Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:48 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Let's be honest: this week doesn't exactly offer the most exciting slate of games we've seen this season. (For evidence, check out our CBSSports.com Expert Picks and count the number of games with even two of the seven pickers disagreeing from the consensus. Or, we'll just tell you: 2 out of 22.) But that also means this is the sort of week when all hell suddenly breaks loose.
That's where Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst come in, taking this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast to preview Week 12 and try to figure out where those seismic upsets might be. USC at Oregon? Baylor at home to Oklahoma? Mississippi State at Arkansas? Could Boise State suffer a second straight shocker at San Diego State? All those games are broken down and more--Michigan-Nebraska, Ohio State-Penn State, Virginia-Florida State, etc.
To listen, click below, download the mp3, or open the player in a new window by clicking here.
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:42 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Credit Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne for aiming high in his search to replace the fired Mike Stoops. But one of his first swings has reportedly been a miss.
According to a Tuesday report from the New York Times, Byrne and Urban Meyer met in Miami "early last week" to gauge Meyer's potential interest in the Wildcats' head coaching position. The meeting ended with Meyer reportedly "intrigued" by the potential offer.
Apparently that interest didn't last long; Meyer then telephoned Byrne Monday to tell him he "was not going to pursue the job," the Times reported.
The report will only pour fuel on the speculative fire that Meyer is holding out for one of the two high-profile Big Ten jobs assumed to be open at the end of the season, with neither Luke Fickell at Ohio State nor Tom Bradley at under-siege Penn State expected (by most) to return at their respective teams' helms in 2012. Meyer, of course, has spent most of his coaching career in the Midwest and served two years as an assistant at Ohio State itself.
With Meyer out of the picture, Byrne will likely look to one of the other names mentioned as possible Wildcat candidates: the omnipresent Mike Leach, CBS Sports analyst Rich Rodriguez, former Oregon coach Mike Belotti, or current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, whom Byrne hired while serving as AD in Starkville.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:17 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: Those road graders keep the chains moving. Ohio State has made no mystery of its predilection towards keeping the ball on the ground; QB Braxton Miller has more rushes than passing attempts this year, and on the whole, (quick and dirty estimates to follow) OSU has rushed on 72% of its plays. Even that stat belies how much OSU rushes with Miller in the game, though; that number jumps to 79% when Miller's the signal-caller instead of Joe Bauserman. Sure, those rushes come out of a variety of looks, including QB draws/scrambles out of passing sets, so it's not like you can just load up the box with 10 guys and have everyone go to town. But at the end of the day, OSU primarily gets the job done on the ground, while Penn State's rush defense is good but not great. That's the main vulnerability for Penn State in this matchup, and Ohio State needs to exploit it.
THE X-FACTOR: Whether Penn State can maintain its focus amidst ongoing distraction. It's one thing to react to a stressful situation by playing one inspired game. That happens more often than players or games reacting to a profoundly negative off-field event by coming out flat and laying an egg. It's the coming weeks where one might see the cumulative effects of the distraction and the stress of the upheaval that Joe Paterno's dismissal has caused. And yes, interim head coach Tom Bradley is shielding his players from some of that distraction by making them unavailable to the media, and that's certainly his right to do so. But the players still live there in State College and interact with each other and others on a daily basis. There's only so much of a bubble you can put them in, and only so much of the situation they can ignore. How the players maintain their focus and composure will be crucial in these final tough two weeks (and beyond). A division championship hangs in the balance here; let's see if the players have kept sight of that or not.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There's good news and bad news for Florida in their young secondary. The good: the neck injury to freshman corner Marcus Roberson, unlike many of the other injuries suffered across the nation and even in other SEC defensive backfields, isn't serious enough to keep Roberson out past the next month-and-a-half.
But even that doesn't make up for the bad news: Will Muschamp has announced that the injury will require at least four-to-six weeks of rehabilitation and will end Roberson's freshman season, the Gators' likely bowl game included. Roberson has started all 10 games in his first season at Gainesville, making one interception and one pass break-up.
Roberson also made headlines of the wrong kind when his September arrest on underage possession of alcohol charges was made public last month.
