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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 Awards Week 12 (2021) November 24, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Ryan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Lucky guy: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin;  also:  Shane Beamer, South Carolina

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska; also:  Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Dan Mullen, Florida

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

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Notre Dame (defeated Georgia Tech 55-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: San Diego State (defeated UNLV 28-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Duke (lost to Louisville 62-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Arkansas (lost to Alabama 42-35)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Ohio State (defeated Michigan State 56-7)  

Dang, they’re good:  Ohio State
Dang, they’re bad:  Temple

Another one bites the dust:  Wake Forest

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

Can the season never endHouston

GAMES
Play this again: No. 15 Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 28

Play this again, too:  TCU 31, Kansas 28

Never play this again: No. 1 Georgia 56, Charleston Southern 7

What?  Missouri 24, Florida 23 (OT)

HuhSouth Carolina 21, Auburn 17

Are you kidding me??  Clemson 48, No. 10 Wake Forest 27

Oh – my – GodNo. 23 Utah 38, No. 3 Oregon 7

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 13)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 6 Michigan 

also:  No. 13 Oklahoma @ No. 9 Oklahoma State

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: Boise State @ No. 19 San Diego State

also:  Army @ Liberty

Upset alert: Nebraska @ No. 17 Iowa; also:  South Carolina @ Clemson

Must win: No. 15 Wisconsin @ Minnesota

They have the same record?  Florida @ Florida State

Offensive explosion: No. 13 Oklahoma @ No. 9 Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: Maryland @ Rutgers

Great game no one is talking about: UTEP @ UAB

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mike Leach of Missisippi State vs Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss

Who’s bringing the body bags?  No. 1 Georgia @ Georgia Tech

Why are they playing? No. 24 Houston @ UConn

Plenty of good seats remaining: UMass @ New Mexico State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  No. 22 UTSA @ North Texas

Week 12 Thoughts:

So here we thought that No. 7 Michigan State lining up against No. 4 Ohio State in The Horseshoe was going to be the barn-burner of the week.  Let us all briefly pause while we laugh at ourselves for such an erroneous prognostication.  It is not as if the Spartans are a bad team.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Rather, the Buckeyes are simply that much better. 

Let us put it in greater perspective.  Two top-four teams but their opponents senseless, 56-7.  One was the aforementioned Buckeyes.  The other team was No. 1 Georgia.  The latter’s flattened opponent was Charleston Southern (yes, an FCS team), while the former was, again, top-ten Michigan State. 

Let us now thus ask ourselves:  which of those two wins is [considerably] more impressive?  The obvious answer is that for Ohio State, and is thus proof-positive that the Buckeyes are a legit playoff team.  All they have to do is close the deal against Michigan in the Big House next week.  To be sure, that is not the easiest of tasks, but if they do so, their case should be all the stronger.

Notice that Kansas almost got their second consecutive conference win.  Looks like the Jayhawks are no longer the instant win on the schedule that everyone usually hopes to have.

A quick side note:  we now have all those pointless body bag games played by SEC teams are behind us now.  Thank heavens.

Finally, with Oregon, for all intents and purposes, knocked out of playoff contention, can we* all get over ourselves and acknowledge that Cincinnati belongs in the Top Four for the playoffs?

*By “we”, I really mean the Playoff Committee.  Seriously, in light of recent events, Cincinnati belongs in the playoffs.  Make it happen, guys.

Looking ahead to Week 13:

Rivalry Week is now upon us.  Let us drink it in with full enjoyment.

Indiana @ Purdue

If Purdue wins, at home, to their traditional rival, they shall accomplish two things.  For one, they reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket trophy (fun fact:  that bucket was found on a farm in the same county where I graduated from high school) But more importantly, they shall finish the regular season with eight wins for the first time since 2006.  Not a bad consolation prize to shoot for, given that Purdue is out of contention for the BIG West division.

Penn State @ Michigan State

Not a traditional, bitter rival, you observe?  Okay, not in the strictest sense.  Bu-ut, anytime two tough Big Ten teams get together, it becomes a rivalry in the moment.  This should be a great game in any case, so let us enjoy it accordingly.

Alabama @ Auburn

This was going to be a great game.  Probably not now, though, in light of Auburn coming up short at South Carolina.  If the Tigers have the same offensive miscues against the Crimson Tide, Alabama will crush them without remorse.  More the pity, too, for a good Iron Bowl is always a hallmark of a memorable Rivalry Week.

