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My Nearly Perfect Playoff Scenario November 16, 2017

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The developments in this past week of college football have shaken up the polls yet again, thus further modifying the playoff projections.  Given the current state of affairs, if the new AP poll is of any indication, here’s how I think things could play out.

The current top eight in the AP poll is as follows:

  1. Alabama
  2. Miami
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State

So, based on current polling and whom the teams have yet to play, who goes into the final four of the playoffs?  My scenario could lead to near-perfection.

Let’s start with Alabama.  Mississippi State almost beat them at home.  So, the Crimson Tide is vulnerable.  Nevertheless, they’ll get an easy win over a cupcake in Mercer this Saturday.  That leaves us with Auburn at No. 6.  Strange things happen in rivalry games.  Even stranger things happen in the Iron Bowl, arguably the most heated, bitter rivalry in college sports.  Bama thought they would be playing for the national title until the famous “kick-six” incident of 2013, for example.  Nevertheless, let us say for the sake of argument that Bama beats Auburn.  On paper, this is entirely possible.  Auburn will thus have three losses, and be eliminated from playoff consideration.

The Tide remains undefeated, and goes onto the SEC championship game in Atlanta.  There, they play Georgia, who was briefly No. 1 before getting their asses handed to them by Auburn.  Now at No. 7, they’ll still give Alabama a good challenge in Atlanta.  But on paper, the odds still favor The Tide.  Let us thus accept the law of averages and say Bama wins.  Again.  Having knocked out both Auburn AND Georgia, Bama as undefeated AND SEC champs, also ranked No. 1, instantly clinch a playoff berth.

Berth No. 1 of 4:  Alabama

Next up is Miami.  After tearing Notre Dame a new one in Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes now sit at No. 2 in the AP.  They have also clinched the Atlantic Division of the ACC for the first time since the conference split into those two divisions.  To remain undefeated in the regular season, they need to take out Virginia (at home) and Pittsburgh (on the road).  Both are doable, obviously, though keep an eye out for the Canes having to deal with cold Pittsburgh weather in late November.

At any rate, the Hurricanes are now slated to play Clemson, currently No. 4 in the AP, for the ACC Championship.  That game will be in Charlotte in early December, effectively a home game for the Tigers.  IF the Hurricanes can overcome this huge challenge and triumph over Clemson, they shall be undefeated, ACC champs, and shall have clinched the second spot in the playoffs.  This could actually be the most tenuous of contingencies.  Nevertheless…

Berth No. 2 of 4:  Miami

Oklahoma currently sits at No. 3.  Aside from Iowa State, the Sooners have risen to the occasion each game, recently beating a tough TCU squad.  OU quarterback Baker Mayfield is a more mature version of Johnny Manziel:  someone capable of making special things happen.  Despite legit challenges from strong teams within the conference, nobody can credibly take the Sooners down this year.  If these shadows remain unchanged, they’ll surely clinch a playoff berth.

Berth No. 3 of 4:  Oklahoma

That leaves us with the last spot.  In this scenario, three out of the eight are already in.  Three of the remaining five are out.  That leaves us with the remaining two:  Wisconsin and Ohio State.  “But wait,” you protest, “Ohio State already has two losses, one a both recent AND embarrassing one to Iowa.”  A valid point you would raise, to be sure.  But here’s the deal.  The Buckeyes’ schedule is still much stronger than Wisconsin’s, for one.  Whereas OSU had the guts to play a tough OU squad that, as already mentioned, shall surely be playoff-bound, Wisconsin padded their schedule with Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and a weak (for this year) BYU.

Moreover, IF Ohio State shows up ready to play, they can beat anybody.  Would you want to coach head-to-head against Urban Meyer?  I didn’t think so.

Finally, both Wisconsin and Ohio State, if both win out, are destined to butt heads in the Big Ten Championship game.  They both need to beat Michigan to guarantee this scenario.  Should they play each other for the B1G title, and should Ohio State actually triumph, Wisconsin shall be effectively eliminated.  Why?  Again, their relatively weak schedule without winning their own conference.  Meanwhile, Ohio State will be the last team standing in the top eight in the current AP poll.  Could winning the B1G over an undefeated team be enough to get them back into playoff contention?  I would wager “yes.”

Berth No. 4 of 4:  Ohio State

Yes, this scenario is contingent on many factors.  Change one major factor (Bama loses to Auburn, for example), and it all falls apart.  Wisconsin and Ohio State’s viabilities depend on both beating Michigan.  Miami still needs to face Pittsburgh in the cold of late November at Heinz Field.  After that, they must face down Clemson.  Obviously, that’s a tall order.

