Tag:West Virginia
Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
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Big East Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Charlie Strong

In his first year, Charlie Strong was showered with praise for his ability to pull a veteran group together and give the seniors their first bowl win at Louisville. Expectations were tempered heading into 2011, with the Cardinals having to replace departed veterans up and down the depth chart. With the 34-24 win against South Florida on Friday, Louisville wrapped up their best conference record since Bobby Petrino's final season in 2006. But this success carries with it an extra feeling of accomplishment, bouncing back from early season losses to FIU and Marshall. Strong seemed frustrated at times this season, using phrases like "we just need to teach the game of football" to explain the status of his young team. But the Cardinals improved as the season progressed, and delivered their best performance when it counts in league play. With Strong's momentum and this young roster, it would not be surprising to see Louisville in the mix for the Big East title for the foreseeable future.

LOSER: BCS dreams for Rutgers and Pittsburgh

Rutgers and Pittsburgh fell from contention for a share of the Big East title - and thus a shot at a BCS bowl game - with devastating losses in Week 13. Pittsburgh gave up a 20-7 second half lead on West Virginia and Rutgers turned the ball over six times to help Connecticut run away with a 40-22 win. With the Scarlet Knights and Panthers out of the mix, the Big East title race has narrowed to three contenders: Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.

Louisville has finished their season with a 5-2 conference record, while the Mountaineers and Bearcats each have one game remaining. Here are the possible scenarios and outcomes in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid.

SCENARIO I
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
SCENARIO II
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO III
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO IV
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Three-way tie for Big East title. BCS bid determined by highest ranking in BCS standings.

WINNER: The Rebuilt Cincinnati Offense

Most figured that Zach Collaros' absence from the Cincinnati offense would lead to some struggles, but the Bearcats' Big East title hopes looked dim after the first full game without him resulted in just three points. Backup Munchie Legaux looked out-of-rhythm all afternoon in the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, completing just 12 of 31 passes and picking up only 31 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Earlier this week head coach Butch Jones suggested the possibility of using two quarterbacks against Syracuse, giving more snaps to dual-threat sophomore Jordan Luallen. Luallen ended up being the perfect change of pace for the Bearcats' offense, and finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 77 yards.

The pair made the two-QB rotation work at Cincinnati, finally hitting a rhythm and putting together a five scoring drives in the final 35 minutes of play. But the star of the Bearcats' big conference win was not a new face, but an all-too familiar one for Big East opponents. Senior running back Isaiah Pead picked up 80 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving out of the backfield on the way to 246 all-purpose yard performance to lead the Bearcats. Pead has been a force for Cincinnati, and is just 38 rushing yards away from his second-straight 1,000 yard season. The win has put Cincinnati one win away from claiming a share of the Big East title, and the decisive win should help in the BCS rankings for a potential three-team tiebreaker.

LOSER: Pittsburgh RB Zach Brown

The fact that Pittsburgh has been able to stay in contention for a Big East BCS bid even after losing Ray Graham to a season-ending knee injury is astounding. Graham was the nations second-leading rusher at the time of his injury, averaging over 130 yards per game and contributing over 40% of Pittsburgh's total offense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri and backup running back Zach Brown were able to carry the offensive load in a crucial road win at Louisville last week, and appeared to have the Panthers set up for another in Morgantown. Pitt led 17-7 when Brown was injured on a long run in the final moments of the first half. For the remainder of the game, third-stringer Isaac Bennett carried the running back responsibilities almost exclusively. Bennett did finish with 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but there was a noticeable drop off in pass protection as Sunseri was sacked 10 times - including four times on the final drive. The entire offense struggled throughout the second half, only producing a Kevin Harper field goal in the early third quarter, and Brown's injury was the most noticeable change. Regardless of the fault, the Panthers are out of the Big East title hunt and now need a win over Syracuse to be bowl eligible.

WINNER: Connecticut's bowl hopes

Needing to win out against Rutgers and Cincinnati seemed like a daunting task for an inconsistent Connecticut team to become bowl eligible, but that campaign received new life in a 40-22 beatdown of the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The Huskies got it done with big plays from their defense, special teams, and a bruising rushing attack led by freshman Lyle McCombs. Quarterbacks Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings were given fantastic field position all day, benefiting from six Rutgers turnovers and a couple of big returns by Nick Williams. Once they got the ball close to the goal line, it was up to McCombs and McCummings to McGet the job done. The duo combined for all four of the Huskies' offensive touchdowns, giving the Huskies a 30-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. It's been a rough first season for head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but a .500 record and a bowl berth would be a great finish considering the 2-4 start in East Hartford.