Houston @ UConn

Not so much a rivalry game, this is a weird juxtaposition for the head coach – in this case, Dana Holgorsen – of a non-Power Five team having to play the role of pitiless executioner during Rivalry Week, as it’s almost a given that Houston shall demolish the Huskies.

Nebraska @ Iowa.

Do not let the lop-sided matchup of records fool you.  Yes, Nebraska is unranked at 3-8, whereas Iowa is no. 17 with a 9-2 record.  But the Cornhuskers lost to Wisconsin on the road by only a touchdown in yet another heartbreaker for them.  Anyone who has witnessed Nebraska’s performance these past several weeks would notice a team that has become increasingly strong, and could possibly flip the script at home this Friday.

Georgia @ Georgia Tech

This used to be a decent rivalry game.  Not right now, though.  If Notre Dame managed to crush Georgia Tech 55-0, what is an even tougher team in Georgia going to do to them?

Louisville @ Kentucky

Louisville lost a heartbreaker to a down Clemson team earlier this month.  Immediately afterwards, they bounced back and played “on fire”.  Meanwhile, Mark Stoops is coaching one of the strongest Kentucky teams in recent memory.  The Cardinals seem to have peaked just in time to give the Wildcats a tough game in Lexington.  We shall see.

BYU @ USC

Wait, doesn’t that matchup sound like a bowl game?  That’s how good it sounds on paper.  Too bad that, in reality, USC sports an anemic 4-6 record.  The game could still be interesting regardless.

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State

With so many rivalry games already, it might be easy to overlook this one.  If so, one would deny oneself a great game.  So many memorable “Egg Bowl” games capped off my family’s Thanksgiving Day evenings in style, and this one could be a ‘dandy’ among the others in this longstanding rivalry.  Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are currently ranked no. 8 in the AP poll, while Mike Leach’s Bulldogs can take down a stronger team at a moment’s notice should the latter ever let down its guard.  Be sure to make this game part of your Thanksgiving tradition!

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State

Notwithstanding the Sooner’s loss to Baylor on the road two weeks ago, the Sooners are still a tough team.  The catch is, this time, Oklahoma State could be better still.  On top of that, the game takes place in Stillwater this time.  So sit back and enjoy another memorable game in the Bedlam Series!

Ohio State @ Michigan

There’s a reason this storied rivalry is simply called “The Game”.  And this time, The Game should live up to its storied hype.  Michigan is officially out of its head-scratching slump from the previous couple of seasons, playing back up to the potential a Jim Harbaugh-coached team should possess.  Out of the opposing corner, Ohio State is currently playing like yet another Playoff-contending team, and carries all the legitimate prowess that comes with that well-earned status.  A worthy challenger on its home field ties to knock off the playoff-ranked team:  let The Game begin.

Postseason College Football Awards 2019-2020 January 20, 2020

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson (Fiesta Bowl) (hon. mention:  Mario Cristobal, Oregon)

Poor guy: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Scott Satterfield, Louisville

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Notre Dame (defeated Iowa State 33-9)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Auburn (lost to No. 18 Minnesota 31-24)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Temple (lost to North Carolina 55-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Baylor (lost to No. 5 Georgia 26-14)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Texas (defeated No. 11 Utah 38-10)

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami, FL

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Wisconsin

Did the season start?  Utah

Can the season end?  Miami, FL

Can the season never endLSU

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Clemson 29, No. 2 Ohio State 23 (Fiesta)

Play this again, too:  No. 6 Oregon 28, No. 8 Wisconsin 27 (Rose)

Never play this again: No. 1 LSU 63, No. 4 Oklahoma 28 (Peach)

What?  No. 3 Clemson, No. 2 Ohio State 23 (Fiesta)

HuhLouisiana Tech 14, Miami (FL) 0 (Independence)

Are you kidding me??  Texas 38, No. 11 Utah 10 (Alamo)

Oh – my – GodNo. 18 Minnesota 31, No. 12 Auburn 24 (Outback)

Random Bowl Game Thoughts:

Fiesta Bowl:

What a game.  Too bad one of the teams had to lose.  Having said that, two thoughts come to mind.  One, if Ohio State and Clemson played each other 10 times, the series would likely by evenly split, 5-5.  Second, Ohio State should blame themselves.  They left lots of “money on the table”, so to speak, by not capitalizing on deep red zone advances in the first half.  Second, they gave up on what helped get them ahead initially, which was a fast-paced hurry up offense.

