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College Football Awards Week 7 (2017) October 15, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 7] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Justin Wilcox, Cal

Glad I’m not him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Lucky guy: Dino Babers, Syracuse

Poor guy: Jim McElwain, Florida

Desperately seeking a clue: Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Desperately seeking … anything:  Butch Jones, Tennessee

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Oklahoma State (defeated Baylor 59-16)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (lost to Syracuse 27-24))

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Baylor (lost to No. 14 Oklahoma State 59-16)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Purdue (lost to No. 7 Wisconsin 17-9)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Cal (defeated No. 8 Washington State 37-3)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  UTEP

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Washington State

Did the season start?  Louisville

Can the season end?  North Carolina

Can the season never endGeorgia  also:  Alabama

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 12 Oklahoma 29, Texas 24

Play this again, too:  Texas A&M 19, Florida 17

Never play this again: Arkansas State 51, Coastal Carolina 17

WhatWest Virginia 46, No. 24 Texas Tech 35

Huh?  LSU 27, No. 10 Auburn 23

Double HuhArizona State 13, No. 5 Washington 7

Are you kidding me??  Cal 37, No. 8 Washington State 3

Oh – my – GodSyracuse 27, No. 2 Clemson 24

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 7, pre-week 8)
Ticket to die for:  No. 19 Michigan @ No. 2 Penn State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Idaho @ Missouri

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 20 UCF @ No. Navy

Upset alert: No. 19 Michigan @ No. 3 Penn State also:  Kansas State @ No. 10 Oklahoma

Must win: Louisville @ Florida State

Offensive explosion: Oregon @ UCLA

Defensive struggle: Iowa @ Northwestern

Great game no one is talking about: Kentucky @ Mississippi State

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jim Harbaugh of Michigan vs. James Franklin of Penn State

Who’s bringing the body bags? Kansas @ No. 4 TCU

Why are they playing? Idaho @ Missouri

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia Southern @ UMass

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  UAB @ Charlotte

Week 7 Random Thoughts:

The Red River Shootout Showdown did not disappoint.  In recent years, the matchup has often turned into a lopsided affair in favor of Oklahoma.  Not this time.  The unranked Longhorns held their own against the Sooners this time, with a game full of excitement and drama (see the game summary at the top of the page).  The main takeaways are that Oklahoma is still strong enough to be a legitimate top-10 team, while the Longhorns have proven that their dramatic win over Kansas State last week was no fluke.  Indeed, they keep improving, which is a sign of a well-coached team.

Speaking of well-coached teams, the opposite can sadly be said for Louisville.  The Cardinals were stronger earlier in the year than they are now, having just lost in a shootout, at home, to lowly Boston College.  Bobby Petrino has done nothing to address his team’s deficiencies from last year.  His skill position personnel are still young, and he has not done a thing to address his weak offensive line play.  Depending on your star quarterback to carry the team in every phase of the game is no way to go through life, sir.  Nor is it recommended to try to mold said star quarterback into another Aaron Rogers when he is clearly Michael Vick 2.0 instead.

Poor BYU.  They’ve had such a rough year.  At 1-6, perhaps they could catch a break this upcoming week when they play 1-6 East Carolina.  Then again, the Pirates might be thinking the same thing.

Meanwhile, where did Michigan State come from all of a sudden?  They had a few lackluster wins earlier in the season, and lost rather badly to Notre Dame (who, in the Spartans’ defense, was ranked at the time), 38-18.  But then they turned around and beat top-10 Michigan, in the Big House, no less, and now win convincingly, on the road, in inclement weather, at Minnesota.  How can Mark Dantonio not be considered one of the best coaches in the business?  These past several years, he has consistently done more with less.  Moreover, the team is clearly better now than they were earlier in the season, which again, is one sign of a well-coached team.  Part of the secret to his success?  The Spartans have this new thing called a running game, which so many teams these days sorely lack.

This upcoming week, the moments we have all waited for are about to commence with Michigan about to take on Penn State.  Yes, it will be one of the key clashes of Big Ten Titans, and two things shall be ascertained.  One is whether or not Michigan can bounce back from losing the Paul Bunyan Trophy to Michigan State.  The other is whether or not Penn State belongs in the top five nationally.  It will also be a nice warmup for an even more enticing matchup (Ohio State vs. Penn State) later this month.

Speaking of teams that keep improving as the season progresses, Purdue deserves a mention.  Yes, they lost, but it was on the road, at Wisconsin, ranked 7th nationally.  The loss was quite respectable, only 17-9.  One would think that the formidable Badgers would have defeated the unranked Boilermakers by at least two touchdowns, but Purdue fought hard to ensure that did not happen.  Now the Boilers enter the easy part of their schedule.  To wit, they have yet to play, in order:  Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, and Indiana, all of which are winnable to varying degrees.  Indeed, the biggest question mark that remains on the schedule is Iowa (they did take Penn State to the wire, after all), but aside from that, they could theoretically win out.  Time will tell, but focus and consistent effort on their part shall make it so.

Remember last week about South Carolina entering the brutal part of their schedule?  So far they have handled it with aplomb, upsetting Tennessee, in Knoxville, in a low-scoring affair, 15-9.  Next week they face Vanderbilt at home, at game that appears increasingly winnable as time progresses (could it be that the Commodores defeating Kansas State earlier this year was just some weird fluke?).  Forget Georgia, however, as they remain as strong as ever, continuing to roll their opponents.  But Florida is something of a question mark.  Yes, they have been good enough to win most of their games thus far, but this time, they were not quite good enough to win at home, narrowly losing to Texas A&M.  Maybe it was those god-awful uniforms that cursed them.  Maybe the Gators deserved to be cursed for wearing them.  Oh, and forget South Carolina beating Clemson.  Not happening; not at this rate, even after the Tigers lost at Syracuse (which, again, OMG).  All that aside, the Gamecocks could theoretically finish the season at 7-5, if not 8-4.  Perhaps I misjudged Will Muschamp’s ability to coach after all.  Perhaps I should at least reserve judgement until the regular season concludes.

