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College Football Awards, Week 6 (2018) October 7, 2018

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 6] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Texas

Glad I’m not him: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chip Kelly, UCLA

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Wake Forest 63-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: West Virginia (defeated Kansas 38-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to Clemson 63-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to West Virginia 38-22)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia Tech (defeated Louisville 66-31)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisville

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Boston College

Can the season end?  Rice

Can the season never endTexas

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 63, Wake Forest 3

What? Utah 40, No. 14 Stanford 21

HuhTexas A&M 20, No. 13 Kentucky 14 (OT)

Double HuhMississippi State 23, No. 8 Auburn 9

Are you kidding me??  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Oh – my – GodNo. 22 Florida 27, No. 5 LSU 19

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Georgia @ No. 5 LSU

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 12 UCF @ Memphis

Upset alert: No. 9 West Virginia @ Iowa State

Must win: No. 20 Michigan State @ No. 11 Penn State

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Washington @ No. 18 Oregon

Defensive struggle: No. 8 Auburn @ Tennessee

Great game no one is talking about: Duke @ Georgia Tech

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs. Kevin Sumlin of Arizona

Who’s bringing the body bags? (inconclusive)

Why are they playing? (inconclusive)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Kentucky @ Charlotte

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Alabama State @ South Alabama

Week 6 Thoughts:

 Upsets have abounded this week, with each surprise seeming to supersede the other.  Texas made its presence known by toppling yet another ranked opponent, this time hated rival Oklahoma.  Whereas the Longhorns were ranked a respectable No. 19, the Sooners were top ten at No. 7.  It was almost the upset the never was, as the Sooners’ superior talent almost allowed for a complete comeback during the second half.  Only a last-minute field goal by Texas’ true freshman kicker won the day.

LSU’s occasional woes against Florida continued yesterday.  In 2003, the Gators upset the Tigers badly, almost spoiling their national title campaign.  This time around, the Bayou Bengals came in to the game at No. 5 in the nation, only to be upset by the (No. 22) Gators yet again, this time 27-19.  Time to see if Ed Orgeron’s team can bounce back from this loss and remain strong in the brutally competitive SEC West division.

Mississippi State has been in and out of the rankings, but this time, they played like a legitimately ranked team, toppling top-ten Auburn 23-9.  Perhaps the “clanga-clanga” atmosphere of Scott Field at night had something to do with it?

Speaking of atmospheres and night games, don’t look now, but Kentucky is a legitimately good team.  That said, apparently a night game in the hostile confines of Kyle Field (“Home of the 12th Man”) was too much to maintain their strong winning streak, for the Wildcats lost to the unranked Aggies in overtime, in what was a close, hard-fought game from start to end.

In an interesting night cap game, unranked Utah’s superior quickness gave No. 14 Stanford fits the entire evening.  The Cardinal has a bye-week to lick their wounds, while such a win for the Utes might merit a ranking in the next edition of the polls.

There were other upsets, too, such as Iowa State toppling No. 25 Oklahoma State.  It won’t get any easier for the Cowboys, as their next six games include ranked opponents (Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia), as well as Kansas State and potentially-ranked TCU.

Let us also not overlook another close, hard-fought game between Florida State and Miami.  The Seminoles tenaciously hung tough the entire game and eventually triumphed over the No. 17 Hurricanes 28-27.

In the Big Ten, unranked Northwestern (they actually start off the year ranked No. 15) upset No. 20 Michigan State, on the road, 29-19.  This is a genuine quality win for the Wildcats, as Mark Dantonio has, over the past several years, made his Spartans a tough out even for top-ten teams.  On paper, one would think MSU would have been a tougher out for Northwestern, but just goes to show that nothing is a given in the B1G.

But one of the biggest upsets of the day was also the biggest game of the day, as the Longhorns have won bragging rights over the Sooners for a year until they meet again next year in the Cotton Bowl amidst the annual Texas State Fair.

 

 

 

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College Football Week 4 Awards 2016 September 25, 2016

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Lucky guy: Guz Malzahn, Auburn

Poor guy: Jim Mora, UCLA   (Hon. Mention:  Les Miles)

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Desperately seeking … anything:  Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Houston (defeated Texas State 64-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Mississippi State (defeated UMass 47-35)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kent State (lost to No. 1 Alabama 48-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  UMass (lost to Mississippi State 47-35)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Troy (defeated New Mexico State 52-6)

Dang, they’re good: Houston

Dang, they’re bad:  UTEP

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Oregon

Can the season end?  USC

Can the season never endMichigan

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 24 Utah 31, USC 27

Play this again, too:  No. 7 Stanford 22, UCLA 13

Never play this again: Missouri 79, Delaware State 0

What? Purdue 24, Nevada 14

HuhNo. 23 Ole Miss 45, No. 12 Georgia 14

Double-Huh? Colorado 41, Oregon 38

Are you kidding me?  Duke 38, Notre Dame 35

Oh – my – GodNo. 11 Wisconsin 30, No. 8 Michigan State 6

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5) T

icket to die for: No. 3 Louisville @ No. 5 Clemson

Also: No. 8 Wisconsin @ No. 4 Michigan

Keep an eye on this one, too: No. 7 Stanford @ No. 10 Washington

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Memphis @ No. 16 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ Air Force; also: South Florida @ Cincinnati

Upset alert: North Carolina @ No. 12 Florida State

Must win: Oklahoma @ No. 21 TCU

Offensive explosion: No. 22 Texas @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Northwestern @ Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: Kansas State @ West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup: Chris Petersen of Washington vs. David Shaw of Stanford

Also: Dabo Swinney of Clemson vs. Bobby Petrino of Louisville

Who’s bringing the body bags? UConn @ No. 6 Houston

Why are they playing? Alcorn State @ No. 20 Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ Kent State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Incarnate Word @ Texas State

Week 4 Take-aways:

A premonition last week gave me that idea that, while many matchups this week did not exactly shine with prestige (or did they?), they were nevertheless competitive and engaging. The examples are rather numerous. The USC-Utah game on Friday was one such example. The Trojans led most of the way, but the Utes triumphed in the end, 31-27. LSU at Auburn developed into a relatively low-scoring affair (plus, no matter the outcome, we were guaranteed that the Tigers would win!). A quirk in clock management led to the War Eagles winning over the Bayou Bengals, and thus brought a sudden end to the Les Miles era in Baton Rouge. Where LSU will go from here is anybody’s guess, but they do now have carte blanche to hire Art Briles, who is currently unemployed.

Tennessee seemed to finally learn to close the deal in a big game. Last year at this time, they gave up some heartbreakers to big-name teams, though they led the majority of those games (namely, Oklahoma and Florida). To make the situation murkier, they played inconsistently in their wins this year prior to yesterday. Even during the first half, they were clearly off rhythm, and the Gators led at the half, 21-3. All that changed in the second half. The Volunteers came out an entirely different team, executing effectively, and scoring, seemingly, at will, while Florida only scored a touchdown for that entire half. Now that the Vols have proven they can “close the deal,” they need to prove they can effectively play a good first half as well as a good second. Once they do, they’ll be one of the best teams in football. As things currently stand, Tennessee seems to have a clear path to the SEC East berth of their conference’s championship game.

