Tag:Pitt
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Report: Gus Malzahn interviews at North Carolina

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A final decision from North Carolina on their vacant head coaching position may still be several days away. But one thing that does seem clear is that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will be a major factor when that decision is made.

Malzahn has been rumored to have been one of the Tar Heel administration's leading candidate since mid-November, and the Birmingham News reported Friday that the 46 year-old offensive whiz had his official interview Thursday.

Though the News declines to specify how the interview went, message board scuttlebutt ($) suggests Malzahn did well, and you'd have to think the former Tulsa coordinator would have been comfortable with the man interviewing him--that would be new Tar Heel athletic director Bubba Cunningham, who just-so-happened to be the A.D. at Tulsa when Malzahn was serving under current Pitt coach Todd Graham. 

Beyond that, there's another factor working in Malzahn's favor. Namely, it's that two of his biggest competitors for the UNC job -- Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Southern Miss's Larry Fedora, who'll meet in Saturday's Conference USA championship game -- have multiple suitors (Sumlin in particular) and could be in new positions before Cunningham is ready to make an offer. 

If Malzahn is hired by the Tar Heels, Auburn could be due for a major shakeup on their coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has come under widespread fire for his defense's performance this season and could be on his way out; running backs coach Curtis Luper is a finalist for the vacant UAB head coaching position; and wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor is reportedly "in the mix" for the head coaching job at Tulane. 

For a full, updating team-by-team overview of 2011's coaching changes, check out (and bookmark) the Eye on CFB Coaching Changes One-Stop Shop. And voice your opinion for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year by voting HERE. 
Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 14



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This is it, the final week of MWM in the 2011 season, and it pretty much couldn't have gone worse for me. You see, heading into last week it was a two-horse race, and I was on the verge of losing a picks competition against my girlfriend. Well, then the Machine had to go 8-2 last week while both Woman and I struggled, and guess who is now in second place?

That's right, at the moment, I trail not only my girlfriend but my Playstation as well. Pretty much as embarrassing as embarrassing can be.

On the bright side, the race is closer than ever before, which is pretty much the ideal situation heading into the final week of any competition. Yes, I'm in last place, but I'm only two games behind Woman. Machine is a game behind. So any of us can win, which makes this week the single most important week of the MWM season.

Feel free to read our final picks of the season while I pool some money together and get to work bribing teams to help me out this weekend.

South Florida (Pick 'em) vs. West Virginia - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I was originally leaning toward South Florida because they're at home, and it's the Big East, so since you have no idea what's going to happen, leaning toward the home side is usually the best bet. But then the news that B.J. Daniels probably won't be playing came along, and, well, that changes things. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "I want to pick the Bulls  - mostly so I can watch coach Dana Holgorsen figure out a way to blame West Virginia fans for the loss (start at minute 1:10 here to see his previous efforts) - but they're too banged up, so the mundane Mountaineers will squeak by." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - West Virginia keeps its slim BCS hopes alive with a rather easy 37-20 win over the Bulls. Pick: West Virginia

Oregon (-30 1/2) vs. UCLA - Friday, 8pm

Man - That is a very big spread. One that's big enough to make me think that maybe UCLA isn't a horrible pick because once Oregon gets up by a lot, it really has no reason to pile on, the Rose Bowl is its only possible destination. But then I realized I'd be putting my faith in Rick Neuheisel, and last game or not, no thanks. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "My prediction: At the start of his final game, fired UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel will rip off his shirt to reveal his 1984 SAN ANTONIO GUNSLINGERS JERSEY, SPRINT OUT ONTO THE FIELD AND, UNFAZED BY THE BAD BURRITO HE ATE FROM A TACO STAND ON LA CIENEGA, TAKE OVER AS QUARTERBACK, THROWING TO HIMSELF FOR TOUCHDOWN AFTER TOUCHDOWN UNTIL THE UCLA BOARD OF REGENTS REALIZES ITS GRIEVOUS ERROR, RUSHES TO THE SIDELINES AND ASKS, NAY, BEGS HIM TO STAY." Pick: Oregon

