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College Football Week 8 Awards (2021) October 25, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss

Glad I’m not him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Lucky guy: Jimmy Lake, Washington  (hon. mention:  Brett Bielema, Illinois)

Poor guy: Jedd Fisch, Arizona  (hon. mention:  James Franklin, Penn State)

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Jeff Traylor, UTSA

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dave Doeren, NC State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Arkansas (defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma (defeated Kansas 35-23)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UMass (lost to Florida State 59-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to No. 3 Oklahoma 35-23)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Ohio State (defeated Indiana 54-7)  

Dang, they’re good:  Alabama
Dang, they’re bad:  Vanderbilt

Can’t Stand Prosperity: NC State

Did the season start?  Penn State
Can the season end?  Akron

Can the season never endSMU

GAMES
Play this again: Illinois 20, No. 7 Penn State 18 (9OT)

Play this again, too:  No. 10 Oregon 34, UCLA 31

Never play this again: Florida State 59, UMass 3

What?  Miami (FL) 31, No. 18 NC State 30

HuhAppalachian State 30, No. 17 Coastal Carolina 27

Are you kidding me??  Iowa State 24, No. 8 Oklahoma State 20

Oh – my – GodIllinois 20, No. 7 Penn State 18 (9OT)

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 9)
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 Michigan @ No. 8 Michigan State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Virginia @ No. 25 BYU

Best non-Power Five matchup: Fresno State @ No. 21 San Diego State  also:  No. 19 SMU @ Houston

Upset alert: No. 9 Iowa @ Wisconsin

Must win: No. 20 Penn State @ No. 5 Ohio State

Offensive explosion: Texas @ No. 16 Baylor

Defensive struggle: No. 1 Georgia vs. Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Purdue @ Nebraska

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Mike Leach of Miss. State

Also:  Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia vs Kalane Sitake of BYU

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Kansas @ No. 4 Oklahoma

Why are they playing? (no game worth mentioning this week)

Plenty of good seats remaining: La. Tech @ Old Dominion

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Texas State @ Louisiana

Week 8 Thoughts:

Penn State vs Illinois

Two weeks ago, Penn State QB Sean Clifford’s injury at Iowa was literally a game-changer.  After out-classing the Hawkeyes for almost three quarters, the Nittany Lion’s loss of their starting quarterback began a negative trend that allowed Iowa to stop their own bleeding and turn things around in a positive direction, resulting in a huge upset, of sorts.

Fast-forward two weeks to the present day.  Clifford was back in the proverbial saddle, but no where near his former self.  It showed with Penn State’s offensive struggles.  They could muster only one touchdown in regulation, with the score tied at 13-13 with 0:00 left on the clock, and this against a mediocre – at best – Illinois team.

The game would go into a record nine overtimes, with five consecutive of them being scoreless.  In the end, the Illini triumphed by managing just one more two-point conversion than the Nittany Lions. 

My takeaway:  unless Sean Clifford returns to full health, Penn State’s season is essentially lost.

Army vs Wake Forest

In what sane universe does the matchup between these two teams add up to an offensive explosion?  The Demon Deacons – on a considerable roll, this year – triumphed over the Black Knights, 70-56.

Purdue vs. Wisconsin

My suspicions that Purdue’s ranking of No. 25 was suspect at best was confirmed, as the Boilers experienced a semi-drubbing at home by Wisconsin, 30-13.  Conversely, the Badgers played as though their previous week’s woes are behind them.  What we saw of that team yesterday suggests that they are playing back up to how we would expect a Wisconsin team to perform.  This resurgence shall be put to the test next week when Iowa comes calling.

Pittsburgh vs Clemson

Speaking of sane universes (see:  Army vs Wake Forest, above), in what sane universe is Pittsburgh ranked and Clemson unranked?  This quandary is brought on by Clemson’s fearsome reputation which they have rightfully earned since 2015.  This is why, despite this Twlight Zone-esque ranking of the two pitted teams, it still feels like an upset when the Panthers triumphed over the Tigers, 27-17.

Indiana vs Ohio State

The fact that Ohio State steamrolled over Indiana 54-7 does not mean that this was supposed to be a body bag game.  Far from it.  The Hoosiers, in truth, have a solid team this year.  Indeed, the game could have been a “trap” one for the Buckeyes, as they face Penn State next week.  What the results of this game thus shows is that Ohio State’s coaching staff has quietly and gradually made fine-tuning adjustments to their team as the season has progressed.  If this game’s score is any indications, the Buckeyes’ ranking of No. 5 is legitimate, and this rate, they could make the playoffs yet.

Alabama vs. Tennessee

The Volunteers played with heart, and there is some talent there.  But the Crimson Tide is still considerably better, talent-wise, and the score (52-24) demonstrated that.  It shall take another good recruiting class or two from Josh Heupel to bring this bitter rivalry back up to the level of drama and stakes that it deserves.

Looking ahead:  Michigan @ Michigan State

Two top-ten titans clash in East Lansing as a resurgent Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines take on a quietly-rebuilt Spartans squad led by up-and-comer Mel Tucker.  How these teams perform against each other – as bitter rivals, no less – shall say much as to how far each respective team has come.

Penn State @ Ohio State

On paper, with one team ranked No. 5 and the other ranked No. 20, this sounds like it could be almost as good a game as Michigan State vs. Michigan, right?  Wrong.  While Ohio State is currently proven legit at their current ranking, Penn State has been struggling offensively since Sean Clifford’s injury at Iowa.  If the Nittany Lions continue to struggle to put points on the board, this could be a rout in Ohio State’s favor.

Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville

Not to call too much attention, but there’s this World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party about to commence this upcoming weekend in Jacksonville.  Georgia is currently ranked No. 1 (and rightfully so),  but historically, Florida has given the Bulldogs fits in this game.  Hence, it behooves us all to keep an eye on this game in case things get potentially interesting.

Ole Miss @ Auburn

Coming off a huge win over hated LSU, the Rebels now go into Auburn to take on ranked Auburn.  This could be another great slugfest worth watching.

Texas @ Baylor

The Bears have proven to be a potent team.  Texas’ offensive output has proven to be strong – for three quarters, at least.  Regardless, get ready for a potential shootout in Waco.

Louisville @ NC State

Here is an interesting ACC matchup for fans.  The Cardinals won over a cagey BC team in the rain.  Now they venture into Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack, fresh from an upset loss at the hands of Miami (Fla.).  Louisville passed a test (winning a game in adverse weather conditions) this weekend.  Now can they pass an even greater one?

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 Awards, Week 5 (2018) September 30, 2018

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Lucky guy: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Poor guy: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville (held over for second week!)

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chris Ash, Rutgers

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama (defeated Louisiana 56-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (defeated Tennessee 38-12)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Bowling Green (lost to Georgia Tech 63-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Syracuse (lost to Clemson 27-23)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Miami (North Carolina 47-10)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  South Alabama

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Duke

Did the season start?  Louisville

Can the season end?  Rice

Can the season never endNotre Dame

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 4 Ohio State 27, No. 10 Penn State 26

Never play this again: FIU 55, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 9

What? Liberty 52, New Mexico 43

HuhFlorida 13, No. 23 Mississippi State 6

Are you kidding me??  Virginia Tech 31, No. 22 Duke 14

Oh – my – GodNo. 8 Notre Dame 38, No. 7 Stanford 17

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 5)
Ticket to die for:  No. 18 Texas vs. No. 6 Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout (Dallas)

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Louisiana-Monroe @ Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five matchup: SMU @ UCF

Upset alert: No. 8 Notre Dame @ Virginia Tech

Must win: Georgia Tech @ Louisville

Offensive explosion: (inconclusive)

Defensive struggle: Navy @ Air Force

Great game no one is talking about: Tulane @ Cincinnati

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Justin Wilcox of Cal vs. Kevin Sumlin of Arizona

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 1 Alabama @ Arkansas

Why are they playing? North Texas @ UTEP

Plenty of good seats remaining: Colorado State @ San Jose State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Illinois @ Rutgers

Week 5 Thoughts: 

This week was one of the most important of the year for this college football season.  Although there were few upsets, and ever fewer of consequence (despite some close calls – looking your way, Michigan and Ohio State), there were still two games of enormous importance.

Let us start with the biggest game of the week, which was Ohio State playing Penn State in Happy Valley.  With a “white-out” at night filling the 107,000-seat stadium, the Nittany Lions played above their No. 10 ranking, almost defeating No. 4 Ohio State.  Almost.  In the end, both teams played up to their high potential, and the slightly-better team on paper turned out to be the slightly better team on the field of play.  The obvious national championship implications of the matchup and outcome is only part of the importance of this game, which shall be explained in further depth in a subsequent article.

The other game of enormous consequence was Stanford at Notre Dame.  This was another top ten matchup with both teams outside of the South, with the victor having further potential to advance in the rankings.  As wonderful as the southern teams are, having a healthy amount of top-ten (or even top-15) teams outside of the Southeast region is good for football because it makes the sport more national and less regional.  This importance shall also be explained further in an article that shall be forthcoming soon.

Oh, and don’t look now, but Texas is on a four-game win streak, and survived a trap game at Kansas State headed into the Red River Shootout, er, Showdown come Oct. 6.

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.

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?