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College Football Week 2 Awards (2016) September 12, 2016

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 2] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Glad I’m not him: Kalani Sitake, BYU

Lucky guy: Brett Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Taggert, South Florida

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking … anything:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 3 Florida State (defeated Charleston Southern 52-8)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 2 Clemson (defeated Troy 30-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Akron (lost to No. 10 Wisconsin 54-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Nicholls (lost to Georgia 26-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Nebraska (defeated Wyoming 52-17)

Dang, they’re good: Michigan

Dang, they’re bad:  Kentucky

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma State

Did the season start?  Northwestern

Can the season end?  Miami, OH

Can the season never endWisconsin

GAMES

Play this again:  Arkansas 41, No. 15 TCU 38

Play this again, too:  Utah 20, BYU 19

Honorable Mention to play again:  South Carolina 13, Vanderbilt 10

Never play this again: No. 20 Texas A&M 67, Prairie View A&M 0

What? East Carolina 33, N.C. State 30

HuhArkansas 41, No. 15 TCU 38

Are you kidding me?  Illinois State 9, Northwestern 7

Oh – my – GodCentral Michigan 30, No. 22 Oklahoma State 27

Told you so:  Arizona State 68, Texas Tech 55

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 2, pre-week 3)

Ticket to die for: No. 2 Florida State @ No. 10 Louisville

Also: No. 3 Ohio State @ No. 14 Oklahoma

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup:  UCLA @ BYU

Best non-Power Five matchupNo. 6 Houston @ Cincinnati (Thurs.)

Upset alert: Auburn @ No. 17 Texas A&M

Must win: Iowa State @ TCU

Offensive explosion: No. 22 Oregon @ Nebraska

Defensive struggle: No. 1 Alabama @ No. 19 Ole Miss

Great game no one is talking about: Pitt @ Oklahoma State

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Dantonio of Michigan State vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags? South Carolina State @ No. 3 Clemson

Why are they playing? Ohio U @ No. 15 Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: Monmouth @ Kent State

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Georgia State @ No. 9 Wisconsin

Week 2 Take-aways:

After such a spectacular opening week in college football the previous Saturday and surrounding days, this weekend was a considerable let-down. The noon timeslots were mediocre, save for the decent matchup of Penn State vs. Pitt. The 3:30 timeslots were positively atrocious, where the best game was arguably Kentucky vs. Florida, and that game turned out to be a 45-7 blowout in favor of the Gators. All the good games were crammed together in the evening, where I found myself wearing out my TV’s remote by switching around to the games of Arkansas @ TCU, Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (at the Bristol, Tenn. Motor Speedway), BYU @ Utah, and occasionally South Carolina @ Mississippi State.

After this mediocre lineup of games for this week, one thing that has festered for a while has become even more clear. Two teams that continue to suck with overpaid coaches who are out of their depth are both Darrell Hazell of Purdue and Mark Stoops of Kentucky. The latter is another case, apparently, of where the only Stoops brother who has the skill set to be a legit head coach at the big boy level is Bob, not brother Mark. We might recall that the other brother, Mike, flamed out at Arizona. Concerning brother Mark, who apparently has had all these great recruiting classes while at UK, lost to lowly Southern Miss last week and this week was demolished by a recovering Florida, 45-7. His predecessor, Joker Philips, went 13-24 (4-20 SEC) after three seasons. Stoops is currently 12-26 (4-21 SEC) after the second game in his fourth season of tenure at UK. The Kentucky faithful would do well to ask themselves: is this progress?

The former had only one good year at a middling MAC program (Kent State), and the powers that be at Purdue were suckered in by this limited success to offer him the Purdue job, paying him $2.2 Million annually, or about $1 Million more than his predecessor, Coach Danny Hope. Hazell is thus far 7-30 since the 2013 season at Purdue, while Coach Hope went 22-27 in four seasons there. Doing that math, that amounts to paying an addition $4 Million for 15 fewer wins. For an athletics department that ostensibly prides itself on operating in the black, those numbers simply do not add up. Moreover, it makes one wonder how much better Hope would have performed had he been given those extra resources that Hazell currently enjoys (meager as they still are compared to true big boy programs).

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated note, Mississippi State gave the impression that they have righted the ship after their embarrassing upset at home last week to South Alabama. They defeated South Carolina this week, 27-14. Conversely, the loss on the part of the Gamecocks’ gives those who doubt the wisdom of the hire of head coach Will Muschamp further credibility.

