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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

Orange Bowl paves way for historic BCS season

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Iowa’s dominating win over Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl last night paves way for an interesting historic note that I’m stunned nobody is talking about.  But, before I get into that, big kudos to the Big 10 for breaking their stigma as BCS chokers in a big way.  Ohio State and Iowa both put up dominant defensive performances en route to breaking the Big 10’s six-game BCS losing streak and locked up the conference’s first bowl-season winning record since 2002.  That was a great game last night.  Much better than I expected and, for my money, the best BCS game so far this season.

But one thing that nobody is talking about is that this season is well positioned to be the first time ever that every underdog in BCS games have won.  No. 8 Ohio State started it by knocking off No. 7 Oregon.  That same night, No. 5 Florida crushed No. 3 Cincinnati.  Then, No. 6 Boise State topped No. 4 TCU.  Last night, No. 10 Iowa took down No. 9 Georgia Tech.  No. 2 Texas has a chance to complete the sweep and make history tomorrow night in the BCS National Championship against No. 1 Alabama.

Previously, the best performances by underdogs were the ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 seasons when the underdogs won three of the five BCS bowls.  Underdogs have never before come this close to sweeping the BCS.  In two previous seasons (’00-’01 and ’04-’05) the favorites swept the BCS.

I wonder why this little historical note seems to have escaped everyone’s attention.  Is it perhaps because people are caring less and less about these matchups as they buck for a tournament?

Could it be that people forgot that some of these teams were underdogs?  It’s pretty easy to forget that Florida fell from No. 1 to No. 5 after losing to Alabama and that, despite expectations, they weren’t technically the favorite in the game.  And with the huge layoff the Big 10 has before BCS season, it can be easy to forget where Iowa and Ohio State were ranked, let alone that they were even playing in BCS bowls.

It might be that the teams are more evenly matched than perhaps any previous season.  This is only the second time that every team in a BCS bowl has been in the top 10.  In fact, in five previous seasons, there has been one team outside the top 15 in the BCS, three of which have been teams outside the top 20.  This is also the first time that every matchup has been between two teams that are separated by no more than 2 spots in the polls.  One could say that this is the best demonstration of how the BCS should work that we have ever seen.

So, maybe it is the fact that nobody was facing a “real” upset.  After all, how much of an upset can you call it when No. 8 tops No. 7?  Nevertheless, Texas does have a chance to make history tomorrow night, and nobody seems to be noticing.

Written by Austin Swafford

January 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm

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:


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 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

Week 10 Predictions Recap: The Nobody Told Me It Was Opposite Day Edition

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Yep, predictions got a little ugly this week starting with my first one…

1.  No Upsets Of Ranked Teams

This could not have been more wrong.  There were six upsets of ranked teams, four of which were by unranked teams, and two of which were top-10 teams (Oregon and Iowa).  There was also a slew of near-upsets.  Which is why I’m glad I had my safety valve in my second prediction…

2.  But Don’t Get Too Comfortable…10 Ranked Teams Are On Upset Alert

(1)  No. 9 LSU played No. 3 Alabama tough, but Mark Ingram and replay officials were able to help the Tide overcome another horrible outing by Greg McElroy for a 24-15 victory.  Their second win over a top-10 opponent helped Alabama jump back into the No. 2 spot in the latest BCS rankings.  Their first was over Virginia Tech.  Remember when they were in the top-10?  Seems like ages ago.  Fortunately for LSU, the loss didn’t hurt them much as they actually moved up one spot in the BCS.  But that’s a whole other rant for later.  Look for my post tomorrow.

(2)  No. 4 Iowa finally had the loss that most of us have been waiting for them to have for weeks now as they fell to Northwestern, 17-10.  The Hawkeyes took a serious blow when Ricky Stanzi had to leave the game with a high ankle sprain after being tackled in the end zone.  Northwestern rolled to the win against backup QB James Vandenberg, who does not look good.  The bigger issue moving forward is the game at Ohio State this week.  Stanzi will still be out, and the Hawkeyes are very abruptly moving from national championship talk to possibly missing out on a BCS Bowl entirely.