On the positive side of things, Muschamp said the injury should not force Roberson to miss any of the Gators' spring practice. Muschamp expects to fill the hole in the lineup with a combination of sophomores Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins. Riggs and Watkins have combined to start 12 games so far this season, so at least Muschamp won't have to rely on players totally devoid of experience.
And here's more good news: with the Gators taking on Furman this week, it won't matter a lick who's available at corrner. But for Muschamp's team to finish the year off on a positive note against Florida State and the Gators' bowl opponent (Ohio State, per Jerry Palm), Riggs and Watkins will have to make sure the step down from Roberson isn't a steep one--if there's one at all.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.
People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.
And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.
The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.
The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.
"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.
Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.
As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.
Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.
Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.
Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.
Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.
When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.
BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.
Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.
Stat of the week
Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.
Stats of the week
- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.
- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.
- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.
- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.
- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.
Tweet of the week
"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."
- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.
2. Oklahoma State
8. Boise State
Where we'll be this week
Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.
Leaning this way
Nebraska at Michigan
This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.
SMU at Houston
A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.
USC at Oregon
Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.
Tags: Aaron Dickens, Acc, Alabama, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brett McMurphy, Brian Murphy, Bryan Fischer, Case Keenum, Chip Kelly, Chris Petersen, Clemson, Coliseum, Conference USA, Connor Halliday, DeAnthony Thomas, Dennis Dodd, Florida, Georgia, Gregg Doyel, Houston, Husky Stadium, Idaho, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Aliotti, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Pete Carroll, Rose Bowl, SEC, Sewanee, SMU, South Carolina, Stanford, Surveying the Field, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State
Posted on: November 13, 2011 5:15 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNERS: Nebraska and Penn State
It's hard to know what to say about the Nebraska-Penn State game. It was obviously important strictly from a football sense, as it might well be the exact same matchup that we'll see for the inaugural Big Ten Championship in December. It proved that Penn State's defense couldn't just plain win every game by itself if the Nittany Lion offense was struggling. It even marked a decent enough debut performance for Tom Bradley as a D-I head coach, even though his team eventually fell short.
It's just that today, nobody believed what happened on that field was the most important thing going on. Not with the headlines bringing terrible news about the victims of Jerry Sandusky on a daily basis (today being no exception, sadly). Not with the scandal costing Joe Paterno his job after an unbelievable 46 years atop the program.
The reminders that this was about more than football came even on gameday, with the constant reminders from announcers, the blue-out engineered by the Penn State fans, and the remarkable scene of both teams meeting each other at midfield for a pregame prayer (shown above). Even when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, Penn State fans exhorted their team to victory by chanting the name of the coach wasn't there anymore -- Joe Paterno.
The chants did not propel Penn State to the comeback win, of course -- chants rarely do -- but they did underscore just how deeply intertwined Paterno is with the program. If a man embodies a football program as completely as Paterno did with PSU, then his bosses inform everybody that he doesn't anymore, how are fans supposed to react? Take some time to answer that. Take a few days. Everyone in Happy Valley's had at least that long, and nobody seems to have a good answer yet. Is there even one to be found?
LOSERS: Michigan State, Purdue, and Northwestern
Michigan State whipped Iowa at Kinnick. Purdue managed a huge overtime win against Ohio State. Northwestern fried Rice (sorry) (not actually sorry). All three wins were immensely consequential as the postseason goes (more on all that later) ... and just about nobody watched, thanks to the Nebraska-Penn State game dominating the common fan's attention. To be sure, that's where most eyes should have been trained, but fans of these three squads have the right to feel a little ignored and annoyed all the same; again, this was a big win for all three teams!
WINNER: Michigan State's division title chances
LOSERS: Iowa and Michigan's division title chances
With this win, Michigan State has effectively dispatched two of the three teams it was competing with for the Legends Division crown. At three losses, Iowa's out of the running; the division's competitive, but it's not that competitive, and Iowa cannot surpass MSU now. Michigan can pass MSU in the standings, technically -- it's just going to take Spartan losses to Indiana and Northwestern in the coming weeks. We're prepared to assume MSU wins at least one of the two.
That just leaves Nebraska as a potential spoiler to the Sparty Party, and aside from one game, the Huskers are playing what's easily their best football of the season. But that one game, the terrible, terrible home loss to Northwestern last week, is likely going to doom Nebraska unless the 'Cats (hey, them again) want to play spoiler one more time. It's not out of the question; Northwestern is typically a beast in November under Pat Fitzgerald. But considering what MSU did to the Iowa secondary this week and what Northwestern's secondary has suffered through, it might be too much to ask the Wildcats to pull one more upset.
WINNER: The Michigan State ground game
Coming into the week, the Spartans were the worst rushing team in the Big Ten. There are plenty of factors going into that: a retooling offensive line, a brand new offensive coordinator and system, and a schedule full of tough defenses, for three examples. But still, no matter how valid the explanations are, at the end of the day you need an effective running game if you're going to keep the ball on the ground 30+ times a game, otherwise those sticks just aren't moving very often.
So it was heartening to see the Spartans rush for 155 yards -- 25 yards above their season average, and 35 yards above their conference average -- in Saturday's 37-21 win at Iowa. Le'Veon Bell in particular was a beast between the tackles, running for 112 yards with one particularly demoralizing 25-yard score late in the first half (shown above at right). No, it's not like MSU put up 250 yards or otherwise let Kirk Cousins take the day off or anything -- it wasn't that big of a day on the ground -- but after three straight games of scarecely topping 100 yards for the day, 155 yards on 39 carries is a message that Sparty's rushing attack might be living up to its potential at the most important part of the season.
LOSER: The Ron Zook Experience
Remember when Ron Zook was proving everybody wrong about Illinois and, by extension, himself? Remember thinking that if you give any coach (Zook included) a dynamic quarterback, a top-level receiver, and a world-crushing defense, you'd get 9-10 wins, and that Zook was over halfway there? Remember? Those sure were nice days.
Then the losses started piling up, and they've shown no signs of abating -- quite the opposite, really. And now one can't help but think that this monumental collapse is going to mean the end for Zook. In all likelihood, Wisconsin's going to push the Illini's losing streak to five games next Saturday, and now even a road trip to Minnesota doesn't seem like a sure thing. No, the Gophers aren't good yet, despite beating Iowa and hanging with MSU. But they're at the least interested in playing well, and that's a sentiment that seems hard to come by in Champaign these days.
WINNER: Bowl eligibility
Two teams we didn't expect to see on the brink of bowl eligibility are Northwestern and Purdue, two teams that struggled mightily in the early conference season but that have logged important upset victories in recent weeks -- Northwestern over Nebraska last week, and now Purdue salvaging a regulation tie with OSU by blocking a last-minute extra point, then finishing the Buckeyes off in overtime.
So assuming that Northwestern can beat Minnesota at home and Purdue can win at Indiana, there'll be an astonishing 10 bowl-eligible teams out of 12 in the B1G. If that's the case, it would be appropriate that the conference is based out of Chicago, because Oprah Winfrey is too, and she says you get bowl eligibility! You get bowl eligibility! Everybody gets bowl eligibility! And if the Big Ten had 10 bowl tie-ins, well, that would automatically make 10 bowls very happy hosts and 10 teams very happy guests, would it not?
LOSER: Well, probably Northwestern or Purdue
Of course, the Big Ten does not have 10 bowl tie-ins, so if the conference has that many bowl-eligible teams this season, someone's going to be left out of the Big Ten bowl lineup. Even assuming two BCS teams come from the Big Ten (a travesty if ever there was one, this year), the most teams the conference can assuredly accommodate is nine. So depending on which bowls take which schools, we're going to be looking at one or two Big Ten teams stuck at six wins and hoping a mid-major bowl has a spot free.
Knowing how bowls make their selections, and thinking about how the standings are likely to shake out by the end of the season, it seems rather clear that Northwestern and Purdue are not only the most likely six-win teams in the conference, they're also the two least desirable potential bowl teams for a committee making its selection. Neither travels particularly well or grabs great ratings, and with Dan Persa still not 100%, both teams are badly lacking a high-profile player that casual fans would make time to watch.