If, however, all these things come to pass, it would be a nearly geographically-perfect playoff line-up.  Alabama would represent the south.  Miami could represent urban, coastal fans of the game.  Ohio State could represent the Midwest, the Big Ten, and its demographic TV-viewing juggernaut along with it.  Finally, Oklahoma could represent other parts of Middle America.  Indeed, the only problem with this scenario is that it lacks a Pac-12 team.  If it did, we would have perfection.  Too bad the Pac-12 teams ended up cannibalizing themselves this year, but that could be the case with the B1G, too, depending on how things truly do come to pass.  The only way we’ll know one way or the other is to keep lining them up and playing.

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College Football Awards, Week 13 (2016) November 27, 2016

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The Game lived up to The Hype.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 13] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Charlie Strong, Texas

Lucky guy: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Poor guy: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Butch Jones, Tennessee  also:  Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did:  Virginia Tech (defeated Virginia 52-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t:  Louisville (lost to Kentucky 41-38)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Iowa State (lost to No. 19 West Virginia 49-19)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kentucky (see above)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  UTEP (defeated North Texas 52-24)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  New Mexico State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Nebraska

Did the season start?  Louisville

Can the season end?  Texas  also:  Ole Miss, Notre Dame

Can the season never endWestern Michigan

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 2 Ohio State 30, No. 3 Michigan 24

Play this again, too:  Georgia Tech 28, Georgia 27

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 56, South Carolina 7

Close call:  Indiana 26, Purdue 24

What? Vanderbilt 45, No. 24 Tennessee 34

HuhAir Force 27, No. 21 Boise State 20

Double-Huh?  Memphis 48, No. 18 Houston 44

Are you kidding me?  Iowa 40, No. 17 Nebraska 10

Oh – my – GodKentucky 41, No. 11 Louisville 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 13, pre-week 14))

Ticket to die for: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Penn State in the B1G Championship

also: No. 11 Oklahoma State @ No. 8 Oklahoma

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Western Michigan vs. Ohio U in the MAC Championship, Friday

Must win: too many to list!

Offensive explosion: No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship

Defensive struggle: No. 13 Florida @ No. 15 Florida State

Great game no one is talking about: Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky

Intriguing coaching matchup: Nick Saban of Alabama vs. Jim McElwain of Florida

Think there’s enough purple? Kansas State @ TCU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Baylor @ No. 14 West Virginia

Why are they playing? Wisconsin vs. Penn State in the B1G Championship (ever heard of Ohio State?)

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ South Alabama

They shoot horses, don’t they? Georgia State @ Idaho

Week 13 Take-aways:

Rivalry week has yielded some decent drama, and upsets, as one would expect. Purdue, hapless all year, acquitted themselves well against a far-superior offense in IU. Highly-ranked Louisville gave up the game via four turnovers to in-state rival Kentucky, at home. The collapse of Louisville within the past couple of weeks is the most unsettling thing witnessed in major college football this year.

The annual coaching carousel hath begun its merry ride. Charlie Strong is out at Texas (after much unnecessary vacillation and drama on the part of the Texas Athletics Department), and Tom Herman is in. Such drama sadly bled over to Herman’s Houston team, who clearly was not focused when losing to formidable Memphis on Friday, despite being favored on the road. Meanwhile, Ed Orgeron earned a well-deserved promotion from interim head coach to full-time head coach at LSU. Orgeron is perfect for the role, what with his love for the school, his extensive experience in many big-name programs, his long-time conference presence (he was once the head coach at border rival Ole Miss), to say nothing of his deep Cajun drawl. His performance in the interim job itself was a strong case, as the Tigers went 5-2 under this leadership (one of those losses was to Alabama, where LSU held the Tide to only 10 points). Justice has been met in this special case.

Despite Mississippi State’s disappointing year, Dan Mullen has ended the year well by convincingly beating their main rival, Ole Miss. The Rebels started the year with high rankings and hopes, but injury and other bad luck put the team into a freefall. Losing their starting QB Chad Kelly to season-ending injury obviously contributed to this, to be sure.

In the world of weird football news, Navy beat SMU 75-31 (yes, this was a football game, not a basketball one). What do these two teams have in common? They’re the only two teams that beat Houston this year. That aside, who says the triple option cannot be a high-scoring offense?