(3)  The team it increasingly appeared the Hawkeyes would meet at the Rose Bowl, No. 8 Oregon, also suffered a serious blow Saturday, losing a 51-42 shootout to unranked Stanford.  The Ducks defense failed them, allowing Stanford RB Toby Gerhart to burn them for 223 yards on 32 carries.  It’s just another in a long line of bad losses Oregon has had that messed up their seasons and put another strike against the Bill Plaschkes of the world that argue the Pac-10 is better than the SEC.  But, with a 5-1 conference record and a win over USC, Oregon is still in the driver’s seat on the bus bound for the Rose Bowl.  And even though they have the same record against a better schedule, USC is now ranked ahead of Oregon, putting them in great position to get to another BCS Bowl, just like the BCS wants.

(4)  It took them going into overtime, but No. 10 Georgia Tech pulled out the 30-27 win over Wake Forest.  Just as in all of their losses, the Demon Deacons struggled against the run, allowing the Yellow Jackets to go for 412 yards on the ground.  They took the win with only 51 passing yards.  The victory, with the other upsets this weekend, jumped Georgia Tech into the No. 7 spot in the new BCS rankings and allows ACC fans to continue thinking their conference is good.

(5)  Despite pointing out that the numbers make No. 11 Penn State’s offense look much better than it really is on account of the weak schedule they’ve played, I thought that they would be able to take the home game against a Buckeyes team that has one of the weaker offenses in the country.  The first part was right; the second part was not.  Ohio State won 24-7, and that doesn’t even tell how badly Penn State was dominated.  They were held to 201 yards of total offense, including 2.5 yards per carry and a 12-for-28 passing performance for Daryll Clark, who threw one INT with no TDs.  Don’t look now, but with the game next week against a Stanzi-less Iowa, Ohio State is now in control for a Rose Bowl berth, even with two losses (one of which was a beatdown by Purdue).

(6)  But for a couple of miracle plays, Tulsa would have pulled off the win against No. 15 Houston, who the BCS computers just hate.  More on that rant also tomorrow.  Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne sure did hit his stride again on Saturday, accounting for five TDs on 334 passing yards and 100 rushing yards.  Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough to overcome Case Keenum, who threw 40-for-60 for 522 yards and led his team to two field goals in the final 30 seconds to keep his team’s BCS hopes alive and escape with the 46-45 win.

(7)  I said that the game between No. 20 Cal and Oregon State would come down to who held the ball longest.  Well, Oregon State had it for just over 36 minutes and Cal had it for just under 24, and Oregon State rolled to the 31-14 victory.  It wasn’t the rushing exhibition I expected, as the Beavers ran for 94 yards and the Bears were bottled up (again) for 39.  Though that could be in part because of the horrific injury that Jahvid Best suffered mid-way through the second quarter.  He leaped into the endzone and got upended, falling hard on his back and getting knocked unconscious.  He had to be carted off, and could miss the rest of the season with a serious concussion.

(8)  A 17-7 second quarter lead had me thinking No. 21 Wisconsin would have an easy win over Indiana, but as we keep seeing from the Big 10, no lead is safe.  Indiana outscored Wisconsin 14-7 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t do anything in the final four minutes of the game, coming up just short in the 31-28 loss.  The Hoosiers put up 386 yards of offense on the Badgers, who are still playing some of the worst defense mixed with some of the best offense in the Big 10.

(9)  I said that Navy would have to keep Jimmy Clausen off the field to win.  Guess who had 32:19 of possession and who had 27:41.  And guess who won 23-21.  If you guessed Navy for both of those, you’d be right.  They pulled off back-to-back wins at Notre Dame Stadium after losing 43 straight games against them from 1964 to 2006.  It’s the first time an unranked Navy team has beaten a ranked Notre Dame team since before WWII – 1936.  And Charlie Weis suddenly finds himself on the hot seat once again, in the very same week that discussions about Notre Dame making a BCS bowl were resurrected.  Ouch.

(10)  I was trying to figure out a circumstance in which No. 24 Oklahoma could lose to a reeling Huskers team.  I didn’t think about the possibility that Landry Jones could throw five interceptions, allowing his team to lose 10-3 despite outgaining Nebraska by 145 yards.  Oklahoma’s defense held Nebraska to 180 total yards of offense and still lost.  Roy Helu had a heck of a game, rushing 20 times to single-handedly account for 138 of his team’s 180 yards.  He also caught three passes for 15 yards, meaning that every single other player on the team contributed 27 yards.