LOSER: Backyard Brawl as a Big East tradition

With Pittsburgh and West Virginia both on the move out of the Big East, Friday's edition of the Backyard Brawl was possibly the last meeting of rivals as conference foes. As of Saturday Pittsburgh is still planning on an arrival in the ACC in 2014, while Oliver Luck and West Virginia have taken the legal route to try and join the Big 12 by next season. The Big East chapter of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry has been memorable, with the game serving as annual late-season highlight of the conference schedule since the Mountaineers joined in 1995. Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by one score or less, with the 21-20 West Virginia win being the closest contest since a 31-31 tie in 1989. The rivalry outdates the Big East, so I would guess the two schools will figure a way to keep it going. But Big East football fans have a less certain future when it comes to enjoying this showdown of bitter rivals as part of the conference schedule.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 10:28 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Big East Race Update: Louisville in driver's seat

Posted by Chip Patterson

Heading into Week 13 Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were all in contention for a share of the Big East title and a possible BCS bowl bid. With Friday's action in the books, we reset the title race looking at the rest of the schedule.

Louisville (7-5, 5-2 conference)
Week 13 result: 34-24 win at South Florida. Claim share of Big East title
Week 14 opponent: None
Needs for BCS bid: A Cincinnati loss to Connecticut in Week 14.
Outlook: The Cardinals are the one team in the race who have done everything on their end. The Cardinals could have clinched the BCS bid with a Cincinnati loss to Syracuse, but now they become huge UConn fans for next Saturday.  Louisville owns the head-to-head against West Virginia, but would lose in a head-to-head or three-way tie involving Cincinnati.

Rutgers (8-4, 4-3 conference)
Week 13 opponent: 40-22 loss at Connecticut
Week 14 opponent: None
Needs for BCS bid: Out of the race.
Outlook: Friday's Louisville win cemented 5-2 as the mark needed to be in BCS contention.  With the loss, the Scarlet Knights will prepare for another bowl invitation.

Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2 conference)
Week 13 opponent: 30-13 win at Syracuse 
Week 14 opponent: vs Connecticut, Dec. 3 12:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: Win at home against Connecticut, West Virignia loss to South Florida on Thursday.
Outlook: The Bearcats had the most work left to do, and things looked bleak without Zach Collaros.  But Munchie Legaux and Jordan Luallen worked a two-quarterback rotation into a nice offensive rhythm in the second half.  The Bearcats will also be paying attention to the BCS standings in case of a three-way tie at 5-2.

West Virginia (8-3, 4-2 conference)
Week 13 result: 21-20 win vs West Virginia
Week 14 opponent: at South Florida, Thursday 8:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: The Mountaineers would lose a tiebreaker with Louisville, so the best case scenario involves a three-way tie with Louisville and Cincinnati.  The hope for Mountaineers' fans being a higher BCS ranking thanks to a tougher schedule.
Outlook: Cincinnati looking sharp in the second half is promising for West Virignia, who is hoping for a three-way tie.  The Mountaineers should get some help from the computers thanks to a tougher non-conference schedule, but they still need to beat a tough USF squad in Tampa. 

Pittsburgh (5-6, 3-3 conference)
Week 13 Result: 21-20 loss at West Virginia
Week 14 opponent: vs Syracuse, 12:00 p.m. ET
Needs for BCS bid: Out of the race.
Outlook: With the 21-20 loss to West Virginia on Friday night, the Panthers were eliminated from the Big East title race.  



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Posted on: November 22, 2011 2:25 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Arkansas at LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: the Hog defensive line plays the game of its collective life. As noted here in the run-up to LSU-Alabama, the Tigers' big plays come almost exclusively in the passing game; even with Spencer Ware and Michael Ford around, LSU ranks among the nation's lowest producers of long runs even as they rank among its most consistent in grinding out 4, 5, or 6 yards a carry. Without that steady diet of chain-moving runs, though, what happens? Against Alabama, what happened was that Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle blanketed, the LSU passing game got neither big plays nor small ones, and the Bayou Bengal offense as a whole (even in victory) limped to its worst offensive showing of the year.

