Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:58 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
The CBS Sports College Football Podcast begins to wind down the Bowl Preview Series with a close look at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3 and Orange Bowl on Jan. 4. The ACC is sending two teams to BCS bowls for the first time in conference history, and hope Virginia Tech and Clemson can improve the league's 1-4 record in the last five BCS appearances.
Brady Hoke's impressive first year at the helm takes the Wolverines to New Orleans, and Denard Robinson will look to find the end zone against a Hokies defense that has allowed just 17.2 points per game. ACC and Big East fans are expecting fireworks in South Beach with the high-powered offenses of West Virginia and Clemson on the field, but tune in to hear what Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst think will be the difference-maker in the first BCS head coaching experience for both Dana Holgorsen and Dabo Swinney.
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.
Get all the latest on both bowl games right up until kickoff at the Sugar Bowl Pregame and Orange Bowl Pregame
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
Tags: 2012 Bowl Previews, 2012 Bowl Schedule, ACC, Adam Aizer, Andre Branch, Andre Ellington, Big East, Big Ten, Bowl Projections, Bowl Schedule, Brady Hoke, Brandon Thompson, CBS Sports College Football Podcast, CBS Sports Podcast, Chad Morris, Chip Patterson, College Football Podcast, College Football Podcast, Dabo Swinney, Dana Holgorsen, Darin Darst, David Wilson, DeAndre Hopkins, Denard Robinson, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Greg Mattison, J. Darin Darst, Jeff Casteel, Logan Thomas, Orange Bowl, Orange Bowl Pregame, Orange Bowl Preview, Podcast, Sammy Watkins, Stedman Bailey, Sugar Bowl, Tajh Boyd, Tavon Austin
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:28 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Rose Bowl almost always lines up one of the bowl season's best matchups, and this year is no different as Wisconsin and Oregon offer up a mouthwatering contrast in equally hyper-effective offensive styles. The Sugar Bowl, meanwhile, took plenty of heat for pairing Michigan and particularly Virginia Tech teams that ranked near the bottom of the BCS eligibility pool, but any game that features a matchup of dual-threat quarterbacks like Denard Robinson and Logan Thomas is still must-see TV.
In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, we preview both bowl games and break down the key factors -- can Wisconsin pass? Can Denard stay accurate? Which Hokie offense will show up? -- that might swing the games one direction or the other. To listen, click below, download the mp3, or pop out the player in a new window by clicking here. Remember that all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 4:16 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Sugar Bowl.
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech defense
When it comes to stopping the Michigan offense, you essentially have to cut the head off the snake, and Denard Robinson is clearly that head. When considering that Robinson is a dual-threat, it's up to your entire defense as a whole, not just the defensive line, linebackers or secondary. Since Robinson can beat you in so many ways, it takes all 11 players on defense to stop him. Something that isn't very easy to do considering that Robinson finished the regular season averaging 268.3 yards per game.
The best way for Virginia Tech to keep Robinson in check would probably be to force him to throw the ball more often than not. While Denard threw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, he also threw 14 interceptions and completed only 56% of his passes. So while his arm is dangerous, it's not nearly as dangerous as the legs that help him scoot down the field at lightning speed.
How do you do this? Well, it starts with the defensive line. First and foremost, the Hokies have to shut down Fitzgerald Toussaint and put Michigan in passing situations. If they can do that, then the focus turns on to how to handle Robinson.
When facing a quarterback like Robinson, it's probably better not to get too much pressure on him. Yes, that seems to be counter-productive to what a defensive line's job is on passing plays, but the fact is, if you pressure Robinson he's fast enough to get away, and you generally leave a lot of open lanes for which he can escape through. Then once he gets into the open field against your linebackers and secondary, well, advantage Robinson. So more so than penetration, the Virginia Tech defensive line will be better served to maintain gap integrity. If he wants to scramble, make him go outside where linebackers and defensive backs can try and force him toward the sideline.