Speaking of Tennessee, after losing at home to South Carolina, it’s a safe bet that Butch Jones’ hot seat just got hotter.  No time to lick their wounds, either, as the Volunteers take on hated Alabama next week.  At this rate of Tennessee’s spotty [at best] performance, beating Kentucky at month’s end is not a given.  LSU won’t play dead for them come mid-November either.  In short, Tennessee has talent, but they’re a mess, and Jones has proved incapable of cleaning up after himself.  A 6-6 finish could be enough to turn Jones’ hot seat into an ejection seat.

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College Football Awards Week 5 (2017) October 2, 2017

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Lucky guy: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Poor guy: P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike Bobo, Colorado State

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Louisville (defeated Murray State 55-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida State (defeated Wake Forest 26-19)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Miami (OH) (lost to No. 22 Notre Dame 52-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Wake Forest (lost to Florida State 26-19)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia (defeated Tennessee 45-0)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  San Jose State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  USC

Did the season start?  North Carolina

Can the season end?  Bowling Green

Can the season never endGeorgia

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 16 Washington State 30, No. 5 USC 27

Play this again, too:  UCLA 27, Colorado 23

Never play this again: No. 11 Ohio State 56, Rutgers 0

What? Utah State 40, BYU 24

HuhNew Mexico 49, Air Force 38

Are you kidding me??  Troy 24, No. 25 LSU 21

Oh – my – GodNo. 16 Washington State 30, No. 5 USC 27

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Ticket to die for:  No. 23 West Virginia @ No. 8 TCU: either that, or No. 1 Alabama @ Texas A&M?

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Eastern Michigan @ Kentucky

Best non-Power Five matchup: Colorado State @ Utah State

Upset alert: No. 5 Georgia @ Vanderbilt  also:  Maryland @ No. 10 Ohio State

Must win: No. 17 Louisville @ No. 24 NC State

Offensive explosion: No. 23 West Virginia @ No. 8 TCU

Defensive struggle: LSU @ No. 21 Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Arkansas @ South Carolina  also:  Duke @ Virginia

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jeff Brohm of Purdue vs. P.J. Fleck of Minnesota

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 19 San Diego State @ UNLV

Why are they playing? Charleston Southern @ Indiana

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia State @ Coastal Carolina

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Missouri @ Kentucky

Week 5 Take-aways:

There were so few upsets this week that I had to scape near the bottom of the barrel in order to fill in all four degrees of upset slot, and even then I barely made it.  However, similar to last week, there were lots of near-misses.  Unlike last week, however, there were few near-misses of major consequences.  Nevertheless, to wit:

Northwestern has unexpectedly struggled this year, yet for a good portion of the game actually led formidable Wisconsin, before the Badgers eventually came back and beat the Wildcats, 33-24.  Still, given how weak the Wildcats have seemed up until now, such a loss to such a strong team is hardly disgraceful.

Florida State had to struggle to beat lowly Wake Forest 26-19, much like Louisville had to do last year to beat the Demon Deacons.  Thus, Wake Forest remains one of the most enigmatic of teams.  Kentucky, who has proven to be a decent team, only beat Eastern Michigan 24-20.  To be sure, part of the reason is that the Eagles are no longer a gutter team.  In case you forgot, they were actually a bowl-bound team last year.  No, that was not a dream.

Lowly Charlotte almost earned their first “W” of the year (of the program?) before just missing out at the end to gradually-improving Florida International.  In case you have forgotten, Butch Davis is now the Panthers’ head coach, so that would explain the improvement.  Meanwhile, it has been established that Ohio U is a decent team.  Under Frank Solich’s leadership, they contend perennially for the MAC title.  How then does one explain THIS?  By “this,” I mean A) beating UMass by only eight points, and B), allowing the Minutemen to score 50 points on the Bobcats.  Yes, the score was 58-50.  Try not to overthink this, or you too will be sucked into a quandary vortex.

One of the most interesting studies in uniform contrast was the Oklahoma State at Texas Tech game.  The Cowboys wore matte-black helmets with chrome-silver grilles, along with trendy, gray pants.  Meanwhile, the Red Raiders, who have been associated with black helmets for 15+ years, wore white helmets with a plain-looking “TT” logo, red jerseys, and white pants with traditional red-black striping.  The contrast was thus the trendy vs. traditional look, which was all the more intriguing since, from what I surmise after looking over things on The Helmet Project, Texas Tech chose this evening, for some reason, to wear throwback unis from ca. 1974:  weird.

Speaking of weird, “body bag games,” so-called because of the gross mis-matches on paper, are supposed to be ‘gimme’ games for the heavily favored team.  Apparently Troy never got that memo when they ventured into Baton Rouge to take on the Bayou Bengals.  That’s right, the Trojans upset the Tigers – again, in Death Valley – 24-21.  Coach Orgeron’s backside, meet chair that overnight just got really hot.

Speaking of hot seats, after Tennessee’s historically embarrassing loss to Georgia at home, Butch Jones’ hot seat has reached the most extreme of levels of hot, colloquially known as the “ejection seat”.  We all know that at this rate, it’s just a matter of time, folks.

College Football Awards Week 4 (2017) September 24, 2017

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Gary Patterson, TCU

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

Lucky guy: James Franklin, Penn State

Poor guy: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Barry Odom, Missouri

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated UNLV 54-21)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Tennessee (defeated UMass 17-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kent State (lost to No. 9 Louisville 42-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Louisiana Tech (lost to South Carolina 17-16)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Utah State (defeated San Jose State 61-10)

Dang, they’re good: Michigan

Dang, they’re bad:  San Jose State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Florida State

Can the season end?  UTEP

Can the season never endGeorgia

GAMES
Play this again:  Texas A&M 50, Arkansas 43, OT

Play this again, too:  No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19

Never play this again: Utah State 61, San Jose State 10

What? Miami (OH) 31, Central Michigan 14

HuhArizona State 37, No. 24 Oregon 35

Are you kidding me??  No. 16 TCU 44, No. 6 Oklahoma State 31

Oh – my – GodNC State 27, No. 12 Florida State 21

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 4, pre-week 5)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Clemson @ No. 13 Virginia Tech

