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Tag:Dennis Dodd
Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 11



Posted by Bryan Fischer


The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.

People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.

And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.

The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.

The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.

"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.

Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.

As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.

Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.

Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.

Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.

Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.

When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.

BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.

Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.

Stat of the week

Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.

Stats of the week

- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.

- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.

- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.

- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.

- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.

Tweet of the week

"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."

- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Oklahoma

6. Arkansas

7. Stanford

8. Boise State

9. Clemson

10. Georgia

Where we'll be this week

Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.

Leaning this way

Nebraska at Michigan

This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.

SMU at Houston

A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.

USC at Oregon

Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.


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 1, 2011 4:24 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 11:57 am
 

PODCAST: The Doddcast, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

A surprise to some, but there is plenty going on in college football during this week outside of LSU-Alabama. Senior College Football Columnist Dennis Dodd sits down with Adam Aizer to discuss breakdown the landscape in the Week 10 Doddcast.

Has Houston quarterback Case Keenum made himself a Heisman contender in his record-setting sixth year? What is going on with Miami and Al Golden's contract? Dodd also weighs in the job opening at Tulane and a performance review for Big East Commissioner John Marinatto. Don't worry SEC fans, there is LSU-Alabama talk as well.

Your emails could be read on the next edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, so send them in to podcast[at]cbsinteractive [dot] com.

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.



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: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

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Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:30 am
 

DODDCAST: Talking NCAA changes and NCAA records

Posted by Chip Patterson

In this week's edition of the Doddcast, Dennis Dodd and Adam Aizer review Miami's first home loss ever on a Thursday, and credit Mike London for the recent success at Virginia. History was also made in Houston, with Case Keenum breaking Graham Harrell's career touchdown record in a nine-touchdown performance against Rice. Dodd breaks down the NCAA reforms approved this week, discuss Kansas State's chances against Oklahoma, and the crazy state of SEC/Big 12/SEC/Big 12 Missouri.

Nothing is off limits this week as Dodd, an admitted die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, even weighs in on the historic Game 6 Thursday night. They also answer some listener emails, so be sure to submit your question to podcast [at] cbsinteractive [dot] com 
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.




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: October 20, 2011 3:19 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In one of the strongest overtures yet to a revamped offseason in college football, the Mountain West Conference has proposed a 16-team playoff in the current FBS -- and a complete dismantling of the Bowl Championship Series.

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic reports that MWC commissioner Craig Thompson has submitted the plan to the NCAA, and says it could increase playoff revenue multiple times over:

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, in an interview with The Arizona Republic, estimated a playoff would generate $700 million annually for college football, more than three times the nearly $182 million the BCS generated last year.

"What we are trying to do is offer an alternative with the current system. We have not been comfortable with the current system," said Thompson, who based his financial projections on current television contracts with various conferences.

The Mountain West plan would make it easier for champions of all 11 Football Bowl Subdivison conferences to qualify for the post-season as long as a team is ranked among the top 30 in the country. The rest of the tournament would be filled with at-large selections, and a committee would determine the seeding. Teams not making the tournament could play in minor bowl games.

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd has all the details of Thompson's plan, which you can peruse here.

Now, the odds of this proposal actually being adopted are somewhere between "no" and "NOOOOO," because there's nothing to suggest that Thompson has the support of any of the BCS conferences. Plus, if the current logjam atop the polls works itself out to the point that there's two clear BCS Championship participants, a playoff suggestion would be political kryptonite for at least 12 months. "The system works," the powers that be will all crow, and let's face it: they'll have a point.

However, if let's say Wisconsin and Stanford are both undefeated and left out of the playoff situation -- or if somehow a one-loss LSU or Alabama overtakes a BCS conference team -- the tide could theoretically turn against a BCS system in favor of a playoff. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has long enjoyed his conference's relative power in the current BCS arrangement, when a 12-0 Big Ten team never has any problem garnering a BCS Title Game invitation for its troubles. Change that arrangement, though, and who knows what enmity Delany will be garner?

That all said, while the number of 16 teams sounds admrably inclusive, there exists the pesky problem of dilution of quality. Here are the current Nos. 11-16 teams in the 2011 BCS standings as of October 19.

11. Kansas State

12. Virginia Tech

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. West Virginia

16. Michigan State 

That group of teams -- which also comprises 11-16 in the AP poll but in a different order, so there aren't any unpopular shenanigans with determining that tier --  is not bad. It's also depressingly mediocre compared to Nos. 1-6 in the same polls, and in no way a group of teams that has any legitimate claim at the national championship. And that's if we ignore Thompson's plan to incorporate conference champions who are in the Top 30 of the BCS standings. That would sub out Michigan State for Houston, and No. 28 Notre Dame and No. 32 UL-Lafayette might be sniffing bids too. This is the Mountain West's plan.

Now yes, looking at the NCAA basketball tournament, mid-majors with middling resumes are not universally a bad thing. Butler, in particular, was an extremely compelling Cinderella team -- in 2009.

But Thompson would be much wiser to look at Butler in 2010, when the team was seeded at No. 8 again and made an unlikely run to the title game again, only to stink up the joint in a loss to heavily favored UConn, a game so bad it sort of cheapened the Huskies' NCAA title and made some grumpy fans wonder how, precisely, this was all the NCAA could muster for a supposedly authoritative championship game. And when the BCS has faced similar complaints about quality, it's been from its placement of BCS-conference teams -- even when they're ranked, ohidunno, 16th -- into bowl games where they clearly don't belong. And now we want to open the door for those teams to, in theory, make the championship game?

So that's the test for how deep a playoff's cutoff really ought to go: not whether fans would enjoy seeing a team of that seed compete for a championship, but whether that low seed getting blown out in a championship round would tarnish the tournament for a significant portion of fans. If your playoff plan can't pass that test, it's not an improvement over the current BCS, which -- for its maddening lack of credibility and fairness -- does a fine job of putting deserving teams on the field with the championship on the line. Pretty low hurdle to clear, really, but I'm not sure Thompson's plan does that job.

Posted on: October 18, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 3:50 pm
 

The Doddcast: Midseason Review

Posted by Chip Patterson

In coordination with his midseason report, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd sits down with Adam Aizer to deliver his midseason superlatives. Best game, biggest surprise/disappointment, offensive AND defensive Heisman, and much more. Also, Adam explains why he thinks the Honeybadger Tyrann Mathieu is NOT the premiere defensive player in college football. Check out all that, plus the Top Five teams in the land and a Auburn-LSU preview on this week's Doddcast.

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the Doddcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.



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: October 14, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 9:25 pm
 

C-USA and MWC to join forces in football

Posted by Tom Fornelli and Bryan Fischer

As CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd reported earlier on Friday, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA are consolidating into one conference. The reasoning behind it is, as CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reported on Friday, the Big East is set to extend invitations to Boise State and Air Force along with Navy and UCF.

Both conferences released a statement about their partnership on Friday night:

The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have unanimously come to an agreement in principle to consolidate their member football programs into one large association.

Commissioners of the two leagues formulated this creative and innovative plan with the support of the presidents, chancellors and athletics directors. The 12 members of Conference USA and 10 football-playing members of the Mountain West will join forces for this strategic landmark in college football.

“The role of a conference is to provide its members with the best possible environment in which to conduct their intercollegiate athletics programs,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. “Rather than await changes in membership due to realignment, it became clear the best way to serve our institutions was to pursue an original concept. The Mountain West and C-USA share a number of similarities, and the creative merger of our football assets firmly positions our respective members for the future.”

The new conference, for football only, features 22 schools in 16 different states across five time zones (including Hawaii). Both leagues will continue to function as is for all other sports but they will work jointly on governance of the football side, though no specifics were given by either commissioner. The presidents of the member schools authorized Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky to sign a memorandum of understanding earlier Friday as the first step in the process of consolidating the football programs.

"We really realized that college athletics is changing so fast and at such a rapid pace, if we're not quick to adapt we might lose some positioning," Banowsky said. "This is a structure that creates all kinds of fun, competitive opportunities. Nobody's ever put together a structure like this."

There is no name for the new venture, one of several details about the league that are still being worked out. The aim is for the conference to be operational by 2012 but they are focusing on 2013 as a more likely start date. Over the next 90 days a working group will explore how feasible it is to start next season but, given the already fluid realignment situation, nothing is assured. Banowsky said that there would likely be a two division model for the first year before moving to a mutli-divisional model down the road. There would be a football championship game no matter what the structure.

Both leaders said they have not had any conversations with the BCS about becoming an automatic qualifier conference and made it a point to say that nothing was guaranteed in terms of the BCS going forward and how it operates. The current agreement runs through the 2013-14 season with conferences reevaluated based on their membership as of December 2011.

"I don't think anyone can really predict what the future of the BCS will be or what it will look like," Banowsky said. "The idea that the BCS would simply be rebooted, as it has been in the past, I think is a significant question mark. From my perspective, this doesn't hang on that at all.

"I don't think anyone has a clear idea of what will happen in 2014," Banowsky said. "Will there even be a BCS? If there is, who will be in what conferences and what conferences will have access? Will there even be an automatic qualification?

"Our conferences will stand up together and speak with a stong voice. We will expect to have our champion recognized at the highest level."

In addition to the sheer size of the conference being an issue, the respective conference television contracts present a sticky situation. Both currently have separate deals with CBS Sports; while CUSA has partnered with Fox Sports and ESPN and the MWC has contracts with Comcast/NBC Sports. The MWC also owns and operates their own cable channel, The Mtn.

"It's all about inventory and it's all about programming" Thompson said. ""Better is better and more is better in the television industry."

"The schools that we're talking about have made significant investments in their football programs," Banowsky said of the new conference's appeal to television partners. "They're here and they're not going anywhere. The champion out of a group of schools like this is a worthy champion from my perspective."

The football only association has several models they've looked at, including as many as 24 teams participating. Adding to the already complicated setup is the fact that some of the current MWC and CUSA schools could be targets of other leagues, specifically the Big East. UCF, Boise State and Air Force leaders participated in the board of directors call early Friday morning and were part of the unanimous recommendation to proceed forward with the idea. Thompson said that the latter two had been in contact with the Big East but did not elaborate.

"Right now today, Friday afternoon, the intention is we start with 22," he said. "One of the beauties of this structure is the flexibility to accommodate additional members."

"We won't try to hold any one back if that's what they believe they want to do," Banowsky said. "As long as they're fair to the other members and they follow the rules, that's ok."

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