Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Rose Bowl almost always lines up one of the bowl season's best matchups, and this year is no different as Wisconsin and Oregon offer up a mouthwatering contrast in equally hyper-effective offensive styles. The Sugar Bowl, meanwhile, took plenty of heat for pairing Michigan and particularly Virginia Tech teams that ranked near the bottom of the BCS eligibility pool, but any game that features a matchup of dual-threat quarterbacks like Denard Robinson and Logan Thomas is still must-see TV.
In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, we preview both bowl games and break down the key factors -- can Wisconsin pass? Can Denard stay accurate? Which Hokie offense will show up? -- that might swing the games one direction or the other. To listen, click below, download the mp3, or pop out the player in a new window by clicking here. Remember that all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 4:03 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
At long last, the SEC finally unveiled its 2012 football schedule Wednesday--its first with Texas A&M and Missouri as its 13th and 14th members, and the matter of intense speculation and rumor ever since the Aggies and Tigers joined this past fall. Though the schedule isn't yet an indicator of how things will look in 2013 and beyond (Mike Slive pointedly said recently the 2012 edition is a one-year stopgap before a permanent divisional rotation is established the following season), that doesn't mean there's not plenty to parse and analyze where 2012 is concerned. Here's a team-by-team look at what each SEC program is happy about regarding the schedule, and what they're not so glad about:
Likes that: its East divisional draw doesn't feature either South Carolina or Georgia. A road trip to Missouri could be tricky, but given the way the Gamecocks whomped the Tide the last time the two teams met and how the Bulldogs have finished this season, Alabama's not going to complain about getting a first historic visit to Columbia under their belts. And of course, their permanent cross-divisional rivalry with Tennessee isn't anything to fear at this stage. Getting Auburn at home is always a plus.
Doesn't like that: what shapes up as the two biggest SEC games on its schedule, LSU and Arkansas, both come on the road. If the Tide are going to earn the critical head-to-head tiebreaker over either of their West rivals, they're going to have to do it the hard way.
Likes that: both Alabama and LSU have to visit Fayetteville, where the Hogs have been particularly feisty against the Tigers. And taking on the Tide early (Sept. 15, the first SEC game of the season for both) could work to Arkansas's advantage as Nick Saban retools his much, much younger defense. Any West team that gets "home vs. Kentucky" as one of their East games has to be pleased with their good fortune there, too.
Doesn't like that: its annual game with South Carolina is on the road, we guess. But the way the Hogs have routed the Gamecocks the past few seasons, they probably don't care too much where they play them, and that still might be their only complaint; the West is still the West, but this was as kind a schedule as it was possible to draw up for the Hogs.
Likes that: three of its four road games are visits to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. The fourth is to Bryant-Denny, but after this year's murderous road slate, the Tigers will take what they can get--and three road games as a potential favorite is an awfully nice thing for any West team to get. As solid as Vandy looks to be in Year 2 of the James Franklin reclamation project, too, it's doubtful the Tigers will mind the Gamecocks and Gators rotating off the schedule and the Commodores rotating on.
Doesn't like that: the Alabama game is on the road, or that they have to deal with the general pain of having the East's current best team as an annual rival. But this schedule shapes up much more like the Tigers' palatable 2010 slate than their 2011 one.
Likes that: if the Gators actually haul themselves up into a position to contend for the East title, they'll get potential co-challengers South Carolina and Missouri in Gainesville. And it's an even year, which means four home games and three true road games to go with the neutral-site Cocktail Party.
Doesn't like that: they get the "honor" of being the first SEC team to visit Kyle Field for a conference game; think the Aggie faithful will be a little fired up for that one? Having LSU as an annual rival hurts there days, and even getting them at home doesn't help since the Gators would likely prefer to have a more beatable opponent in that slot. Tough to get a rougher West draw than that.
Likes that: for the second straight season, there's still no LSU, Alabama, or Arkansas on the schedule. Instead, the Bulldogs get Ole Miss at home--the single easiest West game it was possible for them to pull. In terms of raw 2011 win-loss, the Bulldogs have the easiest set of opponents in the league.
