Tag:California
Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:58 pm
 

Surveying the Field: End of the season edition



Posted by Bryan Fischer


It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season is over.

Over.

If the finality hasn't hit you, it's ok. Hold on to it, savor it, try not to let it go.

Though things off the field in the sport - realignment, arrests, suspensions, infractions and on and on - may never have been worse, the product on the field was pretty good. There were hail mary's and punt returns, one-handed catches and devastating sacks. There was a Honey Badger, All Russell Wilson Everything and some epic comebacks.

With that in mind, in the final Surveying the Field of 2011, a look back at just about every bowl team and a few lines about them looking forward.

National Championship Game

Looking back: It wasn't pretty at times but the Tigers rolled to the national title game in impressive fashion, dispatching Pac-12 champion Oregon by 13 at a neutral site to open the season, Big East champion West Virginia by 26 on the road, beat their title game foe Alabama at home and rolled over SEC East winner Georgia by 32 in what amounted to their home crowd. Tyrann Mathieu was the ball-hawking fire starter for the team but, gasp, the best player might have been punter Brad Wing who was crucial in establishing good field position every time.

Looking ahead: How much is there left to prove? The rematch in New Orleans can be Les Miles chance to end any doubt as to who was far and away the best team in 2011 by turning the national championship game into a coronation with a convincing win. Lose and an AP National Title likely awaits. The Tigers are in a can't lose situation.

Looking back: Before the season, many in Tuscaloosa said this could be Nick Saban's best defense. It's hard to argue if you look at the numbers, first in rush, pass, total and scoring defense. The most points they gave up the entire year was 21. The offense wasn't too shabby either, not with Heisman candidate Trent Richardson delivering electrifying runs.

Looking ahead: LSU came into their house and won, now it's time for them to do the same for the crystal ball. They might not have won their division but they can win the national title.

Orange Bowl

Looking back: Early on, it seemed like they were going to struggle. A close win against Wofford? Then it seemed like Sammy Watkins started to heat up and the Tigers moved to 8-0 and people were talking titles. But there was also talk of Clemson being Clemson - and it happened at Georgia Tech. And again at N.C. State. And at South Carolina. But the slide ended in Charlotte with another win over Virginia Tech to win the first ACC title since 1991.

Looking ahead: Dabo Swinney said it best after winning the conference championships, saying he's taking his, "Clemson talents to South Beach." The defense shut down the Hokies once again but they are taking a much bigger step up facing Dana Holgorsen with a month to prepare.

Looking back: A 9-3 season, Big East title and BCS bowl berth is not to shabby debut for Dana Holgorsen as a head coach. The offense was as advertised, jumping from 67th last year to 17th at 459.6 yards per game. They were blown out against LSU thanks to turnovers and that was a theme in their losses. The Mountaineers won several close games and that could pay off down the road.

Looking ahead: Given how mediocre the conference was, perhaps this BCS bowl berth should count for the Big 12, the league the school is departing for in 2012. Nothing would be better than for athletic director Oliver Luck to say thanks for the memories like a trophy full of oranges (which he might throw at the Big East offices).

Sugar Bowl

Looking back: They were blitzed at their rival Michigan State and somehow lost to Iowa but the season was certainly a successful inaugural campaign for Brady 'Michigan Man' Hoke. Most of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has turned around a unit that couldn't tackle to one that finished 7th in the country in total defense. Denard Robinson struggled at times to adapt to a new offense but still manage to deliver thrills such as one of the craziest endings of the year against Notre Dame. It paled in comparison to the final few snaps at the Big House however, as the Wolverines finally beat rival Ohio State.

Looking ahead: Sure this group might be mostly Rich Rodriguez' players but Hoke has taken them to the next level with an easy schedule and tough-love coaching. Winning their first BCS game would send a message to the rest of the country that the program was indeed back.

Looking back: Hokies fans will get upset but it seems pretty accurate to say the team was the least deserving of the at-large selections given their lackluster group of wins (not one BCS team on the non-conference slate, lost to Clemson by a combined margin of 61-13). There were positives on offense, such as Logan Thomas taking over during stretches with his arm or his legs and David Wilson was a tackle-breaking machine. The defense was at normal high standards under Bud Foster.

Looking ahead: Don't belong? Ok, so prove it, it's that easy. Winning the game after last year's bowl performance will also do wonders for Frank Beamer, who enters as the winningest active head coach.

Fiesta Bowl

Looking back: Oh what could have been, Oklahoma State was so close to playing for a national title and would have been headed to New Orleans had it not been for the upset-minded Iowa State team on the road in double overtime. The offense was the second best in the country through the air and elder statesman Brandon Weeden made things click with ease. For all the knocks they were given, the defense was actually impressive when you consider they forced 42 turnovers and allowed a lot of their points and yards when the starters were on the sidelines.

Looking ahead: While Boone Pickens might be upset and threatening to investigate the BCS with his piles of money, the Cowboys can't allow their disappointment to ruin the best season in school history with a Fiesta Bowl loss.

