Tag:Fiesta Bowl
Posted on: February 9, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:38 pm
 

Roundtable: Backing the Big Ten plus-one

Posted by Eye on College Football



Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron-style to answer a pressing question in the world of college football. Today's query:

What are the chances of the BCS adopting the Big Ten's home-field semifinals playoff proposal? And if they do, how much of a good thing (if at all) is that for college football? 

Tom Fornelli: I think it's clear at this point that the playoff is coming. Whether or not it's going to be the Big Ten's proposal of the top two seeds hosting semifinal games, I'm not sure.

I do think that's the best way of going about things for the schools and fans, though. It would minimize travel costs for the schools, and it's the only way to make things fair. Hosting the games at places like the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl wouldn't be. Right now, if you're a Big Ten or Big 12 team and you land in the top two, you're not only traveling outside your home state but your entire conference footprint to play in those locations.

Plus, how exciting would it be to see a school like Florida possibly having to travel up north to play Wisconsin in Madison during December? We already know what happens to the Big Ten when it has to head south for the winter. With this proposal we'd get to see what happens to the SEC when it's forced to head north.

As for whether or not this would be a good thing for college football, I don't see how it would be a bad thing. You take a lot of the money that you've been giving to bowl games and put that cash into the schools. Plus, as long as you keep the playoff to the top four teams, get rid of the BCS AQ statuses and everything else, you can restore the bowl traditions that are so important to everybody.

Chip Patterson: I'm with Tom: I don't see how this could be a bad thing. I certainly understand there are plenty of concerns along the way, but any step in this direction is one I support.  

Allowing the top two seeds to host the semi-final games also keeps the integrity of the BCS system intact.  At its core, the system is meant only to determine the two best teams in college football.  Now those two teams will have the advantage of getting to play the gridiron's version of the Final 4 round on their home turf.    Those who are calling for a large-scale playoff would likely be appeased with this one step forward, and the bowl experience that means so much to the fans and players can continue as it has for years.  There is no rich tradition for the BCS National Championship Game itself, so altering the process at the top does not hinder the game of college football. 

Jerry Hinnen: I'm afraid I can see how this proposal could be, if not a bad thing, a worse thing than it should be. 

There's two downsides to the Big Ten's plan as presented. The first is that it proposes to yoink those top four teams out of the bowl pool entirely, meaning that the two semifinal losers wouldn't get the bowl experience at all, despite having the kind of season that would have put them in the BCS top four to begin with. If you're, say, Stanford and your postseason experience is traveling to Columbus to watch your season end in front of 100,000 Buckeye fans in 25-degree weather, I'm not sure at all that's going to feel like much of a reward. I'd much prefer the semifinals be played in mid-December, with the losers still eligible for BCS selection; it's better for the teams (who get their deserved week of bowl festivities) and better for the bowls (who get better matchups). 

The other downside is an unavoidable one: that this could be the first step down that slippery slope to the sort of eight- or 12- or 16-team playoff that sees the college football equivalent of the New York Giants ride a single hot streak past more deserving teams to a national championship. This is another reason the Big Ten proposal should do more to placate the major bowls--they've collectively taken a lot of heat for their role in preserving the BCS's current status quo, but their money and influence are also a key line of defense in ensuring the "plus-one" doesn't become a "plus-six."

But whatever downsides you come up with are always going to pale in comparison to the upside. The biggest flaw of the BCS has always been the No. 3 team that deserved its shot as much as either (or both) of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and didn't get it, the team that -- as Phil Steele has called it -- needs to be in the playoff. The squabbles over No. 4 vs. No. 5 are going to continue, yes, but that's a small price to pay for giving 2001 Miami, 2003 USC, 2004 Auburn, 2010 TCU, or 2011 Oklahoma State their shot. Giving them that shot in an electric on-campus atmosphere -- be it in the Midwest, on the West Coast, the Southeast, wherever -- makes a huge triumph for college football that much more, well, huge.

