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The Longhorns-Red Raiders Rivalry in Microcosm November 11, 2018

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One of the many things to look forward to at the beginning of each November is Bill Connelly’s annually-updated article from SB Nation entitled “November is here.  Now college football season has really begun.”  One key mantra he hammers home:  November is for everything.  Read the article, you’ll understand for yourself.

Of the many cool things to pour over in this article, one is that he gives each calendar date of November its due by pointing to them as college football dates in history.  For example, Nov. 23 is the anniversary of Doug Flutie’s legendary Hail Mary TD pass that beat Miami.  Nov. 20 is when Boston College beat No. 1 Notre Dame on a last-second field goal in 1993.  All these dates are listed chronologically, of course.

And Nov. 1?  No doubt a date that shall live in Longhorn Nation infamy.  For one that day in 2008, Michael Crabtree slipped into the end zone for a touchdown that would defeat undefeated Texas, thus ultimately derailing its national title hopes that year.  Such a win for Texas Tech still sticks in the collective craw of Texas fans to this day, ten years later.

At any rate, ten years and nine days later, Texas exacted a small amount of revenge in Lubbock by scoring a touchdown within the last minute of the game that would seal the deal for the Longhorns.  Lil’Jordan Humphrey (yes, that is his name) even extended himself over the goal line in a similar fashion to what TTU’s Crabtree did a decade earlier.

What is it about Texas Tech that gives a much stronger, much more resource-laden program such fits in the first place?  Perhaps it is a David vs. Goliath complex on the part of the Red Raiders that gets them emotionally pumped to take on the flagship program of the Lone Star State.  Or, maybe Tech’s well-established, high-octane spread offense is one that gives the Horns’ defense fits for whatever reason.  In other words, on paper, Texas should crush Tech most years.  But over the past 10-15 years, this is one of those crazy matchups that gives fans plenty of drama, ergo excitement (not to mention heart palpitations that come with it), as these two games a decade apart attest.  Whatever the reason, we the college football fans are all the more engaged, entertained, and possibly satisfied as a result.

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College Football Week 8 Awards October 20, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Glad I’m not him: Les Miles, LSU

Lucky guy: George O’Leary, Central Florida

Poor guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a clue: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mark Richt, Georgia

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Iowa State 71-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Miami (defeated North Carolina 27-23)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Arkansas (lost to Alabama 52-0)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Iowa (lost to Ohio State 34-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia Tech (defeated Syracuse 56-0)

Dang, they’re good: Florida State

Dang, they’re bad:  Southern Miss
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Louisville

Did the season start?  Northwestern
Can the season end?  Georgia

Can the season never endMissouri

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 24 Auburn 45, No. 7 Texas A&M 41

Play this again, too:  BYU 47, Houston 46

Never play this again: Baylor 71, Iowa State 7

Forget about this one, too:  Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0

What? Central Florida 38, No. 8 Louisville 35

HuhNo. 24 Auburn 45, No. 7 Texas A&M 41

Are you kidding me?  Ole Miss 27, No. 6 LSU 24
Oh – my – GodNo. 5 Florida State 51, No. 3 Clemson 14

Told you so:  Tennessee 23, No. 11 South Carolina 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 8, pre-week 9)
Ticket to die for:  Tennessee @ No. 1 Alabama

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Pittsburgh @ Navy

Best non-Big Six matchup: Boise State @ BYU

Upset alert: Tennessee @ No. 1 Alabama

Must win: No. 20 South Carolina @ No. 5 Missouri

Offensive explosion: Boise State @ BYU (Friday)

Defensive struggle: Michigan State @ Illinois
Great game no one is talking about: Houston @ Rutgers

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Pinkel of Missouri vs. Steve Spurrier of South Carolina

Who’s bringing the body bags? Florida Atlantic @ No. 11 Auburn

Why are they playing? Furman @ No. 13 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Michigan @ UMass

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 6 Baylor @ Kansas

Week 8 in Review:

Rarely is there a week when there are so many upsets, that it’s impossible to give all of them their just due.  Normally, four categories are enough, from “What?” to “Oh-My-God”.  Yet this time around, we needed several more categories, for the undefeateds and top-ten teams ended up dropping like flies.      To wit:  No. 7 Texas A&M fell to Auburn, No. 6 LSU fell to Ole Miss.  Stanford, after paying dearly for taking a game off and thus laying an egg against Utah, turned right around the following week and took out undefeated, then-No. 9 UCLA.  Do we have to remind ourselves of how then-No. 8 Louisville (now No. 18) basically gave the game away to now-No. 21 Central Florida? Say this out loud:  Missouri beat Florida.  In so doing, the reader is likely to ask oneself, “in what Twilight Zone or alternate football universe does that happen?”  Yet it did; what’s even more other-dimensionly is that Mizzou was actually ranked ahead of the Gators when they triumphed (No. 14 vs. No. 22, respectively).  The Tigers, still undefeated, are now ranked at No. 6.

