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College Football Awards, Week 14 (2019) December 1, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were himRyan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Nick Saban, Alabama (hon. mention:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan)

Lucky guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Charlie Strong, South Florida

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Arth, Akron

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Georgia (defeated Georgia Tech 52-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Rutgers 27-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to No. 9 Baylor 61-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Maryland (lost to Michigan State 19-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated Louisville 45-13)

Dang, they’re good: Utah

Dang, they’re bad:  Akron

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Alabama

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 15 Auburn 48, No. 5 Alabama 45

Never play this again: No. 9 Baylor 61, Kansas 6

What?  Virginia 39, No. 24 Virginia Tech 30

HuhKansas State 27, No. 23 Iowa State 17

Are you kidding me??  No. 12 Wisconsin 38, No. 8 Minnesota 17

Oh – my – GodNo. 15 Auburn 48, No. 5 Alabama 45

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 14, pre-week 15)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Georgia vs No. 1 LSU (SEC Championship)

Nest-best game of the week:  No. 2 Ohio State vs No. 10 Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 21 Cincinnati @ No. 16 Memphis (AAC Champ game/rematch)

Upset alert: No. 13 Oregon vs No. 5 Utah (Pac-12 Championship)

Must win: B1G Championship game to ensure OSU goes to playoffs

Offensive explosion: No. 8 Baylor vs No. 6 Oklahoma (Big XII Championship)

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

Great game no one is talking about: UAB @ Florida Atlantic

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs Mario Cristobal of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Virginia @ No. 3 Clemson  (ACC Championship)

Week 14 Thoughts:

Michigan vs Ohio State

This was supposed to be Harbaugh’s year in beating Ohio State, right?  Turns out, not so much.  Not while Ohio State is still chock-full of Urban Meyer’s players.  That is part of the Buckeyes’ success this year.  The other part is taking those talent players and making them more relaxed and less uptight than when Meyer himself was coaching them (enter Ryan Day).  Can he himself bring in the same caliber of players?  If not, then this high-flying success obviously has a limited shelf life.

As for Michigan, they are still a very good team.  A 9-3 record is commensurate with most of the better years of this proud program.  Also, those three losses came to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State, all of which are running at peak strength.  Moreover, an academic powerhouse in a cold-weather setting like Michigan is at a systemic disadvantage from recruiting the same caliber of athletes as consistently as football-first Ohio State.  Simple as that.  Michigan, Harbaugh is likely as well as you are going to do. Make the most of it, and enjoy your 9-10 win seasons.

Auburn vs Alabama

Rivalry weekend did not disappoint across the boards (for the most part), starting at the top.  Yesterday’s Iron Bowl was the highest-scoring affair in the history of this bitterest of rivalries.  For Auburn, this ought to quell any doubts about Gus Malzahn’s tenure.  For Alabama fans, this obviously raises questions.  Can they still sustain a championship drive after so many playoff appearances and wins?  Has Nick Saban peaked, only now for us to witness a slow, steady decline?  Is it a good idea for Saban to retire now, while he’s still on top (barely)?  The sooner these questions are addressed, the better.

Kentucky vs Louisville

The Wildcats’ lopsided win over the Cardinals show that even a low-level SEC team usually beats a middling ACC team.  The real shock of this game was how Louisville’s defense quit, and against their biggest rival, no less.  This shows that, while Coach Scott Satterfield is ahead of schedule in implementing his sound team culture (seven wins is a huge turnaround from last year’s debacle, after all), there are still some remnants of the Bobby Petrino fallout/poison that still need to be exorcised.

Purdue vs Indiana

On paper, the Hoosiers were the favored team.  Based on their performance this year, they should have won.  And win they did, but not without an intense fight.  This was a very competitive, very dramatic, thus very engaging matchup for the Old Oaken Bucket.  For Purdue, the big mistake came in overtime, where the better team typically wins.  Purdue answered IU’s score with a TD of their own.  They tied it up with an extra point.  That as a mistake.  With current momentum on their side, they should have gone for two.  Giving the better team more chances to score points turns out to be suicide, and that played out exactly in the Hoosiers’ favor.  Let us hope that Coach Jeff Brohm learned this lesson, among other lessons of less hype, more humility, and more concentration on fundamentals and finishing a game.

All that said, Indiana celebrates its first eight-win season since the early 1990s and the days of Coach Bill Mallory.  Way to go, Hoosiers.

 

 

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.

CFB Recruiting Class Random Observations for 2019 February 8, 2019

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In the previous article, I made observations on the potentially changing competitive landscape in the SEC based on the recruiting class rankings this year.  But those observations in no way cover the entire intrigue that these recruiting class rankings offer to college football fans.

For example, it’s quite clear that the SEC teams have dominated these rankings.  But other teams merit attention, too.  Take Michigan, for example.  They are the lone Big Ten representative in the top ten of said rankings, at No. 8 this year, interestingly one ranking position ahead of Florida (No. 9), who, er, chomped the Wolverines 41-15 in the recent Peach Bowl.  Meanwhile, Ohio State, who have been the most dominant force in the conference during Urban Meyer’s six-season tenure, only made it to No. 14 in the rankings this year (down from No. 2 last year).  Certain programs have proven they can do more with less (Kentucky under Mark Stoops is a wonderful example of this).  New Buckeye head coach Ryan Day will be put to the test to see if he can do the same thing and continue to contend for the national title.

That said, defending national champion Clemson’s recruiting class is at No. 10 (their 2018 class was No. 8).  Yet they have a young quarterback with a transcendent talent that is sure to lead the Tigers to the Promised Land this year as well, so their king-of-the-hill status remains unthreatened, for now.

One of the most-improved recruiting classes is Purdue.  Ranked only No. 49 in 2018, they have jumped to the No. 25 class for 2019.  Perhaps this could portend further improvement in their performance, allowing Coach Jeff Brohm to do more than just employ smoke-and-mirrors, as he had no choice but to do with such a bare cupboard his first two years in West Lafayette.

An intriguing stat to share:  Purdue’s recruiting class for 2019, at No. 25, ranks ahead of Wisconsin (No. 27), Michigan State (No. 30), Indiana (No. 38), Iowa (No. 40), Minnesota (No. 42), and Northwestern (No. 50).  That said, do not underestimate Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (especially Fitzgerald!) or even Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck in their abilities to develop players.

Another interesting improvement in recruiting rankings is that of Oregon.  At a respectable No. 13 last year, this year’s recruiting class has merited a No. 7 ranking.  Meanwhile, Washington at No. 17 is clearly not going anywhere.  A reasonable prediction from these figures is that an interesting border rivalry between the Huskies and Ducks could quickly emerge.  Add a steadily-performing Stanford to the mix, and on can easily foresee an increasingly competitive Pac-12 North division.

Rounding out the top ten in recruiting rankings are two Big XII teams; Oklahoma at No. 6, and Texas at No. 3.  The latter is coming off huge momentum with their dominating upset over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  Their quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, combines talent and grit for a winning synergy that could potentially help the Longhorns contend for the playoffs this upcoming season.  This No. 3 recruiting class certainly cannot hurt the Horns in this endeavor, and surely enforces the mantra that “Texas is back.”

Again, player development can sometimes compensate for lack of ranking in player recruitment.  Just ask Northwestern.  But also ask Alabama for Georgia (No’s 1 and 2, respectively) how their perennial top recruiting rankings work out for them to see the potential significance of said recruiting class rankings.  Such is the biggest reason why it’s so easy for college football fans to geek out about this subject!  It should add up to a more interesting college football season for 2019 compared to the one just concluded.

College Football Awards, Week 4 (2018) September 23, 2018

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Texas

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

Lucky guy: David Shaw, Stanford

Poor guy: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Desperately seeking … anything:  Scott Frost, Nebraska

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Penn State (defeated Illinois 63-24)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma (defeated Army 28-21 in OT)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Tulane (lost to No. 9 Ohio State 49-6)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Army (lost to Oklahoma 28-21 in OT)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Texas Tech (defeated No. 15 Oklahoma State 17)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Virginia Tech

Did the season start?  Nebraska

Can the season end?  Rutgers

Can the season never endAlabama

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Stanford 38, No. 20 Oregon 31

Play this again, too:  SMU 31, Navy 30

Never play this again: Appalachian State 72, Gardner-Webb 7

What? Purdue 30, No. 23 Boston College 13

HuhTexas Tech 41, No. 15 Oklahoma State 17

Double HuhIllinois State 35, Colorado State 19

Are you kidding me??  Kentucky 28, No. 14 Mississippi State 7

Oh – my – GodOld Dominion 49, No. 13 Virginia Tech 35

NEXT WEEK (Rankings are current AP, week 5)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 9 Penn State

Also:  No. 7 Stanford @ No. 8 Notre Dame

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Pitt @ UCF

Best non-Power Five matchup: Toledo @ Fresno State

Upset alert: Texas Tech @ No. 12 West Virginia

Must win: Purdue @ Nebraska

Offensive explosion: Toledo @ Fresno State

Defensive struggle: Florida @ No. 23 Mississippi State

Great game no one is talking about: No.18 Texas @ Kansas State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Bill Snyder of Kansas State vs. Tom Herman of Texas

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

Why are they playing? Southern Miss @ No. 10 Auburn

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ UTSA

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

Week 4 Thoughts:

 Purdue has started the season as a major head-scratcher.  Coming off a surprising winning season after the Hazell-era doldrums, including a bowl win, the Boilermaker faithful had high hopes for the team in 2018.  Thus far, after an understandable, opening-season loss to then-ranked Northwestern, Purdue proceeded to lose squeakers at home to beatable teams, including [shudder], Eastern Michigan – a directional school.  Chalk it up to an undisciplined defense and a lack of a running game.  Regardless, the Boilers have their first win of the year, and, all things considered, it’s a rather big one, handily defeating No. 23 Boston College 30-13.  To be sure, Purdue did step it up on defense, and if they can maintain this newfound intensity on that side of the ball, there’s hope for the season yet.  All that said, sometimes it takes a few weeks for a good team to find its footing and thus to play up to its potential.

The team now becoming an even bigger head-scratcher is Louisville.  Sure, they lost badly to Alabama, but the Crimson Tide is such a juggernaut this year that most winning-season teams will look pathetic against them.  What really raised concerns was having to struggle, at home, to beat Western Kentucky – another directional school!  Let us thus give the Cardinals an ex-post-facto “Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t”.  But now they got embarrassed, on the road to a beatable team in Virginia.  At 27-3, are the Cavaliers that much better than the Cards?  Is their offense that poor that they failed to punch it into the endzone, with only a sad field goal to open the 3rd quarter?  A comparison of recent seasonal performances of both teams would say no, but today’s score would suggest so.  Here is one possible diagnosis of Louisville’s under-performance.  In the last few years (basically since Lamar Jackson was QB), Petrino has been fixated on “skills” players while acting as if he can get any lumbering lummox to block on the line.  So, while he might have NFL-caliber talent on the wings, he has no way of executing plays.  Has the time come to where Petrino would be better off as an offensive coordinator instead of a head coach?  Further observation and analysis of the team’s performance shall tell us yes or no.

What about USC?  Before losing badly on the road to Texas last week, they were ranked and poised to compete for the Pac-12 title again.  But on Friday night, they had to play hard at home to beat unranked Washington State.  One possible explanation:  Sam Darnold’s talent at QB papered over the mediocrity of talent on the coaching staff.  While I’m not a Trojans fan personally, I nevertheless recognize that when a traditional power like USC does well, it’s good for college football (same goes for other traditional powers like Georgia, Texas, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, or even Miami (Fla.)).  Conversely, a mediocre Southern Cal team is thus not great for college football.  Let us hope that they can eventually rise back to national title contention to help keep the west coast markets engaged in the game.  After all, it’s never good for a sport to become regional (looking your way, Major League Baseball).

Speaking of Texas, are they “back”?  And why were they ever, well, not back?  This article by Pete Thamel explains the nature of why a national brand and a massively-valued program ever needed turning around in the first place (hint:  turning around an aircraft carrier takes much, much longer than turning around, say, a personal sailboat).  Forget, for a moment, that the program sure did not help anybody, least of all themselves, by laying an egg on the road to Maryland, and then under-performing at home the next week against Tulsa.  The Longhorns’ big win over USC last week might not indicate that the team is “back” as strongly as one would think due to USC’s apparent mediocrity at the moment.  But then again, Texas did follow up with another big win, this time over No. 16 TCU, 31-16.  So the current conclusion is, if they’re not “back” yet, they’re certainly headed in the right direction.  Onward and upward.

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.

My Nearly Perfect Playoff Scenario November 16, 2017

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The developments in this past week of college football have shaken up the polls yet again, thus further modifying the playoff projections.  Given the current state of affairs, if the new AP poll is of any indication, here’s how I think things could play out.

The current top eight in the AP poll is as follows:

  1. Alabama
  2. Miami
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Clemson
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Auburn
  7. Georgia
  8. Ohio State

So, based on current polling and whom the teams have yet to play, who goes into the final four of the playoffs?  My scenario could lead to near-perfection.

Let’s start with Alabama.  Mississippi State almost beat them at home.  So, the Crimson Tide is vulnerable.  Nevertheless, they’ll get an easy win over a cupcake in Mercer this Saturday.  That leaves us with Auburn at No. 6.  Strange things happen in rivalry games.  Even stranger things happen in the Iron Bowl, arguably the most heated, bitter rivalry in college sports.  Bama thought they would be playing for the national title until the famous “kick-six” incident of 2013, for example.  Nevertheless, let us say for the sake of argument that Bama beats Auburn.  On paper, this is entirely possible.  Auburn will thus have three losses, and be eliminated from playoff consideration.

The Tide remains undefeated, and goes onto the SEC championship game in Atlanta.  There, they play Georgia, who was briefly No. 1 before getting their asses handed to them by Auburn.  Now at No. 7, they’ll still give Alabama a good challenge in Atlanta.  But on paper, the odds still favor The Tide.  Let us thus accept the law of averages and say Bama wins.  Again.  Having knocked out both Auburn AND Georgia, Bama as undefeated AND SEC champs, also ranked No. 1, instantly clinch a playoff berth.

Berth No. 1 of 4:  Alabama

Next up is Miami.  After tearing Notre Dame a new one in Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes now sit at No. 2 in the AP.  They have also clinched the Atlantic Division of the ACC for the first time since the conference split into those two divisions.  To remain undefeated in the regular season, they need to take out Virginia (at home) and Pittsburgh (on the road).  Both are doable, obviously, though keep an eye out for the Canes having to deal with cold Pittsburgh weather in late November.

At any rate, the Hurricanes are now slated to play Clemson, currently No. 4 in the AP, for the ACC Championship.  That game will be in Charlotte in early December, effectively a home game for the Tigers.  IF the Hurricanes can overcome this huge challenge and triumph over Clemson, they shall be undefeated, ACC champs, and shall have clinched the second spot in the playoffs.  This could actually be the most tenuous of contingencies.  Nevertheless…

Berth No. 2 of 4:  Miami

Oklahoma currently sits at No. 3.  Aside from Iowa State, the Sooners have risen to the occasion each game, recently beating a tough TCU squad.  OU quarterback Baker Mayfield is a more mature version of Johnny Manziel:  someone capable of making special things happen.  Despite legit challenges from strong teams within the conference, nobody can credibly take the Sooners down this year.  If these shadows remain unchanged, they’ll surely clinch a playoff berth.

Berth No. 3 of 4:  Oklahoma

That leaves us with the last spot.  In this scenario, three out of the eight are already in.  Three of the remaining five are out.  That leaves us with the remaining two:  Wisconsin and Ohio State.  “But wait,” you protest, “Ohio State already has two losses, one a both recent AND embarrassing one to Iowa.”  A valid point you would raise, to be sure.  But here’s the deal.  The Buckeyes’ schedule is still much stronger than Wisconsin’s, for one.  Whereas OSU had the guts to play a tough OU squad that, as already mentioned, shall surely be playoff-bound, Wisconsin padded their schedule with Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and a weak (for this year) BYU.

Moreover, IF Ohio State shows up ready to play, they can beat anybody.  Would you want to coach head-to-head against Urban Meyer?  I didn’t think so.

Finally, both Wisconsin and Ohio State, if both win out, are destined to butt heads in the Big Ten Championship game.  They both need to beat Michigan to guarantee this scenario.  Should they play each other for the B1G title, and should Ohio State actually triumph, Wisconsin shall be effectively eliminated.  Why?  Again, their relatively weak schedule without winning their own conference.  Meanwhile, Ohio State will be the last team standing in the top eight in the current AP poll.  Could winning the B1G over an undefeated team be enough to get them back into playoff contention?  I would wager “yes.”

Berth No. 4 of 4:  Ohio State

Yes, this scenario is contingent on many factors.  Change one major factor (Bama loses to Auburn, for example), and it all falls apart.  Wisconsin and Ohio State’s viabilities depend on both beating Michigan.  Miami still needs to face Pittsburgh in the cold of late November at Heinz Field.  After that, they must face down Clemson.  Obviously, that’s a tall order.

If, however, all these things come to pass, it would be a nearly geographically-perfect playoff line-up.  Alabama would represent the south.  Miami could represent urban, coastal fans of the game.  Ohio State could represent the Midwest, the Big Ten, and its demographic TV-viewing juggernaut along with it.  Finally, Oklahoma could represent other parts of Middle America.  Indeed, the only problem with this scenario is that it lacks a Pac-12 team.  If it did, we would have perfection.  Too bad the Pac-12 teams ended up cannibalizing themselves this year, but that could be the case with the B1G, too, depending on how things truly do come to pass.  The only way we’ll know one way or the other is to keep lining them up and playing.

College Football Awards, Week 13 (2016) November 27, 2016

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The Game lived up to The Hype.

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Charlie Strong, Texas

Lucky guy: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Poor guy: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Butch Jones, Tennessee  also:  Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did:  Virginia Tech (defeated Virginia 52-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t:  Louisville (lost to Kentucky 41-38)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Iowa State (lost to No. 19 West Virginia 49-19)

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

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  UTEP (defeated North Texas 52-24)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  New Mexico State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Nebraska

Did the season start?  Louisville

Can the season end?  Texas  also:  Ole Miss, Notre Dame

Can the season never endWestern Michigan

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 2 Ohio State 30, No. 3 Michigan 24

Play this again, too:  Georgia Tech 28, Georgia 27

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 56, South Carolina 7

Close call:  Indiana 26, Purdue 24

What? Vanderbilt 45, No. 24 Tennessee 34

HuhAir Force 27, No. 21 Boise State 20

Double-Huh?  Memphis 48, No. 18 Houston 44

Are you kidding me?  Iowa 40, No. 17 Nebraska 10

Oh – my – GodKentucky 41, No. 11 Louisville 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 13, pre-week 14))

Ticket to die for: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Penn State in the B1G Championship

also: No. 11 Oklahoma State @ No. 8 Oklahoma

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Western Michigan vs. Ohio U in the MAC Championship, Friday

Must win: too many to list!

Offensive explosion: No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship

Defensive struggle: No. 13 Florida @ No. 15 Florida State

Great game no one is talking about: Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky

Intriguing coaching matchup: Nick Saban of Alabama vs. Jim McElwain of Florida

Think there’s enough purple? Kansas State @ TCU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Baylor @ No. 14 West Virginia

Why are they playing? Wisconsin vs. Penn State in the B1G Championship (ever heard of Ohio State?)

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

They shoot horses, don’t they? Georgia State @ Idaho

Week 13 Take-aways:

Rivalry week has yielded some decent drama, and upsets, as one would expect. Purdue, hapless all year, acquitted themselves well against a far-superior offense in IU. Highly-ranked Louisville gave up the game via four turnovers to in-state rival Kentucky, at home. The collapse of Louisville within the past couple of weeks is the most unsettling thing witnessed in major college football this year.

The annual coaching carousel hath begun its merry ride. Charlie Strong is out at Texas (after much unnecessary vacillation and drama on the part of the Texas Athletics Department), and Tom Herman is in. Such drama sadly bled over to Herman’s Houston team, who clearly was not focused when losing to formidable Memphis on Friday, despite being favored on the road. Meanwhile, Ed Orgeron earned a well-deserved promotion from interim head coach to full-time head coach at LSU. Orgeron is perfect for the role, what with his love for the school, his extensive experience in many big-name programs, his long-time conference presence (he was once the head coach at border rival Ole Miss), to say nothing of his deep Cajun drawl. His performance in the interim job itself was a strong case, as the Tigers went 5-2 under this leadership (one of those losses was to Alabama, where LSU held the Tide to only 10 points). Justice has been met in this special case.

Despite Mississippi State’s disappointing year, Dan Mullen has ended the year well by convincingly beating their main rival, Ole Miss. The Rebels started the year with high rankings and hopes, but injury and other bad luck put the team into a freefall. Losing their starting QB Chad Kelly to season-ending injury obviously contributed to this, to be sure.

In the world of weird football news, Navy beat SMU 75-31 (yes, this was a football game, not a basketball one). What do these two teams have in common? They’re the only two teams that beat Houston this year. That aside, who says the triple option cannot be a high-scoring offense?

More regarding the world of weird football news: Eastern Michigan is, after this week, 7-5, and obviously bowl eligible. Let us all pause as our collective jaw drops to the floor.

Now we await the conference championship games next week, and immediately afterwards, we shall finally ascertain the teams that shall be in the playoffs. One intriguing game is the MAC Championship. Should Western Michigan win and continue their undefeated season, they could qualify for a major bowl game. Might P.J. Fleck be able to lead his team in rowing the proverbial boat all the way, say, the Cotton Bowl? We shall all find out in due time. Let the games begin…and continue!

Steve Sarkisian to USC December 3, 2013

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Steve SarkisianThe latest news has it that Steve Sarkisian has been named the next head coach at the University of Southern California.  When one considers that the available pool of good coaches is very limited right now (what with relatively few firings and hirings at this time) and most of the best coaches are already ensconced in good programs (Saban at Alabama, Meyer at Ohio State, etc.), this was an excellent hire.

Granted, many were advocating for the permanent hire of Ed Orgeron.  But as well as he has done in the moment, one must ask, could he sustain the positive trend long-term?  His track record might not suggest that.  Plus, we have seen the temp-to-permanent hire scenario before in major college football, and it usually does not turn out that well.  Remember Bobby Williams at Michigan State?  After Nick Saban left for the LSU job, Williams led the Spartans to victory over a formidable Florida Gators squad in the 1999-2000 Citrus Bowl.  Everybody immediately allowed for themselves to be prisoners of the moment and made Williams the permanent head coach at MSU after that.  Part of the rationale was how much the players loved the guy.  Bad idea.  Coaches like Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban are not loved by their players, but those coaches get results from the team.  Meanwhile, the program at MSU eroded after three full seasons under Williams’ leadership.  Orgeron currently enjoys similar popularity with the players at USC.  While this produces short-term gains, it will take somebody who is a bit more of a taskmaster to make sure that these positive trends can be sustained.

But what about Kevin Sumlin as a possibility?  Yes, Coach Sumlin has become a rather hot commodity over the past year or two, but his one weakness is that, while his offenses have considerable fire power, his defenses, well, not so much, and USC prides itself on not only being “Tailback U,” but also having tough “D”’s that shut down the pass-happy intra-conference opposition.  Could Coach Sumlin sustain that reputation, given his track record with weaker defenses in the recent pass?  At this point, it does not appear as though he couch.

What about other candidates, say, James Franklin, whose name was bandied about as a possibility?  A fine choice, especially given what he has accomplished at Vanderbilt under very restrictive circumstances with which the rest of the teams in the SEC do not have to contend.  Still, he has one glaring weakness:  he has no west coast ties.  In the world of college football recruiting, this is vital.  A great deal of recruiting has to do with knowing the high school coaches in the key recruiting areas.   Franklin knows none.

But “Sark” knows plenty.  He knew them as a high-ranking assistant at USC under Pete Carroll, and he still knows them while trying to recruit the players for Washington.  In that important respect, this shall be a seamless transition for him.  Instead of recruiting key players in the talent hotbed that is California, he shall do so wearing  Cardinal-and-Gold polo shirt as opposed to a Purple-and-Gold one.  Moreover, his experience with the program gives him intimate knowledge of organizational culture, making him a good company fit.  This is thus a good hire for the Trojans in any important respect.

To be sure, the gain for USC is a major loss for Washington, where Sarkisian had a good thing going.  But as great as things were with the Huskies, the USC job is rated by coaches and others “in the know” as one of the three absolute best coaching jobs in all of college football, along with Texas and Georgia (yes, Georgia).  In other words, if the Trojans come calling, unless you are coaching at one of those two schools, you are a fool to pass up this golden opportunity.  Sorry about the setback for UW, but good for Sark, and good for USC.

College Football Week 11 Awards November 11, 2013

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: David Shaw, Stanford

Glad I’m not him: Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Lucky guy: Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky

Poor guy: Les Miles, LSU

Desperately seeking a clue: Brady Hoke, Michigan
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking … anything:  Norm Chow, Hawaii

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Florida State (defeated Wake Forest 59-3)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated UConn only 31-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Colorado (lost to Washington 59-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Army (lost to Western Kentucky 21-17)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Baylor (defeated Oklahoma 41-12)

Dang, they’re good: Stanford

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami (Ohio)
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Oregon

Did the season start?  Ohio U
Can the season end?  Purdue

Can the season never endBaylor

GAMES
Play this again:  Texas 47, West Virginia 40, OT

Play this again, too:  Pittsburgh 28, No. 23 Notre Dame 21

Never play this again: No. 2 Florida State 59, Wake Forest 3

What? Pittsburgh 28, No. 23 Notre Dame 21

HuhNo. 5 Stanford 26, No. 2 Oregon 20

Are you kidding me?  Vanderbilt 31, Florida 17
Oh – my – GodVirginia Tech 42, No. 11 Miami 24

Told you so:  No. 22 Arizona State 20, Utah 19

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for:  Texas Tech @ No. 4 Baylor  (or, No. 12 Oklahoma State @ No. 23 Texas)

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Troy @ Ole Miss (yes, I know, we had to scrape at the bottom of the barrel even for that one!)

Best non-Big Six matchup: Ball State @ No. 20 Northern Illinois (Wed.)

Upset alert: Oregon State @ No. 22 Arizona State

Must win: Houston @ No. 19 Louisville

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ No. 4 Baylor

Defensive struggle: Florida @ No. 11 South Carolina

Great game no one is talking about: Ball State @ No. 20 Northern Illinois (Wed.)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Will Muschamp of Florida vs. Steve Spurrier of South Carolina

Who’s bringing the body bags? Iowa State @ No. 22 Oklahoma (or, No. 3 Ohio State @ Illinois)

Why are they playing? Idaho State @ BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: FIU @ UTEP

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Penn State @ Purdue

Week 11 Random Thoughts:

Okay, so it might not have been the biggest week in the college football season.  But it was good.  Not one, but two rock-‘em, sock-‘em match-ups on Thursday night?  Yes, please!  True, one of the outcomes was a bit less than exciting.  But is it always not fun – outside of Sooner Nation, at least – to see the arrogant Bob Stoops take a shellacking?  On the west coast was a “ticket to die for” that solidified the standings for the Pac-12.  Oregon looked like a hurry-up offensive juggernaut.  Green tee-shirts saying how the team, and indeed, the entire community, wanting a shot at Alabama, practically littered the campus.  In Palo Alto, Calif., meanwhile, was Stanford.  Sure, they were tough, but they already had one loss, and it was to Utah.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A team that could field an entire offense of tight ends if it wanted to – okay, so they look like they could! – all of a sudden gets beat by [now] 4-5 Utah.

So it was going to be a titanic clash; that much we knew.  But let us be honest; we all thought that the advantage would be Oregon’s, given their previous performances, and given that no other team’s defense could keep up with their offense.  What Stanford did was turn their offense into their defense.  A tough running game between the tackles exposed Oregon for being undersized on that side of the ball.  At one point, the Cardinal kept the ball for a full half of the third quarter in one series according to some reports.  Oregon may have a great system, but Stanford had better NFL-caliber talent, and it showed.  The only reason that the Cardinal beat the Ducks by only six points is that Stanford took their foot off the gas half-way through the fourth quarter.  They got more conservative, and took fewer risks, and that gave Oregon the opportunity for their type of offense to make up points quickly.  Otherwise, the margin of victory would have been three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Baylor has yet again proven their mettle by beating a ranked, marquee program, and in convincing fashion.  The irony in all of this is that even though the Sooners have been ranked well over the course of the season, it still cannot be considered a good year, since they have lost badly to Texas and now to Baylor.  Heaven help them if they lose to the Cowboys in the Bedlam Series!

College Football Week 4 Awards September 22, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 4] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: David Shaw, Stanford

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Lucky guy: Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
Poor guy: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Brady Hoke, Michigan
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Flood, Rutgers

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dana Holgersen, West Virginia

Desperately seeking … anything:  P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 7 Louisville (defeated FIU 72-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 11 Michigan (defeated UConn 24-21)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Troy (lost to Mississippi State 62-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Colorado State* (lost to No. 1 Alabama 31-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Iowa (defeated Western Michigan 59-3)

Dang, they’re good: Stanford
Dang, they’re bad:  Western Michigan
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Arkansas

Did the season start?  Michigan State
Can the season end?  Central Michigan
Can the season never endUCLA

GAMES
Play this again:  Fresno State 41, Boise State 40

Play this again, too:  Pittsburgh 58, Duke 55
Never play this again: No. 4 Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0

What? Iowa 59, Western Michigan 3

HuhFresno State 41, Boise State 40

Are you kidding me?  Texas 31, Kansas State 21
Oh – my – GodMaryland 37, West Virginia 0

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Ticket to die for:  No. 6 LSU @ No. 9 Georgia

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Northern Illinois @ Purdue

Best non-Big Six matchup: Navy @ Western Kentucky (honorable mention:  Akron @ Bowling Green)

Upset alert: No. 23 Wisconsin @ No. 4 Ohio State, or, No. 12 South Carolina @ Central Florida

Must win: No. 10 Texas A&M @ Arkansas

Offensive explosion: Arizona @ No. 16 Washington

Defensive struggle: MTSU @ BYU
Great game no one is talking about: Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech (Thurs.)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Ken Niumatalolo of Navy vs. Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky

Who’s bringing the body bags? South Florida @ No. 15 Miami

Why are they playing? South Alabama @ Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: Kent State @ Western Michigan

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Duke

Week 4 in Review:

*:  This was the “body bag” game that did not quite turn out to be one.  On paper, Colorado State was to be the lamb being led to the slaughter.  After all, the fortunes of the Rams have been nothing like the halcyon days under former head coach Sonny Lubick.  Moreover, in a week where every other game seemed to be a body bag game, this one should have been no different.  Consider an under-performing Mountain West Conference team journeying over a thousand miles from Fort Collins, Colo., to Tuscaloosa, Ala., only to go into one of the most hostile places in the land in which to play football, with none other than Nick Saban, arguably the best coach in the business, to be the pitiless executioner.

All things considered, the 31-6 loss could have been much worse.  The Rams actually did a good job of gaining yardage against the Crimson Tide.  The only problem was, the bulk of that yardage was between the 20 yard-lines.  Once Colorado State made it into the red zone, Alabama started to show more of its true defensive colors, as the score attests.  Still, head coach Jim McElwain – coincidentally, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama – came in with a sound game plan, and that was to keep his team’s offense on the field for as long as possible, and conversely, to keep Alabama’s offense off the field as long as possible.  They took plenty of risks – including lots of screen passes – in order to try to make that happen.  One thing that was particularly telling of some degree of success in the overall game plan, despite the loss, was that Saban kept his headset on and kept coaching his team literally as the final second of the fourth quarter ticked off the clock.  One normally does not see that sort of behavior from a coach – no matter how skilled they are in the business – during a so-called “body bag” game.

But this game aside, even some of the better matches on paper (say, Tennessee at Florida, or Michigan State at Notre Dame) turned out to be exercises in ineptitude on both sides of the ball. Even Purdue, who acquitted themselves well against Notre Dame last week, came out flat against Wisconsin this week.

Speaking of “body bag” games, though, this weekend was lousy with them.  Records have become so important in terms of one’s BCS standings, that teams have largely become risk-averse, and since most conferences do not mandate that at least nine conference games be scheduled (notwithstanding the Big XII and Pac-12), we the fans had to suffer through lots of garbage matchups (hello, Florida A&M @ Ohio State) this past week.  Next week will thankfully be different, though, as most teams have some sort of conference game, and even those that do not still [mostly] have some interesting opponent to play (e.g., Northern Illinois at Purdue, South Carolina at an up-and-coming UCF, Oklahoma at Notre Dame, and Navy at Western Kentucky).  The bottom line is, let us blot this past week out of our memories, and just look forward to that which is immediately ahead.