That path was opened all the wider after then-No. 12 Georgia embarrassed themselves on the road to then-No. 23 Ole Miss. Sure, the Rebels are a good team, but the Bulldogs made them look like world-beaters. Couple this with the fact that Mark Richt did not leave the team’s talent cupboard bare, and this seriously calls into question the wisdom in hiring Kirby Smart as his replacement.

Speaking of questionable hires, Kentucky won over South Carolina in a contest of ineptitude on both sides of the ball. Mark Stoops’ days are clearly numbered in Lexington, despite all of his hiring hype from a few years ago. But Will Muschamp is the new hire in Columbia. As I have previously inquired, what sense does it make to hire a coach who failed with the talent at Florida, only to bring him into a program with less talent and less of a recruiting pipeline? Indeed, the South Carolina-Georgia border rivalry game might as well be dubbed the clash of the two coaching hire trainwrecks (in the making). But in the meantime, the Bulldogs have no time to lick their wounds, as they play Tennessee next week.

In a good game that was on nobody’s radar screen, Purdue actually beat an opponent with some degree of credibility in Nevada. In what seemed, on paper to be a lop-sided matchup, South Florida acquitted themselves well against Florida State, losing only 55-35.

On the other side of the proverbial coin was Wisconsin at Michigan State. The then-No. 11 Badgers embarrassed the then-No. 8 Spartans, 30-6. Sparty is lucky to remain ranked after such a drubbing, and this loss certainly does not make Notre Dame look any better after the drubbing they suffered at MSU’s hands.

Speaking of Notre Dame, head coach Brian Kelly fired his defensive coordinator after the Fighting Irish lost, at home, to Duke. Yes, Duke. But be not fooled: the Blue Devils are a respectable team, thanks to the patient building of head coach David Cutcliffe. Those “in the know” anticipated a decent game regardless of the outcome.

On the west coast, the competition was more than decent between Stanford and home team UCLA. The Bruins led most of the game. The Cardinal did not score the go-ahead touchdown until fewer than 30 seconds remained in regulation. The last six points to add to their margin came on a fluke. UCLA’s QB attempted a “Hail Mary” pass, but a Stanford defensive linemen forced a fumble instead before successfully running the ball back for another score with 0:00 left on the play clock. Notwithstanding the fluke score, it was a very good game.

Another good game for much of the duration was the Texas A&M vs. Arkansas game. The game was hard-fought on both sides, but as the game progressed, the Aggies played better and better. All this talk about Coach Kevin Sumlin being on the hot seat seem a overblown at least and more than a tad premature at worst, as A&M is now ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll, with more great SEC West matchups remaining.

Two other close, hard-fought games that relatively few people noticed: BYU vs. West Virginia (the Mountaineers won, 35-32) and Pitt vs. North Carolina (the Tarheels won that close one, 37-36). As previously observed, the entire day consisted of close games, top, bottom, and middle.

College Football Week 11 Awards: the Night of the Living Upsets Edition November 16, 2015

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Oregon-Stanford2015

The Oregon-Stanford game was a classic matchup of speed vs. power. In the end, Stanford ruined their chances of a playoff berth with two 4th-quarter fumbles. This was but one of many upsets that night which could lead to considerable chaos in the rankings. (AP photo/Tony Avelar)

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

COACHES Wish I were him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Glad I’m not him: Art Briles, Baylor

Lucky guy: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Poor guy:  David Shaw, Stanford

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Les Miles, LSU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Kyle Flood, Rutgers

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Texas A&M (defeated Western Carolina 42-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 15 TCU (defeated Kansas 23-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Miami (lost to No. 23 North Carolina 59-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 18 Northwestern 21-14)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Southern Miss (defeated Rice 65-10)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  SMU

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Baylor

Did the season start? LSU

Can the season end?  Miami (FL)

Can the season never endOklahoma

GAMES

Play this again:  Oregon 36, No. 7 Stanford 34

Play this again, too:  No. 14 Michigan 48, Indiana 41

Never play this again: Marshall 52, FIU 0

What? South Florida 44, No. 22 Temple 23

Huh?  Arizona 37, No. 10 Utah 30, 2OT

Double-HuhOregon 36, No. 7 Stanford 34

Are you kidding me?  No. 12 Oklahoma 44, No. 6 Baylor 34

Oh – my – GodArkansas 31, No. 9 LSU 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are week 11 CFP as of right now)

Ticket to die for:  No. 6 Baylor @ No. 8 Oklahoma State

Also:  No. 13 Michigan State @ No. 3 Ohio State

Honorable mention:  USC @ Oregon

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Georgia Southern @ Georgia

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 21 Memphis @ No. 22 Temple

Upset alert: Boston College vs. No. 4 Notre Dame

Must win: UCLA @ Utah

Also:  No. 12 Oklahoma @ No. 15 TCU

Offensive explosion: Baylor @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle:  No. 17 Mississippi State @ Arkansas

Great game no one is talking about:  Louisville @ Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Dantonio of MSU vs. Urban Meyer of OSU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Charleston Southern @ No. 2 Alabama

Why are they playing? Idaho @ Auburn

Ditto:  Florida Atlantic @ No. 11 Florida

Plenty of good seats remaining: Rice @ UTSA

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Charlotte @ Kentucky

Week 11 Take-aways:

Henceforth let this day, the 14th of November in the Year of Our Lord 2015, be known as the Night of the Living Upsets.  The daylight hours proceeded with each favored team either comfortably sailing by, or at least no worse than slipping away from the occasional close shave.  Then the evening hours descended, and everything seemed to be suddenly turned on its ear.

To wit:

Nobody thought that Arkansas had a chance against LSU.  After all, the Razorbacks were having a mediocre-at-best season, sub-par in any case.  Moreover, Arkansas had only defeated LSU in Baton Rogue just once in the past 20 years.  On the other side of the coin, the Tigers – the Bayou Bengal variety – have been playing very strongly, despite a drubbing to an increasingly dominating Alabama squad.  Yet the Hogs took it to the Tigers, in Death Valley, and did so in dramatic fashion, winning 31-14.  As an aside, the Hogs now have their fourth straight win, having started the season 2-4.

Meanwhile, out on the west coast, a marquee matchup in the Pac-12 took place in Stanford, where the Oregon Ducks took on the Cardinal – formerly the Indians – in a classic match of contrasts, speed vs. power.  Speed ended up winning by default in the end, narrowly, 38-36.  Ironically, it was not Oregon’s speed that killed Stanford as it was the Cardinal’s two inopportune fumbles late in the fourth quarter.  Otherwise, they surely would have won the contest.

