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Season wrap-up…final facts, figures and frustrations

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I probably should have written this last Friday, Saturday or even Sunday.  I hope you will forgive the tardiness of this article as I have been letting the disappointment of the lost championship drain away.  It seems 2009 was just the season destined to see the University of Texas as the #2.  They lost the College World Series finals, the volleyball national championship and the BCS National Championship.  Second place in three sports speaks of a school’s great talent and diversity, but it really would have been nice to see them bring home at least one of those titles.

But I digress.

I just wanted to wrap up the season with a few things.  Some house cleaning items, if you will, along with some thoughts on the national championship game.  First off, if you haven’t seen them, these are the final rankings:

AP USA Today
#1 Alabama (60) #1 Alabama (58)
#2 Texas #2 Texas
#3 Florida #3 Florida
#4 Boise State #4 Boise State
#5 Ohio State #5 Ohio State
#6 TCU #6 TCU
#7 Iowa #7 Iowa
#8 Cincinnati #8 Penn State
#9 Penn State #9 Cincinnati
#10 Virginia Tech #10 Virginia Tech
#11 Oregon #11 Oregon
#12 BYU #12 BYU
#13 Georgia Tech #13 Georgia Tech
#14 Nebraska #14 Nebraska
#15 Pittsburgh #15 Pittsburgh
#16 Wisconsin #16 Wisconsin
#17 LSU #17 LSU
#18 Utah #18 Utah
#19 Miami (FL) #19 Miami (FL)
#20 Mississippi #20 USC
#21 Texas Tech #21 Mississippi
#22 USC #22 West Virginia
#23 Central Michigan #23 Texas Tech
#24 Clemson #24 Central Michigan
#25 West Virginia #25 Oklahoma State



No major differences between the two major human polls.  #1-#7 is the same.  Though I’m trying to figure out why they put TCU ahead of Iowa when Iowa actually won their BCS bowl.  Nebraska seems kind of low considering how they dismantled a ranked opponent.  I’d say the same for BYU.  And how on earth does the Coaches poll still have Oklahoma State ranked?  Did they see how they played against Mississippi?  It was pathetic.

Biggest Winner: Aside from the obvious answer of Alabama for winning the national championship and being a unanimous No. 1, I’d have to call it a toss-up between Boise State and Ohio State.  Boise State manged to finish with its second top-5 finish in school history and continue to build momentum for non-BCS conferences by making this the fourth time in the last six years that a non-BCS team has finished in the top-5.  And Ohio State made one of the bigger poll jumps, moving three spots to put an exclamation mark on a great bowl season for the Big 10 with a top-5 finish.

Biggest Loser: Navy.  They totally dominated a solid Missouri team and still didn’t break the top 25.  They were hosed after an impressive season with plenty of impressive wins.  I can’t believe the voters overlooked Navy, especially when they managed to put Central Michigan in the top 25.  The Pac-10 is a very close second for biggest loser and is worth mentioning.  Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona fell out of the rankings in both polls after two of those three were absolutely throttled in their bowl games.

Here’s how the bowl season played out by conference:

Conference Schools Record Percentage
Independents Navy 1-0 1.000
MWC AF, BYU, TCU, Utah, Wyom 4-1 .800
Big East Cincy, Pitt, Rut, UConn, USF, WVU 4-2 .667
SEC Ala, Ark, Aub, Flor, Geor, Ky, LSU, Miss, SCar, Tenn 6-4 .600
Big 10 Iowa, MichSt, Minn, Nwstern, OSU, PSU, Wis 4-3 .571
Big 12 ISU, Mizzou, Neb, OU, OklaSt, Texas, TxA&M, TTech 4-4 .500
WAC Boise St, FresSt, Idaho, Nev 2-2 .500
Sun Belt MidTen, Troy 1-1 .500
ACC BC, Clem, FSU, GT, Miami, UNC, VT 3-4 .429
C-USA ECU, Hou, Marsh, SMU, SoMiss, UCF 2-4 .333
Pac-10 Ariz, Cal, Ore, OreSt, Stan, UCLA, USC 2-5 .286
MAC BGreen, CMich, NIU, Ohio, Tem 1-4 .200



