Tag:Oregon
Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:56 am
 

Big 12 Poll Reactions, Week 11

Posted by Tom Fornelli

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big 12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

2/2. Oklahoma State

Nothing changes for Oklahoma State this week as it stays at #2 in both polls. There isn't much to complain about with this ranking, though I suppose if you want to nitpick, you can mention that LSU got every single first place vote in the country. Are we really that sure that LSU is better than Oklahoma State at this point? I'm not saying LSU shouldn't be first in the rankings, as if I had a ballot they'd be first in mine, but I'm somewhat surprised that there isn't someone out there who would rank the Cowboys ahead of the Tigers. My only point is that I don't think the gap between what LSU has done this season and what Oklahoma State has done is as great as the polls seem to be making it.

5/5. Oklahoma

The Sooners receive a nice bump despite having the week off. Oklahoma moved up from 7th to 5th in both polls thanks to losses by both Boise State and Stanford. Nothing to complain about with this spot for the Sooners, though it does open some questions. Now that we have so many one-loss teams crossing their fingers and hoping they can sneak into the title game, will the Sooners jump both Oregon and Alabama in the traditional polls if it beats Oklahoma State to end the season? Both schools are ahead of the Sooners right now, which could be a roadblock for the Sooners in these polls and the BCS.

16/17. Kansas State

Kansas State didn't get much of a bump in the AP poll as it climbed only one spot to 16th, but it looks like the coaches finally noticed how this team has played since its loss against Oklahoma. The Wildcats move up from 22nd to 17th in the Coaches Poll following an exciting win over Texas A&M. I don't have any complaints about Kansas State's spot in either poll, but I do feel like if teams were ranked based on the exciting nature of their games, then Kansas State would be a lot higher. Every game this team plays seems to come down to the final quarter.

25/UR. Baylor

This is a ranking that confuses me, though not as much as Baylor being ranked 22nd in the BCS. Listen, I understand that Baylor has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season, as have a lot of teams in the Big 12. But I also understand that in every game against strong competition -- Kansas State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State -- Baylor has lost. In those two losses against A&M and Oklahoma State it has lost by an average of 31 points. It's strongest win is the opener against TCU, which looks better now, but other than that Baylor's best win has been 5-5 Missouri. Plus, are we going to ignore the fact that Baylor needed a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat Kansas this week? I'm sorry, but if you need overtime to beat Kansas then you shouldn't be ranked.

Others receiving votes

Texas (11 AP/27 Coaches), Missouri (0 AP/ 5 Coaches) 
Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 11



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.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Oklahoma

6. Arkansas

7. Stanford

8. Boise State

9. Clemson

10. Georgia

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.


Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:26 am
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 11

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/4. Oregon

The Ducks secured what is likely their third straight conference title with a win on Saturday in their 19th straight Pac-12 win. As a result of throttling previously unbeaten Stanford in front of a national audience, Chip Kelly's team also moved up two spots and became the second highest one-loss team in the country. There's still a lot to play out in the regular season but Oregon has at least inserted themselves back in the BCS championship race.

8/9. Stanford

The Cardinal finally met their match and lost for the second consecutive year to Oregon, this time by a remarkably similar score as last season. Andrew Luck wasn't great, his team was even worse and big plays for the Ducks were the theme of the night. The loss cost them in the polls, dropping from third to eighth in the AP Poll and from second to ninth in the Coaches (behind Virginia Tech and Clemson from a weak ACC). There's still a chance they end up in a BCS bowl and remain in the top 10 but national title is out of the picture once again.

18/ N/A. USC

Yet another Trojans blowout, yet another miniscule bump in the polls for Lane Kiffin's squad. Historically, USC has never been this disrespected and whether that's because they're on the final year of a bowl ban and on probation or not is up for discussion. The defense has improved dramatically and Matt Barkley is starting to be someone you're hearing more and more about in the Heisman race. They have a chance to really make an impression this week against the Ducks up in Eugene but no player on the team has ever even won in the state of Oregon.

