Tag:Ohio
Posted on: December 2, 2011 11:09 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 7:19 pm
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QUICK HITS: NIU 23, Ohio 20 in MAC Championship

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON: 
If it hadn't come in the MAC Championship Game, it might have been the ugliest win of NIU's season--four turnovers, a 20-0 halftime deficit, a whole series of hare-brained penalties. But because it did come in the MAC title game -- giving the Huskies their first MAC crown since 1983, and redeeming the NIU seniors for last year's shocking championship loss to Miami (Ohio) -- it's going to go down as the prettiest victory of them all. All-MAC quarterback Chandler Harnish had far from his best game (his 31 yards rushing was his lowest total vs. any team that wasn't Wisconsin) but threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and set up the last-second game-winning field goal with the help of Perez Ashford's brilliant 27-yard reception. For Ohio, a 43-year MAC title drought will continue--and for Frank Solich, this third conference championship game loss will likely hit hardest of all.

WHY NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON: Their ... defense? The Huskies have been a sieve all season after graduating eight starters from the 2010 unit, and came into Friday's game ranked 91st in total defense, 94th in scoring. But led by junior defensive lineman Sean Progar (7 tackles, 4 QB hurries) and outstanding corner Jimmie Ward -- whose fourth-quarter interception marked the official turning point in NIU's late rally -- the Huskie defense vastly outplayed their much more celebrated colleagues on the offensive side. Three first-half NIU turnovers meant that only the good work by the Huskie D (including three stops inside their own red zone) was responsible for the halftime deficit wasn't already out of reach, and only one of Ohio's six second-half drives covered any more than 13 yards. And of course, thanks to Ohio kicker Matt Weller's first miss inside of 40 yards all season, the NIU defense didn't allow a point after the break--despite the fact that any Ohio score at any time would have effectively ended the game. 

Harnish has been the star for NIU all season. But tonight, all the Huskies that really mattered played on the other side of the ball.

WHEN NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON: When Matt Sims' 33-yard field goal just snuck inside the left upright on the game's final play. The Huskies might not have even needed Sims' heroics if he'd hit an earlier extra point that would have put his team ahead 21-20 instead of stuck in a 20-20 tie, but no one will mind that much now.

WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON: A trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl to face Arkansas State in what promises to be one of the best under-the-radar bowl matchups of the season. And we mentioned this is their first MAC championship game win, right, and their first MAC title in 28 years? That's a pretty big deal.

WHAT OHIO LOST: Given how many opportunities the Bobcats had to put this game to bed, this likely ranks as the most brutal of their three MAC title game losses under Solich, an out-and-out heartbreaker. They'll still head to Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but the sting of this one isn't going to start to fade by then ... if it ever does. 



Dave Doeren before-and-after photo credit: Getty
Posted on: November 22, 2011 11:38 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 13

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (9-2, 7-1 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (11-0, 7-0)
2. Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
2. Arkansas (10-1, 6-1)

LSU needs: Win over Arkansas on Friday, win against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and it's on to the BCS title game for the Bayou Bengals.
Alabama needs: Win against Auburn on Saturday, an LSU loss to Arkansas. The three-way tiebreaker in the SEC is decided by BCS standings, which the Tide would likely own after an LSU loss.
Arkansas needs: To beat LSU and for Auburn to upset Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks would have the opportunity to move up in the BCS standings with the losses and likely earn the bid to the BCS title game.
Georgia needs: Defeat SEC West Champion in Atlanta to cause mass chaos.

Pick: LSU over Georgia

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2)

Oklahoma State needs: A win over Oklahoma in the Bedlam game on Dec. 3. However, the Cowboys could clinch the conference title with an Oklahoma loss to Iowa State this weekend.
Oklahoma needs: Win out against Iowa State and Oklahoma State to claim share of Big 12 Championship and earn BCS bowl bid.

Pick: Oklahoma State

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (10-1, 8-1 conference)
2. Oregon (9-2, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. UCLA (6-5, 5-3)
2. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4)
2. Utah (7-4, 4-4)

Stanford needs: An Oregon loss on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 North and a bid to the conference championship game.
Oregon needs: A win over Oregon State to move into a tie for the Pac-12 North, earning a championship game bid thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

UCLA needs: A win over USC clinches the Pac-12 South. A loss would result in the Bruins needing Colorado to beat Utah to avoid being jumped by the Utes.
Arizona State needs: A win against Cal and USC to beat UCLA. Even if Utah beats Colorado, the Sun Devils own the three-team tiebreaker.
Utah needs: A win over Colorado, Cal to beat Arizona State on Friday, and USC to beat UCLA on Saturday.

Pick: Oregon over Arizona State

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (9-2, 6-1)
2. Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2)

Penn State needs: A win over Wisconsin on Saturday
Wisconsin needs: A win over Penn State on Saturday

Pick: Wisconsin over Michigan State

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-2, 6-2 conference) - CLINCHED 

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1)
2. Virginia (8-3, 5-2)

Virginia Tech needs: A win over Virginia on Saturday
Virginia needs: A win over Virginia Tech on Saturday

Pick: Virginia Tech over Clemson

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Louisville (6-5, 4-2 conference)
1. Rutgers (8-3, 4-2)
3. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2)
3. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
3. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)

Week 13 Key Games: Louisville at South Florida (Friday), Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Friday), Rutgers at Connecticut, Cincinnati at Syracuse
Week 14 Key Games: West Virginia at South Florida (Thursday), Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Connecticut at Cincinnati

Louisville needs: Win at South Florida, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh
Rutgers needs: Win at Connecticut, at least one loss for Louisville and West Virginia
Cincinnati needs: Wins against Syracuse and Connecticut, at least one loss for Rutgers and West Virginia
West Virginia needs: Wins against Pittsburgh and South Florida, South Florida defeating Louisville
Pittsburgh needs: Wins against West Virginia and Syracuse, at least one loss for Cincinnati and Rutgers

Pick: Louisville

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2 conference)
2. Marshall (5-6, 4-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (11-0, 7-0)
1. Tulsa (8-3, 7-0)

Southern Miss needs: A win over Memphis OR a Marshall loss to ECU clinches the East
Marshall needs: A win over ECU and a Southern Miss loss to Memphis.

Houston needs: A win over Tulsa on Friday
Tulsa needs: A win over Houston on Friday

Pick: Houston over Southern Miss

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (9-2, 6-0 conference)
2. Boise State (9-1, 4-1)
2. Wyoming (7-3, 4-1)

TCU needs: Having clinched a share of the title, the Horned Frogs can win outright with a victory over UNLV Dec. 3.
Boise State needs: Wins over Wyoming and New Mexico, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.
Wyoming needs: Wins over Boise State and Colorado State, and a TCU loss to earn a share of the conference championship.