Obviously, the Hog defense isn't going to be able to do the things Alabama's did, and there's a danger it could get run over completely; already, the Razorbacks have given up 197 rushing yards to Alabama, 381 to Texas A&M, 291 to Auburn, 222 to Vanderbilt. But in players like ends Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright and tackles D.D. Jones and Byran Jones, the Hogs have the potential to play much better than those numbers would suggest. If they can occasionally slow down Ware and Ford and force the LSU passing game to methodically move down the field rather than pop the big one to Randle on second- or third-and-short, their offense will have a chance at outscoring an LSU unit that -- for all its many strengths -- isn't as consistently explosive.


LSU WILL WIN IF:
their secondary comes to play. Let's be honest: Dennis Johnson has given the Razorback running game a real spark over the past several weeks, and the potential return of Knile Davis might spark them further still. But against the nation's No. 4 run defense, the Hogs simply aren't going to win the game on the ground. Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Co. are going to have to get theirs. And they've got some hope--against the only other truly dedicated pass-first offense they've faced this year, LSU gave up 463 yards, 7.1 an attempt, and two touchdowns to West Virginia.

But since then, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Ron Brooks, Brandon Taylor (and the rest) have been on lockdown, allowing zero touchdown passes over their last seven games while collecting seven interceptions. Nationally, only Alabama boasts a lower opposing QB rating. If the LSU defensive backs do anything similar to Wilson like they'd done to everyone else this season that wasn't West Virginia, the Hogs won't stand a chance.

THE X-FACTOR: Adams has long since proven his ability to change a game with his punt returns, but Brad Wing and the elite LSU punt coverage unit mean he may not get much of a chance. The bigger issue: if the Hogs can avoid the backbreaking turnover. Wilson has been largely careful with the ball but may face heavy pressure and has had a brainfart or two here or there; see his gift-wrapped pick-six vs. South Carolina. And Johnson has already given up a handful of critical fumbles this season. If the Hogs hand an LSU team that thrives on field position those kinds of early Christmas presents, forget winning--they'll be lucky to keep the game competitive.  
Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:38 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (9-2, 7-1 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (11-0, 7-0)
2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
2. Arkansas (10-1, 6-1)

LSU needs: Win over Arkansas on Friday, win against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and it's on to the BCS title game for the Bayou Bengals.
Alabama needs: Win against Auburn on Saturday, an LSU loss to Arkansas. The three-way tiebreaker in the SEC is decided by BCS standings, which the Tide would likely own after an LSU loss.
Arkansas needs: To beat LSU and for Auburn to upset Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks would have the opportunity to move up in the BCS standings with the losses and likely earn the bid to the BCS title game.
Georgia needs: Defeat SEC West Champion in Atlanta to cause mass chaos.

Pick: LSU over Georgia

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2)

Oklahoma State needs: A win over Oklahoma in the Bedlam game on Dec. 3. However, the Cowboys could clinch the conference title with an Oklahoma loss to Iowa State this weekend.
Oklahoma needs: Win out against Iowa State and Oklahoma State to claim share of Big 12 Championship and earn BCS bowl bid.

Pick: Oklahoma State

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (10-1, 8-1 conference)
2. Oregon (9-2, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. UCLA (6-5, 5-3)
2. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4)
2. Utah (7-4, 4-4)

Stanford needs: An Oregon loss on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 North and a bid to the conference championship game.
Oregon needs: A win over Oregon State to move into a tie for the Pac-12 North, earning a championship game bid thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

UCLA needs: A win over USC clinches the Pac-12 South. A loss would result in the Bruins needing Colorado to beat Utah to avoid being jumped by the Utes.
Arizona State needs: A win against Cal and USC to beat UCLA. Even if Utah beats Colorado, the Sun Devils own the three-team tiebreaker.
Utah needs: A win over Colorado, Cal to beat Arizona State on Friday, and USC to beat UCLA on Saturday.

Pick: Oregon over Arizona State

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (9-2, 6-1)
2. Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)

Penn State needs: A win over Wisconsin on Saturday
Wisconsin needs: A win over Penn State on Saturday

Pick: Wisconsin over Michigan State

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-2, 6-2 conference) - CLINCHED 

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1)
2. Virginia (8-3, 5-2)

Virginia Tech needs: A win over Virginia on Saturday
Virginia needs: A win over Virginia Tech on Saturday

Pick: Virginia Tech over Clemson

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Louisville (6-5, 4-2 conference)
1. Rutgers (8-3, 4-2)
3. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2)
3. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
3. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)

Week 13 Key Games: Louisville at South Florida (Friday), Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Friday), Rutgers at Connecticut, Cincinnati at Syracuse
Week 14 Key Games: West Virginia at South Florida (Thursday), Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Connecticut at Cincinnati

Louisville needs: Win at South Florida, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh
Rutgers needs: Win at Connecticut, at least one loss for Louisville and West Virginia
Cincinnati needs: Wins against Syracuse and Connecticut, at least one loss for Rutgers and West Virginia
West Virginia needs: Wins against Pittsburgh and South Florida, South Florida defeating Louisville
Pittsburgh needs: Wins against West Virginia and Syracuse, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Rutgers

Pick: Louisville

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2 conference)
2. Marshall (5-6, 4-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (11-0, 7-0)
1. Tulsa (8-3, 7-0)

Southern Miss needs: A win over Memphis OR a Marshall loss to ECU clinches the East
Marshall needs: A win over ECU and a Southern Miss loss to Memphis.

Houston needs: A win over Tulsa on Friday
Tulsa needs: A win over Houston on Friday

Pick: Houston over Southern Miss

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (9-2, 6-0 conference)
2. Boise State (9-1, 4-1)
2. Wyoming (7-3, 4-1)

TCU needs: Having clinched a share of the title, the Horned Frogs can win outright with a victory over UNLV Dec. 3.
Boise State needs: Wins over Wyoming and New Mexico, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.
Wyoming needs: Wins over Boise State and Colorado State, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.

Pick: TCU

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-1 conference)
2. Nevada (6-4, 4-1)

Louisiana Tech needs: A win against New Mexico State earns a share of the WAC title, one Nevada loss will make them outright champions. Louisiana Tech earned the head-to-head advantage with a 24-20 win over Nevada.
Nevada needs: Wins against Utah State and Idaho earn the Wolf Pack a share of the WAC title. Nevada needs to win out and a Louisiana Tech loss to be outright champions.

Pick: Louisiana Tech

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (8-3, 5-2 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1)
1. Toledo (7-4, 6-1)

Northern Illinois needs: A win over Eastern Michigan on Friday clinches the West Division thanks to the head-to-head advantage over Toledo.
Toledo needs: A victory over Ball State on Friday and a Northern Illinois loss to win the division and earn a spot in the conference championship game.

Pick: Northern Illinois over Ohio

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl + New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (9-2, 7-0 conference) - CLINCHED

BOWL-BOUND: Arkansas State accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. after their 45-19 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. After the announcement, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl offered an invitation to Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be the first time in the bowl's 11-year history a team from Louisiana will be participating.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

ORV/23. West Virginia

West Virginia had Week 12 off, but things still went the Mountaineers' way over the weekend. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, it ensures the opportunity for a 2-loss Big East team to earn a share of the title. The next challenge for West Virginia will be winning out and getting one Louisville loss to avoid missing a BCS bowl game based on a tiebreaker. Unfortunately none of the Big East tiebreakers involve rankings, much less in the Coaches' Poll, so this love from the voters does little for their big picture goals.

Others receiving votesRutgers finds themselves right on the edge of the rankings once again after knocking Cincinnati from the top spot in the conference standings. Seems as though the national voters are not as thrilled with the excitement down the stretch in the Big East.

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Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:00 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 1:13 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Jawan Jamison

It may have been Senior Day at High Point Solutions Stadium, but the star of Rutgers' 20-3 win over Cincinnati was freshman running back Jawan Jamison. Jamison ran 34 times for 200 yards (both career highs) and scored both of the Scarlet Knights' touchdowns as Rutgers moved into a tie for first place in the Big East. A 5-2 conference record will earn at least a share of the Big East title this season, and now the Scarlet Knights are one win away from their best conference finish since joining the Big East in 1991. Head coach Greg Schiano made it a point to stress a physical approach to both sides of the ball following last year's 4-8 finish, and the Scarlet Knights dominated Cincinnati thanks to Jamison's relentless running and a gritty performance on defense. Cincinnati dual-threat quarterback Munchie Legaux was held to 31 yards on 12 carries and star running back Isaiah Pead accumulated only 28 yards in 14 attempts. If Rutgers can beat Connecticut on the road, they'll have physical rushing and a physical rush defense to thank for their first share of a Big East conference title.

