Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:05 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:53 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin did what he could to get Matt Barkley to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
USC receivers just kept running routes and, thanks to Barkley, UCLA fell on the wrong end of a rout once again.
It had been 534 days but USC could finally say they were bowl eligible too.
The Trojans have to win at least six games next season to qualify for a bowl of course - a near certainty given the amount of talent returning in 2012 - but on the Coliseum turf Saturday night, they could finally say they had the right to play in one after shutting out their crosstown rival UCLA 50-0.
The only question left in 2011: One more year or thanks for the memories Matt?
"This night is too special to take away from what we've done," Barkley said. "I don't want to worry about my future, I want to spend my time enjoying the night. We've worked hard for this and we deserve to celebrate a little bit."
Barkley's team jumped the gun a little, singing the fight song while he was in the middle of his press conference.
"That gave me chills."
In what could have been the quarterback's final performance under center, he went out close to perfect: 35-for-42, 423 yards and a school record-tying (his own, by the way) six touchdown passes.
The fans want an encore next year and you can understand why.
"When he gets back from New York we will sit down," Kiffin said. "Unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he is not coming back.
"I probably shouldn't say this but I look up to Matt Barkley. He has been through a lot of adversity. Basically all of his dreams about football were taken away with the sanctions. I don't know any 39-year olds that can handle things the way he did, much less any 19-year olds."
The pitch to stay is easy enough he doesn't have to say much at all.
USC started just only four seniors, two of whom were on offense. Just nine players who saw any significant playing time won't be back next year prior to any NFL defections. Biletnikoff finalist Robert Woods (13 catches for 113 yards, two touchdowns) will return and Marqise Lee (13 catches for 224 yards, two touchdowns) will be just a sophomore. Every starter on the offensive line could return, including potential first round left tackle Matt Kalil, who he said is a "package deal" with Barkley earlier in the week.
Even the defense is loaded, with two freshman tying for the lead in tackles for the first time in school history.
So the question will be, for the next several weeks, will he stay or will he go?
"I've been in his ear trying to get him back," Woods said. "Of course the decision is his but I feel like we could go a long way with him."
"I haven't started yet," Lee said with a grin. "But I'm going to."
Kiffin has been on record saying that sure-fire first round picks should leave but his tune has changed over the past few months. Not much of a joker, he's cracks plenty about his quarterback coming back.
With Barkley the Trojans can emerge from their bowl ban (and start scholarship reductions) as a top five team, primed to compete not only for a Rose Bowl but a national title like the good old days under Pete Carroll. The blond-haired Southern California kid could lead his dream school out of the program's toughest days and back to the promise land.
"We are coming out of the dark," said Kiffin about 2012.
USC has a great film department so they may have already sold the script to Disney.
"It means a lot knowing the Trojan family has my back. It's going to be tough," the signal-caller added. "I'm still enjoying that game and enjoying this night."
The Coliseum crowd started the "One more year" chant early. After watching the Trojans' scoreboard get a workout though, it wasn't clear who they wanted to come back more, Barkley or UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.
The loss dropped him to 26-32 overall, 17-15 in the conference at his alma mater. Though Neuheisel has yet to beat USC, he talked about the gap between the school 14 miles away being closed earlier in the week - after UCLA backed into the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon.
"That was a pretty strong statement to make," Kiffin said. "Our players took that very personal. It was talked about a lot and not by me at all. I think they really felt disrespected."
After Saturday, the gap may never have been wider.
"I'm going to evaluate this program at the end of the year like I always have," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "We've got another game to focus on and it's a big game.
"It's a devastating loss for any Bruin fan or anybody in that locker room or any of the coaches."
UCLA gave up a 98-yard scoring drive and defensive backs had trouble all night preventing receivers from getting behind them for long scores. They allowed the Trojans' smallest offensive player, running back Curtis McNeal, to take a simple off tackle play 73-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Quarterback Kevin Prince was the lone bright spot but ended up as the team's leading rusher, not exactly the plan.