More regarding the world of weird football news: Eastern Michigan is, after this week, 7-5, and obviously bowl eligible. Let us all pause as our collective jaw drops to the floor.

Now we await the conference championship games next week, and immediately afterwards, we shall finally ascertain the teams that shall be in the playoffs. One intriguing game is the MAC Championship. Should Western Michigan win and continue their undefeated season, they could qualify for a major bowl game. Might P.J. Fleck be able to lead his team in rowing the proverbial boat all the way, say, the Cotton Bowl? We shall all find out in due time. Let the games begin…and continue!

Intriguing Games for Week 11 (2016) November 9, 2016

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DeVon Edwards, Ryan Switzer

Lest we forget, the Duke – North Carolina rivalry is not merely confined to the hardwood.

 

No. 21 North Carolina @ Duke (Thurs., Nov. 10:  ESPN) 

The Tarheels under head coach Larry Fedora and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik have proven to be a very efficient team.  Duke, despite being only 3-6, has always been a tough out this year (see:  Louisville, week 7).  Factor in the close geographic proximity and the traditional rivalry between the two, and you have yourself a very, very interesting game.

(All other games are on Saturday, Nov. 12)

No. 25 Baylor @ No. 9 Oklahoma (Noon EST, ABC/ESPN 2)

The intrigue of this game is the background.  Baylor has been in a weird, two-game free-fall.  They were undefeated until last month, where they unexpectedly lost to a mediocre Texas Longhorns team, and thus knocked themselves out of playoff contention.  Then, the following week at home, they lost horribly (a 62-22 kind of horribly) to a TCU team that seems to finally have found a pulse.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma has quietly crawled their way back into the top ten.  This will be a great game if Baylor gets out of its funk and plays up to its Top Ten potential.

South Carolina @ No. 22 Florida (Noon EST; CBS)

Earlier in the season, this game looked like it would be a snoozer, what with an underperforming South Carolina team losing to both Kentucky and Mississippi State.  Florida, meanwhile, had gradually improved to the point where they were No. 11 as of last week.

The trends now appear to be different.  The Gators were embarrassed on the road against unranked Arkansas last week, 31-10.  Their current problem seems to be a lack of identity on offense.  Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have gradually improved, first with an upset win over Tennessee, and last week with a  confidence-boosting win over Missouri.  If these trends continue, this game will be evenly-matched, thus very competitive.

Kentucky @ Tennessee (Noon EST; SEC Network)

Remember when the Vols were supposed to vie for the playoffs?  That ended when they blew it at Texas A&M.  After not playing with sufficient urgency for an entire game, the whole play-from-behind drama caused Tennessee to come up short against the Aggies.  The next week was Tennessee’s turn in the conference to get drubbed by seemingly invincible Alabama.

Perhaps the heartbreaking loss followed by the aforementioned drubbing took something out of them, because they then laid an egg on the road at South Carolina, thus knocking them out of the rankings.

After leading the SEC East, those three losses made it anyone’s division – even Kentucky, who also has three losses in the conference.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Therefore, this game will help clarify the SEC East race.  Let that sink in as well.

No. 11 West Virginia @ Texas (Noon EST; FS1)

West Virginia was undefeated before suddenly losing to Oklahoma State two weeks ago.  Last week’s win against Kansas was a given, ergo proves nothing.  Meanwhile, Texas has two consecutive upsets under its belt, first against heretofore unbeaten Baylor, next against Texas Tech.  Could the Longhorns score a third consecutive upset?  We’ll find out on Nov. 12.

Tulsa @ Navy (Noon EST; CBSSN)

Here me out.  Tulsa is 7-2, leading the AAC West.  Navy is 6-2, has been in and out of the rankings, and tied with Memphis for first in the AAC West division.  Enough said.

Army @ Notre Dame (3:30 EST; NBC)

Army is currently 5-4.  Notre Dame is in relative free-fall at 3-6, and possibly still smarting from a loss to Navy last week.  One more win, and the Black Knights are bowl-eligible for only the third time since 1996 and the fourth time since 1988.  Could an underperforming Irish squad be that last win Army needs to make to the post-season?

If it is, Notre Dame’s season is worse than over, as their next two games are against No. 18 Virginia Tech, and a suddenly-strong USC.  Talk about a must-win for both teams!

USC @ No. 4 Washington (6:30 EST; FOX)

Washington is not a juggernaut team, but they are still very good (their undefeated season is padded with three out-of-conference body bag games).  USC started the season with some sputters, but has played very strongly as of late.  The opportunity is thus ripe for an upset (or, at least near-upset) in Seattle this Saturday evening.

College Football Awards, Week 7 2016 October 17, 2016

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Glad I’m not him: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Dave Doeren, NC State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike Norvell, Memphis

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Kansas 49-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida State (defeated Wake Forest 17-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Kansas (see above)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Duke (lost to No. 7 Louisville 24-14)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  West Virginia (defeated Texas Tech 48-17)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Kent State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Virginia Tech

Did the season start?  Georgia

Can the season end?  Purdue

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 2 Ohio State 30, No.  Wisconsin 23, OT

Play this again, too:  No. 22 Arkansas 34, No. 12 Ole Miss 30

Never play this again: Army 62, Lafayette 7

Close call:  No. 7 Louisville 24, Duke 14

What? North Carolina 20, No. 16 Miami 13

HuhNorthwestern 54, Michigan State 40

Double-Huh? Syracuse 31, No. 17 Virginia Tech 17

Are you kidding me?  No. 22 Arkansas 34, No. 12 Ole Miss 30

Oh – my – GodVanderbilt 17, Georgia 16

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8))

Ticket to die for: No. 6 Texas A&M @ No. 1 Alabama

Also: No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 11 Wisconsin

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Middle Tennessee @ Missouri

Best non-Power Five matchup: BYU @ No. 15 Boise State Also: Memphis @ Navy

Upset alert: BYU @ No. 15 Boise State

Must win: NC State @ No. 7 Louisville

Offensive explosion: South Florida @ Temple

Defensive struggle: Mississippi State @ Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about: TCU @ No. 20 West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup: Jim Mora of UCLA vs. Kyle Whittingham of Utah

Who’s bringing the body bags? Illinois @ No. 4 Michigan

Why are they playing? UMass @ South Carolina

Plenty of good seats remaining: Miami (Ohio) @ Bowling Green

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Middle Tennessee @ Missouri

Week 7 Take-aways:

Louisville barely escaped with a win at home to Duke. As I have said before, beware of bye-weeks, for they can be deceptively perilous to teams.

Who would have thought that the offensive explosion of the week would have been Northwestern vs. Michigan State, much less thinking that the Wildcats – underperforming all season thus far – would win?

The results of the Toilet Bowl, B1G edition, are in, and it’s Rutgers that is at the abyss of that conference, having lost to Illinois, 24-7. Sarcastic congrats to the Scarlet Knights!

Ohio State proved their mettle by defeating what is perhaps the toughest Wisconsin team within my memory. Not only that, but this win was on the road, in the evening. For those “in the know,” it is understood throughout the Big Ten that Camp Randall Stadium is the worst snake pit to play in within the entire conference. It is relatively the loudest, with a compact 80,000 seemingly right on top of the teams. Compound that with the fact that Wisconsin fans enjoy a certain, er, reputation throughout the league. Compound that further with the fact that night games give these already rowdy fans extra hours to get extra inebriated, hence extra loud. A night game in Camp Randall is a baptism by fire for a visiting team. Ohio State proved that they belonged in the No. 2 spot in the rankings by coming from behind, then dominating in overtime.

Yes, Tennessee lost badly to Alabama at home today, 49-10. But are we really surprised? The Volunteers have had one emotional game after another. Sooner or later, after so many games, they would experience an energy nadir as a result. Couple that with that fact that Nick Saban has the Crimson Tide rolling into a juggernaut of a team, and the loss should be seen as a minimal disgrace. As things currently stand, it is not unreasonable for Tennessee to end up 10-2 in the regular season, which is a remarkable turnaround from the doldrums in which the program found itself just a few years ago.

Oh, and it has been established that Florida and LSU will be playing after all. The catch is, they’ll play it at LSU instead, on Nov. 14, and to compensate, the Tigers will face Florida on the road for two consecutive years afterward. This does not even take into consideration that to make the Nov. 14 date work, both teams had to drop would-be body bag games (hello, easy money to the teams they would have played), which is actually a big win for the fans overall.  So, the SEC East will have some clarity after all. Or will it?