LOSER: Munchie Legaux

It was a rough day for the talented backup quarterback, getting his first start of the season in place of injured starter Zach Collaros. Legaux has the physical talents to be a real threat for the Bearcats in the future, but this season's offense just doesn't run the same way without Collaros at the helm. As the last undefeated team in conference play, Cincinnati entered November with a target on their back. Legaux looked flustered and frustrated for a majority of the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights shut down the Bearcats' ground attack and forced the sophomore to become a drop back passer. Legaux completed just 12 of his 31 passing attempts, and was held to just 31 yards rushing as Cincinnati failed to reach the end zone for the first time all season. Seeing the offense struggle without their senior quarterback has to sting Bearcats' fans, but Legaux needs a quick revival if Cincinnati is going to stay in contention for the Big East title. Syracuse and Connecticut are both winnable games, but they'll need to win both and get some help to earn a BCS bowl game bid.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

Not only has the Strong led the Cardinals from a disappointing 2-4 start to bowl eligibility for the second straight year, but he's accomplished the feat with two very different teams. Last season's squad was made up mostly of upperclassmen, and anchored by a a bruising rushing attack in the hands of senior Bilal Powell. After some shuffling in the first half of the season, the Cardinals are now led by an efficient Teddy Bridgewater-led attack. The defense has tightened up to Strong's taste, and now Louisville has an inside track towards a share of the Big East title. A win at USF next friday guarantees at least a tie for the conference championship, and key wins over Rutgers and West Virginia give them great odds to win a tie-breaker scenario. After troubling losses to FIU and Marshall early in the season, Strong has done a great job to rally a young team that has gotten better as the season progressed.

LOSER: BJ Daniels

Neither team was able to generate much of an offensive performance in Miami's 6-3 win over USF on Saturday, but the Bulls offense became nonexistent when starting quarterback BJ Daniels left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Head coach Skip Holtz has spoken extensively this season about Daniels' improvement as a quarterback, and he has been the most consistent performer in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Bulls. USF had no information on the extent of Daniels' injury, but the drop off when backup quarterback Bobby Eveld took over was significant. With Eveld under center, the offense generated just 75 yards on 17 plays and converted none of their five third down attempts down the stretch. Despite the disappointing performance in conference play, USF is still one win away from bowl eligibility. Daniels' health is an immediate concern with a short turnaround before hosting Louisville on Friday in Raymond James Stadium. With Louisville and West Virginia both competing for a BCS bowl bid, the Bulls can expect their best shot in the final two games of the season. In order for South Florida to answer with their best, they'll need Daniels out on the field.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even in an off week, the Mountaineers were winners in Week 12 thanks to the latest shake-ups in the conference title race. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, five teams are in title contention with just 2 conference losses. The Mountaineers and Bearcats will fight with Rutgers, Louisville, and Pittsburgh over the final two weeks of the season for the conference's most sought-after prize: a BCS bowl bid. Earning a share of top spot won't be enough to satisfy a team hungry for college football's grand stage, and now the focus turns to the Big East tiebreaker rules. In 3- or 4-team ties, the tiebreaker is decided the record against the other teams involved in the tie. Currently, only one of West Virginia's two conference losses is to a team still in title contention: Louisville. The other two-loss teams have fallen to each other, giving the Mountaineers a slight advantage heading into the season's final weeks.

LOSER: Phillip Thomas

Syracuse was off in Week 12, but the Orange suffered a huge loss with the suspension of star safety Phillip Thomas. Doug Marrone's defense has struggled as of late, and currently ranks last in the Big East giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Thomas has been one of the few bright spots in the lineup, leading the team in tackles and interceptions. But Phillip Thomas' suspension will not just last the rest of the 2011 season, as the school announced a one-year length on the safety's punishment for violation of an Athletic Department policy. No official explanation has been offered by the school or Thomas, though it would not be surprising to see the junior declare for the NFL draft after receiving this mysterious one-year punishment.


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Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:23 am
 

Big 12 Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

WINNER: The SEC

Were you one of the people who were dreading the idea of a rematch between LSU and Alabama for the BCS title? Well, blame the Big 12 because I don't think you've got any other choice right now. Thanks to Iowa State and Baylor knocking off Oklahoma State and Oklahoma this weekend, two of the biggest threats to SEC dominance have been knocked out of the running. Oddly enough, even though Oklahoma State lost on Friday night, it actually had a chance to still be in the running given all the other losses in the top ten this week, but then Oklahoma had to go lose to Baylor.

