Tag:Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
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: December 12, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 2:20 pm
 

UCLA withholds checks after missed workouts

Posted by Adam Jacobi

UCLA is gearing up for a bowl date against Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, a game set for New Year's Eve. And although UCLA and Illinois shouldn't be imbued with a heightened awareness of fighting hunger by the invitation any more than Texas A&M and Northwestern should be considered auto repair enthusiasts by dint of appearing in the Maaco Car Care Bowl, there is still no shortage of irony that UCLA is apparently causing hunger in some of its own football players this month.

Here's how the Los Angeles Times reported this story:

Some UCLA football players and members of the coaching staff were at odds Sunday after bowl game checks meant to help with living expenses were withheld. 

Some players did not receive checks for failing to attend what they called voluntary workouts during finals week, according to one parent who asked not to be identified because it could affect his son. Players said they use the money to buy food, as university services are shut down after the quarter ends.

UCLA spokesperson Nick Ammazzalorso said the players had been notified in advance that the checks would be withheld, and that the players in question had also not filled out academic paperwork. The crux of the matter, however, appears to be that the coaching staff and players disagreed on whether the workouts during finals week were mandatory or not, and that the consequence of missing a finals week practice was to withhold necessary living expenses.

As for how well-needed these checks were, the coaches eventually issued the checks after realizing that not doing so would cause financial hardship -- yes, that required a realization -- but not before two Bruins took to Twitter to complain about their hunger.

"We are being held from our checks because we chose not to participate in voluntary workouts," defensive back Randall Carroll wrote on Twitter. "Honestly, [I] don't know how I'm going to eat these few days."

Linebacker Aramide Olaniyan also posted on Twitter account, saying in part "My stomach [is] growling tonight."

This story's far from over at this point; UCLA should probably make a clarification on whether the workouts in question were in fact mandatory, and a statement from the NCAA on whether UCLA's initial handling of the situation was appropriate in the NCAA's eyes. Perhaps it was, and perhaps all bowl teams are operating under similar guidelines. Now would be the time to make that clear, though, because if all fans have is this account of the UCLA program, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that something is dreadfully awry in the way athletes in need are treated.

Now, if that seems like an exaggeration, consider that had Olaniyan or Carroll gotten a free meal from a sympathetic restaurateur who didn't want to see the two young men go hungry, that would be an impermissible benefit and would likely cost the two players their eligibility for at least the upcoming bowl game. Choosing between eligibility and dinner seems like an awfully heavy consequence of missing a workout and/or not filling out a minor piece of paperwork, does it not?

Posted on: December 10, 2011 3:16 am
Edited on: December 10, 2011 2:14 pm
 

UCLA hires Jim L. Mora as head coach

Posted by Bryan Fischer

After letting go of head coach Rick Neuheisel and attempting to hire several big names, UCLA has finally found a head coach.

Former Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jim L. Mora will be the new coach in Westwood, the school announced Saturday morning. The Bruins had attempted to hire Boise State's Chris Petersen, Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Washington's Steve Sarkisian before Mora took the job. This will be the first time the Bruins have hired a head coach who has not been an assistant coach or player at the school since 1949. The LA Times first reported the news Friday night.

"As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem," Mora said in the release. "Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn't present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin."

Mora has been out of coaching since 2009 after being let go by the Seahawks. He has been in the NFL since 1985, including stops in San Diego, New Orleans, San Francisco and Atlanta. In four seasons as a head coach, Mora compiled a 31-33 overall record and reached the NFC championship game in 2004 before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mora was serving as an analyst for the NFL Network the past two years before being hired by UCLA. Better known as Jim Mora Jr., he lived in Los Angeles when his father, Jim Sr., coached at the school in 1974. The 50-year-old also played defensive back at Washington in the early 1980's.

"UCLA has always been a place of high expectations, as it applies to our students, our faculty, our researchers and, not least of all, our athletic program. With more NCAA championships than any other university, the reality is that our fans count on us to be great. The hiring of Jim L. Mora as head coach of UCLA football proves that this is still a place where champions are made and integrity matters," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

The Bruins went 6-7 on the season under Neuheisel, losing 50-0 to crosstown rival USC and most recently to Oregon in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game last week.

