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College Football Awards Week 13 (2021) December 3, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Glad I’m not him: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Lucky guy: Nick Saban, Alabama

Poor guy: Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jeff Traylor, UTSA

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Allen, Indiana

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Houston (defeated UConn 45-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Baylor (defeated Texas Tech 27-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Georgia Tech (lost to Georgia 45-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Auburn (lost to Alabama 24-22, 4OT)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated Louisville 52-21)  

Dang, they’re good:  Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Colorado State

Another one bites the dust:  UTSA

Did the season start?  Wisconsin
Can the season end?  Indiana

Can the season never endMichigan

GAMES
Play this again: No. 5 Michigan 42, No. 2 Ohio State 27

Play this again, too:  No. 3 Alabama 24, Auburn 22 (4OT)

Never play this again: Nevada 52, Colorado State 10

What?  North Texas 45, No. 22 UTSA 23

HuhLSU 27, No. 15 Texas A&M 24

Are you kidding me??  Minnesota 23, No. 14 Wisconsin 13

Oh – my – GodNo. 5 Michigan 42, No. 2 Ohio State 27

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama 

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 24 Houston vs. No. 4 Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 19 Utah vs. No. 11 Oregon

Must win: No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 16 Iowa

They have the same record?  USC @ California

Offensive explosion: No. 8 Baylor vs. No. 7 Oklahoma State also:  Kent State vs Northern Illinois

Defensive struggle: (none)

Great game no one is talking about: No. 17 Pitt vs. No. 18 Wake Forest

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Luke Fickell of Cincinnati vs. Dana Holgorsen of Houston

Week 13 Thoughts:

Rivalry week did not disappoint.  Sure, there was the occasional lop-sided outcome (looking your way, IU-Purdue and Kentucky-Louisville, and others, too.), but so many matchups produced so many great games.  The Ole Miss-Mississippi State game (the “Egg Bowl”, named after the golden football trophy that has long been dubbed “the golden egg”) on Thanksgiving started things off with a bang.  Then on Friday, unranked Nebraska had a chance to knock No. 16 Iowa out of B1G West contention, and came up shy by only a touchdown.  Coastal Carolina had to hold off lowly South Alabama:  the Chanticleers defeated the Jaguars by only seven points.

On Saturday, even greater action took place.  Neither Florida nor Florida State has had much of a season, but they certainly gave fans a good fight in The Swamp, with the Gators winning, 24-21.

But The Game itself delivered.  Michigan finally got a major monkey off its back in beating Ohio State for the first time since 2011.  With such a rivalry and a game of such high stakes (a conference championship berth and also a potential playoff bid on the line), there was plenty of drama to go around, and all the while, Michigan Stadium was rocking, both during, and very much after the game.  The crowd of fans gathered around the FOX crew outside of the stadium post-game rivaled that of crowds at ESPN’s College Gameday, pre-game.

Speaking of the B1G and conference championship berths on the line, Wisconsin had the chance to win Paul Bunyan’s Ax and also to lock up the B1G West by beating Minnesota.  PJ Fleck and the boys had other plans.  The Golden Gophers won the day, 23-13, and the Ax along with it.  That upset made Iowa’s win the previous day all the more significant, as now they’ll represent the B1G West in Indianapolis next weekend.

In a quasi-rivalry game, Michigan State and Penn State duked it out in the snow in a high-scoring slugfest, with the Spartans winning closely, 30-27.

If we are to be reminded of anything, it’s that the Iron Bowl is always a great game, no matter how much one team may struggle and no matter how high the other may be currently flying.  Case in point:  this year’s Iron Bowl looked like it might have been a lop-sided affair, what with Alabama’s top-five ranking and Auburn not even ranked.  But crazy things have happened against the Crimson Tide in Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Last night’s game was one of them.  Auburn led most of the game in a defensive struggle.  Going into the 4th quarter, it was 10-0 in favor of the Tigers.  The Tide managed to score 10 points that quarter to tie things up at the end of regulation.  It took four overtimes to finally decide the game, with Alabama triumphing in the end.  Ironically, it took a hobbled back QB’s understandably limited performance for Alabama to have even a shot at winning this game.

Speaking of getting monkeys off one’s back, Oklahoma State certainly came through against Oklahoma in last night’s edition of the Bedlam Series.  In what was a back-and-forth shootout for much of the game, the Cowboys held the Sooners scoreless in the 4th quarter (a considerable stepping up of OK State’s defense), while they themselves scored 14 points to triumph, 37-33.

Other great games took place elsewhere, and it all amounted to a wonderful Rivalry Week that shall no about long be remembered.  But now, it is time to look ahead.

Looking ahead to Week 14:

Michigan vs. Iowa in the B1G Championship game (Indianapolis)

This will be a different Big Ten championship game from what we are used to.  Reason being, Wisconsin is not in it.  Kidding aside, neither is Ohio State or Michigan State.  Nope, Michigan crashes the party for the first time, ever, too.  I wonder how Iowa’s and Michigan’s bands will sound like when they play the Star Spangled Banner together.  It will be a beautiful sound to hear and a sight to behold in any case.

Oh, and all Michigan needs to do is close the deal, and they could make it to the playoffs.  No pressure.

Georgia vs. Alabama in the SEC Championship game (Atlanta)

This is Georgia’s opportunity to remind everyone that they are the legit No. 1 team.  Conversely, if Alabama has any hopes of crashing the playoffs, they need to get through the Bulldogs in order to attain that prize.  Needless to say, that’s a huge ask. 

Questions also abound:  was the Crimson Tide looking ahead to Georgia, and thus were caught off-guard by sputtering Auburn?  Or did Alabama arrive in The Plains with the War Eagle fully on their minds, only to come out flat anyhow, and lucky to escape back to Tuscaloosa with a win?  If their underperformance yesterday is any indication, they could wind up as cannon fodder for the Bulldogs.

Conversely, Georgia would be wise to prepare as if they shall be in the fight of their lives, because, well, because Alabama, that’s why.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma State in the Big XII Championship game (Arlington, Texas)

Credit the Big XII with two things:  one, they get it right by selecting the contestants for their conference championship game.  Forget these silly divisions:  simply select the top two best teams, and let them slug it out.  Okay, “slug” might be too strong a word since this is the Big XII, which defensively is almost a pillow-fight of a conference (Oklahoma notwithstanding).  Nevertheless, the Bears vs. the Cowboys should be a marvelous matchup.

The other thing that the Big XII gets right is selecting the best possible location within their geographic footprint in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  To be sure, the B1G and SEC have gotten it right, respectively, for a long time in that same regard, with the former playing in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy (which is perfect for the B1G), and now Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the SEC in Atlanta (before then, they played in the Georgia Dome: perfect in either case).

Houston vs. Cincinnati in the AAC championship game

When was the last time we all looked forward to the AAC championship game?  Perhaps starting now.  If you’re not, you should.  Cincinnati is undefeated and could earn a coveted playoff berth if they win out.  Meanwhile, Houston has but one loss, has played very strongly as of late, and could be a likely spoiler.

No neutral site here:  the two teams shall be duking it out in the Bearcats’ home field of Nippert Stadium.  As an undefeated team, UC has earned this advantage.

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest in the ACC championship game (Charlotte)

What, no Clemson?  Correct, no Tigers in this ACC championship.  Nevertheless, we ought not to overlook this game, as it too could be a great one, pitting (if you’ll pardon the pun) two teams that are focused and tenacious.  Yes, bring out the popcorn for this one, too!

College Football Week 10 Awards (2021) November 9, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Josh Heupel, Tennessee

Glad I’m not him: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dan Mullen, Florida

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Georgia (defeated Missouri 43-6)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Cincinnati (defeated Tulsa 28-20)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to Wisconsin 52-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Tulsa (lost to No. 6 Cincinnati 28-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  South Carolina (defeated Florida 40-17)  

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State

Did the season start?  Florida
Can the season end?  Texas

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again: Tennessee 45, No. 18 Kentucky 42

Play this again, too:  Kent State 52, Northern Illinois 47

Never play this again: Utah 52, Stanford 7

What?  Illinois 14, No. 20 Minnesota 6

HuhTCU 30, No. 12 Baylor 28

Are you kidding me??  North Carolina 58, No. 10 Wake Forest 55

Oh – my – GodPurdue 40, No. 3 Michigan State 29

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 11)
Ticket to die for:  No. 14 Texas A&M @ No. 16 Ole Miss also: No. 8 Oklahoma @ No. 12 Baylor

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Nevada @ No. 24 San Diego State

Upset alert: No. 19 NC State @ No. 9 Wake Forest

Must win: No. 7 Michigan @ Penn State

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma @ Baylor

Defensive struggle: Minnesota @ No. 22 Iowa

Great game no one is talking about: North Carolina @ No. 25 Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M vs Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss

Who’s bringing the body bags?  New Mexico State @ No. 2 Alabama

Why are they playing? UConn @ Clemson

Plenty of good seats remaining: Tulsa @ Tulane

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Bucknell @ Army

Week 10 Thoughts:

Just when Michigan State looks red-hot, they go and lay an egg at Purdue.  In their defense, though, strange things have been known to happen to the Spartans in Ross-Ade Stadium over the years (witness the 1997 and 1999 games, for example).

Conversely, just when one is apt to give Purdue up for dead after a lackluster performance against Illinois and losing a winnable game on the road to Minnesota, they turn around and beat then-No. 2 Iowa and just defeated then-No. 3 Michigan State.  With still more to ponder, the Boilermakers are now 6-3.  Hard to give up a team for dead when they currently have a record like that.

Moreover, this is the second time in one year that Purdue has taken down a top-five team (Iowa was the previous team to fall in such a manner), giving further credibility the Boilermakers’ nickname-within-a-nickname of “Spoiler-makers”.

Similarly, just when one is about to give South Carolina up for dead, they trounce Florida, 40-17.  To be sure, the Gators started off the season very strongly, but mysteriously seem to have gradually declined in performance over the past few weeks.  On the other side of the ball, is this a sign that Frank Beamer’s son is building the Gamecocks into an increasingly strong team?  They close out the season with home games against Auburn and Clemson that shall answer that question.

Looking into Non-Power Five upstarts, if Cincinnati truly wants to be taken seriously as a legitimate playoff contender, then the last thing they want to do is to squeak by a team like Tulsa by only one touchdown when the ESPN College Gameday crew comes to their campus that very day/week.  Oh wait…

In the Big XII (what shall soon be left of it), is it safe to start calling Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium the Death Valley of that conference?  Because quite a few teams with far greater pedigrees have gone there to die during head coach Matt Campbell’s tenure with the Cyclones.

Moving to the SEC, the A&M-Auburn game surely lived up to its billing as a slugfest.  Now that the Aggies survived that war in the trenches, can they turnaround and survive a different sort of slugfest in Oxford against the Rebels?

Finally, nice to see Tennessee win a thriller over Kentucky in Lexington.  Head coach Josh Heupel is clearly building the Vols back to the strong program they used to be.  Such a development is very good for college football.  Just how far they have yet to go to be “back” shall be ascertained when they face the legitimate no. 1 team in the land, Georgia, this upcoming weekend.

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 4 (2019) September 23, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

Lucky guy: Willie Taggert, Florida State

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mack Brown, North Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Fritz, Tulane

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Desperately seeking … anything:  Dana Holgorsen, Houston

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Miami, Ohio 76-5)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (defeated Notre Dame 23-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Charlotte (lost to Clemson 52-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  SMU (defeated TCU 41-38)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kent State (defeated Bowling Green 62-20)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Arkansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  TCU

Did the season start?  Stanford

Can the season end?  Tennessee

Can the season never endIowa State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Georgia 23, No. 7 Notre Dame 17

Play this again, too:  No. 12 Texas 36, Oklahoma State 30

Never play this again: No. 6 Ohio State 76, Miami, Ohio 5

That will leave a mark:  Iowa State 72, Louisiana-Monroe 20

What? Appalachian State 34, North Carolina 31

HuhSan Jose State 31, Arkansas 24

Double HuhUSC 30, No. 10 Utah 23

Are you kidding me??  SMU 41, No. 25 TCU 38

Oh – my – GodNo. 13 Wisconsin 35, No. 11 Michigan 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Possible best game of the week:  No. 18 Virginia @ No. 10 Notre Dame

 (Possible second choice):  Nebraska @ No. 6 Ohio State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Northern Illinois @ Vanderbilt

Best non-Power Five matchup: Navy @ Memphis

Upset alert: Maryland @ No. 13 Penn State

Must win: UCLA @ Arizona

Offensive explosion: Washington State @ No. 19 Utah

Defensive struggle: (inconclusive)

Great game no one is talking about: Kansas State @ Oklahoma State (also:  Iowa State @ Baylor)

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of Kansas vs. Gary Patterson of TCU

Who’s bringing the body bags? Towson @ No. 9 Florida

Why are they playing? Delaware @ Pitt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ UMass

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Middle Tennessee @ No. 18 Iowa

Week 4 Thoughts:

Week 4 has been arguably the best week for college football thus far in the 2019 season.  Friday started off the weekend with a bang with an engaging matchup between USC and Utah.  The following first time slot of Saturday (noon EDT) was great, at least on paper.  Michigan faced Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, and left the game exposed for having severe weaknesses on offense that must be addressed or Jim Harbaugh’s future with his alma mater may be in doubt.

That said, two key games in the following time slot (Louisville at Florida State and Auburn at Texas A&M) lived up to their billing.  Louisville is clearly headed in the right direction as a program, but much improvement remains.  Perhaps it is unreasonable for Scott Satterfield to turn things around so quickly, given the mess that Bobby Petrino left in his wake.  Meanwhile, the Aggies fought the good fight at home, but came up short against a gradually but steadily ascendant Auburn.  Both were good game, regardless.

The evening time slot proved that the best was yet to come that day.  Oklahoma State came calling at Texas, for one.  The Longhorns had failed to beat the Cowboys the previous five seasons, so the urgency was clearly there to get that proverbial monkey off the Horns’ collective back.

Then, a half-hour later, the “ticket to die for” lived up to its billing as Notre Dame put up a strong fight against Georgia in Sanford Stadium.  The game was a close defensive struggle for three and a half quarters before the Bulldogs finally asserted themselves in accordance with their full potential.  In other words, in the latter half of the fourth quarter, the cream finally rose to the top.

With so much great football having been played on Sept. 21 from noon through 11 PM Eastern, such will be a very tough act for Week 5 to follow.  Case in point:  no game for Week 5 offers a “ticket to die for”, which is more the pity.

College Football Awards, Week 10 (2018) November 4, 2018

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Glad I’m not him: James Franklin, Penn State

Lucky guy: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Poor guy: Tom Herman, Texas

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Wells, Utah State

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Brett Brennan, San Jose State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Louisville 77-16)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Ohio State (defeated Nebraska 36-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Louisville (lost to Clemson 77-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Charlotte (to Tennessee 14-3)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Michigan (defeated No. 14 Penn State 42-7)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  San Jose State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Florida

Did the season start?  Miami

Can the season end?  Louisville

Can the season never endMichigan

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 13 West Virginia 42, No. 17 Texas 41

Play this again, too:  Purdue 38, No. 16 Iowa 36

Never play this again: No. 2 Clemson 77, Louisville 16

What? Baylor 35, Oklahoma State 31

HuhPitt 23, No. 25 Virginia 13

Double Huh?  Purdue 38, No. 16 Iowa 36

Are you kidding me??  Arizona State 38, No. 15 Utah 20

Oh – my – GodMissouri 38, No. 11 Florida 17

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 10)
Best game of the week:  (lots of decent games, but nothing spectacular)

One good game to see:  Auburn @ No. 6 Georgia

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: USF @ Cincinnati  also:  Fresno State @ Boise State

Upset alert: Michigan State @ No. 10 Ohio State

Must win: South Carolina @ No. 11 Florida

Offensive explosion: Texas @ Texas Tech

Defensive struggle: Kansas @ Kansas State

Great game no one is talking about: No. 8 Washington State @ Colorado

Also:  Wisconsin @ Penn State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Tom Herman of Texas vs. Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech

Who’s bringing the body bags? Utah State @ San Jose State

Why are they playing?  Navy @ No. 12 UCF

Plenty of good seats remaining: East Carolina @ Tulane

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

 

 

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 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.

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

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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

Lucky guy: Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Poor guy: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Gary Anderson, Oregon State

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

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

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

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

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

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Rice

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma

Did the season start?  Florida State

Can the season end?  East Carolina

Can the season never endPenn State

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

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

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

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

What? LSU 17, No. 21 Florida 16

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

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

Must win: Oregon @ No. 23 Stanford

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ No. 23 West Virginia

Defensive struggle: No. 10 Auburn @ LSU

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

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

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

Why are they playing? Charlotte @ Western Kentucky

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

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

Week 6 Random Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football Awards, Week 3 (2017) September 17, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 3] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Glad I’m not him: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Lucky guy: Jim McElwain, Florida

Poor guy: Jim Mora, UCLA

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Cutcliffe, Duke

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Matt Rhule, Baylor

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

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Auburn (defeated Mercer 24-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: East Carolina (lost to No. 16 Virginia Tech 64-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Vanderbilt (defeated No. 18 Kansas State 14-7)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Purdue (defeated Missouri 35-3)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  UTEP

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Kansas State

Did the season start?  LSU

Can the season end?  Rice

Can the season never endDuke

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 4 USC 27, Texas 24

Play this again, too:  No. 24 Florida 26, No. 23 Tennessee 20

Never play this again: Arizona 64, UTEP 16

What? No. 24 Florida 26, No. 23 Tennessee 20

HuhMemphis 48, No. 25 UCLA 45

Double HuhNorthern Illinois 21, Nebraska 17

Are you kidding me??  Vanderbilt 14, No. 18 Kansas State 7

Oh – my – GodMississippi State 37, No. 12 LSU 7

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Ticket to die for:  No. 16 TCU @ No. 6 Oklahoma State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Ohio U @ Eastern Michigan

Upset alert: No. 17 Mississippi State @ No. 11 Georgia

Must win: Notre Dame @ Michigan State

Offensive explosion: Toledo @ No. 14 Miami

Defensive struggle: Pitt @ Georgia Tech

Great game no one is talking about: Duke @ North Carolina

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jim Harbaugh of Michigan vs. Jeff Brohm of Purdue

Who’s bringing the body bags? UNLV @ No. 10 Ohio State

Why are they playing? UMass @ Tennessee

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida International @ Rice

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Georgia Southern @ Indiana

Week 3 Take-aways:

The Clemson-at-Louisville game was the game of the week, and on paper, such a designation was obvious.  But sometimes these “games of the week” become lopsided affairs.  This was sadly such a game, whereby the Tigers triumphed over the host Cardinals, 41-27.  Did the game’s outcome have to weigh so heavily in favor or Clemson?  No.  The problem for Louisville was a combination of a few things.  For one, the Tigers’ offense had incredible speed in their skill positions that kept Louisville’s secondary on their toes the whole night.  The second was their powerful offensive line opened up huge gaps up the middle, allowing their runningback to gain lots of yardage between the tackles.  Much of that could have been cancelled out had Louisville’s offense been allowed to fire on all proverbial cylinders.  Why the hindrance?  Because head coach Bobby Petrino seemed bent on trying to mold Heisman winner Lamar Jackson into another Aaron Rogers, when he is clearly another Michael Vick instead.  Petrino is apparently so bent on micro-managing his quarterback that he has forgotten that an artist needs to be allowed to be, well, an artist.  Let Jackson play to his strengths, and Louisville’s offense shall rise to the level of its potential.  But as long as Petrino continues to micromanage the offense the way he currently is, the Cardinals’ offense shall continue to stagnate.  The choice is that simple.

Meanwhile, what a game in Los Angeles.  The 2005-2006 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was the greatest college football game of my lifetime.  This was the first time Texas and USC had played each other since, and like the previous game, it did not disappoint, with plenty of drama and big plays on both sides.  Despite the unranked Horns’ eventual loss, the moral victory is theirs in that they took the No. 4-ranked Trojans into overtime and only lost by a field goal.  For the first time this year, Texas finally played up to its potential.  Even though moral victories are not counted in any statistic or record book, this is one that Coach Tom Herman can build upon if he is smart about it.

That said, the moral victory for Texas might have been an actual one had it not been for the Longhorns’ four turnovers that game.

Meanwhile, what a difference an offseason and change of coaches can make.  Purdue was a gutter team last year.  Then, out with previous head coach Darrell Hazell, in with new head coach Jeff Brohm, and the difference in team performance is as stark as night and day.  The Boilermakers have grown into a team not to be taken lightly.  Their only loss was to a strong Louisville team.  The following week they won, handily, over Ohio U, one of the best teams in the MAC.  This week, they journeyed to Missouri to take on the Tigers, whom the Boilermakers rolled, 35-3.  This upcoming weekend, they play No. 8 Michigan.  On paper, the odds heavily favor the Wolverines, but do not be surprised if Purdue takes Michigan to the wire just like Texas did with USC this week.

As an aside, Kentucky has beaten South Carolina for the fourth straight time.  The past two times, Will Muschamp has been at the helm of the Gamecocks.  How many more times are the fans going to tolerate such an embarrassing loss to a team that barely belongs in their conference before they run Muschamp out of town on a rail?