Biggest Winner: Mountain West Conference.  Even though lots of conferences put on great performances, the MWC was the buzz of the bowl season.  Its only blemish was TCU’s close loss to Boise State…a very respectable loss to have on the record.  Meanwhile, Air Force, BYU, Utah and Wyoming all came up with huge bowl wins that left pundits asking if the MWC should be in the mix of conferences that receive an automatic bid.  I want to be on the record as saying that I’d have no problem with the MWC taking the ACC’s automatic bid, as the ACC fell to 2-10 in BCS bowls (second-worst is the Big 12, still way ahead at 7-10) and posted its third losing bowl season in a row.  They haven’t had a winning bowl season since 2005.  Time to stop treating that mess like a major conference.

Biggest Loser: Pac-10.  And it’s not even close.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  This time last year, the conversation was about the colossus that is the Pac-10 as they closed out an undefeated bowl season.  That seems a distant memory as the Pac-10 posted a 2-5 record, including humiliating losses by Oregon State and Arizona.  The conference’s only victories were USC (topping Boston College in a virtual home game at San Francisco) and UCLA (which beat Temple…not impressive).

Speaking of unimpressive, did anyone say anything about the picks Jon and I made for bowl games?  My record was completely pathetic.  Jon’s was only mildly pathetic.

On BCS Bowls:

Austin: 2-2

Jon: 1-3

Final for bowl season:

Jon: 10-14

Austin: 9-15

Final season total:

Jon: 220-76

Austin: 213-83

I think it’s clear who the big winner and the big loser is on this one.  Congratulations to Mr. Castano on a great season.  I very much look forward to next season and going out on a limb less with those Vanderbilt picks.

Lastly, I just have some thoughts on the national championship that I want to share.

1.  Those were two of the best defenses that I’ve seen square off in college football in recent memory.  I thought Alabama and Texas both deserve huge credit for what they did defensively.  And, since nobody is really talking about them in the wake of Alabama’s performance, I want to say that Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston were awesome and deserve just as much credit as anyone on Alabama that’s getting all the love right now.  The two Texas defensive linemen combined for 18 tackles (14 solo) and three sacks.  There’s no way those two didn’t improve their draft stock with how they played.

2.  Mark Ingram is an absolute beast.  Not that you didn’t already know that, I just want to give credit where it’s due.  After watching Greg McElroy this year and watching what happened when Ingram went out with cramps in the third quarter (Texas held Alabama to 3 yards of offense), I think it’s very easy to say this team wouldn’t be much without Ingram.  Even though I still think Toby Gerhart deserved the Heisman.

3.  The NCAA needs to take a serious look at how games are being officiated, especially in the SEC.  Alabama came into the championship having gone 34 quarters without having a holding call on their offensive line.  That is literally impossible.  I subscribe to the saying that there is a holding call on every play, it’s just a matter of whether you want to call it.  I think that’s true, and that means that SEC officials chose not to call the Tide for holding for eight and a half games.  That’s insane.  And if they played every game like they did against Texas, the idea that it’s just disciplined ball is a myth, because they held all over the place.  I’m not making excuses for the Longhorns…that’s just a fact.

It’s also a fact that there was a false start on Alabama’s first touchdown that the refs didn’t call.  Go back and watch it, and keep an eye on Terrence Cody.  He rocks before the play starts and they missed it.  The officiating in that game was suspect, as it seems to have been all season in Alabama games.  Again, not making excuses for the Longhorns.  These are just facts.

4.  The Texas coaching staff absolutely did not earn their pay in that game.  I know it’s never easy when your two-time Heisman-nominated QB goes down, but the coaching staff flat-out froze in that game.  They showed no faith in Garret Gilbert, running predictable running play after predictable running play, making it easy for Alabama to bunch the line of scrimmage and forcing Gilbert to throw on a third and 12 and a third and 15 in the first half.  Before D.J. Monroe broke a 28-yard run on an end around, Texas ran eight running plays, mostly up the middle, for a total of only 22 yards.  They gave Gilbert no chance in the first half.  But, what’s more, when you saw him on the sidelines he was all by himself.  Nobody coaching him up, encouraging him or even making him feel like he was so much as a part of the team.  They treated him like a pitcher working on a no-hitter in the 8th.