Bryan Fischer: We're moving toward change, but what form it takes certainly remains to be seen. Let's be clear that there were something like 50 proposals presented at the last BCS meeting, so what's notable is not this specific Big Ten proposal but the fact that the conference has changed its tune and is open to some sort of playoff.


Jim Delany has two things he is looking to accomplish no matter what happens with the BCS: keep the Big Ten in a seat of power and protect the Rose Bowl. This proposal does both and seems to be a win-win for just about everybody. I think we're moving in the right direction and Delany is finally going with the flow instead of obstructing it.

Having seen how well things worked out for the Pac-12 with an on-campus championship game, I'm in favor of including a home field advantage tie-in no matter what proposal surfaces. The detractors are always worried about the regular season and keeping the bowl system and a plus-one/four-team playoff would make things meaningful during the year and keep the current structure (more Alamo Bowls!) in place. The most interesting thing, to me, will be how long we'll be stuck with the system. It could be a 10-plus year deal--which is interesting if tweaks need to be made in order to ensure a better playoff system.

TF: I would think that the any deal has to be longer than 10 years, just because conferences are going to want to keep things from expanding to 8 teams or 16 teams for as long as possible. Because we all know that as soon as the four-team playoff begins, then so will the "Expand the playoffs!" arguments. 

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Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:29 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 5:46 pm
 

Sooner QB Landry Jones returning for senior year

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



2011 may have been a disappointment for the preseason No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners. But their chances for redemption in 2012 just took a major step forward.

Record-setting junior quarterback Landry Jones announced Thursday in a statement issued by the Sooner program that he would be returning for his senior season in Norman and postponing his chance to be a first-round NFL Draft pick. Jones had been rated the 22nd prospect overall by NFLDraftScout.com and had been projected by some to go in the first 15 picks if he had declared early. 

“I want to accomplish the goals that I set before I got here, and there is still a lot more to do,” Jones said. “I want to make sure I’ve exhausted every effort in that area.  And I want to be a senior.  I enjoy being at OU and with my teammates and look forward to graduating with the guys that were in my class when I got here.”

Jones is already Oklahoma's all-time leader in both passing yards (with 12,389) and passing touchdowns (89). He has started 38 games for the Sooners, posting a record of 30-8. Jones quarterbacked the Sooners to both Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl championships in 2010.

Despite those accomplishments, Jones' draft stock fell late in the 2011 season as both he and the Sooner offense struggled in the wake of All-American receiver Ryan Broyles' season-ending injury. In the final three games of the Sooners' regular season, all without Broyles -- and against Baylor, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, not exactly a defensive murderer's row -- Jones totaled no touchdowns and five interceptions, while averaging just 6.6 yards per passing attempt.

After those disappointments, the expectation was that Jones would return and attempt to solidify his draft stock with a better season in 2012. But Bob Stoops was nonetheless relieved by Jones' decision.

“We know the positive influence Landry has on and off the field with our team,” Stoops said.  “We’re excited that he’s coming back to build on what has already been an outstanding career.  We expect another great year from him, and like the fact that he’s determined to be even better.”

Despite linebacker Ronnell Lewis's decision to enter the draft earlier Thursday, Jones' return will no doubt have Oklahoma among the favorites -- if not the favorite -- to reclaim the Big 12 title in 2012. It's a role Jones sounds like he has no problem with the Sooners adopting.

“We hope to have another opportunity to make a title run,” he said.  “Most of the offensive line returns and we have several receivers and backs return too.  We’ve also got a lot of guys back on defense, so we’re confident that we can be a strong team.”

Get caught up on the early-entry announcements HERE, and all the latest rankings, mock drafts, and breaking news check out the NFL Draft Home.  

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 1:12 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:59 am
 

This Sugar Bowl was a bit sour



Posted by Tom Fornelli

NEW ORLEANS -- Before you read this column on the Sugar Bowl, I must implore you to watch this video, for you cannot understand what this Sugar Bowl was without seeing it.

