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Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:49 pm

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 8

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.


Main Course - Northwestern vs. #8 Michigan State - Noon - ESPN

Michigan State leads the way for breakfast for the second straight week, which is what happens when you're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten.  Be forewarned, though, just because this matchup doesn't seem all that appealing, it...ok, it isn't really.  It's just that the morning slate is light again because that's just the way things work in this television dominated world.

Still, the Spartans shouldn't take Northwestern all that lightly.  First of all, no road game is easy, even if it's being played in a stadium with 35 people in it.  Yes, Northwestern inexplicably dropped a game to Purdue last week, but that's Northwestern's style.  It has a tendency to play to its opponents.  So there's a chance that the Wildcats could hand MSU it's first "Sparty, no!" of the season.

Side Orders: Ohio State hosts Purdue, and this game may be interesting for a few reasons.  First of all, it's our first chance to see how the Buckeyes will respond following a loss, and they'll also be looking for revenge for last season's loss in West Lafayette.  Speaking of revenge, I'm sure Notre Dame wouldn't mind beating Navy and starting a new trend there as well.  Or you can just watch Texas, West Virginia and Virginia Tech romp over some conference foes.


Main Course - #5 Auburn vs. #6 LSU - 3:30pm - CBS

Two undefeated Tigers roll into Jordan-Hare on Saturday, and only one will emerge.  Who is it going to be?  Well, there are going to be two different games being played in this one.  There's the game between each team's strength -- Auburn's offense and LSU's defense -- and their weakness -- Auburn's defense and LSU's offense.

Odds are that whichever team's weakness best resembles a strength is going to emerge victorious, and have a much easier path to the SEC title and possibly a BCS game.  If you're wondering which way I'm leaning, well, I'll just say that one team has Cam Newton at quarterback and the other has some indecipherable combination of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.

Also, I'll be doing a live-chat during this game over at our Facebook page, so stop on by and make fun of Les Miles for four hours with me, won't you?

Side Orders: The afternoon is packed with some big games this week.  If for some reason two undefeated teams battling it out isn't good enough for you, you can always go with Iowa and Wisconsin or the also undefeated Oklahoma State taking on previously undefeated Nebraska.


Main Course - #18 Missouri vs. #3 Oklahoma - 8pm - ABC

Personally, I've been waiting to dig in to this one for a while.  I've seen Missouri play a few times this season, and as I've said here before, I'm just not sure what to  make of them.  The Tigers are a good team, but are they really 11th in the BCS good?  Is that what a couple of victories over some 3-3 BCS teams and nobody else gets you these days?

Whatever the case, we'll find out on Saturday night.  If the Tigers can knock off the team that sits atop the current BCS standings, then I guess we have to take them seriously. 

Though, I feel I should point this out as well, just so Missouri fans can hate me a little less, I think Oklahoma is a bit overrated as well.  Still, I think the Sooners will prove to be better on Saturday night.

Side Orders: Bit of an light night on the menu this week.  There really aren't any other marquee matchups being played on Saturday night.  Kentucky and Georgia could be interesting seeing as how both teams are still alive in the SEC East, but other than that the only game that even catches my eye is TCU and Air Force.   Though, if you hate yourself, you could always tune in to Texas A&M and Kansas.

Late Night Snack

The Washington Huskies have found a home as a late-night snack here.  I've featured them here twice in the last few weeks, and they're undefeated in those games.  Can they run the streak to three on the road against an Arizona team that is without Nick Foles?
Posted on: October 21, 2010 3:12 pm

Yep, turnover margin is really freaking important

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every college football fan knows that "winning the turnover battle" is a "key to the game" in any matchup that's actually "competitive." But as a season-long cumulative statistic, turnover margin still doesn't get the attention it deserves as the one stat that can singlehandedly make or break a team's year, regardless of what happens with all that silly yardage and special teams and whatnot.

It's true. Look over the national top 20 in turnover margin and you'll see there's almost nothing a positive outcome in the turnover column can't accomplish. Like:

Propel your conference front-runner into pole position for a BCS championship berth. Their performances against Utah State , Air Force , and Cincinnati didn't exactly scream "future national champion," but Oklahoma still topped the first edition of the BCS rankings courtesy of a +9 margin that has them tied with one other team for the third-best margin in the country. The other team in that tie? Only Oregon , the BCS's No. 2 team, despite a performance at Arizona State where they gave up nearly 600 yards.