Now if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma in Bedlam, it won't mean as much with the Sooners already suffering two losses.

WINNER: Paul Rhoads

The man is becoming an expert at upsetting high-powered offenses en route to the BCS title game. He did it as Pitt's defensive coordinator against West Virginia in 2007, and now he's done it to Oklahoma State in Ames. I'm not sure if Iowa State is ever going to be a contender for a Big 12 title under Rhoads, but there's no denying that he has this program headed in the right direction. The Cyclones will have to work hard to keep him in Ames, too, because it won't be long before other schools come calling.

LOSER: Brandon Weeden's Heisman campaign

There are much worse things that happened to Oklahoma State this weekend, and I'm not just talking about football. Still, as far as losses on the field are concerned, Brandon Weeden lost quite a bit on Friday night. He can kiss his shot at the Heisman Trophy goodbye. He'd been building up steam every week, but after throwing 3 interceptions in Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State, he'll be falling off a lot of ballots.

WINNER: Robert Griffin's Heisman campaign

Griffin's Heisman candidacy had taken a hit in recent weeks thanks to some subpar performances against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but the whole country was able to see Griffin's game-winning drive against Oklahoma on Saturday night. In a season in which the Heisman may be more up for grabs than ever before, that was one of those drives that will be stuck in the memory of many a voter when it comes time to turn in the ballots.

LOSER: Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops had set himself up for some second-guessing in Waco on Saturday night. After Oklahoma scored in the final minute to cut the lead to 38-37 Stoops was ready to go for two and the win. Unfortunately a false start forced Oklahoma to have to kick the extra point, which may have saved Stoops because had Oklahoma gone for two and not gotten it, well, there'd have been a whole lot of 20/20 hindsight in Norman. Still, despite the second chance, Stoops had to go and make himself the goat anyway by calling a timeout when Baylor was content to head to overtime.

Then Baylor went down the field in a few plays before scoring the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left.

WINNER: Terrence Williams

There may not have been a more perfect target for Robert Griffin on that game-winning touchdown. Earlier in the contest Griffin found Williams for what would have been a sure touchdown, only Williams dropped the pass. Imagine how terrible Williams might have felt if Oklahoma had gone on to win in overtime? If he'd made that catch earlier, the overtime would have never happened. Instead he was able to redeem himself by catching the game-winner, which is a pretty great way to forget about your earlier mistake if you ask me.

LOSER: The Texas offense

In its last two games, after running roughshod over opponents in the previous two weeks, Texas has managed just 18 points and 481 yards of total offense with only 1 touchdown. To put that in perspective, Texas rushed for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns against Texas Tech three weeks ago. Making matters worse, the Longhorns seemed to be ready to roll with David Ash as their quarterback, but his performance the last few weeks could mean Case McCoy is starting against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. In other words, letting Garrett Gilbert transfer may not have been the best idea.

WINNER: James Franklin

Poor, James Franklin. He had a monster game on Saturday but it's going to be overshadowed by Robert Griffin's performance and the losses of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Still, i'm going to give him his due here. Franklin finished his day with 324 total yards and 4 touchdowns, leading Missouri on a fourth quarter comeback and scoring the game-winning touchdown with 2:22 left. I'd say Gary Pinkel owes Franklin a beer, but Franklin's not old enough to drink and Pinkel's in enough trouble as it is.

LOSER: Kansas

I don't even know what to say to you anymore, Jayhawks. Every time I think things can't get any worse you go and have a game like the one you did on Saturday. The Jayhawks got destroyed by Texas A&M on Saturday, losing 61-7. If Turner Gill wasn't already on his way to a pink slip, I think it's safe to say he'll be getting one now.

WINNER: Kansas State's BCS hopes

It's a longshot considering that Kansas State can't win the Big 12 this season, but the Wildcats chances of landing an at-large berth in a BCS game increased a bit on Saturday. If Kansas State can go on to beat Iowa State next week -- and we can't just assume they will anymore, can we? -- and Oklahoma State knocks off Oklahoma in Bedlam, then the Wildcats will finish second in the Big 12 this season and likely in the top 12 of the BCS. Sure, the Wildcats need a few other things to happen before that from other schools around the country, but their prospects improved all the same.  
 
 
 
 
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