And that was just the most egregious of the mistakes by the coaching staff.  The shovel pass at the end of the first half was a bad call.  They rugby punted with Justin Tucker when they should have been punting it straight and they punted it straight with John Gold when they should have been rugby punting.  Their whole strategy was backwards.  I spent the entire night wondering what Texas could possibly be paying these guys huge sums of money for.  That performance was an embarrassment.

5.  Even with all the losses on defense and offense, Texas will be right back next year with Gilbert.  His 37.5 completion percentage, four interceptions and a fumble, and 73 QB rating is hardly exemplary.  But he showed resilience getting his team back into the game in a hopeless situation.  He fought and showed flashes of brilliance even as his wide receivers let him down repeatedly with numerous dropped passes, including ones on third downs and one in the end zone, all of which could have completely changed the complexion of the game.  Gilbert showed some guts that night, and I think Texas fans will be very happy with what he produces these next three years.

Written by Austin Swafford

January 12, 2010 at 9:00 am

Week 17 Picks: Coming down the homestretch of the Couldn’t Matter Less Derby

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Okay, I guess it matters. We all enjoy the picks. I’m hoping to have some time to do some actual insight into the picks in the coming days. But, since we dropped the ball on today’s pick, Jon and I just decided to post our picks for some of the remaining big games.

The way in which our picks don’t matter is season standings.  My picks constantly let me down the last week as Jon turned his lead into a Nebraska-vs-Arizona-esque rout. 

Last week’s results:

Jon:  8-6

Austin:  5-9

To bring our season standings to an insurmountable lead of:

Jon:  210-62

Austin:  204-68

That recapped, here are our picks for the remaining big games:

 

Teams
Bowl
Austin Jon
#3 Cincinnati vs. #5 Florida Allstate Sugar Bowl Florida Florida
#4 TCU vs. #6 Boise State Tostitos Fiesta Bowl TCU TCU
#9 Georgia Tech vs. #10 Iowa FedEx Orange Bowl Iowa Georgia Tech
#1 Alabama vs. #2 Texas Citi BCS National Championship Texas Texas


Written by Austin Swafford

January 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Catching Up is Hard to do – Musings on recent college football news

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that.  I wanted to take some time to write a few thoughts on some of the events in college football since I last posted.

BCS blows it again

No, I’m not gong to complain about who’s playing in the national championship.  Yeah, a playoff would be neat, but I don’t think you can make a case for Cincinnati, TCU or Boise State over Texas and Alabama.  I think it’ll be a great game and I’m totally looking forward to that one.

And maybe only to that one.

It’s not a shock, given the projections we’ve seen for weeks, but I think the matchups this year are horrible.  I can’t complain too much about Oregon and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.  We knew that one was coming, and I think it’ll be an okay game.  One team’s great offense against another’s great defense, and another almost inevitable loss for the Big 10 in a BCS Bowl.  Why they keep giving them two BCS Bowls a year escapes me.

The Sugar Bowl is the one that I think has me most furious.  Cincinnati and Florida.  I desperately wanted to see TCU play the second place team from the SEC.  I think TCU has earned the right to play in a game like that and prove themselves against talent like that.  To say nothing of the fact that I think it would just be a great game.  TCU and Florida are really good on both sides of the ball.  I think it’d be a great matchup.  Instead we have Florida against a team that’s all offense and just lost its head coach.  This one’s a stinker.

The Fiest Bowl.  Oh, what were they thinking?  They could have taken Iowa, freeing up TCU to play in the Sugar Bowl like I wanted them to, but instead they took TCU and Boise State.  Now we have a BCS Bowl between two teams who are not from major conferences.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’ll be a good game.  This is the one I’m most looking forward to, aside from the championship  I just think both of them earned the right to prove themselves against major conference opponents, and I wish they could.  But, now you have a scenario where it becomes easy to dismiss the winner because they “only” beat TCU or “only” beat Boise State.  Plus, if I had my wish, I’d have Boise State playing either Cincinnati or Georgia Tech.  Two teams that play a whole lot of offense and not a lot of defense could be a nice selling point to a bowl people otherwise wouldn’t really watch.

