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College Football Awards, Week 14 (2016) December 5, 2016

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We now await the Committee’s verdict.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 14] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

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

Lucky guy: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Poor guy: Ken Niumatalolo, Navy  Hon. mention:  Kevin Wilson, Indiana; Jim Grobe, Baylor

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Neal Brown, Troy

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Paul Petrino, Idaho

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Gary Patterson, TCU

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did:  Alabama (defeated No. 15 Florida 54-16)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t:  Navy (lost to Temple 34-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  ULM (lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 30-3)

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

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Washington (defeated No. 9 Colorado 41-10)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana-Monroe

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Troy

Did the season start?  Baylor Can the season end?  TCU

Can the season never endWestern Michigan   Hon. Mention:  Penn State

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

Play this again, too:  No. 3 Clemson 42, No. 23 Virginia Tech 35

Never play this again: No. 4 Washington 41, No. 9 Colorado 10

Close call:  No. 14 West Virginia 24, Baylor 21

What? No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

Oh – my – GodTemple 34, No. 19 Navy 10

NEXT WEEK

Just one game: Army vs. Navy – God bless America!

Week 14 Take-aways:

The conference championships are now concluded, and shall no doubt yield some excellent bowl game matchups come Sunday. Regarding those championship games, everything ended as anticipated, with a mild surprise of Penn State sort-of-upsetting Wisconsin in a hard-fought, close game that surely gave the fans’ their money’s worth. The MAC championship took on an engaging, intriguing aspect of its own, what with a respectable Ohio U team coached by the venerable Frank Solich taking on the undefeated Western Michigan Broncos, coached by the young, energetic P.J. Fleck. On the line was preserving the Broncos’ first undefeated season since 1941 (which again, “yo!”), and a possible Cotton Bowl berth. A manifestation of this MAC championship game meaning something is that it is the most highly attended in the history of that end-of-season matchup.

But anyhow, it’s now time to start talking bowl game matchups, which, as always, shall take up an entire article itself. So, stay tuned.

College Football Awards Week 5 October 4, 2015

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ClemsonND2015

Clemson triumphed over Notre Dame in what was perhaps the most thrilling game of the season thus far. Mandatory photo credit: Joshua S. Kelly of USA TODAY Sports

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Al Golden, Miami

Lucky guy: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Mora, UCLA

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Rhule, Temple

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: TCU (defeated Texas 50-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Michigan State (defeated Purdue 24-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Texas (lost to No. 4 TCU 50-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 2 Michigan State 24-21) T

hought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated North Texas 62-16)

Dang, they’re good: TCU

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana-Lafayette

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ole Miss

Did the season start? Georgia Tech

Can the season end?  Wyoming

Can the season never endClemson

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Play this again, too:  Arkansas 24, Tennessee 20

Never play this again: No. 4 TCU 50, Texas 7

What? Tulane 45, UCF 31

HuhIowa 10, #19 Wisconsin 6

Are you kidding me?  No. 12 Clemson 24, No. 6 Notre Dame 22

Oh – my – GodArizona State 38, No. 7 UCLA 23

Told you so:  Louisville 20, N.C. State 13

NEXT WEEK

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

Ticket to die for:  No. 10 Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Cotton Bowl

Also:  No. 13 Northwestern @ No. 18 Michigan

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Syracuse @ South Florida

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 25 Boise State @ Colorado State

Upset alert: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 12 Florida State

Must win: Wisconsin @ Nebraska

Offensive explosion: No. 23 Cal @ No. 5 Utah

Defensive struggle: Illinois @ No. 22 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 21 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern vs. Jim Harbaugh of Michigan

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 Baylor @ Kansas

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ No. 14 Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Portland State @ North Texas

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Mississippi State

Week 5 Take-aways:

What a weekend for college football!  The grand irony is that this week left more questions than answers.

What a game it was in Clemson, S.C.  Notre Dame came to town ranked No. 6 in the nation.  The Tigers were ranked twelfth.  ESPN’s Gameday crew was there.  A massive rainstorm persisted throughout the day and night.  Fans watching on national TV witnessed the team descend the hill in “Death Valley” to take on the highly-ranked Fighting Irish.  Mistakes were made on both sides:  typical ups-and-downs of a thrilling contest between highly-ranked teams.  In the end, the Tigers triumphed.

But all of this ought not to obfuscate that Brian Kelly has built a strong program in South Bend.  Were they overrated at No. 6?  Definitely.  Are they still a tough team?  Definitely.

Tennessee lost yet another heartbreaker, this time to Arkansas.  It was a close contest throughout the game, but the same problem continues to plague the Vols:  they have yet to learn how to close a game, which is to say, they need to learn to stop blowing leads late in games.

Steve Spurrier dropped yet another game to a low-standing team in the SEC.  Is it too early to say that the wheels might be coming off the program?  Will Spurrier eventually have the fortitude to fall on his sword and thus clear the path for the program to be lead in a new direction?

Worse yet is the condition of the Texas Longhorns, who just got drubbed by TCU in Fort Worth, 50-7.  Yes, Coach Gary Patterson has gradually built up a super-strong program over the years, but is the lack of quarterback play on the part of the Longhorns the only thing that explains such a debacle, or is it something more systemic than who is the head coach?

Oh, and this slump could not come at a worse time, as Texas takes on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next week.

The Cincinnati Bearcats have given us two good Thursday night games in a row, and in the process, have walked away with two wins.  The most recent one was home over the Miami Hurricanes.  There has already been grumbling around Coral Gables that Al Golden has not brought the Canes back to the level of prominence that the faithful would like to see.  Is losing to UC a fireable offense, in culmination of this lack of expected progress?

How does one explain Michigan State’s lackluster performance at home against weak Purdue?  The Boilermakers were just a field goal away late in the 4th quarter from tying the game in regulation.  Have the Boilers improved that much in just one week since losing a near-gimme game the previous contest?  Regardless, it will be very interesting to see if Purdue can sustain any sort of improvement as the season progresses.

Ole Miss was rolling after defeating then-No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Rebels thus proved that they were both a tough team to reckon with and a team that could win on the road in a hostile environment.  And yet, when they ventured into The Swamp to play Florida, they laid an egg.  Yes, the Gators are improving week-by-week under the able leadership of Jim McElwain, but this alone cannot explain such an embarrassing defeat.  Perhaps Coach Freeze did not have his men fully prepared, or, a critical mass of the team decided to take the game off, thinking it would not be as challenging as playing Bama.  Such are the vicissitudes of college football, where 19 and 20-year olds are susceptible to such emotional roller coasters week to week that can negatively affect their level of play.  It is a problem that coaches do not have to deal with in the pros, thankfully.

On a bright note, Bobby Petrino has his Louisville Cardinals slowly improving.  Yes, they got their first win in a body bag game at home against Samford, but then they won, on the road, against a decent NC State team, in the rain.  If that is not improvement, can somebody tell me what is?

The 2013-2014 NCAA Bowl Games: The Good, The Bad, and the Intriguing December 21, 2013

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OkStMizzou2010

Oklahoma State and Missouri used to play each other routinely as conference foes, even as recently as 2009. Since Mizzou skipped the Big XII for the SEC, however, that routine came to an abrupt end. Now, they are to meet each other again in the Cotton Bowl.

Ticket to die for:  Could it be any more obvious?  No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 6)

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (two good ones) No. 20 Fresno State vs. No. 25 USC in the Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 21), and Boise State vs. Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24)

Best non-Big Six matchup: Utah State vs. No. 23 Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 26)

Upset alert:  No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State in the Rose Bowl (Jan. 1)

Must win: No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl (Jan. 3)

Think there’s enough Crimson?  No. 11 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2)

Old Rivals Reunite:  No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl (Jan. 3)

Offensive explosion:  No. 14 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30)

Defensive struggle: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30)

Great game no one is talking about:  BYU vs. Washington in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Dec. 27)

Home Field Advantage:  Louisiana-Lafayette @ Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 21)

Could be bad for the home team:  No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30)

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Brady Hoke of Michigan vs. Bill Snyder of Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 28)

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1)

Why are they playing?  UNLV vs. North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan. 1)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Buffalo vs. San Diego State in the Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 21)

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Vanderbilt vs. Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 4)

College Football Week 2 Awards 2013 September 9, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 2] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Brady Hoke, Michigan

Glad I’m not him: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Lucky guy: Mike Leach, Washington State
Poor guy: Lane Kiffin, USC
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Clawson, Bowling Green

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking … anything:  Ron Turner, Florida International

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 23 Baylor (defeated Buffalo 70-13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Michigan State (defeated South Florida 21-6)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Virginia (lost to Oregon 59-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  South Florida (lost to Michigan State 21-6)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated Miami (OH, 41-7)

Dang, they’re good: Oregon
Sir Charles says “They’re Turrable”:  Buffalo
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Texas

Did the season start?  Florida
Can the season end?  San Diego State
Can the season never endMichigan

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 11 Georgia 41, No. 6 South Carolina 30

Play this again, too:  No. 17 Michigan 41, No. 11 Notre Dame 30
Never play this again: Boise St. 63, Tennessee-Martin 14

What? Illinois 45, Cincinnati 16

HuhMiami (FL) 21, No. 12 Florida 16
Are you kidding me?  Navy 41, Indiana 35
Oh – my – GodBYU 40, No. 15 Texas 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 2, pre-week 3)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Alabama @ No. 6 Texas A&M

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Virginia Tech @ East Carolina
Best non-Big Six matchup: Marshall @ Ohio U

Upset alert: No. 25 Ole Miss @ Texas

Must win: Vanderbilt @ No. 13 South Carolina

Offensive explosion: Fresno State @ Colorado
Defensive struggle: Iowa @ Iowa State
Great game no one is talking about: No. 16 UCLA @ No. 23 Nebraska

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Patterson of No. 24 TCU vs. Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 21 Notre Dame @ Purdue

Why are they playing? Lamar @ No. 12 Oklahoma State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida Atlantic @ South Florida

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Nicholls @ Louisiana-Lafayette

Week 2 in Review:

Two really good games followed each other consecutively in South Carolina @ Georgia followed by Notre Dame @ Michigan.  In the case of the former, the Gamecocks’ season is not lost by losing to a tough Bulldogs squad who had their collective backs against the wall after blowing the season opener on the road to perhaps the best Clemson team that school’s history.  Conversely, had Georgia lost two games in a row to start off their season, no matter if they won out for the remaining weeks, the season, by team’s and fans’ standard would have been clearly lost.

In the case of the latter, some degree of poetic justice was achieved in the Wolverine’s victory over the Fighting Irish.  It is understandable why Notre Dame saw fit not to renew the rivalry on their schedule, what with trying to broaden their geographic outreach into the recruiting hotbeds, which, to remind certain fanbases, are NOT in the Midwest anymore (Ohio notwithstanding, to an extent, but Ohio State owns that anyhow, and should). But that does not obfuscate the other understandable situation where the Michigan fanbase feels snubbed by a team that still acts as though it is “above it all.”  Did I say “poetic justice”?  How about vindication?

Meanwhile, going forward, it is worth pointing out that when it comes to the prognostications for the upcoming week, the two most difficult things to predict are the offensive explosion and the defensive struggle.  The Michigan-Notre Dame game certainly did not live up to the latter billing (41-30); neither did the West Virginia-Oklahoma game (16-7).  One should have reversed those two games into opposite categories, and then we would have had something (in 20-20 hindsight, at least)!

Oh, and the latest news has it that Texas’ defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has taken the fall for the Longhorns’ ignominious loss to unranked BYU.  The Horns gave up a school record 550 rushing yards on defense.  This means that even though Texas had some very bad teams in the 1980s and some of the 1990s, even they did not give up that much yardage on the ground in a game.  Something obviously had to be done.  Mack Brown has appointed Greg Robinson (former Syracuse head coach – one of those guys who is better as a vice president than as a chief executive) as the new defensive coordinator, a role that he actually already served in for the team in 2004 (that same team that came back to beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl).  On paper, it is a good hire; time will tell if what is on paper will manifest in reality.  But regardless, it’s still a step up from the inept display the Longhorn Nation had to endure yesterday.

2012-2013 Bowl Games of Some Interest December 15, 2012

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As mentioned in the previous installment, I have ranked the bowl games by category, with the major criterion being level of desirability to view, partly on my end, partly on the end of the average viewer who is NOT a certifiable college football addict like yours truly!

To find a complete bowl game schedule where each game is found in order of date and time each game is to be played, go here.

This second installment is of bowl games about which I am rather interested, which is, to me, higher than “moderately interested:”

New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sat., Dec. 15, 1:00 PM EST

Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5)

Chris Ault leads the now-Colin Kaepernick-less Wolfpack back to a bowl game to take on the rejuvenated Arizona Wildcats in a fairly evenly-matched game in the Land of Enchantment.  Speaking of which, Enchantment Bowl has a nicer ring to it than New Mexico Bowl, doesn’t it?  But I digress.  What makes this game truly interesting is that there will be lots and lots of yards gained on the ground by both sides.  How do I know?  Both teams each have some of the leading rushers in the FBS this season, in Ka’Deem Carey (is the apostrophe really necessary?  Then again, the name is already made up, so might as well be stylin’ while we’re at it!) for Arizona and Stefphon (sic) Jefferson for Nevada (one too many consonants in that first name, don’t you think?).  Moreover, both teams also sport mediocre run defenses.  It all adds up to lots of rushing yardage gained on both sides of the ball, with an inability to stop each other on the other side.  Think:  the equivalence of Baylor-Texas Tech, ground game edition!  The fact that the hilarious writers at EDSBS referred to both of these two teams as the plague monkeys of their respective conferences is the icing on the cake!

New Orleans Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 22, 12:00 PM EST

East Carolina (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4)

If I miss this game, it won’t be the end of the world.  It used to be that we CFB fans would look forward to this game because it kicked off bowl season.  Now, it’s just another bowl.  Still, it pits two solid teams within their respective conferences against each other, which was my rationale for designating this game the “Best Non-Big Six Matchup” for this set of bowl games.

MAACO Bowl (Las Vegas, Nev.) Saturday, Dec. 22, 3:30 PM EST

Washington (7-5) vs. No. 19 Boise State (10-2)

This used to be called the Silver Bowl, but that was before sponsorship took over bowls big time.  Soon, they renamed this game after a slightly classed-up version of Earl Scheib.  That notwithstanding, this could be a decent match-up.  On one hand, Steve Sarkesian has worked diligently to bring the Huskies back to respectability.  On the other hand, Boise State has had a slightly down year compared to their last several.  Could be interesting.

Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, N.Y.), Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 PM

West Virginia (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)

Old conference rivals reunite in this bowl game, between a squad that hit the wall when they reached the real meat of their schedule, and a team that gradually improved throughout the year.  On paper, the Mountaineers are more talented than the Orange, but will the former have time to regain their energy?  Plus, the game is in [new] Yankee Stadium:  how cool is that?

Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco), Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 PM

Navy (8-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5)

So which is it going to be, the Pinstripe Bowl or this one?  I choose this one, my “intriguing coaching matchup” bowl game pick, and for multiple reasons.  For one, you have one coaching philosophy of pounding the rock vs. the opposing one that amounts to a watered-down “west coast” offense.  But that’s not all: on one side is Ken Niumatalolo and his apparent philosophy of family, loyalty, dedication, etc., and in the opposing corner is the notoriously mercenary, leave-in-the-dead-of-night Todd Graham.  Very intriguing indeed!

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.), Sat., Dec. 29, 10:15 PM

TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)

(What used to be the Insight Bowl, and before that, the Copper Bowl) Okay, so the Spartans have been no team to write home about this year, given their inability to, you know, score touchdowns.  Meanwhile, on TCU’s side, their performance this year has been one of peaks and valleys.  Where the Horned Frogs are with respect to their highs and lows will determine whether they mop the field with MSU, or the game remains a defensive struggle.  What could really set things off, though, is if the two teams show up in their chrome purple and green helmets, respectively (oh boy, oh boy!)!

Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) Mon., Dec. 31, 12:00 PM

North Carolina State (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4)

Last year, the Wolfpack was in the Belk Bowl, and defeated a young Louisville team.  It looked like they were really up-and-coming.  They return to a bowl game this year, and fire Tom O’Brien.  It makes no sense.  Will head coach-in-waiting Dave Doeren lead the team, or will Tom O’Brien play out the string?  Or will the assistant coaches be left to watch over this mess before Doeren comes in to right the ship?  All this will be moot anyhow, since this is a glorified home game for Vandy, who by all rights should kick N.C. State’s butt.  And that’s what’s really enticing; would it not be grand to see the Commodores win a bowl game?  Goodness knows they have earned it!

GoDaddy.Com Bowl (Mobile, Ala.), Sun., Jan. 6, 9:00 PM

No. 25 Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas State (9-3)

College football on a Sunday night instead of pro football?  Yes, please!  Plus, this game is my “intriguing no-coaching matchup,” given that Kent State’s erstwhile coach Darrell Hazell took the Purdue job and Arkansas State’s erstwhile coach Guz Malzahn bolted for Auburn.

Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas), Tues., Jan. 1, 12:00 PM

Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

Okay, how on Earth did this become a New Year’s Day bowl game?  I know that the Cotton Bowl is no longer played in the Cotton Bowl (stadium, that is), but that does not mean that this manufactured bowl game deserves to be on the same day as the Capital One, Outback, Rose, and other bowls that have earned being on this date.  That aside, this game is a rematch of the 1997 Alamo Bowl.  Just don’t expect the Boilermakers to beat the Cowboys 33-20 like they did 15 years ago.  In fact, expecting the score to be reversed in the Pokes favor might be an overestimation.  Still, Purdue is playing in it, so one has to watch it.

College Football Week 11 Awards November 12, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 11, pre-week 12] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Glad I’m not him:  Nick Saban, Alabama
Lucky guy: James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Poor guy: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Desperately seeking a clue: Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking … anything:  Mike Leach, Washington State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 4 Georgia (beat Auburn 38-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 3 Notre Dame (beat Boston College 21-6)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Indiana (lost to Wisconsin 62-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Louisiana-Lafayette (lost to No. 7 Florida 27-20)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Tulsa (beat Houston 41-7)

Dang, they’re good: Oregon
Dang, they’re bad:  Southern Miss

Ya’ know, they’re not so bad:  Virginia

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Louisville (see below), notwithstanding Alabama (see below)

Did the season start?  Utah
Can the season end?  Iowa
Can the season never end?  Texas A&M

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 9** Texas A&M 29, No. 4**  Alabama 24
Never play this again: Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14

What? No. 6 Florida 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 20
Huh? Missouri 51, Tennessee 48, 4OT

Are you kidding me? Syracuse 45, No. 9* Louisville 26

Oh – my – God:  No. 15* Texas A&M 29, No. 1* Alabama 24
Told you so: Syracuse 45, No. 9* Louisville 26

* rankings are AP, Week 11

** reflects current, Week 12 AP rankings

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for: No. 14 Stanford @ No. 3 Oregon
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Samford @ Kentucky
Best non-Big Six matchup: Utah State @ No. 20 Louisiana Tech

Upset alert: N.C. State @ No. 13 Clemson

Must win: No. 12 Oklahoma @ West Virginia
Offensive explosion: No. 19 USC @ No. 18 UCLA
Defensive struggle: Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
Great game no one is talking about: No. 23 Rutgers @ Cincinnati

Intriguing coaching matchup: Jim Mora Jr. of UCLA vs. Lane Kiffin of USC
Who’s bringing the body bags? Western Carolina @ No. 4 Alabama
Why are they playing? Jacksonville State @ No. 7 Florida

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ Southern Miss (notwithstanding Buffalo @ UMass)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Wofford @ No. 8 South Carolina

Week 11:  Another Two Bite the Dust

Two more undefeateds went down this week, one semi-expected, one hardly expected.  Louisville’s first defeat of the season was semi-expected, and for a number of reasons.  For one, most of Louisville’s wins were hardly overwhelming.  Moreover, their defense seemed to be increasingly under-performing during most of the season.  Their average margin of victory has been only 12.8 points, including an early-season blowout over Missouri State (35-7) and last week’s blowout over Temple (45-17).  Add Syracuse’s unpredictable competitiveness at home to the mix (it was their Senior Day, after all), and in the back of my mind, something was about to give.

But all is not lost for the Cardinals.  They are still in the running to win the Big East, and if they are able to defeat Rutgers in Piscataway on Nov. 29, they can clinch the conference total, though it nevertheless remains a relatively tall order.

The same cannot be said for as-of-yesterday No. 1 Alabama going down to surprising, almost shocking defeat (almost!) at home to No. 15 – and climbing! – Texas A&M.  The game already had a special feel to it regardless of the rankings, given that this was the first time the Crimson Tide was to play the Aggies since the 1968 Cotton Bowl.  Even Aggie and Crimson Tide legends showed up for Week 11’s aptly-labeled “ticket to die for”, including John David Crow (the only Bear Bryant-coached Heisman Trophy winner [1957, from A&M]), and Gene Stallings, both of whom were part of Bryant’s 1954 “Junction Boys” at A&M, the latter of whom coached against Bryant in the Cotton Bowl in ’68 (Bryant for Bama, Stallings for A&M), and who later coached Alabama to its last national championship (1992-’93), before Nick Saban’s tenure.

To observe the special meeting between the two teams, they even mimicked the uniform contrast of the opposing sides from roughly 44 years ago.  In the 1968 Cotton Bowl match-up, Alabama showed up in all-white (helmets included) to contrast against A&M’s maroon helmets and jerseys.  This time it was A&M who showed up in all-white (helmets included) to contrast Bama’s traditional crimson helmets and jerseys.

At right shows Alabama vs. Texas A&M in the 1968 Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide showed up in all-white to contrast the Aggies’ traditional maroon uniforms. In a nod to that game from over 44 years ago, this time it was the Aggies that showed in all-white yesterday (left) to contrast Bama’s traditional crimson unis. Look carefully, and notice how little the stripes on the teams’ pants have changed in four and a half decades!

The game itself, oddly enough, made things even more memorable.  Before yesterday’s game commenced, Alabama’s defense only allowed an average of six points in the first quarter.  In the first 15 minutes of this game, they allowed three touchdowns.  Such lying down on the job is what made the game more interesting than necessary, and ended up costing Alabama the game, the top-ranking, and likely a shot at the national championship.  One can quibble over whether a lapse of discipline on the part of a defensive player with 40 seconds left in the game cost Alabama just that with an offside penalty, thus giving the Aggies an automatic first down.  But such a penalty would have been moot had Bama’s defense played up to its usual standards in the first half. Credit Kevin Sumlin for putting together a game plan that took the fight to the Tide in their home stadium.

The new championship race:  Some have speculated that Bama’s unexpected loss has, if you’ll pardon the expression, parted the Red Sea in two for Notre Dame to walk into national title discussion.  I might borrow Lee Corso’s famous line of “not so fast my friend” and remind such speculators that both Oregon and Kansas State are ahead of Notre Dame in the rankings, both the AP kind and the BCS kind.  The latter standings are a result of superior strength of schedule on the part of both the Ducks and the Wildcats.  It shall take a loss of one of those teams – not likely, but not impossible – for Notre Dame to be legitimate contenders.  The same will have to be the case for Alabama to work its way back into such discussions, now that they are behind Georgia in the USA Today Poll (@ No.5), though ahead of them in the AP Poll (@ No. 4).  Not an egregious fall, but one that might be just insurmountable enough without a little outside help.  Can we say “Alabama-Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl” if these shadows remain unchanged?  If nothing else, it would be another legendary match-up!

Quick uniform note:  TCU once had one of the nicest-looking helmets in college football.  That is, until they temporarily compromised the look by succumbing to the flat, matte helmet epidemic that seems to have gripped a number of teams.  Thankfully, the team has chosen to grant themselves a respite from that visual impairment disease, at least temporarily.  Last night in their valiant loss to Kansas State, the Horned Frogs sported helmets that closely recalled their traditional beautiful purple shells.  Their helmets on TV seemed shinier than ever before; perhaps a special polish was put on the metallic purple, or, even better, they went for a chrome purple look.  Whichever it was, here’s hoping they go forward with keeping this current helmet look and throw the matte shells onto the ash heap of regrettable trends.