All this aside, there are some outstanding matchups awaiting us this upcoming weekend, namely:

Michigan State @ Notre Dame; Texas A&M @ Auburn; Pittsburgh @ Oklahoma State; Oregon @ Nebraska; Alabama @ Ole Miss; UCLA @ BYU; Houston @ Cincinnati (Thurs. evening); USC @ Stanford; Ohio State @ Oklahoma; and of course, Florida State @ Louisville, which could potentially be the best game of the year thus far. I for one am already chomping at the bit, especially for the latter game!

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College Football Week 1 Awards (2016) September 6, 2016

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texas-nd2016

Texas defeated visiting No. 10 Notre Dame in a wild game, 50-47.  The game was one of many excellent games to kickoff the 2016 college football season (photo by Getty Images)

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 1] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Houston

Glad I’m not him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Poor guy: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

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: Les Miles Desperately seeking … anything:  Willie Fritz, Tulane

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 19 Louisville (defeated Charlotte 70-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 13 TCU (defeated South Dakota State 38-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Hawaii (lost to No. 7 Michigan 63-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Appalachian State (lost to Tennessee 20-13).

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Western Kentucky (defeated Rice 46-14)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Tulane

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  LSU

Did the season start?  Oklahoma (also:  Mississippi State)

Can the season end?  Hawaii Can the season never endLouisville

GAMES

Play this again:  Wisconsin 16, No. LSU 14

Play this again, too:  Texas 50, No. 10 Notre Dame 47

Honorable Mention to play again:  South Carolina 13, Vanderbilt 10 Never play this again: No. 7 Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

Say what? Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

WHAT? Texas A&M 31, No. 16 UCLA 24

HuhNo. 15 Houston 33, No. 3 Oklahoma 23

Double-huh?  Texas 50, No. 10 Notre Dame 47, 2OT

Are you kidding me?  South Alabama 21, Mississippi State 20 Oh – my – GodWisconsin 16, No. 5 LSU 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 1, pre-week 2) Ticket to die for: Arkansas @ No. 12 TCU

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: BYU @ Utah

Best non-Power Five matchup: Northern Illinois @ South Florida

Upset alert: Virginia Tech @ No. 14 Tennessee

Must win: (take your pick)

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ Arizona State

Defensive struggle: South Carolina @ Mississippi State

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

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia vs. Mark Helfrich of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags? Troy @ No. 2 Clemson

Why are they playing? Nicholls State @ No. 9 Georgia

Plenty of good seats remaining: Army @ UConn

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Wofford @ No. 18 Ole Miss

Week 1 Take-aways:

What a fantastic opening week for college football. It was billed going in as the greatest opening week in the history of the game, and the games themselves did not disappoint. Two Top Five teams went down to defeat, the most teams where that has happened at the season’s onset since 1972.

On paper alone the matchups were very intriguing. To wit: No. 15 Houston played No. 3 Oklahoma at home – in NRG Stadium, no less. No. 22 North Carolina played No. 18 Georgia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (Peach Bowl preview, anyone?). No. 16 UCLA journeyed to Texas A&M to play the Aggies. No. 5 LSU made the trek up to Wisconsin to play the Badgers – in historic Lambeau Field. Indeed, this was the first time his legendary venue hosted a college game. Later in the day, No. 1 Alabama faced off against No. 20 USC in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Later still, No. 2 Clemson came to Auburn to throw down with the [War Eagle] Tigers. While those two big game were going on, out west, BYU journeyed down to Glendale, Ariz., to play a neighbor to the south in Arizona.

On Sunday, Notre Dame played the Texas Longhorns, in Austin (nominally ACC vs Big XII), and on Monday, No. 11 Ole Miss played No. 4 Florida State (SEC vs ACC), thus adding two more highly marquee matchups two an incredible, extended opening weekend.

