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

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COACHES
Wish I were himRyan Day, Ohio State

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

Lucky guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Poor guy: Scott Frost, Nebraska

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

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

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Tom Arth, Akron

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

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

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

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

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

Dang, they’re good: Utah

Dang, they’re bad:  Akron

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Alabama

Did the season start?  TCU

Can the season end?  Georgia Tech

Can the season never endOhio State

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

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

What?  Virginia 39, No. 24 Virginia Tech 30

HuhKansas State 27, No. 23 Iowa State 17

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive struggle: inconclusive

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

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

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

Week 14 Thoughts:

Michigan vs Ohio State

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

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

Auburn vs Alabama

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

Kentucky vs Louisville

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

Purdue vs Indiana

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

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

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 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.