Tag:Notre Dame
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

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Related links
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Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 11:24 pm
 

The Big 12 may not be done expanding

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The wheel of conference realignment never stops spinning, it only hits bumps in the road and crushes conferences beneath it occasionally.

When the Big 12 announed last week that West Virginia would be joining the conference as Missouri's replacement -- should Missouri leave, which is expected but just hasn't happened yet -- interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said that the conference was done expanding for now. He also said that the Big 12 was fine with 10 schools.

Well for now may not have lasted very long. According to Berry Tramel in The Oklahoman, the team that lost out to West Virginia to become the newest member of the Big 12 may still be in the running. Tramel says that the Big 12 may invite Louisville to join the conference soon and expand the league to 11 teams, much like the Big 10 did for years before adding Nebraska this season.

Tramel also says that the Big 12 might consider playing a 10-game round robin conference schedule if it expands to 11 schools in hopes of increasing television money by having more premiere games.

Of course, I'm of the opinion that if Louisville did eventually work its way to the Big 12, the conference wouldn't stop at 11, and would look to add another school. Much like the Big 12 would consider a 10-game conference schedule to increase revenue, it'd probably start thinking about the revenue it could get by rekindling the Big 12 title game as well.

Who that next team would be, I'm not sure. BYU could still come into play, even though the Big 12 seemed to pass on the Cougars already. In his report Tramel mentioned both Notre Dame and Cincinnati as possibilities, but I see no circumstance in which Notre Dame joins the Big 12 in football. Cincinnati might work because its current conference is in the process of falling apart, and it would provide the Big 12 with a nice market in Ohio, which could have some recruiting benefits as well.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 9:36 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 9



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. There were some shakeups at the top with the losses of Clemson and Kansas State, and Stanford also leapt in front of Boise State following its win over USC.  

You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.

1. LSU: The Tigers hold steady at the top of the BCS standings after their first off-week of the season. SEC partisans hoping for a rematch between the combatants in this week's Game to End All Games will be rooting for Alabama; thanks to LSU's top-notch nonconference schedule giving them a computer boost, their pre-loaded positioning at the No. 1 team in the country and -- most importantly -- that they're forced to play the Crimson Tide on the road, they loom as much more likely to leap back into the BCS top two following a loss Saturday than their Tuscaloosa counterparts. - Jerry Hinnen

2. Alabama: No change this week for the Crimson Tide, either, as they stay in the No. 2 spot following a bye of their own. But we doubt the Tide minds all that much. For one thing, they know they don't have to worry about ascending to the top spot if they come out victorious this week; Oklahoma State already has the best computer rankings in the formula and still isn't within real striking distance of the top two. They have no chance of leapfrogging the LSU-Alabama winner as long as that team stays perfect. For another, the No. 2 slot has some nice precedent for Alabama--that's where they stayed in the BCS standings throughout the 2009 season, too, behind Florida ... until smashing the Gators personally and going on to win the national title. Is their a repeat in the cards for 2011? - JH

3. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State currently sits in the best position amongst anybody to climb into the top two next week. With Alabama and LSU playing on Saturday, somebody is going to move into that second spot, and the Cowboys will be that team if they beat Kansas State. If Oklahoma State can get through its final four games without a setback, then it's the favorite to be playing for a national title. Of course, getting through those games is a lot easier said than done. - Tom Fornelli

4. Stanford: The Cardinal got their toughest test of the season on Saturday night, but they were able to knock off USC and remain unbeaten. Aside from Oregon, I don't see much of a threat for Stanford remaining in the Pac-12. Maybe, and I mean maaaaybe, Notre Dame can get to them, but if Stanford gets by Oregon I don't see a loss on the schedule. Stanford is a very real threat to get to New Orleans. - TF

5. Boise State: Good news for Boise State: Clemson took a loss and is out of the way! Not good news: Stanford has passed the Broncos after a 3-OT win over USC on Saturday, so Boise's still stuck at 5. Still, of the top five teams, the Broncos have the lowest probability of sustaining a loss from here on out in the regular season, so it's likely that Boise's not finished rising up the standings -- even if going undefeated may, once again, not be enough to satisfy the BCS. - Adam Jacobi

6. Oklahoma: It's not the same as being in the top three, but Oklahoma climbs back up to six following a big win over Kansas State. The Sooners are still very much a darkhorse to play for the BCS title this January as a one-loss team, with games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State still on the schedule. They also don't have a conference championship to get through, so if the Sooners can win out, they're going to climb even further. - TF

7. Arkansas: You might expect the third-best team in the SEC to be entirely deserving of the No. 7 spot in the FBS. But the Hogs haven't come close to playing the part the past two weeks, struggling at hapless Ole Miss and getting straight-up outplayed on the road at Vanderbilt last Saturday. Thanks to Tyler Wilson the Razorbacks have the offensive horses to play with anyone, and their season-ending visit to LSU still has the potential to turn the entire college football season on its head. But after yielding 462 yards (and 6.6 per play) to the previously low-fi Commodore offense, it's hard to see the Hog defense getting nearly enough stops to challenge the Tigers. - JH