Looking back: It's not often you mention Stanford as a BCS contender but here we are, back-to-back games thanks to Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and despite having a first-time head coach taking over in David Shaw. Though they battled injuries all season long both sides of the ball turned in performances that were fitting of a top five team. The triple overtime thriller against USC might have been the highlight (more points scored against the Trojans than any other team) but a turnover-filled day at home against Oregon was the low-light that prevented them from the conference title. Still it was one of the most impressive seasons in school history.

Looking ahead: No better way for Luck to end his career than a victory against what everybody considers one of the three best teams in the country. In doing so, they'll help the Pac-12's reputation get off to a great start in the league's first year with 12 teams.

Rose Bowl

Looking back: Heisman campaigns were abound in this backfield with the ever efficient Russell Wilson running things at quarterback and Montee Ball finding the end zone more than entire teams did in the regular season. If the defense could have just defended hail mary's better we'd be talking about the national title game for the Badgers but ending up in the granddaddy of them all with a shot to win is the best consolation prize around.

Looking ahead: Despite the two losses on their record, this could still go down as one of the most dominant teams in Wisconsin history with a Rose Bowl win.

Looking back: Their third straight conference title might have been one of the sweetest in school history given the way the season went. The opener was tough as they failed to beat an SEC team and largely fumbled things away. Oregon did what Oregon typically has done under Chip Kelly in conference except for one night at home against USC. Things got a little bit better when the Ducks hoisted the first ever Pac-12 championship up at Autzen Stadium but the program's standards are now so high that the season is sort of considered a disappointment.

Looking ahead: If the program wants to its cement status as one of the game's elite than they're going to have to win the Rose Bowl no if's and's, or but's about it. That it would be the school's second ever win (and first since 1917) would also cement the squad as one of the best in Oregon history.

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Looking back: The MAC champions had a thrilling come-from-behind win to capture the league title thanks in large part to quarterback Chandler Harnish. Northern Illinois also ran off eight straight wins after a narrow loss to Central Michigan earlier in the year.

Looking forward: There was nothing like mid-week MACtion this year and it's up for the Huskies to end the season on a high note.


Looking back: Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense produced the school's first winning season since 1995 and a host of records. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is 11th in total offense and was a dual-threat that couldn't be stopped during Sun Belt play. Given that their only two losses were to BCS foes (including a closer than expected loss to BCS-bound Virginia Tech), this is easily the most successful year in the program's history.

Looking forward: Though Freeze will depart for Ole Miss, there will be plenty of players around that can still beat NIU.

BBVA Compass Bowl

Looking back: Things started on the wrong foot in the opener but running back Zach Line was the big star to emerge for SMU as they pulled together a seven win season. The Mustangs had a five game winning streak before coming back to reality later in the year and were actually led by a solid defensive unit.

Looking ahead: Head coach June Jones might be moving on to greener pastures but after 25 years of no bowls, the school's third straight postseason trip is something to cherish.

Looking back: It was an up and down debut season for new head coach Todd Graham as Pitt never could find consistency. They were never blown out, losing four games by 11 points, but couldn't put together back-to-back wins outside of the first two games against lackluster teams.

Looking ahead: The Panthers return to Birmingham for the second straight year trying to give Graham and staff, some of whom are headed to Arizona, momentum heading into the offseason.

Cotton Bowl

Looking back: One of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs in a career full of them, Kansas State was left out of a BCS bowl but found their way into a de facto one after a 10 win season - the highest win total since 2003. The Wildcats started 7-0 before dropping two straight to the Oklahoma schools before puling things together. Quarterback Collin Klein leads the team in both passing and rushing and has scored an impressive 26 touchdowns. It may not have been the prettiest team in the country but they found every which way to win.

Looking ahead: The team could tie the school-record for wins in a season, a remarkable accomplishment considering they were picked 8th in the preseason.

Looking back: Though they won't be going to the BCS, they can still hang their hats on the fact that their only losses came on the road to the teams ranked first and second. The Razorbacks explosive offense led behind quarterback Tyler Wilson is one reason for their success even if he's been beaten up behind his offensive line.

Looking ahead: They've played in this building before and had a furious comeback against Texas A&M so the stage shouldn't be an issue for the Hogs. They're ranked sixth and could turn in the best season under Bobby Petrino with a win.

Outback Bowl

Looking back: Michigan State fell short of a Big Ten championship but still put together a successful season that included wins over rival Michigan and a thrilling hail mary to beat Wisconsin. The offense is solid with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell in the backfield but the defense is the reason for the success this year. The Spartans not only captured a 10-win season but also won the first ever Legends division title.

Looking ahead: MSU will have to play through the disappointment of their tough championship game loss and refocus for a bowl game. They remember all too well what happened last year so coming out with a win is imperative as the impressive senior group departs.

Looking back: The season started with Mark Richt on the hot seat and two losses to top teams that turned the pressure up a notch. Georgia responded, running off 10 straight thanks to the ease of the schedule and the toughness of their defense. Linebacker Jarvis Jones was a star, leading the SEC in sacks, as the Bulldogs found their way back to Atlanta by winning the East. The lack of depth hurt at times but Aaron Murray was a solid young quarterback and Isaiah Crowell lived up to his billing at running back.

Looking ahead: The Dawgs are playing in January and need a big win to end the year on a high note and make everybody forget about last year.

Gator Bowl

Looking back: A once promising season started to unravel in the offseason, with something negative happening to the program seemingly every month since it became known about the "Buckeye Five." Jim Tressel was out and Luke Fickell was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at head coach. The defense was good but the offense was pretty bad, especially the passing game. Freshman Braxton Miller was a good spark and showed flashes of being something special.

Looking ahead: The Urban Meyer Bowl is an understandable storyline but the Buckeyes won't have their opponent's former head coach on the sidelines coaching them. Showing him what he has to work with will be big for the program however.

Looking back: It was a terrible season by the lofty standards in Gainesville but more than that, it just wasn't fun to watch Florida's offense. John Brantley figured to be a good fit in Charlie Weis' system but wasn't and got hurt. It was tough to produce first downs much less big plays and the defense, though solid, didn't seem to make the stops needed to get some wins. The Gators finished below .500 in the conference, won only three games versus BCS schools and lost four straight to in the middle of a forgettable season.

Looking ahead: The bumps and bruises of the year can all be erased against Ohio State and  a small measure of revenge against their former head coach who left just a year ago.

Capital One Bowl

Looking back: A solid first effort in the Big Ten for Nebraska, which ended with nine wins but seemed to have issues being consistent. Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't make the leap you'd expect this year and the defense wasn't as impressive as many thought they would be. Injuries played a part but don't explain losses to teams like Northwestern at home or blowouts to Wisconsin and Michigan.

Looking ahead: A rare match up against an SEC team for the Cornhuskers, a win would give them a 10 win season for the third straight year and allow them to count their Big Ten money at home in a much happier mood.

Looking back: There are wild rides and there's South Carolina under the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. They looked a little shaky early but overcame adversity by managing a 10-2 season despite losing their starting quarterback and running back to suspension and injury, respectively. They almost won the division but, in retrospect, perhaps it was better that they didn't face LSU this year.

Looking ahead: The Gamecocks are looking to post their first 11 win season in more than 100 years and end a three-bowl losing streak by riding the momentum of beating rival Clemson at the end of the year.

TicketCity Bowl

Looking back: It looked like it was going to be a surprisingly good season before the Jerry Sandusky scandal showed the world the skeletons locked in Penn State's closets. Joe Paterno is out and the issues facing the program are still very much ongoing.

Looking ahead: Nittany Lions players are not happy to have fallen this far in the bowl pecking order but they're still going to need to show up if they want a 10th win and something positive to think about in the offseason.

Looking back: Oh what could have been. The dream season led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum ended in a thud in the Conference USA championship game at home. The offense was the focal point with a slew of weapons at wide out and running back but there's no doubt that last game zapped all the positive things gong for a program that almost made the BCS.

Looking ahead: Kevin Sumlin might be at another school by the time the Cougars play but Keenum and the senior class can still go out on top by beating a marquee opponent and posting one of the best year's in school history.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Looking back: It was a successful turnaround for Mike London that had Virginia on the cusp of playing for the ACC title after several upsets along the way. Alas, a loss to the rival Hokies ended that but things are looking up in Charlottesville based on the way the team played week-in and week-out.

Looking ahead: Playing in their first bowl since 2007, the team is hungry to end the year with nine wins and plenty of positive vibes.

Looking back: Earlier this year Auburn was holding up a crystal ball. After a ton of losses on both sides of the ball, the Tigers took their lumps and struggled on offense and defense. The team was ran over in the Iron Bowl and ended the year on a sour note after surprising many with a win over South Carolina and bouncing around the top 25.

Looking ahead: Back to back lopsided losses in the final two SEC games will be a motivating factor for a young team that is looking to move back into contention for a West title next year.

Liberty Bowl

Looking back: Cincinnati surprised many with six straight wins in the middle of the season and appeared to be on their way to a BCS bowl until quarterback Zach Collaros got hurt.

Looking ahead: The Bearcats have a chance at 10 wins and are playing in a bowl after missing one last season.

Looking back: James Franklin had one of the best coaching jobs in the country by taking a team that had gone 4-20 over the past to years to the school's fifth ever bowl game.

Looking ahead: It's all about building up the momentum for the Commodores under Franklin, who just signed a nice new contract. The senior class will be the only one in school history to play in two bowl and want to make sure they are also the first two win two.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Looking back: UCLA represented the Pac-12 South in the championship game thanks to crosstown rival USC's ineligibility but back-to-back bad losses left the Bruins with some lumps on the field and no head coach off it. There were some bright spots in Rick Neuheisel's final season but some bad losses as both sides of the ball struggled.

Looking ahead: The Interim Head Coach Bowl is all about history for UCLA, who received a waiver to play in the game at 6-7. The team is looking to avoid going 6-8 for the first time in NCAA history.

Looking back: A promising 6-0 start was soon undone by a stretch of six straight losses. Things reached a low point after losing to lowly Minnesota to end the season, sealing the fate of head coach Ron Zook after seven seasons.

Looking ahead: Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will lead the program and no doubt wants to leave a good impression, as do the Illini with the chance to go across the country and wind up with a winning season.

Sun Bowl

Looking back: Six straight wins to open the season had many thinking Georgia Tech as a team to watch out for with their option offense. Things hit a rough patch as they lost four of their next six but the Yellow Jackets still managed to upset Clemson and reach their 15th straight bowl game.

Looking ahead: This is the first time they'll head to El Paso and should be excited trying to reach the nine win plateau.

Looking back: It wasn't quite the way Utah wanted their first ever Pac-12 season to go but they still managed to pull out seven wins despite a rash of injuries. The defense wasn't bad at all but the offense struggled to score all year long.

Looking ahead: The Utes hope to enter the offseason healthy, wealthy and with a win.

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl

Looking back: It started out as one of the most promising seasons in recent memory for Texas A&M but ended with quite a thud. There was the move to the SEC that dominated much of the conversation about the Aggies before they turned second half collapses into their trademark. As a result of the fall from grace, head coach Mike Sherman found himself looking for a new job.

Looking ahead: The Aggies are close to home and need a win to provide some sort of momentum as they look to head into the nation's toughest conference.

Looking back: The year began with a Heisman push for quarterback Dan Persa in the form of billboards and barbels touting "Persa Strong." He wasn't however, failing to recover from an Achilles injury soon enough leading to struggles early on. Things got turned around and the Wildcats even pulled off a huge upset against Nebraska.

Looking ahead: The program hasn't won a bowl game since 1948 so ending that streak seems like a good stepping stone into 2012.

Insight Bowl

Looking back: Remember when Oklahoma was the top team in the country? Yeah… Injuries to the Sooners' leading receiver and running back set the offense back a few steps and the defense never lived up to expectations. The trashing in Bedlam was rock bottom for a team that started with aspirations of a national title.

Looking ahead: The team doesn't want to be here and has rarely seen a non-BCS bowl under Bob Stoops so finding motivation will be a challenge. A loss will punctuate one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory so the still-talented Sooners will want to get that important 10th win.

Looking back: Not sure there is a team that could be as average this year as Iowa was. The offense and defense were just about in the middle of FBS and alternated wins and losses down the stretch to finish a game above .500. A win over Michigan was a season highlight but other than that, there wasn't much to get excited about.

Looking ahead: The Hawkeyes are a young team so they could use the trip out West as a building block for 2012.

Music City Bowl

Looking back: Wake Forest finished .500 on the year but managed to pull off some surprises, such as a win against Florida State and some closer than expected losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. The offense and defense were fairly nondescript this season.

Looking ahead: A third place finish in the division was a better than expected result for the regular season but dropping below the .500 mark would diminish things.

Looking back: After last season's banner year, many expected Mississippi State to keep things going under Dan Mullen. Inconsistency on offense, quarterback in particular, was part of the reason why the Bulldogs finished just .500 and had just two wins over BCS teams.

Looking ahead: An Egg Bowl win and second consecutive bowl game are a good thing to note when Mullen hits the recruiting trail.

Pinstripe Bowl

Looking back: Iowa State's season didn't really come down to one game but it's pretty clear that the upset of Oklahoma State at home was the thing the Cyclones held their hats on. Beating Iowa earlier in the year in overtime also made it a successful season despite finishing 6-6.

Looking ahead: Paul Rhodes is building something up in Ames and a bowl win would be a nice capper to the season with such a young team.

Looking back: Hardly anybody gave Rutgers a chance to be more than average this year but they rode a strong defense to an 8-4 year. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was the bright spot, toping 1,110 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.

Looking ahead: Some said that Greg Schiano was on the hot seat but he's moved off of it and can firmly put the talk to bed with a ninth win.

Armed Forces Bowl

Looking back: BYU's first season as an independent didn't quite turn out like they wanted with a narrow loss to Texas and blowout loss to Utah on the schedule. The Cougars still finished up 9-3 and on a three game winning streak.

Looking ahead: Pointing at 10 wins in their first season on their own would be a nice way to end a tumultuous year.

Looking back: Despite changing head coaches, Tulsa had a great run through Conference USA and finished 8-4 with an iffy defense. Their only losses were to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston, whose records aren't too shabby.

Looking ahead: The Golden Hurricanes have won seven of eight and no doubt want to make it eight of nine.

Alamo Bowl

Looking back: Robert Griffin III took a team with a defense ranked 110th in the country and led them to nine wins, including the first in school history over Oklahoma and another over Texas.

Looking ahead: You figure there's a good chance that RGIII wins or comes close to winning the Heisman and this game could be his final swan song if he moves on to the NFL.

Looking back: Everybody though it would be tough for Washington to get back to a bowl game after they lost quarterback Jake Locker but Keith Price took over and actually outperformed everybody's expectations. The defense was shaky and they couldn't come close to the conference's elite but still a nice season in Seattle.

Looking ahead: Steve Sarkisian is building a program up so their second straight bowl win is a great sign of progress but nothing like what a second straight bowl win would be like.

Champs Sports Bowl

Looking back: There was talk of a BCS bowl game this year for Notre Dame but expectations have a habit of being inflated for the Irish. They had a great win (in retrospect) over Michigan State but the season seemed to turn following the loss to USC with the team running off four straight and wind up 8-4.

Looking ahead: In a year considered a disappointment by their own high standards, a win over a team like Florida State will be a nice way to end the season.

Looking back: One of the biggest disappointments in college football, Florida State started in the top five but wind up 8-4 after losses to teams like Wake Forest. Injuries and youth played a part, sure, but it just wasn't the season Jimbo Fisher had hoped for when talking up this team earlier in the year.

Looking ahead: No one is recruiting like the Seminoles are and a big win in their home state while rivals are struggling would go a long ways.

Holiday Bowl

Looking back: Jeff Tedford was likely going to get another year but how California did this season would determine just how hot the seat was. A nice win over Arizona State to end the season and a close than expected loss to Stanford in the Big Game mean it's not too bad for Tedford.

Looking ahead: This is for a little revenge, as Cal no doubt wants to beat Texas after the Longhorns advocated for a BCS bid over them a few years ago.

Looking back: It was a brief hiatus from the postseason for Texas and though they couldn't find a good option at quarterback, the defense was good and they ended the rivalry with Texas A&M with a last second win.

Looking ahead: An eight win season is something most programs would take in a heart beat but it's almost required of Mack Brown this year.

Military Bowl

Looking back: Air Force comes in to the aptly named Military Bowl with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and option attack that was second in the country in rushing. The defense wasn't up to standards but a solid football team this year.

Looking ahead: They can't lose the Military Bowl, can they?

Looking back: Toledo seemed to go through the ringer this season with a close loss to Ohio State and the fiasco in the Syracuse finish. They ended the season winning seven of eight and have a high-powered offense people have to keep track of.

Looking ahead: They didn't win the MAC but a nine win season and bowl win are a nice thing to have for the Rockets.

Belk Bowl

Looking back: Not much was expected of Louisville this season, especially after losing to FIU at home, but Charlie Strong put together one of the best coaching jobs in the country as the Cardinals won five of their last six and beat champ West Virginia.

Looking ahead: Finishing strong and giving developing freshman Teddy Bridgewater are two things the program can take into the offseason.

Looking back: Despite the record, N.C. State didn't really put together a strong season when you consider they had just four wins over a BCS AQ team, one of whom didn't even go to a bowl game.

Looking ahead: Tom O'Brien is on the hot seat but he's 8-1 in bowl games and hopes an eight win season will cool things off for next year.

Independence Bowl

Looking back: James Franklin was solid in his first season as a starter and Missouri managed to pull out wins against all of the Texas schools except Baylor. The Tigers couldn't beat one of the Big 12's elite teams but it was a good effort for a team that had to replace several pieces on both sides of the ball.

Looking ahead: The school departs to the SEC and would like to have a bowl win on their resume (who knows, it might be awhile before they get back).

Looking back: Given that their coach was fired right after media days, a 7-5 campaign might be considered a success. The offense was surprisingly good with quarterback Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones at wide receiver and Giovani Bernard at running back.

Looking ahead: Who knows what NCAA sanctions might be for the program but a bowl win over an "SEC" team is a nice way to cap an up-and-down year in Chapel Hill.

Hawaii Bowl

Looking back: It's last year's successful campaign but it was a solid one nevertheless that included a five game winning streak led by new quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Looking ahead: They're going to the Hawaii Bowl so plenty of things to look forward to on the islands.

Looking back: Southern Miss had one of the most successful seasons in school history, finishing with 11 wins and the Conference USA championship. They had two puzzling losses, to Marshall and UAB, but upset Houston to throw a wrench into the BCS plans of their conference rival.

Looking ahead: They might be without their head coach but plenty to like about a trip out West.

Maaco Las Vegas Bowl

Looking back: What does it take for Boise State to get a good kicker? The Broncos lost a heartbreaker to TCU at home and that ended what could have been their chance to finally play for the national championship. It was still a very successful season with a big win over an SEC team but that one game against the Horned Frogs seemed to take a lot away.

Looking ahead: Kellen Moore is the winning starting quarterback in FBS history and would like one more to go out in style.

Looking back: It was such a promising year for Arizona State but a stretch run to forget. The offense exceeded expectations but had issues with turnovers and the defense didn't live up to their billing.

Looking ahead: Without a head coach, the Sun Devils don't have much to play for but their fans to get a trip to Vegas out of it.