Doesn't like that: if the East comes down to one game against either South Carolina, Florida, or Missouri, all three are away from Athens; with Auburn on the road, too, it's arguable that not one of the Dawgs' four toughest opponents will come to Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs can't complain too loudly (if at all) given the teams they're facing out of the West, but this is still a much tougher road to hoe than they faced in 2011.
Likes that: they get annual cross-division opponent Mississippi State at home; given the other options out of the West, that's not so bad. Their traditional most winnable SEC game -- Vanderbilt -- comes at home in 2012, too.
Doesn't like that: their other West game is a trip to Arkansas, two precious home games are "wasted" on the potentially out-of-reach Bulldogs and Gamecocks, or that they have to travel to Knoxville when the Vols are as vulnerable as they've ever been. (Though given the choice, they'd have surely taken them at home in 2011 rather than '12.) When you're Kentucky, it's hard to put together a schedule that doesn't immediately seem like an impossible hill to climb.
Likes that: Alabama has to return to Baton Rouge for a guaranteed night game that could -- again -- decide the SEC West. Though the Tigers would maybe rather have their dates with the Mississippi schools on the road (since they'd likely beat them anywhere), getting the Bulldogs and Rebels for back-to-back November home games should provide a nice lead-in to the critical season-ending roadie at Arkansas.
Doesn't like that: aside from the Alabama game, the SEC did the defending champs no favors. Gators/Gamecocks is almost as touch a draw from the East as you can get; the Tigers have to start their SEC season with a pair of challenging roadies at Auburn and Florida; and the long-awaited renewal of their hot-blooded rivalry with Texas A&M will begin in College Station rather than the friendly confiens of Death Valley. All together, no SEC contender will face a more difficult quartet of road games than the Tigers will.
Likes that: the winnable games are at home. Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Auburn shape up as arguably the four most vulnerable opponents on the rebels' 2012 slate, and all four come to Oxford. If the Rebels go winless in conference for a second straight season, they can't say the schedule didn't give them a reasonable opportunity.
Doesn't like that: the road slate is just this side of completely impossible: at Alabama, at Arkansas, at Georgia, at LSU. Toughest set of road games for one team in SEC history? It's in play. And for a team as currently woebegone as the Rebels are, drawing Kentucky or Tennessee instead of Georgia out of the East would have been very, very welcome.
Likes that: their date with Kentucky is in Lexington but their dates with Alabama and LSU in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge, respectively; the Bulldogs should beat the former anyway, while traveling to the latter saves their home games for more beat-able Auburn, Texas A&M, and Tennessee. And speaking of the Vols--could MSU have drawn anything better out of the East than at the Wildcats and home vs. Tennessee? No, no they could not have.
Doesn't like that: the all-important Egg Bowl is at Ole Miss. But other than that, this is about as pleasant a schedule as State could expect.
Likes that: they host Georgia in their SEC debut, giving them a chance to take control of the East race (in front of what should be one of their season's best crowds) right off the bat. That three-week home stand in the middle of the season -- one that includes both Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- could be a springboard to bigger things down the road. And even if the middle game of that stretch is Alabama, a potentially unfortunate pull from the West in terms of the win column, might as well start off your SEC tenure with a bang, right?
Doesn't like that: games against potential East rivals South Carolina and Florida both come on the road.
Likes that: they get Georgia and Missouri at home and could use that advantage to earn a key head-to-head tiebreaker. That's about it.
Doesn't like that: they're still stuck with Arkansas as their annual West game and add a road date with none other than LSU; no one in the East faces a tougher pair of cross-divisional games. Coming only one season after the Gamecocks' West draw arguably kept them out of Atlanta singlehandedly -- they traveled to face Arkansas (and lost) while Georgia went to Oxford to crush the hapless Rebels -- that's a tough, tough pill to swallow. Going to Gainesville is adding insult to injury.
Likes that: Kentucky comes to Neyland for the best possible shot at starting a new streak over the Wildcats, and as potential West opponents go, the Vols could be facing one more difficult than Mississippi State (even on the road). Hosting Florida to kick off the SEC season could give Derek Dooley's under-fire tenure a quick jumpstart, and hey, get this--the Third Saturday in October is actually scheduled for the third Saturday in October.
Doesn't like that: road games at Georgia and South Carolina should pretty much end any hope of a dark horse SEC East run before it starts. And not that anyone in Knoxville wants to drop the Tide, but that series pretty much guarantees the Vols will have a rougher West draw than a team like, say, oh, Georgia.
Likes that: they get one of the league's glamour teams for their SEC debut, hosting Florida on Sept. 8; adding the Gators and old rivals LSU to the home slate will make season tickets at Kyle Field as hot as they've been in years. Traveling to the Mississippi schools isn't nearly as daunting as traveling to some other SEC locations.
Doesn't like that: they get a looming three-game road stretch between October and November that features visits to both Auburn and Alabama. If their date with Arkansas stays in Dallas for one more season -- the Aggies want to move it to College Station and it's all-but-certain to become a home-and-home in 2013 -- they'd have just three SEC home games total, a la Georgia.
Likes that: they can immediately announce themselves as serious SEC East players with a home date against the Gamecocks, one that will open the entire 2012 SEC season on Aug. 30. Their annual cross-division rivalry with Ole Miss has never looked better, and their other West opponent -- Auburn -- must come to Nashville.
Doesn't like that: in the event of a loss to South Carolina, consecutive road trips to Georgia and Missouri could take the wind completely out of the Commodores' sails by the first week of October.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:54 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Adam Jacobi
College basketball's ACC-Big Ten Challenge? It's nice and all, but so 2007 (or so). So leave it to Larry Scott and Jim Delany to engineer the 2017 version -- and do it on the gridiron.
Scott's Pac-12 and Delany's Big Ten announced Wednesday that they have reached a formal nonconference scheduling agreement across all sports, with the football version starting five seasons from now in 2017. All 12 teams in each league will play one team in the other as part of their nonconference schedule.
"This makes a lot of sense," Scott told the USA Today, "in terms of continuing to broaden our exposure and improving programming and improving the caliber of our schools' matchups."
“As other conferences continue to grow through expansion, we believe there is great merit in deepening the historic relationship between the Big Ten and Pac-12,” said Delany. “We believe that both conferences can preserve that sense of collegiality and still grow nationally by leveraging our commonalities in a way that benefits student-athletes, fans and alumni. This collaboration can and will touch many institutional undertakings, and will complement our academic and athletic missions.”
The leagues have yet to reach a consensus on some issues of arrangement, from what the series will be called to how the teams will be paired up (and sites assigned) to where the games will be televised. But the "Pac-12-Big Ten Challenge" nonetheless promises to make an immediate, seismic impact on the nonconference profile of both leagues, and should provide plenty of high-stakes, must-see viewing for both leagues' respective TV networks.
That doesn't mean there won't be drawbacks. The Rose Bowl will now run the small but tangible risk of repeating a regular-season matchup, for one. For another, with both conferences committed to nine-game league schedules, another fixed non-conference matchup will leave schools with annual non-league rivalries (think Michigan or USC, and their series with Notre Dame) with just one open "breather" date to fill on their schedules.
To that end, Scott has stated that the Pac-12 will remain committed to its nine-game schedule, but Delany told USA Today the Big Ten will "likely rethink the move," and if that sounds like a polite way of saying "it's out," it should be no surprise that Pete Thamel reports the Big Ten will stick with its eight-game schedule now instead.
Speaking as college football fans, the lack of juicy non-conference games has been a creeping menace to the quality of college football seasons -- just look at the dreck that fills SEC non-conference schedules every September (and mid-November) -- and Scott and Delany deserve major commendations for their part in fighting that problem head-on.
"This will add a tough, high-quality opponent," Scott said. "Certainly, it creates a tougher path (to the national championship game). But the benefits, we think, outweigh the fact it's far more challenging."
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Posted on: December 27, 2011 8:51 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 11:59 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
That was the solution for the Boilermakers against Western Michigan Tuesday, as a pair of surprise onsides kicks, 265 rushing yards, and 6 forced turnovers combined to give Purdue a 35:54-24:06 advantage in time-of-possession. The Broncos' patented passing attack did its usual damage, collecting 439 yards and 3 touchdowns, but quarterback Alex Carder threw four interceptions and three drives inside the Purdue 30 netted a total of just three points. Add in a 99-yard Raheem Mostert kickoff return for touchdown, and for all of the Broncos' success in the air, nearly all the plays that really mattered went the way of the Boilermakers.
That still shouldn't overshadow the incredible effort from WMU All-American wide receiver Jordan White, who hauled in 13 receptions -- many of them of the highlight-reel variety -- for 265 yards.
WHY PURDUE WON: It's hard to overstate exactly how big Carson Wiggs' two successful first-half onsides kicks were for the Boilers; by playing keep-away from Carder and the Bronco offense and giving themselves short fields to work with, Danny Hope's aggressive calls gave Purdue a command of the game they never relinquished. The Broncos were forced to chase the game from the middle of the second quarter on, and they never did catch up to it.
But a major part of that failure was how dominant the Purdue defense was on third- and fourth-and-short. Down 24-15 late in the second quarter, Bill Cubit elected to run up the middle on 4th-and-1 from his own 44; Tevin Drake was stuffed to set up a Purdue field goal. (Remember what we said about chasing the game?) So facing a third and then fourth-and-1 at the Purdue 20 in the second half, the Broncos called for back-to-back pass plays for Carder; two incompletions later, it was Purdue ball again. Then there was the Bronco drive that reached the Purdue 4 and saw the Boilermakers commit a pair of penalties, meaning WMU had five chances to score, including three from the 2 or closer; they settled for a field goal.
Combine that kind of short-yardage futility with six turnovers and various special teams gaffes, and it's something of a wonder the Broncos came as close as they did.
WHEN PURDUE WON: Not until the Broncos' final, potentially triumphant drive was cut short on just its second play when Ryan Russell stripped Carder from behind for the sixth and final WMU turnover.
WHAT PURDUE WON: Their first winning season under Hope and their first bowl championship since 2007. A win in the Little Caesar's Bowl over MAC opposition may not sound like much to a Big Ten team, but the dual onsides kicks should tell you how much it meant to Hope and his team.
WHAT WESTERN MICHIGAN LOST: Their most recent, arguably best-ever shot to win a bowl game -- the Broncos are now 0-5 all-time, 0-4 as a D-I school -- and their final chance with talents like Carder and White that may not come around again any time soon. This one will sting.
THAT WAS CRAZY: How often do you see a team force a turnover and then turn it back over to the other team while trying to return it? Not often. How often do you see it happen twice in the same half? We don't think we ever have. But that's what WMU managed all the same, stripping Boilermaker defenders after first an interception and then a Carder fumble.
FINAL GRADE: Though not always the most cleanly executed game, the Boilers and Broncos provided a ton of big plays, momentum shifts, and even (finally) some late-game drama as WMU kept getting off the mat after having been seemingly knocked out a half-dozen times. It wasn't quite the 2010 Little Caesar's epic, but it wasn't bad at all. B+.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 6:57 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina didn't wind up having to look very far for their new defensive coordinator; in fact, he was already the "defensive coordinator."
Though new Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson held the title of "Assistant Head Coach for Defense" while working for Steve Spurrier and cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward held the title of defensive coordinator, there wasn't any confusion about who ran the defense and called the defensive plays: Johnson. Which is why when Spurrier announced Tuesday that he was promoting Ward to fill Johnson's shoes, both Ward and his charges were celebrating the news.
“It made me feel good that the players wanted me to have this particular title and run the defense for them,” Ward said.
Ward has a high standard to live up to after Johnson's 2011 unit finished fourth in the FBS in total defense, but there won't be any schematic overhauls or tricky transitions. Ward had three years under Johnson to learn Spurrier's preferred defensive approach and was already familiar with the Gamecocks' 4-2-5 from his years at Virginia Tech before he ever arrived. That familiarity -- and the promise to provide more the same production from 2011 -- was a major selling point to Spurrier.
“He’s the best guy I could hire,” Spurrier said. “That’s why I hired him. He knows what we want to do. He and I think almost exactly alike defensively. We have talked a lot of defense over the last two or three years.”
“We are not going to do a tremendous amount," Ward said of his philosophy, "but what we do, we are going to try to do it well."
In Ward's three seasons coaching the Gamecock secondary, Carolina finished eighth, 97th, and second in the FBS in pass defense.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 4:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Despite expectations to the contrary, as of Tuesday afternoon the SEC still has yet to release its official 14-team schedule for 2012. But one key detail potentially outside the jurisdiction of the league office is all but official: Arkansas and Texas A&M will no longer play their annual series as a neutral-site game in Dallas.
For the past three seasons, the Razorback and Aggies have met at Cowboys Stadium as part of each team's nonconference schedule. But with A&M becoming one of Arkansas's divisional rivals in the new SEC West, the Aggies' willingness to continue the series at a neutral venue -- even one as glamorous as Jerry Jones' football space palace -- has waned. The Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwenerman reported Tuesday that one A&M official had told him the school "never" wants to play the game in Dallas again.
Though not yet 100 percent finalized, according to Zwenerman all "indications" are that the neutral game is finished and that the series will continue as a usual conference home-and-home. Since the SEC forbids schools from hosting recruits at neutral-site conference games (like the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party between Georgia and Florida), the A&M official quoted in the report said the current game's appeal as a recruiting tool would "lose its edge" as an intra-conference matchup.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino had previously stated that while he and the Hogs would be happy to continue playing in Cowboys Stadium (no doubt for the continued novelty of rewarding Texas recruits with a game in their home state, an advantage A&M already has), the Aggies "really don't want to play" the neutral-site game in the future.
The Aggies and Razorbacks had agreed to a 10-year nonconference series before A&M's decision to join the SEC last September.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We're now less than a week away from arguably the single biggest date on the 2011 college football calendar (even if it comes in 2012). That day is Jan. 2, home to four intriguing non-BCS bowls in addition to the Rose and Fiesta Bowls.
In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, our Adam Aizer and Chip Patterson run down those four "other" bowls: Can Michigan State get over the SEC hump vs. Georgia in the Outback? Can Penn State shut down Case Keenum and Houston in the TicketCity? Is there any way the two lo-fi offenses on display in the Ohio State-Florida Gator Bowl can overshadow the Urban Meyer storyline? And what might South Carolina have learned in Nebraska's losses that could prove decisive in the Capital One Bowl?
To listen, click below, download the mp3, or pop out the player in a new browser window by clicking here. And remember that all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:37 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Armed Forces Bowl.
G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa vs. Brandon Ogletree, Kyle Van Noy, and Uona Kaveinga, LBs, BYU.
With all due respect to Riley Nelson, who caught fire down the stretch for the Cougars, the individual head-to-head quarterback matchup nonetheless should favor the Golden Hurricane. Kinne is a three-year senior starter with more than 9,200 career passing yards to his name, 1,300 rushing yards, and 23 career wins; by this point, it's not possible for the former Texas transfer to have any better command of Tulsa's trademark no-huddle spread scheme than he already does.
And while that's certainly translated to plenty of aerial fireworks for the Golden Hurricane during Kinne's three years under center, it's paid equally handsome dividends in the ground game. In fact, behind Tulsa's three-headed rushing monster of Kinne and tailbacks Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts -- and said monster's 2,149 total rushing yards -- the 2011 edition of the Golden Hurricane get more done on the ground (23rd FBS) than in the passing game (43rd). While Douglas and Watts deserve more than their fair share of plaudits -- Douglas's eye-popping 8.2 yards-per-carry average led the nation among backs with any more than 60 attempts, and he had 110! -- the Tulsa rushing attack still starts with Kinne and his ability to execute the options and zone reads that make up the core of the Golden Hurricane's rushing philosophy.
But as smooth an operator as Kinne is, he's still going to have his hands full with Ogletree, Van Noy, and Kaveinga, three of the Cougars' top four tacklers and three-quarters of a linebacking crew that's led the Cougars to a 16th-place finish in FBS total defense. All three are both aggressive and fundamentally sound, and they'll be the defenders primarily tasked with containing Kinne and his option targets on the ground. If Ogletree, Van Noy, and Kaveinga stay on assignment, hold Douglas's home-run ability in check, hit Kinne hard enough to slow him down in both phases of the game, and generally make life on the ground as tough as possible for the Golden Hurricane, Nelson should be able to put enough points on the board vs. Tulsa's rickety pass defense to earn the victory.
But if not? If Kinne gets the Tulsa ground game humming on all cylinders, finds in turn the inevitable space opening up downfield for big plays in the air, and hangs a 40-spot on the Cougars? That's the sort of hurdle even Nelson may not be able to clear.