And then the Orange Bowl.  The one that just keeps putting up the worst matchups of all.  Last year it was Virginia Tech and Cincinnati in truly one of the worst bowl game displays I’ve ever seen.  That game was pathetic.  Now they pit Iowa, who nosedived at the end of the season, against Georgia Tech, which found ways to eek out wins all season.  Nice manipulation by the BCS, though, pitting the ACC against the Big 10.  The Big 10 has lost six straight BCS Bowls over the last three years, and the ACC won its BCS bowl last year to break an eight game BCS losing streak.  It’s the bowl where one of these loses has to win, and I think it’ll be Iowa, finally breaking the Big 10’s losing record, because…well, look at Georgia Tech’s schedule and that loss to a not very good Georgia team.  You take the ACC teams out of the ACC and they’re just not very good.

Southwest Region wins Ingram the Heisman Trophy

We all know by now that Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy this year, making him the first Alabama player ever to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.  As a Texas Longhorns fan, I initially wanted to be hurt on Colt McCoy’s behalf for the region that should have won him tons of votes giving the most votes to Ndomokong Suh.  Despite Suh’s amazing performance this year, we all knew he wasn’t going to win, so the Southwest Region (primarily Big 12 company) decided to make a statement by voting for Suh…well, just because, I guess.  I initially thought that McCoy would have done much better with more votes from that region, but it turns out that it would have made little difference.  The one who really suffered was Toby Gerhart, the Stanford running back who finished just 28 points behind Mark Ingram.  He had his lowest finish in the Southwest (4th) and second-lowest vote total of any region (just behind the 176 he got in the South.  He finished second, but Tim Tebow stole some points there).  So, but for the Southwest Region, Gerhart probably takes home the trophy.

As a side note, there are some strange point discrepancies I’m having a hard time figuring out.  When I looked at the by-region list, I had Ingram finishing with 1,295 points (nine behind his actual finish) and McCoy finishing with 1,134 points (11 behind his actual finish).  The count for Suh was dead on.  I’d attribute this to additional points gained from votes from former Heisman winners, but I calculated Gerhart to have 1,287 from the regional voting, which puts him 11 higher than he actually finished.  I don’t think you can lose votes from the former Heisman winners, so I’m gonna have to do some digging and figure out what happened there.

Brian Kelly makes a selfish, but completely understandable, decision

There has been no shortage of news coverage detailing Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly’s move to Notre Dame.  There has also been no shortage of news coverage the ire of Kelly’s former players over his decision to leave them high and dry going into the biggest game that Cincy has ever played.  And I can’t blame them.  Kelly did leave them high and dry, and it stinks.  I was impressed when I saw him on Pardon The Interruption and Mike and Mike in the Morning at just how much class he showed in addressing his former players.  I think he has handled this with as much grace and diplomacy as you can in a situation like this.  Nevertheless, he did screw the guys that got him the Notre Dame job.

That said, I totally understand why he did it.  I think in this situation, all you can do is jump ship and try to handle things diplomatically in the press.  This is an important recruiting period, and it’s hard to tell Notre Dame, “Put recruiting on hold for a month while I go play in a bowl game for a school I already said I’d leave.”

Even if it wasn’t an important recruiting period, I understand the move.  Cincy is probably going to get annihilated in their bowl game.  I just saw an ESPN poll asking who will win the Sugar Bowl, and 76 percent of the country says it’ll be Florida.  West Virginia was the only state that had the Bearcats winning.  Even their home state of Ohio had Florida winning (by a narrow margin, but still).  If they hire him and he coaches his team to a blowout, think of the blowback from fans, the media and boosters.  In Chicken Little fashion, they will start screaming that they are doomed already.  Or, if he waits until after the bowl game to talk to them and he gets crushed, maybe they’re not so interested anymore.  At the very least, people would not be having their current reaction that it was such an astute hire.

I want to be on record as saying that I do think this is an astute hire.  Notre Dame has been looking in all the wrong places, looking at coaches who had extremely limited experience in the capacity of head coach.  That’s important at a place like Notre Dame.  I’m with Lou Holtz in saying that you have to demonstrate the ability to win repeatedly as a head coach to thrive at Notre Dame, and Kelly has done that.  At all three of his head coaching stops, he has led his teams to unprecedented success.  I think the Irish finally got it right.