Better yet, if you give Robinson time to throw then he's a lot more likely to throw. And while time is not a defensive back's best friend, Robinson's accuracy issues make up for some of that. Yes, you may get beat in coverage but Robinson still has to put the pass on target.
For an example of this, look at Michigan's loss to Iowa. The Hawkeyes followed many of these same principles and let Robinson throw the ball 37 times. He completed only 17 of those passes and rushed for only 55 yards on 12 carries. The result was a 24-16 victory for Iowa.
Now, obviously, you can't afford to give Robinson all day to pass even with his accuracy issues as sooner or later the Wolverines will begin going to short underneath passes, so occasional blitzes need to be part of the game plan as well. If for no other reason than to keep Robinson guessing. Odds are that Bud Foster has more than a few types at his disposal and ready to use.
While it won't be easy for Virginia Tech to keep one of the most dynamic players in all of college football in check for a full 60 minutes, if the Hokies use some of these methods to at least slow him down and limit his effectiveness, then it will go a long way toward a Virginia Tech victory. If not, it may be a long night.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 3:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: While both offenses in this game are pretty balanced, the Wolverines proved to be more potent on offense throughout the season, and generally did so against better defenses than the Hokies this year. Which should be good preparation for the Virginia Tech defense that Michigan will be facing in New Orleans. Statistically, the best defenses Michigan faced this season belonged to Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State and Notre Dame. In those four games the Wolverines averaged 30 points per game. A good sign going into a game against a Virginia Tech defense that's allowing only 17.2 points per game this season, which is good enough for 8th in the country.
The true test for the Wolverines will be running the ball against a Hokie defense that allowed only 107.7 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry on the season. Still, considering that Michigan's strength on offense is running the ball with both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Denard Robinson (the duo combined for 2,174 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011) it wouldn't be in the Wolverines best interest to change things up now. Also, whie the Hokies were successful stopping the Georgia Tech run game this year, Georgia Tech doesn't present the passing threat that Michigan brings. No, Denard Robinson is not a great passing quarterback, as he completed only 56% of his passes this season, but he did throw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. What Robinson lacks in accuracy, he can make up for with the deep ball once Virginia Tech safeties begin creeping toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Virginia Tech offense is similar to that of Michigan, though it's a bit more proficient when it comes to moving the ball through the air thanks to Logan Thomas. That being said, Virginia Tech averaged only 28.5 points per game this season, which is pretty middle of the road, and nearly 6 points less per game than Michigan. So how will Virginia Tech make up for those 6 points against a defense that is just as sturdy as its own? It's a good question and one that's tough to answer because Michigan is the best defense the Hokies will face this season.
Still, there is some reason to be optimistic about Virginia Tech's chances. The only defense that compares to Michigan that the Hokies faced this year would be that of Virginia's, and the Hokies posted 38 points and 410 yards of offense against their state rivals at the end of November. The best way for Virginia Tech to repeat that performance against Michigan may be to put the ball in the hands of running back David Wilson. Wilson finished the season with 1,627 yards rushing and averaged over 6 yards per carry. While Michigan's defense was solid as a whole, against the run it was rather mediocre. The Wolverines may have allowed only 129.1 yards per game on the ground, but they did so while giving up 4.07 yards per carry, which is only good enough to be 57th in the nation. So Virginia Tech would be well-served to use Wilson and the run game to set up Logan Thomas and the passing game.
X-FACTOR: While there are plenty of people upset by the fact Michigan and Virginia Tech are playing in this game rather than higher ranked teams like Boise State and Kansas State, the fact is, this matchup should be pretty interesting. These two teams are incredibly similar to one another, which could lead to a pretty exciting and close game. And anytime that's the case, you tend to look at the special teams, as a field goal could very well be what decides this contest. Unfortunately, that's another area where these two teams are essentially the same.
