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Which Team Wants It More? December 16, 2015

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 Who wants it more?  More to the point, which team is happier to be there?  That is the most important question in determining the outcomes of the upcoming bowl games.  It is not easy, but it will be the make-or-break factor.  It affects the performance of the team.  If they are not that motivated to be there, but the underdog team is, the actual odds favor the latter.  Therefore, the real question becomes, which team will show up to play?  To create a better understanding of this condition, allow me to offer Exhibit A:

The season was that of 1998.  Kansas State was rising up in the polls throughout the year.  They defeated mighty Nebraska (yes, the Cornhuskers were still very vaunted then) for the first time in three decades.  The Wildcats went undefeated for the regular season, and were poised, at the No. 2 national ranking, to go to the first ever championship game of the Bowl Championship Series, which that year would be the Fiesta Bowl.

Kansas State’s only hurdle to clear to make that coveted berth was the Big XII Championship game, in which they were naturally favored.  Yet underdog Texas A&M had other plans, and managed to upset K-State that game.  Gone were the Wildcats’ national championship hopes, but it was worse than that:  other teams had already secured major bowl slots, so K-State was demoted all the way down to the Alamo Bowl.  Coincidentally, they would play Purdue, which was the team I was on as a freshman staff member.  We were happy to be there:  Kansas State, however, was disappointed to be there.  Come game time (Dec. 29, 1998), it showed.  Even though the Wildcats were still ranked at a feared No. 4 while we were unranked, we nevertheless led them throughout most of the game.  Despite a late 4th-quarter touchdown that put them temporarily in the lead, we answered by marching right down the field for a game-winning score with only about a minute remaining.

On paper, K-State should have beaten us by at least two touchdowns.  But the final, actual score said otherwise.  Why?  Though, the Wildcats were clearly the better team on paper, we wanted to be there more than they did, and by a considerable margin.

Such a scenario has played itself out many times in the years since then (and no doubt in the years before), which is what makes bowl game prognostication for more unpredictable than just comparing regular season records and major stats.  The upcoming line-up of bowl games asks this very question more than a few times.  To wit:

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 19, 3:30 PM EST, ABC

BYU (9-3) vs. No. 22 Utah (9-3)

The Utes are the higher-ranked team.  At one point they were ranked as highly as No. 3 in the nation.  Surely they must have had higher bowl aspirations.  On the other hand, the Cougars are dealing with coaching turmoil since their head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, just bolted for the Virginia job.  My conclusion is to therefore not out-think things, and go with the odds, which slightly favor the Utes.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 26, 2:00 EST, CBS

Miami (FL) (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)

Beware the deception of identical records.  For whereas the Cougars have had Mike Leach in place for a couple of seasons now, the Hurricanes are going through coaching changes, having fired Al Golden mid-season, leaving assistant coach Larry Scott to serve at the helm in his temporary stead.  Incoming head coach Mark Richt will watch from the stands.  The Miami players claim they’ll show up motivated, but can these kids overcome the coaching transitions while the Washington State players will enjoy stability?

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 26, 9:15 PM EST, ESPN

UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)

The Bruins surely had much higher bowl aspirations as the season began, and at one point enjoyed a top-ten ranking.  Getting upset at home to Arizona State did not help their campaign, though, neither did losing to Washington State, either.  The losses to both Stanford and a resurgent USC can be excused.  Be all that as it may, they’re in this particular bowl, which lacks the prestige of bowls in the days that follow.  Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers are one of those lucky dog teams who, at 5-7, are very fortunate just to get a berth.  Why?  Because Big Ten fans travel in DROVES.  Expect a sea of red in Santa Clara, Calif., and a closer game than the records suggest.  You might even take the under on Nebraska.

Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 29, 5:30 PM EST, ESPN

No. 10 North Carolina (11-2) vs No. 17 Baylor (9-3)

On paper, this is a very marquee matchup between two very good teams.  The problem?  Both teams feel as though they deserved better bowl games.  Last year, the Bears were in the Cotton Bowl, for goodness sake.  Meanwhile, as strong as a team as the Tarheels have been, one would think they would have grabbed a more prestigious berth, too.  What therefore makes this scenario unique is that BOTH teams will likely come in under-motivated (we’re dealing with 19/20 year-old kids, after all).  The question becomes, which team will be less under-motived than the other?  Since UNC started out with lower aspirations, they might end up making this game very, very interesting.

Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 30, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)

Tigers vs. Tigers?  That alone is intriguing.  But the War Eagle variety surely had higher bowl aspirations (they started out the year ranked No. 6) than the variety from Memphis, who turned out to be a surprisingly strong team.  Auburn likely views this bowl berth as both a come-down and a quasi-home game at the same time.  But Memphis might be glad just to make it to a bowl game, since their postseason appearances have been far fewer than those of their opponent.  The Vegas odds favor Auburn by 2.5.  That is enough of a margin of error for Memphis to win by a close one, provided they appear with just enough motivation.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30, 10:30 PM EST, ESPN

No. 25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)

Late enough for you out east?  Regardless, there are varying degrees of motivation with these two teams.  If you’re Wisconsin for example, who would not be happy to spend late December in beautiful San Diego?  If you’re USC, you’ll be glad to be there after all the coaching and leadership turmoil with which you had to contend earlier in the season.  The kicker?  That particular turmoil is now behind the Men of Troy.  New head coach Clay Helton has clearly righted the ship, and the program is headed in the proper direction again.  That’s good.  But, he just fired 4 of his assistant coaches.  That’s bad, especially when the Trojans only have a handful of practices to prepare for a game with a depleted coaching roster (using grad assistants to fill in some of the roles) while Wisconsin lacks this disadvantage.  The Badgers, furthermore, always show up well to bowl games:  they are one of the most reliable programs in that regard.  The odds-makers in Vegas still give USC a 3-point advantage, meaning that there is potential for an upset.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Dec. 31, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

No. 18 Houston (12-1) vs. No. 9 Florida State (10-2)

The Seminoles likely see having to play the lowly Cougars, while the latter will likely feel honored to play in such a relatively prestigious bowl game.  Should this scenario play out, the respective motivational levels are to be adjusted accordingly, giving us potential for one of the biggest upsets of this bowl season.

Rose Bowl Game Pres. By Northwestern Mutual, Jan. 1, 5:00 PM EST, ESPN

No. 6 Stanford (11-2) vs. No. 5 Iowa (12-1)

Since when would a team show up to the Rose Bowl under-motivated?  It is the Granddaddy of them all, folks!  But in the case of Stanford, they likely had the goal to make it to the playoffs instead.  Meanwhile, Iowa is going to their first Rose Bowl in 25 years.  To the Hawkeyes, this is a once-in-a-generation Super Bowl.  Granted, Iowa is a good team, but Stanford, on paper, is much better.  Under normal circumstances, Stanford should win by two touchdowns.  But with Iowa being especially focused and disciplined, expect a tough, close game that could go either way.

Taxslayer Bowl, Jan. 2, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)

This used to be the Gator Bowl, fyi.  Georgia seems to be the stronger team on paper, but they just lost their head coach and will be coached by assistants in this bowl game, while Penn State has stable leadership in James Franklin.  Expect the Nittany Lions to therefore pull off the upset, unless the interim head coach at Georgia can effectively rally his troops.

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College Football Week 9 Awards November 2, 2015

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duke_miami_gms_20151031

One of a few missed calls during the hap-hazard, yet incredible, 8-lateral kickoff return finish my Miami in yesterday’s game. Paging Cal-Stanford 1982: you now have competition.

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Jim McElwain, Florida

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Lucky guy: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, Texas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mike Riley, Nebraska

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma (defeated Kansas 62-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Texas A&M (defeated South Carolina 35-28)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Vanderbilt (lost to No. 18 Houston 34-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (see below)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Tennessee (defeated Kentucky 52-21)

Dang, they’re good: Florida

Dang, they’re bad:  UMass

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Pitt

Did the season start? Arizona

Can the season end?  UCF

Can the season never endHouston

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 9 Notre Dame 24, No. 21 Temple 20

Play this again, too:  Oregon 61, Arizona State 55 (3OT)

Never play this again: Arkansas 63, UT-Martin 28

What? North Carolina 26, No. 23 Pittsburgh 19

HuhMiami 30, No. 22 Duke 27

Are you kidding me?  Purdue 55, Nebraska 45

Oh – my – GodIowa State 24, Texas 0

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 9, pre-week 10)

Ticket to die for:  No. 4 LSU @ No. 7 Alabama

Also:  No. 5 TCU @ No. 12 Oklahoma State

Make it a Trifecta:  No. 17 Florida State @ No. 3 Clemson

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ No. 16 Memphis

Upset alert: No. 13 Utah @ Washington

Must win: Duke @ No. 21 North Carolina

Offensive explosion: Cincinnati @ No. 18 Houston (also TCU @ OKST)