In many ways it was over before it began.
"The first drive," Neuheisel said of when he knew he had a problem. "We couldn't stop them and we were too inconsistent on offense to be in a scoring fest and it just got out of hand."
The Pac-12 office said USC could only say they finished in first with their 10-2 record and could not call themselves South champions. They gave their blessing for UCLA to do, despite finishing second, however.
Tomato, tohmato. First place vs. South champion, the scoreboard did the talking.
"It shows who really is the Pac-12 champion," Kalil said.
In the locker room after the game, the team found shirts adorned with "Pac-12 South Champions" awaiting them from athletic director Pat Haden.
Across the country there are plenty of fierce rivalries but nothing quite like the crosstown showdown that takes place at the end of the season every year in Los Angeles. Office bragging rights are at stake. Friends won't speak to each other afterward. In plenty of cases it pits brother versus brother - including on the field.
Tim McDonald was a two-time All-American safety for USC. Son T.J. followed in his footsteps and started for the Trojans when he was a freshman at the position. Younger brother Tevin took a different path and signed with the Bruins, ending up as the starter opposite his brother Saturday night.
T.J. will take home bragging rights once again and likely spend Christmas detailing his interception in the red zone that ended one of the few Bruins scoring threats.
"It's a big thing," McDonald said of the pick. "But for us to get that shutout, for this crosstown rivalry, to play this way in the last game of the season, this was our bowl game. We had nothing to leave out on the field and we did that."
Kiffin's squad took the title of city champions for the 12th time in 13 years. Though they had the (NCAA) book thrown at them and doubters aplenty, they lived up to the school's 'Fight On' motto throughout the turmoil that had engulfed the program the past few years and, it seems, is starting to disperse.
"We had a lot to play for this year," Barkley said. "We were playing for this university, the history of this program. You're playing for personal pride, you don't want to just flush the season down the toilet. There were a ton of things that we were playing for and that motivated us."
Woods became the school and conference leader in receptions early in the second half. Barkley broke Matt Leinart's school and conference record with his 39th touchdown pass of the season.
"It's unreal, I never thought this would happen," he said. "I remember watching that year that he had."
The Trojans were not eligible for the Pac-12 championship or a BCS bowl but they stated their case one final time that they could beat anybody in the country in 2011.
"The way we're playing, I think we could," Barkley said.
So what about next year?
Tags: BCS, Biletnikoff Award, Bryan Fischer, Curtis McNeal, Dan Guerrero, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Kevin Prince, Lane Kiffin, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Matt Leinart, NCAA, Oregon, Pac-12, Pac-12 Championship Game, Pat Haden, Pete Carroll, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, T.J. McDonald, Tevin McDonald, Tim McDonald, UCLA, USC
Posted on: November 22, 2011 3:13 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
UCLA WILL WIN IF: Though there is certainly a talent deficit in Westwood, that doesn't mean the Bruins can't win and end their crosstown rival's promising season with a loss if they put together a well executed game plan. The Pistol offense has had it's moments recently and can give the Trojans plenty of problems if they move the ball consistently. UCLA will need to be flawless against a good team and the defense - especially the secondary - will have to take a step up if Rick Neuheisel is to win this for the Pac-12 South title and, probably, to save his job.
USC WILL WIN IF: The running game has started to pick up for the Trojans as both Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal have given opposing defenses something else to worry about other than the trio of Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. With firepower like that, they really just have to keep doing what they did against Oregon last week but against a defense that is in the middle of the pack in the Pac-12.