In the heart of Texas, Oklahoma came in to Waco to take on Baylor in a rain-soaked showdown.  To the surprise of many, the Bears’ high-powered offense was kept in check the entire game.  Not coincidentally, the Sooners actually played real defense, unlike all the Bears’ previous opponents, but it was still a tough fight throughout the game.  The triumph was nevertheless that of the Sooners, 44-34.

Elsewhere in the southwest, the high-flying Utah squad ventured to Tucson, Ariz., to take on the Arizona Wildcats.  Rich Rodriguez must have been ready for the Utes’ arrival.  His team was surely hungry for a big win, for they, muck like Arkansas in the SEC, have had a mediocre season at best.  In the end, the Wildcats triumphed over the Utes in 2OT, 37-30.

A near-upset occurred, as Houston barely survived Memphis, 35-34.  Those Tigers (as opposed to the LSU, Auburn, or Clemson ones) were in the lead most of the game.  The Cougars very gradually gnawed away at the lead in the second half to eventually snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Even then it took a missed field goal on the part of Memphis to finalize the outcome.

Yet another near-upset occurred in Bloomington, Ind., as the Indiana Hoosiers almost knocked off Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines.  Only a couple of freak big plays towards the end of regulation in Michigan’s favor saved Harbaugh’s bacon that game, as it put the game in OT where the better talent was able to prevail (which it did, 48-41).

An under-the-radar upset came in the form of South Florida – a nobody the entire season – up-ending No. 22 Temple, 44-23.  Remember, this is the same Temple team that played fourth-ranked Notre Dame tough the entire length of that contest.  Indeed, they almost upset the Irish.  Now the Bulls have decisively beaten/upset the deceptively tough Owls.  Oh my.

Another overlooked upset was New Mexico upsetting Boise State in Boise, Idaho, no less, 31-24.  It took a stop just four years shy of the goal line on the part of the Lobos, with 0:00 on the clock, to ensure the outcome.

Yet another under-the-radar upset was so only because it was out on the west coast, and very late at night, even by Central Time standards.  Unranked Washington State defeated No. 19 UCLA, 31-27, in Pasadena, no less.  The win came on a Hail Mary pass that was completed in the end zone in the final seconds, giving an incredible night full of drama one incredible exclamation mark.

Those of who paid attention to the team schedules knew that this November would be a month of separation.  What we did NOT anticipate was that so much, er, separation, would occur so soon in the month, and on one night alone.  The real kicker?  At only halfway through November, more separation (chaos?) is yet to come!

College Football Opening Weekend 2013: What to watch August 29, 2013

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Georgia-Clemson2013Note:  Rankings are based the ESPN-Coaches Poll, not the AP Poll as is usually the case on this blog.

Though many good games kick off the season on Thursday (hello, North Carolina @ South Carolina!) and Friday, the real action begins, as it always does, on Saturday (Aug. 31, in this case).  Let us cut through the clutter and focus on the good games to watch.

Noon (12:00 PM, EDT):  Let’s face it; in recent years, most noon games have been throw-away games (generally, lots of lower-tier Big Ten, ACC and Big East matchups).  This seems to be mostly the case this time around, too (case in point:  Florida International @ Maryland, which makes Louisiana Tech @ N.C. State look like a marquee game).  Yet one game in this time slot is rather intriguing, that being Purdue @ Cincinnati.  Both programs have new coaches.  Purdue’s Darrell Hazell is working diligently to breathe new life into a program that has underachieved since the 2003-2004 season.  Meanwhile, U-Cincy brought in Tommy Tuberville to provide some stability to a program that lost Brian Kelly to Notre Dame after the 2009 season, and just lost Butch Jones to Tennessee prior to this upcoming one.  From a business managerial standpoint, the two new coaches make for an interesting study in contrast in that Hazell’s role is clearly turnaround CEO, while Tuberville’s role is that of caretaker to a program that Kelly built up quite well and Jones did reasonably well in maintaining.  Talent-wise, it ought not to be close, as odds are the Bearcats could dust the Boilermakers.  Nevertheless, this game is far more interesting than the rest of the game fare offered at noontime, and it goes without saying that this game merits a nod for “Intriguing Coaching Matchup” award.

3:30 PM EDT:  Normally, one can always look forward to at least one strong SEC matchup during this time slot, but there are none to be had on this date.  Syracuse @ Penn State makes for a poor substitute indeed.  BYU @ Virginia is for more intriguing than that.  Still…next!

With that said, a potentially good game that few people are talking about occurs at this same time, that being Mississippi State at Oklahoma State.  The Bulldogs have grown in strength under head coach Dan Mullen, while the Cowboys have also grown in stature under Mike Gundy’s leadership (not to mention T. Boone Pickens’ money).  Seeing these two teams butt heads could be very engaging.

5:30 PM EDT:  Granted, this is not your traditional time slot for a Saturday game, but it’s the opening weekend, so who cares?  If anybody doubts that Atlanta is one of THE epicenters of college football, then they would be well-served to take not that No. 1 Alabama opens the season in the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech.  On paper, it’s a decent matchup in that a top-tier SEC team is about to take on an upper-tier ACC team.  But as decent as the Hokies are, the game could very well be a bloodbath, as odds are the Crimson Tide is going to roll.  Still, it’s better than the 3:30 PM options.

7:00 PM EDT:  Washington State @ Auburn — now we’re getting somewhere.  We the fans are not treated to SEC vs Pac-12 matchups enough, in my estimation, so when it happens, it is always something to be relished.  What makes this game especially interesting is that the dread pirate Mike Leach is trying to turn around the Cougars program while Guz Malzahn has just been brought in to revive the Tigers’ very quick fall from grace.  Could be interesting, especially when one considers how a Pac-12 team not named USC can handle a hyper-hostile SEC stadium crowd.

The other interesting game that evening is the Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky game in Nashville, Tenn.  This too merits an “Intriguing Coaching Matchup” nod in that it also pits first-year coaches at both schools, both of whom came there under radically different circumstances.  Mark Stoops took the UK job as a top-rated assistant coach at Florida State, with the mission to turn around a perennially struggling Wildcats squad.  Thus far he has made lots of recruiting hype, but the actual product he can deliver on the field remains to be seen.  On the Hilltoppers’ end is Bobby Petrino, one of the best coaches in the business, but left his CEO job at Arkansas in disgrace and scandal.  The WKU job is a rung or two down the ladder from the jobs he has previously had, thus is objective is twofold:  maintain what predecessor Willie Taggart had already built (something at which he is more than adept), and also rehab his reputation.  Look out for a possible Hilltopper upset over the Wildcats, as it is always dangerous to give Petrino more than a week to prepare for a game.

8:00 PM EDT:  No. 5 Georgia @ No. 8 Clemson — easily the biggest game of the day, if not the whole weekend.  Head Coach Mark Richt takes a loaded Bulldogs team led by talented QB Aaron Murray (no relation, sadly) in to Clemson to take on a Tigers program that Dabo Swinney has slowly yet quietly strengthened over the past several years (they did beat a strong LSU team in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, after all).  This will be a great opening test for the Bulldogs, who are no doubt looking to eventually unseat Alabama at the number one spot in both the conference and the nation.  Odds also are that you will be “looking LIVE, at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.,” as in all likelihood this will be the game that Brent Musburger calls along with Kirk “Herbie” Herbstreit, folks!