Defensive struggle: Syracuse @ Louisville

Great game no one is talking about:  Penn State @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Todd Graham of ASU vs. Mike Leach of WSU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Vanderbilt @ No. 11 Florida

Why are they playing? BYU @ San Jose State (Friday)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Hawaii @ UNLV

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Kansas @ Texas

Week 9 Take-aways:

First it was Michigan State’s blocked punt that they recovered and ran back for a score with 0:00 left on the clock to beat rival Michigan in the Big House (they were behind prior to said score).  Last week was followed up by Georgia Tech’s fantastic finish, whereby they blocked a Florida State field goal attempt at home, ran it back for a score and thus broke the tie as time expired.  This week, the Miami Hurricanes – fresh from both a devastating home loss to Clemson and the subsequent firing of head coach Al Golden – made an eight-lateral play on a kickoff return that harkens directly back to Cal-Stanford 1982, for the game-winning touchdown, over then-ranked Duke, on the road.  Three weeks in a row, three fantastic, historic finishes.

Well, sort of.  There were tons of blown calls on that play, including an illegal block in the back (or two), and at one point, one of the lateralling players for Miami had his knee already down before he tossed the ball sideways.  The overlooked calls were so blatant that the ACC suspended the officiating crew the following day.  Could it be that the game result itself be overturned?  We shall all have to stay tuned.

Bobby Petrino must be beside himself.  Despite his able coaching, his players made mistake after mistake on the road against Wake Forest.  Yet somehow they managed to barely win.  Despite consecutive wins, this performance is not a sustainable path.  Something must be done for the team to improve so as to win sustainably.  An infusion of discipline would be both a quick and effective remedy.

Poor Mark Richt.  Despite all the success he has had at Georgia, he just cannot get over the hump.  A statistic during the debacle of a game against Florida (the Gators thumped the rival Bulldogs 27-3 at this year’s World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville) showed that Richt is 5-15 against ranked opponents during his tenure at UGA.  Moreover, he is 5-9 against Florida, despite being 141-51 overall.  The first stat alone indicates that he has peaked during his tenure at Georgia, that he has gone as far as he can with that program.  Some new, dynamic blood in Athens, Ga., would perhaps finally help get the Bulldogs to consistent dominance of the SEC East, while Miami, Richt’s alma mater, has a head coach opening just waiting for a rock-solid fellow such as he.  If such a scenario were to play out, it could benefit both parties concerned, the latter particularly, with a fresh start.

What on Earth has happened to Arizona?  Early in the season, we anticipated they would be a factor in the Pac-12.  Last night, they embarrassed themselves on the road at Washington, after coughing up the game to Wazzu the previous week.  The Wildcats will not have much time to lick their wounds, either, as next week they take on USC, followed by Utah the week after, and the week after that they close the regular season against rival Arizona State, possibly with a 5-7 at this rate (they are current 5-4, and 2-4 in the conference).

College Football Week 8 Awards October 27, 2015

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GT-FSU2015

Georgia Tech blocked a last-second field goal attempt by Florida State, and returned said blocked kick for a game-winning touchdown in one of the most fantastic finishes of the season.

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

COACHES Wish I were him: Clay Helton, USC

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Lucky guy: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Poor guy: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Al Golden, Miami

Desperately seeking … anything:  George O’Leary, UCF

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma State (defeated Kansas 58-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Pitt (defeated Syracuse 23-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 1 Ohio State 49-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Maryland (lost to Penn State 31-30)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Mississippi State (defeated Kentucky 42-16)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  UCF

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Utah

Did the season start? Arizona

Can the season end?  Kansas

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 8 Alabama 19, Tennessee 14

Play this again, too:  Arkansas 54, Auburn 46 (4OT)

Never play this again: No. 6 Clemson 55, Miami 0

What? UCLA 40, No. 20 Cal 24

HuhNo. 24 Ole Miss 23, No. 15 Texas A&M 3

Are you kidding me?  Georgia Tech 22, No. 9 Florida State 16

Oh – my – GodUSC 42, No. 3 Utah 24

Told you so:  Vanderbilt 10, Missouri 3

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)

Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Florida @ Georgia in Jacksonville

Also:  USC @ No. Cal

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: No. 11 Notre Dame @ No. 22 Temple