At least, they were during the regular season. Since then, however, Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with breaking and entering. In a game like this that should be close, being without Journell could be the deciding factor and tilt things in Michigan's favor.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Virginia Tech sophomore kicker Cody Journell's status for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 against Michigan is now in jeopardy, after an alleged home invasion led to his indefinite suspension from the football team.
The sophomore kicker and two others were arrested and charged with breaking and entering by Blacksburg police late Wednesday night. Below is the report, via The Roanoke Times.
Just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, Blacksburg police responded to a residence on Lee Street, just outside of the downtown area in reference to a physical altercation, according to a morning news release.
University policy dictates that Journell be suspended indefinitely from the football team until further information is gathered. As off early Thursday afternoon, all three men are currently being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail while the investigation continues.
Journell led the ACC field goal percentage, hitting 14 of his 17 attempts on the season. The redshirt sophomore earned All-ACC honorable mention and connected on 43 of 44 extra points on the season. Should he be ruled out for the Sugar Bowl, the place kicking duties would likely be assumed by Tyler Weiss or kickoff specialist Justin Myer.
For all the latest on Virginia Tech and Michigan right until kickoff, check out our Sugar Bowl Pregame page
Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: December 13, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 8:21 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
In the Big Ten, there's no more tradition-obsessed (read: change-averse) football program than Michigan. where fans react with consternation toward things most programs take for granted: luxury boxes, piped-in music, and uniform changes, for some examples.
So it must have been some sort of comfort when adidas unveiled its alternate home uniforms for Michigan against Notre Dame in the second week of the season, and the uniforms were still quite obviously Michigan uniforms at first glance -- unlike, say, the Georgia Pro Combat uniform. Notre Dame, also an adidas school, wore a uniform that was also quintessentially its own in that game. Hey, there's something to be said for familiarity.
Similarly, Michigan fans must have been relieved to see that the team's alternate road uniforms it's busting out for the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech are, again, quite obviously Michigan uniforms. The "new" threads, seen at right and courtesy of the Michigan athletic department on WhoSay.com, were the result of teamwork between adidas and the football players themselves.
“We met with our seniors and showed them some concepts that were proposed by adidas and the mock-up is what they chose,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke in a special news release. “This is a something the players enjoy and we thought it would be a nice way to commemorate our appearance in the Sugar Bowl.”
In addition, according to Michigan, the players decided to wear the grey face mask on the famed winged helmet. Player numbers will also continue to appear on the helmet.
Virginia Tech will not be wearing a special uniform for the game.
We did, however, wonder what would happen if, like most of its other uniform providers, adidas had absolutely no regard for tradition and instead went for the flashiest design possible. We have obtained an EXCLUSIVE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE SNEAK PEEK at exactly that scenario, and we're happy to share it with you here. Enjoy:
Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:09 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 5:19 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.
With the football season, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.
This is a special time of year however. The end of the regular season brings with it two things: stupid voters and full ballots in the Harris and Coaches Poll. Of course, this year things mattered more than usual with Oklahoma State trying to leap-frog Alabama and play in the national title game. Here are the polls.
AP Poll Coaches Poll Harris Poll BCS
(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)
Now, this is a big job calling attention to all of the bad voters. Jerry Hinnen looked up and down the Harris Poll ballots and what he found was not good at all. Three voters ranked Oklahoma State 6th! 6th! 80-year-old and former Iowa sports information director George Wine's voting is particularly disgusting because he has Houston, coming off a 49-28 beat down to a team that lost to UAB, 5th. Read the whole post and enjoy. You can understand why some coaches like Boise State's Chris Petersen are speaking out very loudly against the BCS.
The Coaches Poll, another third of the formula that "determines" which team is better than another, is not much better. Chip Patterson investigated and it's pretty clear that not only did SIDs/football operations vote for a few of the coaches, but they didn't watch anything but a few highlights each week. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun has some explaining to do in particular. Here's all the details about the coaches (some of whom are fired, others just need to be fired from voting).
So, for the final time this year, the Poll Attacks will turn its eye on the AP voters who hopefully voted better than their counterparts in the Harris and Coaches Polls.
Hint: They didn't.
Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team(s) of the week: Boise State
You remember that team, they play on the blue turf? They're kind of good. They beat the SEC East champ and played eight bowl-bound coaches. They have never trailed by more than seven points in four years. FOUR YEARS. Quarterback Kellen Moore is 49-3 as a starter. I get the "they didn't play anyone" arguments every critic uses but this is a good football team that probably could beat all but one or two on a neutral field.
In the coaches, Nick Saban voted the Broncos 11th, same as Steve Spurrier and James Franklin. S-E-C! They're not the worst though.
CRAIG JAMES VOTED BOISE STATE 23RD. Behind Houston, who was blown out at home. Boise beat Georgia. So yeah, don't think James will be calling any games on the blue turf in the future. Ray Fittipaldo also had the program ranked 17th. Sigh.
Overrated: Virginia Tech
Hokies head coach (who happens to be the winningest active coach) Frank Beamer ranked his team 13th in his ballot. Now considering they were just throttled again by Clemson, it's hard to say that you can rank them above what Beamer did (and that is high considering they haven't beaten anybody). Somehow they're in the Sugar Bowl but that's an issue for another day. Anyway, John Werner, Mike DiRocco and Steve Conroy had VT 11th and Bob Asmussen, David Just, Doug Lesmerises, Jeremy Sampson, Matt McCoy, Mitch Vingle, Patrick Magee, Robert Cessna and Sal Interdonato had them 12th. Unranked is a little extreme though Desmond Conner. And an amazing seven voters had the Hokies ahead of the Tigers despite the two head-to-head wins and the ACC title.
A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.
One last time to put Wolf here before Parrish takes the baton back and puts his ballots in the basketball poll attacks. Wolf had Arkansas 4th, Georgia and South Carolina (at least in the right order) in the top 10 to make half of his top 10 from the SEC, Wisconsin the lowest out of anybody at 13th, Michigan State 20th and Virginia ranked despite being shut out by the aforementioned Virginia Tech. Not his worst ballot ever but not good.
Ratto also ranks Northern Illinois 24th and Arkansas State 25th. This is mostly an issue with NIU, Arkansas State deserves to be ranked in the 20's. Wilner cannot be serious with Michigan at 19th, lower than anybody and behind Southern Miss.
What were you thinking? Craig James, ESPN
I just can't anymore, it's so bad.
Arkansas 4th (highest of anyone), Kansas State 6th (highest), Stanford 8th (lowest), Michigan 10th (highest), Penn State 17th (highest), Missouri 24th (highest) and West Virginia was unranked. That Big East champ who rolled up more yards on top ranked LSU, unranked.
AND BOISE STATE WAS 23RD. Sorry for yelling, had to get the point across.
Until next year.
Tags: AIr Force, Alabama, AP Poll, Arkansas, BCS, Bob Asmussen, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Chris Petersen, Clemson, Coaches Poll, Craig James, David Just, Doug Lesmerises, Frank Beamer, Gary Parrish, George Wine, Georgia, Harris Poll, Houston, Iowa, James Franklin, Jeremy Sampson, Jerry Hinnen, John Werner, Jon Wilner, Kansas State, Kellen Moore, LSU, Matt McCoy, Michigan State, Mike DiRocco, Missouri, Mitch Vingle, Nick Saban, Oklahoma State, Patrick Magee, Penn State, Poll Attacks, Ray Fittipaldo, Ray Ratto, Robert Cessna, Sal Interdonato, Scott Wolf, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Conroy, Steve Spurrier, Sugar Bowl, The Poll Attacks, Troy Calhoun, UAB, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:58 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season is 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3. Oklahoma State
4. Boise State
10. Kansas State
Leaning this way
National championship game: LSU
Rose Bowl: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Michigan
Orange Bowl: West Virginia
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