Others receiving votes: Arizona State received 7 points in the AP and 2 from the Coaches, Washington 6 in the AP, Utah 2 in the Coaches.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 11:59 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Phil Knight

Before Saturday's Oregon-Stanford game, commissioner Larry Scott presented the Pac-12 Championship Trophy, fitting considering the game to be played a few minutes afterward would pretty much decide who will be raising it for the first time ever. Right as Scott was concluding his presentation however, Nike boss and Oregon uber-booster Phil Knight strolled in, walked right by the trophy and into his box with just a slight glance at the regular season's ultimate prize. He looked to be in a good mood and it's hard to blame him; not only is he filthy rich, he has degrees from both Stanford and Oregon so he couldn't really go home a loser. But thanks to the result on the field, his beloved Ducks will likely be raising that trophy he walked by after winning their 19th straight conference win.

LOSER: Andrew Luck's supporting cast

Drop. Drop. Sack. Pressure. Missed field goal.

It was not a pretty outing for the Cardinal Saturday night and especially not for the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner that lead them to a spotless record, Andrew Luck. The defense had plenty of issues keeping up with Oregon's speed and allowed too many big plays, forcing the offense to play from behind the whole game. Luck's normally reliable tight ends dropped several passes, including a few easy ones on third downs, and the lack of speed at the wide receiver position was evident when there was nobody to stretch the field and nobody could create separation. As badly as the previously impeccable quarterback played in building up the nation's longest winning streak, he failed to live up to expectations against the Ducks - 271 yards, three touchdowns but two interceptions - in large part because it looked like he was the only good player on the field wearing red.

WINNER: Parkas

There was something in the air on the West Coast Saturday and whatever it was, you need a heavy coat to protect you from it. The weather at most of the Pac-12's games outside of the one in Palo Alto was not good to say the least. There were sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (and gusts all the way to 70!) in Colorado, Washington brought Seattle's weather down to Los Angeles, it was rainy and snowy in Pullman with temps in the 30's and UCLA played Utah in a snow game. It wasn't the greatest weekend to head out to a game but coat sales went through the roof in just about every campus bookstore.

LOSER: Coaches' sense of security.

Just a few weeks ago, people were talking about how Dennis Erickson had won his way off of the hot seat and maybe even into a contract extension. Thanks in large part to beating Erickson, many thought Rick Neuheisel had bought himself some time. Tim Kish destroyed Neuheisel on national television had some buzzing. It's the bottom of the Pac-12 circle of life and it's cost each of the three any sense of security about their job status. Even Paul Wulff, who pulled off maybe his biggest win since taking over in Pullman, is no sure thing to return next season. You could end up seeing as many as five schools change coaches in the offseason, a notable contrast to the relative stability the conference has had.

WINNER: The Quack Attack

In the battle of speed versus size, it's safe to say that in the Pac-12 speed always trumps size. Oregon's fast-paced attack with speedy running backs and receivers in space have been unstoppable in conference play, winning 19 straight games (only three by less than double digits). Chip Kelly is also aggressive, going for it on fourth down a few times and calling a few risky screen plays after Darron Thomas made about 15 bad decisions on the first one he called. It's not just that they have home run threats, the Ducks force other teams to game plan much differently than any other team in the country. If you happened to see DeAnthony Thomas racing up the sidelines in sixth gear while everyone in Cardinal looked like they were in first, that's just the Quack Attack at work.

LOSER: The Pac-12 South

With USC ineligible for the South title, the race to represent the division in the Pac-12's first ever title game is quickly becoming a race to the bottom, not the top. Arizona State was thought to have control and seemed destined to beat the Oregon/Stanford winner in early December. Then they lost to UCLA late at the Rose Bowl, putting a lot more scenarios on the table. Both lost Saturday, keeping the Bruins - somehow - in control of their destiny. Even Utah isn't out of the race as it looks like three teams could end the season at 5-4 in the division with the Trojans actually sitting atop the standings. A mess? Yes, and one reason why the Ducks are a shoe in for another Pac-12 title.

WINNERS: Coug'n it

Washington State had lost five in a row before hosting Arizona State team and thanks to some wet, snowy conditions pulled off a big upset that had to give some hopes for every Cougars fan out there. Freshman quarterback Connor Halliday ran the offense well against a solid Sun Devils defense, passing for 494 yards and four touchdowns despite the conditions to set a freshman school record. The defense made a few late stops in the 4th quarter and you could see signs of life - despite a rash of injuries - up in the Palouse. It still looks like a long shot to get bowl eligible but stranger things have happened. Still, the losing streak is over, it's unlikely they'll finish as the conference bottom-dweller and Paul Wulff might have earned himself another season with the signs of progress.