BONUS: Teams that also should have been on upset alert but weren’t include No. 7 Boise State, which scraped by Louisiana Tech 45-35 and keeps seeing its BCS hopes dwindle despite not losing; No. 5 Cincinnati, which almost blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead to UConn, but held on for the 47-45 victory; No. 12 USC, which managed just 258 yards against Arizona St., but forced four turnovers to win an ugly one, 14-9.

3.  Bad Weekend For Big 12 North

I thought the Big 12 North was in to get buried, but it was actually the South that took most of the hits this weekend.  Kansas State stays in control of the North division with a 17-10 win over rival Kansas.  Nebraska kept pace, however, as they upset Oklahoma in a thoroughly embarrassing loss for the South.  Not that it was any more embarrassing than Texas A&M losing to Big 12 bottom-dweller Colorado.  Gone are the days of the wrecking ball defense as the Buffs and their anemic offense put up 35 points on 437 yards.  A&M blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead to fall to 5-4 on the season.

Want one even more embarrassing than that?  We’ve got it in the only real break for the Big 12 North with Baylor topping Missouri, 40-32.  Replacement QB Nick Florence passed for a school record 427 yards to snap Baylor’s 13-game conference road losing streak and beat Missouri for the first time in eight tries since the Big 12 was formed.  Missouri had a 27-16 halftime lead, but as has been the story all year, they folded up and quit playing in the second half, managing only a safety and a field goal to get outscored 25-5 and lose even desperate hopes of winning the Big 12 North.

Even Texas, which crushed Central Florida 35-3, had a net loss on the weekend as they fell back to No. 3 in the BCS rankings.

So, in a weekend when I said the North would be lucky to get out with more than one win (and only conceding that because of two North teams playing each other), the North actually came out 3-3 while the South suffered two embarrassing losses to go 3-2.

4.  Watch Ohio St. at Penn St. For Great Defense…And to See Why Neither of These Teams Should be in BCS Bowls

This was half right.  One of the teams played great defense, and one team conclusively showed why it shouldn’t have even been part of the BCS discussion.  Penn State, which had been averaging 406 yards and 28 points per game was held to 201 yards and seven points by the Buckeyes.  Ohio State, which had struggled on offense, scored 24 points on 353 yards.

While Ohio State’s defense showed itself to be BCS caliber against an offense that has now been dominated by the only two good defenses it’s played, I’m still skeptical about its offense.  The Buckeyes had a nice game, but you have to wonder about expectations when your QB is described as “shining” in a game where he goes 8-of-17 for 125 yards and picks up an additional 50 yards rushing.  175 yards of total offense is a shining performance?  And despite the defense’s domination, Ohio State was only up 10-7 until the waning minutes of the third quarter.  I really think that whoever goes to a BCS Bowl for the Big 10 (and it does look like it will be Ohio State) is once again in for a rough time in January.

Written by Austin Swafford

November 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Week 10 Predictions: The no-limbs-gone-out-on Edition

with 9 comments

1.  No Upsets Of Ranked Teams

The best thing (and possibly the only good thing) about not working for ESPN is that I don’t have to promote games for my network.  So, I don’t have to convince you that there are likely upsets where the lay person would accurately think there aren’t any.  It’s not to say there aren’t any good games this weekend; it’s just to say that I don’t have to pretend the matchups are better than they are.

In 22 games this week with ranked teams, only 10 are games where the ranked opponent is playing a team with a winning record.  Of those 10, only two are matchups between two ranked teams (No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 9 LSU and No. 11 Penn St. vs. No. 16 Ohio St.)  Excluding those two games, both of which have the higher-ranked team playing at home, only nine games this weekend have ranked teams going on the road.  Of those nine games, only two are against teams that that even have winning records (No. 8 Oregon at Stanford, which is 5-3, and No. 24 Oklahoma at Nebraska, which is also 5-3).  Six games pit a ranked opponent against a team that is 3-5 or worse, including one against a winless team.

Considering the great mismatches here, I don’t expect a single upset this weekend.

2.  But Don’t Get Too Comfortable…10 Ranked Teams Are On Upset Alert

Don’t take that previous prediction to mean there isn’t some very compelling football this weekend.  I don’t anticipate any upsets, but there are nine ranked teams that really need to come in ready to play, because they can easily find themselves in the middle of an embarrassing upset.