Pick: TCU

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-1 conference)
2. Nevada (6-4, 4-1)

Louisiana Tech needs: A win against New Mexico State earns a share of the WAC title, one Nevada loss will make them outright champions. Louisiana Tech earned the head-to-head advantage with a 24-20 win over Nevada.
Nevada needs: Wins against Utah State and Idaho earn the Wolf Pack a share of the WAC title. Nevada needs to win out and a Louisiana Tech loss to be outright champions.

Pick: Louisiana Tech

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (8-3, 5-2 conference) - CLINCHED

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (8-3, 6-1)
1. Toledo (7-4, 6-1)

Northern Illinois needs: A win over Eastern Michigan on Friday clinches the West Division thanks to the head-to-head advantage over Toledo.
Toledo needs: A victory over Ball State on Friday and a Northern Illinois loss to win the division and earn a spot in the conference championship game.

Pick: Northern Illinois over Ohio

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl + New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (9-2, 7-0 conference) - CLINCHED

BOWL-BOUND: Arkansas State accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala. after their 45-19 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday. After the announcement, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl offered an invitation to Louisiana-Lafayette. It will be the first time in the bowl's 11-year history a team from Louisiana will be participating.

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Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (8-2, 6-1 conference)
2. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (10-0, 6-0)
2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1)
3. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Kentucky at Georgia; Mississippi State at Arkansas; LSU at Ole Miss

Pick: LSU. The SEC West contenders all have games that should be easy wins this weekend before setting up the dramatic finale to the division race. Alabama needs to travel to Auburn for the Iron Bowl and Arkansas visits LSU in Baton Rouge for an eventful Thanksgiving weekend in the SEC. However, the East will be wrapped up by Saturday afternoon. If Georgia beats Kentucky at home, the Bulldogs win the East outright and punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC title game. If the Wildcats pull the upset, South Carolina wins the title game bid thanks to the 45-42 victory in Athens earlier this season.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1)

Week 12 Key Games: Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday); Oklahoma at Baylor

Pick: Oklahoma State. With Oklahoma State's dismantling of Texas Tech, Kansas State mathematically falls out of the running for the Big 12 title. Now everything is set up for Bedlam, with the Cowboys having a slight advantage with the extra preparation time. After Iowa State on Friday, Mike Gundy will have 15 days to get ready for Oklahoma's visit to Stillwater. In that time, the Sooners face Baylor on the road and Iowa State at home.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0 conference)
2. Stanford (9-1, 7-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)
1. UCLA (5-5, 4-3)
3. Utah (6-4, 3-4)

Key Week 12 Games: Utah at Washington State; Colorado at UCLA; USC at Oregon; California at Stanford

Pick: Oregon. With their impressive road win against Stanford, the Ducks jumped into the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North and also made themselves players in the national title discussion. Their argument as the nation's best one loss team is strong, but they will be tested again with a visit from a hot USC team. An upset at the hands of the Trojans would make the North interesting, but the way Oregon has been leaving opponents in the dust I think they take care of business down the stretch. The South is just a mess, with Arizona State and UCLA losing winnable games in Week 11 and suddenly making Utah a player in the race. The Bruins have the head-to-head on the Sun Devils, but Arizona State has more favorable matchups left on the schedule and a victory against Utah. Then again, no one in that division (at least no one eligible for the postseason) has been predictable.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 conference)
2. Michigan (8-2, 4-2)
2. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)
4. Iowa (6-4, 3-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (8-2, 5-1)
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2)
3. Ohio State (6-4, 3-3)
3. Purdue (5-5, 3-3)

Key Week 12 Games: Indiana at Michigan State; Nebraska at Michigan; Wisconsin at Illinois; Iowa at Purdue; Penn State at Ohio State

Pick: Wisconsin. Even without taking off-field situations into consideration, Penn State desperately needed to win against Nebraska on Saturday for the Big Ten title race. The loss brought the rest of the division one game closer in the standings, and now interim head coach Tom Bradley must lead them on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin to wrap up a tumultuous November for the program. Ohio State did themselves no favors in the overtime loss to Purdue, which negated the one game they picked up on Wisconsin with 33-29 win in Week 9. If the Badgers can avoid an upset against the Fighting Zooks this week, it will set up a division title game with Penn State in Camp Randall. Everything considered, I like the Badgers' chances in that matchup. The Spartans control their own destiny in the Leaders Division, with a one game lead and just Indiana and Northwestern left on the schedule. The loser of Nebraska - Michigan this weekend falls out of the title hunt, while the winner hopes for a Spartan slip-up. The Cornhuskers are in the best position to overtake Michigan State, but the schedule is not favorable with Michigan and Iowa left.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game - Orange Bowl 
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (9-1, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED DIVISION

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1)
2. Virginia (7-3, 4-2)

Key Week 11 Games: North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday); Virginia at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. The Tigers nearly avoided letting the Atlantic Division slip away with the 31-28 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest at home on Saturday. The Coastal Division race narrowed last weekend as well, with Virginia Tech knocking Georgia Tech from competition in the Thursday night contest in Atlanta. The Hokies return to action on Thursday against a reeling North Carolina team. Virginia needs a win over Florida State or a Virginia Tech loss to set up a season finale meeting with the Hokies for the Coastal Division title. A Cavaliers' loss to the Seminoles paired with a Virginia Tech win on Thursday will clinch Frank Beamer's fifth division title in seven years.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 conference) 
2. Rutgers (7-3, 3-2)
2. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
2. Louisville (5-5, 3-2)
2. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)
6. Connecticut (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisville at Connecticut; Cincinnati at Rutgers

Pick: West Virginia. Cincinnati and Louisville needed wins in Week 11 to create some distance in the always-muddled Big East title race. Instead both teams lost and now we are left with this six-team dash towards the finish line. The Bearcats' loss was not just in the standings on Saturday, but starting quarterback Zach Collaros has been ruled out for the season with a broken ankle. Victories over Cincinnati and Rutgers put West Virginia in the best position heading down the stretch, but the Mountaineers cannot afford another loss with the Backyard Brawl in two weeks and at USF in the season finale. The conference is rooting for Rutgers to knock off the banged up Bearcats and even the playing field with two-loss teams. The Scarlet Knights just have Connecticut left on the schedule, but will need some help to overtake West Virginia. Louisville has a favorable schedule with Connecticut and USF, but both games are on the road and they need Cincinnati to lose twice. Pittsburgh and Connecticut are still technically in the race, though there is little evidence in their resume that they are prepared to close out against the competition.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1 conference) 
2. Marshall (4-5, 3-2) 

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (10-0, 6-0) 
1. Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) 

Key Week 12 Games: Southern Miss at UAB (Thursday); SMU at Houston; Marshall at Memphis; Tulsa at UTEP

Pick: Houston. East Carolina fell from contention with a loss in Week 11, and Southern Miss avoided dropping a costly game to UCF with a gritty 30-29 victory. The Golden Eagles have a favorable slate left, with UAB and Memphis as the obstacles left in the way of a Conference USA title game bid. The West Division continues to set up for a potentially scoreboard friendly regular season finale between Houston and Tulsa. I don't expect the Cougars to lose focus at this point, particularly now that a BCS bowl game bid has become a possibility for Case Keenum and Co..