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Eastern Michigan @ Kentucky

Best non-Power Five matchup: Memphis @ UCF

Upset alert: Vanderbilt @ No. 21 Florida

Must win: No. 11 Georgia @ Tennessee

Offensive explosion: No 5 USC @ No. 16 Washington State

Defensive struggle: No. 24 Mississippi State @ No. 13 Auburn

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Miami @ Duke

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Todd Graham of Arizona State vs David Shaw of Stanford

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 11 Ohio State @ Rutgers

Why are they playing? Troy @ No. 25 LSU

Plenty of good seats remaining: San Jose State @ UNLV

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  New Mexico State @ Arkansas

Week 4 Take-aways:

One conclusion after today:  Michigan is good, and while Purdue is both exciting and improving, they are still not strong or far along enough in Coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround campaign for the Boilermakers to be able to effectively take down the heavyweights of the conference.  Purdue was continually outmanned on both sides of the line of scrimmage due to the Wolverines’ obviously superior talent.  That said, at this rate, Purdue will eventually get to the point where they can upset if not defeat Michigan and the like.  Just not today.

This week has been characterized not so much by surprises or upsets as it has by narrow escapes.  That is to say, teams that were favored almost getting upset by underdogs, only to narrowly escape in the end.  To wit:  Tennessee only managed to eke out a 17-13 win over lowly UMass, at home.  South Carolina defeated struggling Louisiana Tech by only one point, 17-16.  After a dismal start to the season, under-performing Baylor briefly led No. 3 Oklahoma in the second half before eventually losing by only eight points, 49-41.

Oh, but it gets better.  No. 4 Penn State had to score a touchdown in literally the last second of the game to triumph over Iowa, 21-19.  Then, unranked Kentucky was leading No. 20 Florida throughout a good chunk of the game, but gradually gave up the lead to the Gators in the 4th quarter, allowing the Gators to win, 28-27.  Let’s face it:  if you’re Kentucky, you blow 4th quarter leads to Florida.  It’s what you do.

Last note:  how on Earth did Stanford lose to San Diego State last week?  Yes, SDSU is currently ranked No. 22, but Stanford would have been ranked higher than that had they not allowed that notch in the “L” column.  Did losing to USC take that much out of the Cardinal?  Speaking of SDSU and narrow escapes, the Aztecs did beat unranked Air Force today, but only by four points.  But that might be more of a commentary on the Falcon’s ball-control, option-oriented offense and less on possible consistencies on the part of the former team.

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

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The Game lived up to The Hype.

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Glad I’m not him: Charlie Strong, Texas

Lucky guy: Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Poor guy: Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

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

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

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

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

TEAMS

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

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

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

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

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

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  New Mexico State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Nebraska

Did the season start?  Louisville

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

Can the season never endWestern Michigan

GAMES

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

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

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

Close call:  Indiana 26, Purdue 24

What? Vanderbilt 45, No. 24 Tennessee 34

HuhAir Force 27, No. 21 Boise State 20

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

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

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

NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

Must win: too many to list!

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

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

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

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

Think there’s enough purple? Kansas State @ TCU

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

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

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

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

Week 13 Take-aways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football Week 10 Awards, 2016 November 7, 2016

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

COACHES

Wish I were him: Nick Saban, Alabama

Glad I’m not him: Mike Riley, Nebraska

Lucky guy: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Poor guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim McElwain, Florida

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Rhule, Temple

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Grobe, Baylor

Desperately seeking … anything:  Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Louisville (defeated Boston College 52-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Boise State (defeated San Jose State 45-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Maryland (lost to No. 3 Michigan 59-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Iowa State (lost to No. 14 Oklahoma 34-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  TCU (defeated No. 17 Baylor 62-22)

Dang, they’re good: Ohio State

Dang, they’re bad:  Texas State

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Texas A&M

Did the season start?  Baylor

Can the season end?  Notre Dame

Can the season never endLouisville

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 1 Alabama 10, No. 13 LSU 0

Play this again, too:  Texas 45, Texas Tech 37

Never play this again: No. 25 Washington State 69, Arizona 7

Close call:  No. 22 Florida State 24, NC State 20

What? Illinois 31, Michigan State 27

HuhNavy 28, Notre Dame 27

Are you kidding me?  TCU 62, No. 17 Baylor 22

Oh – my – GodMississippi State 35, No. 4 Texas A&M 28.

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 10, pre-week 11))

Ticket to die for: No. 25 Baylor @ No. 9 Oklahoma

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Notre Dame vs. Army in San Antonio

Best non-Power Five matchup: Tulsa @ Navy

Upset alert: USC @ No. 4 Washington also: No. 19 LSU @ Arkansas

Must win: Kentucky @ Tennessee

Offensive explosion: Cal @ No. 23 Washington State

Defensive struggle: NC State @ Syracuse

Great game no one is talking about: No. 21 North Carolina @ Duke

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Richt of Miami vs. Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia

Who’s bringing the body bags? Maryland @ No. 6 Ohio State

Why are they playing? Southern Utah @ BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: UTEP @ Florida Atlantic

They shoot horses, don’t they? Boston College @ No. 20 Florida State

Week 10 Take-aways:

Is Ohio State that good or is Nebraska that overrated? Or, is the answer the one preferred by Sterling Archer: A little of Column A and a little of Column B? Probably the third option. It’s never wise to bet against Urban Meyer, who has proven to be the best coach in the business over the past decade (though just a hair better than Nick Saban). But the Huskers have given fans in the stands and at home some great games through some great defensive efforts, and perhaps such efforts fooled the voters into thinking they were, hitherto, a No. 6 team. Still, the demotion all the way down to No. 21 seems a bit extreme, too.

The SEC East, this year, is frankly atrocious. Kentucky is always overhyped, South Carolina and Missouri are under-performing (the latter worse than the former), Florida just got shellacked on the road to enigmatic Arkansas, and Tennessee has developed into a collective head case of a team. Kirk Herbstreit expressed it best when he described the SEC Least as “awful,” and that they might as well cancel the SEC Championship game. That game would be a mere formality anyhow, since it has been shown that it’s Alabama followed by everyone else at this rate.

