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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.

College Football Week 9 Awards (2021) November 1, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Mel Tucker, Michigan State

Glad I’m not him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Lucky guy: Dana Holgorsen, Houston

Poor guy: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Herm Edwards, Arizona State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Hugh Freeze, Liberty

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Sarkesian, Texas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Liberty (defeated UMass 62-17)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Iowa State (lost to West Virginia 38-31)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kansas (lost to Oklahoma State 55-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Penn State (lost to No. 5 Ohio State 33-24)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia (defeated Florida 34-7)  

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

Can’t Stand Prosperity: San Diego State

Did the season start?  Iowa
Can the season end?  Vanderbilt

Can the season never endMichigan State

GAMES
Play this again: No. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

Play this again, too:  No. 5 Ohio State 33, No. 20 Penn State 24

Never play this again: Liberty 62, UMass 17

What?  Mississippi State 31, No. 12 Kentucky 17

HuhNo. 18 Auburn 31, No. 10 Ole Miss 20

Are you kidding me??  Wisconsin 27, No 9 Iowa 7

Oh – my – GodNo. 8 Michigan State 37, No. 6 Michigan 33

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 10)
Ticket to die for:  None compared to last week.  Within this week’s lineup, No. 18 Auburn @ No. 12 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: Liberty @ No. 15 Ole Miss

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 23 UTSA @ UTEP

Upset alert: North Carolina @ No. 10 Wake Forest; also, Tennessee @ No. 18 Kentucky

Must win: Texas @ Iowa State

Offensive explosion: No. 11 Oklahoma State @ West Virginia

Defensive struggle: Kansas State @ Kansas

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

They have the same record??  Penn State @ Maryland

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Paul Chryst of Wisconsin vs Greg Schiano of Rutgers

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

Why are they playing? Idaho State @ No. 17 BYU

Plenty of good seats remaining: North Texas @ Southern Miss

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  No. 21 Coastal Carolina @ Georgia Southern

Week 9 Thoughts:

Georgia vs Florida

Remember what I noted last year regarding Florida historically giving Georgia fits in this came?  That obviously did not happen this time.  The Bulldogs have proven that they are the legit No. 1 team for now.  If they keep up this next-level intensity, it’s going to be one epic showdown for the conference title in Atlanta.

Mississippi State vs Kentucky

Either Kentucky decided not to show up at the level they have been playing the previous several weeks, or the Wildcats simply did not match up well with the Bulldogs.  On one hand, the running game was almost non-existent, the fumbles were more frequent than usual for Kentucky.  Apparently their defense showed up in name only, too.  No time to lick their wounds after an ugly loss, as Tennessee comes calling next week, hungry for revenge after losses to the Cats in recent years.

Iowa @ Wisconsin

Wisconsin defeated Iowa, 27-7.  This game proved two things.  One, it proved FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd that Iowa is “the fake ID of college football”, as it sadly seems that every time the Hawkeyes receive a high ranking, they never can demonstrate they are for real when put to actual test in the regular season, they never sufficiently prove themselves.  Indeed, they only reason they defeated Penn State earlier in the year was due to knocking PSU’s starting quarterback out of the game.  The other thing this game proved is that Wisconsin is playing back to the level we expected them to be at earlier in the year.  Whatever slump they were in recently seems to have vanished, making things all the more interesting in the West division of the Big Ten.

Michigan State vs Michigan

The clash of top-ten titans lived up to its billing in East Lansing, giving fans both in the stands and in living rooms across this great nation a thrilling game.  The Wolverines proved to be a legitimately strong team, possibly the best of the Harbaugh era, but made one too many mistakes in the end to triumph over an inexplicably resurgent Spartans squad.  The fact that A) Michigan lost by only a few points to B) a team that continues to prove they belong in the top ten has not been lost on the voters, as C) the Wolverines, even after this tough loss, fittingly remain in the top ten at no. nine.

Penn State @ Ohio State.

Penn State clearly played back to form, as they gave Ohio State a strong challenge, wire-to-wire.  The Nittany Lions are clearly good once again.  Had they played the same way the entire game in Iowa, they would not have lost that game.  This time, the Buckeyes’ superior talent won out, and sadly Penn State has sustained its third loss of the season, knocking them out of the rankings for now.  A team this good shall not likely be out of them for long.

To broaden the scope, the East division of the Big Ten is as loaded this year as it has been in recent memory, possibly even living memory.  Already, we have experienced two outstanding games from great teams in one day.  Better yet, this is only the beginning:  For example, Michigan has yet to play Penn State or Ohio State, and these two teams continue to loom large on Michigan State’s schedule, too.  Furthermore, as we get into November, the stakes only get higher from here on.  It’s going to be a thrilling ride.  To quote Southpark’s satirical portrayal of Caitlyn Jenner, “Buckle up, buckaroos!”

Looking ahead:  Texas @ Iowa State

After three tough losses, can the Longhorns bounce back, on the road, and take down the giant killers known as Iowa State?