Best non-Power Five matchup: Louisiana Tech @ Rice

Upset alert: Tennessee @ Kentucky

Must win: Arizona @ Washington

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Stanford @ Washington State

Defensive struggle: Maryland @ No. 12 Iowa

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

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Helfrich of Oregon vs. Todd Graham of Arizona State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 17 Oklahoma @ Kansas

Why are they playing? Tennessee-Martin @ Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: Idaho @ New Mexico State

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

Week 8 Take-aways:

And to think that everyone thought it would be a down week for football.  That was before Texas won a ground-and-pound game at home, in the rainy remnants over Hurricane Patricia, over Kansas State.  That was also before Georgia Tech, who has had a down year compared to the previous season, recreated Michigan State’s improbably win from last week by A) blocking a field goal, B) against No. 9 Florida State, and C) ran it in for a game-winning touchdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock, in one of the greatest fantastic finishes of the season, if not the decade.  This of course, is NOT to discount Michigan State’s fantastic finish from the previous week!

In the SEC, a noticeable upset occurred in the evening when Ole Miss held Texas A&M to only a field goal for the entire game.  Speaking of the SEC, Tennessee apparently continues to improve, as their annual rivalry game between Alabama lived up to said rivalry’s prestige, for the Vols played the highly ranked Tide as if they themselves were also a top-ten team.  Though Tennessee ultimately lost, it ought to be considered a moral victory, and foreseeably, teams will take the Vols lightly at their own peril.

Then to cap things off for the day, USC upset No. 3-ranked Utah at home, 42-24.  It was more than a defeat, it was a demolition.  Apparently nothing galvanizes a team with good talent like their coach being let go mid-season under unconventional circumstances and then being left for dead by everybody who pays attention to their sport.  Such a win no doubt generates some degree of momentum, but can the Men of Troy maintain it and salvage their season in so doing?  They shall have a solid test to prove that they can against insurgent Cal next week.  Fight on?

Apropos of nothing, who could have guessed at the beginning of the season that Auburn, who started off ranked no. 6 in the nation, would be 4-3 and 1-3 in the SEC by the end of eighth week?

College Football Awards Week 5 October 4, 2015

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ClemsonND2015

Clemson triumphed over Notre Dame in what was perhaps the most thrilling game of the season thus far. Mandatory photo credit: Joshua S. Kelly of USA TODAY Sports

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Al Golden, Miami

Lucky guy: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Mora, UCLA

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: TCU (defeated Texas 50-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Michigan State (defeated Purdue 24-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Texas (lost to No. 4 TCU 50-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 2 Michigan State 24-21) T

hought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated North Texas 62-16)

Dang, they’re good: TCU

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana-Lafayette

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ole Miss

Did the season start? Georgia Tech

Can the season end?  Wyoming

Can the season never endClemson

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Play this again, too:  Arkansas 24, Tennessee 20

Never play this again: No. 4 TCU 50, Texas 7

What? Tulane 45, UCF 31

HuhIowa 10, #19 Wisconsin 6

Are you kidding me?  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Oh – my – GodArizona State 38, No. 7 UCLA 23

Told you so:  Louisville 20, N.C. State 13

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)

Ticket to die for:  No. 10 Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Cotton Bowl

Also:  No. 13 Northwestern @ No. 18 Michigan

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Syracuse @ South Florida

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 25 Boise State @ Colorado State

Upset alert: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 12 Florida State

Must win: Wisconsin @ Nebraska

Offensive explosion: No. 23 Cal @ No. 5 Utah

Defensive struggle: Illinois @ No. 22 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 21 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern vs. Jim Harbaugh of Michigan

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 Baylor @ Kansas

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ No. 14 Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Portland State @ North Texas

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Mississippi State

Week 5 Take-aways:

What a weekend for college football!  The grand irony is that this week left more questions than answers.

What a game it was in Clemson, S.C.  Notre Dame came to town ranked No. 6 in the nation.  The Tigers were ranked twelfth.  ESPN’s Gameday crew was there.  A massive rainstorm persisted throughout the day and night.  Fans watching on national TV witnessed the team descend the hill in “Death Valley” to take on the highly-ranked Fighting Irish.  Mistakes were made on both sides:  typical ups-and-downs of a thrilling contest between highly-ranked teams.  In the end, the Tigers triumphed.

But all of this ought not to obfuscate that Brian Kelly has built a strong program in South Bend.  Were they overrated at No. 6?  Definitely.  Are they still a tough team?  Definitely.

Tennessee lost yet another heartbreaker, this time to Arkansas.  It was a close contest throughout the game, but the same problem continues to plague the Vols:  they have yet to learn how to close a game, which is to say, they need to learn to stop blowing leads late in games.