If that’s not enough, the previous week, Hawaii played Cal…in Sydney, Australia. The venue for this game was ANZ Stadium, the new name of the stadium used to host the opening/closing ceremonies and the track and field events for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Whom do we have to thank for this magnificent opening to the 2016 season of college football? Most likely we have the Playoff Committee to thank. They re-worked the formula for selecting teams. The BCS formula left teams way too cautious. One loss likely meant being out of the hunt for a national title. Better therefore to pad the record with an easy win. We the fans suffered with lousy non-conference matchups as a result. When the switch was made from a BCS selection to a four-team playoff, the formula was modified to the point where one loss would not mean the end of the season for those who were in the national title hunt. Conversely, the new formula put a stronger emphasis on strength of schedule. It was a win-win-win. The first “win” is in the form of teams being more free to schedule good games before the conference portion of their season than during the BCS era. The fans reap the second win with great games (see: this weekend). The third win is, as mentioned before, if you have a tough, strong schedule, one loss will not necessarily dash your season’s aspirations.

Good thing, too, because many commentators have dubbed this Saturday the “Day of the Dog”…the underdog, that is. Texas A&M knocked off No. 16 UCLA in overtime at home. Fifteenth-ranked Houston beat No. 3 Oklahoma by 10 points. Even more stunning was Mississippi State missing a last-minute field goal…at home…to lowly South Alabama. Of course, the unranked Wisconsin Badgers upset the No. 5 LSU Tigers in a close game, 16-14. The following evening, the unranked Longhorns knocked off the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish at home, 50-57, in a second overtime, no less.

Apropos of nothing, here is a philosophical question for you: which is more pathetic; that Tulane could only score seven points on Wake Forest, or that Wake Forest could score only seven points on Tulane?

Regardless, what a stupendous weekend for college football. Fans should treasure it for a long time to come!

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 Week 10 Awards November 9, 2015

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Gary Patterson, TCU

Lucky guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Poor guy: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Justin Fuente, Memphis

Desperately seeking … anything:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Michigan (defeated Rutgers 49-16)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: BYU (defeated San Jose State 17-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to No. 11 Stanford 42-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Vanderbilt (lost to No. 10 Florida 9-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Oklahoma State (see below)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Memphis

Did the season start? Texas A&M

Can the season end?  Rutgers

Can the season never endClemson

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 1 Clemson 23, No. 16 Florida State 13

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

What? Auburn 20, No. 19 Texas A&M 10

HuhNavy 45, No. 13 Memphis 20

Are you kidding me?  No. 12 Oklahoma State 49, No. 8 TCU 29

Oh – my – GodNebraska 39, No. 7 Michigan State 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current CFP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)

Ticket to die for:  No. 10 Oklahoma @ No. 4 Baylor

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: BYU @ Missouri

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 25 Memphis @ No. 16 Houston

Upset alert: Oregon @ No. 8 Stanford

Must win: Pittsburgh @ Duke

Offensive explosion: Memphis @ Houston

Defensive struggle: Kentucky @ Vanderbilt

Great game no one is talking about:  Texas @ West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Art Briles of Baylor vs. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma

Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 13 TCU

Why are they playing? Western Carolina @ Texas A&M

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTSA @ Charlotte (also:  UMass @ Eastern Michigan)

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

Week 11 Take-aways:

Two quick notes.  One, it might time to put the expression “[I]t’s time to put “Clemsoning” to bed” to bed.  “Clemsoning,” if you’ll recall, refers to the Tigers usually choking (horribly at that) in big games.  They always coughed it up to the then-stud teams of the ACC, especially Florida State.  A few years ago, they went to the Orange Bowl to play West Virginia, and lost…horribly!  That was early January of 2012.  By the time the Tigers – at No. 12 — returned to the Orange Bowl two years later, this time to play No. 7 Ohio State, the situation was considerably different.  In what cannot be ignored as a statement game, Clemson beat the Buckeyes 40-35, and have not looked back since.  Now they currently sit at the top of the College Football Playoff poll.  Bully for them!

The other quick take-away is that it is now November.  Teams are what they are at this point in the season.  But more to the point, these next few weeks, including this past weekend, will be one of separation.  Teams that were hitherto unbeaten – or at least ranked in the top ten – will now start to butt heads.  Separation shall thus ensure (read:  Alabama’s dominating win over LSU).  Indeed, it hath already begun.  What a glorious month of college football this shall become!