Put your previous conference also-ran within reach of a championship season. Sorry, preseason prognosticators , but Oklahoma State is not going to narrowly finish ahead of Baylor in the race to avoid the Big 12 South basement. Some of that is Dana Holgorsen 's offensive acumen and the unstoppable Justin Blackmon , but a large part of it is also the Cowboys' +5 margin, tied for 18th in the country. Also tied at +5: surprising Missouri . Even higher up the ranks at +8: surprising Michigan State . You get the picture.

Turn around your previously downtrodden mid-major program. Last year Miami (Ohio) failed to score a single point their first two games and finished 1-11. This year, Mike Haywood 's Redhawks are 4-3 overall and a perfect 3-0 in MAC play, good enough to stand alone atop the conference's East division and position Miami for the country;s most surprising bowl bid. How? +7 in turnover margin, that's how. Also at +7? Hawaii , all but left for dead after June Jones ' 2008 departure and now tied with Boise State for the WAC lead. And Army , No. 1 in all the land in turnover margin at +11, is on pace for their first bowl bid since 1996.

Negative turnover margin, of course, wields the same power in the other direction, helping turn your program into the worst in all Division I (New Mexico, -10, No. 118), arguably the worst in a BCS conference (Kansas , -7, No. 113), or the worst it's been in a decade (BYU , -5, No. 98).

If you're an annual reader of Phil Steele or his numbers-oriented like, none of this will come as a shock. But even for the statistical diehards, the overwhelming strength of the correlation between turnover margin and victory can -- and should -- still make the eyes pop.

Posted on: October 18, 2010 7:07 pm

Midseason Report: Big 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that we've reached the halfway point of the season, we have a lot better idea of which teams to take seriously, and which ones we can forget about.  Of course, there's still a lot of football to be played this season, so in the Midseason Report we'll be taking a look at what each team has remaining in front of them, and what they'll have to do to call themselves conference champions.  In this post, we'll take a look at the Big 12.


1. Missouri (6-0, 2-0) - Raise your hand if you thought that come the midpoint of the season Missouri would be 6-0, ranked 11th in the BCS and alone atop the Big 12 North.  Now put your hand down and hang your head in shame, you liar.  Looking at this Missouri team through six games it's hard to see a weakness.  They have an offense putting up 34.5 points a game, and a defense that's only allowed 10.8 -- which is the second best mark in the country.  The problem is that the Tigers are just now reaching the part of their schedule that will truly put them to the test.  Over the next four weeks the Tigers will host Oklahoma, travel to Nebraska and Texas Tech, then return home to play Kansas State.   If Mizzou comes out of that stretch unscathed it finishes up with Iowa State and Kansas.   In other words, they wouldn't just be playing for a Big 12 title, but for a shot at a national title as well.  Can they get there?  My gut says no, but this weekend's game against Oklahoma will tell us all a lot more about how good this team is and can be.

2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) -
If there was ever going to be a season in which Nebraska finally got the monkey that is Texas of its back, this was supposed to be it.  It wasn't, though, and now there are questions in Lincoln about how good Taylor Martinez actually is.  Personally, I'm not sure.  One week he looks amazing, and then the next he looks anything but, and the fact of the matter is that how Martinez goes, so go the Cornhuskers.  Nebraska's next two weeks will be tough as they head to Stillwater on Saturday before returning home to host Missouri.  Unless they win both of those games Nebraska's swan song in the Big 12 will not end with a conference title.  The good news is that even if Martinez does struggle, Nebraska has a defense strong enough to keep it in any game, but the defense can't win games on its own.  Martinez simply needs to play well from here on out.

3. Kansas State (5-1, 2-1) - To me, Kansas State is one of those teams that is more a byproduct of their schedule than a real contender.  It's 5-1 through six games, but those five wins have come against teams like UCLA (college football's answer to schizophrenia), Missouri State, Iowa State, UCF and Kansas.  The one test the Wildcats had this season came two weeks ago when they hosted Nebraska.  They lost that game 48-13.  I just have a hard time believing that the team that got killed by Nebraska and struggled with Iowa State and UCF is going to beat Oklahoma State, Texas and Missouri in consecutive weeks.  Maybe the Wildcats will prove me wrong, but I doubt it.


1. Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0) - If you're ranked first in the BCS rankings, then I guess you have to be the favorite to win your conference by default.  Not that the Sooners don't deserve to be, as they've had a few impressive wins over Florida State and Texas already this season.  Still, the Sooners don't exactly have an easy path to the finish line.  Four of the Sooners first six games this season have been played in Norman, with another on a neutral site against Texas.  Of its final six games, four will be on the road, including games against Missouri, Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State.  The one time the Sooners hit the road this season they had trouble fending off a Cincinnati team that had no business hanging with them.  Also, the Sooners went 1-3 on the road last season.  There are no easy road games in college football these days, so Oklahoma's trip to the Big 12 title game is anything but a guarantee at this point.

2. Oklahoma State (6-0, 2-0) - There isn't much question that the Cowboys can put points on the board, as Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon have led Oklahoma State to the third-best passing attack in football, and the second-highest scoring offense in the nation as well.  The concern with Oklahoma State is it's defense.  A unit that is giving up 27.2 points a game is likely to cost the Cowboys a game at some point.  Looking at the Cowboys remaining schedule, plenty of tests remain.  The Cowboys host Nebraska this week and then have Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, Kansas and finish with Oklahoma.  Aside from Kansas, there isn't a guarantee in the bunch.  You have to think that either the Texas defense or Oklahoma's will figure out how to slow down Weeden and company, and if they do, do you trust the Cowboys defense to stop either?  I certainly wouldn't write off Oklahoma State's chances to reach the title game, but its schedule and defense certainly doesn't do it any favors.

3. Baylor (5-2, 2-1) -
Baylor is off to a nice start, being led by Robert Griffin III, but it has a lot of landmines to avoid if it wants to play for the Big 12 title.  First of all, the Bears already have one more conference loss than either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.  The good news about that is that Baylor still has a chance to hand either of those teams its first loss.  The bad news is that Baylor still has to play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State.  Yep, four of Baylor's last five opponents this season are in the BCS top 25.  That seems like a lot more work than I think Baylor can handle.

4. Texas (4-2, 2-1) - Texas is the wild card in all things Big 12 right now.  Following back-to-back losses to UCLA and Oklahoma there was plenty of doom and gloom in Austin, but following Saturday's win against Nebraska, the Longhorns aren't in as bad a shape as you'd think.  Texas is still only one loss behind Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and still gets to play the Cowboys at home.  What could end up killing their chances, though, is that loss to Oklahoma as the Sooners would have the tiebreaker should the finish with an equal mark.  So Texas needs to win out and hope that the Sooners lose twice, which isn't likely, but not all that crazy either.  They have the defense to do it, but unless an offense that has been everything but impressive this season improves, I wouldn't expect it to happen.

Prediction: So who is going to be playing for the Big 12 title when all the dust has settled?  It's a good question, and one that isn't all that easy to answer.  Every team that remains in contention has question marks and some tough games remaining on its schedule.

Still, when it's all said and done I think Oklahoma and Missouri will meet at Jerryworld in December, though I don't think either team will get there without a blemish on its record.  As for who wins, I'll go with Oklahoma as I believe they have more weapons on offense with Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Demarco Murray.
Posted on: October 18, 2010 1:35 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2010 1:36 pm

Mizzou linebacker to miss Oklahoma game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Missouri is currently ranked 11th in the first BCS standings of the season and is getting ready for their biggest test of the year when the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners come to town on Saturday.  If the Tigers can pull off an upset of Oklahoma and improve to 7-0, that's when skeptics like me will wake up and say, "Okay!  This team is legit."

Of course, knocking off Oklahoma won't be easy, and that task got a bit harder with the news that starting linebacker Luke Lambert is going to miss the game -- along with the Nebraska game in two weeks -- with a sprained knee he suffered in the win over Texas A&M.  

"He’s really playing well," said head coach Gary Pinkel. "He actually played through it in the fourth quarter. He’s had a tough road here. He’s had his share of injuries. But he’ll battle back and we’ll get him back, hopefully, in a couple of weeks."

The senior co-captain missed three games earlier this season thanks to a hamstring injury he suffered in the opener against Illinois.

There is some possible good news for the Tigers, however, as they may get another injured starter on defense back on Saturday.  Defensive end Aldon Smith has been cleared to play after fracturing his right tibula against San Diego State on September 18.  Though that doesn't mean he's going to be on the field against Oklahoma.

Smith, who led the Tigers in sacks last season, is not on the depth chart yet and Pinkel said how Smith performs in practice this week will go a long way in determining whether he plays or not.  Pinkel also said that the final decision will come from Smith and the school's medical staff.  Having him on the field would be a big help in trying to stop an Oklahoma offense that is averaging 303 yards a game through the air, the 12th-best passing attack in the country.

Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:19 pm

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 16)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's anybody's conference. With Wisconsin putting the finishing touches on a stunning 31-18 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes, here are the teams that are at least tied with OSU in the Big Ten standings: Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Purdue is probably not going to contend for the Big Ten title, but the other three teams mentioned certainly will. Michigan State, of all the teams, must be the most ecstatic about the result in Madison; the Spartans are undefeated, the only Big Ten team who's 3-0 in the conference, and they miss Ohio State this year. But Iowa's at 2-0 in conference play, and the Spartans have to visit Iowa City in two weeks. Who would have thought back in August that MSU at Iowa could be the most pivotal contest of the Big Ten season?

2. Denard Robinson is most certainly mortal. It's not as Denard Robinson was a non-factor against the Iowa Hawkeyes today: Robinson racked up 204 yards of total offense in about 35 minutes of work. But for the third time this season, Shoelace left a game with an injury, and for the second time, that injury shelved him for the rest of the game. One of the most remarkable things about Robinson's production thus far is the sheer heft of Robinson's workload. Yes, he can't lead the nation in rushing and throw for over 200 yards without either throwing or rushing on the vast majority of Michigan's snaps. But that's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and now we're seeing some evidence that it's just not sustainable -- especially now that Robinson's not facing cupcake defenses like Massachusetts or Notre Dame (I kid, ND, I kid). Thanks to a bye week, Robinson has two weeks to recover before his next start, at Penn State. Does Tate Forcier still gets some snaps in relief at Beaver Stadium? Should he?

3. Wisconsin's rushing game is alive and well. Coming into today, John Clay was having a pretty good season, but considering Wisconsin's opposition, Clay wasn't looking dominant. That changed this week, when the big junior running back was running untouched through giant rushing lanes against Ohio State. That's not entirely surprising, but if Iowa doesn't have the best defensive line in the conference, then Ohio State surely must, and that Buckeye front four was absolutely gouged today. So if the Badgers can run all over Ohio State, they can probably run all over everybody left on their schedule. Again, the only remaining great defensive line on Wisconsin's schedule is Iowa, and that game's coming up this week. That should be just a little fun to watch. 

4. Congratulations to Penn State, who did not lose this week. Technically, it didn't play, but any iota of good news is welcome in Happy Valley these days.

5. Don't be that surprised if Illinois runs the table from here on out. It would be foolish to look at Illinois and see just another .500 team. Illinois' three losses are to still-undefeated Missouri, still-undefeated Michigan State, and only-recently-defeated Ohio State. In every one of those games, Illinois was competitive into the fourth quarter. And guess what: Illinois doesn't have any games against ranked competition left. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel LeShoure are growing as a QB-RB tandem week to week, and the toughest opponent left on the Illini schedule is, oh, let's say Northwestern. Illinois may be 3-3 today, but it may be 8-4 (or even better) before you know it.

6. The Tim Brewster farewell tour's going to be hard to watch. Fans of comedy in college football are going to lose an important ally this season, as Minnesota informed the world that Tim Brewster's not coming back next season. It's a shame, really, but it's only surprising insofar as Brewster hasn't been asked to clean out his office right now instead. Minnesota's got some decent athleticism, especially on the edges, so if that talent gets in the hands of a decent coach (MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH DO ITTTTTTT), that program up north might wake up and make some noise next season. But only if Minnesota hires Leach.

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Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:02 pm

What I learned from the Big 12 (Oct. 16)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. T-Magic has a lot of tricks left to learn.   Seems somebody left their top hat and magic wand back in the dorm room this morning, because Taylor Martinez had no answer for the Texas defense in Lincoln on Saturday.  Martinez only had 21 yards on 13 carries and had completed 4-of-12 passes for 63 yards before getting yanked by Bo Pelini in favor of Zac Lee.  The good news for Martinez is that Lee didn't exactly do anything to take away his starting job. 

2. Texas' defense is still pretty good, the offense, however, is not.
  Hey, listen, the way things have gone for the Longhorns this season, they have no reason not to be thrilled after picking up a big win on the road against Nebraska.   That being said, unless they start picking things up on offense, whatever slim hopes they have of winning the Big 12 are nothing more than a pipe dream.  The good news is that the 'Horns finally found some semblance of a running game, as they did gash a stout Nebraska defense for 209 yards on the ground.  The biggest surprise being Garrett Gilbert 's 71 yards and two touchdowns.  Still, that 4-of-16 passes for 62 yards needs a lot of work.

3. I still don't know what to make of Missouri.   I made a comment about this on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, and caught a lot of flak from Missouri fans over it.  Listen, I don't think Missouri is a bad football team, it's just I don't know how good they are.  I'm sorry, but beating Texas A&M just doesn't impress me all that much because the Aggies are horrible.  So far the Tigers most impressive win is against an Illinois team that is 3-3.  Other than that it's wins against teams like McNeese State, San Diego State and Miami (OH).   Next week's date with Oklahoma will give us all a better idea of how good this Missouri team actually is.

4. Jerrod Johnson just isn't working.
  It's time for a quarterback change in College Station.  I don't care what Johnson has done in the past, or what everybody thought he'd do this season, the fact is the kid has played horribly.  Maybe Mike Sherman is just worried about losing his job and doesn't want to give the ball to another quarterback at this point in the season, but trust me, staying with Johnson at this point is only going to help ensure he's out of work at the end of the season.

5. More people need to learn about Justin Blackmon.  The Oklahoma State wide receiver has been a monster this season, and his name should be thrown out there when it comes to Heisman talk.  He has 48 catches for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including a 10-reception 207-yard performance against Texas Tech on Saturday.  His worst game of the season (yardage wise) came in the Cowboys' opener.  Blackmon only had 8 catches for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns that day.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 1:53 pm

Mike Sherman may want to consider running more

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Texas A&M Aggies trail Missouri 16-0 at halftime, but they're lucky that there are no negative points in college football because if there were, they'd surely qualify.  The good news for the Aggies is that Jerrod Johnson hasn't thrown any interceptions or fumbled in the first half.  The bad news for the Aggies is that he's still Jerrod Johnson.

Johnson has completed only 7-of-21 passes for 83 yards in the first half.  Which means that over his last six quarters of play, Johnson has thrown 61 passes and completed 22 of them.  Now while some of the blame can be laid with his receivers -- Ryan Tannehill dropped what should have been a touchdown late in the second quarter -- the overwhelming majority of it lies with Johnson.

The very next play following the dropped touchdown, Johnson had Tannehill wide open and overthrew him by about ten yards.  The Aggies then went for it on fourth down, and Johnson dropped back before overthrowing his receiver by a good 20 yards.  In fact, the closest person to the pass was a water boy on the Missouri sideline.

Now, the Aggies don't have much depth at quarterback on the roster.  The backup is actually Tannehill, who has completed 3-of-4 passes this season, so I wouldn't blame Mike Sherman if he doesn't want to replace Johnson under center.

But for the love of god, man, call some more run plays.  There is no reason for Christine Michael to only have six carries in the first half when the passing game is as abysmal as it has been.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:16 pm

Game day weather updates, Week 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. It's another gorgeous day across the country, but it's starting to get just a little bit chilly. You should still bring the sunscreen. All times are Eastern.

Noon kickoffs

Boston College at No. 16 Florida State , 12:00, Tallahassee, FL: Low 70s, clear

Illinois at No. 13 Michigan State, 12:00 , East Lansing, MI: Mid 50s, partly cloudy

Missouri at No. 21 Texas A&M, 12:00 , College Station, TX: Low 70s, clear

Afternoon kickoffs

No. 15 Iowa at Michigan , 3:30, Ann Arbor, MI: Low 60s, partly cloudy

No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn , 3:30, Auburn, AL: Low 70s, clear

Texas at No. 5 Nebraska , 3:30, Lincoln, NE: Low 70s, clear

Evening kickoffs

No. 10 South Carolina at Kentucky , 6:00, Lexington, KY: Low 60s, clear

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin , 7:00, Madison, WI: Mid 50s, partly cloudy

Mississippi State at No. 22 Florida , 7:00, Gainesville, FL: Low 60s, clear

Late night kickoffs

Ole Miss at No. 8 Alabama , 9:00, Tuscaloosa, AL: Low 50s, clear

No. 24 Oregon State at Washington , 10:15, Seattle, WA: Mid 40s, partly cloudy

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