Did you see the way that puppy fell down the stairs? It made you laugh, sure, but at the same time it was something adorable that failed. The puppy just wasn't big enough for the stage it was on, and although it got to the bottom of the stairs as it intended to, it didn't do so in the prettiest of ways.

That was the 2012 Sugar Bowl.

Two teams that probably weren't ready to tread down this flight of stairs did so anyway, with the rest of us waiting to see which team tumbled to the bottom first. Turns out it was Michigan, even if you were sure the Wolverines had broken 30 bones on the way down, there they stood at the end celebrating.

From the second this matchup was announced there were people complaining about the selection of both Michigan and Virginia Tech. There were teams more deserving of this chance, teams like Boise State and Kansas State. Unfortunately for those two schools, they don't carry the same national cache or brand that Michigan and Virginia Tech do. So this is what we were stuck with, and judging by all the empty seats at the Superdome on Tuesday night, that commercial appeal didn't do much to sell tickets.

There were also the stories about how each team was going to prove that it belonged in New Orleans and in a BCS bowl game. Virginia Tech would show us all, as would the Wolverines. Instead what we saw were two teams that ingested a bit too much sugar and suffered some kind of diabetic seizure on the field.

Lofting up wounded ducks that turned into 45-yard touchdowns, or running fake field goals that were botched entirely yet still somehow managed to work.

The Michigan Wolverines won this game despite being outgained by Virginia Tech nearly two to one. The Hokies had 377 yards of total offense in this game compared to Michigan's 184, yet it was the Wolverines who emerged victorious. While the Hokies routinely fell down to the bottom step and were on the precipice of winning this contest, they continually decided to take a step back every time victory was in reach. Meanwhile Michigan threw all caution to the wind and just flung itself down the stairs headfirst.

Had this game been an iPhone app, it would have been called Fiesta Bowl Lite and been available to download for free. Think about it, Virginia Tech jumped out to an early lead with two scores, but instead of touchdowns like Stanford had against Oklahoma State, the Hokies had to settle for field goals.

Then there was the second quarter comeback for the Wolverines just when you thought they had no chance.

In the end, much like Stanford before it, Virginia Tech managed to lose a game in which it seemingly dominated its opponent for most of the night, and on a missed field goal in overtime to boot. Of course, this was the lite version of the Fiesta Bowl, so Virginia Tech missed only one field goal, not two. Then, like Oklahoma State, Michigan rode a couple of touchdown catches by a wide receiver in Junior Hemingway and took advantage of Virginia Tech's overtime failure to win the game on a field goal.

The only difference was that the Fiesta Bowl was entertaining because it was an excellent story written with deep characters portrayed by great actors like Andrew Luck and Justin Blackmon.

The Sugar Bowl was essentially the movie "New Year's Eve." You assemble a big name cast and then hurriedly write a mediocre script and wing it while on the set. Then you hope enough people show up to see it before the word gets out about how terrible it is.

And in the end, the only thing either team convinced me of on Tuesday night was that this movie would have been a hell of a lot more entertaining had it starred Boise State and Kansas State.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:05 am
 

Blackmon, Luck go out with a bang in Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Justin Blackmon 
hadn't even left the University of Phoenix Stadium field yet. But there wasn't any point to delaying the inevitable; when asked as part of his postgame television interview if he had just played the final game of his outstanding college career, he answered straightforwardly. 

"I think I am going to go ahead and enter the NFL Draft," he said, "and see what happens after that."

We already have some idea what's going to happen "after that"--Blackmon will be selected among the very top picks in the Draft, sign a contract worth millions, and very likely go on to become an excellent professional receiver. But nothing Blackmon will do "after that" will better the excitement of what he's accomplished before that at Oklahoma State, where heading into Monday's Fiesta Bowl he had already rewritten the school's receiving record book and won a pair of Biletnikoff Awards as the nation's best receiver.

Likewise, we can already write most of the "after that" for Andrew Luck. The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up is about to go No. 1 overall in the draft and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Peyton Manning -- maybe even at the same franchise -- as the kind of superstar pocket-passing quarterback NFL dynasties are built around. But before that, there was three seasons of pure All-American brilliance in which his Cardinal set a school record for scoring all three seasons.

For both players, the Fiesta was the final night of "before that," the final game in the collegiate careers of two of college football's most blinding stars. So it was only appropriate that with the rare chance to square off against a star of equal caliber -- in a bowl that employs the sun in its logo, no less -- both Blackmon and Luck went flat-out supernova.

Blackmon's team won, but no one would have blinked if Luck had been named the game's MVP. His numbers were phenomenal, of course:  27-of-31, 347 yards (11.2 an attempt), 2 touchdowns. He went 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter, expertly managing drives both fast (the 63-yard drive over the final 2:35 to set up Jordan Williamson's ill-fated 35-yard attempt) and slow (the 13-play, 69-yard TD march that ate up 7:21 of the final period). 

But most impressive was the 10.0 degree-of-difficulty throws Luck uncorked with regularity. Passes like the one delivered to Griff Whalen in the second quarter -- an over-the-shoulder "bucket" throw to a receiver sprinting down the sideline, made with Luck moving to his right -- are referred to as "NFL throws," but we're not sure half the League's starters could make them the way Luck does. You could say Luck showed off "the complete package" against the Cowboys, but that doesn't do justice to how expansive that package is.

And still, Luck might have been the second-best player on the field. Blackmon finished with 8 catches for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, but again, the stats don't do justice to either his physical dominance -- one-on-one coverage was a lost cause for the Cardinal -- or his knack for making those catches at the best possible time. 

With the Cowboys reeling from a lost first quarter and a 14-0 deficit, it was Blackmon who pulled in a pair of lightning bolt scores (one 43 yards, the other 67) to get his team back in the game. Facing a 4th-and-4 at the Stanford 32 and his team down again late in the second quarter, it was Blackmon who caught a short pass and brushed aside two Cardinal tacklers to set up a first-and-goal (and eventual touchdown). Down seven again after a disastrous third quarter, it was Blackmon scoring to tie it (again) to start the fourth. And finally, 4th-and-3 on OSU's own 40 with under 3:30 to play and the Cowboys in "touchdown or bust" desperation mode, it was Blackmon who again abused his defender for 21 yards.

The 2012 Fiesta Bowl would have been remembered for a long, long time even without Luck's and Blackmon's fireworks; 41-38 overtime shootouts between two top-five teams decided by a heartbreaking field goal miss have a way of sticking around the game's collective memory. But what elevated the contest to stone-cold classic status was seeing two players of Luck's and Blackmon's historic talent both grab the same game by the teeth and refuse for 60 minutes -- and beyond -- to let go. It's maybe not fair to the excellent Brandon Weeden or Stepfan Taylor to reduce the game to a mano a mano battle between that quarterback on that side and that receiver on that side, but Luck and Blackmon didn't give us much choice.

And at the end of each of their respective times in college football, that's exactly how it should have been. "After that" will be interesting. But for a night, Luck's and Blackmon's shared "before that" was as good as it's possible to get.

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:37 am
Edited on: January 3, 2012 12:41 am
 

Oklahoma State wins Fiesta shootout over Stanford



Posted by Jerry Hinnen

One team had the No. 1 draft pick quarterback. The other had the uncoverable wide receiver. And in the end, the wide receiver won out.

Behind an instant-classic 8-catch, 186-yard, 3-touchdown performance from Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State won the Fiesta Bowl 41-38 over fourth-ranked Stanford in overtime. Quinn Sharp hit the game-winning 22-yard field goal after Cardinal kicker Jordan Williamson missed a 35-yarder for the win at the end of regulation and a 42-yarder in overtime. Sharp's field goal was set up by a 24-yard completion to Colton Chelf to the half-yard line.