College Football Week 7 Awards October 20, 2015

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MSU_Michigan2015

Just when we all had left Michigan State for dead, the most consequential blocked punt in recent memory happened. The Wolverine’s punter never had a chance, but bully for the Spartan returner! Photo by Dale G. Young, AP

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

COACHES Wish I were him: Les Miles, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Jim Mora, UCLA

Lucky guy: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Poor guy: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tom Herman, Houston

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  George O’Leary, UCF

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Western Kentucky (defeated North Texas 55-28)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: TCU (defeated Iowa State 45-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Eastern Michigan (lost to No. 22 Toledo 63-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Iowa State (lost to No. 3 TCU 45-21)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Bowling Green (defeated Akron 59-10)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Vanderbilt

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ole Miss

Did the season start? Auburn

Can the season end?  UCF

Can the season never endMemphis

GAMES Play this again:  No. 7 Michigan State 27, No. 12 Michigan 23

Play this again, too:  No. 6 LSU 35, No. 8 Florida 28

Never play this again: No. 19 Oklahoma 55, Kansas State 0

What? Nebraska 48, Minnesota 25

HuhRutgers 55, Indiana 52, OT

Are you kidding me?  No. 10 Alabama 41, No. 9 Texas A&M 23

Oh – my – GodMemphis 37, No. 13 Ole Miss 24

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 6, pre-week 7)

Ticket to die for:  Tennessee @ No. 8 Alabama

Also:  No. 15 Texas A&M @ No. 23 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Western Kentucky @ No. 5 LSU

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 22 Temple @ East Carolina

Upset alert: No. 23 Duke @ Virginia Tech

Must win: Kansas State @ Texas

Offensive explosion: No. 20 Cal @ UCLA

Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Vanderbilt

Great game no one is talking about:  Boston College @ Louisville

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech vs. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma

Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 14 Oklahoma State

Why are they playing? Wagner @ BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: Troy @ New Mexico State

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

Week 7 Take-aways:

Here are some quick, bottom-line thoughts.  Ohio State wore the weirdest, most out-of-the-ordinary uniforms in the history of their storied program when they took down Penn State. Check it out.  USC put up a great fight at Notre Dame, but sadly came up short.  LSU and Florida slugged it out for a great game Saturday evening in Death Valley.  Ironically, the go-ahead touchdown was scored by LSU’s kicker, a positive that he shall no doubt take to his grave, and deservedly so.  Meanwhile, Michigan State’s last-second win over Michigan – in the Big House, no less – will be one for the ages as well.  Auburn has their “Kick-Six,” so it will be interesting to see what sort of moniker will soon be attached to the Spartans’ blocking of Michigan’s punt attempt, then running it back for the go-ahead score as time expired.  Classic.

College Football Awards Week 6 October 13, 2015

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CharlieStrongRRS2015

Texas head coach Charlie Strong celebrates with his team after their incredible upset over rival Oklahoma. Judging by the photo, it seems as though he might have won back the locker room. Photo from the Dallas Morning News.

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

COACHES Wish I were him: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Glad I’m not him: Steve Sarkesian, USC

Lucky guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Campbell of Toledo

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Kansas 66-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma (see below)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Troy (lost to Mississippi State 45-17)

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

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Michigan (see below)

Dang, they’re good: Baylor

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami, Ohio

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  USC

Did the season start? Miami, Fla.

Can the season end?  South Carolina

Can the season never endUtah

GAMES

Play this again:  Texas 24, No. 10 Oklahoma 17

Play this again, too:  Tennessee 38, No. 19 Georgia 31

Never play this again: No. 3 Baylor 66, Kansas 7

What? No. 18 Michigan 38, No. 13 Northwestern 0

HuhWashington 17, No. 17 USC 12

Are you kidding me?  Tennessee 38, No. 19 Georgia 31

Oh – my – GodTexas 24, No. 10 Oklahoma 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 6, pre-week 7)

Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Michigan State @ No. 12 Michigan

Also:  No. 10 Alabama @ No. 9 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: No. 13 Ole Miss @ Memphis

Best non-Power Five matchup: Akron @ Bowling Green

Upset alert: Louisville @ No. 11 Florida State

Must win: USC @ No. 14 Notre Dame

Offensive explosion: West Virginia @ No. 2 Baylor

Defensive struggle: Vanderbilt @ South Carolina

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 17 Iowa @ No. 20 Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jim Mora of UCLA vs David Shaw of Stanford

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 TCU @ Iowa State

Why are they playing? Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia State @ Ball State

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

Week 5 Take-aways:

What a weekend of upsets and near-upsets.  One obvious near-miss:  Gary Patterson’s TCU almost got upset on the road to Bill Snyder’s Kansas State.  You just know that the old man was not going to roll over for the vaunted Horned Frogs.  In the end, the near-miss cost the Frogs one spot in the rankings, as they are down to No. 3 from the No. 2 spot.

Similarly, Alabama took a while to get going at home against Arkansas.  Eventually the Tide decided to start playing football, but they were down to the under-performing Hogs for too long of a time in regulation to be taken seriously as a contending team.

Now the upsets:  we all knew that Northwestern was a legitimate team.  Most of us thought that the Wildcats playing the Michigan Wolverines would be the game of the week.  That turned out, in the end, not to be the case.  Jim Harbaugh seems to be building the Wolverrines to become stronger by the week.

Then there was the upset of the USC Trojans, at home, against Chris Petersen’s scrappy Washington Huskies.  We were all hoping for a good game, but certainly did not foresee the the embarrassment at home for the Men of Troy – though the subsequent news of Steve Sarkesian’s major alcohol problem certainly explains USC’s volatile performance this season.  Let us all wish a complete, sober recover for Sark as he embarks on a rehab program.

Or what about Tennessee?  The poor Vols were unable to “close the deal,” blowing leads to both Oklahoma and to Florida, leading to heartbreaking losses in so doing.  This time around, however, they had to play from behind, and upset the heavily-favored Georgia Bulldogs in so doing.  So much for Georgia’s national championship hopes this year.

But let us not fool ourselves.  The biggest upset of the week came in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.  All of us, even the team’s fans, had given the Texas Longhorns up for dead, especially after the devastating loss to TCU the previous week.  Coach Charlie Strong seemed to have lost the locker room, and he was strategically flailing in terms of not having an offensive or defensive identity.

Perhaps the rival Oklahoma Sooners were just naïve enough to take the bait.  The Horns looked like an entirely different team this past Saturday than they did for the entire season leading up to this fateful day.  Texas drew first blood late in the first quarter, and, mirabile dictu, did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.  Moreover, Strong somehow regained his identity, effectively playing a run-oriented, ball-control offense that left OU’s defense sucking wind by late in the 4th quarter.  It was just enough to hold on and to upset their heavily-favored rival.  It also likely saved Coach Strong’s bacon for the rest of the year.  Hook ‘em!

College Football Week 7 Awards October 13, 2014

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? Iowa 45, Indiana 21

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

Upset alert: No. 10 Georgia @ Arkansas

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

Offensive explosion: No. 4 Baylor @ West Virginia

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

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

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

Why are they playing? Furman @ South Carolina

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ Idaho

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

Week 7 Random Thoughts:

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

Josiah Price, Ja'Whan Bentley

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

College Football Week 11 Awards November 11, 2013

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: David Shaw, Stanford

Glad I’m not him: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Lucky guy: Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky

Poor guy: Les Miles, LSU

Desperately seeking a clue: Brady Hoke, Michigan
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking … anything:  Norm Chow, Hawaii

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Florida State (defeated Wake Forest 59-3)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated UConn only 31-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to Washington 59-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Army (lost to Western Kentucky 21-17)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Baylor (defeated Oklahoma 41-12)

Dang, they’re good: Stanford

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami (Ohio)
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Oregon

Did the season start?  Ohio U
Can the season end?  Purdue

Can the season never endBaylor

GAMES
Play this again:  Texas 47, West Virginia 40, OT

Play this again, too:  Pittsburgh 28, No. 23 Notre Dame 21

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

What? Pittsburgh 28, No. 23 Notre Dame 21

HuhNo. 5 Stanford 26, No. 2 Oregon 20

Are you kidding me?  Vanderbilt 31, Florida 17
Oh – my – GodVirginia Tech 42, No. 11 Miami 24

Told you so:  No. 22 Arizona State 20, Utah 19

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for:  Texas Tech @ No. 4 Baylor  (or, No. 12 Oklahoma State @ No. 23 Texas)

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Troy @ Ole Miss (yes, I know, we had to scrape at the bottom of the barrel even for that one!)

Best non-Big Six matchup: Ball State @ No. 20 Northern Illinois (Wed.)

Upset alert: Oregon State @ No. 22 Arizona State

Must win: Houston @ No. 19 Louisville

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ No. 4 Baylor

Defensive struggle: Florida @ No. 11 South Carolina

Great game no one is talking about: Ball State @ No. 20 Northern Illinois (Wed.)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Will Muschamp of Florida vs. Steve Spurrier of South Carolina

Who’s bringing the body bags? Iowa State @ No. 22 Oklahoma (or, No. 3 Ohio State @ Illinois)

Why are they playing? Idaho State @ BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: FIU @ UTEP

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Penn State @ Purdue

Week 11 Random Thoughts:

Okay, so it might not have been the biggest week in the college football season.  But it was good.  Not one, but two rock-‘em, sock-‘em match-ups on Thursday night?  Yes, please!  True, one of the outcomes was a bit less than exciting.  But is it always not fun – outside of Sooner Nation, at least – to see the arrogant Bob Stoops take a shellacking?  On the west coast was a “ticket to die for” that solidified the standings for the Pac-12.  Oregon looked like a hurry-up offensive juggernaut.  Green tee-shirts saying how the team, and indeed, the entire community, wanting a shot at Alabama, practically littered the campus.  In Palo Alto, Calif., meanwhile, was Stanford.  Sure, they were tough, but they already had one loss, and it was to Utah.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A team that could field an entire offense of tight ends if it wanted to – okay, so they look like they could! – all of a sudden gets beat by [now] 4-5 Utah.

So it was going to be a titanic clash; that much we knew.  But let us be honest; we all thought that the advantage would be Oregon’s, given their previous performances, and given that no other team’s defense could keep up with their offense.  What Stanford did was turn their offense into their defense.  A tough running game between the tackles exposed Oregon for being undersized on that side of the ball.  At one point, the Cardinal kept the ball for a full half of the third quarter in one series according to some reports.  Oregon may have a great system, but Stanford had better NFL-caliber talent, and it showed.  The only reason that the Cardinal beat the Ducks by only six points is that Stanford took their foot off the gas half-way through the fourth quarter.  They got more conservative, and took fewer risks, and that gave Oregon the opportunity for their type of offense to make up points quickly.  Otherwise, the margin of victory would have been three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Baylor has yet again proven their mettle by beating a ranked, marquee program, and in convincing fashion.  The irony in all of this is that even though the Sooners have been ranked well over the course of the season, it still cannot be considered a good year, since they have lost badly to Texas and now to Baylor.  Heaven help them if they lose to the Cowboys in the Bedlam Series!

College Football Week 7 Awards October 13, 2013

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Glad I’m not him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a clue: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Ron English, Eastern Michigan

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Arizona State (defeated Colorado 54-13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated Boston College 24-14)

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

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Texas (defeated No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  South Carolina (defeated Arkansas 52-7)

Dang, they’re good: Oregon

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Georgia

Did the season start?  Utah State
Can the season end?  UConn

Can the season never endMissouri

GAMES
Play this again:  Penn State 43, No. 16 Michigan 40, 3 OT

Play this again, too:  No. 9 Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38

Never play this again: Auburn 62, Western Carolina 3

What? Wisconsin 35, No. 19 Northwestern 6

HuhTexas 36, No. 12 Oklahoma 20

Are you kidding me?  No. 25 Missouri 41, No. 7 Georgia 26
Oh – my – GodUtah 27, No. 5 Stanford 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8)
Ticket to die for:  No. 5 Florida State @ No. 3 Clemson

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: BYU @ Houston

Best non-Big Six matchup: Kent State @ South Alabama

Upset alert: No. 11 South Carolina @ Tennessee

Must win: No. 9 UCLA @ No. 13 Stanford

Offensive explosion: No. 16 Texas Tech @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Navy @ Toledo
Great game no one is talking about: Utah @ Arizona

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Pinkel of Missouri vs. Will Muschamp of Florida

Who’s bringing the body bags? Iowa State @ No. 15 Baylor

Why are they playing? Old Dominion @ Pittsburgh

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ Miami (OH)

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Charleston Southern @ Colorado

Week 7 in Review:

A day of upsets and near-upsets:  that is how one could characterize Week Seven.  True, many favored teams survived the week unscathed.  For example, Louisville convincingly beat an underrated Rutgers team to maintain their top-ten ranking.  Texas Tech at No. 20 survived a surprise onslaught from Iowa State and beat the Cyclones by a touchdown.  Then there is No. 14 South Carolina, who obliterated Arkansas, 52-7.  No. 11 UCLA had little trouble against Cal, and No. 15 Baylor beat Kansas State by 10 points – unimpressive compared to previous victories this year, but a “w” nonetheless.  No. 9 Texas A&M managed to survive a 4th quarter scare on the road against Ole Miss.  Meanwhile, No. 1 Alabama keeps rolling along, and No. 2 Oregon handily beat a strong No. 16 Washington team, 45-24.

