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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.

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College Football Week 12 Awards November 18, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 12, pre-week 13] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Art Briles, Baylor
Glad I’m not him: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Lucky guy: David Shaw, Stanford
Poor guy: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Desperately seeking a clue:  Jeff Tedford, California
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
Desperately seeking … anything:  Derek Dooley, Tennessee

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama (beat Western Carolina 49-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Kansas State (see below)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to Notre Dame 38-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Wofford (lost to No. 13 South Carolina 24-7)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Baylor (see below)

Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did: Army (see below)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  UAB

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Kansas State (see below)

Did the season start? Michigan State
Can the season end?  Tennessee
Can the season never end?  LSU

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 8 LSU 41, Ole Miss 35
Never play this again: Temple 63, Army 32
What? Utah State 48, No. 20* Louisiana Tech 41, OT

Huh?  No. 23* Oklahoma State 59, No. 24* Texas Tech 21

Are you kidding me? No. 13* Stanford 17, No. 2* Oregon 14, OT

Oh – my – God:  Baylor 52, No. 1* Kansas State 24

* Week 12 AP rankings

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 Florida @ No. 10 Florida State (notwithstanding No. 13 South Carolina @ No. 12 Clemson)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (none)
Best non-Big Six matchup: Ohio U @ Kent State
Upset alert: Baylor over Texas Tech in Waco

Must win: No. 1 Notre Dame @ USC
Offensive explosion: No. 24 Oklahoma State @ No. 12 Oklahoma
Defensive struggle: No. 20 Michigan @ No. 4 Ohio State
Great game no one is talking about: No. 5 Oregon @ No. 16 Oregon State

Thanksgiving Day Special:  TCU @ No. 18 Texas

Cloud Nine Bowl:  No. 8 Stanford @ No. 17 UCLA

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mike Riley of Oregon State vs. Chip Kelly of Oregon
Who’s bringing the body bags? Georgia Tech @ No. 3 Georgia (notwithstanding Northern Illinois @ Eastern Michigan, Friday)
Why are they playing? BYU @ New Mexico State

Plenty of good seats remaining: UNLV @ Hawaii

Plenty of good seats remaining, SEC East edition:  Kentucky @ Tennessee
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Akron @ Toledo (Tuesday night)

Instant BCS Chaos:  In just one night, the BCS standings have turned upside down.  All Kansas State and Oregon had to do was win out, and they would have been matched up in a very intriguing national championship game in Miami.  Scratch that; ain’t gonna happen.  Oregon lost a close, hard-fought game in Eugene, Ore., to a tough Stanford squad.  The game went into OT, and the Duck’s failure to score on their opening possession gave the Cardinal an opportunity to win the game with a field goal, which they did.  Another one bites the dust.

Yet half-way across the country in the heart of Texas (Waco, to be exact), something even more improbable developed.  Kansas State, at that time ranked No. 1 in the land, went down to spectacular defeat at the hands of Art Briles’ Baylor [Baptist] Bears.  The score itself was improbable:  when is the last time any top-ranked team went down to an un-ranked team by a score of 52-24?  Nothing accounts for that.  Credit Briles and Co. with coming up with an amazing game plan that effectively attacked the Wildcats where it hurt them the most, and they never let up the entire night.

Not in five years has there been such BCS standings chaos in one night of regular season football.  Yet things get even more intriguing from this point onward.  For the first time in 19 years, almost to the week, Notre Dame is the No. 1 team in the nation.  No doubt plenty of rejoicing erupted in South Bend., Ind., instantly upon Kansas State’s defeat, and no doubt the merriment doubled again in light of Oregon going down at home in OT.  After winning close game after close game, Brian Kelly has brought the Fighting Irish back to national prominence and is in the driver’s seat to punch their ticket to Miami come early January.  Meanwhile, an entire nation will scrutinize Notre Dame to see if they themselves can stand prosperity as they journey to Los Angeles this upcoming weekend to take on traditional rival USC.

And just like that, the SEC is back in the national discussion:  Alabama’s upset at home to Texas A&M last week seemed to wipe out the Crimson Tide’s hopes of repeating as national title contenders.  With last night’s, er, developments, despair has instantly transformed into renewed hope and ambition.  Bama is now second in both the AP and USA Today Polls, and Georgia is no. 3.  Should both those teams win out – extra emphasis on ‘should’ – it will be a very interesting contest in Atlanta for the SEC championship come Dec. 1.

Dooley Fired:  Not only is now-former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley “Desperately seeking…anything.”  Now he’ll be desperately seeking…a job.  The University of Tennessee decided to cut its ties with Dooley after their embarrassing loss in Nashville to up-and-coming, in-state rival Vanderbilt, 41-18.  The firing is effective immediately, as it has been reported on Tennessee’s athletics website that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney (with whom I worked while a student manager at Purdue, as he was an assistant under Coach Joe Tiller) will be the interim head coach for the upcoming game against Kentucky.  Evidently, the powers that be are not giving Dooley a couple of curtain calls like those UK’s Joker Phillips has received.

Yesterday’s embarrassing loss to the Commodores was just the last straw in one bad development after another for the program; the final blow to prove to the Volunteer nation that things need to be guided in a newer, better direction. This year alone, the Vols have gone 4-7, and 0-7 in the SEC, something entirely unacceptable to a large, proud fan base, to say nothing of a program with such massive tradition and resources behind it.  In just one game shy of three complete seasons, Dooley is just 15-21 with Tennessee, but worse yet, 4-19 in the SEC, and 0-15 against top-25 opponents.  Let us not forget that his hiring was essentially a stop-gap move in the wake of Lane Kiffin’s sudden departure for the USC job.  Let us also not forget that under Dooley’s leadership last year, Tennessee lost their annual season-closer to Kentucky for the first time since 1984, and it is not a given that the Vols will Triumph over the Wildcats this year, either.  Come to think of it, has Kentucky ever defeated Tennessee in football for two seasons in a row?

Paging Bobby Petrino…

Heisman talk:  Quarterback Collin Klein of K-State was the Heisman frontrunner, but after his team lost ignominiously, and his performance was mediocre at best (27 for 50, 286 yards, 2 td’s but 3 int’s), could it be that “Johnny Football,” Johnny Manziel, himself of Texas A&M, is the new award frontrunner?  Food for thought, in any case.

Kansas State: Shades of 1998 November 18, 2012

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We’ve seen this before.  This is not the first time that Kansas State’s national championship run was ruined late in the season.  The Wildcats made a similar run in 1998, defeating powerful Nebraska for the first time in 30 years, among other things.  But come the Big XII championship game of that year, K-State overlooked a hungry Texas A&M, who snuck up on them and overtook them towards the end of the game.  Although that bumped the Wildcats down to only no. 4 in the rankings, it was too late to get a decent consolation prize.

Everyone seemed to assume that K-State was a lock on the Fiesta Bowl (where the BCS national championship was to be held), so other teams got “locked-in” to other BCS bowl games (Orange, Sugar and Rose).  With the Wildcats’ unexpected loss, they were left out in the proverbial cold, having to settle for the Alamo Bowl, then given the no. 4 pick for both the Big XII and the Big Ten.  One would imagine that they would not be too happy with having to settle for that lesser prize.  Purdue, their opponent for the 1998 Alamo Bowl, was, conversely, quite happy to make a return appearance in San Antonio (a fun town for a bowl game, fyi.), having won that bowl game the previous year.  Though the Boilers were unranked and Kansas State was still the fourth-highest ranked team in the land, Purdue came in, what made the difference was that Purdue was happy to be there for the Dec. 29 game, K-State not so much.

Despite Coach Bill Snyder’s moderately happy-sounding speech at the kickoff luncheon the day before the game (Dec. 28, 1998) in a convention room of the Marriott Hotel in downtown San Antonio, where he assured both the Wildcat and Boilermaker fans in attendance that “we’re very much looking forward to playing the University of Purdue,” they sure did not give that impression on the field of play in the Alamodome the next evening.  After a scoreless first quarter, Purdue drew (if you’ll pardon the expression) first blood in the second with a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Chris Daniels, and we never let up for the rest of the game.  Only in the last few minutes did K-State manage to inch ahead of us with a touchdown of their own, but Purdue answered on the very next possession, marching right down the field and put it away for good.  The Wildcats did have the last possession of the game, but with only less than a minute or so left in the game, they were unable to muster the necessary score.  We triumphed in the end, 37-34.  It was our biggest win in probably 20 years.

I say “we” because I was but a freshman student manager on the Purdue team during that game, witnessing all of this first-hand.  The point in all of this, given recent developments, is that we’ve seen this scenario with K-State play out before.  The Wildcats seem to be on the same path today.  The only saving grace for K-State today is that this sudden, season-derailing loss from last night came earlier than when the Big XII championship game would be (there is no such game for this season, given the recent changes in conference membership). Hence, there is still time to salvage things with earning a more prestigious bowl berth than the booby prize of the Alamo Bowl from 14 years ago.

Yet another reason for K-State getting, well, hosed that year is a manifestation of certain perpetual handicaps against the program.  Unlike traditional powers including, say, Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, or even Notre Dame, all of whom have strong, national fan bases, Kansas State, although a strong program, lacks that advantage.  Strong fan bases equal strong money and clout, something the Wildcats continue to lack.  Kansas State University is located in Manhattan, Kan., nicknamed “The Little Apple.”  It is in the middle of nowhere, in a state that has the same reputation.  It has no major market to tie itself to, unlike the Longhorns, who can not only claim Austin, but also Dallas and Houston.  The Buckeyes claim Columbus, as well as Cincinnati and Cleveland.  Even Notre Dame can claim Chicago, and to an extent, New York itself.  K-State lacks that major market anchor, and that goes a long way towards its overall lack of relative clout.  Even a team like West Virginia can claim Pittsburgh as its anchor market.  Claiming Kansas City is a stretch for KSU, who must also share the area with the Kansas Jayhawks, along with the Missouri Tigers.  Does that leave KSU Wichita?  Geography has conspired to make the lack of clout an unsolvable problem for the Wildcats, as far as one can foresee.

But another key difference in scenarios today is that, in the wake of K-State being kicked down to the no. 4 bowl pick for the Big XII Conference in 1998 —  much less the overall rankings — shortly thereafter the BCS implemented a rule that a team ranked that highly* would get an automatic berth into one of the BCS “big four,” instead of being relegated to a second or third-tier postseason game.  Perhaps the Fiesta Bowl is not out of the question, boys, but you still must pass through the eye of the needle that is Texas in two weeks’ time.

*Although Kansas State was ranked no. 4 in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls, they were actually ranked no. 3 in the BCS.