(1) The one that stands out the most is No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 9 LSU.  The Tigers are looking for revenge for last year’s loss, which broke a six-game winning streak over the Crimson Tide.  And it’s almost always a hot contest.  Each of the last four games have been decided by 14 points or less.  LSU comes in on a roll, having blown out Auburn and Tulane since suffering its first loss of the season to Florida.  And, although Alabama is coming in undefeated, they’re in a slide after South Carolina and Tennessee made its offense look quite pedestrian in back-to-back games.

Alabama’s offensive woes have been in large part because of junior QB Greg McElroy, whose rating in the last three games have been 80.44, 68.64 and 96.83.  Fortunately for the Tide, Mark Ingram has stepped up, rushing for 100+ yards in three of his last four games (came just short against Tennessee with 99).  Ingram will need to keep that going to win against an LSU defense that has shown some good flashes this year, but has mostly been uncharacteristically inconsistent.

(2) Next up on upset watch is No. 4 Iowa.  Am I counting on a win when Northwestern just choked against Penn State?  Not by any means.  But Iowa has been playing like a team that could lose at any time, and that really means they could lose at any time.  Even against a 5-4 team that is missing its starting QB.  Ricky Stazni has 14 TDs and 13 INTs this season and has thrown multiple interceptions in four of his nine games.  That problem will come home to roost at some point.

(3) No. 8 Oregon should crush Stanford.  Just like they should have crushed lots of teams they’ve lost to in recent years.  Oregon has a healthy history of seeing their seasons crumble after losing games you’d think they would win.  In 2007, they were in great position to win the Pac-10 with an 8-1 record and a win over USC, only to lose three straight games to Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State.  In 2006, they were 5-1 when they lost to Washington State.  They won two to move back to a respectable 7-2 record, only to lose three straight again, to USC, Arizona and Oregon State.  In 2004, they opened their season with a loss to Indiana.  In 2003, after a 4-0 start, they lost three straight to Washington State, Utah and Arizona State.  Is it likely that will happen this year?  No.  But the Ducks had better be on guard, because Stanford QB Andrew Luck and RB Toby Gerhart are capable of putting up stunning performances at any time.

(4) No. 10 Georgia Tech has won three of its games by five points or less.  Wake Forest has lost four of its games by three points or less.  These are teams that are one or two plays per game from having completely different seasons.  Any time that happens it’s an interesting matchup.  The worst news for Wake Forest is that three of its five losses are to teams that rely heavily on the run (Baylor, Clemson and Navy) and their only blowout loss of the season was to a Clemson team that plays a very similar style to Georgia Tech.

(5) No. 11 Penn St. is another Big 10 team, like Iowa, that has looked like it could lose on any given week.  They certainly looked that way against Illinois and Northwestern for most of the games.  They play solid defense and not much offense, which is an interesting matchup against an Ohio State team that fits the same description.  I don’t like OSU much away from home and I don’t like anyone much at Happy Valley, but this is definitely one that could go the other way, especially if OSU keeps things tight.  According to, Penn State is 11-12 in close games (7 points or less) since 2001, while Ohio State is 14-5.

(6) There are some teams that just seem like they’re due for a win.  Tulsa is that team as they go against No. 15 Houston this weekend.  They have lost three in a row, two of which were by one possession.  G.J. Kinne, who showed so much promise at the beginning of the year, has struggled of late.  But he might be able to find himself against a Houston defense that’s allowing over 28 points per game.  Can he keep pace with Case Keenum‘s relentless aerial attack?  We’ll see.

(7) No. 20 California is averaging 195. 9 yards rushing per game.  Oregon State is averaging 136.5 yards rushing per game.  This could very easily come down to who holds the ball longest.

(8) No. 21 Wisconsin has six wins, four of which have been by one possession (one of which was in overtime).  One of their two blowout wins was against Wofford.  Their two losses are a blowout at Ohio State and a ten-point loss at home to Iowa in which they were pretty well dominated, being held scoreless in the second half on just 230 yards of total offense.  Seem like an unstable team to you?  It’s a recurring theme in the Big 10.  They go on the road against Indiana, which has a chance to finish off the upset they couldn’t complete last week against Iowa.