X-FACTOR: Emotions. This is USC's final home game and therefore final game of the season as they serve out their two-year bowl ban. It could also be Barkley's final game in the cardinal and gold so you wonder if emotions will get the best of him and others on the team. Likewise, UCLA will come in looking to pull the upset so if they face some adversity early on, their reaction will be key as to whether they can turn momentum around.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:08 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
It's hard to get more maligned than the Trojans were. They had their legs chopped off by the NCAA. There were plenty of doubters after back-to-back "down" years. There was no bowl at the end of the season and, to many outside of Heritage Hall, no hope. This team was loaded with enough highly recruited players that coach after coach kept calling USC the most talented team in the Pac-12 however. Still they sat at the lowest ranking in school history with an 8-2 record and couldn't even move up a spot in the polls despite teams losing ahead of them and a blow out win against Washington. It was like Rodney Dangerfield was the athletic director and Lane Kiffin was the head coach.
But this team, young and inexperienced in key spots, took the school's 'Fight On' motto and ran with it. Their losses were self-inflicted (turnovers against both Arizona State and Stanford did them in) but the wins and numbers put up were impressive. The offense is one of the best in the country led by Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and emerging star Marqise Lee. The defense is passable but improving. Yet they were a two touchdown underdog for the first time since 1998. The Trojans shocked the college football world Saturday night in Eugene, no doubt about it. Amid the chaos of a crazy week 12, USC emerged victorious and the players in cardinal and gold told everybody that their brief hiatus away from the top was over. The Trojans may not be conference champs and will sit at home with no bowl game to go to but they appear to be back, even if some insist they never left. Fight on indeed.
LOSER: Larry Scott
There was a chance the Pac-12 was in the BCS re-match discussion come Sunday morning but that ended as soon as it looked like Oregon's slow start would be too much to overcome. Thanks to Arizona State's loss to lowly Arizona, the Pac-12 South is rivaling the SEC East and ACC for mediocrity with USC ineligible. Two-loss Oregon will likely head to the Rose Bowl while one-loss Stanford's BCS chances (and millions of dollars for the conference coffers) will likely boil down to luck and some bowl committee betting on Andrew Luck. The team that can't go to a bowl has inflicted losses that hurt more than one team's perception. Then again, Scott isn't too much of a loser considering the cash that will soon flow to the league with the new media deals he deftly negotiated.
WINNER: The SEC
Let's face it, the fans on the West Coast are not best buddies with those in the Southeast section of the country. The SEC fans think the Pac-12 folks have no earthly idea what defense is while those with an ocean view think those with a gulf view have no idea what offense is. Oregon's loss ended any talk of an LSU rematch and shut the conference out of the title game discussion and partially out of the national picture. On the bright side, they're not the ACC, Big East or Big Ten.
LOSER: Oregon's swagger
The Pac-12 has been Oregon's playground the past few years. Back-to-back league titles (of the Pac-10 variety), a 19 game win streak in the conference, a trip to the Rose Bowl and national championship game. USC's dynasty was cool with the celebrities on the sidelines but the Ducks, they had a different kind of spotlight and a different kind of swagger. Uniforms? Most, um... unique in college football. The recruits love them. Offense? Check and check. If you were playing Oregon, better bring your A-game and you just might hang with them for the first half. The video production team was top-notch too, how could anyone not get pumped up after watching something like this:
The swagger that every Oregon player, every Duck fan, carried around with them after Saturday is still there. There is, without a doubt, a significant part of the luster taken off of the program after the loss to USC however. Boise State, Auburn and LSU proved they were beatable but the Trojans proved they were no longer to be feared afer going into Autzen and smacking the Ducks around for three quarters and holding on in the fourth. Another conference title and Rose Bowl berth likely await the men in green/yellow/black/silver/etc. come January but the recent loss meant a significant hit to Oregon's swagger.
WINNER: Pistol Rick
UCLA's final home game of the season was a must win for Rick Neuheisel if he was to show enough progress to keep his job. Not only did the Bruins get bowl eligble, but they kept their improbable run to a division title alive with a 45-6 win over Colorado. Style points helped too, outgaining the Buffaloes 553-229 and help run off three wins in four games. After last week's loss to Utah, who really knows if the program has turned the corner but for Neuheisel, who wants to win at his alma matter more than anyone else, a big win at the Rose Bowl will certainly go a long ways after the season.