UCLA will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31 with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson serving as interim head coach.

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
Tags: 2011, Aaron Murray, ACC, Air Force, Alabama, Alamo Bowl, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Armed Forces Bowl, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BBVA Compass Bowl, BCS, Belk Bowl, Big 12, Big East, Big House, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Boone Pickens, Boston College, Brad Smelly, Brad Wing, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryn Renner, Buckeye Five, Bud Foster, BYU, Cal, California, Capital One Bowl, Case Keenum, Central Michigan, Champs Sports Bowl, Chandler Harnish, Charlie Strong, Charlie Weis, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Chip Kelly, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cody Fajardo, Collin Klein, Conference USA, Cotton Bowl, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, David Shaw, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Dwight Jones, Edwin Baker, Egg Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gator Bowl, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Giovani Bernard, GoDaddy.com Bowl, Greg Mattison, Greg Schiano, Hawaii Bowl, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Holiday Bowl, Honey Badger, Hugh Freeze, Independence Bowl, Insight Bowl, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Isaiah Crowell, Jake Locker, James Franklin, James Franklin, Jarvis Jones, Jeff Tedford, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Tressel, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Cousins, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Les Miles, Liberty Bowl, Logan Thomas, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, Mack Brown, MACtion, Mark Richt, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Michigan State, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike London, Mike Sherman, Military Bowl, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Mohamed Sanu, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Music City Bowl, N.C. State, N.C. State, National Championship Game, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oliver Luck, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Outback Bowl, Pac-12, Paul Rhodes, Pinstripe Bowl, Pitt, Poinsettia Bowl, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Rose Bowl, Russell Shepard, Russell Wilson, Rutgers, Ryan Aplin, Ryan Broyles, Sammy Watkins, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, Sugar Bowl, Sun Belt, Sun Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Texas, Texas A&M, TicketCity Bowl, Todd Graham, Toledo, Tom O'Brien, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vic Koenning, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Wofford, Zach Collaros, Zach Line
 
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:13 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 10



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: Larry Scott

Both Oregon and Stanford were favored this week but upsets are a matter of life in the Pac-12. The Cardinal had to go into Reser Stadium - a place highly ranked opponents often leave with a loss - and dealt with several big injuries but pulled away from Oregon State with a big win. Likewise, the Ducks hit the road to take on one of their biggest rivals in a tough place to play in when it's rocking. Both came out with wins and set up the game of the season west of the Rockies and make commissioner Larry Scott extremely happy to have plenty of attention on the conference Saturday night.

LOSER: Husky Stadium

If you never got the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest and see a game at Husky Stadium, you missed out. A beautiful old venue right on the lake, there's no place quite like it when Washington is good and the place is rocking. The press box itself is attached to the trademark overhand and can sway noticeably when the fans are into the game. Starting a major renovation next week (UW is on the road the next two weeks and the Apple Cup is at CenturyLink Field), the loss to Oregon marked the final game for a while in a place that opened in 1920. There was talk of a big upset and the 1991 national championship team was honored but neither seemed to help, especially in the second half. The final play of the stadium? A Jesse Callier one yard rush from the two yard line to end a 34-17 loss.

WINNER: Rick Neuheisel

The embattled UCLA head coach came into the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon needing a huge upset win over Arizona State and got one, knocking off the Sun Devils thanks to a missed field goal as time expired and putting the Bruins in the enviable position to control their own destiny. Win out and it's a spot in the Pac-12 title game and the best bowl trip in years. He probably isn't fully off the hot seat but the team has momentum heading into their final three games, two winnable ones at Utah and against Colorado before the annual crosstown rivalry game against USC.

WINNER: Matt Barkley

USC's had Heisman winners and some of the winningest quarterbacks in NCAA history wear the cardinal and gold but nobody has ever thrown six touchdowns in a game, as Barkley did against Colorado on Friday. Yes, the Buffs defense isn't that good but the blond-haired California kid was still sharp and had to deal with several drops from his receivers. At a historic program like USC, having your name in the record book is quite an accomplishment and given that, it's understandable why the contingent of Trojan fans that made their way to chilly Boulder kept chanting 'One more year!' as Barkley left the field Friday. If he does come back, he could have a team that is looking at making a run at a title and himself at with a Heisman campaign.