Steve Spurrier dropped yet another game to a low-standing team in the SEC.  Is it too early to say that the wheels might be coming off the program?  Will Spurrier eventually have the fortitude to fall on his sword and thus clear the path for the program to be lead in a new direction?

Worse yet is the condition of the Texas Longhorns, who just got drubbed by TCU in Fort Worth, 50-7.  Yes, Coach Gary Patterson has gradually built up a super-strong program over the years, but is the lack of quarterback play on the part of the Longhorns the only thing that explains such a debacle, or is it something more systemic than who is the head coach?

Oh, and this slump could not come at a worse time, as Texas takes on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next week.

The Cincinnati Bearcats have given us two good Thursday night games in a row, and in the process, have walked away with two wins.  The most recent one was home over the Miami Hurricanes.  There has already been grumbling around Coral Gables that Al Golden has not brought the Canes back to the level of prominence that the faithful would like to see.  Is losing to UC a fireable offense, in culmination of this lack of expected progress?

How does one explain Michigan State’s lackluster performance at home against weak Purdue?  The Boilermakers were just a field goal away late in the 4th quarter from tying the game in regulation.  Have the Boilers improved that much in just one week since losing a near-gimme game the previous contest?  Regardless, it will be very interesting to see if Purdue can sustain any sort of improvement as the season progresses.

Ole Miss was rolling after defeating then-No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Rebels thus proved that they were both a tough team to reckon with and a team that could win on the road in a hostile environment.  And yet, when they ventured into The Swamp to play Florida, they laid an egg.  Yes, the Gators are improving week-by-week under the able leadership of Jim McElwain, but this alone cannot explain such an embarrassing defeat.  Perhaps Coach Freeze did not have his men fully prepared, or, a critical mass of the team decided to take the game off, thinking it would not be as challenging as playing Bama.  Such are the vicissitudes of college football, where 19 and 20-year olds are susceptible to such emotional roller coasters week to week that can negatively affect their level of play.  It is a problem that coaches do not have to deal with in the pros, thankfully.

On a bright note, Bobby Petrino has his Louisville Cardinals slowly improving.  Yes, they got their first win in a body bag game at home against Samford, but then they won, on the road, against a decent NC State team, in the rain.  If that is not improvement, can somebody tell me what is?

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 Week 12 Awards November 17, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 12] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, USC

Glad I’m not him: Mack Brown, Texas

Lucky guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a clue: Frank Solich, Ohio U
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Bailiff, Rice

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)

Desperately seeking … anything:  Sonny Dykes, Cal

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma (defeated Iowa State 48-10)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Central Florida (defeated Temple 39-36)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Syracuse (lost to Florida State 59-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Temple (lost to UCF 39-36)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Bowling Green (defeated Ohio U 49-0)

Dang, they’re good: Baylor

Dang, they’re bad:  Ohio U

Can’t Stand Prosperity: Stanford

Did the season start?  Rutgers
Can the season end?  Cal

Can the season never endUSC

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Auburn 43, No. 25 Georgia 38

Play this again, too:  Kansas State 33, TCU 31

Never play this again: No. 2 Florida State 59, Syracuse 3

What? Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24, OT

HuhKansas 31, West Virginia 19

Are you kidding me?  Duke 48, No. 23 Miami 30
Oh – my – GodUSC 20, No. 4 Stanford 17

Told you so:  No. 4 Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Baylor @ No. 14 Oklahoma State

Ticket to die for, SEC edition:  No. 15 Texas A&M @ No. 12 LSU

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: BYU @ Notre Dame

Best non-Big Six matchup: Texas State @ Western Kentucky

Upset alert: No. 18 Oklahoma @ Kansas State

Must win: No. 8 Missouri @ Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: Baylor @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Michigan @ Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ Houston

Intriguing coaching matchup: Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M vs. Les Miles of LSU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Idaho @ No. 2 Florida State

Why are they playing? Chattanooga @ No. 1 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: UConn @ Temple

Plenty of good seats remaining, Big Ten edition:  Illinois @ Purdue

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Coastal Carolina @ No. 11 South Carolina

Week 12 Random Thoughts

Okay, so this week was not big on upsets; some of the lower-tiered ones listed here were borderline reaches.  But there were some eye-popping, jaw-to-the-floor-dropping catches.  For instance, there was one flying, one-handed touchdown catch by a UCF receiver that put the Golden Knights even with Temple, and thus put them on the path to preserve their undefeated season.