9:00 PM EDT:  No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU in Dallas (Arlington, Texas, specifically).  Just as Atlanta has its season kickoff Peach Bowl with a SEC-ACC game, over the past few years, Dallas has endeavored to do the same thing with a season kickoff Cotton Bowl of sorts, usually bringing in an SEC and a Big XII team (though there has been the occasional SEC vs Pac-12 game thrown in sometimes, read:  LSU vs. Oregon in 2011) as is the case this time.  Les Miles almost always has the Tigers up for big games, while it will be a quasi-home game for the Horned Frogs as they have but a half-hour drive (at the most) from their home base in Fort Worth.  Moreover, Gary Patterson has built up a strong program over the course of more than a decade, even recently taking TCU to a Rose Bowl just a couple of seasons ago.  Moreover, though the Horned Frogs are ranked lower than the Bayou Bengals, they have the good fortune of playing LSU at the beginning of the season, which is historically when the team is most vulnerable to a loss.

10:30 PM EDT:  No. 22 Northwestern at California.  Normally, the only game one might find on the cable tv guide this late at night is a home game at Hawai’i.  Not this time, though.  This time, head coach Pat Fitzgerald takes his nimble Wildcats westward from Evanston, Ill., to the west coast.  The rankings could be deceiving.  Yes, on paper, Northwestern could possibly crush Cal.  But that could easily be nullified because of geography.  Take a team in the eastern or even central timezone out to the Pacific timezone, and strange things happen to them.  Pro teams do not have this issue (say, the New York Giants journeying out to Seattle to play the Seahawks), because they’re older, more mature, and, well, professionals.  But in the college game, folks*, you’re dealing with 19-20 year-old kids, who are far more apt to be out of their element when traveling such a distance.  Let us also not forget that Northwestern’s internal clock will still be on Chicago time (9:30 PM), not San Francisco time (7:30 PM), which could also make a difference.  One could therefore expect a close, hard-fought game, if not even an upset by the Golden Bears.  That said, Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most underrated coaches in the business, and has proven to be very adept, time and again, at not only recruiting decent players into a school with the most academically-rigid standards in the Big Ten Conference, but also coaching them up to be competitive in that conference and in bowl games, too.  No doubt he’ll have a trick or two up his proverbial sleeve to try to nullify the problems of geography and time discrepancy.  We shall see soon enough, as that is why they line up and play.

* Another Musburger-ism, in case you missed the reference!

2012-2013 Bowl Games of Moderate Interest (at best) December 14, 2012

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Bowl season is almost upon us once again.  Yes, friends, things kickoff early as usual, just as they have since roughly 2001.  But instead of the New Orleans Bowl doing the honors in getting things started this year, we have the New Mexico Bowl and the Idaho Potatoes Bowl (don’t laugh!) doing said honors this year.  The Big Easy Bowl does not commence until Dec. 22, oddly enough.

In any event, I have ranked the bowl games by category, with the major criterion being level of desirability to view, partly on my end, partly on the end of the average viewer who is NOT a certifiable college football addict like yours truly!

To find a complete bowl game schedule where each game is found in order of date and time each game is to be played, go here.

The first installment is of bowl games about which I am only moderately interested, at best (all times Eastern Standard):

Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Id.), Sat., Dec. 15, 4:30 PM EST

Toledo (9-3) vs. No. 22 Utah State (10-2)

The de facto WAC champ takes on a respectable MAC team that finished 3rd in the western division.  The only interesting aspect about this game is that it will be an interesting test to see how strong the MAC truly is against the best of what is seen by most as a traditionally weak conference.

Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego) Sat., Dec. 15, 8:00 PM EST

BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)

The Cougars take on the de facto leader of the Mountain West, in what amounts to a glorified home game for the Aztecs.  Despite the numbers not matching, their records have interesting similarities in that both teams lost to at least one Pac-12 team, and both teams also lost to San Jose State (!).

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 PM EST

Ball State (9-3) vs. UCF (9-4)

Both the Cardinals and the Golden Knights have nearly identical records, with UCF’s extra loss coming to Tulsa in the C-USA championship game.  The only interesting aspect to this game is how a MAC also-ran stacks up against the C-USA runner-up.  Everybody was bullish on the MAC this year for the apparent strength the conference hath shewn; now it is time to put up or shut up.

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, Hi.) Dec. 24, 8:00 PM EST

Fresno State (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6)

This game used to have a little more of a mystique to it when it was called the Aloha Bowl, and was played on Christmas.  Just sayin’!  That said, it least this game is another glorified home game for Hawaii team, like it is half the time.  A Mountain West also-ran vs. a C-USA team barely eligible does seem to be a slight mismatch in the Bulldogs favor.  On the other hand, this will be an interesting homecoming for June Jones, albeit on the Mustangs side this time.

Little Caesars Bowl (Detroit), Wed., Dec. 26, 7:30 PM

Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6)

It used to be they would pit a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team against the MAC champ.  Even then, the game was only moderately interesting, and only to the fan bases of the teams that got the bid to the Motor City.  Now, with a Sun Belt Conference also-ran against a plodding MAC team, it is even less interesting.  But credit the guys at EDSBS for reminding us that, given the game is in Detroit, the players, as a bonus, the players might get deeds to abandoned key real estate in their gift bags!

Military Bowl (Washington, D.C.), Thurs., Dec. 27, 3:00 PM

No. 24 San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)

WAC near-champ vs. MAC also-ran: we know what ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd would say; “not interested!”  Yes, the Trojans (the SJSU kind, not the USC kind) did take the WAC by storm this year, but it’s still the WAC.

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.), Thurs., Dec. 27, 6:30 PM

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6)

A decent Big East team takes on a barely-eligible ACC team.  That alone does not make most folks interested.  So what in addition to that dismal matchup engages anybody?  Answer:  the intrigue.  Who exactly will be coaching the Bearcats, anyhow?  And how will David Cutcliffe prepare the Blue Devils for a bowl game that might actually be winnable for them?

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.), Fri., Dec. 28, 2:00 PM

Ohio U (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4)

Something negative, something positive to be said.  The negative is obvious if one knows anything at all about bowl history.  The Independence Bowl used to be one of the best matchups in the bowl lineup, pitting a Big XII team against an SEC team in a fairly even match.  Even before then, the 1995 Michigan State – LSU matchup was memorable, and the 1997 match between the Tigers and Notre Dame was even more so (both ended in the Bayou Bengals’ favor).  Remember the “Blizzard Bowl” between Mississippi State and Texas A&M in late 2000?  ‘Twas yet another great example of this great bowl game.  It is not anymore, though.  Now it pits MAC vs. Sun Belt.  The Cadillac has been reduced to a Chrysler K-car.  Positive:  lookee there, the Bobcats made it to a bowl game after all!