Tennessee @ Kentucky

It used to be that Tennessee owned this border rivalry.  How else can one describe it, when, from 1985 through 2010, The Volunteers won every matchup between these two teams?  That streak ended in 2011, and Kentucky managed to win two more within this series, one in 2017, as well as last year.  If Kentucky wins, it would be the first two-in-a-row for them in this series since 1976 and 1977 (during the Fran Curci era, of course).  What makes this upcoming matchup all the more intriguing is that the Wildcats have an exceptionally strong team this year compared with most teams they typically field, while at the same time, Tennessee is resurgent, clearly clawing its way out of the doldrums that have plagued them for more than a decade.  All this adds up to the most interesting context surrounding an SEC game in a very long time.

Maryland vs Penn State

If someone told you that, going into the first weekend in November, Maryland and Penn State would have identical records, you would likely say that this someone was crazy.  Yet, here we are.  To be sure, Penn State played back to their earlier, strong form in Columbus, Ohio, last night.  If they keep it up, they should bag another ‘W’ without too much trouble.

Texas A&M vs Auburn

The Aggies have already taken given Alabama a loss.  Can they also fend off a dangerous Auburn team?  The Tigers proved how dangerous they were in their convincing handling of Ole Miss last night.  Can they keep up that same intensity against a foe that, one could argue, is just as dangerous?

Wake Forest vs North Carolina

In one of the surprises of the year, Wake Forest is currently 8-0, and ranked No. 10.  Conversely, North Carolina may only be 4-4, but they seemed to finally live up to their potential last night, losing to No. 8 Notre Dame by only ten points.  If that sort of Tarheels squad shows up in Winston-Salem, then maybe the Demon Deacons shall experience their first loss of the season.

College Football Awards Week 6 (2021) October 11, 2021

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COACHES
Wish I were him:  Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

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

Lucky guy: Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

Poor guy: Scott Satterfield, Louisivlle

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

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Aranda, Baylor

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kalani Sitake, BYU

Desperately seeking … anything:  Ed Orgeron, LSU

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Cincinnati (defeated Temple 52-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Wake Forest (defeated Syracuse 40-37 in OT)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Maryland (lost to No. 7 Ohio State 66-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  FIU (lost to Charlotte 45-33)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Kentucky (defeated LSU 42-21)  

Dang, they’re good:  Cincinnati
Dang, they’re bad:  Vanderbilt

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  BYU

Did the season start?  North Carolina
Can the season end?  UConn

Can the season never endIowa

GAMES
Play this again: Texas A&M 41, No. 1 Alabama 38

Play this again, too:  No. 6 Oklahoma 55, No. 21 Texas 48

Never play this again: No. 7 Ohio State 66, Maryland 17

What?  Florida State 35, North Carolina 25

HuhNo. 17 Ole Miss 52, No. 13 Arkansas 51

Are you kidding me??  Boise State 26, No. 10 BYU 17

Oh – my – GodTexas A&M 41, No. 1 Alabama 38

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 7)
Ticket to die for:  No. 11 Kentucky @ No. 1 Georgia

Next-best game of the week:  No. 18 Auburn @ No. 13 Arkansas

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: No. 19 BYU @ Baylor

Best non-Power Five matchup: UCF @ No. 3 Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 10 Michigan State @ Indiana; also, No. 13 Ole Miss @ Tennessee

Must win: No. 12 Oklahoma State @ No. 25 Texas

Offensive explosion: Oklahoma State @ Texas

Defensive struggle: Nebraska @ Minnesota

Great game no one is talking about: No. 22 NC State @ Boston College

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Nick Saban of Alabama vs Mike Leach of Mississippi State

Who’s bringing the body bags?  Purdue @ No. 2 Iowa

Why are they playing? Army @ Wisconsin

Plenty of good seats remaining: Arizona @ Colorado

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Yale @ UConn

Week 6 Thoughts:

Iowa vs. Penn State

This week provided some incredible games, one of which was an unusual clash of titans (No’s. 3 and 4, respectively) during the second time slot of the day, in Iowa City.  For the first 25 minutes of the game, Iowa was being outclassed by Penn State, and the score showed it at 17-3.  Then the Nittany Lion’s starting quarterback, Sean Clifford, went down with an injury, either to back or the ribs.  Penn State was not the same with their backup QB in place.  The offense only managed a field goal after that, while the Hawkeyes gradually clawed their way back, eventually winning, 23-20.  Let us hope that Clifford’s injury does not derail the rest of the Nittany Lions’ season.  Still, it was a thrilling comeback for the Hawkeye faithful to witness.

Oklahoma vs Texas

In yet another exciting edition of the Red River Showdown, Oklahoma bested Texas yet again.  This time it was full of twists and turns.  The Longhorns scored quickly on the Sooners, tallying 38 points in their favor by halftime.  A new, major wrinkle occurred when Lincoln Riley benched QB Spencer Rattler after two turnovers and replaced him with Caleb Williams.  In hindsight, Texas coach Steve Sarkesian had no gameplan for this wrinkle, and it showed with his lack of answers for this more-capable replacement.  The Longhorns also failed to established a running game, despite having Heisman candidate Bijan Robinson in their backfield.  On the other side of the ball, they hardly mounted any decent pass rush against Williams, giving him time to complete one inexplicable pass after another.  In the end, the Sooners triumphed in an admittedly thrilling game, 55-48.  The main takeaway for Oklahoma is that they could best either Iowa or Penn State, both of whom, on that day, were ranked ahead of the Sooners.