8. Oregon: Oregon's hanging tough at No. 8, and that's fine, but it's going to take multiple quantum leaps for the Ducks to get into the national championship conversation. Step 1 is obviously a win over Stanford in two weeks, but even if they pull that off, it's going to take a LOT of help for Oregon to get any higher than fourth or fifth. The secondary's going to get tested over the next few weeks with games against Keith Price, Matt Barkley, and of course Andrew Luck. No pressure, Ducks. - AJ

9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks benefit from the losses of both Kansas State and Clemson this week by climbing into the top ten of the BCS, but is this really a team we can expect to be here much longer? Take away a 54-3 blowout of Kentucky, and this is an offense that's been struggling to score points for over a month now, and Marcus Lattimore is out for the season. Add in a road game against Arkansas this weekend and Clemson at the end of the season, and I don't like South Carolina's odds. - TF

10. Nebraska: A few weeks ago, it didn't seem like Nebraska was ever going to be the top team in the Big Ten this season; the Huskers were sorely lacking in big wins, while Wisconsin and Michigan looked like the class of each division. How quickly circumstances change, however, and now the Big Ten's only representation in the Top 12 of automatic bids is Big Red. The real fun for Nebraska begins on November 12, when the Huskers travel to Penn State and follow that up with a road date at Michigan. Two wins, and Nebraska's got a case for being a Top 5 team. Another loss, and it's back to chaos in the Big Ten. - AJ
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview


Posted on: October 29, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Brian Kelly apologizes to his players

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It's been a rough week for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly. Following Notre Dame's loss to USC last weekend, amidst a barrage of USC players saying that the Irish quit, Kelly promised that this week would not be fun for his players. The Irish held long practices all week, but on Thursday Kelly made some comments that bothered his players more than the extra work.

"You can see the players that I recruited here," Kelly said on Thursday after practice. "You know who they are. We've had one class … that I've had my hand on. The other guys here are coming along. But it's a process. It can't happen overnight. They're getting there. We're making good progress." 

As you'd expect, the players on the Notre Dame roster who Kelly didn't recruit didn't exactly enjoy hearing these comments, and even took to Twitter to vent. All of the tweets have since been deleted, but players like Trevor Robinson, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Manti Te'o tweeted about Kelly's remarks.

Te'o tweeted "playin for my bros and that's it!!!"

Well, on Friday players reportedly addressed Kelly about his comments in an effort to clear the air, and Kelly apologized to his players for the remarks.

Whether there are still some tension between the players and their coach remains to be seen, but the best way to heal any divide in the locker room would probably be a win against Navy on Saturday afternoon.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:01 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 11:12 am
 

PODCAST: Brett McMurphy joins Adam Aizer

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Brett McMurphy joins Adam Aizer in the newest episode of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast and has the latest on expansion and more.

West Virginia or Louisville in the Big 12? What is the Big East's next move? They answer your emails at podcast@cbsinteractive.com and talk Heisman and BCS computers. The duo also looks ahead to Clemson-Georgia Tech - which Brett will be attending this weekend - and talks about Brian Kelly's attempt to spice up Notre Dame Stadium. 

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:01 pm
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Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 9



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

I learned a few things about myself last weekend. First of all, I learned that passing my girlfriend in the standings of our year-long picks competition brought me more satisfaction than I ever thought possible. In fact, probably a lot more than it should. I mean, should I be so thrilled with myself at being able to pick college football games -- a sport I cover for a living -- better than my girlfriend who kinda-sorta pays attention alongside me on Saturday afternoons?

Probably not.

The other thing I learned is that the girlfriend is taking this competition very seriously. There wasn't much joy in Womanville on Saturday as she kept seeing the teams she picked fail, knowing that I was overtaking her in the standings. I've been sleeping with one eye open all week.

Nebraska (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This is not the easiest game to pick, as I'm never sure what to expect from Nebraska in any given week, and this is still the same Michigan State team that lost to Notre Dame. That being said, sometimes things happen for a reason, so I'm going to ride the momentum of Michigan State's win last week. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "After watching the Spartans rewrite the ending of '300' against both Michigan and Wisconsin, I just can't go against them, especially if I'm getting points. (Given my recent track record, congratulations, Nebraska!)" Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine has no concept of religion, therefore no Hail Marys can save Sparta this weekend. Nebraska wins 27-17. Pick: Nebraska

Texas A&M (-11 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 12pm

Man - While I admire the way James Franklin stood up after last week's turnover-laden performance to take the blame for Missouri's woes, I'm not putting any faith in Franklin or the Tigers offense until they give me a real reason to. Oh, and SEC! SEC! SEC! Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "Hey, Mizzou, as you prepare to make your high-drama Big 12 exit, thinking you might want to come up with something better than falling on your butt and having your skirt fly up over your head." Pick: Texas A&M 