Written by Austin Swafford

December 18, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Week Championship Picks

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It’s that weekend where we get to learn who is going to BCS Bowls and who is not (except Ohio State…we’ve known that for a while).  This weekend we have conference championships (Big 12, SEC, ACC and Conference USA) and fortuitously scheduled head-to-head games that, while not literal conference championship games, do pit the conference’s top two teams together in virtual conference championships to decide who goes to a BCS Bowl (Pac-10 and Big East). 

And what it means for us (in addition to some really good football) is more chances to see who can pull away and win this year’s picks.   At best, I can merely cut into Jon’s lead a little this week, as he went straight chalk and I went with my gut on Rutgers over West Virginia.

Jon, of course, now has a three-pick lead over me:

Jon:  193-49

Austin:  190-52

Going into this week’s picks:

  Austin Jon
#1 Florida vs. #2 Alabama Florida Florida
#3 Texas vs. #22 Nebraska Texas Texas
#5 Cincinnati at #15 Pittsburgh Cincinnati Cincinnati
#6 Boise State vs. New Mexico St. Boise State Boise State
#7 Oregon vs. #16 Oregon St. Oregon Oregon
#10 Georgia Tech vs. Clemson Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
#18 USC vs. Arizona USC USC
#19 California at Washington California California
#21 Houston at East Carolina Houston Houston
#23 West Virginia at Rutgers Rutgers West Virginia


Written by Austin Swafford

December 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Week Thanksgiving Picks Recap: Where the ACC Ruins Me Again

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It was another bad weekend for me as Jon expanded his lead by one pick. Two games involving ACC teams did me in. This is how we fared this week:

Jon:  13-5

Austin:  12-6

To bring us to these records on the season:

Jon:  193-49

Austin:  190-52

How did it happen?  Well, it certainly wasn’t with the top 6 teams, which all remained undefeated despite a few close calls.  Florida didn’t have one against rival Florida State, whom they easily defeated 37-10, as demi-god Tim Tebow improved his chances of a Heisman with a 311 total yards and five TDs.  Florida State is going to have to do something and fast to keep calling this a rivalry.  Florida has won six straight by an average of almost 22 points per game.

Alabama and Texas struggled more with their in-state rivals.  The Crimson Tide needed all four quarters and a 14-point rally to top unranked Auburn, 26-21, as Mark Ingram‘s Heisman hopes took a hit with a 30 yard performance on 16 carries.  And although Texas never trailed Texas A&M after the first quarter, the Aggies hung around and gave the Longhorns fits all game before Texas pulled off the shootout victory behind Colt McCoy‘s 479 yards and five TDs.  Individual performances aside, the close wins for No. 2 and No. 3 gave Florida more points in the polls as they pulled first place votes from Texas and Alabama.  Though I would argue it’s not that impressive to pummel a team from the ACC, which looked woeful from top to bottom all weekend.  More on that tomorrow.

Numbers four through six didn’t scuffle quite as much with their opponents as TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State each won by double digits.  TCU creamed New Mexico State to virtually assure an automatic BCS invite.  Pike threw six touchdowns for Cincinnati as they cruised over Illinois.  The final 49-36 belies the blowout this really was, as the Bearcats had possessed a 22-point lead in the third quarter.  Boise State survived somewhat of a comeback attempt by Nevada, but I watched the game and trust me, the Broncos were in control the whole time.

The fun really started for the ACC with No. 7 Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets, which are poised to win the ACC and get an invite to a BCS bowl, fell to a 6-5 unranked SEC team in Georgia.  A team that looked completely incapable of playing adequate defense held Ga Tech to 100 yards below their season rushing average, besting the Yellow Jackets at their own game by rumbling for 339 yards en route to a 30-24 upset.

Things looked good for me early with West Virginia topping No. 9 Pitt Friday night.  Pitt mounted a 10-point fourth quarter comeback, only to fall to a last-second field goal by unranked West Virginia.  It was a very disappointing loss for the Panthers, who will play Cincy for the Big East win and a BCS bowl next weekend.

While Pitt’s BCS hopes are still alive, Oklahoma State’s are most decidedly not.  Oklahoma shut out the Cowboys, holding them to 109 yards of total offense, including just four….yes, FOUR…in the second half.  Oklahoma State was looking for an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl, but that now appears out of reach and Boise State looks like it will nab that invite.  Those were the two picks I got right that Jon did not this weekend, but that was it for me.  I got the remaining three differing picks wrong.

