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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 9 Awards (2021) November 1, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Dana Holgorsen, Houston

Poor guy: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Hugh Freeze, Liberty

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Liberty (defeated UMass 62-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Iowa State (lost to West Virginia 38-31)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to Oklahoma State 55-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Penn State (lost to No. 5 Ohio State 33-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia (defeated Florida 34-7)  

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity: San Diego State

Did the season start?  Iowa
Can the season end?  Vanderbilt

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again: No. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

Play this again, too:  No. 5 Ohio State 33, No. 20 Penn State 24

Never play this again: Liberty 62, UMass 17

What?  Mississippi State 31, No. 12 Kentucky 17

HuhNo. 18 Auburn 31, No. 10 Ole Miss 20

Are you kidding me??  Wisconsin 27, No 9 Iowa 7

Oh – my – GodNo. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 10)
Ticket to die for:  None compared to last week.  Within this week’s lineup, No. 18 Auburn @ No. 12 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Liberty @ No. 15 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 23 UTSA @ UTEP

Upset alert: North Carolina @ No. 10 Wake Forest; also, Tennessee @ No. 18 Kentucky

Must win: Texas @ Iowa State

Offensive explosion: No. 11 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Kansas State @ Kansas

Great game no one is talking about: Mississippi State @ Arkansas

They have the same record??  Penn State @ Maryland

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs Greg Schiano of Rutgers

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

Why are they playing? Idaho State @ No. 17 BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: North Texas @ Southern Miss

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  No. 21 Coastal Carolina @ Georgia Southern

Week 9 Thoughts:

Georgia vs Florida

Remember what I noted last year regarding Florida historically giving Georgia fits in this came?  That obviously did not happen this time.  The Bulldogs have proven that they are the legit No. 1 team for now.  If they keep up this next-level intensity, it’s going to be one epic showdown for the conference title in Atlanta.

Mississippi State vs Kentucky

Either Kentucky decided not to show up at the level they have been playing the previous several weeks, or the Wildcats simply did not match up well with the Bulldogs.  On one hand, the running game was almost non-existent, the fumbles were more frequent than usual for Kentucky.  Apparently their defense showed up in name only, too.  No time to lick their wounds after an ugly loss, as Tennessee comes calling next week, hungry for revenge after losses to the Cats in recent years.

Iowa @ Wisconsin

Wisconsin defeated Iowa, 27-7.  This game proved two things.  One, it proved FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd that Iowa is “the fake ID of college football”, as it sadly seems that every time the Hawkeyes receive a high ranking, they never can demonstrate they are for real when put to actual test in the regular season, they never sufficiently prove themselves.  Indeed, they only reason they defeated Penn State earlier in the year was due to knocking PSU’s starting quarterback out of the game.  The other thing this game proved is that Wisconsin is playing back to the level we expected them to be at earlier in the year.  Whatever slump they were in recently seems to have vanished, making things all the more interesting in the West division of the Big Ten.

Michigan State vs Michigan

The clash of top-ten titans lived up to its billing in East Lansing, giving fans both in the stands and in living rooms across this great nation a thrilling game.  The Wolverines proved to be a legitimately strong team, possibly the best of the Harbaugh era, but made one too many mistakes in the end to triumph over an inexplicably resurgent Spartans squad.  The fact that A) Michigan lost by only a few points to B) a team that continues to prove they belong in the top ten has not been lost on the voters, as C) the Wolverines, even after this tough loss, fittingly remain in the top ten at no. nine.

Penn State @ Ohio State.

Penn State clearly played back to form, as they gave Ohio State a strong challenge, wire-to-wire.  The Nittany Lions are clearly good once again.  Had they played the same way the entire game in Iowa, they would not have lost that game.  This time, the Buckeyes’ superior talent won out, and sadly Penn State has sustained its third loss of the season, knocking them out of the rankings for now.  A team this good shall not likely be out of them for long.

To broaden the scope, the East division of the Big Ten is as loaded this year as it has been in recent memory, possibly even living memory.  Already, we have experienced two outstanding games from great teams in one day.  Better yet, this is only the beginning:  For example, Michigan has yet to play Penn State or Ohio State, and these two teams continue to loom large on Michigan State’s schedule, too.  Furthermore, as we get into November, the stakes only get higher from here on.  It’s going to be a thrilling ride.  To quote Southpark’s satirical portrayal of Caitlyn Jenner, “Buckle up, buckaroos!”

Looking ahead:  Texas @ Iowa State

After three tough losses, can the Longhorns bounce back, on the road, and take down the giant killers known as Iowa State?

Tennessee @ Kentucky

It used to be that Tennessee owned this border rivalry.  How else can one describe it, when, from 1985 through 2010, The Volunteers won every matchup between these two teams?  That streak ended in 2011, and Kentucky managed to win two more within this series, one in 2017, as well as last year.  If Kentucky wins, it would be the first two-in-a-row for them in this series since 1976 and 1977 (during the Fran Curci era, of course).  What makes this upcoming matchup all the more intriguing is that the Wildcats have an exceptionally strong team this year compared with most teams they typically field, while at the same time, Tennessee is resurgent, clearly clawing its way out of the doldrums that have plagued them for more than a decade.  All this adds up to the most interesting context surrounding an SEC game in a very long time.

Maryland vs Penn State

If someone told you that, going into the first weekend in November, Maryland and Penn State would have identical records, you would likely say that this someone was crazy.  Yet, here we are.  To be sure, Penn State played back to their earlier, strong form in Columbus, Ohio, last night.  If they keep it up, they should bag another ‘W’ without too much trouble.

Texas A&M vs Auburn

The Aggies have already taken given Alabama a loss.  Can they also fend off a dangerous Auburn team?  The Tigers proved how dangerous they were in their convincing handling of Ole Miss last night.  Can they keep up that same intensity against a foe that, one could argue, is just as dangerous?

Wake Forest vs North Carolina

In one of the surprises of the year, Wake Forest is currently 8-0, and ranked No. 10.  Conversely, North Carolina may only be 4-4, but they seemed to finally live up to their potential last night, losing to No. 8 Notre Dame by only ten points.  If that sort of Tarheels squad shows up in Winston-Salem, then maybe the Demon Deacons shall experience their first loss of the season.

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 12 (2019) November 18, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were himKirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Lucky guy: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Matt Rhule, Baylor

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jason Candle, Toledo

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Rocky Long, San Diego State

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Walt Bell, UMass

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: BYU (defeated Idaho State 42-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (defeated Missouri 23-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 2 Ohio State 56-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Syracuse (defeated Duke 49-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  USC (defeated Cal 41-17)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  Texas State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Minnesota

Did the season start?  Texas

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 10 Oklahoma 34, No. 13 Baylor 31

Never play this again: No. 3 Clemson 52, Wake Forest 3

What?  Oregon State 35, Arizona State 34

HuhWest Virginia  24, No. 24 Kansas State 20

Are you kidding me??  No. 20 Iowa 23, No. 8 Minnesota 19

Oh – my – GodIowa State 23, No. 19 Texas 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 9 Penn State @ No. 2 Ohio State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Liberty @ Virginia

Best non-Power Five matchup: SMU @ Navy (hon. mention:  SDSU @ Hawaii)

Upset alert: Syracuse @ Louisville

Must win: Texas @ No. 13 Baylor

Offensive explosion: (inconclusive)

Defensive struggle: Tennessee @ Missouri

Great game no one is talking about: Pittsburgh @ Virginia Tech

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mario Cristobal of Oregon vs Herm Edwards of Arizona State

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Samford @ No. 16 Auburn

Why are they playing? Western Carolina @ No. 5 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: Old Dominion @ Middle Tennessee

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  BYU @ UMass

Week 12 Thoughts:

Iowa vs Minnesota

This had to have been one of the biggest face-offs for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy in recent memory.  Funny things happen in rivalry games such as this, and a few small errors ended up making the difference in the Hawkeyes’ favor.  The Golden Gophers have an easy outing against Northwestern. Such should be a tune-up game for the following week, when Wisconsin comes calling and the berth for representing the Western Division in the B1G title game hangs in the balance.

Iowa State vs Texas

Despite the Longhorns’ offense inexplicably sputtering most of the game, Texas could have won the game after Iowa State missed a field goal with two minutes left in the game.  Instead, Texas got an offsides penalty at the worst possible time.  It allowed for the Cyclones to get further downfield, kill the clock, and kick the game-winning field goal at the buzzer.  No excuses, Tom Herman.  Do better.

Looking ahead:

Shoutouts to Texas A&M, Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee:  they are the only SEC teams who had the guts to play real games this upcoming week.  While the rest of their fellow SEC members are wasting everybody’s time with pointless body bag games (e.g., Western Carolina @ Bama; Abilene Christian @ Mississippi State), The Aggies, the Georgia Bulldogs, the Mizzou Tigers, and the Volunteers will give us real games this week.  Technically, the same should go for LSU and Arkansas.  While on paper it’s a glorified body bag game, at least those two teams are keeping it in-conference.  To the rest of you in the SEC:  get it together.  Step up and play real games.

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 7 (2019) October 14, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma  (hon. mention:  Ed Orgeron, LSU)

Glad I’m not him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Poor guy: Clay Helton, USC

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Desperately seeking … anything:  Scott Frost, Nebraska

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Utah (defeated Oregon State 52-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (lost to South Carolina 20-17 in 2OT)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UConn (lost to Tulane 45-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Arkansas (lost to Kentucky 24-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Purdue (defeated Maryland 40-14)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Virginia

Did the season start?  Washington State

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOklahoma  (honorable mention:  LSU)

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 6 Oklahoma 34, No. 11 Texas 27

Play this again, too:  No. 5 LSU 42, No. 7 Florida 28.

Never play this again: Louisiana Tech 69, UMass 21

What?  Bowling Green 20, Toledo 7

HuhTemple 30, No. 23 Memphis 28

Double-Huh?  Miami 17, No. 20 Virginia 9

Are you kidding me??  Louisville 62, No. 19 Wake Forest 59

Oh – my – GodSouth Carolina 20, No. 3 Georgia 17, 2OT

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8)
Best game of the week:  No. 16 Michigan @ No. 7 Penn State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Temple @ No. 19 SMU

Upset alert: No. 5 Oklahoma @ West Virginia

Must win: No. 17 Arizona State @ No. 13 Utah

Offensive explosion: No. 25 Washington @ No.12 Oregon

Defensive struggle: Michigan @ Penn State

Great game no one is talking about: Duke @ Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs. Herm Edwards of ASU

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

Why are they playing? Minnesota @ Rutgers

Plenty of good seats remaining: Buffalo @ Akron

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Missouri @ Vanderbilt

Week 7 Thoughts:

Oklahoma vs Texas

Rivalries are a funny thing.  On paper, the Sooners should have defeated the Longhorns by at least two touchdowns, given the disparity in ranking (No. 6 vs. No. 11).  Yet the Horns’ defense stepped up in a huge way, was able, at least some of the time to, to contain Jalen Hurts and the OU offense.

Louisville @ Wake Forest

Great win/upset for Louisville.  Yet the score concluded at 61 to 52.  Ever heard of defense, guys?

Florida @ LSU

The other game of the week (outside of the Red River Shootout in Dallas) was resurgent Florida @ LSU.  This game as well lived up to its hype, with big plays on both sides, and in the end, the Bayou Bengals triumphed over the Gators, 42-28.  In light of the massive development in Athens, Ga. (see below), expect LSU to move up a notch in the rankings.

Possible playoff scenario

Georgia lost in shocking fashion to rival South Carolina, at home, in double-overtime, 20-17.  In light of this huge development, here is a new, possible playoff scenario, should other current shadows remain unchanged:  Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU/Alabama, and Clemson.  The latter two are plausible placeholders for the perennial southern/southeastern representatives that have come to dominate the playoffs as of late.  But with the Buckeyes and the Sooners both in the picture, that would bring in a larger national audience, what with representation both from the Plains and, more importantly, the Midwest.  As a not-so-distant aside, Ohio State and Oklahoma alone would be a game we would all love to see, playoffs or no playoffs.

College Football Awards, Week 4 (2019) September 23, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

Lucky guy: Willie Taggert, Florida State

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Fritz, Tulane

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Desperately seeking … anything:  Dana Holgorsen, Houston

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Miami, Ohio 76-5)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (defeated Notre Dame 23-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Charlotte (lost to Clemson 52-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  SMU (defeated TCU 41-38)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kent State (defeated Bowling Green 62-20)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  TCU

Did the season start?  Stanford

Can the season end?  Tennessee

Can the season never endIowa State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Georgia 23, No. 7 Notre Dame 17

Play this again, too:  No. 12 Texas 36, Oklahoma State 30

Never play this again: No. 6 Ohio State 76, Miami, Ohio 5

That will leave a mark:  Iowa State 72, Louisiana-Monroe 20

What? Appalachian State 34, North Carolina 31

HuhSan Jose State 31, Arkansas 24

Double HuhUSC 30, No. 10 Utah 23

Are you kidding me??  SMU 41, No. 25 TCU 38

Oh – my – GodNo. 13 Wisconsin 35, No. 11 Michigan 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Possible best game of the week:  No. 18 Virginia @ No. 10 Notre Dame

 (Possible second choice):  Nebraska @ No. 6 Ohio State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Northern Illinois @ Vanderbilt

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ Memphis

Upset alert: Maryland @ No. 13 Penn State

Must win: UCLA @ Arizona

Offensive explosion: Washington State @ No. 19 Utah

Defensive struggle: (inconclusive)

Great game no one is talking about: Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (also:  Iowa State @ Baylor)

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of Kansas vs. Gary Patterson of TCU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Towson @ No. 9 Florida

Why are they playing? Delaware @ Pitt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ UMass

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Middle Tennessee @ No. 18 Iowa

Week 4 Thoughts:

Week 4 has been arguably the best week for college football thus far in the 2019 season.  Friday started off the weekend with a bang with an engaging matchup between USC and Utah.  The following first time slot of Saturday (noon EDT) was great, at least on paper.  Michigan faced Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, and left the game exposed for having severe weaknesses on offense that must be addressed or Jim Harbaugh’s future with his alma mater may be in doubt.

That said, two key games in the following time slot (Louisville at Florida State and Auburn at Texas A&M) lived up to their billing.  Louisville is clearly headed in the right direction as a program, but much improvement remains.  Perhaps it is unreasonable for Scott Satterfield to turn things around so quickly, given the mess that Bobby Petrino left in his wake.  Meanwhile, the Aggies fought the good fight at home, but came up short against a gradually but steadily ascendant Auburn.  Both were good game, regardless.

The evening time slot proved that the best was yet to come that day.  Oklahoma State came calling at Texas, for one.  The Longhorns had failed to beat the Cowboys the previous five seasons, so the urgency was clearly there to get that proverbial monkey off the Horns’ collective back.

Then, a half-hour later, the “ticket to die for” lived up to its billing as Notre Dame put up a strong fight against Georgia in Sanford Stadium.  The game was a close defensive struggle for three and a half quarters before the Bulldogs finally asserted themselves in accordance with their full potential.  In other words, in the latter half of the fourth quarter, the cream finally rose to the top.

With so much great football having been played on Sept. 21 from noon through 11 PM Eastern, such will be a very tough act for Week 5 to follow.  Case in point:  no game for Week 5 offers a “ticket to die for”, which is more the pity.

CFB Recruiting Class Random Observations for 2019 February 8, 2019

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In the previous article, I made observations on the potentially changing competitive landscape in the SEC based on the recruiting class rankings this year.  But those observations in no way cover the entire intrigue that these recruiting class rankings offer to college football fans.

For example, it’s quite clear that the SEC teams have dominated these rankings.  But other teams merit attention, too.  Take Michigan, for example.  They are the lone Big Ten representative in the top ten of said rankings, at No. 8 this year, interestingly one ranking position ahead of Florida (No. 9), who, er, chomped the Wolverines 41-15 in the recent Peach Bowl.  Meanwhile, Ohio State, who have been the most dominant force in the conference during Urban Meyer’s six-season tenure, only made it to No. 14 in the rankings this year (down from No. 2 last year).  Certain programs have proven they can do more with less (Kentucky under Mark Stoops is a wonderful example of this).  New Buckeye head coach Ryan Day will be put to the test to see if he can do the same thing and continue to contend for the national title.

That said, defending national champion Clemson’s recruiting class is at No. 10 (their 2018 class was No. 8).  Yet they have a young quarterback with a transcendent talent that is sure to lead the Tigers to the Promised Land this year as well, so their king-of-the-hill status remains unthreatened, for now.

One of the most-improved recruiting classes is Purdue.  Ranked only No. 49 in 2018, they have jumped to the No. 25 class for 2019.  Perhaps this could portend further improvement in their performance, allowing Coach Jeff Brohm to do more than just employ smoke-and-mirrors, as he had no choice but to do with such a bare cupboard his first two years in West Lafayette.

An intriguing stat to share:  Purdue’s recruiting class for 2019, at No. 25, ranks ahead of Wisconsin (No. 27), Michigan State (No. 30), Indiana (No. 38), Iowa (No. 40), Minnesota (No. 42), and Northwestern (No. 50).  That said, do not underestimate Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (especially Fitzgerald!) or even Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck in their abilities to develop players.

Another interesting improvement in recruiting rankings is that of Oregon.  At a respectable No. 13 last year, this year’s recruiting class has merited a No. 7 ranking.  Meanwhile, Washington at No. 17 is clearly not going anywhere.  A reasonable prediction from these figures is that an interesting border rivalry between the Huskies and Ducks could quickly emerge.  Add a steadily-performing Stanford to the mix, and on can easily foresee an increasingly competitive Pac-12 North division.

Rounding out the top ten in recruiting rankings are two Big XII teams; Oklahoma at No. 6, and Texas at No. 3.  The latter is coming off huge momentum with their dominating upset over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  Their quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, combines talent and grit for a winning synergy that could potentially help the Longhorns contend for the playoffs this upcoming season.  This No. 3 recruiting class certainly cannot hurt the Horns in this endeavor, and surely enforces the mantra that “Texas is back.”

Again, player development can sometimes compensate for lack of ranking in player recruitment.  Just ask Northwestern.  But also ask Alabama for Georgia (No’s 1 and 2, respectively) how their perennial top recruiting rankings work out for them to see the potential significance of said recruiting class rankings.  Such is the biggest reason why it’s so easy for college football fans to geek out about this subject!  It should add up to a more interesting college football season for 2019 compared to the one just concluded.

The Longhorns-Red Raiders Rivalry in Microcosm November 11, 2018

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One of the many things to look forward to at the beginning of each November is Bill Connelly’s annually-updated article from SB Nation entitled “November is here.  Now college football season has really begun.”  One key mantra he hammers home:  November is for everything.  Read the article, you’ll understand for yourself.

Of the many cool things to pour over in this article, one is that he gives each calendar date of November its due by pointing to them as college football dates in history.  For example, Nov. 23 is the anniversary of Doug Flutie’s legendary Hail Mary TD pass that beat Miami.  Nov. 20 is when Boston College beat No. 1 Notre Dame on a last-second field goal in 1993.  All these dates are listed chronologically, of course.

And Nov. 1?  No doubt a date that shall live in Longhorn Nation infamy.  For one that day in 2008, Michael Crabtree slipped into the end zone for a touchdown that would defeat undefeated Texas, thus ultimately derailing its national title hopes that year.  Such a win for Texas Tech still sticks in the collective craw of Texas fans to this day, ten years later.

At any rate, ten years and nine days later, Texas exacted a small amount of revenge in Lubbock by scoring a touchdown within the last minute of the game that would seal the deal for the Longhorns.  Lil’Jordan Humphrey (yes, that is his name) even extended himself over the goal line in a similar fashion to what TTU’s Crabtree did a decade earlier.

What is it about Texas Tech that gives a much stronger, much more resource-laden program such fits in the first place?  Perhaps it is a David vs. Goliath complex on the part of the Red Raiders that gets them emotionally pumped to take on the flagship program of the Lone Star State.  Or, maybe Tech’s well-established, high-octane spread offense is one that gives the Horns’ defense fits for whatever reason.  In other words, on paper, Texas should crush Tech most years.  But over the past 10-15 years, this is one of those crazy matchups that gives fans plenty of drama, ergo excitement (not to mention heart palpitations that come with it), as these two games a decade apart attest.  Whatever the reason, we the college football fans are all the more engaged, entertained, and possibly satisfied as a result.

Playoff scenarios based on the latest AP Polls (Week 8, 2018) October 18, 2018

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Week 7 in college football for the 2018 provided considerable thrills – and headaches – for fans, what with upsets abounding, especially near the top of the rankings.  Unranked Tennessee taking down then-No. 17 Auburn, and unranked Virginia beating then-No. 16 Miami (Fla.) are small potatoes compared to upsets elsewhere that week.

Indeed, no fewer than four AP top ten teams went down in defeat in Week 7 of 2018.  For starters, No. 17 Oregon outlasted then-No. 7 Washington, 30-27, in overtime.  Unranked Michigan State toppled No. 8 Penn State on the road, 21-17.  Iowa State leveraged their special night-time atmosphere to help them beat then-undefeated (and then-No. 6) West Virginia 30-14.  Even more significant was No. 13 LSU pommeling then-No. 2 Georgia 36-16.

As a result of these four key upsets, Washington fell from the No. 7 ranking to No. 15.  Penn State fell from No. 8 to No. 18.  West Virginia fell from No. 6 to No. 13, while Georgia fell from No. 2 to No. 8.

Last year, the Bulldogs made it to the national championship game.  Now, the prospect to return is in jeopardy.  At least it’s October and not November, meaning there is still time to recover.

Regardless, the current AP Top Ten now suggests some very intriguing playoff possibilities.  These are important for the health of college football.  An all-southern/all-SEC college football championship game my thrill the faithful in the southeastern region of the country, but it turns off the rest of the country.  That’s bad for business.  If your sport starts to be perceived as regional in its nature, that hurts your national image, and prevents you from engaging the markets you need to be interested in order to ensure its long-term strength and viability.  Alabama vs. Clemson and Alabama vs. Georgia thus saw a TV ratings decline, whereas Texas vs. USC (2005-’06) and Ohio State vs. Oregon (2014-’15) where perfect matchups to bring in robust, national audiences.  Ohio State vs. Florida (2006-’07), Ohio State vs. LSU (2007-’08) and especially Ohio State vs. Miami (2002-’03) were decent-to-great matchups as well for this purpose.  Alabama vs. Notre Dame (2012-’13) was good on paper, but the outcome of the game proved that it was a mismatch, with the Irish clearly being overrated at the time.

Start with a basic premise that it’s good for business when traditional powers do well.  If Georgia does well, that engages the Atlanta market, which is pretty big, in case you forgot.  If Notre Dame does well, it engages the Chicago and New York City markets.  If USC does well, it engages the Los Angeles market.  If Ohio State and Michigan do well (either or both), that engages much of the Midwestern markets, as well as the Big Ten alums who have left the Midwest for the East Coast, the South, or the West Coast.  If Texas does well, it engages the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston Markets.  You get the picture.

Now, back to the Week 8 Top Ten rankings from the AP poll.  At No. 1 remains Alabama.  Ok, fine.  With Georgia knocked out of the No. 2 spot (but still in the top ten), that allows for Ohio State to take over that position.  This is good for the sport.  Clemson has moved a spot to No. 3, while Notre Dame has quietly moved up to the No. 4 ranking.

Just by looking at these current top four spots, if these remain unchanged and translate directly into playoff rankings, one would have a great playoff scenario to engage a critical mass of the viewing public.  Alabama and Clemson would be there to keep the South’s fever pitch at maximum levels, while Ohio State and Notre Dame enjoy national audiences so as to include enough of the rest of the country as well.  The Fighting Irish’s ranking this time is no wishful thinking.  Thoughtful analysts concur that this 2018 ND team is much stronger and more athletic than its overrated 2012 counterpart.  Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd has gone so far as to observe that this is the best ND team since the Lou Holtz era.  As ESPN’s Lee Corso would exclaim, “Yo!”

While there is no west coast team in sight in these current rankings, that is not a deal-breaker, either.  There are enough Big Ten grads on the west coast to keep those markets engaged should Ohio State make it to the playoffs.   The Buckeyes, in this scenario, would represent the West Coast as well as the Midwest.

Naturally, much football remains to be played, and the remainder of the top ten shall make all efforts to crack their way into the playoffs as well.  Of those currently poised for such possibilities, some of them, too, offer intriguing engagement opportunities.  LSU sits at No. 5 after their ripping upset victory over the Bulldogs, and are destined for a major showdown with the Crimson Tide come Nov. 3, in Baton Rouge, no less.  Michigan sits at No. 6 after their big win over Wisconsin last night.  If they maintain their momentum, their Nov. 24 annual grudge match with the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor could be epic.

Meanwhile, Texas has survived another test and now sits at No. 7.  If QB Sam Ehlinger stays healthy, who knows how much further the Longhorns could continue to climb?  This is key to note because Texas in the playoffs engages a different market than the Southeast.  The beauty of Texas in the championship game is that they can theoretically engage two markets simultaneously, as a B1G team can do vis-à-vis both the Midwest and other regions.  In Texas’ case, not only can a Longhorn playoff appearance pique the interest of the DFW and Houston metro areas (San Antonio and Austin don’t hurt either, as that is another combined 4 million-plus people in that mini-megalopolis), but the Southeast could vicariously join in, too.

An Oklahoma (currently No. 9)  playoff appearance, while a different region than the Southeast, has a limited upside.  Yes, it engages the central plains, but there is not much major population there).  Best case scenario is that it will interest the OU grad transplants living in the major Texas markets.  The Longhorns, thankfully, have done their part, though, in making the more market-significant team better-poised for a playoff run at this point.

This is not a swipe at the SEC, or the fans therein, for a personally love southern football and identify with the South.  As someone who is concerned about the national and long-term health of college football, however, perspective must be maintained.  Fans in SEC country will watch the playoffs no matter who is playing.  Fans elsewhere, though, will only watch if they feel they have a stake in things; that they are being represented.  We have enjoyed such perfect or near-perfect matchups in the past, such as the aforementioned Texas-USC games and the Ohio State-Oregon games, for example.

Meanwhile, more big games remain, and the way things have gone thus far, more upsets are likely to occur.  Teams currently in the bottom half of the top ten could claw theyr way up with help from such theoretical upsets.  After all, we’re halfway to regular season’s end, and the stakes and urgency only intensify from here.  Let’s enjoy the ride, and cheer on the key wins that would help make for the best playoff matches with optimal, national appeal while we’re at it!