LOSER: Jon Embree
Embree is a Colorado alum and desperately wanted to end the Buffs' 23 game road losing streak. Family bragging rights were up for grabs too as Embree's son, Taylor, was a wide receiver at UCLA and said the game meant "eternal bragging rights" earlier in the week. The younger Embree had just two catches for 13 yards but can always call out scoreboard whenever family arguments break out. Given the way Colorado played - putting a solid claim on being the conference bottom-dweller - there weren't many positive things the elder Embree could take home Saturday.
LOSER: LeBron James
One of several NBA All-Stars at Autzen for the USC-Oregon Game, James and his fellow jobless companions watched most of the game from the Ducks sidelines. With a reputation for failing to close out games, naturally LeBron was a frequent (i.e. easy) target to make fun of on various social media platforms following the loss to the Trojans. It seems as though the man who took his talents to South Beach just can't win so he kind of has to be made a loser this weekend.
WINNER: West Coast Heisman hopes
Andrew Luck lost his grip on the lead for the Heisman Trophy last week but looked much sharper against Cal to help his stock rebound some. The big mover was Matt Barkley, who has the numbers to get to New York and now has the signature win to piggyback on. After this weekend, it seems like both signal-callers will at least make the trip East to lay their claim on college football's most prestigious award.
WINNER: Snow games
Utah has been welcomed to the Pac-12 with open arms and gone from the desert heat of Arizona to the perfect weather of Southern California to - this week against Washington State - the snowy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The Utes came out with a close, 30-27 overtime win in a Palouse snow storm. The victory gave the Utes hope of making an appearance in the Pac-12 title game and it was fun to see a few photos from so that has to put snow games in the winners column.
LOSER: Pac-12 athletic directors
There's an opening at Arizona and Dennis Erickson's loss to the Wildcats likely means he's headed out of Tempe. Neuheisel's status is still TBD after the season and though there's progress on the Palouse, it's doubtful Paul Wulff keeps his job. That means the athletic directors around the Pac-12, flush with some new media deal cash, will have to go make some important hires. Already the rumor mill has placed Mike Bellotti, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach at a school out West and speculation is only bound to heat up more as the regular season winds down. There's going to be plenty of pressure to make the right hire and just as importantly for some ADs, go out on a limb and let a coach go. Going to be an interesting, stress-filled weeks for a few well paid people heading Pac-12 athletic departments.
Tags: ACC, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, BCS, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, Colorado, Dennis Erickson, Heisman Trophy, Heritage Hall, Jon Embree, Lane Kiffin, Lane Kiffin, Larry Scott, LeBron James, LSU, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Mike Bellotti, Mike Leach, NBA, NCAA, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-12, Paul Wulff, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rodney Dangerfield, Rose Bowl, SEC, Stanford, Taylor Embree, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 12 Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 12
Posted on: November 16, 2011 12:31 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 12:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Sitting at 2-9 and having lost five Pac-12 contests by an average of 32 points, it's not like Colorado has a lot to lose when they head to UCLA this Saturday. Which might explain why Buffs quarterback Tyler Hansen felt comfortable publicly guaranteeing a win over the Bruins in the wake of his team's surprising rout of Arizona last Saturday.
In most cases, a head coach would put the kibosh on that kind of talk with a quickness, talking about how much he "respects" the opponent and how he wants the team to "play its game" and "not worry about who we're playing" or something similar. But when you're seven games under .500 and have lost an FBS-high 22 straight road games? Jon Embree said Tuesday thinks that kind of bravado is fine--and in fact, he predicted a win himself:
"I just believe part of reaching success and attaining some things, you have to say it. If you want to win a championship, you have to say, 'I expect us to win a championship.' And then you got to go do it ...As Embree himself points out, it's not like there's any secrets between the two locker rooms this week anyway; in addition to the connection between Embree and Neuheisel from their previous time in Boulder, Jon's son Taylor Embree is a wide receiver for the Bruins. Jon told the Los Angeles Times the game will decide "bragging rights for an eternity."
So whatever material Embree and Hansen offer the UCLA bulletin board, the stakes are already as high as they could be for both teams -- the Bruins are still fighting for a bowl berth (and even a potential Pac-12 title game appearance), and for the Buffs there's pride both personal and professional. (As pointed out by the Daily Camera, there's as many players on the UCLA roster that have played in a road victory as Buffaloes than there are on Colorado's.)
In short: if you're convinced you're going to snap a 22-game losing streak and the other team already doesn't need the help getting focused, might as well call your shot, right?
Posted on: November 13, 2011 11:59 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Phil Knight
Before Saturday's Oregon-Stanford game, commissioner Larry Scott presented the Pac-12 Championship Trophy, fitting considering the game to be played a few minutes afterward would pretty much decide who will be raising it for the first time ever. Right as Scott was concluding his presentation however, Nike boss and Oregon uber-booster Phil Knight strolled in, walked right by the trophy and into his box with just a slight glance at the regular season's ultimate prize. He looked to be in a good mood and it's hard to blame him; not only is he filthy rich, he has degrees from both Stanford and Oregon so he couldn't really go home a loser. But thanks to the result on the field, his beloved Ducks will likely be raising that trophy he walked by after winning their 19th straight conference win.
LOSER: Andrew Luck's supporting cast
Drop. Drop. Sack. Pressure. Missed field goal.
It was not a pretty outing for the Cardinal Saturday night and especially not for the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner that lead them to a spotless record, Andrew Luck. The defense had plenty of issues keeping up with Oregon's speed and allowed too many big plays, forcing the offense to play from behind the whole game. Luck's normally reliable tight ends dropped several passes, including a few easy ones on third downs, and the lack of speed at the wide receiver position was evident when there was nobody to stretch the field and nobody could create separation. As badly as the previously impeccable quarterback played in building up the nation's longest winning streak, he failed to live up to expectations against the Ducks - 271 yards, three touchdowns but two interceptions - in large part because it looked like he was the only good player on the field wearing red.
There was something in the air on the West Coast Saturday and whatever it was, you need a heavy coat to protect you from it. The weather at most of the Pac-12's games outside of the one in Palo Alto was not good to say the least. There were sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (and gusts all the way to 70!) in Colorado, Washington brought Seattle's weather down to Los Angeles, it was rainy and snowy in Pullman with temps in the 30's and UCLA played Utah in a snow game. It wasn't the greatest weekend to head out to a game but coat sales went through the roof in just about every campus bookstore.
LOSER: Coaches' sense of security.
Just a few weeks ago, people were talking about how Dennis Erickson had won his way off of the hot seat and maybe even into a contract extension. Thanks in large part to beating Erickson, many thought Rick Neuheisel had bought himself some time. Tim Kish destroyed Neuheisel on national television had some buzzing. It's the bottom of the Pac-12 circle of life and it's cost each of the three any sense of security about their job status. Even Paul Wulff, who pulled off maybe his biggest win since taking over in Pullman, is no sure thing to return next season. You could end up seeing as many as five schools change coaches in the offseason, a notable contrast to the relative stability the conference has had.
WINNER: The Quack Attack
In the battle of speed versus size, it's safe to say that in the Pac-12 speed always trumps size. Oregon's fast-paced attack with speedy running backs and receivers in space have been unstoppable in conference play, winning 19 straight games (only three by less than double digits). Chip Kelly is also aggressive, going for it on fourth down a few times and calling a few risky screen plays after Darron Thomas made about 15 bad decisions on the first one he called. It's not just that they have home run threats, the Ducks force other teams to game plan much differently than any other team in the country. If you happened to see DeAnthony Thomas racing up the sidelines in sixth gear while everyone in Cardinal looked like they were in first, that's just the Quack Attack at work.
LOSER: The Pac-12 South
With USC ineligible for the South title, the race to represent the division in the Pac-12's first ever title game is quickly becoming a race to the bottom, not the top. Arizona State was thought to have control and seemed destined to beat the Oregon/Stanford winner in early December. Then they lost to UCLA late at the Rose Bowl, putting a lot more scenarios on the table. Both lost Saturday, keeping the Bruins - somehow - in control of their destiny. Even Utah isn't out of the race as it looks like three teams could end the season at 5-4 in the division with the Trojans actually sitting atop the standings. A mess? Yes, and one reason why the Ducks are a shoe in for another Pac-12 title.
WINNERS: Coug'n it
Washington State had lost five in a row before hosting Arizona State team and thanks to some wet, snowy conditions pulled off a big upset that had to give some hopes for every Cougars fan out there. Freshman quarterback Connor Halliday ran the offense well against a solid Sun Devils defense, passing for 494 yards and four touchdowns despite the conditions to set a freshman school record. The defense made a few late stops in the 4th quarter and you could see signs of life - despite a rash of injuries - up in the Palouse. It still looks like a long shot to get bowl eligible but stranger things have happened. Still, the losing streak is over, it's unlikely they'll finish as the conference bottom-dweller and Paul Wulff might have earned himself another season with the signs of progress.
LOSER: Steve Sarkisian
Returning to his old stomping grounds at the Coliseum, Sarkisian ended up being the one getting stomped on. It wasn't pretty, a 40-17 loss, and it was made even worse by the fact that the offense was held to just 265 yards, had a safety and gave up six sacks. Sarkisian is close friends with USC head coach Lane Kiffin and the two talked afterward but still had pain Sark that he not only lost but was routed. The Huskies are bowl eligible for the second season in a row but need to turn things around after back-to-back losses.
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Tags: Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Bryan Fischer, Chip Kelly, Coliseum, Colorado, Connor Halliday, Darron Thomas, DeAnthony Thomas, Dennis Erickson, Heisman Trophy, Lane Kiffin, Larry Scott, Nike, Oregon, Pac-12, Paul Wulff, Phil Knight, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Tim Kish, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 11, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 11
Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 2:36 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
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.
- 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.
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.
2. Oklahoma State
5. Boise State
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.
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 6, 2011 2:13 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Larry Scott
Both Oregon and Stanford were favored this week but upsets are a matter of life in the Pac-12. The Cardinal had to go into Reser Stadium - a place highly ranked opponents often leave with a loss - and dealt with several big injuries but pulled away from Oregon State with a big win. Likewise, the Ducks hit the road to take on one of their biggest rivals in a tough place to play in when it's rocking. Both came out with wins and set up the game of the season west of the Rockies and make commissioner Larry Scott extremely happy to have plenty of attention on the conference Saturday night.
LOSER: Husky Stadium
If you never got the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest and see a game at Husky Stadium, you missed out. A beautiful old venue right on the lake, there's no place quite like it when Washington is good and the place is rocking. The press box itself is attached to the trademark overhand and can sway noticeably when the fans are into the game. Starting a major renovation next week (UW is on the road the next two weeks and the Apple Cup is at CenturyLink Field), the loss to Oregon marked the final game for a while in a place that opened in 1920. There was talk of a big upset and the 1991 national championship team was honored but neither seemed to help, especially in the second half. The final play of the stadium? A Jesse Callier one yard rush from the two yard line to end a 34-17 loss.
WINNER: Rick Neuheisel
The embattled UCLA head coach came into the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon needing a huge upset win over Arizona State and got one, knocking off the Sun Devils thanks to a missed field goal as time expired and putting the Bruins in the enviable position to control their own destiny. Win out and it's a spot in the Pac-12 title game and the best bowl trip in years. He probably isn't fully off the hot seat but the team has momentum heading into their final three games, two winnable ones at Utah and against Colorado before the annual crosstown rivalry game against USC.
WINNER: Matt Barkley
USC's had Heisman winners and some of the winningest quarterbacks in NCAA history wear the cardinal and gold but nobody has ever thrown six touchdowns in a game, as Barkley did against Colorado on Friday. Yes, the Buffs defense isn't that good but the blond-haired California kid was still sharp and had to deal with several drops from his receivers. At a historic program like USC, having your name in the record book is quite an accomplishment and given that, it's understandable why the contingent of Trojan fans that made their way to chilly Boulder kept chanting 'One more year!' as Barkley left the field Friday. If he does come back, he could have a team that is looking at making a run at a title and himself at with a Heisman campaign.
LOSER: Stanford training staff
All David Shaw wanted going into Stanford's game against Oregon State was an easy win and a chance to come home healthy. The easy win part seemed to happen but the latter didn't. Already missing Zach Ertz from the USC game, Andrew Luck lost another of his trio of big tight ends after Levine Toilolo went down and had to be taken to the locker room. He came back to the field later without pads and was nursing his shoulder/neck area. The Cardinal's top wide receiver Chris Owusu looks like he could be done for the year after taking a nasty hit that left him with a concussion and a ride in an ambulance. Safety Delano Howell could be back for next week's showdown but nothing is certain.
LOSER: Arizona's defense and special teams
The problem in the desert hasn't been offense, it's been the defense. Utah, a team that had been struggling to move the ball, didn't seem to meet much resistance against the Wildcats. Starting quarterback Jon Hays threw for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns while showing progress and running back John White topped the century mark on the ground once again. Special teams wasn't any help for Arizona either with two blocked punt and a terrible fake field goal.
WINNER: Cal's vacation plans
The Bears took another step toward bowl eligibility with a 30-7 home (well, at AT&T Park) win over Washington State that put them at 5-4 on the season with another winnable game against Oregon State coming up. There's still the possibility, perhaps even a likely one, that they'll stay home for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl but the chances of postseason play certainly improved after taking care of business.
LOSER: Paul Wulff
Perhaps it was an omen that a small earthquake shook the Bay Area right before Saturday's game. After a promising start to the season and signs of life in the Palouse, Washington State has slid back to the bottom with five straight losses and put Wulff on a very, very hot seat. The offense only scored a late touchdown and the team allowed 30 points for the fifth time this season, not exactly hallmarks of a turnaround. The schedule doesn't exactly lighten up either and if the losing streak stretches to seven, Wulff will be out looking for a new job.
WINNER: LaMichael James' elbow pad
Oregon came out in white and "carbon" uniforms against Washington and it was James who had a bulky elbow pad on his right arm that seemed to stick out despite the tame (by Ducks' standards) look. No matter how big or ugly it looked though, the pad seemed to do the trick in James' second week back in action after dislocating the elbow. It wasn't a huge performance by his standards but James rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown.
LOSER: Arizona State visors
Dennis Erickson always seems to lose a game on the road with the Sun Devils that he's favored to win by more than a touchdown. Despite this being ASU's year with the team in position to win the division, Erickson and the coaching staff saw it all slip away at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. There were plenty of bad plays and questionable officiating calls that had to leave a few of the staff's hats slammed to the ground at the end of a frustrating Saturday night.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Apple Cup, Arizona, Arizona State, Arizona State, AT&T Park, Cal, California, CenturyLink Field, Chris Owusu, Colorado, David Shaw, Delano Howell, Dennis Erickson, Heisman Trophy, Husky Stadium, Jesse Callier, John White, Jon Hays, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, LaMichael James, Larry Scott, Levine Toilolo, Matt Barkley, NCAA, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Pac-12 Winners and Losers, Paul Wulff, Rick Neuheisel, Rose Bowl, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 10, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 10, Zach Ertz
Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:45 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
UCLA WON. Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins had their backs against the wall, with plenty of fans and media members already talking about potential replacements for the head coach. No worries, they took a lead into halftime and came back to score a go ahead touchdown in the final minute of a thrilling victory at the Rose Bowl.