Then there was the purported “ticket to die for” of the week, and on paper it certainly was that, what with then-No. 3 Clemson at home against then-No. 5 Florida State in a titanic intra-conference clash — on paper, at least.  The only problem was, the Seminoles showed up for battle, whereas the Tigers, apparently, not so much.  The ‘Noles asserted themselves from the opening kickoff to the final whistle of the game, and demolished the home team, 51-14, despite Clemson’s hitherto superior ranking.  Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was hoping that the team could put an end to the concept of “Clemsoning”, (look up the second and third definitions of the term on Urban Dictionary), but after last night’s performance, that concept shall live on for a while longer.

Meanwhile, let us compare the heretofore Top Ten to today’s new rankings:

1.)     Alabama

2.)     Oregon

3.)     Clemson

4.)     Ohio State

5.)     Florida State

6.)     LSU

7.)     Texas A&M

8.)     Louisville

9.)     UCLA

10.)   Miami (Fla.)

Today (Oct. 20, 2013)

1.)    Alabama

2.)    Oregon

3.)    Florida State

4.)    Ohio State

5.)    Missouri

6.)    Baylor

7.)    Miami (Fla.)

8.)    Stanford

9.)    Clemson

10). Texas Tech

Curious to note:  Alabama and Oregon are still No’s 1 and 2 respectively.  So far, so good.  But Florida State, now at No. 3, leapfrogged over Ohio State, who is still at No. 4.  Mizzou, having beaten some formidable teams, has skyrocketed to No. 5, while Baylor sits at No. 6 (personally, I find the latter’s offense more potent than the former; were it only that the two could knock heads in a BCS game!).  Meanwhile, the Miami Hurricanes, laboring in the shadow of the NCAA’s Sword of Damocles, have quietly crept up to the No. 7 spot in a spectacular turnaround under Coach Al Golden’s leadership. Stanford is back in the top ten after defeating hitherto unbeaten UCLA, and Clemson remains in the top ten at No. 9 despite a thrashing at home against the Seminoles.  Tech rounds out the new top ten, and appropriately so, given that they’re currently unbeaten.  That current status, however, shall be seriously called into question the following week, though, as they shall play Oklahoma on the road, then Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home, then they face Baylor and cap things off against Texas.  The truly brutal part of the schedule is about to commence for the Red Raiders, hence they shall have the opportunity to prove their worthiness of their new ranking.  As LSU’s Charley McClendon said long ago, “[I]n football, and in life, you’ve got to keep proving yourself.

Oh, and don’t look now, but Auburn has climbed up to No. 11 from the No. 24 spot.

On a related note, two programs who were once esteemed as “football factories” but had something of a decade-long slump seem to have returned to that status this year; Florida State and, to a lesser extent, Tennessee.  The former demonstrated that convincingly before a national, prime time audience.  The latter demonstrated that over the course of the past three weeks by giving Georgia the fight of their lives on Oct. 5, then coming back to beat South Carolina yesterday.  No longer is playing the Vols a relative “gimme” on the SEC schedule as it was several years ago.  Everyone else in the conference ought to be put on notice.

Some thoughts on the Bowls as of Dec. 28 December 29, 2012

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From azstarnet.com; try to ignore the Arizona player bumping into the ref and instead, focus on how cool their unis look, along the with the awesome color contrast between Arizona’s and Nevada’s helmets!

The New Mexico Bowl kicked off the season to a surprisingly auspicious beginning.  I say “surprisingly,” because let’s be honest; nobody thought that the first bowl game of the year would be that swell, and moreover,  it seemed as though Nevada had the game well in hand by the end of the 3rd quarter before Arizona managed to make a pretty good game out of things yet and scored 18 unanswered points to pull ahead at the end, 49-48.  And to think that I predicted that the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 would be the bowl season’s “offensive explosion,” yet so far, the results of the New Mexico Bowl have fit that distinction more than any other of the 2012-2013 bowl span.

But wait, there’s more!  As more teams unveil special bowl game helmets (read: Cincinnati, Virginia Tech), the jury will still be out until Jan. 7 to decide this ultimately, but thus far, the Arizona-Nevada matchup is definitely the “most aesthetically pleasing helmet contrast,” with the Wolfpack sporting their dark blue helmets on one side, and the Wildcats sporting their special red domes on the other!

Moreover, it will be very difficult for any other team to top the Wildcats for the “sartorial splendor” award, as they have set a new precedent.  Normally, if a team has dark blue and red for their colors (technically, Cardinal and Navy Blue, as is the case for both Arizona and Ole Miss), the modern precedents have been something along the lines of 1) dark blue helmets, dark blue jerseys, and either white or gray pants, or white helmets, or 2) white helmets and pants with dark blue jerseys, or 3), dark blue helmets, red jerseys, and white or gray pants.  What Arizona did was break through normal precedents and set a whole new one with red helmets, dark blue jerseys, and red pants.  It does not get much better than that!

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of good games, this year’s MAACO Bowl of Las Vegas turned out to be a ‘dandy’ of a game, folks!  There are times when you swear that ESPN does actually have a crystal ball in some secret location on their Bristol, Conn., campus, because they sent their front-line crew of Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit to call the game, reflecting on the fact in real time that it was worth tuning in to see!  Either that, or it was an elaborate rouse to get Musburger in touch with Chan Lo and the Chinese Triads to settle his gambling debts:  who knows?  That having been said, what on Earth was Boise State doing wearing those god-awful matte black helmets instead of their pretty metallic blue domes?  Sometimes it pays to leave well enough alone; such is what Washington did with their tasteful combination of metallic gold helms, white jerseys and purple pants.