No. 14 Virginia Tech crushed Virginia, and No. 15 LSU needed a last-second field goal and overtime to top Arkansas, but pulled out the victory to keep their Capital One Bowl hopes alive.

Okay.  This is where it fell apart for me.  South Florida humiliated me yet again as they were annihilated by No. 16 Miami, 31-10.  Every time they looked like they might have something going they found a way to kill it.  Pretty ugly game.  No. 18 Clemson (hey, aren’t they from the ACC?) fell to a 6-5, unranked SEC team, just like Georgia Tech did.  And, again, South Carolina won quite handily.  They went into the fourth quarter with a 24-7 lead and came away with a 34-17 victory.  And No. 21 Utah put up a heck of a show against No. 19 BYU.  They rallied from 14 down in the fourth quarter, only to fall in overtime, and seal my horrible week of predictions.

We can fly through the rest.  No. 20 USC crushed UCLA and, predictably, threw for a TD in the final minute to run up the score.  Years of this behavior is why I had no problem with Stanford doing what they did against the Trojans.  No. 21 Houston crushed Rice, 73-14.  And Jon and I both got the last two games wrong.  North Carolina State stunned No. 24 North Carolina, 28-27, as the Tarheels remain simply incapable of staying in the top 25.  Finally, in the game where Jon and I both agreed we should have gone with our guts on Mississippi State, which pretty well whipped No. 25 Ole Miss, 41-27.

Written by Austin Swafford

November 30, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Week 12 Predictions: The slow week before the home stretch edition

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I have to be honest…there are not a lot of great matchups this weekend.  In the SEC, Florida and Alabama have already clinched spots in the conference championship game, so they are going to play teams whose brains they’ll beat in (Florida International and Chattanooga, respectively).  In the Big 12, Texas plays Kansas in a game that looked like a good one five weeks ago.  That was before Kansas lost five in a row and Mark Mangino lost his freaking mind.  Only one top-10 team (LSU) plays an opponent with a winning record (Ole Miss), and only one game this weekend pits two ranked opponents against each other (No. 17 Stanford vs. No. 25 California).  It’s that time of year when, but for a few outsiders jostling for positions for bowl games and conference championships they’ll lose, it’s kind of slow.  That said, here are your predictions:

1.  Ole Miss Strengthens Case For Cotton Bowl With Upset of LSU

LSU is currently in position to go to the Cotton Bowl to play the winner of the Big 12 North.  They might still be even if Ole Miss were to beat them, but the Rebels could certainly strengthen their case for the prestigious Cotton Bowl with an upset of LSU.  AccuScore gives Ole Miss a 66% chance of winning this game, and the current spread favors the Rebels by five.  But that’s not why I’m picking them.

LSU has been begging to lose games all season, especially on the road.  They beat Washington by eight, Mississippi State by four, Georgia by seven and then there was that road loss to Alabama in which they only totaled 15 points on 253 yards of offense.  The combined records of the teams that have almost defeated LSU when they were on the road:  13-17.  Not great.

Combine that with the fact that the Rebels are 23rd in the country in rushing offense with 191 yards per game and that LSU is 41st in the country against the run (allowing almost 127 yards per game), and I really like Ole Miss in this one.  The Rebels’ already strong running game has gotten better in the last few games with the resurgence of Dexter McCluster.  In his last three games, he has 591 yards rushing (better than 8.5 yards per carry) and five TDs.  That’s on top of 15 catches for 176 yards and one more TD.  The weather forecast is also calling for a 60% chance of rain, which would favor a running game.  McCluster is going to have a field day against LSU, which will deservedly get bumped from the top 10 (as they should have when they lost to Alabama.

2.  Another Ridiculous Jump for Stanford in the Polls

Last week, Stanford used an upset of USC and numerous other upsets to vault from unranked to No. 17 in the BCS.  USC, by the way, is still ranked to high as computers and humans alike simply refuse to punish them for losing and losing badly.  But I digress.  Expect Stanford to take another big jump in the polls this week as the only ranked team to beat another ranked team, and as human voters attempt to justify putting two teams from the so-called best conference in football into BCS Bowls.

