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College Football Week 7 Awards (2021) October 17, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Dino Babers, Syracuse

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Desperately seeking … anything:  Greg Schiano, Rutgers

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Alabama (defeated Mississippi State 49-9)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oregon (defeated Cal 24-17)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rice (lost to UTSA 45-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (defeated No. 2 Iowa 24-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Colorado (Arizona 34-0)  

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Iowa

Did the season start?  Arizona State
Can the season end?  Southern Miss

Can the season never endCincinnati

GAMES
Play this again: No. 13 Ole Miss 31, Tennessee 26

Play this again, too:  No. 12 Oklahoma State 32, No. 25 Texas 24

Never play this again: Virginia 48, Duke 0

What?  LSU 49, No. 20 Florida 42

HuhUtah 35, No. 18 Arizona State 21

Are you kidding me??  Aurburn 38, No. 17 Arkansas 23

Oh – my – GodPurdue 24, No. 2 Iowa 7

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 8)
Ticket to die for:  LSU @ No. 13 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: BYU @ Washington State; also, No. 16 Wake Forest @ Army

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 15 Coastal Carolina vs. Appalachian State; also, No. 22 San Diego State @ Air Force

Upset alert: UCLA @ No. 10 Oregon

Must win: Wisconsin @ Purdue

Offensive explosion: (inconclusive)

Defensive struggle: Syracuse @ Virginia Tech

Great game no one is talking about: Clemson @ Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs Josh Heupel of Tennessee

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

Why are they playing? UMass @ Florida State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Washington @ Arizona

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Arkansas-Pine Bluff @ Arkansas

Week 7 Thoughts:

Oklahoma State vs Texas

For the second week in row, Texas has blown a 4th-quarter lead to a ranked opponent.  Here’s a fairly disturbing stat to back up this observation.  In the 4th quarters of games against Oklahoma and then Oklahoma State, the Longhorns have been outscored 41-7.  Head coach Steve Sarkesian clearly has his work cut out for him on that side of the ball.  On the other side, it wouldn’t hurt to work on his offense’s performance, either, as scoring only 7 points in those two quarters combined is clearly unacceptable.

Purdue vs Iowa

File this under “Boy, did we get that one wrong/Boy, we didn’t see that one coming”.  In what could have potentially been a “body bag” game for Iowa, given Purdue lackluster performance against Minnesota two weeks earlier, the Boilermakers actually showed up to play, and both thrilled their faithful fans and stunned the college football world in the process. 

There are many layers one can slice-and-dice this game and the surrounding conditions that came with it.  Start with the premise of Iowa’s No. 2 ranking prior to said game.  Yes, they were undefeated, but that alone came about under questionable circumstances.  In the prior game against Penn State, the Hawkeyes were being outclassed by the Nittany Lions for more than half the game, before the latter’s quarterback was out of the game’s remainder due to injury.

Even had that injury to Penn State’s QB not occurred, and somehow Iowa would have righted the ship anyhow, I nevertheless must propose a thought experiment.  If an undefeated Iowa team (that of this season) were to go head-to-head against a one-loss Alabama team (likewise the current team of this season), which squad do think would emerge victorious?  Answering ‘Alabama’ would be a no-brainer.  Would it not thus be logical that the Crimson Tide be ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes, not withstanding the teams’ respective records, going into this week?

All that aside, the sad fact of the matter is that the Hawkeyes failed to live up to the prestigious ranking that had attained.  To close out the broadcast coverage, one of the commentators for ABC observed that “Purdue out-Iowa’d Iowa”.  Say what you will about head coach Jeff Brohm, but he put the extra week that he had with last week’s bye to very good use in preparing to take on this strong foe.

Going forward, it shall be very interesting to see how each of the two teams react to this big upset.  This time, the Hawkeyes have the bye, with their next game after that being a surprisingly winnable one against Wisconsin.  Indeed, the remainder of their schedule is all winnable.  Can they bounce back to seize such a opportunity, and to make a great season out of things regardless?  Last I checked, 11-1 for a program like Iowa is a great achievement.

For Purdue, can they stop celebrating long enough to re-focus and properly prepare for what lies ahead?  Many treacherous teams await the Boilers, starting with Wisconsin next week. 

Kentucky vs Georgia

Kentucky is a great team, but face it:  Georgia is that much greater.  This was plainly discernable going into the game, and the outcome therefore surprised no reasonable party.  That said, the Wildcats acquitted themselves well by covering the spread in the last minutes of the game.

Ole Miss vs Tennessee

For the first time in a long time, it felt as though Tennessee was returning to its glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s.  Neyland Stadium was positively electric last night when Ole Miss came calling.  They put up a valiant effort against a loaded Rebels team headed by their own former head coach, Lane Kiffin.  Despite being outmanned, in the end, they were only several yards shy of the opportunity to tie the game at the end of regulation.  It’s never a disgrace to lose to a better team, and, moreover, if the players continue to buy in to Josh Heupel’s vision, and the latter can bring in another good recruiting class or two, the Volunteers could continue to be on the upswing and legitimately bring back their glory days.