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Of all places, this pic came from Bengals.com!

The Belk Bowl also exceeded expectations in terms of a competitive, watchable game.  Only two things overshadowed Duke’s first bowl game since the mid-1990s:  1), Cincinnati’s garish, red, carbon fibre-colored helmets, a first in football helmet decor, and 2), the Bearcats ultimately won.  Still, it was nice that the Blue Devils wore their tasteful royal blue helmets instead of their generic-looking white ones, which overall made for a nice helmet contrast between the two teams as they played each other in Charlotte.  Moreover, keep in mind that the Bearcats pulled off the win with basically a five-man coaching staff (for purposes of comparison, college teams usually have about 10 coaches on staff, not including graduate assistants).

Another very interesting teams’ helmets contrast took place on Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, formerly the reincarnated Tangerine Bowl (basically, the other bowl game they play in the Citrus Bowl before the real Citrus Bowl game, which is now called the Capital One Bowl.  Got all that?).  Rutgers put up one heckuva fight against Virginia Tech, but came up a field goal short in overtime of tying the Hokies after the first round in overtime.  But the contrast was nevertheless unique in that the Scarlet Knights had their newly characteristic chrome shells, while the Hokies sported new, matte maroon helmets with an orange decal of a “Hokie,” which, from what us fans can deduce, is basically a turkey bird on a roid rage.  Virginia Tech has undertaken numerous helmet styling experiments during the 2012 season, some kind of interesting, some downright head-scratching.  The white helmets with turkey feet clearly belonged in the latter category!

Oh, and the guys at EDSBS, you boys have some ‘splainin’ to do!  You ranked the Meinecke Car Care Bowl of Texas last among your list of the 35 bowls for this season.  In the words of Musburger, the game turned out to be a real ‘dandy.’  Thanks to the realignment of bowls, this Texas Bowl is about the only B1G vs Big XII matchup we have to look forward to, as the Alamo Bowl no longer affords us that luxury.  The game did not disappoint, as Minnesota and Texas Tech butted heads in dramatic form practically from the whistle giving the green light for kickoff.  The game remained close and competitive for the whole 60 minutes, though a turning point came when a Red Raider receiver pancaked a Golden Gopher defensive back in the end zone and walloped him — right in front of the back judge.  That led to the player, No. 22, to be summarily ejected from the game (and due to an arcane NCAA rule, he shall also have to sit out the opening game next year, too).  LeGarrette Blunt would no doubt be proud.  A third and goal near the one became a third and goal at about the fifteen.  The next play was botched, leading to a field goal.  Minnesota called a timeout just as the ball was snapped, and on the next, true snap, the Gophers blocked the kick!  A sure TD was reduced to, well, nothing.  Yes, in the end, the Red Raiders won on a last-second field goal.  Still, the game was riveting from the opening kickoff to the very last play, and that’s all we fans can ask for in any of these bowl games.

In all frankness and honesty, the 2012-2013 bowl season has been overall underwhelming this far.  The Little Caesars Bowl and the Independence Bowl (oh, my, have the mighty fallen!) have been nothing about which to write home, and similar things can be said for most of the other bowls up to this point.  But having said all that, it is worth pointing out that there have been some high points thus far, and odds are, it can only get better from here.  After all, Ronald Reagan himself was known to joke that if one searches through enough mounds of manure, sooner or later one is bound to find the pony!

2012-2013 Bowl Games of Moderate Interest (at best) December 14, 2012

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Bowl season is almost upon us once again.  Yes, friends, things kickoff early as usual, just as they have since roughly 2001.  But instead of the New Orleans Bowl doing the honors in getting things started this year, we have the New Mexico Bowl and the Idaho Potatoes Bowl (don’t laugh!) doing said honors this year.  The Big Easy Bowl does not commence until Dec. 22, oddly enough.

In any event, I have ranked the bowl games by category, with the major criterion being level of desirability to view, partly on my end, partly on the end of the average viewer who is NOT a certifiable college football addict like yours truly!

To find a complete bowl game schedule where each game is found in order of date and time each game is to be played, go here.

The first installment is of bowl games about which I am only moderately interested, at best (all times Eastern Standard):

Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Id.), Sat., Dec. 15, 4:30 PM EST

Toledo (9-3) vs. No. 22 Utah State (10-2)

The de facto WAC champ takes on a respectable MAC team that finished 3rd in the western division.  The only interesting aspect about this game is that it will be an interesting test to see how strong the MAC truly is against the best of what is seen by most as a traditionally weak conference.

Poinsettia Bowl (San Diego) Sat., Dec. 15, 8:00 PM EST

BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)

The Cougars take on the de facto leader of the Mountain West, in what amounts to a glorified home game for the Aztecs.  Despite the numbers not matching, their records have interesting similarities in that both teams lost to at least one Pac-12 team, and both teams also lost to San Jose State (!).