The computers already have Stanford ranked higher than two teams ahead of them in the BCS Rankings (Wisconsin and Penn State).  They’re right on the heels of Oklahoma State, which could actually lose some points for barely scraping by a really bad 3-8 Colorado team.  With just a little nudge from the human voters, Stanford could overtake a number of teams immediately ahead of them – Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Iowa and Oklahoma State – to move as high as No. 12.  Just two weeks after being unranked.  That’s progress.

3.  Almost Upheaval All Over The Big 10

I don’t think that any of the teams up top in the conference will lose, but I think the Big 10 is in for the wildest weekend (again) of any of the conferences.  Up top you have No.10 Ohio State playing at Michigan.  Ohio State is a heavy favorite, and I don’t expect the Wolverines to break their five-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.  Nevertheless, it is a great rivalry game, and we know anything can happen in those games.  Especially when neither team plays much offense (both rank below 55th in total offense and 30th or lower in scoring) and when Ohio State has to go on the road (where they’ve already been upset by Purdue this year).

Next up is No. 13 Iowa against Minnesota.  The Hawkeyes are trying to avoid losing their third straight game since losing QB Ricky Stanzi.  I think Iowa’s defense will be able to handle Minnesota.  But, with a backup QB, you never know.  Iowa’s offense was already just 82nd in the country in scoring, and that was before putting James Vandenberg and his atrocious 94.0 QB rating.

Do I think it likely that Penn State will stumble and blow its chance to go and get whupped in another BCS Bowl?  Definitely not.  Possible?  Most certainly.  The Nittany Lions offense, despite the overall stats, has been shaky and inconsistent this season.  Not that they couldn’t still take advantage of a pretty bad Spartans defense.  But Penn State’s defense will also have to be on its game for Michigan State’s passing attack.  Since they stopped having him share snaps with Keith Nicholls, Kirk Cousins has 10 TDs with just one INT and a QB rating better than 150.

Lastly, No. 16 Wisconsin is flying high with three straight wins since being pasted back-to-back by Ohio State and Iowa.  But the Badgers had better watch out for Northwestern.  The Wildcats already spoiled Iowa’s season and was just 15 minutes away from spoiling Penn State’s.  Mike Kafka is a solid QB who is more than capable of taking advantage of Wisconsin’s defensive weaknesses.  The key for them will be controlling the clock and keeping Scott Tolzien and John Clay off the field.

Again, I don’t think that any of these upsets will happen.  But, they are real possibilities, and I would not be shocked if the Big 10 comes out a complete mess at the end of the weekend.

4.  Three More BCS Teams Clinch Conference Championship Game Berths

Florida and Alabama have already clinched their division titles and a chance to play each other in the SEC Championship, Georgia Tech has clinched the ACC Coastal Division to play the winner of the Atlantic Division, and Ohio State has already clinched the Big 10 and a spot in the Rose Bowl.  We will be able to add three more teams to these lists this weekend.

Texas will officially clinch the Big 12 South with a win over reeling Kansas and punch their tickets for the Big 12 title game (and probably the national championship).

Clemson holds the tie breaker over Boston College, so a win that should be easy against Virginia will win them the ACC Coastal Division and pit them against Georgia Tech in a rematch of the Thursday-night thriller from earlier this season.

Whoever wins the Kansas State at Nebraska game will win the Big 12 North and the long-shot chance to upset Texas.  If Kansas State wins, they finish 5-3 in conference, which is the best record Nebraska could finish with.  Since they would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker, Kansas State wins.  If Nebraska wins, KSU is 4-4 in conference and Nebraska wins outright, as they could do no worse than 5-3.  My money is on Nebraska, as the game is at Nebraska, and the Huskers have looked much better than the Wildcats lately, winning three straight against KSU’s 1-2 in the last three games (with bad losses to Oklahoma and Missouri).

That leaves only the Big East and Pac-10 undecided.  Cincinnati and Pitt are both off this week, so nothing gets decided there.  And, barring an upset of Pitt by West Virginia, the two teams will be undefeated when they meet to decide the conference title on Dec. 5 at Pittsburgh.  Oregon could clinch the Pac-10 with a win over Arizona and a Stanford loss to Cal.  If, on the other hand, Arizona pulls off the upset, the Pac-10 gets launched into tie-breaking madness.  That would open up the possibility of having three teams (Stanford, Arizona and either Oregon or Oregon State) to finish 7-2 in conference play.  Remember last year in the Big 12?  Wanna find out how the Pac-10 breaks those ties? 

But, since I don’t see Stanford or Oregon losing this weekend, I think it won’t be decided until Dec. 3 when Oregon takes on Oregon State.

5.  Three High Profile Coaches Put the Nail in the Coffin of the Current Tenures

Three coaches have seen their names in the news way too much for the wrong reasons than they’d hoped to this year – Mark Mangino of Kansas, Charlie Weis of Notre Dame and Rich Rodriguez of Michigan.  All started the season with such promise.  Kansas started 5-0 and reached as high as No. 16 in the AP Poll.  Notre Dame started 6-2, clawed its way into the rankings and got people talking BCS again.  Michigan started 4-0, including a big win over rival Notre Dame.

It’s been downhill since those first few weeks.

Michigan has lost six of its last seven games since that 4-0 start.  Notre Dame fell out of the rankings again with consecutive losses to Navy and Pitt.  And Kansas has lost five in a row, in addition to Mangino finding himself in a whirlwind of controversy because of his temper.

I’m sorry to say, it won’t get any better this week for any of these coaches.  Notre Dame will lose to UConn (great rushing offense against a bad defense…just look at Navy for the result).  Michigan will get creamed by Ohio State for their sixth straight loss in what was once a great rivalry.  And Kansas will get creamed by Texas.  All three of these coaches will have officially worn out their welcome by the end of this weekend.  Buyouts be darned.  They’re all gone.

Written by Austin Swafford

November 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm

News Of The Day: Another weekend of almost-shakeups; Ga Tech and Clemson poised for BCS; Tebow frustrated and Kiffin warned

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In its rundown of games from the weekend, ESPN.com points out what we all saw watching it – that it was a weekend full of almost-upsets that ultimately ended with no movement among the top-three, only one top-10 team losing and all seven undefeateds remaining undefeated.

The article also points out that the ACC dodged a tie-breaking fiasco (for now) when Miami lost this weekend.  As it stands currently, the ACC Coastal Division now has three teams (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Duke) that have only one conference loss.  The edge currently goes to Georgia Tech, which has a 5-1 conference record with wins already over Virginia Tech and Virginia with only Duke and Wake Forest to play (both of whom stink and should easily lose to the Yellow Jackets).  In the ACC Atlantic Division, Clemson is tied at the top with Boston College (both 3-2) with a half-game lead over 2-2 Wake Forest.  The Tigers already have wins over both teams with games remaining against Florida State, NC State and Virginia.  That means the two teams that are best poised to make BCS Bowls from the ACC are currently Georgia Tech (7-1, ranked No. 11) and Clemson (4-3, unranked).

Have I mentioned lately that I don’t like the ACC and that they should lose their automatic BCS bid?  Because I don’t and they should.

ESPN.com also reported that, although he’ll take ugly wins over losses, Tim Tebow said he’s frustrated with the “interceptions, the sacks and the red-zone struggles.”  Though probably not as frustrated as the rest of us that keep expecting the Gators to lose, only to see them pull out victory after victory, sometimes with the help of the zebras.  Yes, Florida got some again Saturday – the ball was absolutely out before Dustin Doe crossed the goal line.  He was showboating and it should have cost them.  It’s a disaster that the officials blew that call on the replay.

Speaking of the guys in stripes, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin got a warning from the SEC again this weekend for opening his big yapper.  He criticized the refs after Saturday’s loss to No. 2 Alabama for not calling a penalty when Alabama’s Terrence Cody took off his helmet and threw it on the field after Alabama blocked Tennessee’s last-second field goal to escape with the win.  More bad officiating.  The play and the game were not over when he removed his helmet.  Yes – the refs blew that call. Again! Seriously – what is going on with the SEC officiating?

The bad officiating aside, the question is still posed re: Lane Kiffin – after all of his talking, when does the SEC issue something more severe than a warning?  What’s the next step up from there and how many warnings are you allowed before someone actually does something?

Written by Austin Swafford

October 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm