Rouge.  Can they overcome their tough loss to Auburn from last week by redoubling their efforts and leave Lexington with a win?  Conversely, can Kentucky maintain their focus and intensity after such a huge win on their home turf?  Mark Stoops’ challenge is to get his team to stop celebrating and to re-focus on preparing for yet another challenging foe, in what is, oddly, a winnable game.  Fun facts:  the last time the Wildcats beat the Bayou Bengals was 2007, in Lexington, when LSU was undefeated, and it happened in triple-overtime.  If that is not enough, LSU nevertheless eventually went on to win the national title anyhow in what amounted to the craziest of roads to the BCS that year.

Iowa vs Penn State

We are currently in the Big Ten “Twilight Zone”.  Don’t believe me?  Well, imagine, if you will:

There are two teams currently ranked ahead of Ohio State (who is nevertheless back in the AP Top Ten).  Moreover, they are both ranked in the top five.  The kicker?  Neither of them are Michigan, Michigan State, or Wisconsin.  Penn State earned its prowess by defeating a tough Auburn team.  Iowa has earned its high ranking and according respect with wins over tough opponents and consistent play thus far.  Indeed, if the latter wins, they could control their own destiny to Indianapolis come early December.  Moreover, the two teams are led by two of the best coaches in the business.  Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz could arguably win anywhere, what with his no-nonsense style and consistency of product in a talent-barren landscape for this immediate environs.  Meanwhile, Penn State’s James Franklin has an almost Presidential quality to him, has been mentioned as a legitimate candidate for the vacant USC job, and has the big personality to fit it.  It all shapes up to be a massive showdown in Iowa City, fittingly following the one in Dallas during the previous time slot.

Texas vs Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

For more than 20 years, regardless of discrepancy of rank (if even notable at times), or how lop-sided the game may sometimes be at the end.  As the game begins, there are few atmospheres more electric in the entire sport than Texas vs Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl during the second Saturday of October.  This one has new intrigue, what with Steve Sarkesian bringing new energy and new offensive ideas into the Longhorn program against a good Sooners team led by Lincoln Riley that nobody seems to know exactly how good.  After this game, questions shall likely be answered, namely:  just how good is Oklahoma?  Do they belong in the top ten, or even the top five?  For Texas, was the loss at Arkansas a temporary stumble against a surprisingly good team, or does it show that Sark has a longer way to go in re-stabilizing the program than previously thought?  These shall likely be answered, with perhaps new questions raised at that time, after the final second ticks off the clock in Dallas.  The key for Texas shall be to do what West Virginia did to Oklahoma earlier this year, before the Mountaineers collapsed late in the fourth quarter.  A stronger, more consistent replication of WVU’s 3 ½ quarter performance from that game could ensure that the Horns take home the Golden Cowboy Hat.

Best Christmas Records of the Swing Era December 17, 2020

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“Jingle Bells” by Benny Goodman (1935)

Hands-down the best version of “Jingle Bells” ever.  Okay, so this version lacks lyrics.  Fine.  Since when does “best” mean “perfect”?  Benny Goodman and his band cut this track on July 1, 1935, in the same incredible session in which they also recorded “King Porter Stomp” (the tune that launched the Swing Era), “Sometimes I’m Happy”, and “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”.  Interestingly, while these last three songs are all Fletcher Henderson arrangements, “Jingle Bells” was arranged by Spud Murphy.  This track shows that ol’ Spud, too, was quite adept arranging, for it’s fit to be the perfect killer-diller for an opening or closing number on a live [Christmastime] gig.  Yes, also like the other three tracks, this record, too, includes a memorable Bunny Berigan trumpet solo.  Berigan was clearly at the top of his game at this time, and produces a solo that sounds eternally youthful, complete with his key-changing modus operandi that he occasionally allowed to surface. 

Not to be ignored are some classic Gene Krupa staccato drum punctuations at just the right time, and Art Rollini’s tenor sax solo is a fine, nay integral contribution as well.

Granted, this song is not always given to such an upbeat swinging tempo, but BG demonstrates, it works incredibly well, and provides further proof that Bunny Berigan was the G.O.A.T. of jazz trumpeters, and that Goodman was the King of Swing.

Interesting Fact:  RCA Victor paired this track as the flip side to Dorsey’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (Victor 25145B and 25145A, respectively).

“Santa Claus Came In The Spring” by Benny Goodman (1935)

Goodman and his band cut this record on Sept. 27, 1935 in Hollywood, during the last few days of their historic engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles.  Their original one-month engagement almost doubled in light of their sudden and smashing success.  And to think that all it took was the playing of “King Porter Stomp”!

Unlike BG’s version “Jingle Bells” from earlier the same year, this record has lyrics, with vocals provided by Joe Harris.  One appealing feature of many for this record is that the lyrics were written by none other than Johnny Mercer.

Moderately uptempo, Gene Krupa’s classic staccato/syncopated drum beats are there for all to hear and enjoy.  His liberal use of cymbals during Bunny Berigan’s muted trumpet solo (Berigan’s last recording with the band before leaving it) is an awesome touch, too.

This sublime, semi-obscure Christmas record is a sheer delight, and it highlights Goodman’s versatility as the King of Swing.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” by Tommy Dorsey (1935)

Recorded on September 26, 1935, when this ever-popular song was only a year old on paper.  It is also hands-down the best version of this song.  Don’t believe me?  Give it a listen.  Dorsey’s band was always highly versatile, and this record in particular demonstrates how adept they were on the hard-swinging end of the spectrum.  No “Sentimental” ballads here, no sir.  Featuring the vocal talents of both Cliff Weston and Edythe Wright, they take turns in covering all the verses, even the prelude to the main verse that we all know and love.  Great solos from all the sections abound.  Even Dorsey’s rhythm guitarist has his own solo, which was a rarity for the time (though not unheard of).  No matter how much you love this song before hearing this version, you’ll love it all the more after hearing this one.

“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (1942)

All versions of this beloved Christmas song began with this one.  Bing first sang it in the wonderful 1942 film “Holiday Inn”, featuring songs written by Irving Berlin, who wrote it in the context of WWII and American servicemen longing for home as they were sent abroad to combat existential evils of the day. 

No matter how many talented artists have offered their own “take” on the classic, none have topped Bing Crosby’s rendition(s) of it.  Indeed, there are two versions, with the 1947 re-make the [ironically] more famous of the two.  But make no mistake about it, the original 1942 version – a studio recording version cut in tandem with the film, as was customary of the era – is the stronger version, if not by much.

Combined, both versions amount to the greatest selling record of all time, topping Elvis, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and any other multi-platinum recording artist.  According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the two combined records have sold an estimated 50 Million copies.  How very appropriate for someone who created the template for the legendary recording soloist and who exuded class (and subtle humor) in the process.

“Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” by Vaughn Monroe (1945)

There is a general sentiment among many folks that the original is often the best.  While that is not always the case, it nevertheless often is, as Bing Crosby’s aforementioned version of “White Christmas” clearly attests.  So it is the case with Vaughn Monroe’s version, which frankly defines the song itself.  Noted songwriters Jule Steyn (music) and Sammy Cahn (lyrics) collaborated on this piece in Hollywood during a heat wave in 1945 as they envisioned cooler conditions.  Yes, Mel Torme wrote “The Christmas Song” that same year in the same area under similar circumstances, except he thought it up by the side of a swimming pool.

The song itself feels as though it was “built” for the big band treatment, and “Foghorn” Monroe delivers well in that department.  Moreover, his distinctive baritone vocals do the lyrics justice, too.  Just as the Christmas season feels incomplete without giving Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and Bing’s “White Christmas” a few good listens, so too is Christmastime incomplete without hearing Monroe’s “Let It Snow” a few times as well.  He closed out the Swing Era well with this one.

Fun Fact:  Both movies “Die Hard” and sequel “Die Harder” begin closing credits with a later version of Monroe’s “Let It Snow”, a rendition likely recorded in the late 1960s prior to the bandleader’s untimely death in 1971.

“Silent Night” by Bing Crosby (1935)

Many people are familiar with Crosby’s 1947 re-recording.  While this version is all well and poignant, what most people don’t know is that Crosby cut an even stronger, even more poignant version 12 years earlier.  This is arguably the best version of one of the most beloved Christmas carols of all time.  Both Bing and the Guardsmen Quartet that accompanies him have you believing the song by its end, even notwithstanding the use of a rarely-utilized alternate third verse.

“What Will Santa Claus Say” by Louis Prima (1936)

This song is vintage Louis Prima in his youthful prime.  It delivers his characteristic exuberance, albeit in a sufficiently refined manner.  The youthful energy is clearly there in any case, and in the process, he has delivered a great, one-of-a-kind, swinging Christmas song for [eight decades and counting of] posterity to enjoy.

Fun fact:  Also in 1936, Prima wrote the legendary swing song “Sing, Sing, Sing”, which Benny Goodman elevated to immortal status the following year.

“Winter Weather” by Benny Goodman (1941)

Make no mistake, this vintage of Goodman is considerably different, for good or ill, from his gutsy, hard-swinging Mid-Thirties vintage years.  Big Band itself evolved to a more polished, less energetic (in most cases) form by this time, and it shows in this record.  Still, it’s a fine track all the same, and Peggy Lee’s and Art London’s vocals are perfect for the piece.

“Happy Holidays” by Bing Crosby (1942)

Another wonderful Irving Berlin song that came out of the sublime film “Holiday Inn” from the same year, this one has also given rise to many cover versions.  Yes, Crosby broke this one as well.

“Jingle Bells” by Glenn Miller (1941) 

To be sure, this rendition is not nearly as strong as Goodman’s from 1935, but Miller had such a mass appeal with his arrangements that this version nevertheless deserves a place in the rankings.  What really makes this version stand out is the alternate lyrics-verse proferred by Ernesto Carceres, a saxophonist in Miller’s band at the time.

“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by Larry Clinton (1939) 

Long before The Crystals recorded their version of this song for Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You” album (1963), and even longer before Harry Connick Jr. recorded his own version of said song (1993), Larry Clinton led the way in offering a version for the Big Band Era.  But he was not the first outright.  Far from it.  The English lyrics to what was originally an instrumental character piece (composed by Leon Jessel in 1897) were written by Ballard MacDonald in 1922.  Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra cut his own (instrumental) version of the song the following year, he being one of three major bands to record it along between 1922 and ’23.  But in the Swing Era, it was Larry Clinton’s rendition that was the period’s representing version of this oddly-placed song in the Christmas music repertoire (perhaps the song’s association with toys and thus gift-giving is what associates it with the holiday season in the mind of the public).

Other Christmas Records by Bing Crosby, 1942-1945:

There is little argument in saying that Bing Crosby’s [singing] voice has become practically synonymous with the Christmas season itself. His aforementioned versions of “White Christmas” and “Silent Night” clearly are a large reason for that, but he recorded a number of other fine, timeless Christmas songs as well during the last few years of the Big Band Era. Those include:

Adeste Fideles (1942)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (with the Andrews Sisters)

Jingle Bells (1945)

This version, while not a strong and swinging arrangement like that of Benny Goodman’s from 1935, is nevertheless delightful. Indeed, it surpasses Glenn Miller’s rendition in its peppiness, and also contributes well as a piece of the bookend of an era as it came to a close.

Postseason College Football Awards 2019-2020 January 20, 2020

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson (Fiesta Bowl) (hon. mention:  Mario Cristobal, Oregon)

Poor guy: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Notre Dame (defeated Iowa State 33-9)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Auburn (lost to No. 18 Minnesota 31-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Temple (lost to North Carolina 55-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Baylor (lost to No. 5 Georgia 26-14)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Texas (defeated No. 11 Utah 38-10)

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami, FL

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Wisconsin

Did the season start?  Utah

Can the season end?  Miami, FL

Can the season never endLSU

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Clemson 29, No. 2 Ohio State 23 (Fiesta)

Play this again, too:  No. 6 Oregon 28, No. 8 Wisconsin 27 (Rose)

Never play this again: No. 1 LSU 63, No. 4 Oklahoma 28 (Peach)

What?  No. 3 Clemson, No. 2 Ohio State 23 (Fiesta)

HuhLouisiana Tech 14, Miami (FL) 0 (Independence)

Are you kidding me??  Texas 38, No. 11 Utah 10 (Alamo)

Oh – my – GodNo. 18 Minnesota 31, No. 12 Auburn 24 (Outback)

Random Bowl Game Thoughts:

Fiesta Bowl:

What a game.  Too bad one of the teams had to lose.  Having said that, two thoughts come to mind.  One, if Ohio State and Clemson played each other 10 times, the series would likely by evenly split, 5-5.  Second, Ohio State should blame themselves.  They left lots of “money on the table”, so to speak, by not capitalizing on deep red zone advances in the first half.  Second, they gave up on what helped get them ahead initially, which was a fast-paced hurry up offense.

Outback Bowl:

On paper, Auburn should have crushed Minnesota.  Not to detract anything from the Gophers, for they are a good team in any case.  But Minnesota’s win over a superiorly-athletic team in Auburn is huge.  What’s one sign of a well-coached team?  That the team shows gradual improvement as the season progresses.  That the Gophers have done, in spades.  To offer further perspective, bowl games are funny like that.  In many cases, it is impossible to determine who will win and lose if there is a motivation mismatch (a team that really wants to be there versus a better team that is not that thrilled about being there).  Such a situation gives the underdog a golden opportunity for a huge upset, and we witnessed a sterling example of this in Tampa.