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (8-2, 5-0 conference) 
2. Boise State (8-1, 3-1) 
2. Wyoming (6-3, 3-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: New Mexico at Wyoming; Colorado State at TCU; Boise State at San Diego State

Pick: TCU. For the second year in a row, Boise State is knocked from their perch in the national rankings and conference standings with a missed field goal in the final moments of a close loss. The only way TCU loses the Mountain West conference at this point is falling to Colorado State (3-6) and UNLV (2-7). If sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall is 50% as productive as he was against the Broncos, the Horned Frogs should have the conference locked up in the coming weeks. Still, Wyoming and Boise State can win out to keep alive. But I wouldn't bet on TCU slipping down the stretch.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (6-3, 4-0 conference) 
2. Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1) 
3. Utah State (4-5, 2-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Louisiana Tech at Nevada; Utah State at Idaho

Pick: Nevada. HUGE game in the WAC this weekend as Louisiana Tech squares off against conference-leading Nevada. The winner takes the driver's seat in the conference title race, with the Wolf Pack nearly locking up the championship if they can get the win at home. Utah State still technically has a shot to finish on top, but the extent of help they would need to jump both teams seems unrealistic. Louisiana Tech is on a five game winning streak after starting 1-4, but cannot afford to drop another game if they hope to steal the WAC from Nevada.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (7-3, 4-2 conference)
2. Temple (6-4, 4-3)
3. Kent State (4-6, 3-3)
3. Miami (OH) (4-6, 3-3)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1)
1. Toledo (6-4, 5-1)
3 Ball State (6-4, 4-2)

Key Week 12 Games: Ball State at Northern Illinois (Tuesday); Ohio at Bowling Green (Wednesday); Western Michigan at Miami (OH) (Wednesday); Toledo at Central Michigan (Friday); Eastern Michigan at Kent State

Pick: Northern Illinois. The Huskies continue to own the inside track in the West Division thanks to their 63-60 victory over Toledo earlier this month, but Ball State can shake things up with a win Tuesday night. Toledo needs to win out in-conference and get help from Ball State or Eastern Michigan to jump into first place, while the Cardinals will get an opportunity to knock off both frontrunners in their next contests. The East is even more confusing, with three three-loss teams hoping Ohio slips up down the stretch against Bowling Green and/or Miami (OH). Next week will be the deciding weekend for the MAC East, with Ohio facing Miami and Kent State taking on Temple. Regardless of who finishes on top, taking down Northern Illinois or Toledo in the MAC title game will be no easy task.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0 conference) 
2. Western Kentucky (5-5, 5-1) 

Key Week 12 Games: Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee; Western Kentucky at North Texas

Pick: Arkansas State. Arkansas State continued their surprising tear through the Sun Belt with a much-needed victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 11. The loss eliminated the Ragin' Cajuns from title contention, and now Arkansas State needs just one more conference win to clinch the title. Western Kentucky remains in contention, but need the Red Wolves to lose their final two games to overtake them in the standings.

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Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:35 am
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 11

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Georgia (5-1)(7-2)
2. South Carolina (5-2)(7-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. LSU (6-0)(9-0)
2. Alabama (5-1)(8-1)
3. Arkansas (4-1)(8-1)

Week 11 Key Games: Florida at South Carolina; Tennessee at Arkansas; Auburn at Georgia

Pick: LSU. The Tigers take control of the SEC with their 9-6 overtime victory in the "Game of the Century" (tag now debatable), but the home stretch won't be a cakewalk. Arkansas will get their shot at the No. 1 team in the nation in the regular season finale, causing a mind-numbing three-way tie for the division title. If Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas all finish with one conference loss (against each other), the SEC title game representative will be decided by BCS standings. For now I'm liking LSU's chances against Arkansas and Georgian in the title game, assuming the Bulldogs can lock up the East down the stretch.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (6-0)(9-0)
2. Oklahoma (5-1)(8-1)
3. Kansas State (4-2)(7-2)
4. Texas (3-2)(6-2)

Week 11 Key Games: Texas at Missouri; Oklahoma State at Texas Tech; Texas A&M at Kansas State

Pick: Oklahoma State. Week 11 serves as a "Separation Saturday" of sorts in the Big 12, with Kansas State and Texas facing elimination from title contention. If the Cowboys can avoid the Texas Tech trap that caught their Bedlam brethren, they will be just an Iowa State win away from a possible unofficial Big 12 title game against the Sooners. Oklahoma still has to beat Baylor on the road, and does not get the advantage of a week off prior to the big game in December. I like Mike Gundy to have his team focused down the stretch, and outscoring anyone they face.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (7-0)(9-0)
2. Oregon (6-0)(8-1)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-2)(7-2)
1. UCLA (4-2)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Oregon at Stanford; UCLA at Utah; Arizona State at Washington State

Pick: Stanford. UCLA's victory over Arizona State has made the Pac-12 South suddenly a heated race in November. Without owning the head-to-head against UCLA, the Sun Devils must remain perfect down the stretch and hope the Bruins falter to earn that bid to the Pac-12 title game. Arguably the biggest conference matchup of the season will be Stanford's showdown with Oregon at home on Saturday night. Knocking off the Ducks will give create enough separation to feel good about winning the Pac-12 North. If the banged-up Cardinal can get it done against Oregon, I like their chances against California the following week.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan State (4-1)(7-2)
2. Michigan (3-2)(7-2)
2. Nebraska (3-2)(7-2)
2. Iowa (3-2)(6-3)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(8-1)
2. Ohio State (3-2)(6-3)
2. Wisconsin (3-2)(7-2)

Key Week 11 Games: Nebraska at Penn State; Michigan State at Iowa; Michigan at Illinois; Wisconsin at Minnesota; Ohio State at Purdue

Pick: Michigan State. Week 10's results have left the Big Ten title race in a chaotic state. The good news for a Big Ten fan is that now almost every game on the schedule has a potential conference championship implication. Interestingly enough, one of the team with the most control in the jumbled Legends race is Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Michigan on Saturday, and face both Michigan State and Nebraska in the final three weeks of the season. Michigan State, with a game up on Iowa, can also lock up the division by winning out and faces an easier slate. Penn State has the toughest road in the Leaders division, and the off-field issues will be impossible for those around the program to ignore. Owning the head-to-head against Wisconsin, Ohio State is actually in the best position to leap ahead of Penn State should they fall along the way.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-4)
2. Florida State (4-2)(6-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)
3. Virginia (3-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech; Wake Forest at Clemson; Duke at Virginia; Miami at Florida State

