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College Football Awards Week 4 (2017) September 24, 2017

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Gary Patterson, TCU

Glad I’m not him: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Lucky guy: James Franklin, Penn State

Poor guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Barry Odom, Missouri

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated UNLV 54-21)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Tennessee (defeated UMass 17-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kent State (lost to No. 9 Louisville 42-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Louisiana Tech (lost to South Carolina 17-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Utah State (defeated San Jose State 61-10)

Dang, they’re good: Michigan

Dang, they’re bad:  San Jose State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Florida State

Can the season end?  UTEP

Can the season never endGeorgia

GAMES
Play this again:  Texas A&M 50, Arkansas 43, OT

Play this again, too:  No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19

Never play this again: Utah State 61, San Jose State 10

What? Miami (OH) 31, Central Michigan 14

HuhArizona State 37, No. 24 Oregon 35

Are you kidding me??  No. 16 TCU 44, No. 6 Oklahoma State 31

Oh – my – GodNC State 27, No. 12 Florida State 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Clemson @ No. 13 Virginia Tech

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Eastern Michigan @ Kentucky

Best non-Power Five matchup: Memphis @ UCF

Upset alert: Vanderbilt @ No. 21 Florida

Must win: No. 11 Georgia @ Tennessee

Offensive explosion: No 5 USC @ No. 16 Washington State

Defensive struggle: No. 24 Mississippi State @ No. 13 Auburn

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Miami @ Duke

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Todd Graham of Arizona State vs David Shaw of Stanford

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 11 Ohio State @ Rutgers

Why are they playing? Troy @ No. 25 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: San Jose State @ UNLV

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

Week 4 Take-aways:

One conclusion after today:  Michigan is good, and while Purdue is both exciting and improving, they are still not strong or far along enough in Coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround campaign for the Boilermakers to be able to effectively take down the heavyweights of the conference.  Purdue was continually outmanned on both sides of the line of scrimmage due to the Wolverines’ obviously superior talent.  That said, at this rate, Purdue will eventually get to the point where they can upset if not defeat Michigan and the like.  Just not today.

This week has been characterized not so much by surprises or upsets as it has by narrow escapes.  That is to say, teams that were favored almost getting upset by underdogs, only to narrowly escape in the end.  To wit:  Tennessee only managed to eke out a 17-13 win over lowly UMass, at home.  South Carolina defeated struggling Louisiana Tech by only one point, 17-16.  After a dismal start to the season, under-performing Baylor briefly led No. 3 Oklahoma in the second half before eventually losing by only eight points, 49-41.

Oh, but it gets better.  No. 4 Penn State had to score a touchdown in literally the last second of the game to triumph over Iowa, 21-19.  Then, unranked Kentucky was leading No. 20 Florida throughout a good chunk of the game, but gradually gave up the lead to the Gators in the 4th quarter, allowing the Gators to win, 28-27.  Let’s face it:  if you’re Kentucky, you blow 4th quarter leads to Florida.  It’s what you do.

Last note:  how on Earth did Stanford lose to San Diego State last week?  Yes, SDSU is currently ranked No. 22, but Stanford would have been ranked higher than that had they not allowed that notch in the “L” column.  Did losing to USC take that much out of the Cardinal?  Speaking of SDSU and narrow escapes, the Aztecs did beat unranked Air Force today, but only by four points.  But that might be more of a commentary on the Falcon’s ball-control, option-oriented offense and less on possible consistencies on the part of the former team.

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College Football Awards, Week 8 2016 October 23, 2016

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Lucky guy: Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Poor guy: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State  Hon. Mention:  Jim Mora, UCLA

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Seth Littrell, North Texas

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tom Herman, Houston

Desperately seeking … anything:  Barry Odom, Missouri

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Michigan (defeated Illinois 41-8)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: South Carolina (defeated UMass 34-28)

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

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: SMU (defeated No. 11 Houston 38-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Auburn (defeated No. 17 Arkansas 56-3)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Texas State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ohio State

Honorable Mention:  Houston

Did the season start?  Arkansas

Can the season end?  Bowling Green

Can the season never endLouisville

GAMES

Play this again:  Penn State 24, No. 2 Ohio State 21

Play this again, too:  No. 16 Oklahoma 66, Texas Tech 59

Never play this again: No. 7 Louisville 54, NC State 13

Close call:  No. 14 Boise State 28, BYU 27

What? Temple 46, South Florida 30

HuhMiddle Tennessee 51, Missouri 45

Double-Huh? Colorado 10, Stanford 5

Are you kidding me?  SMU 38, No. 11 Houston 16

Oh – my – GodPenn State 24, No. 2 Ohio State 21

NEXT WEEK

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

Ticket to die for: No. 7 Nebraska @ No. 11 Wisconsin

Also: No. 3 Clemson @ No. 12 Florida State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Army @ Wake Forest

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 22 Navy @ South Florida

Upset alert: No. 15 Auburn @ Ole Miss also: No. 4 Washington @ No. 17 Utah

Must win: No. 25 Virginia Tech @ Pittsburgh (Thurs.)

