Tag:Tino Sunseri
Posted on: January 7, 2012 4:45 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2012 4:45 pm
 

QUICK HITS: SMU 28 Pitt 6

Posted by Tom Fornelli

SMU WON. Which wasn't surprising considering the circumstances Pitt was playing under, only having four full-time coaches left on the staff. SMU jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and essentially put it in cruise control from there on. SMU's offense had 315 yards of offense on the day, with J.J. McDermott throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown and Darius Johnson on the receiving end of 7 passes for 121 yards and a score.

Though it wasn't just SMU's offense getting the job done, as the Mustangs defense held Pitt to only 210 yards of total offense and sacked Tino Sunseri 7 times.

WHY SMU WON. The Mustangs just came out of the gate much stronger in this contest, and after building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter they just made sure not to make any mistakes and hold the lead. The defense had a very strong day and the offense did more than enough. Combine that with a Pitt team that seemed to be lacking in motivation, and there wasn't much suspense in this contest.

WHEN SMU WON. When Rishaad Wimbley scored his first of 2 touchdowns on the day late in the first quarter following a Pitt turnover to make the score 21-0, it was rather evident that the Panthers weren't going to provide much resistance in this one.

WHAT SMU WON. SMU finishes its season at 8-5 and picks up a nice win over a school from the conference that it will be joining in 2013. It wasn't a great season for SMU, but its hard to be too upset with an 8-win season as it's not like the expectations were sky-high for the Mustangs this year.

WHAT PITT LOST. It's head coach, a lot of assistants and any desire to play football in 2011. The Panthers finish the year with a losing record at 6-7 but I think most people involved with the program are just happy to finally be able to close the book on the season and move ahead with Paul Chryst in the future. Whether that future is in the Big East or ACC.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Not really crazy, but it was funny to watch this game just for the fact that Pitt was a team that had been abandoned by its head coach for the Arizona State job (Todd Graham) but only because SMU's coach (June Jones) was all set to take the Arizona State job before things fell apart at the last minute.

BOWL GRADE: F. This game was not entertaining. Maybe it's the placement of the game, but it's hard to get up for a bowl game between Pitt and SMU after you've been watching BCS games and the Cotton Bowl and have the title game looming around the corner. Combine that with a total lack of drama and having to see a few too many replays of SMU running back Jared Williams' devastating leg injury (he broke his left femur in the fourth quarter) and there wasn't much about this one you want to remember.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:08 am
 

Keys to the game: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SMU WILL WIN IF: The Mustangs have no problem throwing the ball around in June Jones' offense but, this year, that has led to plenty of turnovers and they're going to have cut those down if they want to win this game. SMU is dead last in turnover margin - and it's not very close - and throws interceptions as much as they do slant routes (19 on the season). Pitt has shown flashes of being a good team despite their 6-6 record and if they keep getting extra chances to score, should find the end zone enough to win the game. But, if SMU can hold onto the football and the offense is sharp as it can be, a bowl trophy should find its way to the hilltop.

PITTSBURGH WILL WIN IF: Quarterback Tino Sunseri has to step his game up and come through with some efficient drives. Pitt was the definition of average this season with their record, an up-and-down ride through the year that did see them lose several close games and win a few others they could have lost. With running back Ray Graham out, the offense has stalled after going one-dimensional and Sunseri has been making mistakes that just make you scratch your head. The defense will have its hands full with SMU's offense so the team needs the offense to move the ball and limit mistakes and turnovers. Play within themselves and Pitt should end the season on a high note and give something new head coach Paul Chryst can build on.

X-FACTOR: Is either team motivated to be in Birmingham? SMU had their coach flirt with other schools in the offseason and Pitt makes a return trip to this bowl after an average season and their coach informing them via text message that he was headed to warmer climates. They're playing in one of those games in the lull between the title game and other BCS bowls so it's possible both teams come out lackadaisical and uncaring. Add in the fact that just about every coach for the Panthers is either gone or has an interim tag and you don't know how they're going to come out of the tunnel and play. Whoever does come out sharp and executes will likely end up taking home whatever type of trophy BBVA can come up with.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Belk Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LOUISVILLE WILL WIN IF: the Cardinals can get things going on the ground. Sounds simple enough, but it's hardly coincidence that the Cards went 7-1 in games in which they topped 100 rushing yards -- including all six of their 5-1 sprint to the 2011 finish line -- and 0-4 in games in which they didn't. With true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still learning the ropes when it comes to putting the ball in the air (the Cards averaged just 24 pass attempts a game over those final six), the Cards simply don't have the means to overcome consistent 3rd-and-long situations. And that probably goes double against the Wolfpack, who boast All-American safety candidate David Amerson and ranked 31st in the country in opposing quarterback rating. The NCSU rush defense was somewhat softer, though (ranking 41st) and the Cardinal offensive line picked up some legitimate steam down the stretch; if they can give talented backs Victor Anderson and Dominique Brown just a few seams to work with, the Cards should be able to move the ball just enough to earn the victory.

N.C. STATE WILL WIN IF: they likewise can get things going in the air. While the Cards likely need some semblance of balance to make their offense work, the Wolfpack should probably just forget trying to run the ball in this matchup; Charlie Strong's defense boasts the 10th-best rush D numbers in the FBS, while the NCSU running attack is ranked 107th. That's a no-go. But Mike Glennon quietly enjoyed a steady-if-unspectacular season under center for the Wolfpack (28 TDs-to-11 INTs) and a deep corps of receivers emerged with six different targets finishing with 25 or more receptions. The Cards struggled with viable passing attacks, too, yielding 11.8 yards an attempt to FIU, 410 yards on more than 9 an attempts to West Virginia, even 8.5 an attempt to Tino Sunseri at Pitt. If the Wolfpack can keep Glennon upright  -- the Cards finished 19th nationally in sacks -- there will be some holes for the Wolfpack to exploit.

THE X-FACTOR: red zone efficiency. While we can talk about what the offenses do and don't bring to the table, don't make any mistake: this is a "battle" between the nation's 104th- and 93rd-ranked total offenses going against a pair of top-40 defenses, and points are going to be at an extreme premium. (That's Louisville and N.C. State, respectively, but the order hardly matters; in yards per-play, the Cards are 91st and NCSU 107th.) That means whatever rare opportunities these two attacks get to put points on the board must be taken advantage of; don't be surprised to see a 17-13 type of scoreline where one touchdown for one side vs. one field goal for the other proves the difference.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 14, 2011 9:43 pm
 

Pitt players react to Todd Graham's departure

Posted by Chip Patterson

Todd Graham's departure from Pittsburgh to accept the head coaching job at Arizona State came as a big surprise to the college football world, especially the Pittsburgh players and administration. The school has already issued their official statement of disappointment, but the current Panthers took their displeasure to Twitter.

It wasn't pretty, either.

Below are a few selections from defensive end Brandon Lindsey (@B_Lindsey7), wide receiver Devin Street (@D_Street_15), and wide receiver Salath Williams (@WiLLiando17). Graham reportedly informed the team by text message as he was on the way to Tempe to be officially introduced as the next coach of the Sun Devils. Lindsey and Street, in particular, spent a great deal of Wednesday voicing their frustrations. If you'd like you can check out their pages in the links above - but warning, some language is NSFW.








Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 14



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This is it, the final week of MWM in the 2011 season, and it pretty much couldn't have gone worse for me. You see, heading into last week it was a two-horse race, and I was on the verge of losing a picks competition against my girlfriend. Well, then the Machine had to go 8-2 last week while both Woman and I struggled, and guess who is now in second place?

That's right, at the moment, I trail not only my girlfriend but my Playstation as well. Pretty much as embarrassing as embarrassing can be.

On the bright side, the race is closer than ever before, which is pretty much the ideal situation heading into the final week of any competition. Yes, I'm in last place, but I'm only two games behind Woman. Machine is a game behind. So any of us can win, which makes this week the single most important week of the MWM season.

Feel free to read our final picks of the season while I pool some money together and get to work bribing teams to help me out this weekend.

South Florida (Pick 'em) vs. West Virginia - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I was originally leaning toward South Florida because they're at home, and it's the Big East, so since you have no idea what's going to happen, leaning toward the home side is usually the best bet. But then the news that B.J. Daniels probably won't be playing came along, and, well, that changes things. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "I want to pick the Bulls  - mostly so I can watch coach Dana Holgorsen figure out a way to blame West Virginia fans for the loss (start at minute 1:10 here to see his previous efforts) - but they're too banged up, so the mundane Mountaineers will squeak by." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - West Virginia keeps its slim BCS hopes alive with a rather easy 37-20 win over the Bulls. Pick: West Virginia

Oregon (-30 1/2) vs. UCLA - Friday, 8pm

Man - That is a very big spread. One that's big enough to make me think that maybe UCLA isn't a horrible pick because once Oregon gets up by a lot, it really has no reason to pile on, the Rose Bowl is its only possible destination. But then I realized I'd be putting my faith in Rick Neuheisel, and last game or not, no thanks. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "My prediction: At the start of his final game, fired UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel will rip off his shirt to reveal his 1984 SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS JERSEY, SPRINT OUT ONTO THE FIELD AND, UNFAZED BY THE BAD BURRITO HE ATE FROM A TACO STAND ON LA CIENEGA, TAKE OVER AS QUARTERBACK, THROWING TO HIMSELF FOR TOUCHDOWN AFTER TOUCHDOWN UNTIL THE UCLA BOARD OF REGENTS REALIZES ITS GRIEVOUS ERROR, RUSHES TO THE SIDELINES AND ASKS, NAY, BEGS HIM TO STAY." Pick: Oregon

Machine - The Machine sees this one as a game that might be competitive-ish for a while on Friday night. It seems to think that the Bruins will experience some kind of Rick Neuheisel bump. They still lose, but only 41-28. Pick: UCLA

Houston (-14 1/2) vs. Southern Miss - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This game is odd for so many reasons, one being that both head coaches are being mentioned as candidates at other schools, which can be quite a distraction. I want to pick Houston because they're undefeated and torched a good Tulsa team last week, but then I started thinking about the BCS. Wouldn't it just make sense that in the final weekend of the season the undefeated team from the non-BCS conference fell due to some kind of BCS conspiracy? I'm pretty sure Bill Hancock is a Freemason....ahh, screw it. Pick: Houston

Woman - "Picking blind here cuz the only Southern miss I know got wasted on SigEp punch and woke up on the 50 yard line the next morning. Wait. That was me." Pick: Houston

Machine - The Machine sees Case Keenum putting the final stamp on a terrific regular season, as he throws for 414 yards and 5 touchdowns as Houston wins 45-28. Pick: Houston

Pitt (-10 1/2) vs. Syracuse - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Man, I seriously have no idea. Maybe it's the pressure of the situation I'm in getting to me, but I stare at this spread and it may as well be the equation on the chalkboard in Good Will Hunting. It's just a bunch of numbers and letters to me. Whatever, give me the Panthers. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Syracuse is god awful but if there's one thing I learned watching last week's Backyard Brawl it's that every Orange defenseman should just yell "Boo!" while running towards Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, then wait for him drop to the ground and start weeping. That should keep the results within the spread, at least." Pick: Syracuse

Machine - The Machine nearly blew up after being forced to simulate two Big East games in the same week. Pitt wins 24-10. Pick: Pitt

Kansas State (-11 1/2) vs. Iowa State - Saturday, 12:30pm

Man - I think Iowa State has already had its big upset bid of the season, and I don't see them being able to stop Kansas State on the road this weekend. Plus, the Cyclones offense just did not look very good at all last week. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "Game's not being played in Oklahoma? Check. Not against a team from Oklahoma? Check." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Can't decide if this is good or bad news for Kansas State, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time all year that The Machine has picked the Wildcats. KSU wins 27-10. Pick: Kansas State

Baylor (-2 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Robert Griffin is expected to play, and although the Texas defense has been outstanding, I just don't see the Texas offense being able to keep up with the Bears for 60 minutes. Especially on the road. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Note to Mack Brown: A television network does not a football team make." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Sorry, Baylor, The Machine just isn't buying what you're selling this season. Texas wins 27-24. Pick: Texas

LSU (-12 1/2) vs. Georgia - Saturday, 4pm

Man - Here's how good LSU is: the Tigers could lose this game and then go on to lose the national title game, and I'd still probably put them at #1 on my ballot. Pick: LSU

Woman - "The only times I lost on LSU games this season were when I bet against you, Les. What was I thinking?  (And by the way, I've decided to start a "DRAFT LES MILES FOR PRESIDENT" Committee, if only to see the look on his face when other candidates do really dumb things.)" Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine doesn't really see Georgia threatening LSU in this game, but it also doesn't see much offense, and Georgia gets the cover because of it. LSU wins 14-6. Pick: Georgia

Oklahoma State (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You know that BCS conspiracy thing I mentioned with my Southern Miss pick? Yeah, well it applies here too. What's the best way to ensure that there's no debate between Oklahoma State and Alabama? Have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Though I suppose that when you consider how the Sooners have dominated this rivalry through time, the conspiracy may not be necessary. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "This is it, Cowboys. Time to show all the naysayers why you belong in the BCS Championship. If you win, you've earned it (though it will have to be by thirty points to convince the myopic BCS voters)." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - The Machine sticks with the trends. Oklahoma wins 41-35. Pick: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Clemson has already beaten Virginia Tech by 20 earlier this season, and although the Tigers haven't exactly been a good team the last few weeks, I'm still confident that they can at the very worst cover that spread on a neutral field. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Really? This could be the game that loses me the MWM season? Pass the Maalox while I puzzle through my choices. Yeah, they crushed Virginia last week, but I still have Hokie hesitation. I'm taking a deep breath and going with Sammy Watkins plus home field advantage. Your move, Sicilian." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Hokies get revenge and quite a bit of it, as Tech picks up a relatively easy 27-7 win. Pick: Virginia Tech

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 8:17pm 

Man - I think we've seen the best from Michigan State already this season, and now that they're facing a Wisconsin team that's once again gotten rolling on a neutral field, I'm liking the Badgers' chances. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Next stop, Rose Bowl. (Hey, guys, thanks to you for reading and to Fornelli for coming up with this competition. It's been a lot of fun. Also, thanks to CBS Sports for finally shattering the glass ceiling last week, so I can now look forward to a continued future in football prognostication.)" Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine doesn't believe in God, and therefore it does not see any Hail Mary saving the Spartans this time. Wisconsin wins 31-23, but that's a cover for Sparty. Pick: Michigan State

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 73-62 (4-6)
2. Machine 72-63 (8-2)
3. Man 71-64 (4-6)
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.

As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.

Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.

Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.

The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.

Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.

The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.

It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.

It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.

"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.

"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."

Nothing like beating a rival.

Stat of the week

In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.

Stats of week

- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)

- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.

- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.

- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).

 - LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.

Yard-by-yard

- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.

- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.

- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.

- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.

- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.

- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.

- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.

- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.

- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.

- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.

- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.

- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.

- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.

- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.

Tweet of the week

"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.

- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. USC

6. Oregon

7. Boise State

8. Arkansas

9. Houston

10. Virginia Tech


Where we'll be this week

I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Leaning this way

Georgia vs. LSU

Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.


Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Charlie Strong

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

LOSER: BCS dreams for Rutgers and Pittsburgh

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

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

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

WINNER: The Rebuilt Cincinnati Offense

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

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

LOSER: Pittsburgh RB Zach Brown

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

WINNER: Connecticut's bowl hopes

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

LOSER: Backyard Brawl as a Big East tradition

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

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

WINNER: Charlie Strong

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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