LOSER: Stanford training staff

All David Shaw wanted going into Stanford's game against Oregon State was an easy win and a chance to come home healthy. The easy win part seemed to happen but the latter didn't. Already missing Zach Ertz from the USC game, Andrew Luck lost another of his trio of big tight ends after Levine Toilolo went down and had to be taken to the locker room. He came back to the field later without pads and was nursing his shoulder/neck area. The Cardinal's top wide receiver Chris Owusu looks like he could be done for the year after taking a nasty hit that left him with a concussion and a ride in an ambulance. Safety Delano Howell could be back for next week's showdown but nothing is certain.

LOSER: Arizona's defense and special teams

The problem in the desert hasn't been offense, it's been the defense. Utah, a team that had been struggling to move the ball, didn't seem to meet much resistance against the Wildcats. Starting quarterback Jon Hays threw for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns while showing progress and running back John White topped the century mark on the ground once again. Special teams wasn't any help for Arizona either with two blocked punt and a terrible fake field goal.

WINNER: Cal's vacation plans

The Bears took another step toward bowl eligibility with a 30-7 home (well, at AT&T Park) win over Washington State that put them at 5-4 on the season with another winnable game against Oregon State coming up. There's still the possibility, perhaps even a likely one, that they'll stay home for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl but the chances of postseason play certainly improved after taking care of business.

LOSER: Paul Wulff

Perhaps it was an omen that a small earthquake shook the Bay Area right before Saturday's game. After a promising start to the season and signs of life in the Palouse, Washington State has slid back to the bottom with five straight losses and put Wulff on a very, very hot seat. The offense only scored a late touchdown and the team allowed 30 points for the fifth time this season, not exactly hallmarks of a turnaround. The schedule doesn't exactly lighten up either and if the losing streak stretches to seven, Wulff will be out looking for a new job.

WINNER: LaMichael James' elbow pad

Oregon came out in white and "carbon" uniforms against Washington and it was James who had a bulky elbow pad on his right arm that seemed to stick out despite the tame (by Ducks' standards) look. No matter how big or ugly it looked though, the pad seemed to do the trick in James' second week back in action after dislocating the elbow. It wasn't a huge performance by his standards but James rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown.

LOSER: Arizona State visors

Dennis Erickson always seems to lose a game on the road with the Sun Devils that he's favored to win by more than a touchdown. Despite this being ASU's year with the team in position to win the division, Erickson and the coaching staff saw it all slip away at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. There were plenty of bad plays and questionable officiating calls that had to leave a few of the staff's hats slammed to the ground at the end of a frustrating Saturday night.

Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 90-81

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the 100 99 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

90. T.Y. HILTON, receiver/returner, FIU. Every so often, a player rises up from the lower rungs of college football to make a credible run at the Heisman Trophy: Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois, Steve McNair at Alcorn State, Gordie Lockbaum once upon a time at Holy Cross. And if that's happening this year, the smartest bet is on Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year and leader in all-purpose yardage.

But if Hilton does make a splash nationally, it won't be for his accolades, statistics, or even team success (though Hilton led his Golden Panthers to their first bowl berth and conference title last season, and could repeat the feat). It'll be for his electric playmaking, on full display in last year's Little Caesar's Bowl, when his 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown and 4th-and-17 conversion keyed a thrilling Panther comeback. Put a few more of those types of plays on SportsCenter (particularly in an early-season Friday night visit to Louisville), and the sky -- or more specifically, New York -- might be the limit. -- JH

89. LOGAN THOMAS, quarterback, Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have won four conference championships and four Coastal Division titles. The league's expansion might have expected to highlight Florida State and Miami, but it has been the Hokies who have most often represented the conference on the national stage. But for the last four years of that run, the Hokies were had ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor. Now Taylor is gone, and it's Thomas who's set to take his place.

The redshirt sophomore has already impressed coaches and teammates with his performance in spring practice, and the hopes are high for his first season as the Hokies starter. Standing at 6-foot-6, Thomas often looked like the big brother as Taylor tutored him throughout last season. With quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain now assuming the play-calling duties, the offense will run through Thomas. Tech has many of the pieces in place to defend their ACC championship, but they'll need Thomas to settle in quickly to get it done. -- CP

88. AT&T PARK, temporary home stadium, Cal. For the first time since 1923, the California Golden Bears will play their home games somewhere other than California Memorial Stadium. As the university enters the final stages of their $321 million retrofit and renovation project, the Bears will play their home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco - home of the Giants. The setup for football won't be entirely foreign for the venue -- it's the home of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl -- but it will be an inconvenient trip for players, students and fans so used to their home games in Berkeley.

With four critical, winnable home games on their Pac-12 slate (highlighted by visits from USC and Utah), how well the Bears adapt to their new surroundings could well determine the trajectory of Jeff Tedford's Bears tenure. After four seasons with no fewer than four losses and no league finish higher than fourth, Tedford needs a big year to avoid a make-or-break 2012 season, and given the Bears' rigorous road schedule (at Oregon, at Stanford) that simply won't happen if Cal spits the bit at AT&T Park. The stadium could be Tedford's sanctuary; it could prove to be his house of horrors. -- CP

87. VICTOR ANDERSON, running back, Louisville. In 2008, Anderson rushed for 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns, numbers good enough for him to be named the Big East Rookie of the Year. But nagging injuries over the last two seasons have prevented Anderson from recapturing that freshman form. Now, for the first time since that promising campaign, Anderson is 100 percent healthy.

Just in time, too, for Charlie Strong's second season as Cardinal head coach. With very little chance to prove himself in 2010, some believed that sophomore Jeremy Wright might replace the dominant Bilal Powell as the 'Ville's starting running back. But after one of his best springs since stepping on campus, Anderson has reclaimed the greater share of snaps in the Cardinals' backfield. There will be a lot of pressure for Strong to repeat the success of 2010, and he's already shown his affection for the rushing game. If the Cardinals are going back to the postseason again, they'll need 2008's Anderson (or better) in 2011. -- CP

86. CASE KEENUM'S KNEE, body part, Houston quarterback. The coronation of college football's newest passing king looked to be in serious jeopardy last fall when Keenum, a senior, suffered a season-ending ACL tear during an ill-advised attempt at a tackle against UCLA. Keenum had been on pace to set NCAA records in career yards and touchdowns before the injury, but there's no progress to be made there on the sidelines.

Fortunately for Keenum, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility this January, meaning not only does he have another shot at setting those NCAA records, but he's 636 yards and three touchdowns closer. At this point, the biggest obstancle in Keenum's way is his own health. His rehab's on track so far, and he's going to be doing 7-on-7 drills with his receivers to get that all-important timing down, but how is he going to respond physically and mentally to this setback? Can he still set those records? Will his knee allow him to? -- AJ

85. LSU AT ALABAMA, potential Game of the Year, SEC. In a division where as many as four or five teams can have realistic dreams of a top-10 season and a trip to Atlanta, there's no shortage of "Game of the Year" candidates. Pair off any one of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State -- a group featuring three of the last four national champions, a fourth team coming off a Sugar Bowl berth, and a fifth coached by a man with two national title rings himself -- and you're going to get not only a potential classic, but the game that could decide the outcome of the nation's hands-down strongest division.

But even taking into account the South Carolina-Georgia-Florida round-robin in the East, the single game most likely to produce the SEC's 2011 champion will be played between the Tide and Tigers on Nov. 5. Both teams will bring wicked defenses, explosive athletes, powerful running games (at least, if we're right about Spencer Ware) ... and potentially shaky quarterback situations that could derail either team's title dreams. It all collides head-on in Tuscaloosa, and whatever the result, the SEC season won't be remotely the same in its aftermath. -- JH

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84. MARCUS COKER, running back, Iowa. The breakout star of the 2010 Insight Bowl was true freshman tailback Marcus Coker, who ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in Iowa's 27-24 win over Missouri. Coker busted out several highlight-reel plays, including a 62-yard touchdown sprint and a 35-yard gain in which Coker plain ran over senior safety Jarrell Harrison at the point of attack.