One of the overlooked tragedies this year is that Arizona’s season has already collapsed. Moreover, it seems as though they might now win another game this year (Colorado? Forget it. Oregon State? Not at this rate. Arizona State? Don’t count on it). Rich Rodriguez has put together some good seasons in Tucson, so this painful season has us all scratching our heads.

NC State has to be the best 4-5 team in the country. They defeated Notre Dame in absolutely hurricane-drenched slog. They almost beat Clemson, in Death Valley. They [mysteriously] narrowly lost to cagey Boston College. This weekend, they lost to Florida State by only four points. The Wolfpack’s subsequent opponents will put themselves in danger if they take this team lightly on account of their currently mediocre record. On that same note, Duke must be the best 3-6 team in the country. They are well-coached and will always give you a tough fight. Ask Louisville for reference.

Virginia Tech now controls its own destiny, at least as far as the ACC Coastal division is concerned. Assuming they seize the opportunity of control by winning out (which is doable), they could muster a more-than-credible challenge for seemingly unstoppable Clemson. Such a match-up remains a pleasing prospect indeed!

Once again, we are left to ask ourselves, what are we to make of Texas? Just a couple of weeks ago, the Horns looked completely hopeless against Kansas State. Then, just a week later, they handed Baylor their first loss of the season. This week, they went on the road and bested an evenly-matched (record-wise) Texas Tech squad. Lest we start to think the Horns are turning things around, they do play No. 20 West Virginia next week, and end the season against a TCU team that flat out embarrassed Baylor on the road this week. Translation: much remains to be seen, and a 6-6 record still seems to be the likely outcome.

Much ado has arisen in the wake of the Playoff Committee releasing their first set of rankings. Not the least of the controversies was No. 4 Washington (No. 4, that is the in the AP Poll) being demoted to No. 7 in the Playoff rankings. “How can this be,” ask many observers. Simple: Washington’s dirty little secret is that they’re still rebuilding, and part of the rebuilding process has been a very weak out-of-conference schedule. Let’s face it: a non-conference slate of Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State is pretty darn pathetic. If you dial up wins with body-bag games like this, you have no right to complain when your rankings suffer as a result when they count the most. Many other contenders have played tough out-of-conference games this year. If the Huskies truly want to be counted among the big boy contenders, they will have to do the same.

College Football Awards, Week 9 2016 October 30, 2016

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 9] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES

Wish I were him: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Glad I’m not him: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Lucky guy: Charlie Strong, Texas

Poor guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jim Grobe, Baylor

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Willie Taggart, South Florida

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Barry Odom, Missouri

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Penn State (defeated Purdue 62-24)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Louisville (defeated Virginia 32-25)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did:  Purdue (see above)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Michigan State (lost to No. 2 Michigan 32-23)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Louisiana Tech (defeated Rice 61-16)

Dang, they’re good: Clemson

Dang, they’re bad:  Florida Atlantic

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Baylor

Did the season start?  Tennessee

Can the season end?  Missouri

Can the season never endWisconsin

GAMES

Play this again:  No. 11 Wisconsin 23, No. 7 Nebraska 17, OT

Play this again, too:  No. 4 Washington 31, No. 17 Utah 24

Never play this again: No. 24 Penn State 62, Purdue 24

Close call:  No. 5 Louisville 32, Virginia 24

What? Wyoming 30, No. 13 Boise State 28

HuhNo. 11 Wisconsin 23, No. 7 Nebraska 17

Double-Huh? South Carolina 24, No. 18 Tennessee 21

Are you kidding me?  Oklahoma State 37, No. 10 West Virginia 20

Oh – my – GodTexas 35, No. 8 Baylor 34

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 9, pre-week 10))

Ticket to die for: No. 9 Nebraska @ No. 6 Ohio State

Also: No. 1 Alabama @ No. 15 LSU

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: BYU @ Cincinnati

Upset alertIowa @ No. 20 Penn State  also: No. 10 Florida @ Arkansas

Must winNo. 9 Nebraska @ No. 6 Ohio State

Offensive explosion: Oregon @ USC

Defensive struggle: Iowa @ No. 20 Penn State

Great game no one is talking about: Pittsburgh @ Miami (FL)

Intriguing coaching matchup: Ken Niumatalolo of Navy vs. Brian Kelly of Notre Dame

Who’s bringing the body bags? Maryland @ No. 2 Michigan

Why are they playing? Georgia Southern @ Ole Miss

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida Atlantic @ Rice

They shoot horses, don’t they? Tennessee Tech @ Tennessee

Week 9 Take-aways:

Yesterday logged a number of major upsets in that four undefeated teams all went down with their first loss of the year. To wit: Baylor, West Virginia, Nebraska, and Boise State (yes, the Broncos were secretly lurking around in the undefeated ranks until yesterday). The only undefeated teams that remain are those that inhabit the top four in the polls; Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington. If these shadows remain unchanged, there are your playoff teams. Then again, November is about to start, so who knows what chaos yet awaits? After all, November is for everything.

It looks as though the SEC is getting their annual late-season body bag game out of the way early for some of their teams. For reference, check out the “Why are they playing?” and the “They shoot horses, don’t they?” slots. Every season, without fail, almost everyone in the conference schedules body bag games late in the season, usually in November. This time, Ole Miss and Tennessee have scheduled theirs the first weekend of November instead of later in the month. After all, the fans of both programs benefit so well from seeing their teams beat up on non-conference mid-majors. Apparently, there is nothing like buying an easy win.

Speaking of the SEC, those who were hollering for Gus Malzahn to get the ax might want to hit the pause button. Those past few weeks, it looks as though the Tigers have found their offense (perhaps it was in an alley behind Jordan-Hare Stadium?), evidenced by their routing of Ole Miss last night, 40-29, on the road, no less. Auburn is now 6-2 (those two losses are to No. 3 Clemson and to No. 7 Texas A&M), is currently ranked No. 11, and they have prospects of winning out until they butt heads with Alabama at season’s end. Experienced observers of college football will point out that some teams take a while to get going. Auburn is one such team.

As the season continues to unfold, every BYU football game thus far has persisted in being interesting. Indeed, this year is by far the most interesting schedule the Cougars have had in a long time, if not in living memory. That should put their current 4-4 record into some perspective, since the wins are well-earned and the losses are without any hint of disgrace.

Some teams, no matter how good, tend not to match up well with others, for whatever odd reason. Witness Virginia vs. Louisville. Charlie Strong had already restored the expected intensity to the program during this tenure there, so the team was already in decent shape when Bobby Petrino returned at the helm, starting in 2014. That year, though, the Cardinals sustained an upset on the road to the Cavaliers. Lo and behold, two years later, a much stronger Louisville squad barely escaped Scott Stadium with a win yesterday. Some teams….

What are we to make of Texas? Last week, their defense embarrassed themselves in yet another unexpected loss, and this week, they contain Baylor’s high-powered offense well enough to win. The Longhorns’ projected best-case scenario for a record this season has thus been upgraded to 8-4, if they win out, though a more realistic “best” scenario, because no way they beat West Virginia at this rate, not even withstanding the Moutaineers’ first loss at home yesterday. Nobody in their right mind would bet Kansas to beat Texas, so it all comes down to how the Horns fare against Texas Tech and TCU. A splitting of that difference would yield a 6-6 record, which, to be sure, would be very short of where the program should/would be had they the right coach in place. Nevertheless, these are merely projections, and further discussions will be in order once the regular season concludes.

College Football Week 5 Awards 2016 October 2, 2016

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Chris Petersen, Washington

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

Lucky guy: Butch Jones

Poor guy: Kirby Smart, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: D.J. Durkin, Maryland

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: David Shaw, Stanford

Desperately seeking … anything:  Charlie Strong, Texas

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Ohio State (defeated Rutgers 58-0)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Florida (defeated Vanderbilt 13-6) T

hought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Louisiana-Monroe (lost to Auburn 56-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Vanderbilt (lost to Florida 13-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Maryland (defeated Purdue 50-7)

Dang, they’re good: Washington

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Stanford

Did the season start?  Michigan State

Can the season end?  Georgia State

Can the season never endClemson

GAMES Play this again:  No. 5 Clemson 42, No. 3 Louisville 36

Play this again, too:  No. 11 Tennessee 34, No. 25 Georgia 31

Never play this again: No. 20 Arkansas 52, Alcorn State 10

Close call:  No.13 Baylor 45, Iowa State 42

What? Virginia 34, Duke 20

HuhCal 28, No. 18 Utah 24

Double-Huh? Indiana 24, No. 17 Michigan State 21

Are you kidding me?  North Carolina 37, No. 12 Florida State 35

Oh – my – GodNo. 10 Washington 44, No. 6 Stanford 6

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)

Ticket to die for: No. 9 Tennessee @ No. 8 Texas A&M

Also: No. 23 Florida State @ No. 10 Miami

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 6 Houston @ Navy

Upset alert: No. 5 Washington @ Oregon

Must win: Texas vs. No. 20 Oklahoma also: No. 25 Virginia Tech @ No. 17 North Carolina

Offensive explosion: No. 21 Colorado @ USC

Defensive struggle: LSU @ No. 18 Florida

Great game no one is talking about: Georgia Tech @ Pittsburgh

Intriguing coaching matchup: Jimbo Fisher of Florida State vs. Mark Richt of Miami

Also: Rich Rodriguez of Arizona vs. Kyle Whittingham of Utah

Who’s bringing the body bags? TCU @ Kansas

Why are they playing? No. 4 Michigan @ Rutgers

Plenty of good seats remaining: Vanderbilt @ Kentucky (the SEC Toilet Bowl)

Also: Florida International @ UTEP

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? No. 19 Boise State @ New Mexico

Week 5 Take-aways:

So much for “Texas is back”. After losing on the road to California and now losing on the road to an unranked Oklahoma State, something is wrong. The rot in Denmark is all the more apparent when one considers that A) defense was supposed to be Charlie Strong’s specialty, and yet B), the Longhorns lost to both respective teams 50-43 and 49-31. Notre Dame, it turns out, was highly overrated going into the season. That became rather obvious after getting embarrassed by Michigan State and then laying an egg at home to Duke. Oh, and overrated as the Fighting Irish are, they still scored 47 points on the Horns, in Austin. Let all this sink in for a moment. Once it has sunk in, the logical conclusion is that Strong’s seat cannot get hot enough.

But don’t take my word for it.

In any case, so far what we have seen is that Tennessee is capable of coming back strongly to dominate a rising Florida Gators team. Last year, their problem was that they had to learn to “close the deal,” which they eventually did, but not before losing to both Florida and Oklahoma.

This time, their problem is reversed. Instead of needing to “close the deal” – something they demonstrated in abundance last week – they need to learn to play four full quarters of football. Case in point: during the game at Georgia, they slacked off for the entire first half, save for the last drive of the second quarter. In so doing, they spotted the Bulldogs 17 points before they finally decided to start playing with appropriate urgency.

That urgency could not have been more palpable than in the final seconds of the game, whereby it took a Hail Mary pass that was actually completed in the end zone (!) for the Vols to come away with the win. Tennessee has no time to take a breather, though, as they face undefeated Texas A&M next weekend.

In other news, Michigan beat Wisconsin in a 14-7 slugfest, where both teams kept the ball mostly between the tackles. Both Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler were nodding approvingly. Interestingly, this was the Wolverines’ first win over a top ten team since 2008.

But let none of this obscure the showdown of the week in Clemson’s Death Valley with visitor Louisville. This “ticket to die for” certainly lived up to its hype, with high drama and a back-and-forth score. The Tigers triumphed in the end, 42-36, largely due to the fact that the Cardinals took too long to get going and also because Clemson refused to fold. The fact that the referees did not call Clemson’s subtle holds on receivers at all certainly did not hurt, though it certainly does call Dabo Swinney’s coaching ethics into question. That aside, the Tigers have a clear path to the playoffs, to say nothing of an ACC championship. The Cardinals, meanwhile, still have an 11-1 season for which to play, which would still command a premium bowl berth. Indeed, Kirk Herbstreit insisted that the Cards’ playoff hopes are not dead yet. He may very well be correct. After all, Houston still lurks on their schedule.