A different sort of catch, but one that solidified victory was a tipped pass on 4-and-forever that just so happened to fall within reach of an Auburn receiver going deep.  Ricardo Louis managed to reach for the ball in stride and cruise to the end zone for a touchdown that caused Jordan-Hare Stadium to erupt in ecstasy.

USC, meanwhile, seems to have been rejuvenated under the leadership of Ed Orgeron.  Few experts were predicting a win over No. 4-ranked Stanford, what with the Cardinal’s hard-charging power running game.  But the Trojans’ defense help firm enough to nullify the Cardinal’s advantage, and in the end, helped produce the biggest win for USC yet this season.  In case someone might think that last statement is an exaggeration, when, might I ask in return, was the last time you saw the students rush the field at LA Coliseum this year?

Meanwhile, we all knew this week would come.  This time around, it just so happens to be Week 13 where most SEC teams have the unenviable task of being pitiless executioner to FCS fare, glorified or otherwise.   The irony is that this time around, these teams are not chump D-1AA teams.  Alabama is playing Chattanooga, who is currently 8-3.  South Carolina is to play Coastal Carolina, who is currently 10-1 (at least they’re not playing Wofford this time!).  Florida will play Georgia Southern, who might only be 6-4 in FCS play, but they’re still a traditional power at that level.  But that aside, why schedule these glorified body bag games so late in year?  Did we not get enough of these sub-par matchups in September?

Speaking of Georgia Southern, though, maybe Florida will finally be able to win a game again.  No, that is not a type-o.  The Florida Gators (yes, THE Florida Gators) are on a five-game losing streak.  Why, you might ask?  Perhaps these stats might explain a few things:  they rank 101st in the FBS in passing yardage, 82nd in rushing yards, and 112th in “points for,” meaning the total number of points their offense has scored.  Yet they rank 14th in points against.  The latter is a more-than-respectable stat; the rest of positively abysmal, especially by Florida standards.  Clearly, they have a good defense; they are just atrocious on offense.  Who is to blame?  One possibility is Will Muschamp, who is a defensive coordinator by trade before becoming the head coach in Gainesville.  Could he invest some capital in a better offensive coordinator?  That might help.  But at this point, it leaves fans and observers alike to wonder if he is the man for this sort of job.

At this point, it’s a fairly safe bet that that Florida could snap their five-game losing streak on Nov. 23; but the following week they face No. 2 Florida State.  What is the “over-under” for the Gators going 5-7 this year, Vegas?

College Football Week 10 Awards November 3, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 10] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Mike Riley, Oregon State

Lucky guy: Bo Pelini, Nebraska

Poor guy: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Desperately seeking a clue: Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking … anything:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Purdue 56-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Rutgers (defeated Temple 23-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Purdue (lost to Ohio State 56-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Boston College (defeated Virginia Tech 34-27)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Marshall (defeated Southern Miss 61-13)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue
Good Bounce-Back: Missouri

Did the season start?  Mississippi State
Can the season end?  Memphis

Can the season never endFlorida State

GAMES
Play this again:  West Virginia 30, TCU 27, OT

Play this again, too:  Georgia 23, Florida 20

Never play this again: No. 4 Ohio State 56, Purdue 0

What? USC 31, Oregon State 14

HuhBoston College 34, Virginia Tech 27

Are you kidding me?  No. 22 Michigan State 29, No. 21 Michigan 6

Oh – my – GodNo. 18 Oklahoma State 52, No. 15 Texas Tech 34

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)
Ticket to die for:  (tie) No. 2 Oregon @ No. 6 Stanford (Thurs.), and No. 12 LSU @ No. 1 Alabama

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: BYU @ No. 22 Wisconsin

Best non-Big Six matchup: Ohio U @ Buffalo

Upset alert: Tennessee @ No. 10 Auburn

Must win: Houston @ No. 21 Central Florida

Offensive explosion: No. 15 Oklahoma @ No. 8 Baylor (Thurs.)