Offensive explosion: No. 10 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: No. 7 Nebraska @ No. 11 Wisconsin

Great game no one is talking about: Miami @ Notre Dame

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Richt of Miami vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

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

Why are they playing? Samford @ Mississippi State

Plenty of good seats remaining: UNLV @ San Jose State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Kansas @ No. 16 Oklahoma

Week 8 Take-aways:

November maybe for everything, but we do not have to wait for November to know that one is already clear: it’s Alabama and everyone else. The Crimson Tide dominated the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies yesterday, proving yet again why they deserve to be the No. 1 team in the nation.

That’s right folks, this upcoming Saturday, Miami plays Notre Dame: the ol’ “Convicts vs. the Catholics.” This became a very marquee matchup in the 1980s, for that was a time when the Hurricanes were an up-and-coming, championship-contending program, first under Howard Schnellenberger, then continued and expanded under Jimmy Johnson. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish were as strong as ever, continuing to vie for the national title every year, and in fact did so in 1988. The “Convicts vs. Catholics” slugfests of the 1980s would be akin to, say, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team playing Nick Saban’s Alabama squad. Even though both the Canes and the Irish are diminished in talent this year, the matchup is a nice nod to the more storied contests of 25 to 30 years ago.

The loss that Ohio State sustained on the road to Penn State is all the more amazing when one considers that if the Buckeyes had triumphed, it would have been their 20th consecutive road win. Depending on how long Urban Meyer stays at the helm in Columbus, the Buckeyes will no doubt be in a good position to break this record yet again. Nevertheless, the Bucks’ loss is the first signature win for Penn State in the James Franklin era.

Louisville defeating NC State by such an obscene margin (the final score was 54-13) shows how dangerous the Cardinals are when they play up to their potential. Unlike last weekend against Duke, they did not have a bye week to hobble them. Make no mistake about it: the Wolfpack is a good team. The scare they put into Clemson in Death Valley, followed by an upset win over Notre Dame, demonstrates this. The conclusion to which one comes is that, at full-strength, the Cardinals can take almost any team in the nation, save Alabama. Don’t believe me? Here is a thought experiment: would Louisville have offensively stagnated for such stretches as Ohio State did in Happy Valley last night? Food for thought.

Meanwhile, Texas embarrassed themselves yet again on the road. No, the margin of defeat was not great, but the fact of the matter is that this was a winnable [road] game against Kansas State. Yet the Longhorns have squandered numerous opportunities and their defense continues to struggle just as much as they did during week 1. Such a lack of improvement points to deficient coaching.

Lest this be dismissed as a rush to judgment, consider this. If a traditional power (such as Texas) has the right coach in place, the turnaround, manifest by winning games, shall be readily apparent by the second year of the coach’s tenure. Consider Michigan in year two under Jim Harbaugh. Already, the Wolverines are in playoff contention. Consider that Urban Meyer in year two at Ohio State won the national championship. Consider that Nick Saban had Alabama playing back up to specs by year two of his time in Tuscaloosa, and led the Tide to a national championship by year three.

Yet it is now the third year of the Charlie Strong era at Texas, and the program continues to stagnate, if not regress. The best-case scenario is 6-6 for the year, but more realistically, expect a 4-8 record. Such a lack of improvement by now has exhausted everyone’s patience, and it is the consensus conclusion that Coach Strong must go. Sorry, Charlie.

On Morgan Burke and Purdue February 19, 2016

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MJB_Purdue1Morgan J. Burke has been the Athletics Director at Purdue University for more than 20 years.  On Thursday, Feb. 11, he announced that he would retire from this position, effective June of next year.  During his lengthy tenure, he has garnered a reputation amongst his peers as one of the most competent AD’s in major college athletics, especially in terms of finances.  With so many AD’s spending money as if their budgets were bottomless pits, Burke has been very fiscally sound, and has enjoyed the deserved reputation as a prudent business manager as a result.

When he took over as the top athletics administrator in 1993, Purdue had the absolute worst athletics program in the Big Ten.  Hammer and Rails has an article that puts this in perspective, including that fact that the football program only had five (yes, five) bowl appearances total in its history, and was in year eight of a 12-year bowl game drought.  The schools’ baseball, ahem, “stadium” would have been considered poor by high school standards.  The swimming and diving teams’ home pool was in some hidden location underground at Lambert Fieldhouse.  Ross-Ade Stadium was practically falling apart.  In short, the department itself was operating on a shoestring budget with awful facilities and teams badly-performing as a result.

In the span of Burke’s tenure, Ross-Ade received much-needed renovations, including leading the way in building an aircraft carrier-sized press box on the side of one’s football stadium.  The football team has enjoyed 12 bowl appearances between 1997 and 2012, including an elusive and prestigious Rose Bowl berth.  Mackey Arena has also enjoyed major upgrades, along with being home to a men’s team that has delivered four men’s basketball Big Ten titles and a women’s national championship.  For what it’s worth, women’s golf brought home the national title in 2010. A nice, more comprehensive list of all that Burke has done well can be found here.