Coker -- who probably would have redshirted were it not for a slew of injuries in front of him on the depth chart -- is now the unquestioned workhorse in the Iowa backfield after the departures of every other tailback with even one down of experience. He's clearly got the physical gifts to make it work (and a talented, veteran line in front of him), but will Coker's bruising style of play hold up through an entire season in the Big Ten? --AJ

83. DANNY O'BRIEN, quarterback, Maryland. When 2010's ACC Rookie of the Year takes the field for his sophomore campaign this fall, in some ways it will feel as new as last September when the Kernersville, NC native took the conference by storm. After leading the Terrapins within a game of an Atlantic Division title, head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired, and offensive coordinator James Franklin took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. O'Brien's favorite receiver, junior Torrey Smith, took his 1,055 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns to the NFL.

Now O'Brien returns with expectations to repeat last year's success in College Park. But this go-round he has a new head coach (Randy Edsall) and new offensive coordinator (Gary Crowton). Luckily, neither coach is lacking in experience, and there should be plenty of learning opportunities for the sophomore gunslinger. Now O'Brien must seize control of those opportunities to keep Maryland --as Terps fans expect -- in the Atlantic Division hunt. -- CP

82. DECLAN SULLIVAN, late student videographer, Notre Dame. Though Notre Dame's 2010 campaign finished on a high note on the field, the season had already been irreparably marred by the tragic October death of Declan Sullivan. Sullivan lost his life when the scissor lift he was on while filming an Irish practice toppled over in high winds. (At right, that's a picture of Oregon's D.J. Davis wearing Sullivan's photo on his handwarmer as a tribute.) Notre Dame was fined for the accident and has since taken steps to make sure it never happens again, filming practice by placing cameras at different angles around the field rather than putting students on top of lifts.

It's a practice that a lot of schools would be smart to adapt, and it's one example of how Sullivan's legacy -- we desperately hope -- impacts the 2011 season and beyond. Whether it's discontinuing the use of lifts, using better equipment to reduce the risk of injury, closer supervision of player workouts, even more regular medical check-ups for stressed-out coaches, college football must do a better job of ensuring the safety of those involved with it. The lesson from the Sullivan tragedy is that those in charge must be proactive in making the necessary changes; even if the number of deaths from lift incidents stops, forever, at one, that one is still far, far too many. -- TF

81. WILL LYLES, scouting service director, Houston, Texas. The man who runs Complete Scouting Services has become the face of one of the NCAA's latest, biggest targets: scouting services. These alleged "street agents" associated with different scouting services came under fire earlier this spring when it was revealed that Oregon paid Lyles $24,000 for his services before signing coveted recruit Lache Seatrunk. Since then, the public has slowly learned more and more about the scouting service industry.  

What they have learned is that Oregon is not the only school that uses them.  In fact, many schools pay scouting services for DVD's, measurements, and other information that may help in recruiting.  But the dollar amounts in some cases do not exactly fall in line with "standard prices."  Lyles is currently being investigated by the NCAA for his ties to Seastrunk, LaMichael James (also at Oregon), and Patrick Peterson (formerly of LSU).  If the NCAA decides that Lyles helped lead them to their respective schools, he would become a booster and thus a walking violation of NCAA rules. If (or when) the NCAA crackdown on scouting services takes its next step, it will be because of the spotlight on Lyles. -- CP

Check back tomorrow at Eye on CFB for Nos. 80-71 on the countdown, click here for Nos. 100-91, or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on the 100 ... and everything else college football.



Posted on: January 10, 2011 3:48 am
 

Bowl Grades: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Nevada shut down an anemic Boston College offense en route to a 20-13 win.

Nevada

Offense: Rishard Matthews had two first-quarter scores, but the Nevada offense was uncharacteristically subdued today, largely due to three turnovers -- two interceptions and a lost fumble. Still, Nevada had to punt seven times (Nevada typically punts fewer than three times a game), and scored less than half its usual amount of points. Vai Taua was held in check, with 76 yards on 22 carries, and Colin Kaepernick had a positively pedestrian performance in this, his last game as a Wolf. 20-33 for under 200 yards and only one score usually won't cut it; Nevada was fortunate to be facing Boston College. Grade: C-

Defense: Nevada typically isn't thought of as a defensive powerhouse, but it's actually not that bad. From a total yardage standpoint, Nevada's pretty middle of the road, but the Wolf Pack only gives up about 22 points a game -- second only to Boise State in the pinball-scoreboard WAC. Tonight, Nevada was all over Boston College's rushing attack, giving up 30 yards on one rush and 34 yards on the other 24 rushes combined. The Wolf Pack secondary forced two interceptions from Chase Rettig and could have had three or four more; Rettig's passes were frequently deflected or otherwise found a defender's hands. Boston College had one drive of over 30 yards all day long. That's more than you can ask from a defense -- dropped interceptions aside. Grade: A-

Coaching: It's not exactly an indictment of Chris Ault if his players weren't amped up for today's game. BC was 7-5 in a very unimpressive ACC this season, and didn't look like a worthy opponent for the champion of a conference that boasted 10-win teams Nevada, Boise State, and Hawaii among its members.  Moreover, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl came 36 days after Nevada's last game, so there's always going to be some rust with that long of a layoff -- as was evident during this game. But Nevada looked pretty well-prepared, and Ault's play calls were fine. They were conservative, sure, but conservative wins games when leading against an inferior opponent. Really, this game wasn't nearly as close as the seven-point margin would indicate; only the turnovers kept the game "in doubt," and last we checked, Ault wasn't the one giving the ball up. Play calling is more than "you should throw a touchdown here and not an interception," after all. Grade: B

Boston College

Offense: Chase Rettig tries hard, and he tried hard for all four quarters today. Now, whenever it's necessary to mention that a player "plays hard," it's a safe assumption he just had a terrible game, and that's what happened here. Rettig's final stats were 14-34 for 121 yards and two interceptions, good for a 59.3 passer rating. Worse yet, he spent most of the game with a lower rating, and it wasn't until the fourth quarter that he stayed above three yards per pass attempt. And again, it could have been worse; Nevada should have had somewhere between three and five interceptions on the day. It didn't help that Andre Williams contributed a 30-yard rushing score and basically little else, of course, nor that the Eagle offense was painfully predictable (oh, we're getting to that). Still, this was a painfully bad offensive performance, to the point that head coach Frank Spaziani himself called it "anemic" during his halftime interview, and considering what gifts Nevada gave BC with its turnovers (an interception returned to the Nevada 6-yard line resulted in a field goal, for crying out loud), the Eagles really had no business scoring only 13 points. Grade: F

Defense: Aside from Boise State, Boston College might have the best front seven Nevada faced all year, and it was immediately evident. Nevada rushed for 114 yards, including 76 for Taua and 22 for Kaepernick. If it hadn't been for a 51-yard performance by Taua against Eastern Washington in a warmup at the beginning of the year, all three of those numbers would be season lows. All-American LB Luke Kuechly had an interception and a boatload of tackles for the Eagles, and BC frequently and reliably moved the point of attack backwards on defense when Nevada tried rushing the ball. The secondary struggled at times, though, especially on throws to the sideline. Grade: B

Coaching: Eagles fans were understandably upset with their team's play-calling, and rightfully so; it's infuriating to watch a straight-laced, run-run-third-and-long offense when the other team has a quarterback like Kaepernick and a fun system like Ault's pistol offense. The fact is, though, that Spaziani really doesn't have much talent on offense (especially with dynamic starting tailback Montel Harris still out with injury), and his defensive planning and second-half adjustments were praise-worthy. Boston College needs players on offense, plain and simple. Grade: C-

Final Grade

This practice of scheduling minor bowl games for January dates -- historically the province of only high-profile bowls -- could end today, and no college football fan would be upset. This bowl game was laughably bad, particularly when Boston College was on offense, and the fact that it comes on the eve of the national championship seems like cruel and unusual punishment. During the game, when the Kraft commercial featuring the dulcet-toned former homeless man Ted Williams finally aired, the prevailing sentiment on Twitter was that it was the unquestioned highlight of the game. It was that bad. At the very least, Boston College's defense helped get the game back to a one-possession contest, but this was the most lopsided seven-point game in recent memory. Thankfully, it's over, and real January football can be played. Grade: D- and only because it was close


Posted on: January 10, 2011 3:44 am
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