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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.

College Football Week 5 Awards (2021) October 9, 2021

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Better late than never.

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Lucky guy: David Shaw, Stanford

Poor guy: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Chip Kelly, UCLA

Desperately seeking … anything:  Lance Leipold, Kansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Iowa State (defeated Kansas 59-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated Boston College 19-13)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 11 Ohio State 52-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Western Kentucky (lost to No. 17 Michigan State 48-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Nebraska (defeated Northwestern 56-7)  

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oregon

Did the season start?  UCLA

Can the season end?  Tulsa

Can the season never endIowa

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Cincinnati 24, No. 9 Notre Dame 13

Never play this again: Tennessee 62, Missouri 24

Play this again, too:  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

What?  Mississippi State 26, No. 15 Texas A&M 22

HuhArizona State 42, No. 20 UCLA 23

Are you kidding me??  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

Oh – my – GodStanford 31, No. 3 Oregon 24

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Penn State @ No. 3 Iowa

Next-best game of the week:  No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Boise State @ No. 10 BYU

Upset alert: No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma;  also, LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Must win: No. 13 Arkansas @ No. 17 Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: No. 18 Memphis @ Houston

Defensive struggle: LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about: Virginia @ Louisville

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Steve Sarkesian of Texas vs. Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma

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

Why are they playing? Temple @ No. 5 Cincinnati

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Texas State

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

Week 5 Thoughts:

Notre Dame vs Cincinnati

Sure, the Bearcats have had some big wins before, but this one felt differently.  For the first time in living memory, if ever, Cincinnati was A) a top-ten team that B) defeated another top ten team, and C), accomplished this on the road, in a hostile place to play.  As corny and hackneyed as it may sound, this win had to be the greatest in the history of the UC program.  Good job, Luke Fickell.

Georgia vs. Arkansas

Arkansas may be a legitimately strong team this year, but Georgia is considerably stronger.  The 37-0 score in favor of the Bulldogs demonstrated how much stronger.  So far this year, the top two of Alabama and Georgia appear to have separated from the rest of the pack.  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be one memorable game in Atlanta come early December.  That matchup may seem routine by now, but the evenness of it will make the [potential] game exciting nonetheless.

Kentucky vs Florida

The last time Kentucky beat Florida at home (or any time, perhaps?) was in 1986, when the late Jerry Claiborne (part of Bear Bryant’s “coaching tree”) was the head coach.  Thirty-five years later, the Wildcats have suddenly, almost stealthily come onto the scene as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC East.

Looking ahead:  LSU @ Kentucky

Now that the Wildcats have demonstrated they are not to be taken lightly this year, can they maintain, even build upon their success?  An ideal test comes up at home this week.  LSU is strong, but inconsistent, with recent close losses starting to raise questions about Ed Orgeron’s coaching abilities – as well as his tenure – in Baton Rouge.  Can they overcome their tough loss to Auburn from last week by redoubling their efforts and leave Lexington with a win?  Conversely, can Kentucky maintain their focus and intensity after such a huge win on their home turf?  Mark Stoops’ challenge is to get his team to stop celebrating and to re-focus on preparing for yet another challenging foe, in what is, oddly, a winnable game.  Fun facts:  the last time the Wildcats beat the Bayou Bengals was 2007, in Lexington, when LSU was undefeated, and it happened in triple-overtime.  If that is not enough, LSU nevertheless eventually went on to win the national title anyhow in what amounted to the craziest of roads to the BCS that year.

Iowa vs Penn State

We are currently in the Big Ten “Twilight Zone”.  Don’t believe me?  Well, imagine, if you will:

There are two teams currently ranked ahead of Ohio State (who is nevertheless back in the AP Top Ten).  Moreover, they are both ranked in the top five.  The kicker?  Neither of them are Michigan, Michigan State, or Wisconsin.  Penn State earned its prowess by defeating a tough Auburn team.  Iowa has earned its high ranking and according respect with wins over tough opponents and consistent play thus far.  Indeed, if the latter wins, they could control their own destiny to Indianapolis come early December.  Moreover, the two teams are led by two of the best coaches in the business.  Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz could arguably win anywhere, what with his no-nonsense style and consistency of product in a talent-barren landscape for this immediate environs.  Meanwhile, Penn State’s James Franklin has an almost Presidential quality to him, has been mentioned as a legitimate candidate for the vacant USC job, and has the big personality to fit it.  It all shapes up to be a massive showdown in Iowa City, fittingly following the one in Dallas during the previous time slot.

Texas vs Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

For more than 20 years, regardless of discrepancy of rank (if even notable at times), or how lop-sided the game may sometimes be at the end.  As the game begins, there are few atmospheres more electric in the entire sport than Texas vs Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl during the second Saturday of October.  This one has new intrigue, what with Steve Sarkesian bringing new energy and new offensive ideas into the Longhorn program against a good Sooners team led by Lincoln Riley that nobody seems to know exactly how good.  After this game, questions shall likely be answered, namely:  just how good is Oklahoma?  Do they belong in the top ten, or even the top five?  For Texas, was the loss at Arkansas a temporary stumble against a surprisingly good team, or does it show that Sark has a longer way to go in re-stabilizing the program than previously thought?  These shall likely be answered, with perhaps new questions raised at that time, after the final second ticks off the clock in Dallas.  The key for Texas shall be to do what West Virginia did to Oklahoma earlier this year, before the Mountaineers collapsed late in the fourth quarter.  A stronger, more consistent replication of WVU’s 3 ½ quarter performance from that game could ensure that the Horns take home the Golden Cowboy Hat.

College Football Awards, Week 5 (2019) September 29, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Justin Wilcox, Cal

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeff Brohm, Purdue

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Michigan (defeated Rutgers 52-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated North Carolina 21-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Middle Tennessee (lost to No. 14 Iowa 48-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  North Carolina (lost to No. 1 Clemson 21-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  SMU (defeated USF 48-21)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Cal

Did the season start?  Purdue

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOklahoma

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Clemson 21, North Carolina 20

Play this again, too:  No. 23 Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27

Never play this again: No. 12 Penn State 59, Maryland 0

What? Temple 24, Georgia Tech 2

HuhOklahoma State 26, No. 24 Kansas State 13

Are you kidding me??  Toledo 28, BYU 21

Oh – my – GodArizona State 24, No. 15 Cal 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Auburn @ No. 10 Florida

 (Possible second choice):  No. 14 Iowa @ No. 19 Michigan

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Utah State @ No. 5 LSU

Best non-Power Five matchup: Tulane @ Army

Upset alert: Michigan @ Iowa (also:  No. 15 Washington @ Stanford)

Must win: Boston College @ Louisville

Offensive explosion: Cal @ No. 13 Oregon

Defensive struggle: Northwestern @ Nebraska

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

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Justin Wilcox of Cal vs Mario Cristobal of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags? Purdue @ No. 12 Penn State

Why are they playing? Bowling Green @ No. 10 Notre Dame

Plenty of good seats remaining: Oregon State @ UCLA

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Kent State @ No. 8 Wisconsin

Week 5 Thoughts:

North Carolina vs Clemson

Mack Brown remains full of surprises.  Not the least of which was the stunning near-upset over previously-No. 1 Clemson, in which the Tigers escaped the Tarheels by only a point.  A botched [surprise] two-point attempt on the part of UNC allowed the escape.  Had such an attempt been successful, it would have set the college football rankings on fire.  As it is, nobody in their right mind should protest Brown’s surprise move at the end.  If they went for the tie with an extra point, then the game would have gone into overtime, where Clemson would quite likely have outlasted North Carolina.  The two-point attempt thus, after further analysis, remained the Tarheels’ best bet.

Time will tell if this valiant performance on North Carolina’s part is a harbinger of better football to come from this team.

Nebraska vs Ohio State

Ohio State drubbed Nebraska 48-7 in Lincoln.  It could have been even worse.  All but 10 of those 48 points were scored in the first half (meaning, the Buckeyes put in lots of backups in the second half).  This game and its outcome are a tale of two teams in two different directions.

For Ohio State, this is another key test the Buckeyes have passed in their assertion that they belong in the national conversation.  Indeed, this performance helped them supplant LSU as the No. 4 team in the nation, currently.  That has typically been good enough to make the playoffs, should such shadows remain unchanged.Will such shadows change?  After all, nothing is a given in the Big Ten.  Such was the case in its late-1990s glory days, and such is the case since roughly 2014 as well.  Next week the Buckeyes face an arguably tougher test when Michigan State comes to Columbus.  But the ultimate showdown in the conference is still likely when Wisconsin take on the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium on Oct. 26 in what could be one of the games of the year.  Why this fixation on OSU’s fortunes?  Because the more teams from more regions outside of the Southeast contend for the national title, the better it is for college football.

On the other side of the coin is Nebraska.  Head coach Scott Frost, one might recall, left a Central Florida program that he had built into arguably the strongest non-Power Five team in the land so he could coach his alma mater.  Last year’s campaign only resulted in a 4-8 finish.  Currently the Huskers stand at 3-2, and even some of those wins were struggles over South Alabama and Illinois.  What gives?

No, it would stand to reason that Frost has not forgotten how to coach.  Rather, the systemic problem of geography has come into play.  Frost had the advantage of being right in the middle of [embarrassingly] talent-rich Florida when he built up the UCF program.  Nebraska does not produce any top-caliber players, save for the possible offensive lineman or two.  Much of Nebraska’s unstoppable linemen during theTom Osborne (especially the latter era) came from much more lax standards  and screening mechanisms for steroid use.  Those days are now gone.

Also gone are the days of Prop-48 players, which gave Nebraska an easy pipeline to high-caliber talent without the normal barrier of NCAA eligibility standards found elsewhere.  Perhaps even more devastating, though, is that Nebraska prospered in the days when only a relative handful of teams were consistently on national television.  This made the program in Lincoln an attractive destination for top recruits despite its cold weather and geographic isolation.  That advantage, too, was nullified when cable channels greatly expanded college football coverage in the 2000s, giving prized recruits many more options than in earlier times.  Given this current environment, how is one to attract top recruits to this cold, isolated place?  Scott Frost has his work cut out for him.

College Football Awards, Week 3 (2019) September 19, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Clay Helton, USC

Lucky guy: Dan Mullen, Florida

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Chris Klieman, Kansas State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeff Brohm, Purdue

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Notre Dame (defeated New Mexico 66-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Virginia Tech (defeated Furman 24-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Arkansas State (lost to Georgia 55-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Temple (defeated No. 21 Maryland 20-17)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Tennessee (defeated Chattanooga 45-0)

Dang, they’re good: Oklahoma

Dang, they’re bad:  South Alabama (honorable mention: Indiana)

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Maryland

Did the season start?  Purdue

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endLSU

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 9 Florida 29, Kentucky 21

Play this again, too:  No. 18 Iowa 18, Iowa State 17

Never play this again: Louisiana 77, Texas Southern 6

That will leave a mark:  Miami 63, Bethune-Cookman 0

What? Kansas State 31, Mississippi State 24

HuhTemple 20, No. 17 Maryland 17

Double HuhCitadel 27, Georgia Tech 24

Are you kidding me??  BYU 30, No. 24 USC 27

Oh – my – GodArizona State 10, No. 18 Michigan State 7

NEXT WEEK                                                                                                                             (rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)

Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Notre Dame @ No. 3 Georgia

Best game of the week (second choice):  No. 8 Auburn @ No. 16 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: No. 23 Washington @ BYU

Best non-Power Five matchup: Air Force @ No. 22 Boise State

Upset alert: No. 23 Washington @ BYU

Must win: No. 10 Michigan @ No. 14 Wisconsin

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma State @ No. 12 Texas

Defensive struggle: Boston College @ Rutgers

Great game no one is talking about: Louisville @ Florida State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mario Cristobal of Oregon vs. David Shaw of Stanford

Who’s bringing the body bags? Charlotte @ No. 1 Clemson

Why are they playing? San Jose State @ Arkansas

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ New Mexico

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Southern Illinois @ Arkansas State

Week 3 Thoughts:

Too many body-bag games to in the first three weeks for college football in 2019.  At least next week starts with a bang with Michigan vs. Wisconsin in the noon time slot, and we are treated to an early Big XII quasi-rivalry with Texas vs. Oklahoma State in the evening, which will be an intriguing distraction from the game of the week, in which the Notre Dame Fighting Irish venture down to Athens, Ga., to take on the Bulldogs “between the hedges”.  Oh, and Auburn plays Texas A&M in the 3:30 EDT time slot, so prepare for an engaging Saturday come the 21st!

Also, belated shout-out to an incredible game the previous week with LSU at Texas.  Had the Horns done a slightly better job of stopping the Tiger’s passing game, they might have triumphed.  As it is, LSU seems to be a top-flight QB this season, and, based on their stellar performance in Austin, could end up vying for the SEC West divisional title.  Mark you calendars for November 9 now.

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.

On Changes in SEC Competition February 8, 2019

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They say that a college football team’s potential for high rankings and even playoff contention is predicated on the ranking of its recruiting classes.  Alabama’s persistently top-ranked recruiting classes seem to demonstrate this.  Yet while some things remain the same, others seem to be changing.

For several years, the SEC appeared to consist of Alabama and everybody else.  The Crimson Tide had Nick Saban, who has proven to be the best college head coach in the business, while almost all other programs in the conference – with some exceptions – having been led by glorified gym teachers.

That now seems to be changing.  Kirby Smart at Georgia, for example, has proven to be a most capable Saban protégé.  He learned Saban’s modus operandi while defensive coordinator at Alabama, and the Bulldogs’ performance for the past two seasons shows that he has successfully transplanted a critical percentage of this erstwhile master’s methodologies into Athens.  Indeed, the 2017-2018 season culminated with Georgia playing Alabama for the national title.  At the send of the 2018 season, the Bulldogs once again played the Tide down to the wire during the SEC championship game.

While Georgia has emerged as Alabama’s toughest competition for conference supremacy, other intra-conference competition now gradually emerges, too.  Take Florida, for example.  Dan Mullen is such a skillful coach that his previous program, Mississippi State, was briefly the number one team in the country back in 2014 (Dak Prescott sure helped with that, to be sure).  Now, with far more resources at his disposal, he has brought the Gators back to strength.  Their 41-15 trouncing of a solid, Jim Harbaugh-led Michigan team in the Peach Bowl has demonstrated this.  Both Georgia and Alabama ought to be on notice that there is a new up-and-comer on the block.

As things currently stand, Alabama has the top-ranked freshman recruiting class for 2019, and Georgia is right behind them at No. 2.  But Florida is now at No. 9 (up from No. 17 the previous year), and their on-the-field improvement was clearly noticeable in the aforementioned Peach Bowl.  With such a bump in the recruiting rankings, one can only imagine how highly their team rankings could improve come the Fall.

While Georgia needs to start looking over its shoulder at SEC East and border rival Florida, in the west, the competitive pressure is intensifies for Saban and Bama.  Texas A&M caught lightning in a bottle with Johnny Manziel under the leadership of Kevin Sumlin (who went 51-26, not bad for an overall average program).  While it remains my contention that Aggie Nation was a collective fool in jettisoning Coach Sumlin just a few years post-Manziel, they nevertheless seem to have upgraded with Jimbo Fisher, who previously had revived Florida State.  Fisher did not disappoint in his first year (2018), going 9-4, winning the Gator Bowl (52-13 over NC State…ouch!), and finishing the year at No. 16.

Further improvement for the Aggies seems imminent.  Last year, they finished at No. 16 in the recruiting rankings, but this year have risen to No. 4.  Nick Saban’s dominance of the SEC West is about to become considerably more difficult.

It gets no easier from there.  Just behind A&M (who, again, is No. 4) in the recruiting rankings at No. 5 is SEC West rival LSU.  All head coach Ed Orgeron needs is a more creative offense, and they could very well contend with the Tide for divisional supremacy.  Until he does, Orgeron might still merit the “gym teacher” category placement.

One other proven coach of note is Mark Stoops at Kentucky.  A program at considerable disadvantages compared to other SEC programs not named Missouri, Stoops has built the Wildcats up to their strongest level since the Fran Curci era.  Barring some major scandal, he shall have done so through considerably more ethical means at that!  His 2018 recruiting class was only at No. 30, and this year at No. 34.  Yet the Wildcats finished the 2018 season at 10-3, including a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, and with a ranking at No. 11.  Mark Stoops thus deserves a serious award for the SEC coach to have done the most with the least.

Yes, the SEC still has its fair share of “gym teachers”, but there are others who are clearly talented and have what it takes to seriously threaten Saban’s legendary dynasty.

Look out for Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, and possibly LSU as they look to start campaigns that should make for a very interesting 2019 season in SEC football.

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 11 (2018) November 11, 2018

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Glad I’m not him: Willie Taggart, Florida State

Lucky guy: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jeff Brohm, Purdue

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard:  Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chip Kelly, UCLA

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Michigan (defeated Rutgers 42-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: NC State (lost to Wake Forest 27-23)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Louisville (lost to Syracuse 54-23)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Boston College (lost to Clemson)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Arkansas State (defeated Coastal Carolina 44-16)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  UTSA

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  NC State

Did the season start?  Wisconsin

Can the season end?  North Carolina

Can the season never endNotre Dame

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 6 Oklahoma 48, Oklahoma State 47

Play this again, too:  No. 19 Texas 41, Texas Tech 34

Never play this again: Utah State 62, San Jose State 24

What? Minnesota 41, Purdue 10

HuhBoise State 24, No. 23 Fresno State 17

Double Huh?  Northwestern 14, No. 21 Iowa 10

Are you kidding me??  Wake Forest 27, NC State 23 (Thurs.)

Oh – my – GodTennessee 24, No. 11 Kentucky 7

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 11)
Best game of the week:  No. 13 Syracuse @ No. 3 Notre Dame

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: UAB @ Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five matchup: Cincinnati @ No. 12 UCF

Upset alert: No. 22 Iowa State @ No. 19 Texas

Must win: Wisconsin @ Purdue

Offensive explosion: No. 9 West Virginia @ Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Tennessee

Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ No. 12 UCF

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs Jeff Brohm of Purdue

Who’s bringing the body bags? Rice @ No. 7 LSU  Also:  Citadel @ No. 1 Alabama

Why are they playing?  UMass @ No. 5 Georgia

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Carolina @ North Carolina

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Liberty @ No. 24 Auburn

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 9 (2018) October 28, 2018

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Willie Taggert, Florida State

Lucky guy: Mike Stoops, Kentucky

Poor guy: Mike Helton, USC

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tom Herman, Texas

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bill Clark, UAB

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking … anything:  Bobby Petrino, Louisville

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Nebraska (defeated Bethune-Cookman 45-9)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: TCU (lost to Kansas 27-26)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Florida State (lost to Clemson 59-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (defeated TCU 27-26)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Wake Forest (defeated Louisville 56-35)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisville

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Texas

Did the season start?  Washington

Can the season end?  UTEP

Can the season never endNotre Dame

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 17 Penn State 30, No. 18 Iowa 24

Play this again, too:  Oklahoma State 38, No. 6 Texas 35

Never play this again: No. 2 Clemson 59, Florida State 10

What? Arizona 44, No. 19 Oregon 15

HuhMissisippi State 28, No. 16 Texas A&M 13

Double Huh?  Cal 12, No. 15 Washington 10

Are you kidding me??  Oklahoma State 38, No. 6 Texas 35

Oh – my – GodKansas 27, TCU 26

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 9)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Alabama @ No. 4 LSU

Another key game to see:  No. 7 Georgia @ No. 12 Kentucky

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi State

Best non-Power Five matchup: Utah State @ Hawaii

Upset alert: No. 13 West Virginia @ No. 6 Texas

Must win: Purdue @ No. 18 Iowa

Offensive explosion: No. 8 Oklahoma @ Texas Tech

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

Great game no one is talking about: No. 3 Notre Dame @ Northwestern

Also:  Purdue @ No. 18 Iowa

Intriguing coaching matchup:  James Franklin of Penn State vs. Jim Harbaugh of Michigan

Who’s bringing the body bags? Louisville @ No. 2 Clemson

Why are they playing?  Charlotte @ Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ Rice

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

College Football Awards, Week 6 (2018) October 7, 2018

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Texas

Glad I’m not him: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, NC State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chip Kelly, UCLA

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Wake Forest 63-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: West Virginia (defeated Kansas 38-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to Clemson 63-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to West Virginia 38-22)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia Tech (defeated Louisville 66-31)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisville

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Boston College

Can the season end?  Rice

Can the season never endTexas

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 63, Wake Forest 3

What? Utah 40, No. 14 Stanford 21

HuhTexas A&M 20, No. 13 Kentucky 14 (OT)

Double HuhMississippi State 23, No. 8 Auburn 9

Are you kidding me??  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Oh – my – GodNo. 22 Florida 27, No. 5 LSU 19

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Georgia @ No. 5 LSU

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 12 UCF @ Memphis

Upset alert: No. 9 West Virginia @ Iowa State

Must win: No. 20 Michigan State @ No. 11 Penn State

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Washington @ No. 18 Oregon

Defensive struggle: No. 8 Auburn @ Tennessee

Great game no one is talking about: Duke @ Georgia Tech

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs. Kevin Sumlin of Arizona

Who’s bringing the body bags? (inconclusive)

Why are they playing? (inconclusive)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Kentucky @ Charlotte

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Alabama State @ South Alabama

Week 6 Thoughts:

 Upsets have abounded this week, with each surprise seeming to supersede the other.  Texas made its presence known by toppling yet another ranked opponent, this time hated rival Oklahoma.  Whereas the Longhorns were ranked a respectable No. 19, the Sooners were top ten at No. 7.  It was almost the upset the never was, as the Sooners’ superior talent almost allowed for a complete comeback during the second half.  Only a last-minute field goal by Texas’ true freshman kicker won the day.

LSU’s occasional woes against Florida continued yesterday.  In 2003, the Gators upset the Tigers badly, almost spoiling their national title campaign.  This time around, the Bayou Bengals came in to the game at No. 5 in the nation, only to be upset by the (No. 22) Gators yet again, this time 27-19.  Time to see if Ed Orgeron’s team can bounce back from this loss and remain strong in the brutally competitive SEC West division.

Mississippi State has been in and out of the rankings, but this time, they played like a legitimately ranked team, toppling top-ten Auburn 23-9.  Perhaps the “clanga-clanga” atmosphere of Scott Field at night had something to do with it?

Speaking of atmospheres and night games, don’t look now, but Kentucky is a legitimately good team.  That said, apparently a night game in the hostile confines of Kyle Field (“Home of the 12th Man”) was too much to maintain their strong winning streak, for the Wildcats lost to the unranked Aggies in overtime, in what was a close, hard-fought game from start to end.

In an interesting night cap game, unranked Utah’s superior quickness gave No. 14 Stanford fits the entire evening.  The Cardinal has a bye-week to lick their wounds, while such a win for the Utes might merit a ranking in the next edition of the polls.

There were other upsets, too, such as Iowa State toppling No. 25 Oklahoma State.  It won’t get any easier for the Cowboys, as their next six games include ranked opponents (Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia), as well as Kansas State and potentially-ranked TCU.

Let us also not overlook another close, hard-fought game between Florida State and Miami.  The Seminoles tenaciously hung tough the entire game and eventually triumphed over the No. 17 Hurricanes 28-27.

In the Big Ten, unranked Northwestern (they actually start off the year ranked No. 15) upset No. 20 Michigan State, on the road, 29-19.  This is a genuine quality win for the Wildcats, as Mark Dantonio has, over the past several years, made his Spartans a tough out even for top-ten teams.  On paper, one would think MSU would have been a tougher out for Northwestern, but just goes to show that nothing is a given in the B1G.

But one of the biggest upsets of the day was also the biggest game of the day, as the Longhorns have won bragging rights over the Sooners for a year until they meet again next year in the Cotton Bowl amidst the annual Texas State Fair.

 

 

 

College Football Week 2 Awards (2016) September 12, 2016

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

COACHES Wish I were him: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Glad I’m not him: Kalani Sitake, BYU

Lucky guy: Brett Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Taggert, South Florida

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking … anything:  Darrell Hazell, Purdue

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 3 Florida State (defeated Charleston Southern 52-8)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 2 Clemson (defeated Troy 30-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Akron (lost to No. 10 Wisconsin 54-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Nicholls (lost to Georgia 26-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Nebraska (defeated Wyoming 52-17)

Dang, they’re good: Michigan

Dang, they’re bad:  Kentucky

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma State

Did the season start?  Northwestern

Can the season end?  Miami, OH

Can the season never endWisconsin

GAMES

Play this again:  Arkansas 41, No. 15 TCU 38

Play this again, too:  Utah 20, BYU 19

Honorable Mention to play again:  South Carolina 13, Vanderbilt 10

Never play this again: No. 20 Texas A&M 67, Prairie View A&M 0

What? East Carolina 33, N.C. State 30

HuhArkansas 41, No. 15 TCU 38

Are you kidding me?  Illinois State 9, Northwestern 7

Oh – my – GodCentral Michigan 30, No. 22 Oklahoma State 27

Told you so:  Arizona State 68, Texas Tech 55

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 2, pre-week 3)

Ticket to die for: No. 2 Florida State @ No. 10 Louisville

Also: No. 3 Ohio State @ No. 14 Oklahoma

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup:  UCLA @ BYU

Best non-Power Five matchupNo. 6 Houston @ Cincinnati (Thurs.)

Upset alert: Auburn @ No. 17 Texas A&M

Must win: Iowa State @ TCU

Offensive explosion: No. 22 Oregon @ Nebraska

Defensive struggle: No. 1 Alabama @ No. 19 Ole Miss

Great game no one is talking about: Pitt @ Oklahoma State

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Dantonio of Michigan State vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags? South Carolina State @ No. 3 Clemson

Why are they playing? Ohio U @ No. 15 Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: Monmouth @ Kent State

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Georgia State @ No. 9 Wisconsin

Week 2 Take-aways:

After such a spectacular opening week in college football the previous Saturday and surrounding days, this weekend was a considerable let-down. The noon timeslots were mediocre, save for the decent matchup of Penn State vs. Pitt. The 3:30 timeslots were positively atrocious, where the best game was arguably Kentucky vs. Florida, and that game turned out to be a 45-7 blowout in favor of the Gators. All the good games were crammed together in the evening, where I found myself wearing out my TV’s remote by switching around to the games of Arkansas @ TCU, Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (at the Bristol, Tenn. Motor Speedway), BYU @ Utah, and occasionally South Carolina @ Mississippi State.

After this mediocre lineup of games for this week, one thing that has festered for a while has become even more clear. Two teams that continue to suck with overpaid coaches who are out of their depth are both Darrell Hazell of Purdue and Mark Stoops of Kentucky. The latter is another case, apparently, of where the only Stoops brother who has the skill set to be a legit head coach at the big boy level is Bob, not brother Mark. We might recall that the other brother, Mike, flamed out at Arizona. Concerning brother Mark, who apparently has had all these great recruiting classes while at UK, lost to lowly Southern Miss last week and this week was demolished by a recovering Florida, 45-7. His predecessor, Joker Philips, went 13-24 (4-20 SEC) after three seasons. Stoops is currently 12-26 (4-21 SEC) after the second game in his fourth season of tenure at UK. The Kentucky faithful would do well to ask themselves: is this progress?

The former had only one good year at a middling MAC program (Kent State), and the powers that be at Purdue were suckered in by this limited success to offer him the Purdue job, paying him $2.2 Million annually, or about $1 Million more than his predecessor, Coach Danny Hope. Hazell is thus far 7-30 since the 2013 season at Purdue, while Coach Hope went 22-27 in four seasons there. Doing that math, that amounts to paying an addition $4 Million for 15 fewer wins. For an athletics department that ostensibly prides itself on operating in the black, those numbers simply do not add up. Moreover, it makes one wonder how much better Hope would have performed had he been given those extra resources that Hazell currently enjoys (meager as they still are compared to true big boy programs).

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated note, Mississippi State gave the impression that they have righted the ship after their embarrassing upset at home last week to South Alabama. They defeated South Carolina this week, 27-14. Conversely, the loss on the part of the Gamecocks’ gives those who doubt the wisdom of the hire of head coach Will Muschamp further credibility.

All this aside, there are some outstanding matchups awaiting us this upcoming weekend, namely:

Michigan State @ Notre Dame; Texas A&M @ Auburn; Pittsburgh @ Oklahoma State; Oregon @ Nebraska; Alabama @ Ole Miss; UCLA @ BYU; Houston @ Cincinnati (Thurs. evening); USC @ Stanford; Ohio State @ Oklahoma; and of course, Florida State @ Louisville, which could potentially be the best game of the year thus far. I for one am already chomping at the bit, especially for the latter game!