With all the excitement going on, one is apt to overlook that Colorado is now ranked again (No. 21); they have made the polls for the first time in roughly 15 years. Nice going, Coach Mike MacIntyre!

College football in October has started off with a huge bang, for this was one fantastic week for the sport. Next week entails a number of solid matchups (I honestly had to reach for both “Why are they playing” and “They shoot horses, don’t they”, which rarely happens), but they do not add up to anything as exciting as that which we enjoyed this time. Then again, they cannot all be this exciting all the time. As far as let-downs go, next week will be just fine, especially with the Red River Shootout awaiting in first shift.

College Football Week 1 Awards (2016) September 6, 2016

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texas-nd2016

Texas defeated visiting No. 10 Notre Dame in a wild game, 50-47.  The game was one of many excellent games to kickoff the 2016 college football season (photo by Getty Images)

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 1] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Houston

Glad I’m not him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Poor guy: Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Les Miles Desperately seeking … anything:  Willie Fritz, Tulane

TEAMS

Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 19 Louisville (defeated Charlotte 70-14)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: No. 13 TCU (defeated South Dakota State 38-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Hawaii (lost to No. 7 Michigan 63-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Appalachian State (lost to Tennessee 20-13).

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Western Kentucky (defeated Rice 46-14)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Tulane

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  LSU

Did the season start?  Oklahoma (also:  Mississippi State)

Can the season end?  Hawaii Can the season never endLouisville

GAMES

Play this again:  Wisconsin 16, No. LSU 14

Play this again, too:  Texas 50, No. 10 Notre Dame 47

Honorable Mention to play again:  South Carolina 13, Vanderbilt 10 Never play this again: No. 7 Michigan 63, Hawaii 3

Say what? Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

WHAT? Texas A&M 31, No. 16 UCLA 24

HuhNo. 15 Houston 33, No. 3 Oklahoma 23

Double-huh?  Texas 50, No. 10 Notre Dame 47, 2OT

Are you kidding me?  South Alabama 21, Mississippi State 20 Oh – my – GodWisconsin 16, No. 5 LSU 14

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 1, pre-week 2) Ticket to die for: Arkansas @ No. 12 TCU

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: BYU @ Utah

Best non-Power Five matchup: Northern Illinois @ South Florida

Upset alert: Virginia Tech @ No. 14 Tennessee

Must win: (take your pick)

Offensive explosion: Texas Tech @ Arizona State

Defensive struggle: South Carolina @ Mississippi State

Great game no one is talking about: Penn State @ Pitt

Intriguing coaching matchup: Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia vs. Mark Helfrich of Oregon

Who’s bringing the body bags? Troy @ No. 2 Clemson

Why are they playing? Nicholls State @ No. 9 Georgia

Plenty of good seats remaining: Army @ UConn

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Wofford @ No. 18 Ole Miss

Week 1 Take-aways:

What a fantastic opening week for college football. It was billed going in as the greatest opening week in the history of the game, and the games themselves did not disappoint. Two Top Five teams went down to defeat, the most teams where that has happened at the season’s onset since 1972.

On paper alone the matchups were very intriguing. To wit: No. 15 Houston played No. 3 Oklahoma at home – in NRG Stadium, no less. No. 22 North Carolina played No. 18 Georgia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (Peach Bowl preview, anyone?). No. 16 UCLA journeyed to Texas A&M to play the Aggies. No. 5 LSU made the trek up to Wisconsin to play the Badgers – in historic Lambeau Field. Indeed, this was the first time his legendary venue hosted a college game. Later in the day, No. 1 Alabama faced off against No. 20 USC in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Later still, No. 2 Clemson came to Auburn to throw down with the [War Eagle] Tigers. While those two big game were going on, out west, BYU journeyed down to Glendale, Ariz., to play a neighbor to the south in Arizona.

On Sunday, Notre Dame played the Texas Longhorns, in Austin (nominally ACC vs Big XII), and on Monday, No. 11 Ole Miss played No. 4 Florida State (SEC vs ACC), thus adding two more highly marquee matchups two an incredible, extended opening weekend.

If that’s not enough, the previous week, Hawaii played Cal…in Sydney, Australia. The venue for this game was ANZ Stadium, the new name of the stadium used to host the opening/closing ceremonies and the track and field events for the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Whom do we have to thank for this magnificent opening to the 2016 season of college football? Most likely we have the Playoff Committee to thank. They re-worked the formula for selecting teams. The BCS formula left teams way too cautious. One loss likely meant being out of the hunt for a national title. Better therefore to pad the record with an easy win. We the fans suffered with lousy non-conference matchups as a result. When the switch was made from a BCS selection to a four-team playoff, the formula was modified to the point where one loss would not mean the end of the season for those who were in the national title hunt. Conversely, the new formula put a stronger emphasis on strength of schedule. It was a win-win-win. The first “win” is in the form of teams being more free to schedule good games before the conference portion of their season than during the BCS era. The fans reap the second win with great games (see: this weekend). The third win is, as mentioned before, if you have a tough, strong schedule, one loss will not necessarily dash your season’s aspirations.

Good thing, too, because many commentators have dubbed this Saturday the “Day of the Dog”…the underdog, that is. Texas A&M knocked off No. 16 UCLA in overtime at home. Fifteenth-ranked Houston beat No. 3 Oklahoma by 10 points. Even more stunning was Mississippi State missing a last-minute field goal…at home…to lowly South Alabama. Of course, the unranked Wisconsin Badgers upset the No. 5 LSU Tigers in a close game, 16-14. The following evening, the unranked Longhorns knocked off the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish at home, 50-57, in a second overtime, no less.

Apropos of nothing, here is a philosophical question for you: which is more pathetic; that Tulane could only score seven points on Wake Forest, or that Wake Forest could score only seven points on Tulane?

Regardless, what a stupendous weekend for college football. Fans should treasure it for a long time to come!

Which Team Wants It More? December 16, 2015

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 Who wants it more?  More to the point, which team is happier to be there?  That is the most important question in determining the outcomes of the upcoming bowl games.  It is not easy, but it will be the make-or-break factor.  It affects the performance of the team.  If they are not that motivated to be there, but the underdog team is, the actual odds favor the latter.  Therefore, the real question becomes, which team will show up to play?  To create a better understanding of this condition, allow me to offer Exhibit A:

The season was that of 1998.  Kansas State was rising up in the polls throughout the year.  They defeated mighty Nebraska (yes, the Cornhuskers were still very vaunted then) for the first time in three decades.  The Wildcats went undefeated for the regular season, and were poised, at the No. 2 national ranking, to go to the first ever championship game of the Bowl Championship Series, which that year would be the Fiesta Bowl.

Kansas State’s only hurdle to clear to make that coveted berth was the Big XII Championship game, in which they were naturally favored.  Yet underdog Texas A&M had other plans, and managed to upset K-State that game.  Gone were the Wildcats’ national championship hopes, but it was worse than that:  other teams had already secured major bowl slots, so K-State was demoted all the way down to the Alamo Bowl.  Coincidentally, they would play Purdue, which was the team I was on as a freshman staff member.  We were happy to be there:  Kansas State, however, was disappointed to be there.  Come game time (Dec. 29, 1998), it showed.  Even though the Wildcats were still ranked at a feared No. 4 while we were unranked, we nevertheless led them throughout most of the game.  Despite a late 4th-quarter touchdown that put them temporarily in the lead, we answered by marching right down the field for a game-winning score with only about a minute remaining.

On paper, K-State should have beaten us by at least two touchdowns.  But the final, actual score said otherwise.  Why?  Though, the Wildcats were clearly the better team on paper, we wanted to be there more than they did, and by a considerable margin.

Such a scenario has played itself out many times in the years since then (and no doubt in the years before), which is what makes bowl game prognostication for more unpredictable than just comparing regular season records and major stats.  The upcoming line-up of bowl games asks this very question more than a few times.  To wit:

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 19, 3:30 PM EST, ABC

BYU (9-3) vs. No. 22 Utah (9-3)

The Utes are the higher-ranked team.  At one point they were ranked as highly as No. 3 in the nation.  Surely they must have had higher bowl aspirations.  On the other hand, the Cougars are dealing with coaching turmoil since their head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, just bolted for the Virginia job.  My conclusion is to therefore not out-think things, and go with the odds, which slightly favor the Utes.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 26, 2:00 EST, CBS

Miami (FL) (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)

Beware the deception of identical records.  For whereas the Cougars have had Mike Leach in place for a couple of seasons now, the Hurricanes are going through coaching changes, having fired Al Golden mid-season, leaving assistant coach Larry Scott to serve at the helm in his temporary stead.  Incoming head coach Mark Richt will watch from the stands.  The Miami players claim they’ll show up motivated, but can these kids overcome the coaching transitions while the Washington State players will enjoy stability?

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 26, 9:15 PM EST, ESPN

UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)

The Bruins surely had much higher bowl aspirations as the season began, and at one point enjoyed a top-ten ranking.  Getting upset at home to Arizona State did not help their campaign, though, neither did losing to Washington State, either.  The losses to both Stanford and a resurgent USC can be excused.  Be all that as it may, they’re in this particular bowl, which lacks the prestige of bowls in the days that follow.  Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers are one of those lucky dog teams who, at 5-7, are very fortunate just to get a berth.  Why?  Because Big Ten fans travel in DROVES.  Expect a sea of red in Santa Clara, Calif., and a closer game than the records suggest.  You might even take the under on Nebraska.

Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 29, 5:30 PM EST, ESPN

No. 10 North Carolina (11-2) vs No. 17 Baylor (9-3)

On paper, this is a very marquee matchup between two very good teams.  The problem?  Both teams feel as though they deserved better bowl games.  Last year, the Bears were in the Cotton Bowl, for goodness sake.  Meanwhile, as strong as a team as the Tarheels have been, one would think they would have grabbed a more prestigious berth, too.  What therefore makes this scenario unique is that BOTH teams will likely come in under-motivated (we’re dealing with 19/20 year-old kids, after all).  The question becomes, which team will be less under-motived than the other?  Since UNC started out with lower aspirations, they might end up making this game very, very interesting.

Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 30, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

Auburn (6-6) vs. Memphis (9-3)

Tigers vs. Tigers?  That alone is intriguing.  But the War Eagle variety surely had higher bowl aspirations (they started out the year ranked No. 6) than the variety from Memphis, who turned out to be a surprisingly strong team.  Auburn likely views this bowl berth as both a come-down and a quasi-home game at the same time.  But Memphis might be glad just to make it to a bowl game, since their postseason appearances have been far fewer than those of their opponent.  The Vegas odds favor Auburn by 2.5.  That is enough of a margin of error for Memphis to win by a close one, provided they appear with just enough motivation.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30, 10:30 PM EST, ESPN

No. 25 USC (8-5) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)

Late enough for you out east?  Regardless, there are varying degrees of motivation with these two teams.  If you’re Wisconsin for example, who would not be happy to spend late December in beautiful San Diego?  If you’re USC, you’ll be glad to be there after all the coaching and leadership turmoil with which you had to contend earlier in the season.  The kicker?  That particular turmoil is now behind the Men of Troy.  New head coach Clay Helton has clearly righted the ship, and the program is headed in the proper direction again.  That’s good.  But, he just fired 4 of his assistant coaches.  That’s bad, especially when the Trojans only have a handful of practices to prepare for a game with a depleted coaching roster (using grad assistants to fill in some of the roles) while Wisconsin lacks this disadvantage.  The Badgers, furthermore, always show up well to bowl games:  they are one of the most reliable programs in that regard.  The odds-makers in Vegas still give USC a 3-point advantage, meaning that there is potential for an upset.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, Dec. 31, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

No. 18 Houston (12-1) vs. No. 9 Florida State (10-2)

The Seminoles likely see having to play the lowly Cougars, while the latter will likely feel honored to play in such a relatively prestigious bowl game.  Should this scenario play out, the respective motivational levels are to be adjusted accordingly, giving us potential for one of the biggest upsets of this bowl season.

Rose Bowl Game Pres. By Northwestern Mutual, Jan. 1, 5:00 PM EST, ESPN

No. 6 Stanford (11-2) vs. No. 5 Iowa (12-1)

Since when would a team show up to the Rose Bowl under-motivated?  It is the Granddaddy of them all, folks!  But in the case of Stanford, they likely had the goal to make it to the playoffs instead.  Meanwhile, Iowa is going to their first Rose Bowl in 25 years.  To the Hawkeyes, this is a once-in-a-generation Super Bowl.  Granted, Iowa is a good team, but Stanford, on paper, is much better.  Under normal circumstances, Stanford should win by two touchdowns.  But with Iowa being especially focused and disciplined, expect a tough, close game that could go either way.

Taxslayer Bowl, Jan. 2, 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

Penn State (7-5) vs. Georgia (9-3)

This used to be the Gator Bowl, fyi.  Georgia seems to be the stronger team on paper, but they just lost their head coach and will be coached by assistants in this bowl game, while Penn State has stable leadership in James Franklin.  Expect the Nittany Lions to therefore pull off the upset, unless the interim head coach at Georgia can effectively rally his troops.

Week 3 College Football Awards September 16, 2014

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

Purdue v Notre DameCOACHES
Wish I were him: Steve Addazio, Boston College

Glad I’m not him: Charlie Strong, Texas
Lucky guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Ruffin McNeil, East Carolina

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Steve Sarkisian, USC
Desperately seeking … anything:  Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio)

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 22 Ohio State (defeated Kent State 66-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Vanderbilt (defeated UMass 34-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kent State (see first line above)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Colorado (lost to No. 16 Arizona State 38-24)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Syracuse (defeated Central Michigan 40-3)

Dang, they’re good: Oklahoma
Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Virginia Tech

Did the season start?  Texas
Can the season end?  Eastern Michigan
Can the season never endOle Miss

GAMES
Play this again:  Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42

Play this again, too:  Middle Tennessee 50, Western Kentucky 47
Never play this again: No. 8 Baylor 63, Buffalo 21

Told you so:  Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

What? Virginia 23, No. 21 Louisville 21

HuhNo. 24 South Carolina 38, No. 6 Georgia 35

Are you kidding meEast Carolina 28, No. 17 Virginia Tech 21

Oh – my – GodBoston College 38, No. 9 USC 31

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 3, pre-week 4)
Ticket to die for (sort of):  No. 22 Clemson @ No. 1 Florida State

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: North Carolina @ East Carolina
Best non-Power Five matchup: Middle Tennessee @ Memphis

Upset alert: Miami (Fla.) @ No. 24 Nebraska

Must win: Southern Illinois @ Purdue

Offensive explosion: No. 2 Oregon @ Washington State

Defensive struggle: Penn State @ Rutgers
Great game no one is talking about: Virginia @ No. 21 BYU

Intriguing coaching matchup: Gus Malzahn of Auburn vs. Bill Snyder of Kansas State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 Texas A&M @ SMU

Why are they playing? Troy @ No. 13 Georgia

Plenty of good seats remaining: Idaho @ Ohio U

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Eastern Michigan @ No. 11 Michigan State

Week 3 Random Thoughts:

–  Just when you think that Louisville is rolling again under second, non-consecutive term head coach Bobby Petrino (paging Grover Cleveland), the Cards lay an egg on the road.  Virginia is not that bad of a team, but that is still no excuse for all the quarterback miscues that seemed to plague U of L throughout the game, leading to the disappointing result.  Perhaps Petrino should consider playing the freshman QB?

–  Virginia Tech seems nothing if not consistent when it comes to losing games the week after winning a big one.

–  They say that football can be a game of inches.  In the case of South Carolina upsetting intra-conference and border rival Georgia, it was a game of one inch.  Period.  Well, that and a good (favorable?) spotting of the ball by the refs after 4th and one inch.

–  Perhaps Oregon might have been saving a little energy for future endeavors later this season.  How else might one explain a win over Wyoming by a score of only 48-12?  Given how well the Ducks have played thus far, you’d think the Cowboys got off easy.

–  Did Purdue acquit themselves against No. 11 Notre Dame, or are the Fighting Irish that mediocre?  In the wake of the Boilermakers embarrassing themselves at home last week to Central Michigan, coupled with ND demolishing Michigan, one would have thought that the annual in-state rivalry game would have meant utter demolition for Purdue.  Instead, the Boilers ended up leading, however briefly, in the first half, scoring two touchdowns on the Irish.  Such an effort compelled Notre Dame to increase their efforts, allowing them to gradually win over the course of the second half, 30-14.  The reason that so many people naturally incline towards the former answer is that they want to believe the Notre Dame hype (it sells, after all!).  But what we keep learning, and continue to have to keep learning over the past 10-15 years, is that Notre Dame is once again overrated.  The real question, therefore, to consider is, how bad is Michigan?

–  That being said, Notre Dame’s helmets for that game did look rather neat.  It is a long time coming that they incorporated a blue “ND” logo on to their gold shells.  The single, blue center stripe was a nice touch, too.  The jury is still out on the latitude-longitude, “globe lines” effect, though.  Moreover, I can do without that weird brocade effect on the shoulders of the jerseys.

–  Is Texas in trouble?  First, they lost ignominiously at home to BYU last week.  Then, they lose to an increasingly good UCLA team, ostensibly at a neutral site, though hardly anybody could consider the Horns playing in Dallas as playing on neutral turf, be it the Cotton Bowl or AT&T Stadium.  Yes, Jim Mora has truly breathed intensity into the Bruins program at Westwood, Calif., but there is still no excuse for such a proud, tradition-and-resource laden program as Texas to suffer two such consecutive losses.  Is Coach Strong in over his head at Austin?  It would be a very painful thing to acknowledge, to be sure.  The wise thing, at this point, is to allow the rest of the season (and how it plays out) to answer that question.

–  If we were to apply the law of transitive properties, just how badly would Syracuse beat Purdue if the two played each other right about now?