Outback Bowl:

On paper, Auburn should have crushed Minnesota.  Not to detract anything from the Gophers, for they are a good team in any case.  But Minnesota’s win over a superiorly-athletic team in Auburn is huge.  What’s one sign of a well-coached team?  That the team shows gradual improvement as the season progresses.  That the Gophers have done, in spades.  To offer further perspective, bowl games are funny like that.  In many cases, it is impossible to determine who will win and lose if there is a motivation mismatch (a team that really wants to be there versus a better team that is not that thrilled about being there).  Such a situation gives the underdog a golden opportunity for a huge upset, and we witnessed a sterling example of this in Tampa.

Peach Bowl:

In case the reader missed it, LSU gave Oklahoma an old-fashioned butt whipping (seriously, how else to describe it?), 63-28.  Throughout the regular season, the Sooners looked like they are a legit playoff contender.  Why the lopsided result against them?  The frank answer is that it’s a systemic problem with the Big XII, a conference built on speed, not power, and the former, not the latter, wins games in that conference.  The problem comes when they have to face stronger athletes over all against half the SEC, against Ohio State, or Clemson.  Then, this glaring weakness gets exposed.

Music City Bowl:

Louisville’s win over Mississippi State is nothing at which to sneeze, for a number of reasons.  The most basic reason is that an ACC team triumphed over an SEC team, the latter usually having stronger athletes.  For another, this was something of a revenge game for the Cardinals, since they lost the Gator Bowl to the Bulldogs just two years earlier.  Indeed, they are probably a stronger team even then under then-head coach Bobby Petrino.  Third, speaking of Petrino, one of his historic drawbacks is that his teams disintegrate after he leaves them (see:  Louisville starting in 2007, or Arkansas starting in 2012).  Something about his coaching style combined with the caliber of player he usually recruited required him to be present to keep a tight lid on Pandora’s Box.  Once he would leave, Pandora’s Box would open, and chaos would ensue.  Not so this time.  Scott Satterfield has done the Yeoman’s work in keeping the team together, to say nothing of turning around the team’s performance.  From going 1-11 the previous season, the Cardinals capped off the year with a bowl win to finish 8-5 for the year.  While more improvement remains necessary, this has been quite the turnaround indeed.

Alamo Bowl:

Texas, under head coach Tom Herman, has become something of an enigma.  Their 38-10 over formidable No. 11 Utah was impressive, even if it were a glorified home game (the Alamodome in San Antonio is only an hour-and-15-minute drive from the UT campus up I-35 in Austin).  After all, Utah was a Pac-12 championship win away for qualifying for the playoffs.  As it turned out prior to kickoff, the Utes we still respectfully ranked, whereas the Horns were unranked.  Moreover, Texas performance was all over the proverbial map.  They played like a legitimate top-10 team against eventual playoff teams LSU and Oklahoma, but then had to struggle to beat Kansas and even coughed it up on the road to under-performing TCU.  Yes, injuries took a huge toll for the Longhorns this year, especially and runningback and worse yet, on defense.  Perhaps the time off leading up to the Alamo Bowl allowed for Texas to heal up, regroup, and regain focus so as to get dialed in for [again] what amounted to an extended home game, and thus live up their true potential against a reasonably formidable opponent.

Gator Bowl:

Tennessee defeated Indiana 23-22.  So why would Jeremy Pruitt be “desperately seeking anything”?  Because their play was as erratic as it was inconsistent throughout the game.  Pruitt [thought he] had to suddenly switch quarterbacks in the middle game, for goodness sake.  Probably with good reason, for the initial starter kept missing the mark.  In the first three quarters, the Volunteers could only muster three field goals.  Only with the Tennessee defense stepping up in the 4th quarter with some key sacks, with their offense starting to complete some key passes, to say nothing of a decent running attack were the Volunteers able to finally score and thus come back.

The problem with Tennessee was not a lack of focus.  Both teams seemed equally glad/motivated to be there.  Rather, the problem was lousy coaching.  On paper, Tennessee should have shellacked IU.  Their talent supremacy over Indiana is greater in ratio than that of Auburn over Minnesota.  But in football, talent is only part of the equation when it comes to winning games.  The other part of said equation is coaching.  The coach has to know what to do with that talent, and Jeremy Pruitt seems to be at a loss.  The Volunteers were thus very lucky to walk away with a “W” in Jacksonville.

The Championship Game:

LSU knocked off undefeated and defending national title holder Clemson 42-25.  It was a convincing victory over a strong team.  The Bayou Bengals have now earned their fourth national championship in football, and college football fans can breathe a sigh of relief at the champion is somebody not named Clemson or Alabama.  Not so fast, however:  Clemson is not likely to go away anytime soon.  The Tigers return a ton of starters for next year, including QB Trevor Lawrence, who, as talented as he clearly is, has even further growth to demonstrate.  Still, what a great night for the LSU team and faithful.  The fact that it was in the Superdome was the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake.

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

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COACHES
Wish I were himRyan Day, Ohio State

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

Lucky guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Arth, Akron

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

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

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

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

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

Dang, they’re good: Utah

Dang, they’re bad:  Akron

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Alabama

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOhio State

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

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

What?  Virginia 39, No. 24 Virginia Tech 30

HuhKansas State 27, No. 23 Iowa State 17

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

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

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

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

Week 14 Thoughts:

Michigan vs Ohio State

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

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

Auburn vs Alabama

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

Kentucky vs Louisville

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

Purdue vs Indiana

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

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

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 13 (2019) November 25, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were himRyan Day, Ohio State

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

Lucky guy: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Poor guy: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Herman, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Auburn (defeated Samford 52-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Georgia (defeated Texas A&M 19-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Maryland (lost to Nebraska 54-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  TCU (lost to No. 9 Oklahoma 28-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  USC (defeated UCLA 52-35)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Troy

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oregon

Did the season start?  Texas

Can the season end?  UMass

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  Arizona State 31, No. 6 Oregon 28

Never play this again: No. 5 Alabama 66, Western Carolina 3

What?  Colorado 20, Washington 14

HuhHawaii 14, San Diego State 11

Are you kidding me??  Navy 35, No. 25 SMU 28

Oh – my – GodArizona State 31, No. 6 Oregon 28

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 14, pre-week 14)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Ohio State @ No. 13 Michigan

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 19 Cincinnati @ No. 18 Memphis (Friday, Nov. 29)

Upset alert: Kansas State @ No. 22 Iowa State (hon. mention:  No. 5 Alabama @ No. 15 Auburn)

Must win: No. 12 Wisconsin @ No. 10 Minnesota

Offensive explosion: No. 9 Oklahoma @ No. 21 Oklahoma State

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

Great game no one is talking about: Wyoming @ Air Force

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kevin Sumlin of Arizona vs Herm Edwards of Arizona State

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

Why are they playing? Rutgers @ No. 8 Penn State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Texas State @ Coastal Carolina (dishon. mention:  Rice @ UTEP)

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

Week 13 Thoughts:

Baylor vs Texas

Once again the Longhorns disgraced themselves with tepid outputs on both offense and defense.  The Longhorns had such high expectations going into the season.  Now, they sit at 6-5.  What happened?  For starters, they graduated lots of experienced players after their Suger Bowl win.  This year, they have a young team, made younger with lots of injuries on defense and at running back.  For that, they need time for the injuries to heal.  Much more systemic are the questions of Texas’ identity on offense.  For that, they cannot excuse injuries.  Nor can they excuse their lack of player development despite good recruiting classes during Tom Herman’s tenure.  So how can they do better?  Three things:  develop an offensive identity; do better at developing your players; also, learn to get out of your own way.  Oklahoma and A&M have figured out how to do so:  what is Texas’ excuse?

Ohio State vs Penn State

The game was a good game, and it should not have been as good as it was.  Some key mistakes, namely turnovers in the 3rd quarter, allowed for Penn State to come within less than a touchdown of the Buckeyes.  Ohio State will have to button things up better if they expect to defeat their bitter rival up north come rivalry weekend.  Such urgency for discipline is even greater for the B1G championship game in Indianapolis, be it Wisconsin or Minnesota.  This is a reminder that the road to the playoffs still has a critical amount of potholes that only vigilance shall help avoid.

All that said, on to Rivalry Weekend!

College Football Awards, Week 5 (2019) September 29, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Ryan Day, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Scott Frost, Nebraska

Lucky guy: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Justin Wilcox, Cal

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech

Desperately seeking … anything:  Jeff Brohm, Purdue

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Michigan (defeated Rutgers 52-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated North Carolina 21-20)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Middle Tennessee (lost to No. 14 Iowa 48-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  North Carolina (lost to No. 1 Clemson 21-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  SMU (defeated USF 48-21)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Rutgers

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Cal

Did the season start?  Purdue

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOklahoma

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 1 Clemson 21, North Carolina 20

Play this again, too:  No. 23 Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27

Never play this again: No. 12 Penn State 59, Maryland 0

What? Temple 24, Georgia Tech 2

HuhOklahoma State 26, No. 24 Kansas State 13

Are you kidding me??  Toledo 28, BYU 21

Oh – my – GodArizona State 24, No. 15 Cal 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Auburn @ No. 10 Florida

 (Possible second choice):  No. 14 Iowa @ No. 19 Michigan

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Utah State @ No. 5 LSU

Best non-Power Five matchup: Tulane @ Army

Upset alert: Michigan @ Iowa (also:  No. 15 Washington @ Stanford)

Must win: Boston College @ Louisville

Offensive explosion: Cal @ No. 13 Oregon

Defensive struggle: Northwestern @ Nebraska

Great game no one is talking about: TCU @ Iowa State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Justin Wilcox of Cal vs Mario Cristobal of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags? Purdue @ No. 12 Penn State

Why are they playing? Bowling Green @ No. 10 Notre Dame

Plenty of good seats remaining: Oregon State @ UCLA

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Kent State @ No. 8 Wisconsin

Week 5 Thoughts:

North Carolina vs Clemson

Mack Brown remains full of surprises.  Not the least of which was the stunning near-upset over previously-No. 1 Clemson, in which the Tigers escaped the Tarheels by only a point.  A botched [surprise] two-point attempt on the part of UNC allowed the escape.  Had such an attempt been successful, it would have set the college football rankings on fire.  As it is, nobody in their right mind should protest Brown’s surprise move at the end.  If they went for the tie with an extra point, then the game would have gone into overtime, where Clemson would quite likely have outlasted North Carolina.  The two-point attempt thus, after further analysis, remained the Tarheels’ best bet.

Time will tell if this valiant performance on North Carolina’s part is a harbinger of better football to come from this team.

Nebraska vs Ohio State

Ohio State drubbed Nebraska 48-7 in Lincoln.  It could have been even worse.  All but 10 of those 48 points were scored in the first half (meaning, the Buckeyes put in lots of backups in the second half).  This game and its outcome are a tale of two teams in two different directions.

For Ohio State, this is another key test the Buckeyes have passed in their assertion that they belong in the national conversation.  Indeed, this performance helped them supplant LSU as the No. 4 team in the nation, currently.  That has typically been good enough to make the playoffs, should such shadows remain unchanged.Will such shadows change?  After all, nothing is a given in the Big Ten.  Such was the case in its late-1990s glory days, and such is the case since roughly 2014 as well.  Next week the Buckeyes face an arguably tougher test when Michigan State comes to Columbus.  But the ultimate showdown in the conference is still likely when Wisconsin take on the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium on Oct. 26 in what could be one of the games of the year.  Why this fixation on OSU’s fortunes?  Because the more teams from more regions outside of the Southeast contend for the national title, the better it is for college football.

On the other side of the coin is Nebraska.  Head coach Scott Frost, one might recall, left a Central Florida program that he had built into arguably the strongest non-Power Five team in the land so he could coach his alma mater.  Last year’s campaign only resulted in a 4-8 finish.  Currently the Huskers stand at 3-2, and even some of those wins were struggles over South Alabama and Illinois.  What gives?

No, it would stand to reason that Frost has not forgotten how to coach.  Rather, the systemic problem of geography has come into play.  Frost had the advantage of being right in the middle of [embarrassingly] talent-rich Florida when he built up the UCF program.  Nebraska does not produce any top-caliber players, save for the possible offensive lineman or two.  Much of Nebraska’s unstoppable linemen during theTom Osborne (especially the latter era) came from much more lax standards  and screening mechanisms for steroid use.  Those days are now gone.

Also gone are the days of Prop-48 players, which gave Nebraska an easy pipeline to high-caliber talent without the normal barrier of NCAA eligibility standards found elsewhere.  Perhaps even more devastating, though, is that Nebraska prospered in the days when only a relative handful of teams were consistently on national television.  This made the program in Lincoln an attractive destination for top recruits despite its cold weather and geographic isolation.  That advantage, too, was nullified when cable channels greatly expanded college football coverage in the 2000s, giving prized recruits many more options than in earlier times.  Given this current environment, how is one to attract top recruits to this cold, isolated place?  Scott Frost has his work cut out for him.

CFB Recruiting Class Random Observations for 2019 February 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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