Moreover, (again, for what it’s worth), women’s soccer, softball, baseball, and tennis all have new facilities.  The new swimming and diving pool, opened up ca. 2000, is considered one of the finest college natatoria in the whole country.  While not exactly on most people’s radar screens, Purdue has become a diving powerhouse (e.g., David Boudia, 2012 Olympic gold medalist).

And yet, to speak with the Purdue University faithful these days, the firm impression is that the athletics department is in an absolute shambles.  Sure, it’s all well and good that the softball, baseball and soccer teams have wonderful facilities, and a fine reflection on the university that the swim teams have a jewel of a pool to call their own.  But there are problems afoot with the two highest-profile programs, those being football and men’s basketball.

The latter has been performing very inconsistently as of late, what with promising recruiting classes that fail to live up to their potential.  But even worse and more urgent is the absolute disgrace of the football team.  Coach Joe Tiller’s teams’ performances started waning during his last few years, especially since the 2005 season.  When former assistant coach to Tiller in Danny Hope took over (he had been the head coach at Eastern Kentucky University from 2003 through 2007), things kept declining further (5-7 in 2009, 4-8 in 2010).  Coach Hope enjoyed only two bowl appearances after going 7-6 in 2011 and 6-6 in 2012.  Ironically, he was fired despite a bowl berth in 2012.

Herein lies a symptom of a systemic problem.  Purdue has been NOTORIOUS for not paying its coaches even average market value.  Coach Tiller was one of the lowest-paid football coaches in the conference for one, and that did not change when the torch was passed to Coach Hope.  In college football, it’s all about the coach and the kind of playing talent that coach is able to recruit.  Just see what Brian Kelly has achieved at Notre Dame, in this era’s Sunbelt-dominated era of college football, or how Jim Harbaugh has been turning things around at Michigan to illustrate this crucial point.

Basically, Burke tried to make things work with Coach Hope while giving him a shoestring budget.  Coach Hope in turn did what he could with such a dearth of resources, but his performance on the field reflected the fact that he was not getting the type of support he needed to compete effectively in major college football.  Firing him became tantamount to killing the messenger.

But there are other dimensions to this problem.  Before and during the Coach Hope era, Purdue’s reputation for under-paying its athletic personnel was well-founded and deserved.  Even competent, ambitious people who worked on the administrative side of the department would leave for better pay at other schools, even to the intra-conference competition.  That especially went for assistant coaches who were worth a thing in the sport; after a few years of building a reputation at Purdue, they would soon leave for greener pastures.  As Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd often reminds us, “[C]oaches do not care about your fight song:  PAY them!”

Burke seemed to have gotten that memo when searching for a new football coach in the wake of Coach Hope’s departure.  He announced that he was raising additional funds to try to attract a better coaching talent.  Eventually, the searched settled on Darrell Hazell, then the head coach at Kent State who had a good year with the Golden Flashes (as an aside, snapping up a MAC coach who has had only one or two good years there into a Power Five Conference team is always a risky roll of the dice).  Case in point:  while Coach Hope’s base salary was $925,000 a year, Coach Hazell’s base salary was $1,750,000.  Better, but still not enough to attract talent on par with, say, James Franklin of Penn State or Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, let alone Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh.

Moreover, when the bigger players in the B1G are searching for their new coach, they never seem to have to announce some fundraising effort to be able to offer a big-name, proven winner of a coach a competitive salary.  Yet Purdue had to announce such an effort just to be able to pay its coach $1.75 million, which is still sub-average among the Power Five.

Before drilling even deeper to the root problem, let us keep things in perspective for now.  Burke has been proven that he is among the best AD’s in the country in terms of two things.  One is operations.  Having attended the Big Ten wrestling championships, hosted in Mackey Arena on March 3, 2012, I can personally attest that they were carried out flawlessly.

The other is financials.  The Big Ten is home to some gigantic athletics departments that include both Michigan and Ohio State, both of whom have a figurative license to print money.  Purdue, meanwhile is at a systemic disadvantage in that its athletic department receives ZERO money from the university.  Despite that handicap, Burke has led a very financially-sound department, with each fiscal year ending in the black.

But Burke’s weakness has been talent acquisition, which, frankly, is 90% of his job in the public’s eye.  He lucked out with Coach Tiller, who in hindsight had a limited shelf life of effectiveness without Drew Brees.  He tried going cheap with Coach Hope after Tiller, and that ended up crippling the program.  Although he doubled the head football coach’s salary at Purdue, he has wasted it on Darrell Hazell.  Granted, Hazell is a fine man who has raised outstanding kids and has done everything beyond reproach.  Moreover, he has done wonderful, marvelous things in reaching out to football alums.

Yet despite being a fine gentleman off the field, Coach Hazell’s on-the-field record has been only 6-30 in three seasons.  This dismal performance has led to a damaging effect on Purdue’s athletic and thus academic reputation to average people.  It has in turn led to major frustrations on the part of the Purdue alumni and related faithful.  Since Burke hired Hazell, a good bulk of this frustration has understandably been laid at the feet of the AD.