With all of that said, all the upsets practically turned the rankings – under the top four, at least – upside down.  To wit:  No. 25 Mizzou took out No. 7 Georgia between the hedges.  Apparently, beating LSU at home then being giving another strong contest the following week at Tennessee made those two past wins Pyrrhic, in hindsight.  Speaking of games taking more than usual out of a team, losing to Ohio State at home most have done that to Northwestern, for even at No. 19 – despite last week’s loss – they laid an egg on the road to unranked Wisconsin, 35-6.  Michigan, hitherto at the 18th ranking, allowed for unranked Penn State to squeak by them in triple overtime.  Need we rehash the Red River Shootout?  Everybody, yours truly included, had given Texas up for dead.  Yet the Longhorns came out swinging against the No. 14 Sooners, delivering a power rushing attack between the tackles, and doing so effectively.  Usually, over the course of a decade, it was Oklahoma who always had a runningback to ruin Texas’ day.  This time, it was oddly the other way around.  Never before has crow tasted so good.  To cap things off, unranked Utah upset No. 5 Stanford 27-21.

2012-2013 Bowl Game Awards January 10, 2013

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What, you’d think I’d be lying down on the job just because the regular season is over?

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Charlie Strong, Louisville

Wouldn’t be bad to be him, either:  Nick Saban, Alabama

Glad I’m not him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Lucky guy:  Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Poor guy: Patrick Higgins, Purdue (interim coach)
Desperately seeking a clue (long-term, notwithstanding the win):  Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Lane Kiffin, USC

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Texas A&M (beat No. 11 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4, 41-13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (see below)

(Dec. 15-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Purdue (see below)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Louisville (see below)
(Jan. 1-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Alabama

Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did: Notre Dame

Dang, they’re good: Alabama (and Texas A&M!)
Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

They can’t be that good:  Oklahoma State

Dang, they’re overrated:  Notre Dame

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Mississippi State (lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, Jan. 1, 34-20)

Did the season start? USC
Can the season end?  West Virginia
Can the season never end?  Louisville (or Clemson, though really, Louisville more so!)

GAMES
Play this again (Jan. 1-7):  Outback Bowl – No. 10 South Carolina 33, No. 18 Michigan 28

(Dec. 15-31)

Play this again:  Peach, I mean, Chick-Fil-A Bowl — No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 8 LSU 24

Also, play this again:  New Mexico Bowl – Arizona 49, Nevada 48
(All Bowls)

Never play this again: Heart of Dallas Bowl – Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14
Don’t bother with this one again, eitherIdaho Potato Bowl – No. 22 Utah State 41, Toledo 15

What? Chick-Fil-A Bowl — No. 14 Clemson 25, No. 8 LSU 24

HuhHoliday Bowl — Baylor 49, No. 17 UCLA 26

Are you kidding me? Sun Bowl — Georgia Tech 21, USC 7

Oh – my – God: Sugar Bowl – No. 21 Louisville 33, No. 3 Florida 23

Wow, dudeBCS National Championship – erstwhile No. 2 Alabama 42, erstwhile No. 1 Notre Dame 14

nick_saban34_cr_400

Cal Sport Media / AP Images

That’s why you line them up and play.  My father repeated this mantra to me as I was growing up.  Going in to the BCS National Championship game, it seemed as though Notre Dame and Alabama were rather evenly matched on paper.  The Fighting Irish had some rather impressive wins on their resume this year, far more impressive than the mediocre schedule they had played in recent years.  Beating a tough Stanford squad at home, going on the road to humiliate Oklahoma, and then closing out the regular season on the west coast to beat USC, all in the same year, is no small feat.  With such a record, it looked like Notre Dame was back, ready to butt heads with the big boys for national prominence.

Moreover, it was supposed to be a down year for the SEC, remember?  Michigan played South Carolina down to the wire (though seriously, the overall outcome was as predicted, if not by a slightly truncated margin of error), and an underachieving Nebraska challenged a, well, underachieving Georgia squad.  Mississippi State, for what a great regular season had – by MSU standards, at least – came for naught when they coughed it up to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.  The most striking example of building the case for a SEC down year was the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.  No way, under normal circumstances would LSU lose to Clemson, though to be sure, the ACC team has been known to pull one over on the SEC team in that bowl game (remember the 2001 Peach Bowl between Auburn and North Carolina?).  No. 3 Florida inexplicably losing to No. 21 Louisville can also add fuel to that fire (not that U of L’s win is something to be rued outside of SEC country!).

Forget that the SEC had three losses going into this game.  The conference was 5-3, to be exact; still a winning record.  Look at the Bama team itself.  They had graduated tons of talent to the NFL.  Quarterback A.J. McCarron was not a transcendent player at that position (as one often expects on a team that would be in the running for the national title).  The offensive line was young and inexperienced.  The Crimson Tide’s defense was not overwhelming, either, especially when compared to the smothering D’s of recent champion squads.  When paired up against the other team, one could readily predict some clearly potential mismatches.  After all, Notre Dame’s receiving corps was big and talented, and proved to be a game-winning factor throughout the season, as the Irish’s opponents had no answer for that part of their offense.

But there was more.  What gave the Irish the strong look of national viability was that Coach Brian Kelly had done an amazing job of massively upgrading the team’s defense.  At a school this is much more academically rigid as ND, certain recruiting restrictions tend to put the defensive side of the ball at a disadvantage.  One can recruit smart linemen, quarterbacks, tight ends, and receivers, after all, and they are out there.  Defense is another issue.  Never as well-choreographed as offensive, players on that side of the ball tend to be a bit more reckless, and often have to be to make key stops.  Making good grades and doing what defensive players have to do to succeed on the field is oftentimes an incompatibility.  Yet Kelly somehow made it work.

So how did things turn out they did?  Even yours truly predicted a close game, at least until some time in the 3rd quarter.  Turns out, in hindsight, we all made the same mistake we made going into the 2007 BCS game.  That year, Ohio State was the undefeated, No.1  team.  Florida got in the game almost as an afterthought.  Yet despite a touchdown by the Buckeyes on the opening kickoff, the Gators dominated from then on, leaving many viewers in a state of shock and disbelief, and also to ask each other:  how did we not see this coming?

The answer comes in two parts.  The simplest part is, they are SEC teams.  Florida then and Alabama this year played in the most brutal of all college football conferences.  Anybody who emerges as the conference champion is battle-hardened, battle tested, and ready and able to go toe-to-toe with anybody else in the country.  If one does not believe that the SEC, despite its down year this year, is still not the best conference in the country, you are both blind and detached from reality.  For one, SEC teams have won every national title since the 2006-’07 season; that’s seven consecutive years and counting.  But even more to the point, the NFL is the ultimate truth serum when it comes to who produces the best players in college football.  One NFL team general manager once observed that you could field a competitive team in the pros just by drafting players out of the Southeastern Conference.  Lots of money, along with people’s mortgages and livelihoods, rest on making such key decisions – think about that.

So Ohio State then, and Notre Dame this year, were frankly NOT consistently playing the same level of competition that SEC teams face week in and week out.  It’s fine for Notre Dame to beat Oklahoma on the road, but to turn right around the struggle at home to Pittsburgh the next game should have raised a few more eyebrows than it did.

The other part to explain how Bama ended up dominating Notre Dame is that Nick Saban is the best college coach in the business.  He learned his grinder’s work ethic from his father growing up in West Virginia, and learned how to be detail-oriented as an NFL assistant under Bill Belichick.  Being detail-oriented is a transferrable skill that works well at either the college or the pro level.  Saban knows how to prepare.  Alabama might have seemed relatively weak (compared to recent teams) having to go from one tough game to another (LSU then Texas A&M, for example).  But give Saban a full month to prepare, and the team’s true potential shines through.  Pay no attention to the Tide getting humiliated to Utah in the 2008 Sugar Bowl; pay attention to Saban’s, and the team’s, more recent body of work, that being three national titles out of the past four years.  They say that hindsight is 20-20, and in this case, it most certainly is:  Bama played better competition throughout the year, had even better overall athletes, and are guided by the best coach in the business.  Sometimes, you have to line them up and play just to be able to see those things with sufficient clarity.