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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 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

UTEP Saved My Weekend

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It was the weekend of almosts.  Georgia almost upset LSU in a snoozer that was 6-0 going into the fourth quarter.  Duke almost upset Virginia TechOklahoma almost buried Miami’s hype for good in a game that, truthfully, was over on the second play of the third quarter.  Arkansas State almost completed a stunning comeback against Iowa in a game that showed, once again, why Big 10 teams that are not named Ohio State need to stop being ranked in the top 15.  Michigan almost completed an even more stunning comeback against Michigan State in a game that was exciting for about five minutes.  Washington almost held off Notre Dame in one of the most boring high-octane offense games I’ve ever watched as the teams settled for eight field goals.

With stories like these, even with all of the comebacks, near comebacks and thrilling finishes, it was all just devoid of any excitement.

With story lines like these, it was almost a good weekend of football.  Almost.

And then, miraculously, at the end…there was UTEP.  Who’d have guessed it?  The same UTEP that was 1-3.  The same UTEP that got outscored 98-14 by Kansas and Texas.  That same UTEP Miners team went out and played a shocking gem of against No. 12 Houston and, in their 58-41 scorefest, ended any chance the Cougars had of crashing the BCS party.

This is why they play the game.

We have come to expect big things from Houston’s offense, but the Miners certainly surprised tonight.  The teams combined for 99 points on 1,245 yards of total offense.  And, in a game with 106 passes, there was not a single interception.

Houston did it in the air, of course.  Heisman hopeful Case Keenum threw a couple of games’ worth of passes, going 51-of-76 for 536 yards and five TDs.

UTEP did it on the ground, racking up 305 rushing yards.  They were led by Donald Buckram (remember him?), who carried 32 times for 262 yards and four TDs.  That’s 8.6 yards per carry.  Trevor Vittatoe also had his best game of the year.  The guy who came into the game with one TD and five INTs on the season, who posted a 10.44 QB rating against Texas (I swear, none of those are typos) somehow went 19-of-30 for 276 yards, two TDs and a 162.61 rating.  The yards, TDs and rating are season highs.

It makes you wonder about Houston’s defense, and how Oklahoma State and Texas Tech couldn’t muster more offense than they did.  In that regard (along with Oklahoma’s choke job against Miami), it was a very bad weekend for the Big 12.

But, the game was a great seesaw battle in the first half, and then UTEP ran away with it in the second with 41 points.  A whole game’s worth of points in one half.  And not even like a really bad North Carolina vs. Virginia game.  A really good game’s worth of points in one half.  Just what I needed to save my weekend from some otherwise abysmal football.

Written by Austin Swafford

October 4, 2009 at 3:04 am

Week 3 Polls

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Back at it again and this time I have headache after headache of wondering why voters insist on grading teams on how good they have been in the past.  It seems that people can be wowed by one good game or in some cases two good games against teams that were over rated themselves.

First off Florida (1) is coming off of a win, I won’t say it was solid or it was a nail biter.  It was just a win plain and simple.  They had all kinds of trouble with the Tennessee Volunteers who I am convinced will win this same matchup this time next year.  One reason I wouldn’t have called it a nailbiter is because even though Tennessee was making stops on defense it didn’t seem like it mattered because Tebow was able to move the ball little by little while on the other side of the ball the Vols were miserable on offense.   Also I would like to add that I think the Vols will win easily once they get their offense running on all cylinders. Florida was number 1 last week.  Texas (2) remains undefeated with a win at home against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.  This win was great because it means that people can say that UT got the revenge it wanted against Tech.  Personally I think the win was enough, but I do not feel we subjected them to anything terrible.  McCoy played terrible and if it wasn’t for Nate Newton’s  son (Tre Newton) having a great game and the Longhorn rush defense playing stellar. We might have had a chance to lose because Taylor Potts had a pretty good game on the road even though he did get leveled courtesy of Sergio Kindle.  Texas was number 2 last week.  Alabama (3)  had a convincing win over North Texas to keep them perfect on the season.  I think this time around I will not bag on Bama as much as I usually do because they seem to be handling their no name opponents pretty easily.  We will see if they stumble down the line, because if they do then we all know that I will be on them in a second since they are in the ever hated by me SEC.  Alabama was number 4 last week.  Ole Miss (4) moved up one from last week to distinguish itself from Penn State, both of which were dead locked last week at 5.  Ole Miss moved up last week with a win over Southeastern Louisiana, although I think that isnt a win worth moving anywhere for.  I have to give props to Houston Nutt and Jevan Sneed thus far.  They have a lot of pressure to live up to being number 4 in the nation and with Bama, LSU and Tennessee still to come they have more than media pressure to fight against to keep that ranking or to get higher.  Ole Miss was number 5 last week.  Joe Pa and his Nittany Lions (5) stayed put this week on the polls even though they had a normal day at work against Temple beating them by pretty much their season victory margin average this year.  One thing that is going to be interesting for the games to come is that there are still 5 undefeated teams in the Big 10 with PSU being one of them.  The Lions will end up facing off against 3 of they others and 2 of those at home.  Penn State was number 5 last week.