Pick: Clemson. Week 11 provides the ACC with some huge matchups with conference title implications. Clemson can lock up the ACC Atlantic Division with a win over Wake Forest, and the winner of Thursday night's showdown between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech moves into the driver's seat for the ACC Coastal. I like the Tigers to take care of business with a week off following their loss to the Yellow Jackets, and Dabo Swinney's team will play to a Tiger-friendly crowd at the title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (3-0)(7-1)
2. Louisville (3-1)(5-4)
3. Rutgers (3-2)(6-3)
4. West Virginia (2-2)(6-3)
4. Pittsburgh (2-2)(4-5)
4. Connecticut (2-2)(4-5)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 11 Games: West Virginia at Cincinnati; Pittsburgh at Louisville

Pick: Cincinnati. The Bearcats' surprising 7-1 campaign runs into arguably the biggest road block on Saturday, facing a steaming-mad West Virginia team in Paul Brown Stadium. A loss knocks the Mountaineers from title contention, and Dana Holgorsen will be looking for improvements on all sides of the ball after the loss to Louisville. The Cardinals can also knock out a contender this weekend with a win over Pittsburgh.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (4-1)(8-1)
2. East Carolina (3-2)(4-5)
2. Marshall (3-2)(4-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (5-0)(9-0)
1. Tulsa (5-0)(6-3)
3. SMU (4-2)(6-3)

Key Week 11 Games: Houston at Tulane; Marshall at Tulsa; UCF at Southern Miss; East Carolina at UTEP

Pick: Houston. No one in the league has been as impressive as Houston this season, but Tulsa's five-game win streak is nothing to ignore. The two teams are on a collision course to meet in Houston on Thanksgiving Friday, likely for the West Division crown. UCF gave the Golden Hurricanes a challenge in Week 10, and Southern Miss should be on alert after picking up a game on East Carolina.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (4-0)(7-2)
2. Boise State (3-0)(8-0)
2. Wyoming (2-1)(5-3)

Key Week 11 Games: TCU at Boise State; Wyoming at Air Force

Pick: Boise State. My question is not if Boise State will beat TCU this weekend on the Smurf Turf, but how they beat TCU. The Broncos have once again found themselves in a position where they might be on the outside looking in of the BCS title game, and TCU presents their last quality opponent on the schedule. It would favor the Broncos to end this game early, and keep the foot on the accelerator to draw the attention of as many human voters as possible to help their BCS chances.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (4-1)(5-4)
2. Hawaii (3-2)(5-4)
4. Fresno State (2-2)(3-6)

Key Week 11 Games: Hawaii at Nevada; Fresno State at New Mexico State

Pick: Nevada. Louisiana Tech takes a break from conference play to face Ole Miss while Nevada gets a shot to eliminate Hawaii from title contention. I like the Wolf Pack coming in from a week off to knock the Warriors off at home, setting up a huge WAC showdown with Louisiana Tech in Week 12. Nevada plays to a favorable schedule down the stretch, and I like their chances to keep a hold on the top spot in the conference.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Ohio (3-2)(6-3)
1. MIami (OH) (3-2)(4-5)
3. Temple (3-3)(5-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Ball State (4-2)(6-4)

Key Week 11 Games: Northern Illinois at Bowling Green; Western Michigan at Toledo; Miami (OH) at Temple; Ohio at Central Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. While NBA fans are complaining about missed games, the MAC is seizing the opportunity to show off their mid-week fireworks. Week 11 is another Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday slate of contests with conference title implications, so get the scoreboard warmed up. The East leaders will each have to hit the road to protect their spot, with a Miami - Ohio rivalry game still left on the schedule. If Northern Illinois can avoid the upset at Bowling Green, their remaining schedule sets up well for a strong finish and plenty of rest for the conference title game.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (5-0)(7-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (6-1)(8-2)
3. Western Kentucky (5-1)(5-4)

Key Week 11 Games: La.-Lafayette at Arkansas State; Western Kentucky at LSU

Pick: Arkansas State. The Red Wolves have been on a tear for nearly two months, and now their opportunity to lock up the Sun Belt Conference comes right to their front door with Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns are fresh off a thrilling battle with Louisiana-Monroe that required two touchdowns in the final three minutes to secure the 36-35 victory. I like Arkansas State on Saturday, and to lock things up down the stretch in the Sun Belt.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 10




Posted by Bryan Fischer


Well then.

A little over halfway through Saturday's showdown in Tuscaloosa it became clear, this wasn't the game of the century it had been built up to be. While that superlatives will be saved for another big game down the road, what transpired at Bryant-Denny Stadium was something else: the slugfest of the century.

For some, the defense being played was marvelous. Morris Claiborne solidified himself as one of the top corners in the country with an interception and Eric Reid showed what it takes to win a game of this magnitude by wrestling for, and eventually coming down with, a pick near the goal line after the Tide tried a trick play to tight end Michael Williams.

The defense was so good on both sides that the MVP in a losing effort for Alabama had to be the offensive line, which was great at handling the pressure from LSU's front for four quarters - they seemed to fall apart a little in overtime.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, a longtime assistant in the SEC, said after the game that this was "the most physical, hard-fought game he's ever been involved with."

With a fifth of the televisions in use on Saturday tuned to CBS for the game, I was quite surprised at how many lambasted the game afterward. Sure, there was a lack of crossing the goal line and way too many field goals for most people but that was the result of the defenses being so good. Both teams were able to move the ball, the defenses just tightened once they moved closer to the red zone.

As my colleague Tom Fornelli said to me, this game was all about deciding what fans liked college football and what fans just like touchdowns. Some compared it to a great pitchers duel in baseball but that would be unfair. The beauty of playing defense might have been lost by some but the battles in the trenches and in the secondary said Saturday was a masterpiece.

The Crimson Tide finished with 295 yards, the Tigers ended up winning with just 239. Alabama came into the game 23rd in the country in offense at 457 yards/game and had the best running back in the country in Trent Richardson. Despite not moving the ball well on offense, LSU came in 15th in scoring offense. That's just how good both teams were on the side of the ball - defense - that ultimately decided the game.

It would be interesting to see how much Miles' strategy would have changed had Alabama hit just one of their three missed field goals. Would we have seen one of his famous trick plays? I wouldn't exactly say 'The Hat' Les Miles out-coached Nick Saban since both adjusted conservatively but there's no question that Miles made decisions more inline with how the game was going, such as running Jordan Jefferson more than what the game plan likely called for.

Despite all the 'what ifs' that will be dissected over the coming days (and weeks and months and years), we're left with just one fact: LSU was better than Alabama Saturday night. If they were to play again for the BCS championship, what happened between the two teams would invalidate the very crutch - every week is a playoff - BCS supporters use to support their cartel of a system. If we just saw a playoff game, the Tide need to be thinking about a trip to a bowl game and not the title game.