One takeaway for Texas is the Sark must shore up his defense.  Another is that he must work on better establishing the running game.  A third is that freshman receiver Xavier Worthy holds much promise as a playmaker, but the Horns cannot win games on long bombs to him alone.  Texas might not be “back” yet, but they could be soon with a couple of key adjustments and another good recruiting class from Sark.  In the meantime, he did not see this game’s outcome as a devastating loss, but rather, something to make the team hungrier for potentially bigger things to come.  “Ultimately, you know my mindset is I’d love to get another crack at these guys hopefully in December, so that’s that,” he said.

Texas A&M vs Alabama

Think about this for a second:  the last regular season game that Alabama lost was on Nov. 30, 2019, to Auburn (hey, it’s the Iron Bowl, where crazy things happen.  Anyone remember the “Kick Six”?).  Since then, the Crimson Tide has remained undefeated, with another national title under their collective belt, until last night.  Last night, Texas A&M ended that streak in front of the second-largest crowd at Kyle Field (106,815).  Moreover, this marks Alabama’s first loss to an unranked team since 2007 (!).  The Aggies maintained a lead for most of the game, until the Tide tied the score in the 4th quarter.  A key stop late in the game gave Texas A&M the ball back, allowing them to kick a winning field goal at a comfortable distance for one incredible night to remember in College Station for a long time to come.  All that said, if the familiar pattern of Nick Saban’s dynasty in Tuscaloosa holds, Alabama shall refocus and redouble its efforts, and continue to perform at the highest of levels in the college game.  Nevertheless, this is the first time a former assistant (Jimbo Fisher) has bested him.  We shall now see if Fisher can maintain his team’s focus.  Immediately, that might not be too difficult a task, as they face Missouri next week, followed by South Carolina thereafter.  But come the first week of November, they face a dangerous Auburn team, wherein another key test awaits.

Kentucky vs. LSU

Last week, I noted that Mark Stoops needed to refocus his team after a huge win over Florida.  Well, he succeeded in spades, this time triumphing over LSU, in convincing fashion, 42-21.  Granted, the Bayou Bengals are not quite what they were when they caught lighting in a bottle with QB Joe Burrow and a coaching lineup of young, talented coordinators, which generated a wave that they rode all the way to another national championship.  Since then, those assistants have left for other things, and Orgeron has been struggling to keep LSU a contender in the admittedly brutal SEC West.  On the other side of the proverbial coin, everything seems to have come into place for Mark Stoops and Kentucky.  The Wildcats are 6-0 for only the first time since 1950, when Bear Bryant was their head coach (they went on to defeat national champion Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl that season).  Put as many asterisks on this win as some critics may, but for two consecutive weeks, Stoops and the Big Blue Nation have turned Commonwealth Stadium into a top-tier SEC environment.  That might not last forever, but it’s quite the achievement to behold regardless.  But now is the time to refocus the team’s efforts yet again, this time for the Wildcats’ toughest opponent to date.

Looking ahead:  Kentucky @ Georgia

That aforementioned toughest opponent to date for Kentucky is now-No. 1 Georgia.  Furthermore, unlike facing Florida and LSU in the friendly home environs, this time they travel to face the Bulldogs “between the hedges”.  Even though both teams come into this game at 6-0, Kentucky’s magical run thus far might come to a temporary halt, for Georgia, along with Alabama, is clearly well above the rest of the competition for now.  The reasonable hope is that the Wildcats keep the game respectable.  That will be something to build upon as they could then continue their incredibly strong run of a season.  That season will continue to get more interesting, as afterwards, they face Mike Leach’s cagey Mississippi State team (one Bulldog team after another!), followed by Josh Heupel’s quietly, gradually resurgent Tennessee squad.  So it goes in the SEC, where there’s never any rest for the wicked.

Ole Miss @ Tennessee

Speaking of the Volunteers, they face Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels, along with their high-powered offense that he has put together.  This game shall be a key test for both teams.  For Ole Miss, can they maintain their level of intensity after winning a shootout at home over a suddenly resurgent Arkansas?  Speaking of resurgent teams, Tennessee has regained in strength under lots of peoples’ radars (easy to do, given that the Volunteers have struggled since the waning days of Phil Fulmer’s coaching regime).  Now that the players seem to be buying into Josh Heupel’s potentially winning vision, they have a chance to show how far along they have come in a short time if they can pull off the upset at home over the Rebels.  This test could be a good one to watch.

Texas vs Oklahoma State

The Longhorns just lost another close one to their hated rival Oklahoma.  Now, without time to lick their wounds (mostly to their pride), they have to turn around to face the Cowboys at home.  Oklahoma State has quietly risen up the ranks to No. 12.  As the rankings (barely) held in Dallas this past Saturday, now we shall see if they continue to hold in Austin.  If Steve Sarkesian can make a defensive adjustment or two and work to establish the run more effectively, this time, it might not.

College Football Week 5 Awards (2021) October 9, 2021

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Better late than never.

COACHES
Wish I were him:  Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Lucky guy: David Shaw, Stanford

Poor guy: Mario Cristobal, Oregon

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Chip Kelly, UCLA

Desperately seeking … anything:  Lance Leipold, Kansas

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Iowa State (defeated Kansas 59-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Clemson (defeated Boston College 19-13)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Rutgers (lost to No. 11 Ohio State 52-13)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Western Kentucky (lost to No. 17 Michigan State 48-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Nebraska (defeated Northwestern 56-7)  

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Kansas

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oregon

Did the season start?  UCLA

Can the season end?  Tulsa

Can the season never endIowa

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 7 Cincinnati 24, No. 9 Notre Dame 13

Never play this again: Tennessee 62, Missouri 24

Play this again, too:  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

What?  Mississippi State 26, No. 15 Texas A&M 22

HuhArizona State 42, No. 20 UCLA 23

Are you kidding me??  Kentucky 20, No. 10 Florida 13

Oh – my – GodStanford 31, No. 3 Oregon 24

NEXT WEEK

rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 4 Penn State @ No. 3 Iowa

Next-best game of the week:  No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: North Texas @ Missouri

Best non-Power Five matchup: Boise State @ No. 10 BYU

Upset alert: No. 21 Texas vs No. 6 Oklahoma;  also, LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Must win: No. 13 Arkansas @ No. 17 Ole Miss

Offensive explosion: No. 18 Memphis @ Houston

Defensive struggle: LSU @ No. 16 Kentucky

Great game no one is talking about: Virginia @ Louisville

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Steve Sarkesian of Texas vs. Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma

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

Why are they playing? Temple @ No. 5 Cincinnati

Plenty of good seats remaining: South Alabama @ Texas State

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  UConn @ UMass

Week 5 Thoughts:

Notre Dame vs Cincinnati

Sure, the Bearcats have had some big wins before, but this one felt differently.  For the first time in living memory, if ever, Cincinnati was A) a top-ten team that B) defeated another top ten team, and C), accomplished this on the road, in a hostile place to play.  As corny and hackneyed as it may sound, this win had to be the greatest in the history of the UC program.  Good job, Luke Fickell.

Georgia vs. Arkansas

Arkansas may be a legitimately strong team this year, but Georgia is considerably stronger.  The 37-0 score in favor of the Bulldogs demonstrated how much stronger.  So far this year, the top two of Alabama and Georgia appear to have separated from the rest of the pack.  If these shadows remain unchanged, it will be one memorable game in Atlanta come early December.  That matchup may seem routine by now, but the evenness of it will make the [potential] game exciting nonetheless.

Kentucky vs Florida

The last time Kentucky beat Florida at home (or any time, perhaps?) was in 1986, when the late Jerry Claiborne (part of Bear Bryant’s “coaching tree”) was the head coach.  Thirty-five years later, the Wildcats have suddenly, almost stealthily come onto the scene as a force to be reckoned with in the SEC East.

Looking ahead:  LSU @ Kentucky

Now that the Wildcats have demonstrated they are not to be taken lightly this year, can they maintain, even build upon their success?  An ideal test comes up at home this week.  LSU is strong, but inconsistent, with recent close losses starting to raise questions about Ed Orgeron’s coaching abilities – as well as his tenure – in Baton Rouge.  Can they overcome their tough loss to Auburn from last week by redoubling their efforts and leave Lexington with a win?  Conversely, can Kentucky maintain their focus and intensity after such a huge win on their home turf?  Mark Stoops’ challenge is to get his team to stop celebrating and to re-focus on preparing for yet another challenging foe, in what is, oddly, a winnable game.  Fun facts:  the last time the Wildcats beat the Bayou Bengals was 2007, in Lexington, when LSU was undefeated, and it happened in triple-overtime.  If that is not enough, LSU nevertheless eventually went on to win the national title anyhow in what amounted to the craziest of roads to the BCS that year.

Iowa vs Penn State

We are currently in the Big Ten “Twilight Zone”.  Don’t believe me?  Well, imagine, if you will:

There are two teams currently ranked ahead of Ohio State (who is nevertheless back in the AP Top Ten).  Moreover, they are both ranked in the top five.  The kicker?  Neither of them are Michigan, Michigan State, or Wisconsin.  Penn State earned its prowess by defeating a tough Auburn team.  Iowa has earned its high ranking and according respect with wins over tough opponents and consistent play thus far.  Indeed, if the latter wins, they could control their own destiny to Indianapolis come early December.  Moreover, the two teams are led by two of the best coaches in the business.  Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz could arguably win anywhere, what with his no-nonsense style and consistency of product in a talent-barren landscape for this immediate environs.  Meanwhile, Penn State’s James Franklin has an almost Presidential quality to him, has been mentioned as a legitimate candidate for the vacant USC job, and has the big personality to fit it.  It all shapes up to be a massive showdown in Iowa City, fittingly following the one in Dallas during the previous time slot.

Texas vs Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown

For more than 20 years, regardless of discrepancy of rank (if even notable at times), or how lop-sided the game may sometimes be at the end.  As the game begins, there are few atmospheres more electric in the entire sport than Texas vs Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl during the second Saturday of October.  This one has new intrigue, what with Steve Sarkesian bringing new energy and new offensive ideas into the Longhorn program against a good Sooners team led by Lincoln Riley that nobody seems to know exactly how good.  After this game, questions shall likely be answered, namely:  just how good is Oklahoma?  Do they belong in the top ten, or even the top five?  For Texas, was the loss at Arkansas a temporary stumble against a surprisingly good team, or does it show that Sark has a longer way to go in re-stabilizing the program than previously thought?  These shall likely be answered, with perhaps new questions raised at that time, after the final second ticks off the clock in Dallas.  The key for Texas shall be to do what West Virginia did to Oklahoma earlier this year, before the Mountaineers collapsed late in the fourth quarter.  A stronger, more consistent replication of WVU’s 3 ½ quarter performance from that game could ensure that the Horns take home the Golden Cowboy Hat.

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 9 (2019) October 27, 2019

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COACHES
Wish I were him: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan (hon. mention:  Ed Orgeron of LSU)

Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Lucky guy: Sonny Dykes, SMU

Poor guy: Dana Holgorsen, Houston

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Lincoln Riley

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Josh Heupel, UCF

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Tom Herman, Texas

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Campbell, South Alabama

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Minnesota (defeated Maryland 52-10)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Texas A&M (defeated Mississippi State 49-30)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Boston College (lost to Clemson 59-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Illinois (defeated Purdue 24-6)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Michigan (defeated Notre Dame 45-14)

Dang, they’re good: LSU

Dang, they’re bad:  Purdue

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Iowa State (hon. mention:  Oklahoma)

Did the season start?  Texas

Can the season end?  South Alabama

Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 2 LSU 23, No 9 Auburn 20

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 59, Boston College 7

What?  UCLA 42, No. 24 Arizona State 32

HuhOklahoma State 34, No. 23 Iowa State 27

Double-Huh?  TCU 37, No. 15 Texas 27

Are you kidding me??  No. 19 Michigan 45, No. 7 Notre Dame 14

Oh – my – GodKansas State 48, No. 5 Oklahoma 41

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 9, pre-week 10)
Ticket to die for:  No. 8 Georgia vs No. 6 Florida in Jacksonville

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five  matchup: UAB @ Tennessee

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 16 SMU @ Memphis

Upset alert: No. 7 Oregon @ USC

Must win: Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)

Offensive explosion: SMU @ Memphis

Defensive struggle: Mississippi State @ Arkansas

Great game no one is talking about: Kansas State @ Kansas

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Mack Brown of North Carolina vs Bronco Mendenhall of Virginia

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 14 Michigan @ Maryland

Why are they playing? UTSA @ Texas A&M

Plenty of good seats remaining: Akron @ Bowling Green

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Wofford @ No. 4 Clemson

Week 9 Thoughts:

Am I the only one who has noticed that waaaaay too many teams have bye-weeks for upcoming week 10?

Kansas State vs Oklahoma

Oh, Kansas State.  What are we to do with you?  You play under your potential all season long, then, when folks least expect it, you unleash your top potential against the toughest opponent all year, and produce one of the biggest upsets of the year in the process.  Does this mean than the Wildcats are the new world-beaters of the Big XII?  Hardly.  One might expect a regression to the mean starting next week.  It is not inconceivable that KSU could lose three of their remaining five games.  Then again, it is not inconceivable that they could win out.

Kansas State has started to intrigue us to see if their sudden improvement is an anomaly, or if it’s here to stay.  Next week they play in-state rival Kansas, who also shows continued improvement.  The game’s outcome will be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, but it shall be a “discovery game” all the same for both teams.  Who says one cannot continue to learn new things as the college football season progresses?

Texas vs. TCU

Texas losing to LSU is more than understandable.  Indeed, they acquitted themselves well.  Losing to OU was also excusable, given that the Sooners are on fire and one of the favored teams to make the playoffs at the time.  But losing to unranked TCU?  That was at least raise a few questions, right?  Actually, it raises fewer questions than one would think.  The Longhorns’ problem is that they were always a little more vulnerable to the pass than they were to the run.  It was LSU’s key to defeating them, after all.  But as the season wore on, Texas’ injuries on their defense kept piling up, especially in their secondary, making them even more vulnerable to the pass.

The bottom line for the Longhorns is that it is going to take an offseason for the injuries to heal up and for Tom Herman to bring in another solid recruiting class (especially some top-rated defensive backs).

LSU vs Auburn

Here we witnessed a hard-fought “discovery game” in which LSU passed another key test and Auburn proved they deserve to be a top-ten team, even with a close loss.  Note to Auburn fans and administration:  Gus Malzahn has proven he is a good coach.  Keep him and pay him.

Meanwhile, all the LSU faithful who doubted where Ed Orgeron was the right man for the job are now eating some serious crow.

Michigan vs Notre Dame

What to make of this outcome?  Many had left Jim Harbaugh for dead by now.  Then again, if Michigan had played all four quarters against No. 6 Penn State last week the way they played against them in the second half, they would have won that game, too.  Sure, the Wolverines started out ranked No. 5 only for their offense to sputter and for them to take a nose dive in the polls and in the esteem of fans.  Not anymore.  After thrashing the Fighting Irish at home in prime time, they appear to finally play like a team that belongs in the top ten.  What gives?  The most likely explanation is that it took this long for the team to finally gel.  These things sometimes happen it football it’s part of the game, and always yields new discoveries in the process.  We continue to learn new things as this college football season progresses.

Ohio State vs Wisconsin.

Personally, I predicted that the Buckeyes would beat the Badgers, maybe by two touchdowns, if that.  Instead, we witnessed a 38-7 thrashing of Wisconsin at the hands of Ohio State.  Is anybody going to contend that OSU should not be ranked No. 1 in the nation by now?

Two body bag games are up next for the Buckeyes (after a bye-week at that.  Maybe their QB’s lower back and can heal some during that time).  Then, Ohio State closes out the season with two solid challenges, first against Penn State, then against Michigan (now that the Wolverines are finally playing up to par).  We’ll see if their current roll continues strongly enough to steamroll over their last two worthy opponents.

On Changes in SEC Competition February 8, 2019

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They say that a college football team’s potential for high rankings and even playoff contention is predicated on the ranking of its recruiting classes.  Alabama’s persistently top-ranked recruiting classes seem to demonstrate this.  Yet while some things remain the same, others seem to be changing.

For several years, the SEC appeared to consist of Alabama and everybody else.  The Crimson Tide had Nick Saban, who has proven to be the best college head coach in the business, while almost all other programs in the conference – with some exceptions – having been led by glorified gym teachers.

That now seems to be changing.  Kirby Smart at Georgia, for example, has proven to be a most capable Saban protégé.  He learned Saban’s modus operandi while defensive coordinator at Alabama, and the Bulldogs’ performance for the past two seasons shows that he has successfully transplanted a critical percentage of this erstwhile master’s methodologies into Athens.  Indeed, the 2017-2018 season culminated with Georgia playing Alabama for the national title.  At the send of the 2018 season, the Bulldogs once again played the Tide down to the wire during the SEC championship game.

While Georgia has emerged as Alabama’s toughest competition for conference supremacy, other intra-conference competition now gradually emerges, too.  Take Florida, for example.  Dan Mullen is such a skillful coach that his previous program, Mississippi State, was briefly the number one team in the country back in 2014 (Dak Prescott sure helped with that, to be sure).  Now, with far more resources at his disposal, he has brought the Gators back to strength.  Their 41-15 trouncing of a solid, Jim Harbaugh-led Michigan team in the Peach Bowl has demonstrated this.  Both Georgia and Alabama ought to be on notice that there is a new up-and-comer on the block.

As things currently stand, Alabama has the top-ranked freshman recruiting class for 2019, and Georgia is right behind them at No. 2.  But Florida is now at No. 9 (up from No. 17 the previous year), and their on-the-field improvement was clearly noticeable in the aforementioned Peach Bowl.  With such a bump in the recruiting rankings, one can only imagine how highly their team rankings could improve come the Fall.

While Georgia needs to start looking over its shoulder at SEC East and border rival Florida, in the west, the competitive pressure is intensifies for Saban and Bama.  Texas A&M caught lightning in a bottle with Johnny Manziel under the leadership of Kevin Sumlin (who went 51-26, not bad for an overall average program).  While it remains my contention that Aggie Nation was a collective fool in jettisoning Coach Sumlin just a few years post-Manziel, they nevertheless seem to have upgraded with Jimbo Fisher, who previously had revived Florida State.  Fisher did not disappoint in his first year (2018), going 9-4, winning the Gator Bowl (52-13 over NC State…ouch!), and finishing the year at No. 16.

Further improvement for the Aggies seems imminent.  Last year, they finished at No. 16 in the recruiting rankings, but this year have risen to No. 4.  Nick Saban’s dominance of the SEC West is about to become considerably more difficult.

It gets no easier from there.  Just behind A&M (who, again, is No. 4) in the recruiting rankings at No. 5 is SEC West rival LSU.  All head coach Ed Orgeron needs is a more creative offense, and they could very well contend with the Tide for divisional supremacy.  Until he does, Orgeron might still merit the “gym teacher” category placement.

One other proven coach of note is Mark Stoops at Kentucky.  A program at considerable disadvantages compared to other SEC programs not named Missouri, Stoops has built the Wildcats up to their strongest level since the Fran Curci era.  Barring some major scandal, he shall have done so through considerably more ethical means at that!  His 2018 recruiting class was only at No. 30, and this year at No. 34.  Yet the Wildcats finished the 2018 season at 10-3, including a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, and with a ranking at No. 11.  Mark Stoops thus deserves a serious award for the SEC coach to have done the most with the least.

Yes, the SEC still has its fair share of “gym teachers”, but there are others who are clearly talented and have what it takes to seriously threaten Saban’s legendary dynasty.

Look out for Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, and possibly LSU as they look to start campaigns that should make for a very interesting 2019 season in SEC football.

 

 

College Football Awards, Week 6 (2018) October 7, 2018

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

COACHES
Wish I were him: Tom Herman, Texas

Glad I’m not him: Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Lucky guy: Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, NC State

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

Desperately seeking … anything:  Chip Kelly, UCLA

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Clemson (defeated Wake Forest 63-3)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: West Virginia (defeated Kansas 38-22)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to Clemson 63-3)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Kansas (lost to West Virginia 38-22)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Georgia Tech (defeated Louisville 66-31)

Dang, they’re good: Alabama

Dang, they’re bad:  Louisville

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Michigan State

Did the season start?  Boston College

Can the season end?  Rice

Can the season never endTexas

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Never play this again: No. 4 Clemson 63, Wake Forest 3

What? Utah 40, No. 14 Stanford 21

HuhTexas A&M 20, No. 13 Kentucky 14 (OT)

Double HuhMississippi State 23, No. 8 Auburn 9

Are you kidding me??  No. 19 Texas 48, No. 7 Oklahoma 45

Oh – my – GodNo. 22 Florida 27, No. 5 LSU 19

NEXT WEEK

Rankings are current AP (week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 2 Georgia @ No. 5 LSU

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

Best non-Power Five matchup: No. 12 UCF @ Memphis

Upset alert: No. 9 West Virginia @ Iowa State

Must win: No. 20 Michigan State @ No. 11 Penn State

Offensive explosion: No. 10 Washington @ No. 18 Oregon

Defensive struggle: No. 8 Auburn @ Tennessee

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

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Kyle Whittingham of Utah vs. Kevin Sumlin of Arizona

Who’s bringing the body bags? (inconclusive)

Why are they playing? (inconclusive)

Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Kentucky @ Charlotte

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Alabama State @ South Alabama

Week 6 Thoughts:

 Upsets have abounded this week, with each surprise seeming to supersede the other.  Texas made its presence known by toppling yet another ranked opponent, this time hated rival Oklahoma.  Whereas the Longhorns were ranked a respectable No. 19, the Sooners were top ten at No. 7.  It was almost the upset the never was, as the Sooners’ superior talent almost allowed for a complete comeback during the second half.  Only a last-minute field goal by Texas’ true freshman kicker won the day.

LSU’s occasional woes against Florida continued yesterday.  In 2003, the Gators upset the Tigers badly, almost spoiling their national title campaign.  This time around, the Bayou Bengals came in to the game at No. 5 in the nation, only to be upset by the (No. 22) Gators yet again, this time 27-19.  Time to see if Ed Orgeron’s team can bounce back from this loss and remain strong in the brutally competitive SEC West division.

Mississippi State has been in and out of the rankings, but this time, they played like a legitimately ranked team, toppling top-ten Auburn 23-9.  Perhaps the “clanga-clanga” atmosphere of Scott Field at night had something to do with it?

Speaking of atmospheres and night games, don’t look now, but Kentucky is a legitimately good team.  That said, apparently a night game in the hostile confines of Kyle Field (“Home of the 12th Man”) was too much to maintain their strong winning streak, for the Wildcats lost to the unranked Aggies in overtime, in what was a close, hard-fought game from start to end.

In an interesting night cap game, unranked Utah’s superior quickness gave No. 14 Stanford fits the entire evening.  The Cardinal has a bye-week to lick their wounds, while such a win for the Utes might merit a ranking in the next edition of the polls.

There were other upsets, too, such as Iowa State toppling No. 25 Oklahoma State.  It won’t get any easier for the Cowboys, as their next six games include ranked opponents (Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia), as well as Kansas State and potentially-ranked TCU.

Let us also not overlook another close, hard-fought game between Florida State and Miami.  The Seminoles tenaciously hung tough the entire game and eventually triumphed over the No. 17 Hurricanes 28-27.

In the Big Ten, unranked Northwestern (they actually start off the year ranked No. 15) upset No. 20 Michigan State, on the road, 29-19.  This is a genuine quality win for the Wildcats, as Mark Dantonio has, over the past several years, made his Spartans a tough out even for top-ten teams.  On paper, one would think MSU would have been a tougher out for Northwestern, but just goes to show that nothing is a given in the B1G.

But one of the biggest upsets of the day was also the biggest game of the day, as the Longhorns have won bragging rights over the Sooners for a year until they meet again next year in the Cotton Bowl amidst the annual Texas State Fair.

 

 

 

Louisville’s End-of-Season Collapse: A Postmortem November 27, 2016

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It’s still too painful to watch.

Without a doubt, Louisville’s upset loss at home to rival Kentucky is the most unsettling thing I have witnessed thus far in this entire college football season.  The Cardinals were rolling for so long, despite a relatively early-season loss to mighty conference foe Clemson.  But even then, that was on the road, in arguably the most hostile, difficult setting in the ACC, under primetime lights, no less.  The Cardinals quickly regrouped, and still managed to mount a plausible playoff campaign.

Until the game at Houston on Nov. 19.  The Cougars started very strongly as well, but then got upset twice, first to Navy, then mysteriously to lowly SMU.  But two Thursdays ago, Houston showed up ready to play, and, in hindsight, hungry for redemption.  It showed.  The Cougars had legitimate athletes on the defensive line that made Louisville QB Lamar Jackson’s life miserable the whole night.  Defensively, Louisville’s defense never could get dialed in.  In the end, Houston, then unranked, walloped Louisville, 36-10.

It did not help the Cardinals that it was a Thursday night game.  They had to make a quick preparation turnaround after facing fundamentally sound Wake Forest the previous Saturday evening.  But still, championship-caliber teams would not rest on that excuse.  They would show up to play, and win.

Such a loss should have been a wake-up call, to both the coaches and the players.  Bobby Petrino should have used this as a teaching tool to his players, to remind them of the need to bring your best game no matter the circumstances, and to not take all teams seriously, no matter how inexplicable their previous losses may have been.  Frankly, how a team like Houston could have lost to either of those other two teams remains the biggest mystery of the season.

Win or lose, Louisville nevertheless had extra time to lick their wounds, recover, and prepare for the season-ending game, at home, to rival Kentucky.  The oddsmakers had Louisville favored by three touchdowns.  Except that Kentucky continued to slug in out in the brutal SEC, against NFL-grade bodies.  In short, the Wildcats were battle-hardened, and like the Cougars before them, they showed up ready to play, even though this time they were the visitors.

What should have, on paper, been a borderline body bag game in favor of the Cardinals quickly turned into a game-spanning grind.  On offense, the Cardinals committed four turnovers, while their defense continued to be as porous as they were against Houston over a week earlier.  A last-minute field goal clinched it for the Wildcats, who took home the Governor’s Cup for the first time since 2010.

A long-time truism said by many a coach is that the team that make the fewest mistakes wins.  Obviously, those four turnovers on the part of Louisville cost them dearly.  One less interception, and the outcome would likely be different.

But even so, systemic problems have developed that have, in hindsight, become evident in the past two debacles of games.  For one, while Petrino has done an outstanding job recruiting skill position players, he seems to have neglected his lines (yes, both of them).  Surely his time in the NFL, brief though it was, would have taught him that one builds a team from the inside out, not vice-versa.  In other words, a wise man/coach builds his team around his offensive and defensive lines.  That deficiency became very glaring during the debacle against Houston, where again, the Cougars had real athletes on their defensive line, and it retarded Louisville’s offensive production accordingly.

Perhaps Petrino did know this vital maxim but delegated the building that part of the team to an assistant coach.  If so, that was an obvious mistake.  If he were not aware, hopefully these last two embarrassments will bring this deficiency to his attention.

Another issue is that the offense seems to have come to rely too heavily on QB Lamar Jackson, making Louisville a one-trick pony.  As insanely, freakishly talented as Lamar is, he relies, at this point, too much on rhythm.  If he is off-rhythm, the whole offense suffers.  The Cardinals have at least two good runningbacks, both productive, and yet they were under-utilized on account of the coaches being seduced by the siren song of creating sexiness and sizzle with Lamar at the expense of wearing down other teams’ defenses with methodically-sustained drives.

But perhaps the biggest problem of all is a chronic deficiency in discipline, which was evident by too many penalties.  These penalties obviously hamstrung the Cardinals during key moments throughout the season.  Any discerning fan or coach would also point out that relying on raw talent to overcome these penalties and mental mistakes is a fool’s errand, for there are teams such as Alabama and Ohio State that are both incredibly talented athletically and for more disciplined.

Yes, Louisville is a very talented team, but obviously they are not exempt from paying a heavy price in the end from such a lack of discipline.  The most effective systemic solution, as politically incorrect as this may sound, is for Petrino to recruit a few more white players.  This is serious.  The comparative analysis of the black player vs white player goes something like this.  With black players, there is the obvious benefit of greater athletic talent, but the drawback is, one cannot count on a consistent performance from many, if not most of them.  Conversely, with white players, the athletic talent/output is usually not as great as it is with most black players, but on the plus side, one can always count on a consistent effort from the whites.

Bottom line:  too many blacks on a team tends to lead to a lack of discipline, and Louisville this year has been a perfect example of this.  On the other hand, having too many whites leads to insufficient athleticism and comparative, well, sluggishness.  Nevertheless, to be a consistently effective team, one needs both.  Think of it as building a wall.  One needs both bricks and mortar.  Think of the black players as bricks.  A wall just of bricks can be well-stacked, yet easily toppled because there is nothing to bind them together.  Conversely, the white players are the mortar.  A wall of just sculpted mortar is theoretically possible, but it’s limited in terms of how one can practically build said wall.  One needs both bricks and mortar in order to build a wall of optimal size and strength, hence optimal effectiveness.  In the same vein, a strong, consistently effective team needs both black players for athletic prowess and white players for consistency and examples of discipline.  A good example of this is Pat Narduzzi’s Pittsburgh team, which clung tenaciously to Clemson for that entire game in Death Valley, and capitalized on the last-second opportunity they earned.

Petrino would thus be well-served to recruit a few more whites.  Doing so will instill much-needed discipline in his team.  That, along with better line play and more of a running game will eliminate the risk of a sudden collapse like this year, and at the same time, put the team in a far better position to make the playoffs next year.  Onward and upward.

Disclaimer:  You self-appointed, politically-correct thought police better sit down and shut up.  We all know how hysterical you are, crying “racism” even more often than the boy who cried wolf.  There are no racist statements here at all regarding the aforementioned observations of black vs. white players.  The more you cry racism when none exists, the more you cheapen it and make normal people all the more apt to ignore it when such an abhorrent thing actually occurs.  Sell your crazy somewhere else.

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!