California (6) is the big winner in my book this week even though they didn’t move the most in the polls.  The Golden Bears went on the road and beat down Minnesota.  If you watched that game then you got to see magic happen before your very own eyes.  Jahvid Best had a stellar day, even though it was his least productive all around performance of the season he did pull in 5 rushing TD’s on 26 attempts for 131 yards moving him up to 3rd in the nation for total rushing yards and making a serious claim to be a Heisman hopeful.  California was number 8 last week. LSU (7) is the most undeserving of the teams in the top 10 to be here.  I know I said I wouldn’t bag on the SEC and I wont.  I will just bag on LSU, they have 3 wins against unranked opponents and got close to losing one of them.  LSU will get theirs when the season moves along.  They go on the road to play Georgia, Bama and Ole Miss, and Play Florida at home.  If they manage to make it through that stretch 2-2 then I will gain some respect for them.  LSU was number 9 last week.  Boise State (8) seems to be the front runner for the BCS buster squad this year,  after BYU and Utah both ruined their chances.  They basically outlasted Fresno State with a 51-34 win on the road.  I attribute Fresno State’s loss to not getting their act together till later in the game and to never getting the long ball for Boise State under control.  Boise State should, however, feel a little vulnerable because Fresno State did put up 507 yards of offense against that supposed stout Bronco defense.  But a win is a win and BSU seems to have happy trails for the rest of the season in their matchups.  We will see if TCU or Houston don’t spoil their fun.  Boise State was number 10 last week.  Miami (9) is in the top 10 for the first time this year, if they continue playing the way they have then they might have a real chance at the national championship game with a couple ranked opponents under their belt so far they face their biggest test in Oklahoma next week.  If they beat them then I will not say another foul word towards them and the ACC might actually be looking like they are reborn yet again.  Miami was number 20 last week.  Oklahoma (10) has been steadily clawing its way back into the national championship race just like they do every year when they lose early.  I am still willing to bet that it will be derailed on Oct. 17th when they meet up with Texas.  The upcoming game against Miami should prove to be exciting either way.  Oklahoma was number 12 last week.

Virginia Tech (11) was rightfully only moved up 2 spots on the polls because pollsters must have watched the same game I did, that showed that last second heroics by Tyrod Taylor (a great QB btw) were not enough to mask the fact that Nebraska had the victory taken from their very own hands.  If Va Tech would have made it a little bit more of a convincing win then they probably would have gotten more love but hey I am just speaking from experience from the past.  Virginia Tech was number 13 last week.  USC (12) oh how the mighty have fallen, I wanted to not believe that you would lose to Washington this early in the season but alas you had to keep up with your tradition of playing horribly to an opponent which you obviously looked past.  Pete Carroll I hope that you have enough time to come back and try not to let Cal be another pitfall because they are much better than Washington on offense.  USC was number 3 last week.  Ohio State (13) and Terrelle Pryor must have kicked the pollsters dog or something because they cant catch a break.  A week after getting beat by a last minute drive at home against USC they totally go to town on Toledo. Granted Toledo has one of the nations worst pass defenses but OSU did shut them out and score 38 points on them.  I guess they should have scored 78 to make it look like they were on par with other great teams that would have played them.  Tough luck and lets hope next week is better for the buckeyes. Ohio State was number 11 last week.  Cincinnati (14) beat Oregon State at their home 28-18, not much to say about this win but it does strengthen the Bearcats argument to be where they are on the polls or even higher.  They are a high powered offense that has yet to meet its match we will see if they have bitten off more than they can chew when they come up against Fresno State who is for sure looking for blood after their loss at home last week.  Cincinnati was number 17 last week.  TCU (15) moved no where this week after beating down measly Texas State.  No one really cared if TCU won, sad to say but its true.  They atleast got a win while their conference mates were sent packing by other foes.  TCU was number 15 last week.

The final 10 I am not going to get too in-depth about them I will just list the order and mention highlights afterwards.

16. Oklahoma State (prev. 16)

17. Houston (prev. 21)

18. Florida State (prev. unranked)

19. BYU (prev. 7)

20. Kansas (prev. 22)

21. Georgia (prev. 23)

22. North Carolina (prev. 24)

23. Michigan (prev. 25)

24. Washington (prev. 24)

25. Nebraska (prev. 25)

Game to watch for this week will be rising star Houston against their biggest test in Texas Tech, if they can beat them then I would be willing to say that they are the front runner for being a BCS buster on the flip side if Tech wins it will give those pollsters an excuse to put the Red Raiders back into the Top 25.  Florida State is back on the Top 25 after making fools of the BYU Cougars at their home.  I feel really bad for Max Hall everytime he has a game like this and I hope the Cougars can bounce back to still make the race for the MWC title a interesting one.  I am happy that Nebraska didn’t fall out of the Top 25 because honestly they shouldn’t they are about 33 seconds away from being ranked 15 in the nation and I am glad they have another chance to show just how good they can be.  Washington is number 24 in the nation, I really dont know what to think about that.  Yes I have been telling people that Washington is under rated but now that they are ranked I dont know what to do with myself.  I guess we will see how they do from here.

Georgia Tech and Utah both fell out of the Top 25 this week.  Tough break Utes.

Time for the conference breakdown!

Teams in Top 25

Big 12  –  5

SEC  –  5

ACC  –  4

Big 10  –  3

Pac 10  –  3

MWC  –  2

Big East  –  1

Conference USA  –  1

WAC  –  1

Written by Jon Castano

September 22, 2009 at 10:28 pm