Russell Athletics Bowl (Orlando, Fla.), Fri., Dec. 28, 5:30 PM

Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Rutgers (9-3)

The Hokies have under-performed all the year, and the Scarlet Knights might be a bit demoralized after losing at home to Louisville and losing out on the BCS in so doing.  So which team is going to show up?  Scratch that:  is either team going to show up?

Meinecke Car Care Bowl (Houston), Fri., Dec. 28, 9:00 PM

Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Okay, at least it involves a Big Ten vs. Big XII matchup.  The only problem is, one team squeaked by into this game while in a conference that is down this year, and the other is facing leadership turmoil in the wake of Tommy Tuberville’s abrupt departure.  On paper, the Red Raiders are the clear favorite, but don’t underestimate the power of demoralization.

Armed Forces Bowl (Ft. Worth, Texas), Sat., Dec. 29, 11:45 AM

Rice (6-6) vs Air Force (6-6)

Both teams squeaked into a bowl game.  Which one is happier to be there?  The happier team is a bit more focused on preparation, which will make the difference come game time.  Seriously; it should be called the “Ethics Bowl,” and the fact that I imply derision in that observation is a very sad commentary on our society.  On the other hand, Air Force’s triple option ‘grittitude’ is always a pleasure to see for those of us who like real football.

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.), Mon., Dec. 31, 3:30 PM

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

The Cyclones have had some flashes of brilliance this year.  The question becomes, will this be enough to overcome the C-USA champs?

Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas), Mon., Dec. 31, 2:00 PM

USC (7-5) vs Georgia Tech (6-7)

My bowl pick for “they shoot horses, don’t they?”  Why?  Because it is pointless.  The Trojans come in to El Paso only 7-5 because they have yet to muster up the discipline needed to take things to the next level, while the Yellow Jackets already have a losing season. Still, the offensive contrast should be interesting to watch, if nothing else.

Next installment:  Bowl Games of More Interest

Teams that could beat Notre Dame November 22, 2012

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From the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. The Latin phrase at the top translates to “The Miracle of Our Lady 2012”

In case some dear readers have been hanging out in a cave for an extended period of time, Notre Dame is now the no. 1 college football team in the nation for the first time in 19 years to the month.  Given the national following the Fighting Irish have, there has been more than a bit of hoopla over this development.  Without going into obscene details, I can see Regis Philbin and other ND-loving celebrities losing control of themselves right about now.  But just because the Irish are no. 1 by default, does not mean they are invincible?  Of course not.  Yes, they are undefeated; yes, they have beaten some decent teams.  To be fair, Notre Dame is formidable.  Brian Kelly has done an incredible job of bringing in a talented receiving corps for the offense while massively upgrading the team’s talent defensively.  Their front five and front seven are both sufficiently physical to compete with anybody.  But there are teams out there that would give ND fits, if not ruin their season outright if the two played each other.  I therefore submit this list of teams to a candid world:

Practically sure things:

LSU:  Without a doubt, LSU would give Notre Dame all it would want and then some.  Over the past decade, there is no team that has been known to show up in big games and win them like LSU.  Yes, they lost at home to Alabama this year.  Yes, they lost the national championship game to Alabama at the end of last season.  Yet ought these not to be a strong commentary on the Crimson Tide’s prowess rather then to the Bayou Bengals’ detriment?  The Tigers have won two national titles within a decade.  Aside from the BCS game this past season, they have won almost all of their bowl games*.  Stretch the scale of time back to 15 years, and every time the Irish have played the Tigers in a bowl game (the 1997 Independence Bowl, the 2006-’07 Sugar Bowl), LSU has won both games handily.  The odds, talent, and the mindset are all in LSU’s favor.  Notre Dame ought to pray that the two teams do not meet anytime soon.

*LSU’s only bowl losses were to a tough Texas team in the 2003 Cotton Bowl, and inexplicable losses in the Capital One Bowl to both Iowa (30-20 on Jan. 1, 2005), and Penn State (19-17 on Jan. 1, 2010).

Stanford:  Don’t laugh.  Yes, they already lost to Notre Dame this year, but by that same token, let us put things into perspective.  A), the game was in South Bend, B) the weather was horrible, C) what did the Cardinal in was two consecutive horrible play calls on the goal line in overtime.  Now imagine the two teams playing each other again, this time on a neutral field, and reasonable weather.  Stanford has the personnel to fight the Irish effectively on the line on both sides of the ball.  They sport a very physical front seven, and their offense is ground-and-pound.  This approach was two horribly-called plays shy of working under very adverse circumstances on the road.  Imagine how well it would work in, say, Glendale, Ariz., or Pasadena.

Texas A&M:  The Aggies have proven that they can move the ball on tough defenses.  Quarterback Johnny Manziel has gotten better and better as the season has progressed.  They moved the ball effectively on Alabama, after all.  Moreover, Coach Kevin Sumlin has proven to be an excellent motivator in getting his men ready for big games.  Some of their margins of victory are impressive.  For example, they beat a respected Mississippi State squad 38-13, and then turned around the following week and beat then-no. 1 Alabama.  What this tells me is that you can count on consistent play from A&M at this stage of the season.  That, plus quick defense and superior quarterback play add up to being too much for the Irish to handle.

Ohio State:  Yes, Brian Kelly has proven to be one of the best coaches in the college game.  But so has Urban Meyer, and his resume of winning big games with more teams, one could argue, trumps Kelly’s.  Never count out Meyer in big games.  Moreover, once he brings in more of his own style of players, they will execute his spread offense all the more effectively.  True, the Buckeyes were playing some teams too closely for comfort earlier in the year.  After all, they only scored 29 points on abysmal UAB, of all teams!  But lately the offense runs like a well-oiled machine.  During their last games, they have averaged scoring 49 points each.  Their lower scores during that span were 29 points (where Purdue’s defense actually showed up) and 21 points against Wisconsin’s traditionally stout ‘D.’  Notre Dame has not encountered anything like Ohio State’s offense throughout this memorable season of theirs.

Questionable teams:

Florida:  Yes, their defense is practically impregnable.  Good luck moving the ball on the Gators.  The problem is on the offensive side of the ball.  Jeff Driskel is a mediocre quarterback at best, and Notre Dame’s defense will not play dead simply because they are facing such a vaunted program.  The game would be very low-scoring, with the outcome depending on how well Driskell executes, which is a crap-shoot.

South Carolina:  On paper, this team should be a very formidable foe for the Irish.  A strong running game, one of the best QB’s in college football in Connor Shaw, and defense with potential NFL talent, anchored by Jadeveon Clowney.  The problem lies in consistency.  The Gamecocks blew out a tough Georgia team earlier in the year, only to embarrass themselves at Florida a few weeks later.  After that, they played an awful Tennessee much more closely than the game should have been, again, on paper (they won that game only 38-35).  The Ol’ Ball Coach triumphing over the hot-headed Irish Coach will depend on the team that gave Georgia its only loss of the year to show up.

Georgia:  The Bulldogs have an incredibly talented offense led by experienced, highly-rated quarterback Aaron Murray.  On paper, the offense would give Notre Dame’s talented defense all they could handle.  Defensively, Georgia sports a typical talented, ultra-quick SEC defense.  The problem, like that of South Carolina, is consistency.  Yes, they could theoretically take Notre Dame, but it all comes down to which team shows up against them:  the team that beat Florida handily on an ostensibly neutral field, or the team that lost badly earlier on to South Carolina?

Alabama:  Easily the least-questionable team within this category.  The only reason they are in said category as opposed to the above one is that Texas A&M exposed a chink or two in their impressive armor.  Their defense is talented, but young, and their offense is not the most imaginative of teams at their level.  But let us say that the two – Bama and ND – end up playing each other in the BCS national championship game.  Give Nick Saban a month to prepare – a luxury no team has had thus far, to be sure – and he is practically unstoppable.  Advantage, Crimson Tide.

If any dear readers think other teams merit being added to the list, I would be more than happy to entertain suggestions!  (P.S.: Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!)

College Football Week 10 Awards November 5, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 10, pre-week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Nick Saban, Alabama
Glad I’m not him: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Lucky guy: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Poor guy: Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
Desperately seeking a wake-up call:  Tom O’Brien, N.C. State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking … anything:  DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Stanford (beat Colorado 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (beat Missouri 14-7)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Temple (lost to No. 11 Louisville 45-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Pittsburgh (lost to No. 4 Notre Dame, 29-26, 3 OT)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Vanderbilt (beat Kentucky 40-0)

Dang, they’re good: Texas A&M
Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue
Can’t stand prosperity:  Arizona (lost to UCLA 66-10)

Did the season start?  Missouri
Can the season end?  Memphis
Can the season never end?  Louisville

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU* 17
Never play this again: Northern Illinois 63, UMass 0
What? No. 16 Texas A&M* 38, No. 15 Mississippi State* 13
Huh? No. 23 Texas* 31, No. 18 Texas Tech* 22
Are you kidding me? TCU 39, No. 21 West Virginia* 38, OT
Oh – my – God:  UCLA 66, No. 22 Arizona* 10

* rankings are from Week 10 as opposed to Week 11

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 15 Texas A&M @ No. 1 Alabama
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (no really good match-ups)
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana-Monroe @ Arkansas State
Upset alert: No. 11 Louisville @ Syracuse

Must win: No. 22 Mississippi State @ No. 9 LSU
Offensive explosion: Baylor @ No. 14 Oklahoma (or Tulsa @ Houston)
Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Tennessee
Great game no one is talking about: No. 13 Oregon State @ No. 16 Stanford

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Patterson of TCU vs.  Bill Snyder of No. 2 Kansas State
Special Election Night Special: Ball State @ Toledo (Red vs. Blue)

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 4 Notre Dame @ Boston College

Why are they playing? Louisiana-Lafayette @ No. 7 Florida

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ Akron (notwithstanding Tulane @ Memphis)

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Army @ Rutgers

Week 10 in Review:

Bama passes the test:  Last week’s “Ticket to die for” certainly lived up to its billing, as The Crimson Tide duked it out with the Bayou Bengals in Death Valley.  A normally mistake-free Alabama reversed that trend throughout much of the game and started making more mistakes than usual.  Top-notch opponents tend bring out more mistakes than usual, to be sure.  In the end, Bama’s offense finally decided to start executing.  This sudden development clearly caught LSU’s defense off guard, and The Tide easily scored a TD when all they needed was a field goal to tie.  With only a minute to go, LSU failed to score on the second Hail Mary play.  Bama passed the test against what might be its toughest opponent of the entire regular season.

SEC Breathers:  Between this and upcoming Saturday and the one to follow, it seems as though the bulk of the SEC, stud and cellar-dweller alike, will take a breather from beating up on one-another and instead focus their brutal energies on lesser opponents, be they, say, fodder from the Sun Belt Conference (e.g., Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida), or FCS teams.  Case in point:  Samford ventures up to Lexington to play Kentucky in two weeks.  Alabama will no doubt easily dispatch with Western Carolina that same day.  Missouri is somewhat an exception in that they will play middle-of-the-road Big East foe Syracuse.  A curious annual constant is Wofford getting annihilated by South Carolina.  Tennessee already had their little break with Troy.  Vandy will conclude its season by taking its respective break against Wake Forest.  Arkansas barely escaped from their little breather, beating Tulsa only 19-15.  Auburn’s break, though, also comes two Saturdays from now when Alabama A&M comes to the Loveliest Little Village on the Plains.  Even Texas A&M is getting in on the act and playing Sam Houston State on the 17th.  Curiously, no such break comes for Ole Miss, Mississippi State, or LSU.  Still, do the teams that are taking a break, either this week or next, feel that their conference schedule is so brutal that they think they need such breaks before it is time for the ol’ sprint to the finish?  As a suggestion for improvement, surely Notre Dame could be squeezed in to one of these schedules, as the Irish feel they are “back,” and could be given an opportunity to test that idea.  It would give the fans a lot more excitement than Wofford or Sam Houston State, that’s for sure.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Longhorns:  At first, it seemed as though Texas was caught off guard by West Virginia’s high-powered offense and narrowly lost in a high-scoring game.  That idea quickly vanished in Dallas the following week when the Horns got embarrassed by Oklahoma.  Squeaking by Baylor in an even more high-scoring affair than that against the Mountaineers raised further concerns about Texas’ defensive woes (poor fundamentals, inability to make basic tackles, etc.).  Then, inexplicably, they win on the road.  And not just on the road, but in Lubbock, against Texas Tech, which in recent years has been one of the toughest places to play in the Big XII Conference.  Even more inexplicable is, while Texas did have occasional recurring issues with their defense (the same sort that has visibly plagued the Longhorns for the last month), by virtue of holding the Red Raiders to only 22 points, the defense clearly made key stops this time.

Granted, Texas Tech’s offense has been a tad inconsistent this year, scoring 49 points one week then being held to 24 the next, and so on.  Nevertheless, they walloped West Virginia and won in a shootout over TCU, making everyone take notice of their high-powered offense.

The “so-what” in all of this is that one of the hallmarks of a well-coached team is that you know what sort of performance to expect from week to week.  Was the past  month a temporary slump for Texas, or are they to be up for one week, down for the next?  Time will tell if their defeat of Texas Tech has halted the bleeding, or if they will perpetrate the apparent “Jekyll-and-Hyde” mystery with a sub-par performance against Iowa State next week.  Conversely, if they obliterate the Cyclones at home next week, it will bode well for the rest of the season, when they will need it the most against TCU, followed by No. 2 Kansas State.

Quietly undefeated:  The Louisville Cardinals are 9-0 for the first time in program history.  Not even Bobby Petrino managed such a feat when he put the Cards on the map and coached them to their first ever Orange Bowl-berth/victory.  The only team that defeated them in that memorable 2006-2007 season was Rutgers, in Piscataway, N.J.  Interestingly enough, that is where Louisville concludes its regular season this year, potentially for all the marbles in the Big East.  But before the Cards look too far ahead, they need to focus on the next game.  Syracuse is their next opponent, and Louisville takes them on in the Carrier Dome, where they are tough (though not impossible) to beat.  Coach Charlie Strong would be well-served to remind his sophomore-dominated team that this upcoming match-up is a potential trap game, and that they must focus their preparations accordingly.

Another one bites the dust:  The University of Kentucky opened up the floodgates in 1996 for a whole slew of coaching changes at years end when they fired Bill Curry.  Soon after that, the inept Jim Colletto of Purdue resigned, and at season’s end, so did Lou Holtz and Notre Dame and even Gene Stallings at Alabama, just to name a few.  Could UK have started a similar apparent chain reaction in 2012, having just fired Joker Phillips?  Time will tell.  Joker was, by all accounts, an honorable representative of the Wildcats, and A.D. Mitch Barnhart was lavish in his praise of the man in an open letter on UK’s official website.  Ultimately, it was a business decision.  Phillips simply lacked the skill set to effectively lead the largest revenue generating division of UK’s athletic brand (he was 12-23).  At best, only about 10,000 fans showed up at Commonwealth Stadium to see the Wildcats get trounced by traditional conference bottom-feeder Vandy.  Obviously the program has been headed in the wrong direction for the past couple of years, and Mitch Barnhart made a prudent business decision to try to rectify this problem.

College Football Week 6 Awards October 8, 2012

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(NOTE:  all rankings are current AP [post-Week 6, pre-Week 7] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Glad I’m not him: Danny Hope, Purdue
Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Poor guy: Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking a clue: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Butch Jones, Cincinnati

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Gene Chizik, Auburn
Desperately seeking … anything:  Skip Holtz, South Florida

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Kansas State (beat Kansas 56-16)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida State (lost to N.C. State 17-16)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Miami (Fla.)  (lost to Notre Dame 41-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Indiana (lost to Michigan State 31-27)
Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did:  Georgia (lost to South Carolina 35-7)

Dang, they’re good: South Carolina
Dang, they’re bad:  Virginia
Did the season start? South Florida
Can the season end?  Southern Miss
Can the season never end? West Virginia

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 5 West Virginia 48, No. 15 Texas 45
Never play this again: UAB 52, SE Louisiana 3
What?  Temple 37, South Florida 28
Huh? Iowa State 37, No. 23* TCU 23

Are you kidding me? Arkansas 24, Auburn 7
Oh – my – God:  N.C. State 17, No. 12 Florida State 16

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Texas vs. No. 17 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, Dallas (Notwithstanding No. 3 South Carolina @ No. 9 LSU)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Louisiana Tech vs. Texas A&M
Best non-Big Six matchup: Fresno State @ Boise State
Upset alert: No. 17 Stanford @ No. 7 Notre Dame

Must win: Purdue vs. Wisconsin
Offensive explosion: No. 5 West Virginia @ Texas Tech
Defensive struggle: No. 4 Florida vs. Vanderbilt
Great game no one is talking about: No. 6 Kansas State @ Iowa State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Paul Chryst of Pittsburgh vs. Charlie Strong of No. 18 Louisville
Who’s bringing the body bags? Boston College @ No. 12 Florida State
Why are they playing? Fordham @ No. 21 Cincinnati

Plenty of good seats remaining: SMU @ Tulane
They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 8 Ohio State @ Indiana

*USA Today poll

Week 6:  Some thoughts looking back and going forward:

Do scores like that still exist in football?  Yes, the showdown in The Swamp between LSU and Florida was an obvious defensive slugfest that many could foresee.  But that pales in comparison with the near-baseball score eked out by Utah State at BYU on Friday night.  The Cougars narrowly triumphed over the Aggies by an underwhelming 6-3.  On a cheerier note, the two teams’ respective uniforms were in perfect contrast to one-another.  Utah State sported dark blue helmets, white jerseys and dark blue pants, while BYU had the exact opposite of white helmets, dark blue jerseys and white pants.  One rarely sees such a mirror-opposite contrast these days!

Speaking of defense struggles, though:  The predicted low-scoring affair between the Gators and the Tigers did indeed manifest itself, as Florida triumphed at home only by 14-6.

On the other side of the coin:  Yours truly, well, truly whiffed on predicting the “offensive explosion” game.  Normally, a Pac-12 match-up, or some game including Baylor or West Virginia (or both, in hindsight!) are rather safe bets.  But bets are not guaranteed: case in point, Oregon State defeated Washington State 19-6 in what could only be called a “workmanlike” performance.  What is much more ironic, though, is that the REAL offensive explosion turned out to be Ohio State’s win over Nebraska in a 63-38 shootout.  I know; the terms “Big 10” and “shootout” rarely go together, which is probably why such an offensive explosion possibility was so cavalierly overlooked.

New contender in town:  West Virginia has made an impressive debut in the Big XII thus far.  They first drew notice by winning their inaugural conference matchup at home in thrilling fashion over Baylor last week.  Now, they have proven that the previous week’s victory was no fluke by winning a hard-fought game over the Texas Longhorns in Austin.  Whether or not the Mountaineers are here and here to stay as a force to be reckoned with in their new home conference is a matter for continued discussion.  Do they have just the right amount of key players with an exceptional quarterback in Geno Smith, or has Dana Holgorsen put something together that can sustain WVU as a perennial top-ten program?  Time will tell, and while the Mountaineers are on a roll, plenty of tests remain.

Wanted:  Rapid Recovery:  Too many fans assume that college football teams can play on an even keel.  That might be remotely, sporadically possible if you are coached by someone whose first name is Nick and whose last name is Saban.  Aside from that, too many fans forget that we’re dealing with 19 year-olds, and as such, they are prone to the emotional roller coaster, and their collective performance periodically thus dips.  An emotional win at home can temporarily drain your incentive to focus in practice the following week, and so seven days after that big win, you can come out flat on the road.  It happens all the time.

The reason this is brought up is because Texas just lost a hard-fought game at home.  Mack Brown shall surely prove what he is made of as he and his staff diligently try to rally the troops as they prepare to take on arch-rival Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, which is easily one of the biggest games of the year, period.

Meanwhile, in the SEC:  Georgia may be good, but South Carolina is clearly better.  What on paper had to have been a knock-down, drag-out match-up turned out to be a rout in favor of the Gamecocks, who have just advanced from No. 6 to No. 3 in the AP ranks in the wake of LSU’s loss to Florida and Florida State’s surprising upset at North Carolina State.  But it does not get any easier for Steve Spurrier’s squad, as they now have to take on Les Miles’ Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge this upcoming weekend, before having to go to The Swamp to take on Will Muschamp’s resurgent Florida Gators the week after that.  Translation:  great win, guys.  No we have to do it all over again.  And again.