Peach Bowl:

In case the reader missed it, LSU gave Oklahoma an old-fashioned butt whipping (seriously, how else to describe it?), 63-28.  Throughout the regular season, the Sooners looked like they are a legit playoff contender.  Why the lopsided result against them?  The frank answer is that it’s a systemic problem with the Big XII, a conference built on speed, not power, and the former, not the latter, wins games in that conference.  The problem comes when they have to face stronger athletes over all against half the SEC, against Ohio State, or Clemson.  Then, this glaring weakness gets exposed.

Music City Bowl:

Louisville’s win over Mississippi State is nothing at which to sneeze, for a number of reasons.  The most basic reason is that an ACC team triumphed over an SEC team, the latter usually having stronger athletes.  For another, this was something of a revenge game for the Cardinals, since they lost the Gator Bowl to the Bulldogs just two years earlier.  Indeed, they are probably a stronger team even then under then-head coach Bobby Petrino.  Third, speaking of Petrino, one of his historic drawbacks is that his teams disintegrate after he leaves them (see:  Louisville starting in 2007, or Arkansas starting in 2012).  Something about his coaching style combined with the caliber of player he usually recruited required him to be present to keep a tight lid on Pandora’s Box.  Once he would leave, Pandora’s Box would open, and chaos would ensue.  Not so this time.  Scott Satterfield has done the Yeoman’s work in keeping the team together, to say nothing of turning around the team’s performance.  From going 1-11 the previous season, the Cardinals capped off the year with a bowl win to finish 8-5 for the year.  While more improvement remains necessary, this has been quite the turnaround indeed.

Alamo Bowl:

Texas, under head coach Tom Herman, has become something of an enigma.  Their 38-10 over formidable No. 11 Utah was impressive, even if it were a glorified home game (the Alamodome in San Antonio is only an hour-and-15-minute drive from the UT campus up I-35 in Austin).  After all, Utah was a Pac-12 championship win away for qualifying for the playoffs.  As it turned out prior to kickoff, the Utes we still respectfully ranked, whereas the Horns were unranked.  Moreover, Texas performance was all over the proverbial map.  They played like a legitimate top-10 team against eventual playoff teams LSU and Oklahoma, but then had to struggle to beat Kansas and even coughed it up on the road to under-performing TCU.  Yes, injuries took a huge toll for the Longhorns this year, especially and runningback and worse yet, on defense.  Perhaps the time off leading up to the Alamo Bowl allowed for Texas to heal up, regroup, and regain focus so as to get dialed in for [again] what amounted to an extended home game, and thus live up their true potential against a reasonably formidable opponent.

Gator Bowl:

Tennessee defeated Indiana 23-22.  So why would Jeremy Pruitt be “desperately seeking anything”?  Because their play was as erratic as it was inconsistent throughout the game.  Pruitt [thought he] had to suddenly switch quarterbacks in the middle game, for goodness sake.  Probably with good reason, for the initial starter kept missing the mark.  In the first three quarters, the Volunteers could only muster three field goals.  Only with the Tennessee defense stepping up in the 4th quarter with some key sacks, with their offense starting to complete some key passes, to say nothing of a decent running attack were the Volunteers able to finally score and thus come back.

The problem with Tennessee was not a lack of focus.  Both teams seemed equally glad/motivated to be there.  Rather, the problem was lousy coaching.  On paper, Tennessee should have shellacked IU.  Their talent supremacy over Indiana is greater in ratio than that of Auburn over Minnesota.  But in football, talent is only part of the equation when it comes to winning games.  The other part of said equation is coaching.  The coach has to know what to do with that talent, and Jeremy Pruitt seems to be at a loss.  The Volunteers were thus very lucky to walk away with a “W” in Jacksonville.

The Championship Game:

LSU knocked off undefeated and defending national title holder Clemson 42-25.  It was a convincing victory over a strong team.  The Bayou Bengals have now earned their fourth national championship in football, and college football fans can breathe a sigh of relief at the champion is somebody not named Clemson or Alabama.  Not so fast, however:  Clemson is not likely to go away anytime soon.  The Tigers return a ton of starters for next year, including QB Trevor Lawrence, who, as talented as he clearly is, has even further growth to demonstrate.  Still, what a great night for the LSU team and faithful.  The fact that it was in the Superdome was the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake.