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College Football Awards Week 13 (2021) December 3, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Glad I’m not him: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Lucky guy: Nick Saban, Alabama

Poor guy: Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Monken, Army

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jeff Traylor, UTSA

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Allen, Indiana

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Houston (defeated UConn 45-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Baylor (defeated Texas Tech 27-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Georgia Tech (lost to Georgia 45-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Auburn (lost to Alabama 24-22, 4OT)

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

Dang, they’re good:  Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Colorado State

Another one bites the dust:  UTSA

Did the season start?  Wisconsin
Can the season end?  Indiana

Can the season never endMichigan

GAMES
Play this again: No. 5 Michigan 42, No. 2 Ohio State 27

Play this again, too:  No. 3 Alabama 24, Auburn 22 (4OT)

Never play this again: Nevada 52, Colorado State 10

What?  North Texas 45, No. 22 UTSA 23

HuhLSU 27, No. 15 Texas A&M 24

Are you kidding me??  Minnesota 23, No. 14 Wisconsin 13

Oh – my – GodNo. 5 Michigan 42, No. 2 Ohio State 27

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama 

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 24 Houston vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 19 Utah vs. No. 11 Oregon

Must win: No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 16 Iowa

They have the same record?  USC @ California

Offensive explosion: No. 8 Baylor vs. No. 7 Oklahoma State also:  Kent State vs Northern Illinois

Defensive struggle: (none)

Great game no one is talking about: No. 17 Pitt vs. No. 18 Wake Forest

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Luke Fickell of Cincinnati vs. Dana Holgorsen of Houston

Week 13 Thoughts:

Rivalry week did not disappoint.  Sure, there was the occasional lop-sided outcome (looking your way, IU-Purdue and Kentucky-Louisville, and others, too.), but so many matchups produced so many great games.  The Ole Miss-Mississippi State game (the “Egg Bowl”, named after the golden football trophy that has long been dubbed “the golden egg”) on Thanksgiving started things off with a bang.  Then on Friday, unranked Nebraska had a chance to knock No. 16 Iowa out of B1G West contention, and came up shy by only a touchdown.  Coastal Carolina had to hold off lowly South Alabama:  the Chanticleers defeated the Jaguars by only seven points.

On Saturday, even greater action took place.  Neither Florida nor Florida State has had much of a season, but they certainly gave fans a good fight in The Swamp, with the Gators winning, 24-21.

But The Game itself delivered.  Michigan finally got a major monkey off its back in beating Ohio State for the first time since 2011.  With such a rivalry and a game of such high stakes (a conference championship berth and also a potential playoff bid on the line), there was plenty of drama to go around, and all the while, Michigan Stadium was rocking, both during, and very much after the game.  The crowd of fans gathered around the FOX crew outside of the stadium post-game rivaled that of crowds at ESPN’s College Gameday, pre-game.

Speaking of the B1G and conference championship berths on the line, Wisconsin had the chance to win Paul Bunyan’s Ax and also to lock up the B1G West by beating Minnesota.  PJ Fleck and the boys had other plans.  The Golden Gophers won the day, 23-13, and the Ax along with it.  That upset made Iowa’s win the previous day all the more significant, as now they’ll represent the B1G West in Indianapolis next weekend.

In a quasi-rivalry game, Michigan State and Penn State duked it out in the snow in a high-scoring slugfest, with the Spartans winning closely, 30-27.

If we are to be reminded of anything, it’s that the Iron Bowl is always a great game, no matter how much one team may struggle and no matter how high the other may be currently flying.  Case in point:  this year’s Iron Bowl looked like it might have been a lop-sided affair, what with Alabama’s top-five ranking and Auburn not even ranked.  But crazy things have happened against the Crimson Tide in Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Last night’s game was one of them.  Auburn led most of the game in a defensive struggle.  Going into the 4th quarter, it was 10-0 in favor of the Tigers.  The Tide managed to score 10 points that quarter to tie things up at the end of regulation.  It took four overtimes to finally decide the game, with Alabama triumphing in the end.  Ironically, it took a hobbled back QB’s understandably limited performance for Alabama to have even a shot at winning this game.

Speaking of getting monkeys off one’s back, Oklahoma State certainly came through against Oklahoma in last night’s edition of the Bedlam Series.  In what was a back-and-forth shootout for much of the game, the Cowboys held the Sooners scoreless in the 4th quarter (a considerable stepping up of OK State’s defense), while they themselves scored 14 points to triumph, 37-33.

Other great games took place elsewhere, and it all amounted to a wonderful Rivalry Week that shall no about long be remembered.  But now, it is time to look ahead.

Looking ahead to Week 14:

Michigan vs. Iowa in the B1G Championship game (Indianapolis)

This will be a different Big Ten championship game from what we are used to.  Reason being, Wisconsin is not in it.  Kidding aside, neither is Ohio State or Michigan State.  Nope, Michigan crashes the party for the first time, ever, too.  I wonder how Iowa’s and Michigan’s bands will sound like when they play the Star Spangled Banner together.  It will be a beautiful sound to hear and a sight to behold in any case.

Oh, and all Michigan needs to do is close the deal, and they could make it to the playoffs.  No pressure.

Georgia vs. Alabama in the SEC Championship game (Atlanta)

This is Georgia’s opportunity to remind everyone that they are the legit No. 1 team.  Conversely, if Alabama has any hopes of crashing the playoffs, they need to get through the Bulldogs in order to attain that prize.  Needless to say, that’s a huge ask. 

Questions also abound:  was the Crimson Tide looking ahead to Georgia, and thus were caught off-guard by sputtering Auburn?  Or did Alabama arrive in The Plains with the War Eagle fully on their minds, only to come out flat anyhow, and lucky to escape back to Tuscaloosa with a win?  If their underperformance yesterday is any indication, they could wind up as cannon fodder for the Bulldogs.

Conversely, Georgia would be wise to prepare as if they shall be in the fight of their lives, because, well, because Alabama, that’s why.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma State in the Big XII Championship game (Arlington, Texas)

Credit the Big XII with two things:  one, they get it right by selecting the contestants for their conference championship game.  Forget these silly divisions:  simply select the top two best teams, and let them slug it out.  Okay, “slug” might be too strong a word since this is the Big XII, which defensively is almost a pillow-fight of a conference (Oklahoma notwithstanding).  Nevertheless, the Bears vs. the Cowboys should be a marvelous matchup.

The other thing that the Big XII gets right is selecting the best possible location within their geographic footprint in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  To be sure, the B1G and SEC have gotten it right, respectively, for a long time in that same regard, with the former playing in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy (which is perfect for the B1G), and now Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the SEC in Atlanta (before then, they played in the Georgia Dome: perfect in either case).

Houston vs. Cincinnati in the AAC championship game

When was the last time we all looked forward to the AAC championship game?  Perhaps starting now.  If you’re not, you should.  Cincinnati is undefeated and could earn a coveted playoff berth if they win out.  Meanwhile, Houston has but one loss, has played very strongly as of late, and could be a likely spoiler.

No neutral site here:  the two teams shall be duking it out in the Bearcats’ home field of Nippert Stadium.  As an undefeated team, UC has earned this advantage.

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest in the ACC championship game (Charlotte)

What, no Clemson?  Correct, no Tigers in this ACC championship.  Nevertheless, we ought not to overlook this game, as it too could be a great one, pitting (if you’ll pardon the pun) two teams that are focused and tenacious.  Yes, bring out the popcorn for this one, too!

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

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Ryan Day, Ohio State

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another one bites the dust:  Wake Forest

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

Can the season never endHouston

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

Play this again, too:  TCU 31, Kansas 28

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

What?  Missouri 24, Florida 23 (OT)

HuhSouth Carolina 21, Auburn 17

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

also:  Army @ Liberty

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

Must win: No. 15 Wisconsin @ Minnesota

They have the same record?  Florida @ Florida State

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

Defensive struggle: Maryland @ Rutgers

Great game no one is talking about: UTEP @ UAB

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

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

Why are they playing? No. 24 Houston @ UConn

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ New Mexico State

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

Week 12 Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead to Week 13:

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

Indiana @ Purdue

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

Penn State @ Michigan State

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

Alabama @ Auburn

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

Houston @ UConn

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

Nebraska @ Iowa.

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

Georgia @ Georgia Tech

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

Louisville @ Kentucky

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

BYU @ USC

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

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State

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

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State

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

Ohio State @ Michigan

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

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

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

Lucky guy: Sonny Cumbie, Texas Tech

Poor guy: Matt Campbell, Iowa State

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another one bites the dust:  Oklahoma

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

Can the season never endBaylor

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

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

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

What?  Mississippi State 43, No. 17 Auburn 34

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

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

Oh – my – GodKansas 57, Texas 56 (OT)

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

They have the same record?  Florida @ Missouri

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech

Defensive struggle: Illinois @ No. 20 Iowa

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

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

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

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

Plenty of good seats remaining: Southern Miss @ Louisiana Tech

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

Week 11 Thoughts:

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

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

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

Looking ahead to Week 12:

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

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

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

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

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

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

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

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

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity: NC State

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

Can the season never endSMU

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

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

Never play this again: Florida State 59, UMass 3

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

HuhAppalachian State 30, No. 17 Coastal Carolina 27

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

Upset alert: No. 9 Iowa @ Wisconsin

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

Offensive explosion: Texas @ No. 16 Baylor

Defensive struggle: No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Purdue @ Nebraska

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

Also:  Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia vs Kalane Sitake of BYU

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

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

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

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

Week 8 Thoughts:

Penn State vs Illinois

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

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

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

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

Army vs Wake Forest

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

Purdue vs. Wisconsin

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

Pittsburgh vs Clemson

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

Indiana vs Ohio State

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

Alabama vs. Tennessee

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

Looking ahead:  Michigan @ Michigan State

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

Penn State @ Ohio State

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

Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville

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

Ole Miss @ Auburn

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

Texas @ Baylor

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

Louisville @ NC State

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

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

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

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

Lucky guy: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisivlle

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Ed Orgeron, LSU

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  BYU

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

Can the season never endIowa

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

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

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

What?  Florida State 35, North Carolina 25

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

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma State @ Texas

Defensive struggle: Nebraska @ Minnesota

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

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

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

Why are they playing? Army @ Wisconsin

Plenty of good seats remaining: Arizona @ Colorado

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

Week 6 Thoughts:

Iowa vs. Penn State

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

Oklahoma vs Texas

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

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

Texas A&M vs Alabama

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

Kentucky vs. LSU

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

Looking ahead:  Kentucky @ Georgia

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

Ole Miss @ Tennessee

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

Texas vs Oklahoma State

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

Postseason College Football Awards 2019-2020 January 20, 2020

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

Poor guy: Ryan Day, Ohio State

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami, FL

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Wisconsin

Did the season start?  Utah

Can the season end?  Miami, FL

Can the season never endLSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random Bowl Game Thoughts:

Fiesta Bowl:

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

Outback Bowl:

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

Peach Bowl:

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

Music City Bowl:

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

Alamo Bowl:

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

Gator Bowl:

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

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

The Championship Game:

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

College Football Awards, Week 14 (2019) December 1, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were himRyan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama (hon. mention:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan)

Lucky guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, South Florida

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Arth, Akron

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Georgia (defeated Georgia Tech 52-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Rutgers 27-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to No. 9 Baylor 61-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Maryland (lost to Michigan State 19-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated Louisville 45-13)

Dang, they’re good: Utah

Dang, they’re bad:  Akron

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Alabama

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 15 Auburn 48, No. 5 Alabama 45

Never play this again: No. 9 Baylor 61, Kansas 6

What?  Virginia 39, No. 24 Virginia Tech 30

HuhKansas State 27, No. 23 Iowa State 17

Are you kidding me??  No. 12 Wisconsin 38, No. 8 Minnesota 17

Oh – my – GodNo. 15 Auburn 48, No. 5 Alabama 45

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 14, pre-week 15)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Georgia vs No. 1 LSU (SEC Championship)

Nest-best game of the week:  No. 2 Ohio State vs No. 10 Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 21 Cincinnati @ No. 16 Memphis (AAC Champ game/rematch)

Upset alert: No. 13 Oregon vs No. 5 Utah (Pac-12 Championship)

Must win: B1G Championship game to ensure OSU goes to playoffs

Offensive explosion: No. 8 Baylor vs No. 6 Oklahoma (Big XII Championship)

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

Great game no one is talking about: UAB @ Florida Atlantic

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs Mario Cristobal of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Virginia @ No. 3 Clemson  (ACC Championship)

Week 14 Thoughts:

Michigan vs Ohio State

This was supposed to be Harbaugh’s year in beating Ohio State, right?  Turns out, not so much.  Not while Ohio State is still chock-full of Urban Meyer’s players.  That is part of the Buckeyes’ success this year.  The other part is taking those talent players and making them more relaxed and less uptight than when Meyer himself was coaching them (enter Ryan Day).  Can he himself bring in the same caliber of players?  If not, then this high-flying success obviously has a limited shelf life.

As for Michigan, they are still a very good team.  A 9-3 record is commensurate with most of the better years of this proud program.  Also, those three losses came to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State, all of which are running at peak strength.  Moreover, an academic powerhouse in a cold-weather setting like Michigan is at a systemic disadvantage from recruiting the same caliber of athletes as consistently as football-first Ohio State.  Simple as that.  Michigan, Harbaugh is likely as well as you are going to do. Make the most of it, and enjoy your 9-10 win seasons.

Auburn vs Alabama

Rivalry weekend did not disappoint across the boards (for the most part), starting at the top.  Yesterday’s Iron Bowl was the highest-scoring affair in the history of this bitterest of rivalries.  For Auburn, this ought to quell any doubts about Gus Malzahn’s tenure.  For Alabama fans, this obviously raises questions.  Can they still sustain a championship drive after so many playoff appearances and wins?  Has Nick Saban peaked, only now for us to witness a slow, steady decline?  Is it a good idea for Saban to retire now, while he’s still on top (barely)?  The sooner these questions are addressed, the better.

Kentucky vs Louisville

The Wildcats’ lopsided win over the Cardinals show that even a low-level SEC team usually beats a middling ACC team.  The real shock of this game was how Louisville’s defense quit, and against their biggest rival, no less.  This shows that, while Coach Scott Satterfield is ahead of schedule in implementing his sound team culture (seven wins is a huge turnaround from last year’s debacle, after all), there are still some remnants of the Bobby Petrino fallout/poison that still need to be exorcised.

Purdue vs Indiana

On paper, the Hoosiers were the favored team.  Based on their performance this year, they should have won.  And win they did, but not without an intense fight.  This was a very competitive, very dramatic, thus very engaging matchup for the Old Oaken Bucket.  For Purdue, the big mistake came in overtime, where the better team typically wins.  Purdue answered IU’s score with a TD of their own.  They tied it up with an extra point.  That as a mistake.  With current momentum on their side, they should have gone for two.  Giving the better team more chances to score points turns out to be suicide, and that played out exactly in the Hoosiers’ favor.  Let us hope that Coach Jeff Brohm learned this lesson, among other lessons of less hype, more humility, and more concentration on fundamentals and finishing a game.

All that said, Indiana celebrates its first eight-win season since the early 1990s and the days of Coach Bill Mallory.  Way to go, Hoosiers.

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 11 (2019) November 11, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were himEd Orgeron, LSU (hon. mention:  P.J. Fleck, Minnesota)

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Lucky guy: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: James Franklin, Penn State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chad Morris, Arkansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Maryland 73-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Michigan State (lost to Illinois 37-34)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Vanderbilt (lost to No. 10 Florida 50-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Oregon State (lost to Washington 19-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Western Kentucky (defeated Arkansas 45-19)

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  UMass

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Penn State

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Northwestern

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 17 Minnesota 31, No. 4 Penn State 26

Never play this again: No. 1 Ohio State, Maryland 14

What?  Tulsa 34, UCF 31

HuhTexas 27, No. 16 Kansas State 24

Are you kidding me??  No. 2 LSU 46, No. 3 Alabama 41

Oh – my – GodNo. 17 Minnesota 31, No. 4 Penn State 26

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for:  No. 5 Georgia @ No. 13 Auburn

Next-best game of the week:  No. 24 Indiana @ No. 11 Penn State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Tulane @ Temple

Upset alert: UCLA @ No. 8 Utah

Must win: No. 8 Oklahoma @ No. 10 Baylor

Offensive explosion: No. 18 Memphis @ Houston

Defensive struggle: Kentucky @ Vanderbilt

Great game no one is talking about: Texas @ Iowa State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of Kansas vs Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State

Who’s bringing the body bags?  No. 2 Ohio State @ Rutgers

Why are they playing? Alabama State @ Florida State

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ Northwestern

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  UIW @ New Mexico State

Week 11 Thoughts:

Alabama vs LSU

What more can be said about this dramatic and incredibly consequential game?  On paper, was it LSU’s victory really an upset?  They were ranked No. 2 in the polls ahead of Alabama at No. 3, after all.  So what made the Tigers’ win an upset?  Call it a mental block.  Call it a [proverbial] monkey on LSU’s back.  They had, after all, lost to the Crimson Tide eight straight times, often with national championship aspirations on the line.  This time, they finally won, and now, the Tigers control their own destiny to Atlanta and to the Playoffs as well.

Minnesota vs Penn State

The Golden Gophers have earned their biggest win in more than a decade.  They currently lead the Western Division of the Big Ten.  While they control their own destiny to the conference championship, they have a challenging road ahead if they want to make it to Indianapolis.  Their next game is at No. 18 Iowa, a border rivalry where they play for one of the most prominent trophies in college football, the Floyd of Rosedale.  After a respite against a down Northwestern, they close out the regular season at home against Wisconsin.  The Badgers alone are a tough out, and they usually are the perennial Western representative in the B1G championship.  Factor in the border rivalry and the fact that both teams play for the Paul Bunyan Axe (have you seen the size of that thing?), and one is apt to anticipate a high-stakes, high-drame showdown in Minneapolis come Nov. 30.  But first, the Gophers have to win their other remaining games, starting with Iowa, which is never easy these days, Floyd or no Floyd.

Florida vs Vanderbilt

This blowout only merits mention because the Commodores attempted a “sad field goal” and failed.  The definition of a “sad field goal” is if your team is down by more than two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and yet you go for a field goal anyhow.  That sounds sad just saying it, does it not?  Well, Vandy attempted the saddest of field goals as they were down 49-0 to Florida in The Swamp late in the 4th quarter.  Instead of going for it with nothing to lose, they attempted a sad field goal, which went wide left.  Like a train wreck, you can’t not watch.

Looking ahead:  Indiana at Penn State

When was the last time that Indiana was ranked in football?  Give up?  It was 1994.  Bill Mallory was the head coach at that time.  He built a decent program, too, winning the 1991 Copper Bowl.  But his labors went unnoticed because IU was more basketball-obsessed than it is today, which saying something.  Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope for the Hoosiers, but if they put up a fight against wounded Penn State, it should be an entertaining game.

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 10 (2019) November 4, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Dan Mullen, Florida

Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Poor guy: Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tom Allen, Indiana

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Wofford 59-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Auburn (defeated Ole Miss 20-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UTSA (lost to Texas A&M 45-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Georgia Tech (lost to Pittsburgh 20-10)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Liberty (defeated UMass 63-21)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  SMU

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Rutgers

Can the season never endOregon

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 8 Georgia 24, No. 6 Florida 17

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 59, Wofford 14

What?  Georgia Southern 24, No. 20 Appalachian State 21

HuhPurdue 31, Nebraska 27

Are you kidding me??  No. 8 Georgia 24, No. 6 Florida 17

Oh – my – GodNo. 24 Memphis 54, No. 15 SMU 48

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 LSU @ No. 2 Alabama

Next-best game of the week:  No. 5 Penn State @ No. 13 Minnesota

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Appalachian State @ South Carolina

Best non-Power Five matchup: Wyoming @ No. 21 Boise State

Upset alert: Iowa State @ No. 9 Oklahoma (hon. mention:  Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Wake Forest)

Must win: No. 20 Kansas State @ Texas

Offensive explosion: Kansas State @ Texas

Defensive struggle: No. 18 Iowa @ No. 16 Wisconsin

Great game no one is talking about: Ball State @ Western Michigan

Intriguing coaching matchup:  James Franklin of Penn State vs P.J. Fleck of Minnesota

Who’s bringing the body bags? Maryland @ No. 3 Ohio State

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Texas State (dishonorable mention: Purdue @ Northwestern)

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Vanderbilt @ No. 6 Florida

Week 10 Thoughts:

Again, am I the only one who has noticed that waaaaay too many teams have bye-weeks for upcoming week 10?

Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech

Earlier in the awards list, I listed Justin Fuente as the “Poor Guy” of the week.  Really, though, I should have created a special, one-off category for him this week called “Stupid Guy” instead.  His Virginia Tech team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the last few minutes of the game by persistently playing a “prevent” defense (specifically, rushing only three and dropping back the remaining eight) that allowed for Notre Dame to pick the Hokies’ secondary apart in the final minutes, play by play.  Not once did Virginia Tech mount anything resembling a pass rush, and the Irish made them pay dearly for not doing so.  All it would have taken would be to rush a couple of extra men, as one or two sacks in the process would have ruined Notre Dame’s day.  But no.  Once again, we are reminded that the only thing the prevent defense prevents is the implementer of said defense from winning the game.  Period.

Georgia vs Florida

Can anybody recall, within recent memory, a Georgia-Florida game with as much drama, excitement, and close play as this week’s matchup?  Neither can I.

SMU vs Memphis

Another undefeated bites the dust.  May your undefeated season rest in peace, SMU.  Still, what a game, and what a moment.  ESPN’s College Gameday crew visited Memphis for the first time, and the fans came out in droves to celebrate the arrival and to show their support for their Memphis Tigers.  The latter point is especially worth noting.  U-Memphis has historically been known as a basketball school.  Yet an ESPN-televised game at night, in front of a sellout crowd in the Liberty Bowl stadium, with ranked Memphis taking on then-undefeated SMU shows that UM’s football prowess is on the rise, and that is always a wonderful thing, notwithstanding the unfortunate side-effect of SMU’s undefeated season going by the boards.

Utah vs Washington

Utah needed to bring their A-game to Seattle, since the Huskies can be unpredictable at times.  Eventually, the Utes did just that.  Combine their win at Washington with USC’s crushing loss at home to No. 7 Oregon, and Utah controls their own destiny regarding clinching a Pac-12 South berth for the conference championship game.

An Open Letter to Coach Patric Morrison of Madison, Indiana, (and all other parties concerned) May 23, 2019

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Dear Coach Morrison and hiring committee:

                As a Madison [Ind.] Consolidated High School football alumnus (Class of 1998), allow me to congratulate you on your recent promotion to associate athletics director.  I also wish to extend congratulations on a job well done as head football coach, within the context of that with which you and the community have had to contend.  You have shown good vision in your player development; you have demonstrated that you deeply cared for your players; you were also forward-thinking in your team-building measures, too.  In my day, for example, it would have been unheard of for a head coach at Madison or some place similar to take his team all the way up to Canton, Ohio to engage in some team-building/skills-building drills.  It remains a surprise to me that such creative measures did not translate better into the wins column come that season.

Be all that as it may, I have observed the progress from afar of Madison football off and on as any concerned alumnus would for his former team.  During my college years, I served for three seasons as a staff member on the Purdue football team, and I learned through working with Coach Joe Tiller and his able assistant coaches about what it takes to build a winning program.  Over time I have come to some conclusions with regard to the challenges the program continues to face and what sort of coach it would take to effectively address them.  This is to build on the firm foundation you, Coach Morrison, have diligently set in place.

As most of us are aware, Madison faces one systemic challenge of being the smallest school in the Hoosier Hills Conference.  Moreover, while some rival schools are in conferences with growing, more dynamic populations (e.g., Floyd Central and Jeffersonville), the town (pardon me, “city”) of Madison’s population has been stagnant, if not gradually declining, for the past two decades.  Bottom line:  our pool for talent is already limited compared to the competition.  Other environmental factors – too many, too complex to list for now — on top of that stack the proverbial deck even further against us.  Can we even win at all in such a situation?  I believe we still can.  Here’s what we need:

As is the case in college football, it all starts with the coach.  In the high school and college games, the coach plays an outsized role in program success compared to his factoring into success in the NFL (though the head coach is still vitally important there, too).  At those levels, players first have to want to play for the coach (indeed, in college, the players literally choose to play for him and his assistants).  Moreover, at the high school level (and yes, college, too), the coach, in addition to being sufficiently adept at the X’s and O’s, also needs to be the team’s spiritual leader, for lack of a better term.  That is, he must be ever-vigilant in keeping the team motivated and keeping its morale high.  Superior morale is an absolute must-have for Madison football.  The boys need to be amped-up and excited to take the field more so than the other team.  It is one of the few advantages they can leverage.

That means a coach capable of lighting a huge fire under the team’s collective arse.  It means giving extra-rousing motivational speeches in the locker room before kick-off and at the end of half-time.  That also means a coach who will encourage the guys on the team to celebrate on the sidelines during a successful series.  Not only will such things sustain good morale, but it will create a fun environment that everyone can see – including able-bodied male students in the stands who would come to realize they want to be a part of that, and contribute to the team in so doing.

MadisonFootballLogo

This logo, only several years old, is one befitting a good high school program.  What Madison [Ind.] Consolidated High School needs to do is find a coach to match; one who is sufficiently dynamic and has a singular vision to create a winning culture.

Snazzy uniforms also help for good morale at that level.  To that end, I must once again commend Coach Morrison, this time for the neat-looking uniform image he has crafted during his tenure (they’re light years better than the generic rags my teammates and I had to play in).  His successor must keep this good look going, and the only changes he should be making there, if any, should take things even further, provided they do not exceed the bounds of good taste (no need for the Oregon unis of 2007 with the anti-skid patterns on the knees and shoulders, please!).  Yes, that means it is important to press candidates on their uniform-styling philosophy.  If the potential new hire confesses in the interview that he is a “Penn State uniforms kind of guy”, that’s an automatic deal-breaker.  He’s gone; next candidate.  Period.  Why?  Because a predilection for such generic uniforms shows that he is unimaginative and rigid against change.  What we need is a coach who is the exact opposite – very imaginative and willing to pivot on a dime in terms of offensive or defensive strategy.  I know this from experience.  We failed to win a single game my junior-year season (1996) because the head coach and his staff were too inflexible to make changes that desperately needed to be made.  Such changes ranging from re-shuffling the offensive line to strategic offensive changes that would have played to the strengths that we had at the time would have minimized our weaknesses and actually would have put us in the position to win games, which is a coach’s number one job, lest we forget.

These two things would be a solid start.  But what about the deficit of talent?  With limited practice time, talent on the field often becomes the deciding factor, after all.  Herein thus lies the core challenge.  In addition to being good and keeping up team morale in all its facets, the next head coach at MCHS must have a combination of boundless energy and a Messianic complex where he is bent, in part, on maximizing the turnout within the school.  To accomplish this, he’ll need to win over the support of the community – not an easy task for a town susceptible to complacency.  He’ll have to attend every community function, every community festival (e.g., Old Court Days, the county fair, the Madison Regatta, etc.), every local church cookout, and spread the word about the new mission of the team.  He’ll have to kiss a hundred babies and shake thousands of hands as if he were running for high state-wide office.  In this process, he will have to sell as many folks as possible on his new, winning vision for the program, and how this new, winning vision will help put the town on the map.  Such is what it will take to win over supporters within the community and thus build up the support infrastructure – support that in turn will encourage an improvement, and ultimately, a maximization of turnout that the team desperately needs.

This aforementioned Messianic complex will also be necessary to withstand blowback from parents who might be incensed that their son would be utilized less or in a different way.  If you have to replace a drop-back QB for an option QB, for example, because therein lies the opportunity to start winning games, you’ll have to brush aside the ruckus raised by parents as so much background noise irrelevant to keeping everyone’s eyes on the prize of winning games.  Vince Lombardi was right:  winning isn’t everything, but it is the only thing.  Otherwise, why put in all the effort?  Yes, a more detailed exploration of this side-issue merits another article for another time.

The next step after that would be to continue the change in organizational culture.  All currently-available evidence shows that Coach Morrison made great strides in changing the team culture towards a supportive one.  The next head coach needs to take that and translate it into a winning one.  This is arguably the toughest challenge of them all – changing an organizational culture from a losing one to a winning one.  Where to begin?  Those in charge of hiring need to look at coaches who have turned around organizational cultures in the past.  A great example is what Barry Alvarez did at Wisconsin.  For years, they were a doormat of the Big Ten Conference.  Nowadays, they are perennial conference contenders and routinely win bowl games.  You and the hiring committee need to study what he did, then ask your coaching candidates if they would enact similar things.  You could also provide necessary guidance-as-support to ensure that you are on the same page and are pursuing the same goals together.

Lastly, it almost goes without saying that if you are truly committed to building a winning program at MCHS, you must consider what you need to do attract such a candidate, and make any accommodation necessary to bring him in. Given the unique dynamism that a head coach will have to exhibit at MCHS to build a winning culture, is the hiring committee willing to make the necessary accommodations to attract such a leader that the football program needs?  Are you willing to pay a little extra?  Are you willing to clear whatever path is necessary with regard to his teaching skill sets?  Are you willing to create an environment at school that gives the new head coach ample opportunity to interact with this players/students?  Shoving him off to the side as a junior high study hall monitor like you did with Coach Getts back 2001 is not going to cut it.

That might mean twisting a few arms and cajoling a few members of the school board to see it your way.  But this might be the only way to bring in the coach you need who will reliably win games.  This will take political competence and the power of persuasion on your part to accomplish, but it’s also important that you do so.  Sell them on the idea of this being the opportunity we’ve been looking for to put Madison “on the map”.  The last thing we need is for some narrow-minded warm body to foul things up because they cannot see past their own complacency.

                To summarize, here are the bottom-line guiding suggestions for Coach Morrison and all others who have a say in the hiring decision of his successor:

  1. Ensure the coach is proven to boost and maintain high morale on the team, within all facets of the game, from game-time celebrations to sufficiently-stylish uniforms (the latter of which is already headed in the right direction, and good on Coach Morrison for this).  Can he light a fire under the team and keep it lit all season-long?
  2. Ensure the coach is both imaginative and flexible.  Is he willing to change offensive strategies mid-season if that’s what it takes to win games?  Is he willing to think creatively in what that new offensive strategy might entail?
  3. Does the coach have the necessary tunnel vision to withstand or brush aside blowback and keep his, and the team’s, eyes on the proverbial prize?
  4. Gauge the level of the coach’s energy.  He will need maximum energy to campaign as if he is running for political office so as to maximize the team’s turnout.  Once hired, guide him on all possible opportunities in the community to spread his message and thus his vision.
  5. How good is the coach at changing organizational cultures?  More than anything, this could help him build a lasting legacy of program success.  Can he cite examples he knows of regarding what other coaches have done to convert losing cultures into winning ones (see:  Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin).
  6. Lastly, are you and the powers that be willing to do your parts in creating the environment the head coach needs to succeed in his mission?

Does this all sound like a tall order?  Initially, yes.  But the further one implements this list, the more doable it shall appear.  All of this is necessary to overcome the systemic challenges that Madison football faces.  If the hiring committee is not committed to the last point, then then they will fail in passing muster with the previous five points, for it shall prevent the attraction of the uniquely dynamic coach you need to properly build on what Coach Morrison has already put in place.  Either you are committed to doing what it takes to bring in this sort of head coach, or you’ll end up settling for some guy who seems nice enough and enjoy being a whipping boy of the HHC on a weekly basis in the fall.  The choice is yours.  Let’s choose to build on Coach Morrison’s supportive legacy and do what it takes to create a wining culture.