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 PM EST

Ball State (9-3) vs. UCF (9-4)

Both the Cardinals and the Golden Knights have nearly identical records, with UCF’s extra loss coming to Tulsa in the C-USA championship game.  The only interesting aspect to this game is how a MAC also-ran stacks up against the C-USA runner-up.  Everybody was bullish on the MAC this year for the apparent strength the conference hath shewn; now it is time to put up or shut up.

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, Hi.) Dec. 24, 8:00 PM EST

Fresno State (9-3) vs. SMU (6-6)

This game used to have a little more of a mystique to it when it was called the Aloha Bowl, and was played on Christmas.  Just sayin’!  That said, it least this game is another glorified home game for Hawaii team, like it is half the time.  A Mountain West also-ran vs. a C-USA team barely eligible does seem to be a slight mismatch in the Bulldogs favor.  On the other hand, this will be an interesting homecoming for June Jones, albeit on the Mustangs side this time.

Little Caesars Bowl (Detroit), Wed., Dec. 26, 7:30 PM

Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (6-6)

It used to be they would pit a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team against the MAC champ.  Even then, the game was only moderately interesting, and only to the fan bases of the teams that got the bid to the Motor City.  Now, with a Sun Belt Conference also-ran against a plodding MAC team, it is even less interesting.  But credit the guys at EDSBS for reminding us that, given the game is in Detroit, the players, as a bonus, the players might get deeds to abandoned key real estate in their gift bags!

Military Bowl (Washington, D.C.), Thurs., Dec. 27, 3:00 PM

No. 24 San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)

WAC near-champ vs. MAC also-ran: we know what ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd would say; “not interested!”  Yes, the Trojans (the SJSU kind, not the USC kind) did take the WAC by storm this year, but it’s still the WAC.

Belk Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.), Thurs., Dec. 27, 6:30 PM

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Duke (6-6)

A decent Big East team takes on a barely-eligible ACC team.  That alone does not make most folks interested.  So what in addition to that dismal matchup engages anybody?  Answer:  the intrigue.  Who exactly will be coaching the Bearcats, anyhow?  And how will David Cutcliffe prepare the Blue Devils for a bowl game that might actually be winnable for them?

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.), Fri., Dec. 28, 2:00 PM

Ohio U (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4)

Something negative, something positive to be said.  The negative is obvious if one knows anything at all about bowl history.  The Independence Bowl used to be one of the best matchups in the bowl lineup, pitting a Big XII team against an SEC team in a fairly even match.  Even before then, the 1995 Michigan State – LSU matchup was memorable, and the 1997 match between the Tigers and Notre Dame was even more so (both ended in the Bayou Bengals’ favor).  Remember the “Blizzard Bowl” between Mississippi State and Texas A&M in late 2000?  ‘Twas yet another great example of this great bowl game.  It is not anymore, though.  Now it pits MAC vs. Sun Belt.  The Cadillac has been reduced to a Chrysler K-car.  Positive:  lookee there, the Bobcats made it to a bowl game after all!

Russell Athletics Bowl (Orlando, Fla.), Fri., Dec. 28, 5:30 PM

Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Rutgers (9-3)

The Hokies have under-performed all the year, and the Scarlet Knights might be a bit demoralized after losing at home to Louisville and losing out on the BCS in so doing.  So which team is going to show up?  Scratch that:  is either team going to show up?

Meinecke Car Care Bowl (Houston), Fri., Dec. 28, 9:00 PM

Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Okay, at least it involves a Big Ten vs. Big XII matchup.  The only problem is, one team squeaked by into this game while in a conference that is down this year, and the other is facing leadership turmoil in the wake of Tommy Tuberville’s abrupt departure.  On paper, the Red Raiders are the clear favorite, but don’t underestimate the power of demoralization.

Armed Forces Bowl (Ft. Worth, Texas), Sat., Dec. 29, 11:45 AM

Rice (6-6) vs Air Force (6-6)

Both teams squeaked into a bowl game.  Which one is happier to be there?  The happier team is a bit more focused on preparation, which will make the difference come game time.  Seriously; it should be called the “Ethics Bowl,” and the fact that I imply derision in that observation is a very sad commentary on our society.  On the other hand, Air Force’s triple option ‘grittitude’ is always a pleasure to see for those of us who like real football.

Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.), Mon., Dec. 31, 3:30 PM

Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)

The Cyclones have had some flashes of brilliance this year.  The question becomes, will this be enough to overcome the C-USA champs?

Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas), Mon., Dec. 31, 2:00 PM

USC (7-5) vs Georgia Tech (6-7)

My bowl pick for “they shoot horses, don’t they?”  Why?  Because it is pointless.  The Trojans come in to El Paso only 7-5 because they have yet to muster up the discipline needed to take things to the next level, while the Yellow Jackets already have a losing season. Still, the offensive contrast should be interesting to watch, if nothing else.

Next installment:  Bowl Games of More Interest

College Football Week 10 Awards November 5, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 10, pre-week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Nick Saban, Alabama
Glad I’m not him: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
Lucky guy: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Poor guy: Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh
Desperately seeking a wake-up call:  Tom O’Brien, N.C. State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking … anything:  DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Stanford (beat Colorado 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (beat Missouri 14-7)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Temple (lost to No. 11 Louisville 45-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Pittsburgh (lost to No. 4 Notre Dame, 29-26, 3 OT)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Vanderbilt (beat Kentucky 40-0)

Dang, they’re good: Texas A&M
Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue
Can’t stand prosperity:  Arizona (lost to UCLA 66-10)

Did the season start?  Missouri
Can the season end?  Memphis
Can the season never end?  Louisville

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU* 17
Never play this again: Northern Illinois 63, UMass 0
What? No. 16 Texas A&M* 38, No. 15 Mississippi State* 13
Huh? No. 23 Texas* 31, No. 18 Texas Tech* 22
Are you kidding me? TCU 39, No. 21 West Virginia* 38, OT
Oh – my – God:  UCLA 66, No. 22 Arizona* 10

* rankings are from Week 10 as opposed to Week 11

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 15 Texas A&M @ No. 1 Alabama
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: (no really good match-ups)
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana-Monroe @ Arkansas State
Upset alert: No. 11 Louisville @ Syracuse

Must win: No. 22 Mississippi State @ No. 9 LSU
Offensive explosion: Baylor @ No. 14 Oklahoma (or Tulsa @ Houston)
Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Tennessee
Great game no one is talking about: No. 13 Oregon State @ No. 16 Stanford

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gary Patterson of TCU vs.  Bill Snyder of No. 2 Kansas State
Special Election Night Special: Ball State @ Toledo (Red vs. Blue)

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 4 Notre Dame @ Boston College

Why are they playing? Louisiana-Lafayette @ No. 7 Florida

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ Akron (notwithstanding Tulane @ Memphis)

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Army @ Rutgers

Week 10 in Review:

Bama passes the test:  Last week’s “Ticket to die for” certainly lived up to its billing, as The Crimson Tide duked it out with the Bayou Bengals in Death Valley.  A normally mistake-free Alabama reversed that trend throughout much of the game and started making more mistakes than usual.  Top-notch opponents tend bring out more mistakes than usual, to be sure.  In the end, Bama’s offense finally decided to start executing.  This sudden development clearly caught LSU’s defense off guard, and The Tide easily scored a TD when all they needed was a field goal to tie.  With only a minute to go, LSU failed to score on the second Hail Mary play.  Bama passed the test against what might be its toughest opponent of the entire regular season.

SEC Breathers:  Between this and upcoming Saturday and the one to follow, it seems as though the bulk of the SEC, stud and cellar-dweller alike, will take a breather from beating up on one-another and instead focus their brutal energies on lesser opponents, be they, say, fodder from the Sun Belt Conference (e.g., Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida), or FCS teams.  Case in point:  Samford ventures up to Lexington to play Kentucky in two weeks.  Alabama will no doubt easily dispatch with Western Carolina that same day.  Missouri is somewhat an exception in that they will play middle-of-the-road Big East foe Syracuse.  A curious annual constant is Wofford getting annihilated by South Carolina.  Tennessee already had their little break with Troy.  Vandy will conclude its season by taking its respective break against Wake Forest.  Arkansas barely escaped from their little breather, beating Tulsa only 19-15.  Auburn’s break, though, also comes two Saturdays from now when Alabama A&M comes to the Loveliest Little Village on the Plains.  Even Texas A&M is getting in on the act and playing Sam Houston State on the 17th.  Curiously, no such break comes for Ole Miss, Mississippi State, or LSU.  Still, do the teams that are taking a break, either this week or next, feel that their conference schedule is so brutal that they think they need such breaks before it is time for the ol’ sprint to the finish?  As a suggestion for improvement, surely Notre Dame could be squeezed in to one of these schedules, as the Irish feel they are “back,” and could be given an opportunity to test that idea.  It would give the fans a lot more excitement than Wofford or Sam Houston State, that’s for sure.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Longhorns:  At first, it seemed as though Texas was caught off guard by West Virginia’s high-powered offense and narrowly lost in a high-scoring game.  That idea quickly vanished in Dallas the following week when the Horns got embarrassed by Oklahoma.  Squeaking by Baylor in an even more high-scoring affair than that against the Mountaineers raised further concerns about Texas’ defensive woes (poor fundamentals, inability to make basic tackles, etc.).  Then, inexplicably, they win on the road.  And not just on the road, but in Lubbock, against Texas Tech, which in recent years has been one of the toughest places to play in the Big XII Conference.  Even more inexplicable is, while Texas did have occasional recurring issues with their defense (the same sort that has visibly plagued the Longhorns for the last month), by virtue of holding the Red Raiders to only 22 points, the defense clearly made key stops this time.

Granted, Texas Tech’s offense has been a tad inconsistent this year, scoring 49 points one week then being held to 24 the next, and so on.  Nevertheless, they walloped West Virginia and won in a shootout over TCU, making everyone take notice of their high-powered offense.