(9) Okay, word is out.  Jimmy Clausen is No. 22 Notre Dame’s best weapon.  And the best way to contain that weapon is to keep him off the field.  If anyone can do that, it’s Navy, which is averaging better than 33 minutes of possession per game.  The Midshipmen have been held to under 30 minutes of possession only twice this year, and twice have held the ball for more than 40 minutes of the game.  Notre Dame’s defense had better be able to control Navy’s rushing game so they can get the ball back to their not-so-secret weapon.

(10) Not that it’s a monumental upset for a 5-3 team that has been ranked before this season to upset the No. 24 team, but Oklahoma had better be at its best this weekend at Nebraska.  Lincoln is never an easy place to play, even when the Huskers aren’t that good.

3.  Bad Weekend For Big 12 North

It’s already been a rough season for the Big 12 North.  Nebraska and Kansas have not been able to live up to expectations, Missouri has been on a slide since starting the season 4-0, and the current leader in the division (Kansas State) isn’t even bowl eligible yet with a 5-4 overall record and a 3-2 record in conference.  And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’ll get any better for them this weekend.

Kansas has a chance to make up some ground on Kansas State in a rivalry game that is the only guaranteed win for the Big 12 North this week.  No matter the outcome, however, the good news is still probably on K-State’s side, as Kansas (1-3 in conference) still has to go play at Texas in two weeks.  Sadly, this game that pits two Big 12 North teams against each other is the best chance the North has to prevent a winless weekend.

Colorado hosts Texas A&M.  The Buffs have two wins this season against Kansas and Wyoming.  Other than that, they’ve been pretty well crushed in every game.  You really can’t like how a team that’s allowing almost 30 points per game will fare against a team that’s averaging almost 36 points per game and is captained by a QB with 20 TDs against just 3 INTs this season.

I put Oklahoma on upset alert against Nebraska on the principle of the Huskers stepping up for a big game.  But, honestly, I don’t anticipate the Sooners having any trouble with a team that got crushed at home by Texas Tech and then followed by losing again at home to Iowa State.  That’s humiliating.

You might be surprised to find out Iowa State is 5-4.  You might almost be inclined to put Oklahoma State on upset alert, until you realize that three of ISU’s non-conference games were against North Dakota State, Kent State and Army.  Throw out those three ridiculous games and the Cyclones are 2-4 with beatdowns being handed to them by Iowa and Texas A&M.  I don’t think the Cowboys, who are looking for blood after Texas humiliated them last weekend, will have a challenge in this one.

That leaves the Big 12 North with its best chance to beat the South in the hands of Missouri.  Even though Missouri is on a 1-3 slide, you have to like them against Baylor.  Combine the fact that Missouri’s three losses came against Nebraska on a crazy comeback, Oklahoma State and Texas, with the fact that Baylor is 1-4 since losing starting QB Robert Griffin, and it’s impossible not to like the Tigers in this one.  What is an important victory for Missouri (who can move to 2-3 in conference with three games remaining against North opponents) stands as a mere consolation victory for the North as a whole, which stands to go 2-4 this week.

4.  Watch Ohio St. at Penn St. For Great Defense…And to See Why Neither of These Teams Should be in BCS Bowls

Both of these Big 10 powers play stifling defense.  The Nittany Lions are holding opponents to 9.3 points per game.  The Buckeyes are holding them to 11.7 points per game.  One of my favorite box scores of the year was the one for Ohio St. vs. Wisconsin, because the Buckeyes crushed them, 31-13, with only 184 yards of offense, thanks to two pick-sixes and a kickoff returned 96 yards for a TD.  Which brings me to my next point.

These defenses will look even better because they’re going against pretty bad offenses.  According to, Ohio State is 63rd in the country in total offense and 94th in passing offense.  Penn State is 24th in total offense, but they have done that against the 80th-toughest schedule in the country.  They haven’t exactly been playing stout defenses, and the one time they did (against Iowa), they were held to 10 points on 307 total yards of offense.  Not horrible, but over 100 yards below their season average.

I strongly believe that after you watch these teams, strong defense aside, you will be forced to the conclusion that talking about either of them for a BCS Bowl is an embarrassment to an already embarrassed BCS system.

Written by Austin Swafford

November 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm