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Tag:Jordan Jefferson
Posted on: January 9, 2012 11:35 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Alabama 21, LSU 0



Posted by Adam Jacobi


ALABAMA WON. The Alabama Crimson Tide captured the 2012 BCS Championship with a suffocating 21-0 victory over LSU.

HOW ALABAMA WON: Alabama's defense held LSU to a paltry 92 yards, and Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley hit five field goals out of a bowl record seven attempts. That, put together, was more than enough for Alabama to get the win and the title.

WHEN ALABAMA WON: The moment Les Miles decided he was never going to use Jarrett Lee in the game. Jordan Jefferson was downright abysmal as LSU's quarterback, going 11-17 for 53 yards and gaining 15 yards on 14 rushes, and while Alabama's defense deserves a great deal of credit for that, it should also be noted that Jefferson was equal parts indecisive and ineffective even when he did have time to throw the ball or run. True, Alabama victimized Lee in the two teams' first meeting, but Jefferson was much more productive in that game. Miles needed to make a change, and he didn't do it.

WHAT ALABAMA WON: Alabama takes home a well-earned BCS Championship, and Nick Saban has solidified his standing as the best coach in college football. AJ McCarron became the first sophomore or younger to win a BCS Championship, and Trent Richardson reminded everyone why he's the best back in college football by finishing the game off with a 34-yard touchdown scamper.

WHAT LSU LOST: As mentioned before, LSU was victimized by Les Miles' stubborn insistence on keeping Jordan Jefferson at quarterback, and LSU just never brought anything at Alabama that caught the Tide off guard. LSU didn't convert any third downs until the fourth quarter, and going into the fourth, LSU had two first downs to its name. The LSU defense could have played the game of its life and not overcome that kind of ineptitude on the other side of the ball. And for that, the crystal football eludes Les Miles and his charges this year.

THAT WAS CRAZY: In the game's first big play, Marquis Maze took a punt back 54 yards -- quite a feat considering LSU had allowed six punt return yards all season. Unfortunately, the return could have been even longer, but Maze pulled up lame in the middle of the return with a hurt hamstring. The injury kept him out for the rest of the game, but Maze's return set a tone that LSU couldn't match all game long.

FINAL GRADE: C. Alabama's defensive performance was the stuff of legend, but that doesn't change the fact that in eight games and an overtime, these two teams combined for 10 field goals and one touchdown. LSU looked downright inept at times -- which happens often against the Alabama defense -- and Oklahoma State fans must be wondering how hard it would have been for the Cowboys to beat LSU. But at least someone scored a touchdown.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 7:10 pm
 

Roundtable: Changes to the bowl schedule

Posted by Eye On College Football 


Occasionally the Eye on CFB team gathers, Voltron-style, to answer a pressing question from the world of college football. Today's question is:

What changes, if any, would you make to the current bowl schedule and/or bowl eligibility requirements?


Bryan Fischer: Any time you have a team like UCLA playing in a game at 6-7, I think it underscores that there needs to be a new rule that you not only be 6-6, but 7-5 at the very minimum. I get that the bowl games are a treat for the players but shouldn't we be rewarding winners and not the mediocre? The entire bowl system seems to have turned into the college football equivalent of a participation trophy. This, of course, ties-in with the line of reasoning that there are too many bowl games. At some point we'll get to the point where there's a good number of games for good teams but right now the excess causes mediocrity. For every crazy New Orleans Bowl finish we get, there's just as many Beef O'Brady Bowl duds it seems.

Tom Fornelli: I tend to agree with Bryan in that I'm not a big fan of 6-6 teams being rewarded for mediocrity, and I usually fall in line with the "there are too many bowl games" crowd, but then a funny thing happens every year. The games start, and they feature a couple of 6-6 teams, and I love them.

Yeah, there are some duds, but there are plenty of duds every Saturday during the regular season. So I think my personal criticisms from the current bowl system come from the fact that I'd like to see some type of playoff. A plus-one being the minimum of what I'd like to see.  So while I get extremely annoyed when I see that 6-6 Florida is playing 6-6 Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, I'm sorry, the TAXSLAYER.COM (bangs head, SIGN OF THE BEAST!!!) Gator Bowl, I'll probably still watch the game. I'm just a college football junkie, there's no way around it.

Jerry Hinnen: There's an easier fix for getting the UCLA-like riffraff out of the postseason than scuttling existing bowls: re-institute the discarded NCAA mandate that bowls must take teams with winning records ahead of teams with .500 (or sub-.500, in the Bruins' case) marks. "Too many bowls" is going to be a hard sell for the folks at places like Temple -- who unfairly sat at home after going 8-4 in Al Golden's final season last year -- or Western Kentucky, who should have gotten their first-ever FBS bowl bid after 2011's second-place Sun Belt finish and 7-5 record.

Cases like Temple's and WKU's are why, personally speaking, I'm fine-n'-dandy with the Participation Trophy Bowl circuit; not every game is going to be riveting theater (and matchups like UCLA-Illinois or Louisville-N.C. State promise to be quite the opposite), but it's not like anyone's required to watch. Should the seniors on that UL-Lafayette team we saw celebrating like they'd collectively won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes Saturday night have been denied that once-in-not-even-most-people's-lifetimes experience just because a few college football diehards don't want to risk being bored?

Is the long-since-antiquated notion that bowl berths are for no one but mid-major champions and the top handful of major-conference programs worth brilliant Hilltoppers' running back Bobby Rainey ending his career without a bowl appearance? Not if you ask me--if the players want to play them, the the local organizers want to host them, it's not my place (or any fan's) to say they shouldn't. The number of bowls is fine; the way the teams are selected could just use a little pro-winning-record tweaking. Besides, give it another month and there won't be any college football at all. I'll take whatever I can get at this stage, Belk Bowl included.

(That said, it would be outstanding if the NCAA also prohibited the exorbitant ticket guarantees that have turned bowl trips into a financial sinkhole for so many smaller schools, but that's a separate issue from the scheduling/eligibility question.)

Chip Patterson: I too would like to see limping 6-6 BCS conference team taken out of the bowl equation, particularly when there are dangerous Non-BCS teams that have been left out of postseason play in recent years. One way could be to change the requirements to 7-5, but this season I thought of another wrinkle.

Instead of changing the bowl eligibility record/win total, add a stipulation that requires a team to finish .500 or better in league play. Many times, the 6-6 team that fails to show up for a bowl game has struggled down the stretch and enters the postseason with little-to-no momentum. If schools are going to benefit from conference tie-ins, make them perform in conference play to earn that right. A 6-6 team with a 3-5 conference record likely is not playing their best football at the end of the season, and might be a part of one of the dud bowl games we have seen recently.

I would also prefer to move the "gutter" bowl games back before the BCS and traditional New Years Day games. That stretch of bowls leading up to the National Championship Game is one of the places where we find unattractive matchups and lose college football excitement after the blitz of New Years Day. If those games were moved back before the New Year and the title game was pushed back to Jan 4-5, it would arguably be a better spot for college football to capitalize on the nation's interest. Not only does the average fan have to wait, but they have to be teased with games that would be better consumed in pieces during a Dec. 28 doubleheader.

Adam Jacobi: It's important to keep in mind that most of these lowest-tier bowls are media-owned entities, which were created and staged every year because from a media perspective, live televised FBS college football is more lucrative than anything else that could be aired in the middle of a December week. As such, if you want to get rid of these bowls, you had better come up with something that produces higher ratings for that network instead, otherwise, no amount of hand-wringing about the quality of the teams playing in bowls is going to result in any meaningful change. This is not a scandal or anything that should not be, mind you, because it does not negatively affect fairness of play or anything else of vital importance. It's merely the entity that stands to gain most from lowest-tier bowls being played, making sure that the lowest-tier bowls get played by owning and organizing them. That's just good business.

Moreover, if by some chance these lowest-tier bowls happen to disappear, as much as we're tired of seeing a 6-6 (3-5) BCS-conference team get into the postseason, let's not pretend that that team's going to be the first against the wall. It's going to be the also-rans of the MAC, WAC, C-USA, and every other non-AQ conference, because 90% of the time, those non-AQ schools draw lower ratings than their BCS-level counterparts. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between UCLA and Illinois is going to suck, but if we're being honest about what bowl organizers really want out of a team that they invite, UCLA and Illinois are going to keep getting bowl invitations over even 8-win teams like Tulsa, Toledo, or Louisiana Tech.

So if you're asking me what I would change about the bowl system, I wouldn't possibly know where or how to begin. The bowl system is a product of media desires and inequality in FBS football, so if you want the bowl system to be any different, you'd better figure out a way to fix either the media landscape or the college football landscape first, and well... good luck with that.

Tom Fornelli: What if we replace the mid-week December games with gladiator like competitions? In which players from each school battle each other to the death. The loser, obviously, dies and frees up a scholarship for the school. The winner gets extra credit in any class of his choosing!

WHO WOULDN'T WATCH?

Adam Jacobi: Well, that would certainly be heartbreaking for everyone involved.

I wouldn't mind it if the sponsors (or bowl organizers or the stadium) had a little bit of leeway in ground rules for these games. These are silly games anyway (unless I'm supposed to take something called the Beef O'Brady's Bowl completely seriously all of a sudden), so why shouldn't the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl be played with literally a giant potato for a football? Field goals in the Holiday Bowl worth 4 points if they're from more than 45 yards out? Fine by me! Special uniforms in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl designed to look like boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? OF COURSE we should be doing that.

So yeah, as long as we're going to have ultimately trivial exhibitions end the seasons of so many teams, we might as well make said trivial exhibitions unique in ways that go beyond mere branding.

Tom Fornelli: These ideas have my full support.  Can you imagine how much better the Orange Bowl would be if they were using an orange instead of a football?

Chip Patterson: Did they change tires on car at half time of the Meineke Car Care Bowl? If not they should.  Same goes for the Belk Bowl. I think instead of a coin toss there should be a Dockers shopping spree to determine who gets the ball first.

Adam Jacobi: And if Hooters got involved, there would be... lots of wings available for attending fans to eat. And that is all.

To chime in on the bowl schedule debate, or offer your own changes; "Like" us on Facebook and let us know what you think.

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 5:24 pm
 

Roundtable: Highlights, lowlights of bowl season

Posted by Eye on College Football



Occasionally the Eye on CFB team gathers, Voltron-style, to answer a pressing question from the world of college football. Today's question is:

What game are you most excited to watch this bowl season? Which game would you rather repair a leaky faucet than be forced to watch? And what under-the-radar bowl do you think will prove surprisingly enjoyable?

Tom Fornelli: There's three games that stand out to me as must-watches. The Fiesta and Rose Bowls present a couple of interesting matchups--a battle between Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden should be a good time, and in the Rose we have two drastically different approaches to the run game. It's a classic Speed vs Strength showdown we see a lot when the Big Ten is involved.

Then there's the Alamo Bowl and what could be our last chance to see RG3 play in a Baylor uniform. Plus a game between Baylor and Washingtonshould give us plenty of points.
When it comes to games I'd like to avoid like the plague, I have to go with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Two 6-win teams playing under interim head coaches? HOO BOY. Gotta get some of that! As for the game most people probably don't care about, but could make for a very entertaining four hours, I have to go with the next-to-last game of the season: The GoDaddy.com Bowl between Arkansas State and Northern Illinois. Not exactly a glamourous matchup, but a matchup that could feature so many points and big plays, and it's likely going to come down to who has the ball last. It'll be a great way to get my last offensive fix of the season before tuning in to see LSU and Alabama trade punts.

Bryan FischerEven though it's not on New Year's Day this year, no game gets me excited like the Rose Bowl does. The pageantry, the setting, and -- of course -- the game itself are just fantastic. This year in particular is a very interesting matchup, the speed and quickness of Oregon against the smash-mouth sytle of Wisconsin. Both have something to prove: the Ducks need to win a BCS game under Chip Kelly and the Badgers are looking to forget last year's loss. It should be another great BCS game out in Pasadena.

At the complete opposite end of the scale is the Little Caesars Bowl. Detroit in the middle of winter with a 6-6 Purdue team and 7-5 Western Michigan team is not exactly glamorous. If you want an example of why we have too many bowls, this is it. The blandness of the game would be too much for anybody to sit through if there weren't a MAC team involved. The Interim Head Coach Bo... excuse me, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl isn't must-watch either.

I feel like a lot of people are overlooking the Outback Bowl this year. Michigan State was thisclose to getting to the Rose Bowl and winning the Big Ten title, but now head out to Florida with so much attention on rival Michigan and newcomer Urban Meyer that everybody has forgotten the Spartans won 10 games this year. Likewise, Georgia ran off 10 straight during the season and are looking to end on a high note after last year's ugly bowl loss. Of the BCS games, I can't wait to see Andrew Luck go against the opportunistic Oklahoma State defense.

Adam JacobiCo-signed on the MSU-Georgia game; I think that's going to be outstanding. One game that completely underwhelms me is Texas-Cal in the Holiday Bowl. I preferred the days of yore, when the Holiday matched up a defense-optional WAC team (usually BYU) against a Big Ten or Big 8/12 team and let the sparks fly. I don't see sparks with Texas or Cal, I see an interminable slog. In fact, the closest thing we've got to an old-fashioned Holiday Bowl is the TicketCity Bowl, which pits pass-crazed Houston and Case Keenum against Penn State's ferocious defense. All year long, fans have groused that Houston wouldn't be able to replicate its aerial assault against a "real" defense, and Ds don't get much realer than Penn State, which has talent up and down the lineup and depth. Of course, with PSU's spotty offense, 20 points might be all the Cougars need to score to secure a win, but even that's not a guarantee. Should be interesting to watch. In terms of fan experiences, Iowa State's Pinstripe Bowl visit to Yankee Stadium to take on Rutgers -- the closest thing to a "home team" possible in NYC -- should be beyond cool. In terms of actual football, it's probably going to be a horror show. Pass.

Chip PattersonThe first attempt at football in new Yankee Stadium was both a dream and nightmare at the same time.  The awkwardly aligned field and another in-state Big East team should make for a unique environment, but the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl will be remembered for the infamous excessive celebration penalty on the final touchdown that likely cost Kansas State a shot at overtime.  Throw two wildly unpredictable teams like Rutgers and Iowa State on the diamond, and who knows what will happen; it might not be that bad.

So in addition to the Kraft Hunger Bowl, I'll pile on with the Independence Bowl as lacking some flavor, because both teams are looking towards the future.  Missouri finished the season with three straight wins to become bowl eligible, but are on their way to the SEC and will be without star running back Henry Josey thanks to a freak knee injury.  Everett Withers will be coaching North Carolina for this one game, but with Larry Fedora already hired as the next head coach there leaves very little inspiration for the Tar Heels' staff to make this a game to build on for the future.  I could be wrong, but the Tar Heels did not show a ton of fight down the stretch, losing four of their final six games.

On the positive side, I'm looking forward to seeing Dabo Swinney and Dana Holgorsen making their first BCS bowl appearances as head coaches, and the showdown of high-octane styles should make for some fireworks in South Beach. The Rose and Cotton Bowls both seem like very intriguing on-field matchups, and I'm setting two DVR's to catch Luck and Weeden dueling in the desert. But I would rather watch the entire Big East regular season on loop for 2 days straight than watch Pittsburgh and SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl.  Pitt blatantly tried to get out of the bowl and June Jones is fresh off an embarrassing flirtation with Arizona State. No thank you, BBVA Compass. I'll put my money elsewhere. 

Jerry HinnenIt's not surprising that precious few college football fans outside of Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge seem all that pumped for a rematch of a touchdown-free 9-6 slugfest that (save for the Bryant-Denny atmosphere) played more like a lower-rung NFL game -- in its inferior second half, anyway -- than a battle between two of the best SEC teams of the past decade. If I'd had a vote, I'd have cast it for Oklahoma State, too. 

But I'm still more excited for Tide-Tigers II than any other game on the bowl slate, because this LSU team is maybe the most compelling, fascinating college football team I can remember watching. They produce fewer yards per-game than 74 other teams in the FBS (including such non-must-see attacks as UCLA's and Virginia's), but they still make for riveting viewing because of the anything-can-happen-at-anytime nature of their games. There's Tyrann Mathieu's game-swinging plays, the terror of Mingo and Montgomery off the edge, Jordan Jefferson's capacity to win or lose any game near-singlehandedly, the phenomenon that is Brad Wing and -- oh yeah -- the mad in-game tactics of Les Freaking Miles. And now this bizarre bayou witch's brew of a team takes on its deadliest rival, again, with the opportunity to become not just national champions but -- given their domination of the SEC, nonconference gauntlet, and potential twin victories over Nick Saban's best Alabama team -- one of the game's greatest champions of the past 25 years. Whether it's the "right" title game matchup or not won't make it any less historic, or thrilling.

As for which game I'm least enthused about, at least Bruins-Illini has Nelson Rosario and Whitney Mercilus going for it. Louisville-N.C. State in the Belk Bowl seems like the most average possible matchup between the most average possible teams in the most average possible BCS leagues; I figure I'll need to average a cup of coffee per quarter to make it to the end. (At least, if Victor Anderson doesn't save me). As for an under-the-radar special, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati both come into the Liberty Bowl with plenty to prove, exciting (and balanced) offenses, and one of the hotter young coaches in the game. Show me two evenly-matched up-and-coming teams at programs where bowl wins are still worth their metaphorical weight in gold, and I'll show you what should be an outstanding contest.
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 25, 2011 6:28 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 1 LSU 41, No. 3 Arkansas 17

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



LSU WON: 
The Tigers had to work harder than they have against any 2011 opponent other than Alabama -- a 14-0 second quarter deficit was more than three times larger than the previous largest deficit faced by LSU this year -- but in the end, Arkansas fell by the wayside just like the first 11 teams on LSU's schedule. LSU pounded on the run-averse Arkansas front for 286 bruising rushing yards, 102 of them by the impressive Kenny Hilliard, and held Tyler Wilson to just 207 passing yards with an interception. Tyrann Mathieu put a huge stamp on the game, returning a punt 92 yards to erase the last of that early deficit, forcing one fumble and recovering another.

WHY LSU WON: The biggest factor in the win was arguably the overpowering nature of the Bayou Bengal ground game; behind Hilliard, Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Jordan Jefferson and another devastating performance from the LSU offensive line, the second half entirely belonged to the Tiger running game. Once LSU got the ball back in the fourth quarter up 21-17, they challenged Arkansas's front seven to match them physically or get run out of Tiger Stadium ... and the Hogs simply couldn't meet that challenge.

But that overlooks the fact that the somehow still underappreciated LSU defense allowed a 62-yard Hog touchdown drive on the visitors' third possession of the game ... and then held the SEC's best offense to zero touchdowns and just three points the remainder of the game. Wilson was sacked five times, the Hogs gained just 254 yards for the game, and only one of their final seven possessions lasted more than four plays. The Hog offensive line had no answer for the LSU front or John Chavis's blitzes (Barkevious Mingo was a particular terror), and the vaunted Hog receivers had precious little success against Mathieu, the amazing Morris Claiborne, and the rest of the LSU secondary. The LSU running game was incredible. Given the competition, LSU's defense might have been even better than that.

WHEN LSU WON: When Ware carried in from seven yards out to cap a nine-play touchdown drive -- eight of them runs -- with 11:04 to play in the game, the score was still only 31-17. But the way those eight runs had seemed to physically overwhelm the Arkansas defense, no one watching believed the game was anything but decided.

WHAT LSU WON: A perfect regular season, an outright SEC West title and trip to Atlanta, a third win over a top-5 opponent, and -- given results in other Bedlam-based games -- possibly a BCS title game berth already. But that's it.

WHAT ARKANSAS LOST: Just a second game this year, but when you lose your SEC and national title dreams in that one fell swoop, that's a lot to lose all the same.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Behold the Mathieu punt return in all its glory:

Posted on: November 19, 2011 10:21 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 1 LSU 52, Ole Miss 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



LSU WON: 
Really, a matchup between the nation's No. 1 team (and only remaining BCS conference undefeated) and a winless-in-the-SEC team with no head coach that lost 27-7 to Louisiana Tech last week was only going to end one way. Jordan Jefferson had another highly efficient outing in his second week as the starter -- going 7-of-7 for 88 yards and a touchdown -- but the story was the LSU defense, which got touchdowns from corner Ron Brooks and linebacker Kevin Minter to outscore the Rebels all by themselves.

WHY LSU WON: The part where they played a team that fired its head coach two weeks ago and had its starting quarterback and leading rusher suspended, mostly. But Ole Miss could have least made the game competitive -- well, made it less of a total laugher -- if they'd taken care of the ball and not handed LSU easy scores.

But of course, with Randall Mackey unavailable, the Rebels were forced to turn to Zack Stoudt and Barry Brunetti, quarterbacks that had already proven themselves turnover-prone against the likes of BYU and Vanderbilt. So, yeah, vs. LSU? Stoudt threw a sloppy pass picked of by Brooks and housed to put his team in a 7-0 hole after the first drive of the game. Brunetti took over in the second quarter, only to help botch an end-around handoff in the end zone that Minter recovered for LSU's second defensive touchdown.

Ole Miss's chances were just-this-side-of-nonexistent already. Their odds of a win with their quarterbacks making seven-point mistakes like those? Entirely nil.

WHEN LSU WON: Kenny Hilliard scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 6:45 left in the first quarter, capping a 9-play, 86-yard drive to make it 14-0. The Rebels weren't scoring 14 points on the Tigers if the game lasted 12 quarters.

WHAT LSU WON: Given the state of the Rebels, not much more than another notch on the belt on the way to facing Arkansas next Saturday with the SEC West on the line. But Les Miles can't be unhappy with the level of domination shown by his team in Oxford, as compared to the sluggish start vs. Western Kentucky last week.

WHAT OLE MISS LOST: Just their 13th straight conference game and ninth loss of the season, dropping the Rebels to a woeful 2-9 record on the year.

THAT WAS CRAZY: It was already 42-3 when Miles had his team punch in on 4th-and-goal from the 1 midway through the fourth quarter. So maybe it was some measure of remorse that the next time his team reached the Rebel 1, he opted to put his team in victory formation and kneel four times, going from the 1 to the 4 to the 7 to the 10 and giving the ball back on the 13 ... with more than four minutes still remaining in the game. While we're guessing Miles was trying not to make the score look any worse than it was, the guess here is that that decision made the Rebels feel much more humiliated than even another touchdown would have.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Keys to the Game: LSU at Ole Miss

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

LSU WILL WIN IF: any of the following do not happen: 1. Les Miles decides to drive the team bus to the stadium himself, takes a wrong turn or three, and several hours later decides that since they're already at Rock City, they might as well stop and see it 2. a bizarre eleventh-hour ruling from a local Oxford judge results in Gatorade becoming a banned substance within city limits, and the unknowing Tigers are arrested upon their arrival at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on charges of "synthetic water" possession 3. Jordan Jefferson throws a series of interceptions, Brad Wing has an off-game, and Randall Mackey hits just enough big plays that LSU's usual domination of field position is negated--and without it, a Rebel defense that's given up 98 points their past three games to Auburn, Kentucky and Louisiana Tech gets just enough stops to squeak out a win in front of an energized home crowd.

Of these three scenarios, we find the third one least likely.

OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: inspired by their head coach, LSU's 30 to 35 best players decide to hold a team-building exercise in which they travel en masse to an area "park" and sample the local "grass." Unfortunately, the "park" is a farm's heavily-pesticided soybean field and the "grass" soybean leaves coated with enough chemicals to leave the entire group in the hospital for the weekend. Or if a spaceship landed on the field just before kickoff, declaring via loudspeaker it had come to return Houston Nutt to his home planet, and--

Fine, we'll be serious for a moment. If Mackey takes care of the ball and hits a few throws downfield to loosen up a hole here or there for the ground game, if Jefferson and Lee are way off their games, if Nutt pulls the final remaining trick plays out of his bag and they all work, if the Rebel defensive line plays out of its mind and forces enough three-and-outs to avoid field position devastation ... yes, Ole Miss could hang around. And maybe, just maybe, in the sense that if a million monkeys banged out a million scripts for this game one would eventually type the words "OLE MISS WINS," this game could wind up following that millionth script. But we wouldn't bet on it.

THE X-FACTOR: If a game is played at Ole Miss and the mascot doesn't watch it because he's got a box on his head, did it even happen?
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:39 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 1 LSU 42, Western Kentucky 9

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



LSU WON: 
We wouldn't say there were any "anxious moments" for the Bayou Bengals -- Western Kentucky's offense was always a little too nonthreatening to think they might actually pull off the Upset of the Century -- but we also doubt many Tiger fans were thrilled at being up just 14-7 at halftime or needing a goalline stand to keep the score 21-7 in the third quarter. Still, thanks to a pair of quick Alfred Blue (pictured above) touchdowns either side of the third quarter break, LSU was able to cruise through the final period. Jordan Jefferson got the start, played the entire first three quarters, and finished 8-of-15 for 168 yards (an impressive 11.2 per-attempt average)with one sterling 59-yard strike to Rueben Randle.

WHY LSU WON: Because they're LSU, and they were playing Western Kentucky. But the Tigers were able to make the game's ending as non-stressful as expected thanks to a dominating second-half defensive effort. Through the first 30 minutes, the Hilltoppers put together four clock-churning drives and ate up nearly 19 minutes of first-half possession. Even if only one of them ended in points, they succeeded in keeping LSU off the field and themselves in the game. 

Second half? Not so much. WKU's first five third- and fourth-quarter drives went like this: six plays, punt; five plays, turnover on downs (see below); three plays, interception; four plays, punt; three plays, punt. Not one took more than 3:16. And not surprisingly, with far more opportunities to do damage than they had in the first half, Blue and the LSU offense did a lot more damage.

WHEN LSU WON: It probably wouldn't have mattered if, down two touchdowns midway through the third quarter, the Hilltoppers had punched in after a long kickoff return helped earn them a second-and-goal at the 2. The Tigers would have pulled away eventually; one of these teams is No. 1 in the country for a reason and the other is, putting it politely, not. But things would have been far more interesting down the stretch if fullback Kadeem Jones hadn't been stuffed on second down, a third-down play-action pass hadn't just missed, and Jones wasn't stuffed again on fourth. Jefferson handed WKU a safety when he was falgged for grounding on the ensuing possession, but it hardly mattered--if you're going to pull off the Upset of the Century, you can't not score on three tries from inside the 2.

WHAT LSU WON: A few grumbles from the locals who would have liked to have seen the 'Toppers put away more quickly, but otherwise, another week spent at the top of the college football world.

WHAT WESTERN KENTUCKY LOST: Lost? WKU hung in there against the No. 1 team in the nation for a good 35, 40 minutes of gametime. Add that experience to the fat check they'll pick up for playing tonight, and they've won more than they've lost tonight.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com