With that in mind, make no mistake about it:  Spurrier has built a juggernaut in Columbia.  They are physically impressive, and currently, effective, on both sides of the ball.  As a cautionary note, though, do not be surprised if the Gamecocks emerge from the next two engagements 1-1.

Speaking of LSU:  As much as it pains me to say this, we ought to acknowledge that perhaps LSU is a tad overrated.  The reasons are simple:  the Tigers struggled to move the ball at home against Towson (!), beat a mediocre Auburn by only two points, stagnated for a half against Idaho, and got only seven first downs against Florida.

College Football Week 5 Awards October 1, 2012

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Glad I’m not him: Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Lucky guy: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Poor guy: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tim Beckman, Illinois
Desperately seeking … anything: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: North Carolina (defeated Idaho 66-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: LSU (defeated Towson 38-22)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to UCLA 42-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Marshall (lost to Purdue 51-41)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Penn State (beat Illinois 35-7)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State
Dang, they’re bad:  Army
Did the season start? Virginia Tech
Can the season end?  Indiana
Can the season never end?  Oregon

GAMES
Play this again: West Virginia 70, Baylor 63
Never play this again: Louisiana Monroe 63, Tulane 10
What? Cincinnati 27, Virginia Tech 24
Huh? Stony Brook 23, Army 3
Are you kidding me? Penn State 35 – Illinois 7

Oh – my – God:  Middle Tennessee State 49, Georgia Tech 28

Told you so: No.5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for: No. 5 Georgia @ No. 6 South Carolina
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 9 Notre Dame (assuming one were to count Independents as “non-Big Six, otherwise, it would be Miami (Ohio) @ Cincinnati.
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana Monroe @ Middle Tennessee State
Upset alert: No. 8 West Virginia @ No. 11 Texas

Must win: No. 17 Oklahoma @ Texas Tech
Get-well opportunity:  No. 20 Michigan State @ Indiana

Offensive explosion: Washington State @ No. 18 Oregon State
Defensive struggle: No. 4 LSU @ No. 10 Florida
Great game no one is talking about: Michigan @ Purdue

Intriguing coaching matchup: Urban Meyer of Ohio State vs. Bo Pelini of Nebraska
Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 7 Kansas State
Why are they playing? No. 24 Boise State @ Southern Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Boston College @ Army (or, New Mexico State @ Idaho, take your pick)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Arkansas @ Auburn

What we have learned after Week 5:

Remember last week’s predicted “Offensive Explosion”?  Scratch that.  Yes, hindsight is indeed 20-20, but West Virginia’s Big XII debut against Baylor was far more than an “Intriguing Coaching Matchup” between the Mountaineers’ Dana Holgorsen and the Bears’ Art Briles.  The score of the game was so high, in what has become to be a seemingly typical Baylor fashion these days, that one needed oxygen to read the numbers.  The Mountaineers made a very splashy conference debut, winning at home 70-63.

Also, remember last week’s predicted “Defensive Struggle”?  Scratch that one, too.  Penn State defeated Illinois in the Fighting Illini’s home stadium, 35-7.  That cannot be attributed alone to the Illini wearing dark blue helmets for the first time since, well, pretty much ever.  The available evidence on hand indicates that Illinois has worn orange helmets since at least 1945, if not earlier.  I cannot find any photographic record yet of them ever wearing blue helmets, but the search shall continue.  Just don’t hold your breath in the meantime.  That aside, has Penn State found some offense, or is Illinois that horrible?  The Nittany Lions have sputtered offensively practically the whole season until yesterday, while the Fighting Illini were 2-2 going into that game.

The Purdue-Marshall match-up in West Lafayette, Ind., was tagged for this past week’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” slot.  The selection was by default, since the odds of a major blowout anywhere else aside from other chosen games seemed much higher.  But while the Boilermakers were making gamey mincemeat out of the Thundering Herd in the first half, they let off the gas too soon in the second half.  A clearly visible epidemic of dropped passes in the third quarter especially raised concerns for Purdue’s prospects in the Big Ten.  Until now, plenty of talk has abounded regarding the Boilers having a very attainable shot at representing the Leaders division of the Big 10 in the championship game in Indianapolis.  After this game, some doubts will no doubt linger.  Much work is to be done if Purdue is to triumph at home next week against Michigan, and quell the justifiable newfound doubts in so doing.  Get it together, Boilers.

The LSU-Towson matchup was to be, on paper, a slaughter so massive as to border on a war crime.  Most fans could not even point Towson’s location out on a map (hint:  it is a very nice suburb in the northern part of Baltimore).  The only factor one can attribute to LSU’s inexplicably close margin of victory (38-22) is that the Bayou Bengals must have kept the playbook very, very limited so as to avoid divulging any trade secrets as they prepare to take on a quietly improving Florida team next week.

The Upset Alert prediction of last week (South Carolina @ Kentucky) seemed to almost come to fruition, as the Gamecocks wasted an entire half, trailing the Wildcats in Commonwealth Stadium by more than a touchdown.  Only after they made the proper halftime adjustments did they assert themselves like a top-ten team should, and pulled themselves out of an unnecessary hole with a modest score of 38-17.  South Carolina will not have such a luxury of using an entire half of a football game as their learning curve next week, when they will take on cross-border, arch-rival Georgia in what will without a doubt be the game of the week.

Awesome unis:

The Wisconsin-Nebraska game was not only a great game to watch from a purely game-play standpoint, with great execution on both sides of the ball.  It was also a feast for the eyes from two teams who historically where rather stodgy uniforms.  Both teams had sick-looking alternate, quasi-throwback unis (and we mean “sick” in the hip, with-it, good way!).  The Badgers’ red helmets and red shoulders on white jerseys was a feast alone for the eyes, to say nothing of Huskers’ red jersey-pants combo with tasteful black trim, along with the first black helmets the team as ever donned – EVER.  The proverbial icing on the cake was the large school letters worn on the front of both teams’ jerseys.  All in all, a nice combination of throwback elements from the 1920s, 1940s, and 1950s!  Speaking of which, did anybody notice the nice late ‘50s-style numbers on Wisconsin’s jerseys?  One word: neato!

While we’re on the awesome uniform topic, it was nice to see LSU where purple jerseys again, as they have been known to do once in a blue moon.  Moreover, I am prepared to designate Ole Miss’ road uniforms as the nicest away unis in the SEC.  The all-gray is a unique touch, but the red-on-navy blue trim is an unbeatable combination, especially as it scrolls over the shoulders.  On the other side of the continent, what is up with Oregon wearing gray pants?  This thought especially came to mind as I watched them play Washington State in Pullman, Wash.  Did the Ducks not know full-well that the Cougars were wearing gray pants at home?  Would it have been too much trouble to wear green pants instead to provide a better contrast on the field?  Sheesh.