Machine - Texas A&M left first, and therefore it has the upper hand. Aggies roll 34-21. Pick: Texas A&M

Rutgers vs. West Virginia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last weekend I thought West Virginia was the only thing you could count on in the Big East. Now? Good luck. While I don't want to underestimate the impact of Eric LeGrand's appearance before the game starts, I can't help but feel it will wear off by halftime and West Virginia will get rolling. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "When picking a Big East game, I have learned that the best strategy is a coin, a hard surface and a stiff shot of whiskey. West Virginia should win but with paralyzed player Eric LeGrand miraculously leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field, I'll call "tails" and hope it stays close." Pick: Rutgers

Machine - The Machine knows nothing of human emotions or the lifts they can provide. West Virginia stomps all over Rutgers, winning 44-13. Pick: West Virginia

Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (-13 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I have this nagging feeling that Oklahoma's loss last weekend may have woken a sleeping giant, and that the Sooners are going to take it out on Kansas State this weekend. I just can't shake it. Still, sometimes you have to go with your heart, and since Kansas State is one of my favorite stories so far this season, I'm not giving up on it. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I know the Sooners are looking for someone to beat up on after that shameful loss to Texas Tech last week.  But giving thirteen and a half points to a 7-0 team playing at home, the same team who beat the team that beat Oklahoma? Ooooooo-kay." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, it was fun while it lasted, Wildcats. Oklahoma wins 47-17. Pick: Oklahoma

Oklahoma State (-15 1/2) vs. Baylor - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Quite simply, there is no game this weekend I'm looking forward to more than this one. The over/under on this game was set at 79.5 and my original reaction was "That's WAY too low." I don't know who wins, but I know there's going to be a lot of points and very little defense. So I have to take the points. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Not much else to say here." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine -  The Machine seems to agree with me about the lack of defense and the overabundance of real good times in this one. This is Pitbull's Dr. Pepper Lock Of The Week. Oklahoma State 51-45. Pick: Baylor

Florida vs. Georgia (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I'm way too confident in Georgia to win this game, and that worries me a bit, but I'm still going with the Bulldogs. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Uncertain who will prevail but I will bet that the average blood alcohol content of the tailgaters will be the reverse equivalent of that spread." Pick: Georgia 

Machine - Everybody in the club getting tipsy, especially the offenses. Georgia wins 16-10. Pick: Georgia

Tennessee vs. South Carolina (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7:15pm

Man - I have no idea what to expect from a South Carolina offense that is now without both Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore. Throw in the fact that this game is in Knoxville and things get even more confusing. That being said, Tennessee is starting a quarterback this week who wasn't even supposed to play this season, so I'm going with Steve Spurrier. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "All four of Tennessee's losses have been against SEC teams, which is to say, good teams.  The Vols will go down fighting. In a bad wig." Pick: South Carolina 

Machine - The Machine recognizes Marcus Lattimore as one of its own, but The Machine also knows that it was built to be replaced. South Carolina wins 23-17. Pick: South Carolina

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Georgia Tech's been in a bit of a freefall the last few weeks, and while I think that the Jackets will be able to move the ball with relative ease against the Clemson defense, I can't help but feel like the Tigers just have too many weapons on offense. Tech won't be able to keep up. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "For the first six weeks, the Yellow Jackets were stinging everything in their path. Then came two dismal away games and lots of questions. Yeah, they're up against 8-0 Clemson but they're also at home, and with a rivalry where 14 of the last 16 games have been decided by an average of 4.6 points, well..." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Down goes Dabo! Down goes Dabo! Georgia Tech wins 31-27. Pick: Georgia Tech

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - The Ohio State of late October is much better than the one we saw to begin the season thanks to the return of some key suspended players. That being said, the offense still isn't anything wonderful, and though I expect that Russell Wilson and the Badgers will have some trouble on Saturday night, I still feel they'll pull off the win. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Both teams have their seasons on the line and the loser can kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye. But until last week's stunning loss, the Badgers won each of their games this season by at least 31 points. They won't get close to that number but will beat the spread and keep this magic year going." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Ohio State will manage to cover, but The Machine doesn't think you should expect a lot of excitement in this one as Wisconsin escapes Columbus with a 13-10 win. Pick: Ohio State

USC vs. Stanford (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, I have no problem taking Stanford against anybody when the Cardinal are giving up 20 points in the spread. You think I'm not going to jump on a spread this small? Sorry, USC, but just because Stanford hasn't played a great team yet this season doesn't mean they're playing one this weekend, either. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Hey, look, it's the One Percent Bowl! Stanford is LSU plus 300 more SAT points and a tan.  Pick against them at your own peril." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Hope you enjoyed that win in South Bend, Trojans, because the good times end on Saturday night. Stanford wins 31-14. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 51-34 (6-4)
2. Woman 50-35 (3-7)
3. Machine 44-41 (6-4)
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com