Thus, the initial reaction to the announcement of Burke’s eventual retirement:  why wait so long when a changing of the guard appears to be in order?  Sixteen months seems like a long time to wait to take the program into a new direction.  More to the point, is the change desperately in order?  Answer:  yes and no.  A two-decade tenure for an athletics director is long enough.  After that lengthy span of time, new blood is needed, with new leadership to take the department in new directions.  Given the current, disgraceful abyss of the football program and the inconsistent performance of men’s basketball, that new direction is obviously, desperately needed.

But will a changing of the guard at AD really help beget that?  After extensive deliberation and searching of perspectives, I am led to conclude that a new AD alone might not help bring about  the change Purdue desperately needs.  Perhaps Burke’s ineptitude at hiring a proven, big-name coach was a symptom of his being hamstrung by the Board of Trustees.

Most universities “get it.”  That is, they understand that college athletics, and football in particular, are front porches to their universities.  Meaning, the trustees of most major universities understand that football is the primary marketing tool, and they thus see the football team as a way of leveraging and building the schools’ entire reputation in the eyes of the general public.  Purdue, in contrast, sees athletics as a secondary mission, and has historically chosen to put academics first.  While this is noble, it is also short-sighted, given the context of today’s society, where we accept the use of a school’s football team as the primary promotion tool as normal and indeed, expected.

When podunk Appalachian State was vying for three consecutive national titles as the FCS level in football last decade, it was a huge shot in the arm for that school.  During a home game in the playoffs in 2007, the university’s president was on the sidelines wearing an ASU football jersey, joyously telling the sideline reporter for ESPN that applications for potential students to attend that university had skyrocketed.  Enough said.

Thus we are led to the core problem at hand:  why do the members of Purdue’s Board of Trustees fail to grasp this?  As long as they fail to understand this basic, modern tenant of university promotion, it might not matter how capable Burke’s replacement at AD will be.

Which Team Wants It More? December 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football Week 8 Awards October 19, 2014

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FSU-NotreDame2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Lucky guy: Jerry Kill, Minnesota

Poor guy: Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Desperately seeking a wake-up clue: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Art Briles, Baylor
Desperately seeking … anything: Will Muschamp, Florida

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 8 Michigan State (defeated Indiana 56-17)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated North Carolina State 30-18)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to No. 22 USC 56-28)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kansas (lost to Texas Tech 34-21)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: No. 7 Alabama (defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 59-0)

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

You know, they’re not so bad: Minnesota
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Baylor

Did the season start? Texas A&M
Can the season end? Georgia State
Can the season never end? Florida State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 2 Florida State 31, No. 5 Notre Dame, 27

Play this again, too: No. 20 Utah 29, Oregon State 23
Never play this again: South Carolina 41, Furman 10

What? Nevada 42, BYU 35

Huh? No. 14 Kansas State 31, No. 11 Oklahoma 30
Are you kidding me? No. 7 Alabama 59, No. 21 Texas A&M 0 (the shear blowout)

Oh – my – God: West Virginia 41, No. 4 Baylor 27

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)
Ticket to die for: No. 3 Ole Miss @ No. 24 LSU

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Temple @ Central Florida

Upset alert: Texas @ No. 11 Kansas State

Must win: No. 22 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State

Offensive explosion: No. 15 Arizona @ Washington State

Defensive struggle: Miami @ Virginia Tech
Great game no one is talking about: BYU @ Boise State

Intriguing coaching matchup: Urban Meyer of Ohio State vs. James Franklin of Penn State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 1 Mississippi State @ Kentucky (also:  UConn @ No. 18 East Carolina)

Why are they playing? UAB @ Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ UTSA

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Florida Atlantic @ No. 23 Marshall

 

Week 8 Random Thoughts:

  • While Michigan State is a solid choice for the “Thought you’d kick butt, you did” weekly award, the truth is, a number of teams ended up kicking butt, that in hindsight made sense that they would. Start with South Carolina (see: last week’s “Why are they playing?” nod), who beat relatively hapless Furman 41-10. In hindsight, a resurgent Ohio State team against a Rutgers team still learning to navigate the terrain of the Big Ten was also a clear would-be drubbing (result: 56-17). Even more obvious was the Colorado @ USC match-up. The Buffaloes still cannot get things together, while Steve Sarkesian is slowly building the Trojans back to national prominence. The 56-28 result, therefore, came as not surprise.
  • While Alabama could not be a more obvious choice for the weekly “Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did” award (59-0 over Texas A&M, their biggest lopsided shutout in 35 years), other games would have been decent choices as well. Start with Marshall’s butt-kicking of Florida International, 45-13. Even more of a surprise, though, was TCU’s drubbing of Oklahoma State, 42-9. On paper, these were closely-matched teams (No. 12 vs. No. 15, respectively). Turns out that in reality, they were not that close in terms of competitive prowess after all. Further down the food chain, Appalachian State – a newcomer to the FCS – beat up on Troy unexpectedly, 53-14. Sounds like the latter is a “Can the season end?” candidate. Stay tuned.
  • Last night’s Notre Dame @ Florida State slugfest is already an instant classic. Clearly one of the biggest, best games of the season thus far, it wins the “Play this again” award hands down. That said, despite some lop-sided victories in football this past weekend, plenty other games merit a second look nevertheless. Start with the late Thursday night game on the West Coast, Utah @ Oregon State. The Utes went into Reser Stadium, took the Beavers into overtime, and walked out victorious. Speaking of the West Coast, take a look at the final score between UCLA @ Cal (spoiler alert: 36-34). Consider that you have the Bruins vs. Golden Bears, and two different shades of blue and gold going head-to-head, in the same conference, no less. With such similarities, such a score result is only fitting. In the Big Ten, one was able to enjoy an interesting matchup between Minnesota and Purdue. On one hand, the Golden Gophers have quietly risen to the top of their division in the conference, while Purdue has quietly improved from their doldrums. Indeed, the Boilers almost won on the road.
  • Notre Dame remains an enigma. After so many close calls against inferior teams, surely they would not have played No. 2 Florida State as closely as they did on the road. Not when having to result to strokes of luck to win against Stanford. Not when allowing Purdue to play them as closely as they did in Indianapolis. Yet on Saturday night, they played in Tallahassee like they deserved to be the 5th-ranked team in the nation. Further monitoring of the team will be in order to make sense of this inconsistent behavior. Fortunately, the schedule is such that it will allow for further clarity to be reached as it plays out. The Fighting Irish journey to Tempe, Ariz., to play Arizona State in three weeks, followed by Northwestern and then Louisville at home. Then, they cap off the season in Los Angeles against USC. One takes any one of those teams lightly at his own peril (translation: if the Irish fail to bring their A-game to any one of these matchups, they’re doomed).
  • As an aside, part of Ole Miss now being taken seriously in the national rankings (No. 3, currently), is that their defense is given plenty of respect with an up-and-coming brand: the “land shark” defense. One must admit, that has a nice ring to it!

College Football Week 5 Awards September 29, 2014

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Mizzou_USC628x471(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Jim Mora, UCLA

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

Lucky guy: Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Poor guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jeff Monken, Army

Desperately seeking … anything:  Brady Hoke, Michigan

 

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 17 LSU (defeated New Mexico State 63-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 1 Florida State (defeated NC State 56-41)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wyoming (lost to No. 9 Michigan State 56-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  South Florida (lost to Wisconsin 27-10)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Temple (defeated UConn 36-10)

Dang, they’re good: Auburn

Dang, they’re bad:  Tulane

You know, they’re not so bad:  Minnesota

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Indiana

Did the season start?  South Carolina

Can the season end?  SMU

Can the season never endUCLA

 

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 6 Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)

Play this again, too:  Cal 59, Colorado 56

Never play this again: TCU 56, SMU 0

What? Northwestern 29, Penn State 6

HuhYale 49, Army 43

Are you kidding me?  Maryland 37, Indiana 15

Oh – my – GodMissouri 21, No. 13 South Carolina 20

 

NEXT WEEK

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

Ticket to die for: No. 3 Alabama @ No. 11 Ole Miss (though you don’t want to miss No. 6 Texas A&M @ No. 12 Mississippi State, either, or No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 15 LSU, for that matter)

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: North Texas @ Indiana

Best non-Power Five matchup: Utah State @ BYU (also, Southern Miss @ Middle Tennessee)

Upset alert: No. 14 Stanford @ No. 9 Notre Dame

Must win: Virginia Tech @ North Carolina

Offensive explosion: Arizona @ No. 2 Oregon (Thurs.)

Defensive struggle: Purdue @ Illinois

Great game no one is talking about: Louisville @ Syracuse (Fri.)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Rich Rodriquez of Arizona vs. Mark Helfrich of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ West Virginia

Why are they playing? Marshall @ Old Dominion

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida Atlantic @ Florida International

They shoot horses, don’t they?  SMU @ East Carolina

 

Week 5 Random Thoughts:

– Having made these types of weekly articles during the college football season for the third straight year, without a doubt, the most difficult thing to accurately predict is the “offensive explosion” game each week. This time, I got it fairly close, seeing as how the score between the Clemson vs. North Carolina game ended at 50-35, in favor of the Tigers. The only problem was, there were plenty other “offensive explosions” to choose from in hindsight, such as Florida State vs. North Carolina State (56-41), or even Cal vs. Colorado (59-53). Even the Army-Yale game kept the scoreboard lit up at 49-43, with the Bulldogs – an FCS team – beating the Black Knights, an FBS team. Still, with a combined tally of 85, the originally-designated game turned out to be a good prediction after all.

–  Just for the record, “defensive struggles” are comparatively easier to predict. At a final score of 24-10, the Iowa @ Purdue game delivered reasonably on that prognostication, though Vandy @ Kentucky bested at mark with a final score of 17-7 in favor of the Wildcats. Nevertheless, in this day and age of ubiquitous spread offenses and no-huddles, 24-10 easily qualifies as a low-scoring contest.

–  After watching Purdue slowly give the game away to Iowa at home, something occurred to me, in two parts. Yes, the Boilermakers have improved from last year, but they are still inept. Also, having your home stadium only two-thirds full for homecoming is not a good sign.

–  In case you missed the fireworks at last week’s post-game press conference, Steve Spurrier tore in to his own team…after [South Carolina] won.  Heaven knows the hell there will be to pay for the Gamecock players after coughing it up at home to Mizzou this past Saturday evening.

–  Meanwhile, on the West Coast, UCLA is on a roll right now, having thumped a respectable Arizona State team in the desert, 62-27.  Mark your calendars for Oct. 11, because if these shadows remain unchanged, the matchup between the Bruins and the Oregon Ducks on that date will be a ticket t0 die for, Pac-12 edition.

–  The powers that be at Kansas already fired Charlie Weis from the head coaching position…after only four games…and they were only 2-2 (hey give them credit:  they DID beat Southeast Missouri State and Central Michigan).  Granted, the program was, over the course of the past two to three years, headed in the wrong direction anyhow, but it still seems odd firing one’s head coach only four games into the season after a 2-2 record.  There are two take-aways from this.  One is that Charlie Weis is clearly not built to be a head coach.  He is a brilliant offensive mind, to be sure, but many men do not have what it takes to lead other men over the hill on the field of battle.  Weis is one of those of many.  In hindsight, he would have been better off staying at Florida as an offensive coordinator, as that job much more effectively plays to his strengths as a coach.  The other take-away is in regards to the questionably hasty firing.  This is Kansas, after all, and is yet another thing that explains why the program is a perpetual bottom-feeder, with this being the latest in their strategic blunders.

Steve Sarkisian to USC December 3, 2013

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Steve SarkisianThe latest news has it that Steve Sarkisian has been named the next head coach at the University of Southern California.  When one considers that the available pool of good coaches is very limited right now (what with relatively few firings and hirings at this time) and most of the best coaches are already ensconced in good programs (Saban at Alabama, Meyer at Ohio State, etc.), this was an excellent hire.

Granted, many were advocating for the permanent hire of Ed Orgeron.  But as well as he has done in the moment, one must ask, could he sustain the positive trend long-term?  His track record might not suggest that.  Plus, we have seen the temp-to-permanent hire scenario before in major college football, and it usually does not turn out that well.  Remember Bobby Williams at Michigan State?  After Nick Saban left for the LSU job, Williams led the Spartans to victory over a formidable Florida Gators squad in the 1999-2000 Citrus Bowl.  Everybody immediately allowed for themselves to be prisoners of the moment and made Williams the permanent head coach at MSU after that.  Part of the rationale was how much the players loved the guy.  Bad idea.  Coaches like Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban are not loved by their players, but those coaches get results from the team.  Meanwhile, the program at MSU eroded after three full seasons under Williams’ leadership.  Orgeron currently enjoys similar popularity with the players at USC.  While this produces short-term gains, it will take somebody who is a bit more of a taskmaster to make sure that these positive trends can be sustained.

But what about Kevin Sumlin as a possibility?  Yes, Coach Sumlin has become a rather hot commodity over the past year or two, but his one weakness is that, while his offenses have considerable fire power, his defenses, well, not so much, and USC prides itself on not only being “Tailback U,” but also having tough “D”’s that shut down the pass-happy intra-conference opposition.  Could Coach Sumlin sustain that reputation, given his track record with weaker defenses in the recent pass?  At this point, it does not appear as though he couch.

What about other candidates, say, James Franklin, whose name was bandied about as a possibility?  A fine choice, especially given what he has accomplished at Vanderbilt under very restrictive circumstances with which the rest of the teams in the SEC do not have to contend.  Still, he has one glaring weakness:  he has no west coast ties.  In the world of college football recruiting, this is vital.  A great deal of recruiting has to do with knowing the high school coaches in the key recruiting areas.   Franklin knows none.

But “Sark” knows plenty.  He knew them as a high-ranking assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, and he still knows them while trying to recruit the players for Washington.  In that important respect, this shall be a seamless transition for him.  Instead of recruiting key players in the talent hotbed that is California, he shall do so wearing  Cardinal-and-Gold polo shirt as opposed to a Purple-and-Gold one.  Moreover, his experience with the program gives him intimate knowledge of organizational culture, making him a good company fit.  This is thus a good hire for the Trojans in any important respect.

To be sure, the gain for USC is a major loss for Washington, where Sarkisian had a good thing going.  But as great as things were with the Huskies, the USC job is rated by coaches and others “in the know” as one of the three absolute best coaching jobs in all of college football, along with Texas and Georgia (yes, Georgia).  In other words, if the Trojans come calling, unless you are coaching at one of those two schools, you are a fool to pass up this golden opportunity.  Sorry about the setback for UW, but good for Sark, and good for USC.

College Football Week 13 Awards November 24, 2013

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Glad I’m not him: Art Briles, Baylor

Lucky guy: James Franklin, Vanderbilt

Poor guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking a clue: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Desperately seeking … anything:  Will Muschamp, Florida

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: South Carolina (defeated Coastal Carolina 70-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated Memphis only 24-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Idaho (lost to Florida State 80-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  UAB (lost to Rice 37-34)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Florida Atlantic (defeated New Mexico State 55-10)

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  UTEP

Dang, they’re cursed:  Northwestern

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

Can the season never endOklahoma State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 17 Arizona State 38, No. 14 UCLA 33

Play this again, too:  Navy 58, San Jose State 52, 3 OT

Take a look at this again, while you’re at it:  Vanderbilt 14, Tennessee 10

Never play this again: Georgia Tech 66, Alabama A&M 7

What? No. 22 LSU 38, No. 12 Texas A&M 10

HuhGeorgia Southern 26, Florida 20

Are you kidding me?  Arizona 42, No. 5 Oregon 16
Oh – my – GodNo. 10 Oklahoma State 49, No. 4 Baylor 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 13, pre-week 14)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Alabama @ No. 4 Auburn

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (none)

Best non-Big Six matchup: East Carolina @ Marshall

Upset alert:  Mississippi State @ Ole Miss

Upset alert 2: Georgia @ Georgia Tech

Must win: No. 19 Texas A&M @ No. 5 Missouri

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ Texas (Thurs.)

Defensive struggle: Eastern Michigan @ Central Michigan

Great game no one is talking about: Minnesota @ No. 11 Michigan State

Another great game nobody has noticed:  Duke @ North Carolina

Intriguing coaching matchup: David Shaw of Stanford vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Western Michigan @ No. 19 Northern Illinois

Why are they playing? BYU @ Nevada

Plenty of good seats remaining: Idaho @ New Mexico State

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

College Football Week 6 Awards October 6, 2013

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: James Franklin, Vanderbilt

Lucky guy: Mark Richt, Georgia, and also Mack Brown, Texas

Poor guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee, and also Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Desperately seeking a clue: Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gary Pinkel, Missouri

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Larry Fedora, North Carolina

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 20 Texas Tech (defeated Kansas 54-16)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: South Carolina (defeated Kentucky 35-28)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to Oregon 57-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Troy (lost to Duke 38-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Ohio U (defeated Akron 43-3)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State

Dang, they’re bad:  Akron
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Arizona State

The Fix is in:  Texas

Did the season start?  Cincinnati
Can the season end?  Western Michigan
Can the season never endBaylor

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 6 Georgia 34, Tennessee 31

Play this again, too:  Rutgers 55, SMU 53, 3OT

Never play this again: No. 8 Florida State 63, No. 25 Maryland 0

What? Ball State 48, Virginia 27

HuhMissouri 51, Vanderbilt 28

Are you kidding me?  South Florida 26, Cincinnati 20
Oh – my – GodIndiana 44 Penn State 24

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 6, pre-week 7)
Ticket to die for:  Texas vs. No. 12 Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout (Dallas)

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Georgia Tech @ BYU

Best non-Big Six matchup: Boise State @ Utah State

Upset alert: No. 14 South Carolina @ Arkansas

Must win: No. 9 Texas A&M @ Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: No. 2 Oregon @ No. 15 Washington

Defensive struggle: Miami (Ohio) @ UMass
Great game no one is talking about: Pittsburgh @ No. 24 Virginia Tech, or, No. 19 Northwestern @ Wisconsin.

Intriguing coaching matchup: Steve Spurrier of South Carolina vs. Bret Bielema of Arkansas

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 Clemson @ Boston College

Why are they playing? Western Carolina @ Auburn

Plenty of good seats remaining: Eastern Michigan @ Army

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Temple @ Cincinnati

Week 6 in Review:

There are times when in hindsight you know that you should have trusted your instincts instead of trying to out-think the room (which, let us be honest, can never end well.  Just ask the NFL when they decided to put the upcoming Super Bowl in frigid New Jersey).  Case in point:  last week, yours truly tried to out-think the room – against my own better judgement – in prediciting that this week’s “offensive explosion” would be Ohio State @ Northwestern.  Yes, it was a good game, worthy of a Musburger-Herbstreit broadcast tandem.  And yes, the overall score was not exactly paltry at 40-30 (in favor of the Buckeyes, naturally).  But then there was Baylor vs. West Virginia, whose score was so high, we needed our collective oxygen tank (final score:  73-42).  What was my main reticence in following my instincts and selecting this game for a more accurate prognostication?  The fact that West Virginia has been wildly inconsistent this year.  One week they embarrass themselves against Maryland, the next week, they upset Oklahoma State.  Right now, we the fans do not know what team we are getting week-to-week with the Mountaineers.

All Good Games at Night?

Aside from the satisfying SEC slugfest between Georgia and Tennessee in the 3:30 time slot, and the 3-OT shootout between Rutgers and SMU, all the good games this past week were in the evening.  LSU vs. Mississippi State (3 out of 4 quarters, at least), South Florida vs. Cincinnati (surprisingly), Ole Miss vs. Auburn, TCU vs. Oklahoma, Kentucky vs. South Carolina (the Gamecocks allowed for it to be a good game, regrettably), Notre Dame vs. Arizona State, Ohio State vs. Northwestern, Washington vs. Stanford, even Louisiana Tech vs. UTEP (!) all turned out to be competitive, engaging matchups.  It was one of those nights where you wished you had four or five flatscreens, all right next to each other, so as to enjoy as much simultaneous action as possible.

A Tale of Two Rivals.

Oklahoma did it the right way.  They played a highly respected TCU bunch in a close, hard-fought game, and triumphed in the end, 20-17.  There is a school of thought, not one without merit, that states that this is the perfect approach before throwing down the following week with a bitter rival.  To follow this line of logic, the Sooners are well-prepared for the Red River Shootout this upcoming week.

On the other side of the coin is Texas, who thought that they could beat up on Big XII lightweight Iowa State as a  tune-up.  As things turned out, they needed not one, but two scandalous calls by the referees to get their behinds out of some seriously hot water (basically, two “gift” calls of not recognizing fumbles as actual fumbles).  Let that sink in for a moment.

College Football Week 1 Awards 2013 September 4, 2013

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That special time of year has come yet again, when college football teams all throughout the land knock heads to see who is the best.  Moreover, now that the first week of college football has past, it is now time to give out the first weekly awards for the year!

(NOTE:  all rankings are Week 1 AP up to “Next Week”, in which case they are for Week 2)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson 

Glad I’m not him: Mark Richt, Georgia
Lucky guy: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Poor guy: James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mike Riley, Oregon State
Desperately seeking … anything:  Rocky Long, San Diego State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 3 Oregon (beat Nicholls State 66-3)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 18 Nebraska (beat Wyoming 37-34)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Purdue (lost to Cincinnati 42-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  North Carolina (lost to South Carolina 27-10)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Indiana 73, Indiana State 35

Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Sir Charles says “They’re Turrable”:  San Diego State
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Georgia

Did the season start?  BYU
Can the season end?  Iowa State
Can the season never endClemson

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 8 Clemson 38, No. 5 Georgia 35

Play this again, too:  Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35
Never play this again: Indiana 73, Indiana State 35
What? McNeese State 53, South Florida 21
HuhEastern Illinois 49, San Diego State 17
Are you kidding me? North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
Oh – my – GodEastern Washington 49, No. 25 Oregon State 46
Told you so:  Western Kentucky 35, Kentucky 26

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 South Carolina @ No. 11 Georgia
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Toledo @ Missouri
Best non-Big Six matchup: Idaho @ Wyoming, or Utah State @ Air Force

Upset alert: No. 14 Notre Dame @ No. 17 Michigan

Must win: Miami (OH) @ Kentucky
Offensive explosion: West Virginia @ No. 16 Oklahoma
Defensive struggle: No. 14 Notre Dame @ No. 17 Michigan
Great game no one is talking about: Syracuse @ No. 22 Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky vs. Butch Jones of Tennessee

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

Why are they playing?  Tennessee-Martin @ Boise State

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Tulane

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Buffalo @ Baylor

The First Week in Review:

The previous week’s “Ticket to Die For” was obviously the Georgia-Clemson game, and it lived up to its billing, remaining close and hard-fought for all four quarters.  Georgia fans do themselves and their team a disservice, however, by lamenting that their season is now in the tank and that it is time to jettison head coach Mark Richt.  Let us keep in mind that Clemson right now is on fire, and has their best offense in roughly 30 years if not the whole history of the school.  The Bulldogs losing to such a team at that moment is no disgrace.

That said, there’s no rest for the wicked regarding Georgia, for now their hated cross-border rival South Carolina comes to Sanford Stadium this next weekend.  The Bulldogs might be in danger of starting the season 0-2, which which really send the UGA faithful into a panic.

Meanwhile, Alabama is such a good team, that even with several offensive miscues throughout the game, they still handily defeated a respectable Virginia Tech squad 35-10.  Still, it was a rough week for the SEC.  As somewhat prognosticated, Washington State did give Auburn plenty to deal with in their rather narrow loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Georgia’s rather heartbreaking loss in Clemson was already noted.  Kentucky lost much worse than what the score (35-26) to Western Kentucky in Nashville, Tenn.  Yes, I know that the last game mentioned is an outlier in that A, this is Kentucky we’re talking about here, not, say, LSU, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, or even Auburn or Arkansas.  On the other side of the coin, Western Kentucky is no ordinary Sunbelt Conference team, either, as they are coached by Bobby Petrino, likely giving the Hilltoppers a decisive edge over the rest of their conference competition, or even chronic SEC cellar-dwellers for that matter.

One thing that particularly sticks out about the past week, though, was the resounding success that FCS teams had over FBS teams.  Time was — very recently — that when D-1A (pardon me, FBS) teams scheduled D-1AA (pardon me, FCS) teams for a game, it was an easy win for the former, and the latter got a relatively hefty paycheck (by their standards) to take a drubbing.  Not anymore.  Southern Utah beat South Alabama 22-21; Towson defeated UConn 33-18; North Dakota State upset Kansas State 24-21; Eastern Washington also upset Oregon State, 49-46; McNeese State thrashed South Florida, 53-21; Eastern Illinois did the drubbing on San Diego State, 40-19; if that’s not enough, Northern Iowa also beat Iowa State, 28-20.  To be sure, most of the aforementioned FCS teams (Towson, E. Washington, E. Illinois, and N. Iowa) are ranked, whereas most of their defeated FBS counterparts are, well, sucking (yet it still does not account for K-State’s or Oregon State ignominious losses).  Still, this is a powerful wake-up call that FBS vs. FCS are no longer gimme-games for the former.  We’ve been warned.