In post game interviews, Miles was inviting of a rematch - perhaps knowing that knocking off Saban and the Tide another time on their way to picking of the crystal football would mean this LSU team could be considered among the greatest to play the game. The players too, were living in the moment and inviting LSU-Alabama II in New Orleans.

"That game should've been on pay-per-view," Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery said. "I think the world wants a rematch, honestly. It would be lovely to play such a great team out there again."

My colleague Bruce Feldman, who was in Tuscaloosa, discussed the rematch issue in The Big Picture, as did BCS guru Jerry Palm.

As we sit here on week 10 trying to digest what happened on Saturday, it good to lay down what we do know in the race for the national title.

1. There is A LOT of football remaining. LSU plays a top 10 team in Arkansas to end the season as well as the SEC championship game in Atlanta. Alabama has the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Oklahoma State ends with Bedlam against Oklahoma. Stanford plays Oregon and Boise State takes on TCU this week. We don't have a great system in the BCS but it was it is so "the race" is going to chance course several times between now and mid-December.

2. If Stanford beats Oregon, they'll move past Alabama in the BCS standings. If Oklahoma State wins out, they'll play in the championship game. Boise State needs help in droves.

3. Though Houston has moved as high as 11th in the rankings but are still a long shot at playing in a BCS bowl because Boise State is the highest ranked non-AQ school. It's doubtful the Bowls would pick the Cougars as an at-large team with fan bases such as Oklahoma likely qualifying.

4. The bowl tie-ins are ACC-Orange Bowl, Big Ten/Pac-12-Rose Bowl, Big 12-Fiesta Bowl, SEC-Sugar Bowl. The Bowl that loses the #1 team will have first pick of the replacements, followed by the bowl that loses the #2 team. The order after that is Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. There's a chance we could see some juicy match ups as a result (Oklahoma-Boise State rematch anyone?).

5. Want pure chaos? Arkansas beats LSU and Georgia pulls off an upset in Atlanta, forcing Alabama or LSU to miss a BCS game. Oregon beats Stanford, only to lose to USC and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State to leave just Boise State and Houston as the lone undefeated teams. It's all unlikely but stranger things have happened. It also might be the only chance the men from the blue turf have to play for a title in New Orleans.

6. The game of the century did not occur last Saturday in Tuscaloosa but it was still a fantastic regular season game. A rematch would devalue the game, forcing LSU to beat Alabama twice for a national title while the Tide only needs to win once (in New Orleans). If we could have best two out of three, that'd be great but we're stuck with our current predicament.  

Buckle up and get ready, it's going to a fun and bumpy road to New Orleans.

Stat of the week

To say the Big 12, and the state of Kansas in particular, is not very good at defense might be an understatement. To say they like offense in the state of Oklahoma, likewise, might be an understatement. Consider this: of the 10 best games rushing this season (net yards gained), three have come against a Big 12 team. Strip out non-BCS opponents and it becomes three of the top five, including Kansas giving up the most a game this season on the ground when Georgia Tech rushed for 604 yards. Of the top 10 passing games (net yards gained), four of the top 10 have come against a Big 12 defense, including four of the top five. Kansas and Kansas State find themselves on the two lists a grand total of five times, one reason why the Jayhawks are dead last in defense.

Thanks to playing the Oklahoma schools in back-to-back weeks, Kansas State has dropped from 29th in total defense to 78th. Half of the Big 12 is in the top 10 in the country in total offense and Texas Tech is 11th. Needless to say, it's not fun being a defensive coordinator in the conference.

Stats of the week

- Stanford remains perfect in the red zone this season, getting points out of all 52 trips. They've scored a touchdown all but 11 times and there's only one team that has been inside the 20 more often (Oklahoma State). LSU is second in red zone efficiency, scoring on 41 of 42 trips. The Cardinal are also third in the country in red zone defense, allowing a score 16 times out of 24 attempts.

- Oklahoma is tied with Stanford for fewest sacks given up with just four all year. Of course, the Sooners have dropped back 128 more times.

- The top three active career leaders for rushing touchdowns are all juniors.  Temple's Bernard Pierce has 45, Oregon's LaMichael James has 44 and Wisconsin's Montee Ball has 43. The NCAA FBS record is 73.

- Both Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis and Idaho kicker Trey Farquhar hit 55-yard field goals right before halftime this week, which tie for the second longest of the season.

- Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning's pass to Torieal Gibson resulted in a 94 yard touchdown against Eastern Michigan, the longest pass play of the year. There have been four runs longer than that this season.

- Matt Barkley passed for a school-record six touchdowns in his game against Colorado on Friday. He also moved into 10th on the FBS active career list for touchdowns thrown with 69.

- Alabama still has yet to trail this season in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th quarter. LSU has trailed at the end of just two quarters all year.

- Since building a 31-7 lead on Oklahoma in the 3rd quarter, Texas Tech has been outscored 124-37.

- This was the first time Texas has rushed for five touchdowns in back-to-back games since 2005.

- Weird quirk from Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Washington's tight ends had three catches for -5 yards and a touchdown against Oregon.

Yard-by-yard

- It didn't have the hype but the most thrilling game Saturday night was in Stillwater. Brandon Weeden threw a school-record 502 yards and had an answer for every late Kansas State score to escape with a 52-45 win. The defense, who seems to take shots from just about everybody in the game and outside it, held on with a goal line stand to prevent the tying score. Kansas State has taken some lumps in back-to-back weeks by stopping three straight passes with seconds left on the clock. It will get overshadowed given the loss but you have to be impressed with the play of KSU quarterback Collin Klein this season. He's been solid in the passing game and is as tough of a runner as you'll find at the position.  

- Hats off to Rick Neuheisel and UCLA for fighting and clawing their way (as some Bruins said) to an upset of Arizona State at the Rose Bowl to, gasp, control their own fate in the Pac-12 South. Thanks to a "here's what we're made of" five minute drive to score a go ahead touchdown, it almost looked like the Bruins defense were going to allow the Sun Devils to get a decent field goal shot off. Alex Garoutte's 46-yarder fell short though and an exuberant sideline of powder blues jumped for joy. A lot of people have counted Neuheisel out, especially after the debacle at Arizona, but he still put his team in a position to win and they finally seized it. The loss was the latest in a line of head scratchers for Dennis Erickson, who seems to lose this type of game every year at ASU. Without a decent South team this year, it's looking very much like a two team league.

- There was another top 10 match up in the SEC that seemed to be the third wheel Saturday night as Arkansas beat South Carolina 44-28. It was surprising to see the Razorbacks put together a solid first half, something they really hadn't done against a decent opponent this season, before pulling away late thanks in part to special teams and  defense. South Carolina had just 49 yards heading into the locker room but Connor Shaw led a late comeback in the third quarter until being knocked out with a concussion. The Gamecocks have a good defense and for Bobby Petrino's squad to hang 44 on them is certainly a statement that you can't forget about the Hogs at the end of the season when they play LSU.

- After dropping a game to lowly Minnesota, hardly anybody but the most hopeful Hawkeye faithful gave Iowa a chance against Michigan. Yet the defense was vintage, bottling up Denard Robinson all day, and Marcus Coker looked like a man on a mission while rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines had a chance to force overtime from the 3-yard line but four straight passes couldn't be snagged and Iowa ran off the field in celebration. "They showed a lot of heart," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. Given who they lost to the previous week, it's difficult to tell what Iowa football is this season outside of being a big of Jekyll and Hyde. For Brady Hoke and Michigan, it appears the tougher schedule and move to a pro-style offense is finally catching up. The difference between passing in Rich Rodriguez' system and passing in Al Borges' cannot be understated. Robinson has been conditioned with certain timing for years and now is being asked to change it to match the current system. If you're looking for the reason why the junior is having problems (53% passing, 13-12 TD-INT ratio this season), look no further than a round (quarterback) being in a square hole (system).

- Bryan Harsin came into Austin with designs of transforming Texas' offense and it appears he is doing so, surprisingly, on the ground. In the past two seasons the Longhorns had just five games where they rushed for more than 200 yards; Saturday's win over Texas Tech was the fifth time they topped the mark this season. In a 52-20 win, Texas' 439 yards rushing against Texas Tech were the 4th-most against a BCS opponent this season. They've racked up 880 yards on the ground the past two games against sub-par defenses but it will be interesting to see if they can keep running the ball consistently the rest of the season. Given their youth on both sides of the ball - they've play 18 true freshmen - it's a good bet that they'll try and keep it up. Either way, there's a new coordinator and a new way of doing business on the 40 acres.

- Charlie Strong has one of the youngest teams in the Big East but they're rounding into form and it paid off with a huge upset of West Virginia that was extra personal given that the school was largely seen to be invited by the Big 12 over Louisville. Frosh QB Teddy Bridgewater threw a touchdown and special teams came up huge with a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. It was a complete and satisfying victory for the Cardinals. "I was not surprised at all to come into this venue and for us to go and play well," said Strong. "We knew we had to play well. We didn't come here to lose or to play it tight. We came in here to win." After the win, Strong ended up crowd surfing among his players in the locker room and the team, taking an added jab at the loser, sang John Denver's "Country Roads."

- The upset of the week comes courtesy of an NU on NU crime. With designs of making it to Indianapolis for the title game, Nebraska was upset by Northwestern despite Dan Persa standing on the sidelines. The Wildcats have not been great this season but they just kept coming through on defense, hanging on 28-25 for their first top 10 win in some time. "A great program win for us," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "To come on the road and put together our most complete game of the year. ... Not perfect. Not a work of art. There are some things we can correct."

- Not sure anybody has raised his NFL stock more than USC quarterback Matt Barkley? He played well in his showdown against Andrew Luck and then followed it up with a school-record six touchdown passes against Colorado despite a few drops from his wide outs. No, the Buffs aren't that good but thanks in large part to the through and through California kid Barkley, USC is a solid top 20 team. The defense is still the link week but outside of a trip to Eugene, it's likely they'll win out - especially if they can get healthier. Colorado, meanwhile, is so bad they're a double-digit favorite at home to a 2-7 team that lost their head coach.

- Small story that went way under the radar Saturday but kudos for Paul Pasqualoni for knocking off Syracuse to give UConn their fifth straight victory in the series. It meant a little more for Pasqualoni than others, who was head coach of the Orange for 14 years before being fired after winning four Big East titles and nine bowl trips. The Huskies defense played a big part, forcing several turnovers and holding despite the offense's own issues. Despite much talent at all, Pasqualoni has kept hopes alive for another winning season in Storrs.

- Kellen Moore is now 46-2 as a starter, more wins than any other FBS quarterback and an amazing accomplishment for a guy that no one outside of Idaho would even think is a major college quarterback if he was walking down the street. The Broncos saw a few different looks they weren't expecting from UNLV and led by just seven at halftime before pulling away late in the 4th quarter. As it stands now, Moore has an impressive 128 touchdowns against just 24 interceptions.

- As good of a slate as this week was, it was definitely a week filled with MACtion. Tuesday's Toledo-Northern Illinois game was 7-on-7 in pads it seemed like, with NIU prevailing in an entertaining 63-60 win that included 1,121 total yards (and back-to-back kick returns by the Huskies' Tommylee Lewis (great name) to open the game). One of the most underrated players in the country, Toledo's Eric Page also caught five touchdowns and had to be screaming when coach Tim Beckham didn't call any of his timeouts as NIU drove for the game winning touchdown pass. Then there was Ohio's 35-31 win over Temple to take control of the MAC East after a touchdown to win with less than two minutes on the clock. Thursday's Miami of Ohio romp over Akron wasn't anything to write home about but Central Michigan missed a final play field goal from 28 yards out to allow Kent State to win on Friday. Finally, on Saturday, Steven Schott hit a 44-yard field goal to put Ball State ahead of Eastern Michigan 33-31 with seconds left on the clock. MACtion indeed.

- Remarkable stat from Bruce Feldman, Lamar Miller became Miami's first 1,000-yard back since 2002 (Willis McGahee), a stretch of five different offensive coordinators. Although the 5-4 Hurricanes has dealt with a lot on and off the field, you have to give credit to OC Jedd Fisch and Al Golden. Much maligned quarterback Jacory Harris has been playing as well as he has at any point in his career and probably better than that. The senior is remarkably sixth in the country in passing efficiency, right behind Andrew Luck, with an impressive 18-4 touchdown-interception ratio. Miami has been in every game they've played with the four losses coming by 22 points. Saturday's 49-14 thrashing of Duke put them one win away from bowl eligibility ahead of this week's rivalry game at Florida State.

- It's always fun to catch the late night WAC games involving Hawaii, after a long day of watching college football it always seems to be an interesting way to cap it off. Utah State managed to beat the Warriors 35-31 thanks to a last minute drive. Hilariously, one of the keys to the game that the third-rate announcers brought up at the end was the late Andy Rooney (to play, they said, 60 minutes). Can't make that up.

Tweet of the week

"So Fox Sports MW is electing to show California HS football instead of Kansas-Iowa State."

- Bill Connelly, writer for SB Nation and Football Outsiders.

Fisch's Finest

Note: Last week was the fourth in a row that my 10th ranked team lost (sorry Nebraska fans), perhaps that will give Georgia Tech some hope on Thursday at home.

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Stanford

4. Alabama

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Arkansas

9. Clemson

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Senior writer Dennis Dodd and I will be in Palo Alto to catch the Pac-12 showdown between Oregon and Stanford. Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart will be between the hedges to catch Auburn at Georgia. Brett McMurphy will head to State College to see Nebraska at Penn State.

Leaning this way

TCU at Boise State

Before the season, people were circling this game as perhaps the Broncos toughest test. There was the added issue of the game being moved by the Mountain West from Ft. Worth to Boise as a parting gift for the Horned Frogs. At 7-2 with issues on both sides of the ball, TCU is solid this season but it's not the team we've seen the past couple of years. Boise State, meanwhile, has gotten off to some slow starts and will still need to take care of business. This could be closer than most people think but expect the home team to come out victoriously.

Auburn at Georgia

The Bulldogs put up an impressive 42 points in one quarter against the lowly New Mexico State Aggies but the competition will pick up a bit this week with Auburn rolling into town. Aaron Murray continues to come along at quarterback and Georgia should be at full strength after dealing with a few suspensions. It will be tough for Auburn to pull of the upset in this one as Georgia continues their march for Atlanta.

Oregon at Stanford

The Game of the Century, West of the Rockies Edition can be found in Palo Alto, with two top-six ranked teams squaring off. Stanford gave Oregon a scare last year before faltering in the second half and, given the injuries on both sides of the ball, it wouldn't be shocking to see the same thing happen again this year. The Ducks aren't quite as sharp as they were last season but they're capable of knocking off Andrew Luck and company.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Akron, Al Borges, Al Golden, Alabama, Alex Garoutte, Andrew Luck, Andy Rooney, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Ball State, Ball State, BCS, Bedlam, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big Ten, bill Connelly, Bob Condotta, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Harsin, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Caleb Sturgis, Central Michigan, Charlie Strong, Clemson, Collin Klein, Colorado, Connor Shaw, Dan Persa, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, Dennis Erickson, Duke, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Eric Page, Eric Reid, Fiesta Bowl, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Houston, Idaho, Iowa, Iron Bowl, Jacory Harris, Jedd Fisch, Jerry Palm, John Chavis, John Denver, Kansas, Kansas State, Keith Wenning, Kellen Moore, Kent State, Kirk Ferentz, Lamar Miller, LaMichael James, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Marcus Coker, Matt Barkley, Miami, Miami of Ohio, Michael Williams, Michigan, Minnesota, Montee Ball, Morris Claiborne, Mountain West, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Pac-12, Pat Fitzgerald, Paul Pasqualoni, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Sam Montgomery, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steven Schott, Sugar Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, TCU, Teddy Bridgewater, Temple, Texas, Texas Tech, Tim Beckham, Toledo, Tom Fornelli, Tommylee Lewis, Tony Barnhart, Torieal Gibson, Trent Richardson, Trey Farquhar, UCLA, UConn, UNLV, USC, Utah State, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Willis McGahee, Wisconsin
 
Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: July 26, 2011 2:55 pm
 

MWC's Boise State among non-AQ favorites

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Several non-AQ conferences have held their preseason media days and polls, and it won't surprise anyone to learn that the Mountain West's edition has anointed newcomers Boise State the league favorites in their first MWC campaign.

The Broncos earned 28 out of a possible 31 first-place votes, with reigning champion TCU picking up three nods to finish second in their final MWC preseason poll before 2012's jump to the Big East. Air Force placed third, followed by San Diego State.

Personally, we'd have slid the Aztecs into the third slot* thanks in large part to Ronnie Hillman, the explosive sophomore running back who was named to the MWC's preseason all-conference team, also announced Tuesday. But it was the Broncos who predictbably dominated the list of honorees, earning a conference-high seven selections. In addition to Kellen Moore (who was named the preseason MWC Offensive Player of the Year), the Broncos were also saw less-household names like safety George Iloka, defensive end Shea McLellin and offensive tackle Nate Potter.

TCU
picked up four selections, including preseason Defesnive Player of the Year Tank Carder. No doubt the MWC itself is hoping the media have their predictions right; having the Broncos oust the Frogs in the two teams' only shared conference season would be a feather in the league's cap as TCU departs (and the MWC fights for a BCS automatic berth.

But as mentioned, the MWC isn't the only league that's been busy issuing its preseason polls. Checking in on two of their non-AQ brethren:

MAC: The Mid-American Conference held its Media Day Tuesday and announced the league's press had selected up-and-coming Toledo the league favorite for 2011. The Rockets return a league-high 18 starters in the third season of Tim Beckman's tenure, including dynamic receiver/returner Eric Page, a Biletnikoff Award Watch list member.

But the Rockets were far from a slam dunk choice, gaining only five of the 13 votes cast for MAC champion. Reigning divisional champions Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) each picked up three nods, with Ohio and Western Michigan each picking up a token vote. All in all, seven different teams earned votes as champions of one division or the other--promising a well-heated MAC race this fall.

SUN BELT: The SBC doesn't issue a media vote, but last week the league's coaches released their own picks for the 2011 Sun Belt standings, with an unfamiliar name at the top: FIU.

Behind co-preseason Offensive Player of the Year (and CBSSports.com College Football 100 member) T.Y. Hilton, the Golden Panthers usurped usual league overloards Troy, receiving five of the nine votes in the poll. And in maybe the quirkiest single vote in any of those polls mentioned in this post, someone is very high on Western Kentucky; despite going 2-10 last year (and 2-22 the past two seasons), the Hilltoppers received one first-place vote.

*Yes, despite the devastation in the SDSU receiving corps. Between a veteran line, Hillman, and senior QB Ryan Lindley, they'll be fine. 

Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:45 pm
 

The entire 2011 season simulated on NCAA 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After getting my new copy of EA Sports' NCAA Football 12 on Tuesday, I took the time to simulate the entire 2012 season to see what the video game thinks is going to happen this year. In order to make things realistic, I even went through all the trouble of updating rosters to reflect what they currently look like.

That meant moving Russell Wilson from NC State to Wisconsin, removing Terrelle Pryor -- not to mention benching the suspended Buckeyes for the first five games of the season -- removing WaShaun Ealey and Caleb King from Georgia's backfield and so on and so forth.

No need to thank me, it was a labor of love.

So how did things turn out?

Well, it looks as if we'll once again have a non-BCS school finish the year undefeated -- the only school to do so -- but it's not Boise State or TCU. In fact, Boise State finally got its shot at a national title, but it couldn't come through.

Who did?

Let's find out. First we'll start with the conference champions (Records don't include conference championships or bowl games).

ACC -- North Carolina 9-3 (6-2)

Big 12 -- Texas A&M 10-2 (8-1)

Big East -- South Florida 9-3 (6-1)

Big Ten -- Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)

C-USA -- Houston 12-0 (8-0)

MAC -- Western Michigan 10-2 (7-1)

MWC -- Boise State 12-0 (7-0)

Pac 12 -- Oregon 9-3 (7-2)

SEC -- South Carolina 11-1 (7-1)

Sun Belt -- Troy 10-2 (8-0)

WAC -- Fresno State 8-4 (7-0)

And how about those BCS bowl games? Well I'm glad you asked.

Rose Bowl -- Wisconsin 49, Oregon 46 OT

Fiesta Bowl -- Texas A&M 38, Ohio State 17

Orange Bowl -- North Carolina 28, Alabama 20

Sugar Bowl -- Houston 48, South Florida 13

BCS National Championship -- South Carolina 24, Boise State 22

Yes, that's right, the Ol' Ball Coach has added another national title to his resume. Boise State did have a chance to topple the BCS machine, but couldn't pull through. Trailing 24-16, Kellen Moore hit Kyle Efaw on a 16-yard touchdown with 3 minutes left, but the Broncos couldn't convert the two-point conversion. The Gamecocks ran out the clock and celebrated a national title. Oh, and Stephen Garcia was the game's MVP. Let that marinate in your brain for a minute or two.

As for awards, I hope Houston quarterback Case Keenum used all that time off last season to build himself a trophy case because it looks as if he's going to need one. Keenum not only won the Heisman Trophy, but the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O'Brien trophies to boot. That's what happens when you lead Houston to a 14-0 record yet still finish second in both polls.

Now, if that's not enough info for you, let's take a look at some of the season storylines by conference.

ACC

-- Jimbo Fisher hits the sophomore slump. Florida State doesn't even qualify for a bowl berth after finishing the year 5-7 with a 3-5 mark within the ACC. FSU loses to Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State, Boston College, Miami and Florida. And of those losses, only the loss to Florida was by less than 10 points.

-- Al Golden has Miami on the right track. Sure, the Canes only went 8-5 during the season, but they did finish 6-2 in ACC play, just missing the ACC title game thanks to a 27-17 loss to North Carolina

-- Duke goes bowling! That's right, Duke finishes the year 7-6 with a 4-4 mark in the ACC, including a two-point win over UNC. Though the Dukies do lose to Florida in the Music City Bowl. I have no idea who Steve Spurrier was rooting for while watching.

-- Boston College is the "best" team in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles finish the year 8-6 with a 5-3 mark in the conference. They even nearly beat UNC in the title game, losing 29-27.

Big 12

-- Oklahoma can't handle the pressure. The Sooners started out the year 7-0 before getting shocked by Kansas State on the road -- where else? -- 24-21. They also lost at Oklahoma State 38-24 to end the regular season and kill their hopes of a BCS berth.

-- Texas won't be terrible two years in a row. The Longhorns finish the season 11-2 with a 7-2 mark in the Big 12. Though they do lose to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, which stings a bit.

-- Where have you gone, Blaine Gabbert? Missouri needs you. The Tigers finished the season 4-8 with a 2-7 mark in the conference. Seems they're going to miss Colorado, Nebraska and the North Division.

Big East

-- The Big East is respectable. While no team in the conference finished the season with less than three losses (Pitt being the only with three), seven of the eight Big East schools won at least seven games, with Rutgers holding the only losing record.

-- Louisville can't finish. The Cardinals led the Big East most of the season before losing four of their last five games to finish 3-4 in the conference.

-- Casino or football field, Dana Holgorsen has a tough time winning anywhere this year. The Mountaineers went 2-5 in the Big East during his inaugural campaign.

Big Ten

-- Who needs Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor? Ohio State went 4-1 in its first five games of the season while so many of its playmakers sat out, and though the Buckeyes struggled in Big Ten play, they still finished the year 9-4 and got an at-large berth to the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and they still beat Michigan.

-- Not that Michigan minded all that much, because Brady Hoke made believers out of the faithful in his first year. That Michigan loss to Ohio State? That was the Wolverines only Big Ten loss of the regular season, as they went 7-1 to win the Legends Division.

-- Wisconsin loves Russell Wilson. Wilson and the Badgers tore up the Big Ten all year long until the final week of the regular season. Then, after being 11-0 and ranked #1 for the majority of the regular season, the Badgers fell at home to Penn State 42-28. Though I guess beating Michigan 34-13 in the first Big Ten Championship Game and then Oregon in the Rose Bowl took some of the sting out of it.

-- New kid Nebraska gets picked on. The Huskers went 3-5 in Big Ten play, even losing to Minnesota. Though that wasn't as embarrassing as the 13-7 loss to Ohio -- University, not State -- in the Texas Bowl.

Pac-12

-- USC isn't on probation in virtual reality. So the Trojans were able to win the Pac-12 South division, even if they did lose to Oregon 35-14 in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship.

-- Utah enjoyed their move more than Colorado. The Utes finished the season 5-4 in conference play while Colorado went 3-6.

-- Andrew Luck should have gone pro. Stanford and Luck were off to a very nice start to the season, opening 7-0. Then Luck broke his arm, missed the rest of the year and Stanford finished 10-3.

SEC

-- The East still stinks. Sure, South Carolina wins the national title, but no other SEC East team managed to win more than four games in the conference. Meanwhile, in the West, LSU had the worst season of anyone, going 7-6 with a 3-5 mark in the SEC. Les Miles needs to eat more grass.

-- Will Muschamp did OK. Florida finished the season 9-4 with a 4-4 mark in the SEC, though Charlie Weis' offense needs some work. The Gators never scored more than 21 points against a SEC opponent not named Vanderbilt.

-- Alabama needs to fire Nick Saban, PAAAAWWWWWWWL. Oh the indignity of Alabama's 2012 season. Not only did the Tide lose the SEC title game to South Carolina, but then they went and lost to North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. Since when does Alabama play in the Orange Bowl, PAAWWWWL? NICK SABAN HAS GOT TO GO.

-- Auburn doesn't miss Cam Newton as much as you'd think. Even without their Heisman winning quarterback, the Tigers still manage to go 8-5 with a 4-4 mark in the conference. Not great, but not terrible either.

Non-BCS

-- TCU would like to get to the Big East ASAP. The Horned Frogs lose twice in 2012, and not just to Boise State. Unlike 2011, TCU wasn't able to escape San Diego State, losing 33-30 at Qualcomm Stadium.

-- Notre Dame is back! The Irish finish the year 10-3, and feature one of the most potent offenses in college football. Why they're painting Brian Kelly over Touchdown Jesus as you read this.

-- BYU finds independence to be constricting. The Cougars first season free of the shackles of conferencedom does not work out very well, as BYU finishes the year 4-8 and even loses to Utah State along the way.

-- While I already went over the disrespect Houston received, what about conference mate Southern Miss? The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 11-1 before losing to Houston in the C-USA title game, and they couldn't even sniff the Top 25.

And that's it. There's the entire 2011 season right there according to a video game. I suppose at this point there's no point in even watching any of the games. Now, if you don't mind me, I'm going to go try and wrap my head around Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a national championship.

Can you imagine that party?
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com