We hope both teams can find their way into bowls, and not just because we're bitter Big Ten partisans to the very end -- it's that it'd be great to see them both make one last push for a bowl victory and a happy ending to the season. Dan Persa has obviously not had the senior campaign he or anybody else wanted, but considering his issues are related to rehab and chronic injuries, it seems like a late December Persa would probably be the best-healed Persa we've seen all season. Considering what he was doing on a football season pre-injury, the closest he can come to that, the pre-injury form, would be nice to see one last time.
Meanwhile, Purdue has scrapped and clawed hard to get to .500 on the season at this point. It was easy to dismiss the Boilermakers after they dropped a game at Rice early on, and the 62-17 whipping Wisconsin handed them seemed to underscore how far away they is from respectability. And yet, Purdue held off a furious rally to beat Illinois back when that still meant something, and a home game against Iowa might be an opportunity for a tone-setting win. Purdue didn't lose to Rice or Penn State by very much -- both games went down to the final possession -- so it's really not far from a 7-3 record right now. If the Boilers can get to a bowl game and come away with a win, it'll be a welcome end to a season that looked bleak at numerous times. How can you not want that?
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Big Ten, Dan Persa, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Kirk Cousins, Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oprah Winfrey, Pat Fitzgerald, Penn State, Purdue, Rice, Ron Zook, Tom Bradley, Week 11, What I Learned, Winners and Losers, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 9, 2011 3:44 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The John L. Toner Award, an annual honor given to athletic directors by the National Football Foundation, will not be awarded this year. The NFF announced in June that Penn State athletic director Tim Curley was going to accept the award; now that Curley is currently awaiting charges of perjury and failure to report child abuse, the NFF's announcement has been taken offline.
Here is the full statement issued by the NFF on Wednesday:
The National Football Foundation Executive Committee and the NFF Awards Committee announced today that the John L. Toner Award will not be presented at this year's NFF Annual Awards Dinner, and it will be vacated in 2011.
Previous winners of the award include Texas' DeLoss Dodds, Ohio State's Gene Smith, and Georgia's Vince Dooley.
Posted on: November 9, 2011 12:01 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: the defense from their first eight games shows up. The Spartans are still ranked second in the nation in total defense, still third in yards allowed per-play at a miserly 4.1 a snap. But whether due to Nebraska-related hangover, random off-week, or start of a legitimate downward trend, the Spartans didn't play much like the nation's second-best last week vs. Minnesota. Facing the FBS's 108th-ranked offense, the Spartans allowed 415 total yards, 24 points, more than 8 yards a pass attempt (to MarQuies Gray!) and -- most damningly -- allowed three different scoring drives of 80 yards or more. If the Spartans who shut down Denard Robinson and made Ohio State utterly toothless and harassed Wisconsin show up, the Hawkeyes likely don't have enough firepower to overcome that. But if the Spartans who let the Gophers have the run of their own home field show up, Marcus Coker and James Vandenberg can do a lot more damage than Gray and Co. did.
IOWA WILL WIN IF: Vandenberg throws for more than eight yards an attempt. To date for the Hawkeyes, it really has been that simple: in the three games where Vandenberg has failed to reach that benchmark, Iowa is 0-3. (That includes the Minnesota shocker where Coker ran for 252 yards, all for naught.) In the six games in which Vandenberg has thrown for eight yards or more a try, Iowa is a perfect 6-0. So what are his chances vs. the Spartans? Not great, you wouldn't think--the Spartans rank sixth in the country with only 5.7 yards allowed per opponent's pass, and rank in the top 10 in pass defense statistics (yards per-game, opposing QB rating, completion percentage, etc.) across the board. But Coker should give Vandenberg some leeway to work with, he'll be at home, and the Spartans are coming off their worst defensive outing of the season. There's plenty of hope.
THE X-FACTOR: Nile Kinnick Stadium. It was just last year the Spartans rolled into Iowa City undefeated and ranked fifth in the nation, and left it sporting a nasty 37-6 shiner on the part of the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately for State, that wasn't exactly a fluke where their long-term performance trend at Kinnick is concerned: they haven't won there since 1989 and have dropped seven straight in that span. That's a lot of hoodoo for this year's Spartans to overcome.