Defensive struggle: Vanderbilt @ Florida

Great game no one is talking about: No. 24 Arizona State @ Utah

Intriguing coaching matchup: Butch Jones of Tennessee vs. Gus Malzahn of Auburn

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 16 Louisville @ UConn

Why are they playing? Appalachian State @ Georgia

Plenty of good seats remaining: Air Force @ New Mexico

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Old Dominion @ Idaho

Week 10 Random Thoughts:

I have come to the conclusion that these “body bag” games, such as the Purdue-Ohio State debacle I personally witnessed yesterday, are really glorified scrimmages.  Case in point:  the Buckeyes were already up 42-0 on the Boilermakers at halftime, and no sooner did the third quarter begin that they took out starting QB Braxton Miller and put in the back-up (#13).  A prudent move, for who in the their right mind would subject the beating heart of their offense to further risk of injury when the game is already comfortably in hand?  One would think at one point that Urban Meyer would send an emissary in the form of a ball boy (or somebody) to Darrell Hazell, asking him to run an “X-dig” pass play or a run play off tackle so his defense could better hone their craft in reacting to such maneuvers from the offense.

At least it was a conference game.  Most of these “body bag” games have been essentially dial-up “W’s”.  Check out half of the home games for the SEC teams, if you don’t believe me.  The next time Nick Saban grouses about the fans leaving the game early, maybe he ought to schedule better home games than Colorado State, Georgia State, and Chattanooga.

College Football Week 8 Awards October 20, 2013

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(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: Les Miles, LSU

Lucky guy: George O’Leary, Central Florida

Poor guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a clue: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mark Richt, Georgia

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Iowa State 71-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Miami (defeated North Carolina 27-23)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Arkansas (lost to Alabama 52-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Iowa (lost to Ohio State 34-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia Tech (defeated Syracuse 56-0)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State

Dang, they’re bad:  Southern Miss
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Louisville

Did the season start?  Northwestern
Can the season end?  Georgia

Can the season never endMissouri

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 24 Auburn 45, No. 7 Texas A&M 41

Play this again, too:  BYU 47, Houston 46

Never play this again: Baylor 71, Iowa State 7

Forget about this one, too:  Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0

What? Central Florida 38, No. 8 Louisville 35

HuhNo. 24 Auburn 45, No. 7 Texas A&M 41

Are you kidding me?  Ole Miss 27, No. 6 LSU 24
Oh – my – GodNo. 5 Florida State 51, No. 3 Clemson 14

Told you so:  Tennessee 23, No. 11 South Carolina 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)
Ticket to die for:  Tennessee @ No. 1 Alabama

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Pittsburgh @ Navy

Best non-Big Six matchup: Boise State @ BYU

Upset alert: Tennessee @ No. 1 Alabama

Must win: No. 20 South Carolina @ No. 5 Missouri

Offensive explosion: Boise State @ BYU (Friday)

Defensive struggle: Michigan State @ Illinois
Great game no one is talking about: Houston @ Rutgers

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Pinkel of Missouri vs. Steve Spurrier of South Carolina

Who’s bringing the body bags? Florida Atlantic @ No. 11 Auburn

Why are they playing? Furman @ No. 13 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Michigan @ UMass

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 6 Baylor @ Kansas

Week 8 in Review:

Rarely is there a week when there are so many upsets, that it’s impossible to give all of them their just due.  Normally, four categories are enough, from “What?” to “Oh-My-God”.  Yet this time around, we needed several more categories, for the undefeateds and top-ten teams ended up dropping like flies.      To wit:  No. 7 Texas A&M fell to Auburn, No. 6 LSU fell to Ole Miss.  Stanford, after paying dearly for taking a game off and thus laying an egg against Utah, turned right around the following week and took out undefeated, then-No. 9 UCLA.  Do we have to remind ourselves of how then-No. 8 Louisville (now No. 18) basically gave the game away to now-No. 21 Central Florida? Say this out loud:  Missouri beat Florida.  In so doing, the reader is likely to ask oneself, “in what Twilight Zone or alternate football universe does that happen?”  Yet it did; what’s even more other-dimensionly is that Mizzou was actually ranked ahead of the Gators when they triumphed (No. 14 vs. No. 22, respectively).  The Tigers, still undefeated, are now ranked at No. 6.

Then there was the purported “ticket to die for” of the week, and on paper it certainly was that, what with then-No. 3 Clemson at home against then-No. 5 Florida State in a titanic intra-conference clash — on paper, at least.  The only problem was, the Seminoles showed up for battle, whereas the Tigers, apparently, not so much.  The ‘Noles asserted themselves from the opening kickoff to the final whistle of the game, and demolished the home team, 51-14, despite Clemson’s hitherto superior ranking.  Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was hoping that the team could put an end to the concept of “Clemsoning”, (look up the second and third definitions of the term on Urban Dictionary), but after last night’s performance, that concept shall live on for a while longer.

Meanwhile, let us compare the heretofore Top Ten to today’s new rankings:

1.)     Alabama

2.)     Oregon

3.)     Clemson

4.)     Ohio State

5.)     Florida State

6.)     LSU

7.)     Texas A&M

8.)     Louisville

9.)     UCLA

10.)   Miami (Fla.)

Today (Oct. 20, 2013)

1.)    Alabama

2.)    Oregon

3.)    Florida State

4.)    Ohio State

5.)    Missouri

6.)    Baylor

7.)    Miami (Fla.)

8.)    Stanford

9.)    Clemson

10). Texas Tech

Curious to note:  Alabama and Oregon are still No’s 1 and 2 respectively.  So far, so good.  But Florida State, now at No. 3, leapfrogged over Ohio State, who is still at No. 4.  Mizzou, having beaten some formidable teams, has skyrocketed to No. 5, while Baylor sits at No. 6 (personally, I find the latter’s offense more potent than the former; were it only that the two could knock heads in a BCS game!).  Meanwhile, the Miami Hurricanes, laboring in the shadow of the NCAA’s Sword of Damocles, have quietly crept up to the No. 7 spot in a spectacular turnaround under Coach Al Golden’s leadership. Stanford is back in the top ten after defeating hitherto unbeaten UCLA, and Clemson remains in the top ten at No. 9 despite a thrashing at home against the Seminoles.  Tech rounds out the new top ten, and appropriately so, given that they’re currently unbeaten.  That current status, however, shall be seriously called into question the following week, though, as they shall play Oklahoma on the road, then Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home, then they face Baylor and cap things off against Texas.  The truly brutal part of the schedule is about to commence for the Red Raiders, hence they shall have the opportunity to prove their worthiness of their new ranking.  As LSU’s Charley McClendon said long ago, “[I]n football, and in life, you’ve got to keep proving yourself.

Oh, and don’t look now, but Auburn has climbed up to No. 11 from the No. 24 spot.

On a related note, two programs who were once esteemed as “football factories” but had something of a decade-long slump seem to have returned to that status this year; Florida State and, to a lesser extent, Tennessee.  The former demonstrated that convincingly before a national, prime time audience.  The latter demonstrated that over the course of the past three weeks by giving Georgia the fight of their lives on Oct. 5, then coming back to beat South Carolina yesterday.  No longer is playing the Vols a relative “gimme” on the SEC schedule as it was several years ago.  Everyone else in the conference ought to be put on notice.

College Football Week 4 Awards September 24, 2012

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In just our second week of picking up where the good sportswriters at Yahoo ! left off, here are the week 4 awards for college football teams and coaches – enjoy!

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (notwithstanding his son’s illness)
Glad I’m not him: Brady Hoke, Michigan
Lucky guy: Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)
Poor guy: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Mora, UCLA
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tim Beckman, Illinois
Desperately seeking … anything:  Joker Phillips, Kentucky

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: West Virginia (defeated Maryland 31-21)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Kentucky (lost to Florida 38-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  UAB (lost to Ohio State 29-15)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Louisiana Tech (defeated Illinois 52-24)

Dang, they’re good: Oregon
Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas
Did the season start? Michigan
Can the season end?  Kentucky
Can the season never end? Florida State

GAMES
Play this again:  Marshall 54, Rice 51, 2OT
Never play this again: Nebraska 73, Idaho St. 7
What? Rutgers 35, Arkansas 26
Huh? Oregon St. 27, No. 19 UCLA 20
Are you kidding me? Colorado 35, Washington State 34
Oh – my – God: Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31
Told you so: No. 15 Kansas State 24, No. 6 Oklahoma 19

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for: No. 12 Texas @ Oklahoma State (or Tennessee @ No. 5 Georgia)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Louisville @ Southern Miss
Best non-Big Six matchup: Central Michigan @ Northern Illinois
Upset alert: No. 7 South Carolina @ Kentucky

Must win: No. 21 Michigan State vs. No. 16 Ohio State
Offensive explosion: Oregon @ Washington State
Defensive struggle: Penn State @ Illinois
Great game no one is talking about: No. 9 Stanford @ Washington, Thurs., 9 PM EDT

Intriguing coaching matchup: Dana Holgorsen of West Virginia vs. Art Briles of Baylor
Who’s bringing the body bags? Towson @ LSU
Why are they playing? Idaho @ North Carolina

Plenty of good seats remaining: Buffalo @ Connecticut
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Marshall @ Purdue