That even the Cowboys' 38 regulation points weren't enough was down -- mostly -- to the brilliance of Andrew Luck, who went an incredible 27-of-31 for 347 yards and 2 touchdowns. Luck appeared to have won the game by going 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter, first putting his team up 38-31 with a 13-play, seven-minute drive and then the two-minute drill that set up Williamson for the missed game-winner.  

But in the end, Blackmon and Brandon Weeden (29-of-42, 399 yards, 3 TDs) were too much, even with the Cardinal's 588-406 advantage in total yards.

It didn't look like it in the third quarter, though. The Cowboys picked up a first down on the opening possession of the second half, then went nowhere: three more plays, punt; three plays on their next possession, punt; three plays from inside the 5 following a Stanford fumble, field goal. Total yardage for the quarter? Stanford 135, Oklahoma State 15.  

The teams went in at halftime tied at 21 after a combined five-touchdown barrage in the second quarter. Luck led a pair of masterful drives -- 7 plays, 87 yards for a 14-0 lead, then 8 plays, 80 yards to restore the lead to 21-14 -- but even he was the second-best player on the field thanks to Blackmon. It wasn't just that he caught four passes in the span of 10 minutes--it was that two of them went for 43 and 67 yards, and a manly tackle-breaking third turned a 4th-and-4 at the Stanford 32 to first-and-goal at the 9.  

The first quarter, however, belonged to the Cardinal lock, stock and barrel. While Weeden struggled mightily -- he hit just 5-of-10 for 2.6 yards an attempt, with an ugly interception to boot -- Luck was his usual murderously effective self to start, executing a play-fake to perfection to spring Ty Montgomery for an easy 53-yard pitch-and-catch TD. The Cardinal finished the quarter with a 129-27 yardage advantage, but a missed field goal by Jordan Williamson and Luck's only poor throw of the period (one picked by Justin Gilbert) kept the Cowboys within a possession.

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:07 pm
 

Fiesta Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford WR Griff Whalen vs. Oklahoma State CB Brodrick Brown.

Stanford has a problem, and it's a big one: Chris Owusu is not coming back. The senior wideout and one-time kickoff return threat has suffered through a concussion-plagued final season in Palo Alto and won't be available against the Cowboys.

Losing a target of Owusu's caliber would be a big blow for any offense, but for one with as few weapons at the wide receiving position at the Cardinal, it's even bigger. Just three Cardinal wideouts finished in double digits in receptions, and one of those -- Ty Montgomery -- was a true freshman with 17. Owusu had 35. Meaning that the only remaining legitimate, proven threat at wideout is senior Griff Whalen, who finished with 49.

The issue is that Whalen's 49 receptions covered just 664 yards -- a less-than spectacular 13.55 per-catch average -- and accounted for just four touchdowns. Without Owusu, the Cardinal wideouts don't appear to have any way to stretch the field, and Whalen didn't seem to prosper without his fellow senior around to deflect coverage; in the two games after Owusu was sidelined for good against Oregon, Whalen totaled just four catches for 23 yards.

Though Stanford's tight ends are as good as any in the country -- All-American Coby Fleener has been the team's true deep threat all season, averaging better than 20 yards a reception and racking up 10 touchdowns -- Andrew Luck is going to need something more than that from his wideouts. Unfortunately for Whalen, it's not going to be easy to have a breakout game given the Cowboys' strength in the secondary. He's likely to spend most of the game dealing with Brodrick Brown, the Pokes' outstanding junior corner, whose team-leading five interceptions helped him to first-team all-Big 12 honors.

If Whalen can make some kind of headway against Brown, he can keep the rest of the Poke secondary from locking in on the tight ends, do his part to keep some space open for the clock-milking Stanford running game, and maybe even give Montgomery some holes to work in. But against a corner the caliber of Brown, that's going to take Whalen's biggest and best performance of the season--and without it, Luck may simply not have enough targets for the Cardinals to keep pace with the likes of the Cowboys.

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Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:55 pm
 

PODCAST: Jan. 2 Bowl Previews

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.

 
 
 
 
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