Poinsettia Bowl

Looking back: Had they not lost to SMU at home, TCU likely would have made the BCS. Instead, they wind up in San Diego but leave the Mountain West in style with conference title in hand and another double-digit win total.

Looking ahead: 11 wins and a top 15 ranking are a nice thing to have when joining the Big 12 next year.

Looking back: Louisiana Tech won the WAC with a 6-1 conference record and seven straight wins to end the season. They almost beat Houston earlier in the year as well.

Looking ahead: A marquee win is something the Bulldogs don't have this year but one over TCU would certainly qualify.

Stat of the week

Via Rivals' David Fox, Landry Jones is 110-of-200 with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in four games since receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt.

Stats of the week

- Wisconsin's Montee Ball led the country in scoring and rushing. He had 38 total touchdowns, which was more than 52 teams.

- Oklahoma State wins a conference title and trip to a major bowl for the first time since 1945.

- The final numbers for Case Keenum: 69% completion, 152 touchdowns-46 interceptions, 18,685 yards passing.

- Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are tied for 7th on the active list with 80 touchdown passes. Luck has been more efficient and has a chance to pass Barkley in the bowl game.

- LaMichael James still lead the country in rushing yards per game. He finished fourth in total yards despite playing fewer games than everybody else.

- Robert Griffin III (192.31) narrowly edged out Russell Wilson (191.60) for the top passing efficiency title. Both marks top the NCAA single season record by a considerable margin. Wilson set an NCAA record with a touchdown pass in 37 straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly finished the year with 191 tackles, 44 more than anybody else.

- Stanford failed to score just once in the red zone (63/64 trips) and had 50 touchdowns and just 13 field goals.

- 46% of Trent Richardson's rushing yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn.

- First time Texas has finished below .500 in conference in back-to-back years since 1937-38.

Tweets of the week

"Bra we would <s class="hash" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; opacity: 0.7; text-decoration: none; display: inline-block;">#</s>smash OKST......they coach better calm down."

- LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard.

"I have no time for Mike Gundy. Dude just claimed Ok state would score 35 points on LSU..pass me what your drankin coach."

- Alabama tight end Brad Smelley.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. USC

7. Oregon

8. Wisconsin

9. Arkansas

10. Kansas State

Leaning this way

National championship game: LSU

Rose Bowl: Oregon

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford

Sugar Bowl: Michigan

Orange Bowl: West Virginia

Category: NCAAF
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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 21, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 12

Posted by Bryan Fischer

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

(AP/Coaches)

4/5. Stanford

Upset Saturday was the Cardinal's best friend as they rebounded from the defacto Pac-12 championship game - a loss to Oregon - to beat Cal in the annual Big Game. Thanks to losses ahead of them, Andrew Luck's squad moved up four spots in the AP to number four and up to fifth in the Coaches. Given that Virginia Tech doesn't have the strongest resume, Arkansas plays LSU and Stanford will have plenty of eyes on them with a primetime match up with Notre Dame, it's very possible this team can climb even higher after this week and into prime BCS talk.

9/9. Oregon

All things considered, falling back just five spots and likely hosting the first ever Pac-12 Championship game are two comforting thoughts for Ducks fans after the loss to USC. At this point, Oregon figures to go forward as the top two-loss team in the country and is still being given a good amount of respect after beating Stanford. The quacks out of the Pacific Northwest aren't as loud as they were last Friday but they're still audible.

10/ N/A. USC

Welcome back, welcome back. I know it's tough to think Lane Kiffin is a good coach but he is and the talented Trojans have returned to the top 10 after their big upset win over the Ducks. Eight spots seems like a big jump for a team that lost to Arizona State but really isn't when you consider the magnitude of the win in Autzen and what happened in terms of upsets.

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: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


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

WINNER: USC

It's hard to get more maligned than the Trojans were. They had their legs chopped off by the NCAA. There were plenty of doubters after back-to-back "down" years. There was no bowl at the end of the season and, to many outside of Heritage Hall, no hope. This team was loaded with enough highly recruited players that coach after coach kept calling USC the most talented team in the Pac-12 however. Still they sat at the lowest ranking in school history with an 8-2 record and couldn't even move up a spot in the polls despite teams losing ahead of them and a blow out win against Washington. It was like Rodney Dangerfield was the athletic director and Lane Kiffin was the head coach.

But this team, young and inexperienced in key spots, took the school's 'Fight On' motto and ran with it. Their losses were self-inflicted (turnovers against both Arizona State and Stanford did them in) but the wins and numbers put up were impressive. The offense is one of the best in the country led by Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and emerging star Marqise Lee. The defense is passable but improving. Yet they were a two touchdown underdog for the first time since 1998. The Trojans shocked the college football world Saturday night in Eugene, no doubt about it. Amid the chaos of a crazy week 12, USC emerged victorious and the players in cardinal and gold told everybody that their brief hiatus away from the top was over. The Trojans may not be conference champs and will sit at home with no bowl game to go to but they appear to be back, even if some insist they never left. Fight on indeed.

LOSER: Larry Scott

There was a chance the Pac-12 was in the BCS re-match discussion come Sunday morning but that ended as soon as it looked like Oregon's slow start would be too much to overcome. Thanks to Arizona State's loss to lowly Arizona, the Pac-12 South is rivaling the SEC East and ACC for mediocrity with USC ineligible. Two-loss Oregon will likely head to the Rose Bowl while one-loss Stanford's BCS chances (and millions of dollars for the conference coffers) will likely boil down to luck and some bowl committee betting on Andrew Luck. The team that can't go to a bowl has inflicted losses that hurt more than one team's perception. Then again, Scott isn't too much of a loser considering the cash that will soon flow to the league with the new media deals he deftly negotiated.

WINNER: The SEC

Let's face it, the fans on the West Coast are not best buddies with those in the Southeast section of the country. The SEC fans think the Pac-12 folks have no earthly idea what defense is while those with an ocean view think those with a gulf view have no idea what offense is. Oregon's loss ended any talk of an LSU rematch and shut the conference out of the title game discussion and partially out of the national picture. On the bright side, they're not the ACC, Big East or Big Ten.

LOSER: Oregon's swagger

The Pac-12 has been Oregon's playground the past few years. Back-to-back league titles (of the Pac-10 variety), a 19 game win streak in the conference, a trip to the Rose Bowl and national championship game. USC's dynasty was cool with the celebrities on the sidelines but the Ducks, they had a different kind of spotlight and a different kind of swagger. Uniforms? Most, um... unique in college football. The recruits love them. Offense? Check and check. If you were playing Oregon, better bring your A-game and you just might hang with them for the first half. The video production team was top-notch too, how could anyone not get pumped up after watching something like this:



The swagger that every Oregon player, every Duck fan, carried around with them after Saturday is still there. There is, without a doubt, a significant part of the luster taken off of the program after the loss to USC however. Boise State, Auburn and LSU proved they were beatable but the Trojans proved they were no longer to be feared afer going into Autzen and smacking the Ducks around for three quarters and holding on in the fourth. Another conference title and Rose Bowl berth likely await the men in green/yellow/black/silver/etc. come January but the recent loss meant a significant hit to Oregon's swagger. 

WINNER: Pistol Rick

UCLA's final home game of the season was a must win for Rick Neuheisel if he was to show enough progress to keep his job. Not only did the Bruins get bowl eligble, but they kept their improbable run to a division title alive with a 45-6 win over Colorado. Style points helped too, outgaining the Buffaloes 553-229 and help run off three wins in four games. After last week's loss to Utah, who really knows if the program has turned the corner but for Neuheisel, who wants to win at his alma matter more than anyone else, a big win at the Rose Bowl will certainly go a long ways after the season.

LOSER: Jon Embree

Embree is a Colorado alum and desperately wanted to end the Buffs' 23 game road losing streak. Family bragging rights were up for grabs too as Embree's son, Taylor, was a wide receiver at UCLA and said the game meant "eternal bragging rights" earlier in the week. The younger Embree had just two catches for 13 yards but can always call out scoreboard whenever family arguments break out. Given the way Colorado played - putting a solid claim on being the conference bottom-dweller - there weren't many positive things the elder Embree could take home Saturday.

LOSER: LeBron James

One of several NBA All-Stars at Autzen for the USC-Oregon Game, James and his fellow jobless companions watched most of the game from the Ducks sidelines. With a reputation for failing to close out games, naturally LeBron was a frequent (i.e. easy) target to make fun of on various social media platforms following the loss to the Trojans. It seems as though the man who took his talents to South Beach just can't win so he kind of has to be made a loser this weekend.

WINNER: West Coast Heisman hopes

Andrew Luck lost his grip on the lead for the Heisman Trophy last week but looked much sharper against Cal to help his stock rebound some. The big mover was Matt Barkley, who has the numbers to get to New York and now has the signature win to piggyback on. After this weekend, it seems like both signal-callers will at least make the trip East to lay their claim on college football's most prestigious award.

WINNER: Snow games

Utah has been welcomed to the Pac-12 with open arms and gone from the desert heat of Arizona to the perfect weather of Southern California to - this week against Washington State - the snowy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The Utes came out with a close, 30-27 overtime win in a Palouse snow storm. The victory gave the Utes hope of making an appearance in the Pac-12 title game and it was fun to see a few photos from so that has to put snow games in the winners column.

LOSER: Pac-12 athletic directors

There's an opening at Arizona and Dennis Erickson's loss to the Wildcats likely means he's headed out of Tempe. Neuheisel's status is still TBD after the season and though there's progress on the Palouse, it's doubtful Paul Wulff keeps his job. That means the athletic directors around the Pac-12, flush with some new media deal cash, will have to go make some important hires. Already the rumor mill has placed Mike Bellotti, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach at a school out West and speculation is only bound to heat up more as the regular season winds down. There's going to be plenty of pressure to make the right hire and just as importantly for some ADs, go out on a limb and let a coach go. Going to be an interesting, stress-filled weeks for a few well paid people heading Pac-12 athletic departments.

Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:44 am
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 31, California 28

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WINS. The Big Game to all those outside of the Bay Area was last week for the Cardinal and they came up way short in a loss to Oregon. This week however, was The Big Game with crosstown rival California. Looking to rebound, Andrew Luck and company were not too sharp in the first half but, with rain coming down and a torn up field, pulled away in the second half then held on to win with their typical grinding, precision attack 31-28. The sour mood around campus following the loss to the Ducks was temporarily forgotten as the Stanford Axe remains in Palo Alto for the second year in a row.

WHY STANFORD WON. Luck didn't lose the Heisman Trophy last week but he didn't win it either after a sub par performance. He was much sharper against the Golden Bears in what is likely his second to last game at Stanford Stadium, passing for 257 yards and two touchdowns.

WHEN STANFORD WON. Right out of the half, the offense came to play. Luck was on the money with his passes and led an eight play, 69 yard drive followed by a six play, 79 yard drive to give the Cardinal a 28-13 lead going into the 4th quarter. But Zach Maynard found Spencer Hagan to cap a touchdown drive then converted the two point conversion to bring the Bears to within seven. Luck took the ball and led a drive that took 7:41 off the clock and ended with a game-icing field goal. Cal made a late drive for a touchdown but the field goal was the deciding points.

WHAT STANFORD WON. The loss up in Oregon helped the Cardinal but still doesn't mean they have a chance to play for the Rose Bowl. However, their hopes of going to a BCS bowl for the second straight time remain alive and they're sitting in a good position with all of the upsets going on in college football. A win against an average Notre Dame team should provide a boost in the polls and for Luck's Heisman chances.

WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST. The Bears were not only looking to beat their rival but wanted to end the season on a roll going into a bowl game and a renovated Memorial Stadium next year. Instead, they'll have their hands full against an angry Arizona State next week on a Friday.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 8:33 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 8:35 pm
 

Pac-12 looking at changing dates of rivalry games

Posted by Bryan Fischer

2012 will mark the end of several historic rivalries (Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas to name a few) due to conference realignment and while the school shuffling won't end any of the Pac-12's longstanding rivalry games, it might force a few of them to move to a different date on the calendar.

According to a report in the San Jose Mercury News, games such as the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State and the Big Game between Stanford and California could be moved from their traditional late November dates to earlier in the month or even October.

“Given the complexities of the scheduling,” Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg told Jon Wilner, “we can’t commit to having the rivalry games stay on Thanksgiving week or the weekend before Thanksgiving.”

Obviously the league office is going to try to be as accommodating as possible and will look to minimize the scheduling issues but with the new Pac-12 media deal with ESPN/Fox starting next year and the launch of the Pac-12 Network, it's likely that not every game will be able to stay in its traditional spot on the schedule. The report notes that the number of Saturdays in the month of November will likely determine how many and which games move. Sources told Wilner that the Bay Area game is the most likely to be moved next season.

The situation can’t be avoided. The conference has limited flexibility with the schedule due to several factors:

* The Pac-12 championship game now occupies the first weekend in December, thereby eating up a Saturday previous used by some schools for their 12th regular-season game.

* The Thanksgiving Saturday games involving Stanford (odd years) and USC (even years) against Notre Dame.

* The reluctance on the part of some schools to play rivalry games on Thanksgiving weekend.

One of the best things about football in the conference formerly known as the Pac-10 was that each school had a natural rival in the state that made for a continent travel partner. The move to the Pac-12 will fill the coffers every athletic department but if there's a price to be paid, it's that they might have an earlier than usual rivalry game.

It might be disruptive to a few and upsetting for some fans but looks like something that nobody can do anything about.



Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:20 am
 

Keys to the game: Cal at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Golden Bears now have a blueprint to beat Stanford even if they don't have the offense or the athletes that Oregon does. The Cardinal is still banged up so putting pressure on Andrew Luck while keeping his receivers from getting separation will be key. Cal has struggled on the road this season (1-3) and even though it's a trip across the Bay, they'll be headed into a hostile environment if last week was any indication.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal have the superior team once again this year but will have to quickly regroup after a tough loss last week. The defense has to do a better job of shutting down the run, a phase of the game Cal has really gotten going over the past few games. Stanford used Stepfan Taylor early and often against Oregon last week but had to go away from him in order to play catch up. If they're the ones dictating tempo and wearing down the Bears defense, Andrew Luck should be able to return to form and pick apart the young secondary on the way to another Big Game victory.

X-FACTOR: Zach Maynard. The Bears quarterback has to play within the offense and take what the defense gives him. If he's forcing throws and turning the ball over, it could be a long day for Cal. The only way the Bears win is if Maynard plays his best game of the season and allows Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen and Isi Sofele to make some plays in space. He won't be able to top Luck and needs plenty of help from his defense but the only way Cal has a chance to stay close or pull the upset is if their quarterback far exceeds how he's been playing.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com