All that said, shame on the Tennessee fans who threw everything from water bottles to golf balls onto the field near the end of the game.  That is very classless; it reflects poorly on the fan base, and on many southern fans at large; the perpetrators of such a classless act need to see the error of their ways, and if some degree of ostracization to help guide them to the light is what is necessary to do so, then so be it.  Tennessee fans, do better and be better, so as to be worthy of such aforementioned glory days, should they return.

Looking ahead:  Oklahoma State @ Iowa State

Can the Cowboys now handle their own prosperity?  They are currently undefeated, ranked No. 8, and now head up to Ames, Iowa, where lately many ranked teams have gone to die.  The Cyclones are never to be taken lightly under head coach Matt Campbell.  Can he prepare his already-strong team to take down an undefeated foe?  Can Oklahoma State’s head coach Mike Gundy prepare his squad to be ready to face proven giant-killers?  We’ll find out shortly.

Clemson @ Pittsburgh

Queue the theme music from “The Twilight Zone”.  In this upcoming matchup, the Pitt Panthers are ranked (No. 23), whereas the Clemson Tigers are not.  It should thus be a very interesting matchup at Heinz Field.

Tennessee @ Alabama

No time for the Volunteers to lick their wounds after a close, emotional loss to Ole Miss.  Now they must travel to Tuscaloosa to take on their traditionally most-hated rival.  Such is life in the SEC.

LSU @ Ole Miss

Speaking of hated rvials, there is never any love lost between these two.  While recently this rivalry has been a bit one-sided in LSU’s favor, the Rebels are now the favored team, and could make this season full of questions for LSU and their head coach Ed Orgeron (who was previously the head coach at Ole Miss) all the more painful.  Then again, the Tigers pulled off a mild upset win over Florida, which leads many discerning fans to believe that this game could be a reasonably even, tough matchup on paper after all.

Final thought:  can we bring back the “Twlight Zone” theme music for a second?  Because Cincinnati is now the No. 2-ranked team in the country.  Ponder that for what it is worth.

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 10 (2019) November 4, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Dan Mullen, Florida

Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Poor guy: Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bryan Harsin, Boise State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tom Allen, Indiana

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Wofford 59-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Auburn (defeated Ole Miss 20-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: UTSA (lost to Texas A&M 45-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Georgia Tech (lost to Pittsburgh 20-10)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Liberty (defeated UMass 63-21)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  SMU

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Rutgers

Can the season never endOregon

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 8 Georgia 24, No. 6 Florida 17

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 59, Wofford 14

What?  Georgia Southern 24, No. 20 Appalachian State 21

HuhPurdue 31, Nebraska 27

Are you kidding me??  No. 8 Georgia 24, No. 6 Florida 17

Oh – my – GodNo. 24 Memphis 54, No. 15 SMU 48

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 LSU @ No. 2 Alabama

Next-best game of the week:  No. 5 Penn State @ No. 13 Minnesota

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Appalachian State @ South Carolina

Best non-Power Five matchup: Wyoming @ No. 21 Boise State

Upset alert: Iowa State @ No. 9 Oklahoma (hon. mention:  Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Wake Forest)

Must win: No. 20 Kansas State @ Texas

Offensive explosion: Kansas State @ Texas

Defensive struggle: No. 18 Iowa @ No. 16 Wisconsin

Great game no one is talking about: Ball State @ Western Michigan

Intriguing coaching matchup:  James Franklin of Penn State vs P.J. Fleck of Minnesota

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

Why are they playing? New Mexico State @ Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Texas State (dishonorable mention: Purdue @ Northwestern)

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Vanderbilt @ No. 6 Florida

Week 10 Thoughts:

Again, am I the only one who has noticed that waaaaay too many teams have bye-weeks for upcoming week 10?

Notre Dame vs Virginia Tech

Earlier in the awards list, I listed Justin Fuente as the “Poor Guy” of the week.  Really, though, I should have created a special, one-off category for him this week called “Stupid Guy” instead.  His Virginia Tech team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the last few minutes of the game by persistently playing a “prevent” defense (specifically, rushing only three and dropping back the remaining eight) that allowed for Notre Dame to pick the Hokies’ secondary apart in the final minutes, play by play.  Not once did Virginia Tech mount anything resembling a pass rush, and the Irish made them pay dearly for not doing so.  All it would have taken would be to rush a couple of extra men, as one or two sacks in the process would have ruined Notre Dame’s day.  But no.  Once again, we are reminded that the only thing the prevent defense prevents is the implementer of said defense from winning the game.  Period.

Georgia vs Florida

Can anybody recall, within recent memory, a Georgia-Florida game with as much drama, excitement, and close play as this week’s matchup?  Neither can I.

SMU vs Memphis

Another undefeated bites the dust.  May your undefeated season rest in peace, SMU.  Still, what a game, and what a moment.  ESPN’s College Gameday crew visited Memphis for the first time, and the fans came out in droves to celebrate the arrival and to show their support for their Memphis Tigers.  The latter point is especially worth noting.  U-Memphis has historically been known as a basketball school.  Yet an ESPN-televised game at night, in front of a sellout crowd in the Liberty Bowl stadium, with ranked Memphis taking on then-undefeated SMU shows that UM’s football prowess is on the rise, and that is always a wonderful thing, notwithstanding the unfortunate side-effect of SMU’s undefeated season going by the boards.

Utah vs Washington

Utah needed to bring their A-game to Seattle, since the Huskies can be unpredictable at times.  Eventually, the Utes did just that.  Combine their win at Washington with USC’s crushing loss at home to No. 7 Oregon, and Utah controls their own destiny regarding clinching a Pac-12 South berth for the conference championship game.

On the perils of trying to fire one’s way out of “Glen Mason Territory” October 15, 2018

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Last year, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly wrote about the perils to which average and above-average football programs expose themselves when they fire a coach who has been winning games, except that now he’s not winning enough games.  He dubbed this situation “Glen Mason Territory”.

What happens is that a team (typically, a 2nd-tier Power Five program) is in the doldrums, suffering from a string of losing seasons.  The university’s AD hires a new coach who then comes in and rights the ship.  Instead of losing season after losing season, the program now enjoys winning seasons.  The team starts going to bowl games, say, five over the course of seven years.  The fans are loving it.  They want more.  The boosters want more.  The athletics director wants more.

Except that the head coach cannot deliver more.  It’s usually not his fault.  There’s often a set of structural limitations in place, and despite the community’s clamoring, the coach, despite all he has done, cannot deliver on the expectations that have been unintentionally raised.  In other words, the coach did raise the bar of performance expectations, which was great for a while.  Now the fans and everyone else take this for grant, and want it raised even further, which is an impossible task.  Instead of accepting this frank fact of life, the fans call for the AD to do the feel-good thing, which is to fire the coach and replace him someone who (they think) deliver on these raised (often, unreasonable) expectations.

Let us briefly consider the namesake of “Glen Mason Territory” for a moment as an example.  Glen Mason was a former Ohio State coordinator who did an impressive salvage job at Kansas in the 1990s.  Minnesota hired him in 1997 for a similar turnaround.  Despite the Golden Gophers’ past tradition (having won multiple national titles in the 1930s and 1940s under Bernie Bierman), the program had been absent from the national conscious since most of the 1960s (having won the whole thing, oddly, in 1960).

Mason started to deliver in 1999, winning eight games that year, including a massive upset over then, No. 2 Penn State.  The following year, they sent Ohio State’s national title aspirations into an early death spiral, in the Horseshoe, no less.  As Bill Connelly tells it further:

“The Gophers would bowl again in 2000 and 2002, then surge in 2003. Behind the punishing combination of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, they beat Penn State and Wisconsin on the way to a 9-3 regular season, then Oregon in a Sun Bowl thriller to reach 10 wins for the first time since 1905.

The problem: he never won 10 again. The Gophers started 2004 5-0 and reached 13th before losing five of six down the stretch and needing a bowl win to salvage 7-5. They went 7-5 again in 2005 and were on the doorstep of a third straight seven-win season in 2006 before blowing an enormous Insight Bowl lead to Texas Tech.

A year after a contract extension, Minnesota used the bowl collapse as impetus for panic. Despite seven bowls in eight years — for a program that had been almost absent from college football’s consciousness for nearly four decades — the school pushed Mason out.

The program had grown stale, you see, and needed young energy. “I believe the program needs a new vision to reignite fan enthusiasm,” said athletic director Joel Maturi.”

The question in the mind of many of the readers by now is, ‘why couldn’t Minnesota “got over the hump”, so to speak?’  One reason, at the time, was facilities.  If a Big Ten recruit went to, say, Michigan, Ohio State, or even Penn State on visits was able to take in the grandeur of their home stadia, they would be most unimpressed by seeing the Metrodome as their potential home stadium if they chose to don the Maroon & Gold.  Having been on the sidelines for a game there once, I personally can vouch for how sterile a place it is.  Despite the university’s best efforts to jazz it up with bunting and national championship banners in the school’s colors all over the place on game day, it remains sterile, even negatively inspiring.  As one of my fellow student managers at the time said so succinctly, “that place just sucks the life force out of you.”

Seeing things along those lines, one can appreciate the difficulties that Mason had to overcome in attaining the success his team enjoyed.  But in the end, it wasn’t good enough.  Why?  Answer: expectations that have been raised beyond reason.

Notice in Connelly’s writing how he cited then-AD Joel Maturi saying the program had “grown stale”.  Such wording is a symptom of the fallacious “this-is-who-we-now-are mentality”, when a program long in the doldrums all of a sudden enjoys a spate of success.  Pretty soon, the fan base starts to take this newfound success for granted, and becomes increasingly restless when the coach fails to deliver even more success, more than the program is structurally built to deliver under modern constraints.

Consider, again, Minnesota.  Sure, the Twin Cities might produce several players talented enough to compete at a high level, but much of the rest of the roster is made up of recruits from Ohio who were passed over by the Buckeyes.  In explicably, you’ll find a few players from Florida and Texas (e.g., Marion Barber III) in there, too.  But the immediate point is, there is not enough local talent from which to draw in order to build up a roster that can consistently vie for the national title.  The only team in such a predicament that has come close to such viability is Oregon (proving that there is always an exception to the rule), with maybe Washington to a lesser extent.

So Mason was already dealing with that structural roadblock to meeting unrealistic expectations, in addition to the stadium, which was a potential turn-off to recruits.  Not until 2009 did they open up TCF Bank Stadium on the school’s main campus.  Had Mason had this shiny new stadium at this disposal then, things might have been a little different (emphasis on ‘might have been’).

Consider weather, too.  Sure, Minnesota is a great school, and the Twin Cities are reasonably happening, but it’s also cold…very cold.  Most recruits might choose to brave the cold winters in Columbus, Ohio, or even State College, Pa., or even Ann Arbor, Mich., but they’ll draw the line at the next-level frigidity of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Can one blame them?

Of course, asking the reasonable thing, which is for the fan base to take these structural obstacles into consideration to damper their unrealistic expectations is apparently too much to ask these days.  These unrealistic expectations lead to impatience, which leads to rash decisions.  So naturally they fired Mason.  They brought in Tim Brewster as his replacement.  Brewster promised to recruit, to be the ‘shot in the arm’ the program needed, etc., and proceeded to go 15-30.  For comparison, Mason went 64-57.  Will the Gopher faithful give charismatic young coach P.J. Fleck the chance to duplicate Mason’s efforts?  That all depends on if they learned anything from this experience.

Other fan bases seem not to be have learned, and have suffered the consequences as a result.  To wit:

Arizona State fired Todd Graham, despite his 7-5 regular season record in 2017.  The program had not been competitive consistently since the Frank Kush years of the 1970s.  Bruce Snyder did the best job in recent years, leading the Sun Devils to almost win the national title in 1996.  Snyder’s leadership proved that the Sun Devils are capable of high ceilings, but brief ones.  Arizona State has hired former NFL head coach Herm Edwards in his stead.  It remains to be seen if this risky hire will pan out, but at least it is an interesting hire.  One thing that ASU does have going for it is that it’s located in a geographical spot with an endless summer, a campus that sports tons of pretty co-eds, and the Phoenix area is a decent hotbed for good recruits.  Theoretically, the right coach could set the entire Pac-12 on notice, as Bruce Snyder did in the mid-to-late 1990s.

But as Bill Connelly wisely points out, schools without such advantages who nevertheless act on the impatience born of unrealistically raised expectations can suffer major consequences.

  • On the heels of 11- and nine-win seasons, Boston College pushed Jeff Jagodzinski out because he deigned to interview for other jobs. They were 2-10 four years later and haven’t reached nine wins since.

  • Ron Zook took Illinois to nine wins and a Rose Bowl in 2007, and after a two-year reset, got them back to 7-6 in both 2010 and 2011. He was fired. Illinois has averaged 3.7 wins per year since.

  • Dan McCarney won at least seven games five times in a six-year span at Iowa State but was let go after a 4-8 downturn in 2006. ISU has not topped seven wins since, though that could change with an upcoming bowl game.

To be sure, current ISU head coach Matt Campbell has made Jack Trice Stadium a perilous place to play for undefeated teams, as top-ten West Virginia just learned last night the hard way.

  • Ralph Friedgen took Maryland to seven bowls in 10 years, and after a two-win collapse in 2009, rebounded to nine wins in 2010. Maryland has averaged 4.7 wins per year since firing him.

  • NC State pushed Tom O’Brien out in 2012 after 24 wins in three years. Their best three-year win total since: 22.*

Dave Doeren has brought NC State back to respectability (and rankings), but it has taken the program several years to return to this spot.

  • David Cutcliffe won seven or more games for five straight years at Ole Miss, peaking with a 10-win campaign in 2003. But after a 4-7 reset in 2004, he was fired. The Rebels would top four wins twice in the next seven years.

  • Pitt pushed Dave Wannstedt out after after 26 wins in three years. The Panthers have averaged 6.6 wins since.

  • Despite seven ranked finishes in 11 years, Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni after he hit a dry spell. He went 4-8 in 2002 then rebounded to only 6-6 in 2003-04. Syracuse went 10-37 under replacement Greg Robinson and has averaged 4.4 wins since Pasqualoni.

Dino Babers has methodically built Syracuse into a better program, but consider that the hiatus between this decent year and Pasqualoni’s last season is 13 years.

  • Phil Fulmer took Tennessee to 15 bowls and five SEC championship games in 16 years. He won the national title in 1998 and won at least eight games 14 times. He fell to 5-6 in 2005 but rebounded back to 10 wins in 2007. After a second five-win reset in 2008, he was fired. The Vols have hit the eight-win mark twice in the nine years since.

But what about Georgia, you ask?  That’s really not an exception to the rule after all.  Mark Richt had been consistently winning at Georgia but failed to bring home a national championship trophy.  Nick Saban and others did have something to do with that, but again, it’s almost too much to expect folks to be reasonable, especially in SEC country, where “it just means…more”.  So, they fired Richt and brought in Alabama assistant coach Kirby Smart.  And he too, won games, even played his former team for the national title.  And lost, because Nick Saban’s Alabama these days is a consistent juggernaut.  Nevertheless, Smart succeeded where Richt failed.  So firing their way out of Glen Mason Territory has panned out for Georgia thus far, but that’s because they have access to tons of NFL-potential talent in Greater Atlanta, their own backyard.  So there.

The conclusion to which Connelly arrived in his article is that a school cannot simply fire-a-coach its way out of “Glen Mason Territory”.  Why?  Let us consider basic reality.  Football, unlike economics, is a zero-sum game.  When one team wins a game, that means that team’s opponent had to lose that game.  Not all teams can be championship-viable teams all the time.  It is simply impossible.  Furthermore, because of this zero-sum fact of life football (and most other sports), not everybody can be good all the time.  Even traditional powers have had down years (just look at Alabama in between the Mike Dubose and Nick Saban years).

Second, not all teams are built to be national-title contenders.  Again, one key factor is, does your state produce enough local talent to compete nationally?  In states like California, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida, (borderline case:  Arizona) that is a given.  Even Oklahoma does not produce the players it used to (to be sure, even during the glory days of Bud Wilkinson, OU has had to recruit Texas to be successful).  The only state north of the Sunbelt that can remotely compete on that scale is Ohio.  Everyone else has to recruit from those states just to be in a position to win games, period.

Also, unlike in the pros, where teams choose the players, in college, the players choose the programs.  That means that many blue chip recruits who have options are not going to flock to the Arctic climbs of Minnesota, or the isolated, wind-swept plains of Nebraska if they can land a scholarship at Georgia or LSU or even TCU instead.  Ohio State has managed to stay viable despite its cold winters due to the total commitment of the university, plus the community and state at large, to muster every last resource needed to attract the players necessary to compete at that level.

When a coach raises the bar of performance expectations but cannot raise it further, it’s usually not the coach’s fault.  It’s program history for one.  Georgia, for example, only has two national titles, one from 1942 and from 1980; the former being shared with Ohio State.  As discussed at some length, it’s also infrastructure (e.g., facilities and access to NFL-caliber talent), and program support.  But dealing with these issues ranges from difficult to impossible.  Instead of dealing with these realities like responsible people, too often people take the feel-good way out (in reality, a dead end) and kill the messenger by firing the very coach who improved the team’s standing and situation in the first place.

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 3 (2018) September 22, 2018

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As the saying goes, better late than never.  Various other projects took my attention away from blogging, but with college football season in full swing, it was time to come out of hiding.  Inspiration hit me in Week 4 to do a Week 3 retrospective awards, so here goes:

COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Lucky guy: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Poor guy: Lovie Smith, Illinois

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dino Babers, Syracuse

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeff Brohm, Purdue

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Penn State (defeated Kent State 63-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated Western Kentucky 20-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Middle Tennessee (lost to Georgia 49-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Iowa State (lost to Oklahoma 37-27)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kansas (yes, Kansas, who defeated Rutgers   55-14)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Wisconsin

Did the season start?  Florida State (honorable mention:  half the Big Ten)

Can the season end?  (too early to tell)

Can the season never endGeorgia

GAMES
Play this again:  LSU 22, Auburn 21

Never play this again: Penn State 63, Kent State 10

That will leave a mark:  Alabama 62, Ole Miss 7

What? Syracuse 30, Florida State 7

HuhNorth Texas 44, Arkansas 17

Double HuhAkron 39, Northwestern 34

Are you kidding me??  Troy 24, Nebraska 19 (in Lincoln, Neb., no less)

Oh – my – GodBYU 24, Wisconsin 21 (in Madison, Wis., no less)

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Best game of the week (first choice):  No. 7 Stanford @ No. 20 Oregon

Best game of the week (second choice):  No. 17 TCU @ Texas

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Akron @ Iowa State

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ SMU

Upset alert: Arizona State @ No. 10 Washington

Must win: No. 23 Boston College @ Purdue

Offensive explosion: Nevada @ Toledo

Defensive struggle: Florida @ Tennessee

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Mississippi State @ Kentucky

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Chris Petersen of Washington vs. Herm Edwards of Arizona State

Who’s bringing the body bags? Tulane @ No. 4 Ohio State

Why are they playing? Army @ No. 5 Oklahoma

Plenty of good seats remaining: New Mexico State @ UTEP

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  McNeese @ No. 25 BYU

Week 3 Thoughts: 

(Holding off on those until Week 4 installment.)

College Football Awards Week 13 (2017) November 27, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 13] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Lucky guy: Matt Luke, Ole Miss

Poor guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Frank Solich, Ohio U

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mark Richt, Miami  also:  Tom Herman, Texas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Bret Bielema, Arkansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Penn State (defeated Maryland 66-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: TCU (defeated Baylor 45-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: East Carolina (lost to No. 20 Memphis 70-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  San Jose State (defeated Wyoming 20-17)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:   Louisville (defeated Kentucky 44-17)

Dang, they’re good: Auburn

Dang, they’re bad:  East Carolina

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Miami

Did the season start?  Alabama

Can the season end?  Arkansas

Can the season never endOklahoma

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 6 Auburn 26, No. 1 Alabama 14

Play this again, too:  Ole Miss 31, No. 14 Mississippi State 28

Never play this again: No. 20 Memphis 70, East Carolina 13

What? Ole Miss 31, No. 14 Mississippi State 28

Huh?  No. 21 Stanford 38, No. 8 Notre Dame 20

Are you kidding me??  Pittsburgh 24, No. 2 Miami 14

Oh – my – GodNo. 6 Auburn 26, No. 1 Alabama 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP, post-week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 9 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Wisconsin in the B1G championship (Indianapolis)

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 20 Memphis @ No. 15 UCF (AAC championship)

Upset alert: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin  Also:  No. 7 Georgia vs. No. 6 Auburn in the SEC championship (Atlanta)

Must win: (any championship game with playoff implications)

Offensive explosion: No. 12 TCU @ No. 4 Oklahoma (Big XII championship)

Defensive struggle: (jury’s still out)

Great game no one is talking about: No. 21 Stanford vs. No. 11 USC in the Pac-12 championship

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mark Richt of Miami vs. Dabo Swinney of Clemson

Who’s bringing the body bags? Louisiana-Monroe @ Florida State

Why are they playing? UMass @ FIU

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia Southern @ Coastal Carolina

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Idaho @ Georgia State

Week 13 Random Thoughts:

This weekend was one of reckoning for teams vying for playoff contention.  Some survived, others went down in flames.  One, surprisingly, was Alabama.  In hindsight, the Tide was somewhat fool’s gold.  All their tough conference games were at home.  The season’s opener against Florida State was supposed to be a very marquee matchup, but it quickly became a rout once the Seminoles’ starting quarterback was knocked out of the game (and out for the season), thus sending FSU’s season town the toilet before it truly began.  Last week should have been a greater warning than most of us acknowledged, what with Mississippi State giving the Tide a scare on the road.  They escaped, only to face their first real test of the whole season, ironically at its end.  They failed to step up to the challenge.  Conversely, Auburn has proven they are the real deal, a playoff-worthy contender.

Clemson seems to have bounced back very nicely from the loss of their starting QB.  Having handily defeated a good South Carolina team, they now prepare for this upcoming week’s ACC championship game.  There they face Miami, who surprisingly lost to Pitt in their first loss all year.  The inopportune loss was bad enough, but they looked listless in defeat as well, perhaps convincing a critical mass of voters that the Hurricanes are not the playoff-worthy team we thought they were.  All that said, they still clinched their division for the first time since its inception, and now face the Tigers this upcoming week.  The odds favor the Tigers, but then again, there are compelling reasons why we line ‘em up and play.

Ohio State stated off slowly against Michigan in “The Big House,” allowing the Wolverines to score two touchdowns.  But the Buckeyes eventually got going and eventually rolled to victory.  While Alabama failed to knock Auburn out of contention, Notre Dame’s convincing loss to Stanford and Miami’s sudden loss could nevertheless keep the door open for their playoff hopes.  Next step is to beat Wisconsin the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis this upcoming weekend.

Texas seemed to have rediscovered their offense on the road last week at West Virginia.  This week, they could only muster 23 points, at home, to Texas Tech, who is hardly the defensive juggernaut.  Things have improved this year with the Longhorns compared to the previous few seasons.  Case in point, the Horns remain bowl-eligible.  But much work and improvement clearly remains.  The biggest objective is:  find offensive consistency.

Louisville is finally playing back to form, practically scoring at will over a deceptively formidably Kentucky squad.  Whether Lamar Jackson deserves a return trip to Manhattan for Heisman consideration is neither here nor there, but his team is in a far better position than it was last year, trending the proper direction as they await their bowl bid destination.

Okay, so my “near-perfect playoff scenario” is already compromised.  This is not a huge surprise.  In hindsight, Alabama was not the juggernaut we thought they were, and Miami was not as far along as they seemed earlier this year (but at this rate, Mark Richt will bring them into legit contention).  Perhaps, at this rate, it could be Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.  With that in mind, Auburn is to face Georgia for a rematch, this time in Atlanta.  The Bulldogs shall surely be out for revenge.  The bottom line is, the reckoning is not over yet.  Buckle up.

But seriously, Ohio State, ditch those gray-black uniforms.  They look horrible.

College Football Awards Week 12 (2017) November 19, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 12] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Matt Luke, Ole Miss

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Frank Solich, Ohio U

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferenz, Iowa

Desperately seeking … anything:  Kilane Sitake, BYU

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Louisville (defeated Syracuse 56-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Mississippi State (defeated Arkansas 28-21)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Illinois (lost to Ohio State 52-14)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Navy (lost to No. 8 Notre Dame 24-17)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:   Northwestern (defeated Minnesota 39-0)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  South Alabama

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Iowa

Did the season start?  Oklahoma State

Can the season end?  Tennessee

Can the season never endOklahoma

GAMES
Play this again:  Texas A&M 31, Ole Miss 24

Play this again, too:  Kansas State 45, No. 13 Oklahoma State 40

Never play this again: Florida State 77, Delaware State 6

What? Akron 37, Ohio U 34

Huh?  Wake Forest 30, No. 19 NC State 24

Are you kidding me??  Kansas State 45, No. 13 Oklahoma State 40

Oh – my – GodPurdue 24, Iowa 15

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 9 Ohio State @ Michigan  also:  No. 1 Alabama @ No. 6 Auburn

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: South Florida @ No. 15 UCF

Upset alert: No. 2 Clemson @ South Carolina  also:  No. 8 Notre Dame @ No. 22 Stanford

Must win: Indiana @ Purdue  also:  No. 9 Ohio State @ Michigan

Offensive explosion: No. 14 Washington State @ No. 18 Washington

Defensive struggle: Florida State @ Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Louisville @ Kentucky

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Scott Frost of Central Florida vs Charlie Strong of South Florida

Who’s bringing the body bags? Baylor @ No. 12 TCU

Why are they playing? Florida Atlantic @ Charlotte

Plenty of good seats remaining: UConn @ Cincinnati

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

Week 12 Random Thoughts:

Today yielded no earth-shattering upsets.  How could it, with so many highly-ranked teams inexplicably engaged in body bag games so late in the year?  Nevertheless, some interesting upsets did ensue.  Pathetic Akron took down perennial MAC contender Ohio U, for example.  Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State on the road.  Unranked Wake Forest (now 7-4, surprisingly) upset No. 19 NC State, putting a blemish on an otherwise impressive year for the Wolfpack.  Even more amazingly, Purdue went on the road to play Iowa, a game where nobody, least of all yours truly, gave them a chance to win, and yet they did anyhow.  Don’t ask how the same team that embarrassed Ohio State by the worst margin in more than two decades could lose two weeks later at home to a lesser team.  There is no rational explanation.

Texas earned a great win, on the road, over West Virginia.  Two weeks ago, the Longhorns gave a pitiful offensive performance against TCU, and offered only a middling performance in their win over Kansas last week.  Naturally, this turn of events gave the Longhorn faithful cause for concern.  Whether these concerns are no longer valid remains to be seen.  But adjustments were clearly made, to the point where Texas was able to win, convincingly, in a tough environment, against a favored team.  Looks like progress, and the Horns are now bowl-eligible to boot.  Next week they close the regular season at home against Texas Tech, which will be a decent test to see if they can maintain their current level of performance.

Remember my earlier speculation about Purdue’s bowl chances having evaporated?  Wad that thought up and toss it out the window.  Purdue’s surprising upset over Iowa – on the road, no less – has given their season a new life.  Don’t ask how this came to pass.  Be all that as it may, this upcoming week, both Purdue and in-state rival Indiana shall play each other for two things, not just one.  Not only will they play for the Old Oaken Bucket trophy, but also for bowl eligibility.  No telling the last time the stakes were that high for the two teams.

Every season, there is always a surprise or two.  One such this year is Central Florida, who currently undefeated and ranked first in the All-American Conference East Division.  At a current rank of no. 15, head coach Scott Frost seems to know what he is doing.  This is the same Scott Frost who was the capable, tough, dependable quarterback who led Nebraska to a share of the national title with Michigan in the 1997 season.  After several years as a back-up QB in the NFL, he gradually worked his way up the ranks in coaching.  With a relatively easy schedule remaining, the Golden Knights could remain undefeated going into the ultimate conference showdown at season’s end.  Then, they face 9-1 South Florida, led by Coach Charlie Strong.  Surely that is to be one of the most intriguing of coaching matchups of the year!

Shout-out to Notre Dame for wearing very cool-looking, throwback-inspired uniforms during their game against Navy.  I sincerely hope that more teams with gold in their school colors have the good sense to copy those nice-looking gold pants that the Irish wore this week.

Just several weeks earlier, Louisville could not beat Wake Forest or Boston College.  Now, they seem to have turned things around.  Their 56-10 walloping of Syracuse is a sure sign the Cardinals are playing back to form, and are doing so just at the right time, as they take on in-state rival Kentucky this upcoming week.

UCLA just fired Jim Mora, Jr.  Ironically, the Bruins lost last night to cross-town rival USC by a respectable margin, 28-23.  But the powers that be in Westwood clearly did not like the direction the program was headed.  Mora helped create high expectations for the Bruin faithful, but sadly failed to deliver (UCLA is now 5-6).  Then again, the school is only partially committed compared to USC, or to any other program that is determined to compete for a national title.  Firing the current head coach shall thus not solve this systemic problem.

With Wisconsin’s win over Michigan, the Badgers continue their undefeated streak and are on a certain course to represent the Western Division in the Big Ten championship.  All Ohio State has to do is beat Michigan this upcoming week for the rights to butt heads with the Badgers.  My scenario for the best possible playoff scenario thus continues, but more pratfalls remain.

The best game on Thanksgiving is not played in Detroit or Dallas.  No, rather it is usually the “Egg Bowl,” the annual Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State grudge-match that shall once again kickoff on the evening of the fourth Thursday in November.  Let us enjoy it, and God Bless America!

College Football Awards Week 10 (2017) November 6, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 10] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Glad I’m not him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Lucky guy: Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Poor guy: James Franklin, Penn State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: (none)

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Neal Brown, Troy

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Desperately seeking … anything:  David Beaty, Kansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: San Diego State (defeated San Jose State 52-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Arkansas (defeated Coastal Carolina 39-38)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: San Jose State (lost to San Diego State 52-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  UMass (lost to No. 16 Mississippi State 34-23)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:   Missouri (defeated Florida 45-16)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Ohio State

Did the season start?  Stanford

Can the season end?  Florida

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 24 Michigan State 27, No. 7 Penn State 24

Play this again, too:  Kansas State 42, Texas Tech 35

Never play this again: San Diego State 52, San Jose State 7

What? No. 25 Washington State 25, No. 21 Stanford 21

Huh?  West Virginia 20, No. 15 Iowa State 16

Are you kidding me??  No. 24 Michigan State 27, No. 7 Penn State 24

Oh – my – GodIowa 55, No. 6 Ohio State 24

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11)
Ticket to die for:  No. 3 Notre Dame @ No. 10 Miami  also:  No. 8 TCU @ No. 5 Oklahoma

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Toledo @ Ohio U

Upset alert: No. 25 Washington State @ Utah

Must win: No. 24 Michigan State @ No. 6 Ohio State  also:  No. 8 TCU @ No. 5 Oklahoma

Offensive explosion: West Virginia @ Kansas State

Defensive struggle: Florida @ South Carolina

Great game no one is talking about: No. 20 Oklahoma State @ Iowa State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Brian Kelly of Notre Dame vs. Mark Richt of Miami (FL)

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 22 Arizona @ Oregon State

Why are they playing? New Mexico @ Texas A&M

Plenty of good seats remaining: San Jose State @ Nevada

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

Week 10 Random Thoughts:

As Bill Connelly reminds this time of the year, November is for everything.  Teams are what they are at this point of the season.  A loss now can sink a team’s season.  With that in mind, let us examine the following:

Just when we thought Ohio State had a shot at the playoffs after a big win over Penn State, this week, the Buckeyes turned right around and spoiled it for all of us.  It’s not that they lost, it’s how they lost that’s the true disgrace.

Anyone with any discernment knew that Iowa would be a tough out for any team.  They took Penn State to the very wire, after all.  Perhaps too many on Ohio State’s team thought they were on Easy Street after taking down the Nittany Lions last week.  Guess again, guys. The Buckeyes failed to score in the whole second half until 4:37 remained in regulation.  By then, it was too little, too late.  The Hawkeyes triumphed in dramatic fashion, 55-24, giving the Buckeyes their worst loss since 1994.  Ouch.  Not exactly a playoff-caliber performance, guys.  Speaking of which, kiss those hopes goodbye for the year, and let that be a lesson to all of us to always bring one’s “A” game.

Remember when Texas seemed to have found an offense last week against Baylor?  Yeah, that was a false alarm:  fool’s gold.  The Longhorns only mustered a single touchdown (2nd quarter) the entire game, losing it 24-7.  The Horns’ defense was impressive, all things considered, but their offense is frankly non-existent.  Why?  Much of it revolved around a young offensive line that is still trying to gel.  Even if QB Shane Buechele had time in the pocket, his receivers failed to get separation (some blame the offensive coordinator for failing to scheme properly).  Their own self-inflicted mistakes that translated to penalties obviously did them no favors, either.  It all added up to an incoherent mess on the offensive side of the ball, and the score at game’s end showed it.

This weekend has rightly been dubbed “elimination weekend,” but that could surely apply to other weekends to come this month.  Notre Dame has yet to play resurgent Miami, and after that they must face Stanford:  both are on the road.

Penn State did themselves no favors by losing to Michigan State on the road.  With that loss, their playoff aspirations for the year are over, but in the Nittany Lions’ defense, the game was much closer (21-14) than Ohio State’s disastrous outing at Iowa.  The long rain delay in the middle of the game likely interfered with their rhythms, too.

Speaking again of Ohio State, they have no time to lick their wounds, as the Spartans come calling this upcoming weekend.

South Carolina has quietly become bowl-eligible with six wins, despite their most recent loss, on the road, to border rival Georgia.  To be sure, the Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 2 in the playoffs, so the loss, on paper, was expected.  Now the Gamecocks face a depleted Florida Gators squad, at home, where the odds are likely they can amass win No. 7 for the year.

Georgia, meanwhile, faces a potential pitfall when they venture into No. 14 Auburn to engage in “the oldest rivalry in the South”.

Washington State squeaked by Stanford.  Now they must face Utah, who crushed UCLA, 48-17.  Here is yet another potential upset in the making.  Joel Klatt, are you paying attention yet?

In another window into the current state of Big Ten football, resurgent Purdue is, currently, a slight underdog to Northwestern.  Another potential conference “Toilet Bowl” awaits with Illinois facing Indiana (the latter’s record is deceptive, though).  Also, Iowa now has to face undefeated Wisconsin; not a good time to be on Cloud Nine after taking down the mighty Buckeyes.