College Football Week 7 Awards October 15, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 7, pre-week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Glad I’m not him: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Poor guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Desperately seeking a clue: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike Riley, Oregon State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking … anything:  Gene Chizik, Auburn

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Florida State (beat Boston College 51-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Ohio State (beat Indiana 52-49)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Missouri (lost to No.1 Alabama 42-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to Oklahoma State 20-14)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Arizona State (beat Colorado 51-17)

Dang, they’re good: Oklahoma
Dang, they’re bad:  Illinois
Did the season start? Auburn
Can the season end?  Colorado
Can the season never end? Oregon State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 20 Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57
Never play this again: No. 10 Oklahoma 63, Texas 21
What? Arizona State 51, Colorado 17

Huh?  No. 7 Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Are you kidding me? No. 10 Oklahoma 63, Texas 21
Oh – my – God:  Texas Tech 49, No. 17 West Virginia 14

Told you so:  No. 4 Kansas State 27, Iowa State 21

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 9 South Carolina @ No. 3 Florida
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Middle Tennessee State @ No. 15 Mississippi State
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana Monroe @ Western Kentucky
Upset alert: No. 2 Oregon @ Arizona State

Must win: Baylor @ Texas
Offensive explosion: No. 4 Kansas State @ No. 17 West Virginia
Defensive struggle: Penn State @ Iowa
Great game no one is talking about: Nebraska @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of LSU vs. Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M
Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 14 Georgia @ Kentucky

Why are they playing? Pittsburgh @ Buffalo

Plenty of good seats remaining: Army @ Eastern Michigan

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Colorado @ No. 11 USC

Week 7: Thoughts on the week:

Passing the test:  Every good team eventually has to pass a test.  The team can be undefeated, well-ranked, but doubts will still remain, doubts that can be summed up with the partly-rhetorical question, “whom have they played?”  Several teams passed the test today.  No. 16 Louisville passed the test by winning on the road against the toughest team they have played yet in Pittsburgh.  The Notre Dame apologists feel that the Irish have passed a test in squeaking by No. 22 Stanford at home in overtime.  Mike Riley has been quietly winning games at Oregon State this year, and the tests he has already passed were mostly tests in hindsight.  I say “mostly” because the opening game/win was over a Wisconsin team that had understandably high expectations.  Two more victories have come over resurgent programs in UCLA and Arizona, albeit at different stages in that key regard.

But though these teams have passed these tests, more remain.  A much greater trial awaits the Louisville Cardinals when they take on Cincinnati.  The huge tests that await Notre Dame are listed later in this article entry.  Meanwhile, Oregon State’s upcoming tests are exceedingly daunting, what with Washington, Arizona State, Stanford, and finally, Oregon, still remaining on the schedule.

Then there are the teams that failed to pass the test, most notably South Carolina, who lost in a close one to LSU in Death Valley.  A win could have strengthened their bid to lead the SEC East, but the loss means they must now hand Florida its first loss of the season in The Swamp.  Sometimes make-up tests are more difficult – with more on the line – than the original thing.

Red River Rout:  For the third consecutive year, Texas has lost ignominiously to arch-rival Oklahoma in the annual Red River Rivalry game.  Coaches have been known to summarily get the ax on account of not being able to beat their rivals (see: Cooper, John, or Bowden, Bobby [later years]).  Could it be that Mack Brown, as genial a man as there is in the upper echelons of this business, finally be wearing out his welcome in Austin?  Goodness knows he is running out of excuses for his chronic under-performance over the past three years.  In the time since they lost valiantly to Alabama in the 2010 BCS National Championship game, the Horns have failed to be bowl eligible in one of those seasons, and have failed to beat the Sooners in all three.  This is an unacceptable situation given that he coaches the team that is the flagship school in the biggest, best football state in the entire country; a team whose cache helped launch the school’s own ESPN-powered sports network, and a program that has the pick of the litter for top talent in the Lone Star State.  Yet with all of these advantages, combined with much-improved QB play from David Ash, Brown is bereft of playmakers, something for which there is simply no excuse, given the ideal location of the program.  The inescapable conclusion becomes that Brown’s tenure has reached the end of its effectiveness, hence that he must go.  Nothing personal, Mack; it’s just business.

Paging Bobby Petrino:  Okay, so if Texas fires Mack Brown, with whom shall they replace him?  Bobby Petrino seems to be an obvious choice.  Yes, Petrino gives mercenaries a bad name; yes, his system is so seemingly unstable that nobody else can operate it in his absence (see:  Arkansas; see: Louisville, pre-Charlie Strong).  But he wins.  The athletics department at the University of Texas not only has the resources to pay him a handsomely competitive salary, but can supply him with his own young mistresses if he wishes to add that to his contract as a benefit – no need to add them to the team staff payroll on the sly!  More to the point though, a team with the resources and tradition of Texas under the leadership of Bobby Petrino could make Nick Saban’s Alabama team seem almost anemic by comparison, and would give the arrogant Bob Stoops of Oklahoma more than cause for notice.

Who needs Mike Leach?  The Dread Pirate Leach might have put Texas Tech on the map with his spread offense on steroids, but he is hardly missed this weekend in Lubbock.  How could one, what with Tommy Tuberville regenerating excitement for the program with a huge upset win over West Virginia?  Geno Smith and Co. seemed almost invincible going into Week 7’s game, but then they ran into a team with a secondary built to stop the big pass plays that had until yesterday fueled the Mountaineer’s undefeated run.  Funny how things work out like that.  A win of this magnitude (49-15) over a top-ten opponent (WVU was No. 5 going into the game) ought to merit a ranking of some sort for Texas Tech.

Settle down, Notre Dame fan:  Does any reasonably objective individual believe that if Stanford and Notre Dame met on a neutral site, and/or if the game were not soaked by a torrential rain, that the Cardinal would not have triumphed?  As it is, the Fighting Irish had to squeak by in overtime, and only then because Stanford made two consecutive bone-headed calls during their post-regulation possession.  The point in all this is, if Notre Dame has a decent undefeated run, scores of apologists fall all over themselves to overvalue the team with an unduly high ranking.  The team is in for a rude awakening in two weeks when it ventures in to Norman to take on Oklahoma.  An almost-as-rigorous test will come at season’s end in Los Angeles Coliseum against USC.  You ND apologists maybe laughing now, but just you wait.

Ditch those gray camo unis, South Carolina:  I very much appreciate you guys trying to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project or whatever it is you’re into these days.  It is most commendable.  But the effort ought not to obscure your glorious Garnet and Black, one of the best color combos in Big Boy Football these days.  Wear ‘em with pride, boys.  Gray jerseys?  Yuck!  Garnet jerseys?  Sweet.

About the Big XII title:  Since the nominal Big XII has an insufficient amount of members to justify a championship game, Kansas State is currently in the driver’s seat for the championship distinction.  This has become clear after Oklahoma’s loss recent loss to the Wildcats, followed by West Virginia’s defeat at the hands of Texas Tech yesterday.  Plenty of games remain, but Bill Snyder has the program humming well thus far.

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.

College Football Week 4 Awards September 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCAA out of Bounds in Sanctioning Penn State September 20, 2012

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Back-up placekicker Sam Ficken for Penn State, walking off the field dejected in losing on the road to Virginia. Ficken was the Nittany Lions’ back-up kicker, as their erstwhile starting kicker transferred to the University of Texas amid the chaos in Happy Valley.

Anybody who is remotely aware of the major developments in the world of big-time sports, specifically college football, has no doubt heard the news about the mountain of sanctions that the NCAA has arbitrarily heaped onto the once-vaunted football program of Pennsylvania State University, a.k.a., Penn State.  These sanctions include a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason bowl ban, a Draconian reduction in scholarships (10 initial, 20 total each year for four years), and, to add insult to injury, vacate all the wins during the late Joe Paterno’s tenure dating back to 1998 – the year when the bulk of the child abuses perpetrated by then-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky were first internally known among some staff members.

Before the discussion proceeds any further, be it known and understood that I carry no water for Penn State.  As a graduate of a Big 10 Conference rival, I had no love for a team that beat us in all the years that we played them during my time as a college student.  Furthermore, I make no apologies for the stubborn refusal of JoePa to plan and execute his own exit strategy, which he should have done a full decade before his sudden and long-overdue ouster in 2011.  Most importantly, this not in any way to rationalize the evils perpetrated by Sandusky, nor to be insensitive to the undue emotional and spiritual scarring wrought upon the innocent young victims.

But what did these evils themselves have to do with the football program at large?  Sandusky was found guilty of these heinous crimes in the court of law, and awaits a sentence that will surely be tantamount to spending the rest of his life in prison.  He has not been directly affiliated with the program since the end of the 1999 season.  Moreover, Paterno has not only ceased to the head coach at PSU – a position he held for more than four decades – but he is deceased.  The two individuals to whom legitimate blame for these evils is warranted – the perpetrator in Sandusky and the enabler in Paterno – are either in jail or are underneath the sod (in this case, respectively!).

The point is, the crimes that were done by Sandusky and on Paterno’s watch were transgressions of the legal nature, and were punished in the legal realm.  Whatever further punishment awaits both in the next life is a matter for the theologians to debate.  But this had nothing to do with NCAA ethics.  And is that not the grounds for which this august governing body for collegiate athletics metes out its punishment to member athletics departments?

The NCAA, in their supposed magnanimity, allowed for players currently on the roster of the Penn State football team to transfer to other programs without being forced to sit out for year.  Under normal circumstances, players on a Division 1A (pardon me, Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS) program who choose to transfer to another school/team have to sit out for one season, unless they transfer to a Division 1AA program (pardon me, Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS).  For example, if a player is on the roster at, say, the University of Cincinnati, he feels as though he is not a good fit after all, and decides to play elsewhere, he could transfer, to say, Eastern Kentucky University, and play immediately.  Not so if he were to transfer to, say, the University of Toledo, or Kent State, the University of Kentucky, or of Louisville, and expect to play immediately, for the NCAA mandates that such a lateral transfer requires the given student to sit out for a year.

At least the governing body in question had the decency to recognize that the current players on the team had nothing to do with the aforementioned evils, and should be let off the proverbial hook so they could continue to be in a position to reap the rewards that winning effort on the field allows.  For they have waived the traditional transfer rule and have allowed current PSU players to go to other FBS teams that have a chance to go to a bowl game, thus leaving Penn State in a further weakened state than it already is.  At least ten players have taken up the NCAA on this offer, and have transferred elsewhere, notably to Illinois, to Florida, to Texas, N.C. State, even to Cal and USC.

All this leaves the Penn State program in a severely weakened state.  The players worth any count have been given the option to seek greener pastures, and have naturally done so.  The remaining players are, according to reason, less skilled, and the performance on the field – losing at home to Ohio U at home and to Virginia on the road – with a back-up kicker missing key field goals (the starting kicker wisely fled to join the Texas Longhorns, whose collective star is on the re-rise).

To sum things up, the program is $60 million poorer, bereft of its more-skilled players, and unable to attract players worth any count for the next four years at least on account of both losing some of its scholarships to offer, to say nothing of no prospects of a post-season bowl game for that length of time, no matter how well the team does in the regular season.  In short, the NCAA essentially gave them a walking death penalty.  The only reason that Penn State acquiesced to these stringent terms is that if PSU did not, the NCAA would have given them the real thing, according to the new president of the university, Rodney Erickson.

The only time the NCAA handed down the “death penalty” to a football program (where the program is not allowed to even field a team and play that sport for an entire season) was to SMU in 1987.  The ruling’s reasons, according to NCAA investigators, were, among others, an under-the-table slush fund given to Mustang players, $61,000 total, to be exact.  SMU forewent fielding a team for 1988 as well.  Contrast that with the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal at the University of Miami (Fla.) that came to light in 2011.  According to Shapiro’s own admissions in numerous jailhouse interviews (currently, he is serving a prison term for a $930 million Ponzi scheme), he provided U of Miami football players with “cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.”

In both the case of SMU as well as Miami, clear recruiting and player compensation violations took place:  ethical violations that warranted/warrant NCAA punishment to those programs.  Yet Nevin Shapiro’s egregious violations make the SMU slush fund pale in comparison, yet the NCAA has yet to hand down any sanctions whatsoever to “The U.”

Meanwhile, no evidence has yet surfaced regarding the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and the tacit enabling of them by Joe Paterno having any bearing at all on recruiting violations, player compensation, or even cruelty towards players, or any other act which would legally and ethically warrant such Draconian punishment from the NCAA.

As mentioned before, the perpetrator and enablers are long gone from the University.  Sandusky awaits his prison sentence, Paterno is under the sod, and anybody else connected to Joe[Grand]Pa, including the former athletics director and even the former university president himself, both former players under Paterno, have been summarily dismissed.  Penn State has a new head football coach, a new A.D., and also a new president of this highly respected university.  They are earnestly trying to “grow new grass,” so to speak.  Why punish them, not to mention the players who have commendably made up their minds to commit their college-playing eligibility to this institution in the wake of these horrifying scandals?  Why punish the 107,000+ fans who show up at Beaver Stadium on Saturdays in the Fall?  Why punish the millions of Nittany Lion faithful over the actions of a few individuals whose violations were strictly within the legal realm, and had nothing to do with NCAA infractions?

At this time of PSU’s darkest hours, I would advise the rest of the Big Ten fan bases not to dance on the Nittany Lions’ grave.  A weakened Penn State means a weakened Big 10 Conference, this at a time when cold weather programs are increasingly at a competitive disadvantage in terms of recruiting the best players nationwide, hence are struggling to be credible contenders for national titles.  It also means weakened intra-conference competition, something that could affect other conference teams’ strength of schedules and possibly their national rankings.  A strong PSU team would mean the opposite of these potential problems.

If the sages in Indianapolis dictated that the $60 million fine go to programs that work to prevent child abuse and molestation, that would be a fitting penalty that all parties concerned could embrace.  But instead, a bunch of detached elitists decided to proceed much further than necessary and bring hard times to a proud university, to a state, and to its national fan base.  Shame on the NCAA for unduly and arbitrarily forcing Penn State’s football program into an induced coma.  Sanctions towards other programs guilty of actual violations within their jurisdiction are warranted but remain to be administered.  The governing body has some explaining to do for this clear double-standard.

As an aside, the new head coach has yet to get the hint that part of “growing new grass” means a clean break from those blindingly generic uniforms.  Nameplates on the back of the jerseys are not enough.  Bill O’Brien worked in the NFL long enough to understand what a helmet logo decal looks like.   It will be interesting to see if and when he eventually gets the hint and starts having some football-shaped Nittany Lion logo decals affixed to the sides of those mind-numbingly generic white helmets.  If these horrific developments do not sound the clarion call for Penn State to ditch those horribly generic unis once and for all, what will?

College Football Week 3 Awards September 17, 2012

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It was so much fun.  Every Sunday afternoon in the Fall of very recent years, we looked forward to the sportswriters of Rivals/Yahoo.com giving us their take on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the college football games and teams from the previous day.  Their awards were very informal yet well to the point, and never failed to produce a number of chuckles and at times a few belly laughs.  Those days seem to be gone.  Yahoo!’s online sports section has been given a sleek makeover, but in this new format, the weekly awards seem to have been lost by the wayside.  Maybe one could account for this because one of their main writers, Tom Dienhart, now blogs for the Big Ten Network.  Who knows?  The bottom line is, despite my best efforts, I cannot find it anymore.  What website that is worth its weight in attracting eyeballs would make such an enjoyable weekly post so hard to find?

With all of this in mind, inspiration hit me last night to take it upon myself to dole out the awards instead.  Afterall, I’m an alumnus of a Big Ten program, and have worked with coaches now on a number of “Big-Six” conference teams.  It may not be Rivals/Yahoo!, but if you love college football, you might be apt to find this to be the next best thing.  I have tweaked some of the awards to suit the unique situations that arise from week to week, but for the most part, the awards are the same.  Therefore, I offer the awards for the third week of major college football, and aim to continue to do so until the able writers at Yahoo! ‘get it together’ and resume their Sunday duties.

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Mack Brown, Texas
Glad I’m not him:  Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Lucky guy:  Gene Chizik, Auburn
Poor guy:  Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe
Desperately seeking a wake-up call:   Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man:  Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard:  Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Desperately seeking … anything:  John L. Smith, Arkansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did:  Purdue  (beat Eastern Michigan 54-16)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t:  Mississippi State (beat Troy 30-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:   Idaho (lost to LSU 63-14)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:   Pittsburgh (beat Virginia Tech 35-17)
Thought you’d reach a turning point, you didn’t:  Tennessee (lost to Florida 37-20)
Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: Colorado (or Kentucky:  take your pick!)
Ya’ know, they’re not so bad:  Cal
Did the season start?  Penn State
Can the season end?  Navy
Can the season never end?  Stanford

GAMES
Play this again:  Stanford 21, USC 14
Never play this again: Fresno State 69, Colorado 14
Unbelieveable Irony:  Connecticut 24, Maryland 21
What? Ball State 41, Indiana 39
Huh? Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3
Are you kidding me? Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17
Oh – my – God: Western Kentucky 31, Kentucky 30
Told you so: Louisville 39, North Carolina 34

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Clemson @ No. 5 Florida State
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup:  Florida International vs. Louisville
Best non-Big Six matchup:  BYU @ Boise State
Upset alert:  Kansas State @ Oklahoma
Must win:  USC vs. California
Offensive explosion:  Arizona @ Oregon
Defensive struggle:  Temple @ Penn State
Great game no one is talking about:  Missouri @ South Carolina
Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Richt of Georgia vs. James Franklin of Vanderbilt
Who’s bringing the body bags?  Florida Atlantic @ Alabama
Why are they playing?  UAB @ Ohio State
Plenty of good seats remaining:  Memphis @ Duke
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Maryland @ West Virginia
What are your thoughts, dear readers?  Comments are welcome!