The “so-what” in all of this is that one of the hallmarks of a well-coached team is that you know what sort of performance to expect from week to week.  Was the past  month a temporary slump for Texas, or are they to be up for one week, down for the next?  Time will tell if their defeat of Texas Tech has halted the bleeding, or if they will perpetrate the apparent “Jekyll-and-Hyde” mystery with a sub-par performance against Iowa State next week.  Conversely, if they obliterate the Cyclones at home next week, it will bode well for the rest of the season, when they will need it the most against TCU, followed by No. 2 Kansas State.

Quietly undefeated:  The Louisville Cardinals are 9-0 for the first time in program history.  Not even Bobby Petrino managed such a feat when he put the Cards on the map and coached them to their first ever Orange Bowl-berth/victory.  The only team that defeated them in that memorable 2006-2007 season was Rutgers, in Piscataway, N.J.  Interestingly enough, that is where Louisville concludes its regular season this year, potentially for all the marbles in the Big East.  But before the Cards look too far ahead, they need to focus on the next game.  Syracuse is their next opponent, and Louisville takes them on in the Carrier Dome, where they are tough (though not impossible) to beat.  Coach Charlie Strong would be well-served to remind his sophomore-dominated team that this upcoming match-up is a potential trap game, and that they must focus their preparations accordingly.

Another one bites the dust:  The University of Kentucky opened up the floodgates in 1996 for a whole slew of coaching changes at years end when they fired Bill Curry.  Soon after that, the inept Jim Colletto of Purdue resigned, and at season’s end, so did Lou Holtz and Notre Dame and even Gene Stallings at Alabama, just to name a few.  Could UK have started a similar apparent chain reaction in 2012, having just fired Joker Phillips?  Time will tell.  Joker was, by all accounts, an honorable representative of the Wildcats, and A.D. Mitch Barnhart was lavish in his praise of the man in an open letter on UK’s official website.  Ultimately, it was a business decision.  Phillips simply lacked the skill set to effectively lead the largest revenue generating division of UK’s athletic brand (he was 12-23).  At best, only about 10,000 fans showed up at Commonwealth Stadium to see the Wildcats get trounced by traditional conference bottom-feeder Vandy.  Obviously the program has been headed in the wrong direction for the past couple of years, and Mitch Barnhart made a prudent business decision to try to rectify this problem.

College Football Week 8 Awards October 22, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 8, pre-week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Charlie Strong, Louisville
Poor guy: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a clue:  Charlie Weis, Kansas
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: David Cutcliffe, Duke

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Kyle Whittingham, Utah

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 10 USC  (beat Colorado 50-6)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 12 Georgia (beat Kentucky 29-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Kansas (lost to No. 8 Oklahoma 52-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Navy (beat Indiana 31-30)
Thought you wouldn’t get your butt kicked, you did:  No. 17 South Carolina (lost to No. 3 Florida 44-11)

Dang, they’re good: Florida
Dang, they’re bad: Auburn
Did the season start? Iowa
Can the season end?  Boston College

Can the season never end?  Kansas State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 18 Texas Tech 56, TCU 53
Never play this again: No. 2 Oregon 43*, Arizona State 21
What? No. 4 Kansas State 55, No. 25 West Virginia 17
Huh?  Duke 33, North Carolina 30
Are you kidding me? Toledo 29, Cincinnati 23

Oh – my – God:   Navy 31, Indiana 30

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 8 Oklahoma (notwithstanding Georgia vs. No. 3 Florida in Jacksonville)
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Kent State @ No. 18 Rutgers
Best non-Big Six matchup: Navy @ East Carolina
Upset alert: No. 13 Mississippi State @ No. 1 Alabama

Must win: No. 20 Michigan @ Nebraska
Offensive explosion: No. 15 Texas Tech @ No. 4 Kansas State

Defensive struggle: Missouri @ Kentucky
Great game no one is talking about: Cincinnati @ No. 16 Louisville, Friday, 8 PM

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bob Stoops of Oklahoma vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame
Who’s bringing the body bags? Colorado @ No. 2 Oregon
Why are they playing? UMass @ Vanderbilt

Plenty of good seats remaining: Hawaii @ Colorado St.  (notwithstanding Indiana @ Illinois)
They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 22 Texas A&M @ Auburn

*If Oregon did not call off the dogs at halftime, they could have scored 86 points, not just 43.

Offensive Explosion, C-USA-style:  Who’da thought that the Thursday night Houston-SMU matchup would have led to such offensive fireworks?

Two trends in helmet design:  One of which is the matte epidemic that must be discussed in a future article, having infected teams such as TCU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Baylor (their green helmets in the recent Alamo Bowl), Michigan State (sort of), and a host of others.  But another emergent trend, one more becoming of ultra-modernity, is the “chrome” effect.  Oregon debuted it during the most recent Rose Bowl, where they triumphed over Wisconsin wearing helmets with chrome [duck] wings on a chrome shell.  Recently, they demolished Arkansas State with chrome [duck] wings on a plain yellow shell.  Now, Michigan State has furthered the trend with a special helmet they wore in their narrow loss to rival Michigan, sporting a chrome-green shell with a silver chrome decal.  Not bad!

Will Muschamp seems like “the guy” after all:  “The guy,” meaning the guy who is capable of maintaining the high level of success that Florida fans have come to expect during the tenures of Steve Spurrier, followed indirectly by Urban Meyer.  Having established his credentials as an excellent defensive coach while at Texas, Muschamp has finally carried that over into a smothering defense on the part of his current team.  Indeed, the Gators have held opponents to just an average of roughly 12 points per game, and that includes a lackluster performance on both sides of the ball during their season-opener against Bowling Green.  Offensively, the Gators have shown considerable signs of life, thanks in part to the able QB skills of one Jeff Driskel.  On that side of the ball, Florida has averaged 33 points per game for the past five games.  Fourteen points was enough to overcome LSU’s stingy ‘D,’ while the Gators put up a whopping 44 points on South Carolina’s reputable defense yesterday in The Swamp.

The “So What” for the SEC:  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be a Battle Royale in Atlanta between Florida and Alabama come early December.  But first, Florida must take care of Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, while Alabama has to contend with undefeated Mississippi State.  Bama also has LSU left on their slate, while the Gators’ only major challenge after the Bulldogs (UGA, not MSU) will be a regular-season closer at rival Florida State (thankfully for the Gators, a non-conference foe).  Stay tuned!

The current race in the Big XII:  Kansas State remains firmly in the driver’s seat after dispatching with yet another viable challenger in West Virginia.  Geno Smith might very well be leading a high-powered offense, but the Mountaineers’ defense is clearly another matter entirely, one that Coach Dana Holgorsen would be well-served to shore up at some point.  The challenge for head coach Bill Snyder and the Wildcats is to turn around after a big win against a formidable team on the road, and be ready for the same level of performance at home, as Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech Red Raiders are about to come calling.  A loss on the part of KSU could make for a very rather muddled race for top spot in the conference.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is determined to maintain its insurgent conference championship run, but a number of potential challenges remain with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and TCU awaiting their respective confrontations.  Having said that, Bob Stoops & Co. have the opportunity to get back into the national conversation, as No. 5 Notre Dame comes into Norman for the biggest challenge the Irish are likely to face the entire year.  The season for both teams hangs in the balance.

Oregon, meanwhile, keeps motoring along up in the Pacific Northwest.  The Ducks remain undefeated, and their scores have been so high, they have practically required oxygen to read them, averaging 51 points each game thus far.  Their no-huddle offense is so fast-paced that it has caused Nick Saban of seemingly invincible Alabama to grumble.  But it will not be a smooth road to Miami for the Ducks for the BCS title game.  In two weeks, they must face resurgent USC.  Just two weeks after that, Stanford will not be playing dead just because Oregon is, well, Oregon, and they close their regular season with in-state rival Oregon State in the annual match-up known as “The Civil War.”  Given that the Beavers have crept into the No. 8 ranking, the game between these two teams this year could very well live up to such an august game title/nickname.  Moreover, that game this year will be in Corvalis, not Eugene.  If the Ducks end up making it to the Orange Bowl part II, they will certainly have earned it.

College Football Week 7 Awards October 15, 2012

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [post-week 7, pre-week 8] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Glad I’m not him: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Lucky guy: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Poor guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Desperately seeking a clue: Danny Hope, Purdue
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike Riley, Oregon State

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mack Brown, Texas
Desperately seeking … anything:  Gene Chizik, Auburn

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Florida State (beat Boston College 51-7)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Ohio State (beat Indiana 52-49)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Missouri (lost to No.1 Alabama 42-10)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to Oklahoma State 20-14)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Arizona State (beat Colorado 51-17)

Dang, they’re good: Oklahoma
Dang, they’re bad:  Illinois
Did the season start? Auburn
Can the season end?  Colorado
Can the season never end? Oregon State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 20 Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57
Never play this again: No. 10 Oklahoma 63, Texas 21
What? Arizona State 51, Colorado 17

Huh?  No. 7 Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Are you kidding me? No. 10 Oklahoma 63, Texas 21
Oh – my – God:  Texas Tech 49, No. 17 West Virginia 14

Told you so:  No. 4 Kansas State 27, Iowa State 21

NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for:  No. 9 South Carolina @ No. 3 Florida
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Middle Tennessee State @ No. 15 Mississippi State
Best non-Big Six matchup: Louisiana Monroe @ Western Kentucky
Upset alert: No. 2 Oregon @ Arizona State

Must win: Baylor @ Texas
Offensive explosion: No. 4 Kansas State @ No. 17 West Virginia
Defensive struggle: Penn State @ Iowa
Great game no one is talking about: Nebraska @ Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Les Miles of LSU vs. Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M
Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 14 Georgia @ Kentucky

Why are they playing? Pittsburgh @ Buffalo

Plenty of good seats remaining: Army @ Eastern Michigan

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Colorado @ No. 11 USC

Week 7: Thoughts on the week:

Passing the test:  Every good team eventually has to pass a test.  The team can be undefeated, well-ranked, but doubts will still remain, doubts that can be summed up with the partly-rhetorical question, “whom have they played?”  Several teams passed the test today.  No. 16 Louisville passed the test by winning on the road against the toughest team they have played yet in Pittsburgh.  The Notre Dame apologists feel that the Irish have passed a test in squeaking by No. 22 Stanford at home in overtime.  Mike Riley has been quietly winning games at Oregon State this year, and the tests he has already passed were mostly tests in hindsight.  I say “mostly” because the opening game/win was over a Wisconsin team that had understandably high expectations.  Two more victories have come over resurgent programs in UCLA and Arizona, albeit at different stages in that key regard.

But though these teams have passed these tests, more remain.  A much greater trial awaits the Louisville Cardinals when they take on Cincinnati.  The huge tests that await Notre Dame are listed later in this article entry.  Meanwhile, Oregon State’s upcoming tests are exceedingly daunting, what with Washington, Arizona State, Stanford, and finally, Oregon, still remaining on the schedule.

Then there are the teams that failed to pass the test, most notably South Carolina, who lost in a close one to LSU in Death Valley.  A win could have strengthened their bid to lead the SEC East, but the loss means they must now hand Florida its first loss of the season in The Swamp.  Sometimes make-up tests are more difficult – with more on the line – than the original thing.

Red River Rout:  For the third consecutive year, Texas has lost ignominiously to arch-rival Oklahoma in the annual Red River Rivalry game.  Coaches have been known to summarily get the ax on account of not being able to beat their rivals (see: Cooper, John, or Bowden, Bobby [later years]).  Could it be that Mack Brown, as genial a man as there is in the upper echelons of this business, finally be wearing out his welcome in Austin?  Goodness knows he is running out of excuses for his chronic under-performance over the past three years.  In the time since they lost valiantly to Alabama in the 2010 BCS National Championship game, the Horns have failed to be bowl eligible in one of those seasons, and have failed to beat the Sooners in all three.  This is an unacceptable situation given that he coaches the team that is the flagship school in the biggest, best football state in the entire country; a team whose cache helped launch the school’s own ESPN-powered sports network, and a program that has the pick of the litter for top talent in the Lone Star State.  Yet with all of these advantages, combined with much-improved QB play from David Ash, Brown is bereft of playmakers, something for which there is simply no excuse, given the ideal location of the program.  The inescapable conclusion becomes that Brown’s tenure has reached the end of its effectiveness, hence that he must go.  Nothing personal, Mack; it’s just business.

Paging Bobby Petrino:  Okay, so if Texas fires Mack Brown, with whom shall they replace him?  Bobby Petrino seems to be an obvious choice.  Yes, Petrino gives mercenaries a bad name; yes, his system is so seemingly unstable that nobody else can operate it in his absence (see:  Arkansas; see: Louisville, pre-Charlie Strong).  But he wins.  The athletics department at the University of Texas not only has the resources to pay him a handsomely competitive salary, but can supply him with his own young mistresses if he wishes to add that to his contract as a benefit – no need to add them to the team staff payroll on the sly!  More to the point though, a team with the resources and tradition of Texas under the leadership of Bobby Petrino could make Nick Saban’s Alabama team seem almost anemic by comparison, and would give the arrogant Bob Stoops of Oklahoma more than cause for notice.

Who needs Mike Leach?  The Dread Pirate Leach might have put Texas Tech on the map with his spread offense on steroids, but he is hardly missed this weekend in Lubbock.  How could one, what with Tommy Tuberville regenerating excitement for the program with a huge upset win over West Virginia?  Geno Smith and Co. seemed almost invincible going into Week 7’s game, but then they ran into a team with a secondary built to stop the big pass plays that had until yesterday fueled the Mountaineer’s undefeated run.  Funny how things work out like that.  A win of this magnitude (49-15) over a top-ten opponent (WVU was No. 5 going into the game) ought to merit a ranking of some sort for Texas Tech.

Settle down, Notre Dame fan:  Does any reasonably objective individual believe that if Stanford and Notre Dame met on a neutral site, and/or if the game were not soaked by a torrential rain, that the Cardinal would not have triumphed?  As it is, the Fighting Irish had to squeak by in overtime, and only then because Stanford made two consecutive bone-headed calls during their post-regulation possession.  The point in all this is, if Notre Dame has a decent undefeated run, scores of apologists fall all over themselves to overvalue the team with an unduly high ranking.  The team is in for a rude awakening in two weeks when it ventures in to Norman to take on Oklahoma.  An almost-as-rigorous test will come at season’s end in Los Angeles Coliseum against USC.  You ND apologists maybe laughing now, but just you wait.

Ditch those gray camo unis, South Carolina:  I very much appreciate you guys trying to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project or whatever it is you’re into these days.  It is most commendable.  But the effort ought not to obscure your glorious Garnet and Black, one of the best color combos in Big Boy Football these days.  Wear ‘em with pride, boys.  Gray jerseys?  Yuck!  Garnet jerseys?  Sweet.

About the Big XII title:  Since the nominal Big XII has an insufficient amount of members to justify a championship game, Kansas State is currently in the driver’s seat for the championship distinction.  This has become clear after Oklahoma’s loss recent loss to the Wildcats, followed by West Virginia’s defeat at the hands of Texas Tech yesterday.  Plenty of games remain, but Bill Snyder has the program humming well thus far.