LOSER: Steve Sarkisian

Returning to his old stomping grounds at the Coliseum, Sarkisian ended up being the one getting stomped on. It wasn't pretty, a 40-17 loss, and it was made even worse by the fact that the offense was held to just 265 yards, had a safety and gave up six sacks. Sarkisian is close friends with USC head coach Lane Kiffin and the two talked afterward but still had pain Sark that he not only lost but was routed. The Huskies are bowl eligible for the second season in a row but need to turn things around after back-to-back losses.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:59 pm
 

BCS Standings Top 10 Reactions, Week 11



Posted by Eye On College Football


On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. Well, well, well. Look at Oregon, right back in the thick of things after Saturday's mammoth win in Palo Alto. LSU is still king of the mountain, though, and with the losses by Boise State and Stanford, all of a sudden there's a clear No. 2 in Oklahoma State. So now the real question becomes what happens if one of the two unbeaten major conference teams suffers an upset, and who deserves to be next in line at the end of the day.

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: It's somewhat en vogue to just assume that LSU is going to be playing somebody for a title this January, and given that the Tigers are #1 in every poll, that's understandable. Still, assumptions have a tendency to make us look stupid in this sport, and LSU still has to play Arkansas and probably a Georgia team that's playing its best football of the season if it gets by the Razorbacks. It's foolish to assume that LSU is going to coast through those games. - Tom Fornelli

2. Oklahoma State: The situation hasn't really changed for Oklahoma State this week. Yes, it gets a bit of a boost by having both Stanford and Boise State suffer a loss -- as far as less competition for the title goes -- but the formula remains the same for the Cowboys: win out and Oklahoma State is going to the BCS title game. If Brandon Weeden and company lose, we're probably looking at the Cotton Bowl instead. - TF

3. Alabama: With the two high-profile losses this week, all of a sudden there are really only two teams with a legitimate case to make for being ahead of Alabama, and it's those two undefeated squads up top. Among the one-loss teams, though, it has to be the Tide at the top of the list; 'Bama was deservedly favored against LSU (leading to the rare "No. 1 upsets No. 2" situation last week), and that juggernaut of a defense isn't going anywhere. No, a rematch of LSU-Alabama isn't ideal, but the BCS is supposed to be here to put the best two teams on the field for the championship (right?), and we're one OSU loss away from that meaning LSU-Alabama again. - Adam Jacobi 

4. Oregon: No doubt about it, the Ducks were the weekend's big winners on and off the field. A drubbing of Stanford on national television put the flashy offense and surprisingly good defense back in everyone's minds and helped the team jump from seventh to fourth in the BCS standings. With some outside help, they're ready to state their case why it should be them and LSU in a rematch for the national title. - Bryan Fischer

5. Oklahoma: Everything that Oklahoma has needed to start happening is happening. Stanford has fallen, Boise State has fallen, and now the only unbeatens in Oklahoma's way are LSU and Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State at the end of the season, will it be a big enough boost to vault the Sooners into the top 2? It's still too early to tell, but after Oregon's victory on Saturday it's already jumped ahead of the Sooners. The question now becomes will a win over Oklahoma State be enough to jump over Oregon and Alabama? We'll have to wait and see. - TF

6. Arkansas: At No. 6, Arkansas is not out of the mix for the national title game just yet. The key for the Razorbacks will be winning the SEC West and getting a shot in the SEC Championship Game. The only way I see Arkansas getting enough help from the pollsters will be that extra week to add to their resume with some hardware in Atlanta. Of course, getting there requires victories on Saturday against Mississippi State and in the regular season finale at LSU. The Razorbacks could also use some help from Auburn in the Iron Bowl to jump Alabama if the division standings finish with multiple one-loss teams. - Chip Patterson

7. Clemson: After the Clemson Tigers fell from their position at No. 5 in the BCS Standings in the loss to Georgia Tech, head coach Dabo Swinney explained the new focus of the 2011 Tigers: A) Win the ACC Atlantic B) Win the state championship C) Win an ACC Championship.  Clemson rallied back from a 28-14 second half deficit to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division in a 31-28 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.  With the first goal scratched off the list, the Tigers eye their annual matchup with South Carolina on Nov. 26 for the next one. - CP

8. Virginia Tech: The Hokies move up after arguably their biggest win of the season on the road against division rival Georgia Tech.  The loss knocked the Yellow Jackets from contention for the Coastal Division title, and now Virginia Tech just needs to close out against North Carolina and Virginia to book their fifth trip to the ACC Championship Game in the last seven years.  David Wilson was a monster on the ground, picking up 175 yards on 23 carries.  His performances down the stretch are making a strong case for ACC Player of the Year.  Frank Beamer's squad is too far out to consider them even a longshot for the title game, so the focus for the Hokies is the automatic bid given to the ACC Champion in December. - CP

9. Stanford: The biggest game in Palo Alto in ages failed to live up to Cardinal fans' hopes as the speed vs. size match up fell decidedly in favor of the speedy Ducks. Though they're out of contention for a Pac-12 and national title (and Andrew Luck's Heisman campaign took a major blow), there's still a decent chance they find themselves in a BCS bowl as an at-large candidate at the end of the year. It's a little interesting to see them behind Virginia Tech, however. - BF

10. Boise State: Another missed field goal crushes the BCS busting dreams of the Broncos.  Saturday's first-ever (and possibly only) conference matchup against TCU was the last respectable hurdle for Boise State.  It was the last opportunity to really make a statement against an opponent with some national credibility. Casey Pachall shredded the Broncos' secondary and even Kellen Moore couldn't avoid the Horned Frog pass rush down the stretch.  Winning out will keep the Broncos in contention for a BCS bowl, but now Houston (at No. 11 in the BCS) threatens to steal one of those at-large bids from Boise's grasp. - CP
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 5:25 pm
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 11

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



WINNER: Atlanta ticket brokers. Not that there's ever any shortage of demand for the SEC championship game, but with the A-T-L's biggest college football team (sorry, Georgia Tech) officially on their way to the Georgia Dome, that hometown demand should drive prices clean through the roof.

Wait, whaddya mean, "not officially"? The only thing standing between Georgia and their trip to Atlanta is a home game against Kentucky, the same team that spent its Saturday getting drilled 38-8 by Vanderbilt. It's more likely some sort of bizarre last-minute eligibility scandal -- Bacarri Rambo busted for selling prime Sanford Stadium hedge clippings, or something -- keeps the Dawgs from the East crown than the Wildcats do. Arrange the days off, book the hotels, scalp the tickets--for the first time since 2005, Georgia's going to play for the SEC title. 

LOSER: The ghost of Willie Martinez. So why have the Dawgs made the leap? The friendliest possible league schedule has had a lot to do with it -- if Georgia goes to Arkansas and it's South Carolina who gets to visit Ole Miss, the Gamecocks are booking their tickets today -- but it's also true that as much hand-wringing as there's been over the Dawgs' struggles since 2005 at quarterback, the offensive line, running back, play-calling, etc, their biggest problem has always been on the defensive side of the ball. And in his second season after replacing the exiled, despised Willie Martinez as Georgia's defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham has those problems nearly solved. His unit ranks in the national top 10 in rush defense, pass defense, and total defense, and showed why vs. Auburn. Clint Moseley got no time to throw, Michael Dyer found precious little room to run, Rambo made the biggest play of the game with a pick-six, and the bottom line was that a Tiger offense that had scored 41 points two weeks earlier got none after their opening drive.

After that performance, it's safe to declare the specter of Mr. Martinez's failures fully exorcised.

WINNER: Hangovers. You play the Game of the Century one week, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise you don't quite play with your hair on fire the next. So even though they're LSU and Alabama, LSU and Alabama still took their leisurely time putting away outmatched opponents in Western Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. (The Hilltoppers a little more outmatched than the Bulldogs, obviously.) No one's immune to the week-after effect, apparently.

LOSER: The Rematch Resistance. Hangovers or no hangovers, though, LSU-Alabama II: Rematch of the Century took a big step closer to reality Saturday with both Stanford and Boise State falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. With Oregon unlikely to be any more palatable a rematch opponent for the Tigers than the Tide is, the only hurdle for Alabama to clear appears to be whichever team wins Bedlam: Oklahoma State would be undefeated and home-free, of course, but Oklahoma might also stake a claim with plenty of computer power and the voters' aversion to a sequel. But with that Texas Tech loss looking less and less explicable by the day, the educated guess here is that a Sooner win would send the Tide on for a second crack at the Tigers.

WINNER: Joe Adams. Because seriously:

LOSERS: Ole Miss supporters. Facing a substantially less-talented Louisiana Tech squad at home Saturday, the Rebels had a terrific opportunity to 1. rally for their fired head coach Houston Nutt 2. snap their six-game losing streak 3. show some kind of pride in their program and themselves regardless of the off-field distractions and coaching turnover. Instead they lost to the visitors from Ruston by three full touchdowns in what has to go down as the worst, most embarrassing nonconference loss for an SEC team this season. The Rebels still have two games to play this season -- at home to LSU and at Mississippi State -- and we don't envy anyone from Oxford compelled to watch either one.

WINNER: Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks won't be going back to Atlanta. They won't make any kind of dent in the national title race. They won't go down in history as some great team gone unrewarded, not having now won three SEC games in which they scored 17 points or fewer and having been the only SEC team to host Auburn and not blow the Tigers out of the water. Marcus Lattimore won't win the Heisman, Alshon Jeffery won't be named All-American or even All-SEC (today's tally: 2 receptions, 17 yards), and the less said about Stephen Garcia the better. 

So on many, many levels, this 2011 season is a disappointment ... and on the other, even for all of those struggles, the Gamecocks have just won 6 SEC games for the first time ever. As Spurrier noted, they've gone 6-0 the past two seasons vs. their main East rivals at Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. And in players like Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Wilds and tackle Cody Gibson, there's still plenty of young talent to groom. The specific goal was to win another East title, and Spurrier failed at that. But maybe the larger, more important goal was to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke  --  that the old annual November swoon, perpetual also-ran Gamecocks were gone for good -- and on that count Spurrier has succeeded, without question. If he wasn't already the best coach in the Gamecocks' history, this 2011 season means he is now. 

LOSER: Derek Dooley. Any talk of removing the second-year head man at Tennessee is wildly premature; if Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are still healthy, who knows what the Vols' record is? And Dooley of course had nothing to do with a schedule that handed his team LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama out of the west. But it's one thing to lose a lot of games -- even SEC games, even six such games in a row -- and another to look as hopeless as the Vols did in their drubbing at Arkansas. Dooley's already been more good than outstanding on the recruiting trail, and if he loses next week to James Franklin and Vandy, the knives are going to really come out among the Vol faithful ... and that recruiting job is only going to get harder. 

(Gene Chizik isn't in the same boat, but he deserves a mention here all the same. The 4-3 SEC record isn't bad, but in the non-Ole Miss portion of the schedule, those three wins have come by a total of 21 points and the three losses by 97. With a defense that Chizik has a major hand in the main culprit, those blowouts suggest last year's national champion has a lot of work to do between now and 2012.)


Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 1:28 am
 

Heisman race heats up as Luck falls back to pack



Posted by Bryan Fischer


STANFORD, Calif. -- Heisman moments tend not to just happen, they're built up. Sure they'll catch you off guard from time-to-time but they rarely just come out of nowhere to the front of our collective concious.

Every bit of the listed 6-foot-4, 237-pounds, Andrew Luck was deemed better than any of his peers or predeessors by pundits, NFL coaches, general managers and scouts. For every two minute drive, red zone touchdown or play action fake, it was a work art. Saturday's game against Oregon was supposed to be his. Another trip to New York was certain but, in Stanford's biggest game in decades, this was supposed to be his moment.

It wasn't.

"Not good enough to win," Luck said, in an aww-shucks manner, of his performance in a 53-30 loss. "Worst game of the year I guess."

Statistically, you could make the argument it wasn't. Realistically? It's hard to think of anybody giving Luck as much trouble as the Ducks' defense did. Pressured all night, he finished 27-for-41 for 271 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw a pick six. He lost a fumble. He was sacked. He was un-Luck like but wasn't unlucky.

"They do present some exotic formations, such as four guys to one side and what not," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We talked about it as a staff how to handle it, making plays."

Luck didn't have to be great on his home field to wrap up college football's most prestigious trophy but he did have to be good. Playing from behind entire night, it was clear that the future top draft pick lacked any kind of wide receiver to stretch the field and even his normally reliable tight ends dropped several passes to slow momentum as the nation's longest winning streak fell just as hard as the Cardinal's outside chance at playing for the national title.

"I knew it wasn't going to be a cake walk," Luck said. "I had no grand delusion of it for our team. We still have football left and, for that, I'm grateful."

Credit Luck for having a space between the two words, college quarterback, that describe him every Saturday though. Despite losing to the only team to beat him the past two years, he was as even-keeled as ever afterward, answering questions about a difficult loss like they were the easy questions one of his midterms.

"It's disappointing obviously. You always want to have a good game," he said. "A disappointment, yes, but life goes on. We have two more big ball games coming up."

There was no Heisman moment on the slippery turf for the signal-caller but that doesn't mean he has no chance of hoisting college football's most prestigious award up in New York. The clear front-runner when the day began, he's likely to keep his spot at or near the top of most lists but there's no question that every turnover against Oregon made others' chances that much better.

"This game is not fatal to Luck's Heisman hopes," said Chris Huston, who runs HeismanPundit.com. "Voters will not blame him for this loss. The Heisman race is an individual award and, while Luck will lose some ground, he remains the favorite."

In some minds the only one to put on a performance worthy of the award was LaMichael James, who rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns as he continues to return to form following an elbow injury. Enough to get back in the discussion, maybe, but if you're looking for a moment in the game it was undoubtedly on one of James' long runs.

"His missing two games this year killed his Heisman chances," Huston added. "He just won't have the numbers to come close to winning."

For James, the 23 point win might be enough for another trip to the Heisman ceremony. For Luck, the 23 point loss might be enough to hold him back from bringing the trophy home.



Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:37 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 53 Stanford 30

Posted by Bryan Fischer

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Game of the Century, West Edition, featured plenty of defensive plays, mistakes on special teams and one of the teams ready to press for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. The only difference between that tussle in Tuscaloosa last week and this defacto Pac-12 championship in the Bay Area? There were touchdowns. Plenty of them.

Oregon's speed went over, around and - at times - through Stanford's size as the Ducks ended the nation's longest winning streak with a 53-30 win over their division foe to take control of the conference title race. Both teams got off to their normal slow start in the first half but the Ducks, who are now 24-0 when leading at halftime under Chip Kelly, utilized big plays from Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and Josh Huff to pull away from the Cardinal in the second half.

The most impressive performance of the night came from the Oregon defense that constantly put pressure on Andrew Luck and seemingly brought the Heisman Trophy front-runner back to the pack, of which James might have run his way back to. Without the team's top wide receiver (Chris Owusu) and top tight end (Zach Ertz), Luck was forced to throw into coverage often after his receiving corps could not create much separation, tossing two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. Without a speed threat to guard against, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti pressed his cornerbacks and used safety help over the top, limiting Stanford's bread and butter offense of quick short and intermediate throws.

That didn't mean Luck and company couldn't move the ball or get stops on defense. They just didn't do enough. It's not hard to argue that this was Stanford's biggest game in decades but they never could do enough to slow down Oregon, who proved that they're the Pac-12's best team and well on their way to their third straight conference title.

They even got a glimpse of the trophy, as commissioner Larry Scott officially presented it before the game in the press box. Given the way the South is playing out (UCLA lost, Arizona State and Utah are unranked, USC is ineligible), you wouldn't blame the Ducks' uber-booster Phil Knight for asking if he could take it home with him on his private jet.

He'll have to wait a few weeks to officially hoist the silver trophy for the first time ever but after Oregon settled things on the field Saturday night against #2 Stanford, it's a matter of when - not if - any more.

Quack.
 
 
 
 
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