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College Football Awards Week 6 (2017) October 9, 2017

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Lucky guy: Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Poor guy: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike Norvell, Memphis

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking … anything:  Gary Anderson, Oregon State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Maryland 62-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated Wake Forest 28-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to Texas Tech 65-19)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Wake Forest (lost to No. 2 Clemson 28-14)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Tulane (defeated Tulsa 62-28)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Rice

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma

Did the season start?  Florida State

Can the season end?  East Carolina

Can the season never endPenn State

GAMES
Play this again:  Michigan State 14, No. 7 Michigan 10

Play this again, too:  Texas 40, Kansas State 34 (2OT)

This merits a second look, too:  No. 8 TCU 31, No. 23 West Virginia 24

Never play this again: No. 10 Ohio State 62, Maryland 14

What? LSU 17, No. 21 Florida 16

HuhNo. 24 NC State 39, No. 17 Louisville 25

Are you kidding me??  Michigan State 14, No. 7 Michigan 10

Oh – my – GodIowa State 38, No. 3 Oklahoma 31

NEXT WEEK

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

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 25 Navy @ Memphis

Upset alert: Georgia Tech @ No. 11 Miami also:  Utah @ No. 13 USC

Must win: Oregon @ No. 23 Stanford

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ No. 23 West Virginia

Defensive struggle: No. 10 Auburn @ LSU

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

Intriguing coaching matchup:  P.J. Fleck of Minnesota vs. Mark Dantonio of Michigan State

Who’s bringing the body bags? Missouri @ No. 4 Georgia

Why are they playing? Charlotte @ Western Kentucky

Plenty of good seats remaining: Miami (OH) @ Kent State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Old Dominion @ Marshall

Week 6 Random Thoughts:

These past couple of weeks, there were not that many upsets.  This week made up for that in quality if not for quantity.  Favored Louisville choked on the road at NC State.  Unranked LSU beat the Gators, in the Swamp, and in a defensive struggle, by a single point.  ACC cellar-dweller Syracuse beat respectable Pitt.  To cap things off, unranked Michigan State defeated Michigan, in a dramatic 14-10 finish (wait, that’s still a thing in 2017?), in the Big House, no less.  What a week.

South Carolina defeated Arkansas in a game that could have gone either way.  The Gamecocks should enjoy the win while it lasts, because the remainder of their schedule is brutal.  In order, they shall play:  Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, Wofford (huh?), and close out the season at home versus Clemson.  Aside from Wofford, the Gamecocks could lose every one of those games.  Yes, that is to say that even Vandy is iffy since they beat Kansas State earlier this year.

Given how hyped Florida State was coming into the season, and the potential regard in which they are still held in the eyes of most fans, is it valid to consider No. 13 Miami’s win in Tallahassee an upset, or simply a comeuppance to an overrated team?

Texas might have turned a corner with a win in double-OT over Kansas State, a team never to be taken lightly and capable of running the tables on the northern schools – what few remain — in the Big XII.  With this key win for the Horns coupled with Oklahoma’s embarrassing upset at home to Iowa State this week, it will make next week’s Red River Shootout Showdown all the more unpredictable.

Maryland has proven that they’re a decent team.  Not great, but decent.  Nevertheless, they came into Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio State demolished them, 62-14.  Nothing like a body-bag game (in hindsight) for homecoming.  All kidding aside, could it be that the Buckeyes have solved their identity crisis on offense?  We’ll know for sure by the end of the month when they butt heads with Penn State.

Speaking of whom, Michigan will have ample opportunity for redemption for this week’s upset loss at home when they take on the Nittany Lions on Oct. 21.  It only takes one loss on Penn State’s part for the Big Ten race to become very, very interesting.

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College Football Week 5 Awards October 1, 2012

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Glad I’m not him: Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Lucky guy: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Poor guy: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tim Beckman, Illinois
Desperately seeking … anything: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: North Carolina (defeated Idaho 66-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: LSU (defeated Towson 38-22)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to UCLA 42-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Marshall (lost to Purdue 51-41)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Penn State (beat Illinois 35-7)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State
Dang, they’re bad:  Army
Did the season start? Virginia Tech
Can the season end?  Indiana
Can the season never end?  Oregon

GAMES
Play this again: West Virginia 70, Baylor 63
Never play this again: Louisiana Monroe 63, Tulane 10
What? Cincinnati 27, Virginia Tech 24
Huh? Stony Brook 23, Army 3
Are you kidding me? Penn State 35 – Illinois 7

Oh – my – God:  Middle Tennessee State 49, Georgia Tech 28

Told you so: No.5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for: No. 5 Georgia @ No. 6 South Carolina
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 9 Notre Dame (assuming one were to count Independents as “non-Big Six, otherwise, it would be Miami (Ohio) @ Cincinnati.
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana Monroe @ Middle Tennessee State
Upset alert: No. 8 West Virginia @ No. 11 Texas

Must win: No. 17 Oklahoma @ Texas Tech
Get-well opportunity:  No. 20 Michigan State @ Indiana

Offensive explosion: Washington State @ No. 18 Oregon State
Defensive struggle: No. 4 LSU @ No. 10 Florida
Great game no one is talking about: Michigan @ Purdue

Intriguing coaching matchup: Urban Meyer of Ohio State vs. Bo Pelini of Nebraska
Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 7 Kansas State
Why are they playing? No. 24 Boise State @ Southern Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Boston College @ Army (or, New Mexico State @ Idaho, take your pick)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  Arkansas @ Auburn

What we have learned after Week 5:

Remember last week’s predicted “Offensive Explosion”?  Scratch that.  Yes, hindsight is indeed 20-20, but West Virginia’s Big XII debut against Baylor was far more than an “Intriguing Coaching Matchup” between the Mountaineers’ Dana Holgorsen and the Bears’ Art Briles.  The score of the game was so high, in what has become to be a seemingly typical Baylor fashion these days, that one needed oxygen to read the numbers.  The Mountaineers made a very splashy conference debut, winning at home 70-63.

Also, remember last week’s predicted “Defensive Struggle”?  Scratch that one, too.  Penn State defeated Illinois in the Fighting Illini’s home stadium, 35-7.  That cannot be attributed alone to the Illini wearing dark blue helmets for the first time since, well, pretty much ever.  The available evidence on hand indicates that Illinois has worn orange helmets since at least 1945, if not earlier.  I cannot find any photographic record yet of them ever wearing blue helmets, but the search shall continue.  Just don’t hold your breath in the meantime.  That aside, has Penn State found some offense, or is Illinois that horrible?  The Nittany Lions have sputtered offensively practically the whole season until yesterday, while the Fighting Illini were 2-2 going into that game.

The Purdue-Marshall match-up in West Lafayette, Ind., was tagged for this past week’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” slot.  The selection was by default, since the odds of a major blowout anywhere else aside from other chosen games seemed much higher.  But while the Boilermakers were making gamey mincemeat out of the Thundering Herd in the first half, they let off the gas too soon in the second half.  A clearly visible epidemic of dropped passes in the third quarter especially raised concerns for Purdue’s prospects in the Big Ten.  Until now, plenty of talk has abounded regarding the Boilers having a very attainable shot at representing the Leaders division of the Big 10 in the championship game in Indianapolis.  After this game, some doubts will no doubt linger.  Much work is to be done if Purdue is to triumph at home next week against Michigan, and quell the justifiable newfound doubts in so doing.  Get it together, Boilers.

The LSU-Towson matchup was to be, on paper, a slaughter so massive as to border on a war crime.  Most fans could not even point Towson’s location out on a map (hint:  it is a very nice suburb in the northern part of Baltimore).  The only factor one can attribute to LSU’s inexplicably close margin of victory (38-22) is that the Bayou Bengals must have kept the playbook very, very limited so as to avoid divulging any trade secrets as they prepare to take on a quietly improving Florida team next week.

The Upset Alert prediction of last week (South Carolina @ Kentucky) seemed to almost come to fruition, as the Gamecocks wasted an entire half, trailing the Wildcats in Commonwealth Stadium by more than a touchdown.  Only after they made the proper halftime adjustments did they assert themselves like a top-ten team should, and pulled themselves out of an unnecessary hole with a modest score of 38-17.  South Carolina will not have such a luxury of using an entire half of a football game as their learning curve next week, when they will take on cross-border, arch-rival Georgia in what will without a doubt be the game of the week.

Awesome unis:

The Wisconsin-Nebraska game was not only a great game to watch from a purely game-play standpoint, with great execution on both sides of the ball.  It was also a feast for the eyes from two teams who historically where rather stodgy uniforms.  Both teams had sick-looking alternate, quasi-throwback unis (and we mean “sick” in the hip, with-it, good way!).  The Badgers’ red helmets and red shoulders on white jerseys was a feast alone for the eyes, to say nothing of Huskers’ red jersey-pants combo with tasteful black trim, along with the first black helmets the team as ever donned – EVER.  The proverbial icing on the cake was the large school letters worn on the front of both teams’ jerseys.  All in all, a nice combination of throwback elements from the 1920s, 1940s, and 1950s!  Speaking of which, did anybody notice the nice late ‘50s-style numbers on Wisconsin’s jerseys?  One word: neato!

While we’re on the awesome uniform topic, it was nice to see LSU where purple jerseys again, as they have been known to do once in a blue moon.  Moreover, I am prepared to designate Ole Miss’ road uniforms as the nicest away unis in the SEC.  The all-gray is a unique touch, but the red-on-navy blue trim is an unbeatable combination, especially as it scrolls over the shoulders.  On the other side of the continent, what is up with Oregon wearing gray pants?  This thought especially came to mind as I watched them play Washington State in Pullman, Wash.  Did the Ducks not know full-well that the Cougars were wearing gray pants at home?  Would it have been too much trouble to wear green pants instead to provide a better contrast on the field?  Sheesh.

NCAA out of Bounds in Sanctioning Penn State September 20, 2012

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Back-up placekicker Sam Ficken for Penn State, walking off the field dejected in losing on the road to Virginia. Ficken was the Nittany Lions’ back-up kicker, as their erstwhile starting kicker transferred to the University of Texas amid the chaos in Happy Valley.

Anybody who is remotely aware of the major developments in the world of big-time sports, specifically college football, has no doubt heard the news about the mountain of sanctions that the NCAA has arbitrarily heaped onto the once-vaunted football program of Pennsylvania State University, a.k.a., Penn State.  These sanctions include a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason bowl ban, a Draconian reduction in scholarships (10 initial, 20 total each year for four years), and, to add insult to injury, vacate all the wins during the late Joe Paterno’s tenure dating back to 1998 – the year when the bulk of the child abuses perpetrated by then-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky were first internally known among some staff members.

Before the discussion proceeds any further, be it known and understood that I carry no water for Penn State.  As a graduate of a Big 10 Conference rival, I had no love for a team that beat us in all the years that we played them during my time as a college student.  Furthermore, I make no apologies for the stubborn refusal of JoePa to plan and execute his own exit strategy, which he should have done a full decade before his sudden and long-overdue ouster in 2011.  Most importantly, this not in any way to rationalize the evils perpetrated by Sandusky, nor to be insensitive to the undue emotional and spiritual scarring wrought upon the innocent young victims.

But what did these evils themselves have to do with the football program at large?  Sandusky was found guilty of these heinous crimes in the court of law, and awaits a sentence that will surely be tantamount to spending the rest of his life in prison.  He has not been directly affiliated with the program since the end of the 1999 season.  Moreover, Paterno has not only ceased to the head coach at PSU – a position he held for more than four decades – but he is deceased.  The two individuals to whom legitimate blame for these evils is warranted – the perpetrator in Sandusky and the enabler in Paterno – are either in jail or are underneath the sod (in this case, respectively!).

The point is, the crimes that were done by Sandusky and on Paterno’s watch were transgressions of the legal nature, and were punished in the legal realm.  Whatever further punishment awaits both in the next life is a matter for the theologians to debate.  But this had nothing to do with NCAA ethics.  And is that not the grounds for which this august governing body for collegiate athletics metes out its punishment to member athletics departments?

The NCAA, in their supposed magnanimity, allowed for players currently on the roster of the Penn State football team to transfer to other programs without being forced to sit out for year.  Under normal circumstances, players on a Division 1A (pardon me, Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS) program who choose to transfer to another school/team have to sit out for one season, unless they transfer to a Division 1AA program (pardon me, Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS).  For example, if a player is on the roster at, say, the University of Cincinnati, he feels as though he is not a good fit after all, and decides to play elsewhere, he could transfer, to say, Eastern Kentucky University, and play immediately.  Not so if he were to transfer to, say, the University of Toledo, or Kent State, the University of Kentucky, or of Louisville, and expect to play immediately, for the NCAA mandates that such a lateral transfer requires the given student to sit out for a year.

At least the governing body in question had the decency to recognize that the current players on the team had nothing to do with the aforementioned evils, and should be let off the proverbial hook so they could continue to be in a position to reap the rewards that winning effort on the field allows.  For they have waived the traditional transfer rule and have allowed current PSU players to go to other FBS teams that have a chance to go to a bowl game, thus leaving Penn State in a further weakened state than it already is.  At least ten players have taken up the NCAA on this offer, and have transferred elsewhere, notably to Illinois, to Florida, to Texas, N.C. State, even to Cal and USC.

All this leaves the Penn State program in a severely weakened state.  The players worth any count have been given the option to seek greener pastures, and have naturally done so.  The remaining players are, according to reason, less skilled, and the performance on the field – losing at home to Ohio U at home and to Virginia on the road – with a back-up kicker missing key field goals (the starting kicker wisely fled to join the Texas Longhorns, whose collective star is on the re-rise).

To sum things up, the program is $60 million poorer, bereft of its more-skilled players, and unable to attract players worth any count for the next four years at least on account of both losing some of its scholarships to offer, to say nothing of no prospects of a post-season bowl game for that length of time, no matter how well the team does in the regular season.  In short, the NCAA essentially gave them a walking death penalty.  The only reason that Penn State acquiesced to these stringent terms is that if PSU did not, the NCAA would have given them the real thing, according to the new president of the university, Rodney Erickson.

The only time the NCAA handed down the “death penalty” to a football program (where the program is not allowed to even field a team and play that sport for an entire season) was to SMU in 1987.  The ruling’s reasons, according to NCAA investigators, were, among others, an under-the-table slush fund given to Mustang players, $61,000 total, to be exact.  SMU forewent fielding a team for 1988 as well.  Contrast that with the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal at the University of Miami (Fla.) that came to light in 2011.  According to Shapiro’s own admissions in numerous jailhouse interviews (currently, he is serving a prison term for a $930 million Ponzi scheme), he provided U of Miami football players with “cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.”

In both the case of SMU as well as Miami, clear recruiting and player compensation violations took place:  ethical violations that warranted/warrant NCAA punishment to those programs.  Yet Nevin Shapiro’s egregious violations make the SMU slush fund pale in comparison, yet the NCAA has yet to hand down any sanctions whatsoever to “The U.”

Meanwhile, no evidence has yet surfaced regarding the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and the tacit enabling of them by Joe Paterno having any bearing at all on recruiting violations, player compensation, or even cruelty towards players, or any other act which would legally and ethically warrant such Draconian punishment from the NCAA.

As mentioned before, the perpetrator and enablers are long gone from the University.  Sandusky awaits his prison sentence, Paterno is under the sod, and anybody else connected to Joe[Grand]Pa, including the former athletics director and even the former university president himself, both former players under Paterno, have been summarily dismissed.  Penn State has a new head football coach, a new A.D., and also a new president of this highly respected university.  They are earnestly trying to “grow new grass,” so to speak.  Why punish them, not to mention the players who have commendably made up their minds to commit their college-playing eligibility to this institution in the wake of these horrifying scandals?  Why punish the 107,000+ fans who show up at Beaver Stadium on Saturdays in the Fall?  Why punish the millions of Nittany Lion faithful over the actions of a few individuals whose violations were strictly within the legal realm, and had nothing to do with NCAA infractions?

At this time of PSU’s darkest hours, I would advise the rest of the Big Ten fan bases not to dance on the Nittany Lions’ grave.  A weakened Penn State means a weakened Big 10 Conference, this at a time when cold weather programs are increasingly at a competitive disadvantage in terms of recruiting the best players nationwide, hence are struggling to be credible contenders for national titles.  It also means weakened intra-conference competition, something that could affect other conference teams’ strength of schedules and possibly their national rankings.  A strong PSU team would mean the opposite of these potential problems.

If the sages in Indianapolis dictated that the $60 million fine go to programs that work to prevent child abuse and molestation, that would be a fitting penalty that all parties concerned could embrace.  But instead, a bunch of detached elitists decided to proceed much further than necessary and bring hard times to a proud university, to a state, and to its national fan base.  Shame on the NCAA for unduly and arbitrarily forcing Penn State’s football program into an induced coma.  Sanctions towards other programs guilty of actual violations within their jurisdiction are warranted but remain to be administered.  The governing body has some explaining to do for this clear double-standard.

As an aside, the new head coach has yet to get the hint that part of “growing new grass” means a clean break from those blindingly generic uniforms.  Nameplates on the back of the jerseys are not enough.  Bill O’Brien worked in the NFL long enough to understand what a helmet logo decal looks like.   It will be interesting to see if and when he eventually gets the hint and starts having some football-shaped Nittany Lion logo decals affixed to the sides of those mind-numbingly generic white helmets.  If these horrific developments do not sound the clarion call for Penn State to ditch those horribly generic unis once and for all, what will?