Machine - The Machine sees this one as a game that might be competitive-ish for a while on Friday night. It seems to think that the Bruins will experience some kind of Rick Neuheisel bump. They still lose, but only 41-28. Pick: UCLA

Houston (-14 1/2) vs. Southern Miss - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This game is odd for so many reasons, one being that both head coaches are being mentioned as candidates at other schools, which can be quite a distraction. I want to pick Houston because they're undefeated and torched a good Tulsa team last week, but then I started thinking about the BCS. Wouldn't it just make sense that in the final weekend of the season the undefeated team from the non-BCS conference fell due to some kind of BCS conspiracy? I'm pretty sure Bill Hancock is a Freemason....ahh, screw it. Pick: Houston

Woman - "Picking blind here cuz the only Southern miss I know got wasted on SigEp punch and woke up on the 50 yard line the next morning. Wait. That was me." Pick: Houston

Machine - The Machine sees Case Keenum putting the final stamp on a terrific regular season, as he throws for 414 yards and 5 touchdowns as Houston wins 45-28. Pick: Houston

Pitt (-10 1/2) vs. Syracuse - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Man, I seriously have no idea. Maybe it's the pressure of the situation I'm in getting to me, but I stare at this spread and it may as well be the equation on the chalkboard in Good Will Hunting. It's just a bunch of numbers and letters to me. Whatever, give me the Panthers. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Syracuse is god awful but if there's one thing I learned watching last week's Backyard Brawl it's that every Orange defenseman should just yell "Boo!" while running towards Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, then wait for him drop to the ground and start weeping. That should keep the results within the spread, at least." Pick: Syracuse

Machine - The Machine nearly blew up after being forced to simulate two Big East games in the same week. Pitt wins 24-10. Pick: Pitt

Kansas State (-11 1/2) vs. Iowa State - Saturday, 12:30pm

Man - I think Iowa State has already had its big upset bid of the season, and I don't see them being able to stop Kansas State on the road this weekend. Plus, the Cyclones offense just did not look very good at all last week. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "Game's not being played in Oklahoma? Check. Not against a team from Oklahoma? Check." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Can't decide if this is good or bad news for Kansas State, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time all year that The Machine has picked the Wildcats. KSU wins 27-10. Pick: Kansas State

Baylor (-2 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Robert Griffin is expected to play, and although the Texas defense has been outstanding, I just don't see the Texas offense being able to keep up with the Bears for 60 minutes. Especially on the road. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Note to Mack Brown: A television network does not a football team make." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Sorry, Baylor, The Machine just isn't buying what you're selling this season. Texas wins 27-24. Pick: Texas

LSU (-12 1/2) vs. Georgia - Saturday, 4pm

Man - Here's how good LSU is: the Tigers could lose this game and then go on to lose the national title game, and I'd still probably put them at #1 on my ballot. Pick: LSU

Woman - "The only times I lost on LSU games this season were when I bet against you, Les. What was I thinking?  (And by the way, I've decided to start a "DRAFT LES MILES FOR PRESIDENT" Committee, if only to see the look on his face when other candidates do really dumb things.)" Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine doesn't really see Georgia threatening LSU in this game, but it also doesn't see much offense, and Georgia gets the cover because of it. LSU wins 14-6. Pick: Georgia

Oklahoma State (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You know that BCS conspiracy thing I mentioned with my Southern Miss pick? Yeah, well it applies here too. What's the best way to ensure that there's no debate between Oklahoma State and Alabama? Have Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Though I suppose that when you consider how the Sooners have dominated this rivalry through time, the conspiracy may not be necessary. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "This is it, Cowboys. Time to show all the naysayers why you belong in the BCS Championship. If you win, you've earned it (though it will have to be by thirty points to convince the myopic BCS voters)." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine - The Machine sticks with the trends. Oklahoma wins 41-35. Pick: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Clemson has already beaten Virginia Tech by 20 earlier this season, and although the Tigers haven't exactly been a good team the last few weeks, I'm still confident that they can at the very worst cover that spread on a neutral field. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Really? This could be the game that loses me the MWM season? Pass the Maalox while I puzzle through my choices. Yeah, they crushed Virginia last week, but I still have Hokie hesitation. I'm taking a deep breath and going with Sammy Watkins plus home field advantage. Your move, Sicilian." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Hokies get revenge and quite a bit of it, as Tech picks up a relatively easy 27-7 win. Pick: Virginia Tech

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 8:17pm 

Man - I think we've seen the best from Michigan State already this season, and now that they're facing a Wisconsin team that's once again gotten rolling on a neutral field, I'm liking the Badgers' chances. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Next stop, Rose Bowl. (Hey, guys, thanks to you for reading and to Fornelli for coming up with this competition. It's been a lot of fun. Also, thanks to CBS Sports for finally shattering the glass ceiling last week, so I can now look forward to a continued future in football prognostication.)" Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine doesn't believe in God, and therefore it does not see any Hail Mary saving the Spartans this time. Wisconsin wins 31-23, but that's a cover for Sparty. Pick: Michigan State

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 73-62 (4-6)
2. Machine 72-63 (8-2)
3. Man 71-64 (4-6)
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 6:20 pm
 

CFB Coaching Changes One-Stop Shop

Posted by the Eye on College Football bloggers

Looking for one place with all the latest on the 2011 college football coaching changes, organized by conference and job? This is that place.

ACC

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT: Butch Davis, who lasted four seasons with the Tar Heels before he was fired by Chancellor Holden Thorp July 27, just days before the opening of training camp. Davis accumulated a 64-43 record and took UNC to three bowl games, but was dismissed when the NCAA discovered rampant violations within the football program.

IN: Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora, who took home the 2011 Conference USA title with an 11-2 record and compiled a 33-19 overall mark in Hattiesburg. His Golden Eagle offense set a school record for yards in his very first game and finished in the FBS top 20 in total offense three of his four years.

WHAT WE THINK: Fedora is about to offer the Tar Heels the most exciting, high-scoring offense Chapel Hill has seen in some time; his offenses both in his coordinating tenure at Oklahoma State and at USM have been far too explosive, far too consistently, to think his acumen won't translate to the ACC. But we're not sure this is quite a smash hire, since Fedora's teams often struggled as badly on defense as they succeeded on offense and regularly suffered stunning upset losses. Was a coach carrying a three-game losing streak to UAB the best Carolina could do?

BIG 12

KANSAS

OUT: Turner Gill, after serving only two years of the five-year $10 million contract he signed before the 2010 season. Gill only won 1 game in the Big 12, and lost 10 games total by 30 or more points.

IN: In the most stunning hire of the 2011 coaching carousel so far, Charlie Weis is your new Jayhawk head man. After making his mark as the offensive coordinator of Bill Belichick's great New England Patriots teams, Weis coached Notre Dame to a 35-27 mark over five turbulent seasons between 2005 and 2009. He spent the 2011 season as Florida's offensive coordinator, to mixed reviews.

WHAT WE THINK: Contrary to popular opinion, Weis hasn't been a total failure as a collegiate coach; when given the strong-armed passers necessary to run his preferred aerial pro-style schemes, his Irish offenses were among the nation's best. The question is whether Weis can ever find such a quarterback in Lawrence, or whether he can avoid the multiple other pitfalls -- poor development of fundamentals, questionable defensive schemes, lack of a running game -- that submarined his Notre Dame tenure. It seems like a longshot, but it's hard to blame a desperate Kansas program for taking a gamble this splashy.

TEXAS A&M

Out: Mike Sherman, who was fired following his fourth season with the Aggies, going 25-25 in his time at the school. He was done in by failed expectations after the Aggies began the season ranked in the top ten thanks to 19 returning starters on a team that finished the 2010 season strong.

IN: Houston's Kevin Sumlin began the Aggies' search as their No. 1 candidate, and he finished it as their No. 1 candidate. Sumlin's four years at the Cougar helm produced a 35-17 record and were arguably the best four-year stretch in school history, as UH won its first bowl game since 1980 and only missed the postseason once (that when Case Keenum went down with injury).

WHAT WE THINK: Sumlin has overseen explosive "Air Raid"-style offenses at every step of his career (including stops at A&M and Oklahoma before moving to Houston with then-head coach Art Briles). With coordinator Kliff Kingsbury in tow and loads of offensive talent in College Station, expect that to continue. But it'll take more than a great offense to win in the SEC, and Sumlin never got enough done on defense to even win a Conference USA title. The jury remains out on his potential at the SEC level.

BIG TEN

ILLINOIS

OUT: Ron Zook, who survived for seven years before a 6-game losing streak wiped out a 6-game winning streak in 2011 and led to his dismissal on November 28. Zook leaves with a 34-50 (18-38) record at Illinois, and a 57-64 overall head coaching record.

IN: Toledo head coach Tim Beckman has agreed to be the Illini's next head coach. After a successful string of assistant's jobs (including stops at Oklahoma State and Ohio State), Beckman took over a flailing Rocket program and took them to winning seasons and bowl berths in both 2010 and 2011.

WHAT WE THINK: There's no doubting the impressive work Beckman did at Toledo, where the formerly sad-sack Rockets were a handful of plays from winning 10 or even 11 games this season. (Of their four losses, three came by a total of 11 points.) His spread scheme -- and its reliance on a dual-threat QB -- seems a good fit for the Illini's personnel, too. But the porous Rocket defense was a disappointment, and how he'll recruit in Champaign is anyone's guess; this looks like a solid double than a home run. 

PENN STATE

OUT: Joe Paterno, after 46 years at the head of the Penn State program and over 60 years involved with the Nittany Lions in some respect. Paterno was fired in the wake of a scandal concerning the coverup of child sexual assault charges against former longtime PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

IN: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is expected to be hired by Penn State by the weekend, though he will remain the Patriots' OC until the end of their playoff run. 

WHAT WE THINK: The PSU search was doomed from the start by the circumstances surrounding the Sandusky scandal, up to and including the fact that the school does not have a permanent athletic director serving at this point. O'Brien is young and talented, but this may be a coaching task with odds too long for anyone that might want the job.

OHIO STATE

OUT: Jim Tressel, who was forced to resign after it was revealed he withheld knowledge of a widespread pattern of impermissible benefits going to his football players. Tressel had been with Ohio State for 10 years, going for a 94-22 record (106-22 before 12 wins from 2010 were vacated) and three BCS Championship Game appearances in that span. 

IN AND OUT: Luke Fickell, who had been the defensive line coach and Jim Tressel's assistant head coach, assumed the role of head coach for the football team in 2010 after Tressel's departure. Fickell was often erroneously referred to as the interim head coach; the "interim" tag was taken off his job title before the season started. Fickell guided the Buckeyes to a 6-6 record in 2011, including a 33-29 victory over highly-ranked Wisconsin, all while breaking in talented QB Braxton Miller as a true freshman.

IN: Urban Meyer, announced as the next head coach of Ohio State at a Monday press conference. Fickell will coach the team through whichever bowl game it attends, while Meyer will be focused on recruiting and building his next coaching staff. After the bowl, Meyer will assume the head coaching role while Fickell will join Meyer's staff in an as yet undetermined role. This is Meyer's first coaching gig since he resigned from Florida in December 2010, citing health concerns.

WHAT WE THINK: Concerns over his health and potential longevity in the job notwithstanding, any hire that brings aboard a coach who won two national titles in just six years at his last stop certainly meets the definition of a "home run." 

PAC-12

UCLA

OUT: Rick Neuheisel, forced out after four years at his alma mater, during which he compiled a 21-28 record. Neuheisel went 0-4 vs. archrivals USC, losing by a combined score of 134-28.
IN:
Former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawk head coach Jim L. Mora, the first Bruin head coach since 1949 to take the job without having been a former UCLA assistant or player. More spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons as an NFL Network analyst after compiling a 32-34 record with the Falcons and Seahawks.

WHAT WE THINK: Well, hiring a failed-but-energetic former NFL coach worked for the Bruins' crosstown rivals, didn't it? But Pete Carroll is the rare exception among a long string of pro coaches turned mediocre college head men, and Mora's total lack of experience in the amateur ranks -- his only season of college coaching came a grad assistant at Washington in 1984 -- doesn't seem to suggest he's going to buck the trend. But his charisma and NFL experience should make him a decent recruiter in the L.A. area; can he translate that to on-field success?
 

ARIZONA STATE

OUT: Dennis Erickson, fired following a loss to Cal that dropped the pre-season Pac-12 South favorites to 6-6. He went 31-30 five years at Arizona State with only one winning conference record.

IN: In a shocker, Pitt head coach Todd Graham, who left the Panthers for Tempe Dec. 14 after one 6-6 season. Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Graham spent four seasons as the head coach at Tulsa, going 36-17 and winning three divisional Conference USA titles. The Devils job will be Graham's fourth in six seasons.

WHAT WE THINK: We know the Sun Devils had to be getting desperate; we know Graham's up-tempo offense should both fit in well in the Pac-12 and -- if successful -- help sell a few tickets; we know Graham still has those outstanding years at Tulsa on his resume. But scrape that away and you're left with ASU firing Erickson for going a disappointing 6-6 only to hire a coach who also went a disappointing 6-6, and this coach now comes with a dyed-in-the-wool reputation for job-hopping and back-stabbing. How was this a better choice than June Jones, again?

ARIZONA

OUT: Mike Stoops, fired Oct. 10, following a loss to previously winless Oregon State on the road. He left with a 41-50 record in eight seasons with the Wildcats.

IN: Rich Rodriguez, former Michigan and West Virginia head coach and CBS Sports analyst. Hired November 21, he compiled a 75-48 record at his previous two coaching stops and took the Mountaineers to two BCS bowls.

WHAT WE THINK: AD Greg Byrne took his time with the coaching search after dismissing Stoops but was able to zero in on RichRod after talking to several people in the college football world and local high school coaches. He brings a fast-paced, spread offense to a league full of them and should fit right in the Pac-12 despite his lack of West Coast ties. With facilities being upgraded and an engaging personality at head coach, the future is looking bright in Tuscon--if Rodriguez can hire a top-notch defensive coordinator.

WASHINGTON STATE

OUT: Paul Wulff,
dimissed Nov. 29 after posting the lowest win percentage of any coach in Cougar history at just 9-40 overall. Wulff failed to win more than two Pac-12 games in any of his four seasons.

IN: Mike Leach, who CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman reported accepted the job Wednesday. Leach brings an 84-43 record from 10 years spent as the head coach at Texas Tech, a decade which saw him produce some of the game's most explosive offenses (and porous defenses), earned him recognition as one of college football's brightest, most unique offensive minds, and garnered national coach of the year honors after his 11-1 season in 2008.

WHAT WE THINK: We're sympathetic for Wulff, who took over a smoldering asteroid crater of a program and little-by-little hauled it back to semi-respectability. But hiring Leach is a massive coup for athletic director Bill Moos, one that brings instant credibility to the program and should spark a huge renewal of energy in the Wazzu fanbase. Given how many other programs would have loved to have brought the pirate captain aboard, this is a smashing win for Moos and the Cougars.

SEC

OLE MISS

OUT: Houston Nutt, fired Nov. 7 after 2-6 overall and 0-6 SEC start. Lost final 14 SEC games and 16 of final 19 overall of four-year tenure.

IN: Per CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze has been offered and accepted the job. A former Rebel assistant under Ed Orgeron, Freeze took over as the Red Wolves' offensive coordinator in 2010 and was promoted to head coach in 2011, after which he led ASU to its first-ever Sun Belt championship and a 10-2 record.

WHAT WE THINK: Freeze was always the most natural fit for the job, a former Memphis high school coach who knows both the Rebel program and its local recruiting grounds inside and out. The dramatic improvement in the Red Wolves' offense on his watch suggests that the Rebels' most recent season of offensive misery should be behind them, too. So a quick return to respectability should be in order, but there's one question: can Freeze put together an SEC-caliber defense? 

BIG EAST

PITT

OUT:
Todd Graham, who accepted the Arizona State head coaching position Dec. 14, following one 6-6 season at the Panther helm.

IN: It's done: Pitt has hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Chryst has been one of the nation's hottest assistant coaches after guiding a Badger team with a grind-it-out reputation to back-to-back national top-5 finishes in scoring offense in 2010 and 2011. Chryst has no head coaching experience but has spent the last eight seasons as an OC at Oregon State and Wisconsin.

WHAT WE THINK: For all of Steve Pederson's past failures on the head coaching hiring front, this one looks like the furthest thing from a Steve Callahan or, well, Todd Graham. Chryst's offenses have always been supremely well-coached, rock-solid in their identity as a run-first-run-second attack, and hyper-efficient in the passing game. While finding the Badgers' caliber of offensive linemen won't be easy, Chryst should be able to unearth a Scott Tolzien or Nick Toon at Pitt without much trouble. If Chryst learned anything from Bret Bielema about hiring the right defensive staff, Graham's bolt job should leave Pitt better off in the end.

RUTGERS

OUT:
In arguably the biggest shocker on this list -- given its timing, a week before signing day -- Greg Schiano has left to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching position. Schiano leaves with a 68-67 record over 11 years with the Scarlet Knights and five straight bowl wins, a remarkable accomplishment given the program's downtrodden status when Schiano arrived.

IN: Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights' offensive line coach since 2005. Since Flood's arrival, Rutgers has endured just one losing season as his lines have consistently ranked among the best in the Big East.

WHAT WE THINK: Flood appears to be a natural leader -- the school wasted no time in naming him the interim coach following Schiano's departure -- and the connection he enjoys with his players is obvious both in their reaction to his hire and the team's late surge on the recruiting trail. But Flood is, to date, also a career assistant who hadn't even reached the coordinating level yet. Rutgers had few options given the circumstances and Flood was likely the best of those, but the jury is as badly out as it is for any of the season's new hires.

NON-BCS

AKRON

OUT: Rob Ianello, fired Nov. 27 (on the way to his mother's funeral, no less) after consecutive 1-11 seasons. Only 2011 win came over FCS VMI.

IN: None other than Terry Bowden, making his long-awaited return to Division I football after a 13-year absence. Bowden comes to Akron from North Alabama, where he led the D-II Lions to three straight playoff appearances, but is best known for his six-year tenure at Auburn, where he went 47-17-1 with one undefeated season.

WHAT WE THINK: Considering the depths to which the Zips sunk under Ianello -- they stand alone as the only FBS team to record one total win over FBS competition over the past two seasons -- they could have done a lot worse than Bowden, who brings instant name recognition and credibility (and a fine track record of program-resuscitation to boot). But Bowden's ties to the Midwest recruiting scene are tenuous at best, and he's been out of the FBS game a long time; former Zip assistant and current Wayne State head coach Paul Winters would have been the safer choice, even if Bowden may yet prove to be the better one. 

FLORIDA ATLANTIC

OUT: program patriarch and coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger, who announced his retirement in August after 11 seasons in Boca Raton. He is the only head coach in the Owls' brief football history.

IN: Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will be the Owls' next head coach, as CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reported Dec. 1. Pelini has no college head coaching experience but has overseen some of the nation's best defenses during his Lincoln tenure and -- based on his energetic sideline presence -- should have no lack of enthusiasm for the job.

WHAT WE THINK:  For a program with as little tradition and recent success as the Owls, hiring a nationally recognized name like Pelini is quite the coup. Pelini has been his brother Bo Pelini's right-hand man ever since Bo took over the Huskers and Carl should have little problem transitioning to the head coaching ranks. The lone issue: defense hasn't been the Owls' primary issue the past two (awful) seasons, and Pelini's almost exclusively a defensive coach. A solid offensive coordinating hire is a must.

MEMPHIS

OUT: Larry Porter, fired Nov. 27 after a 3-21 record over two seasons, 10 of those 21 losses coming by 35 or more points.

IN: Justin Fuente, co-offensive coordinator at TCU since 2009. The Frogs set school records in yards and points each of his first two seasons as play-caller, including the undefeated 2010 campaign, and have finished in the FBS top 12 in yards per-play all three years.

WHAT WE THINK: For being a program as downtrodden as Memphis, the Tigers' final two of Fuente and Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain was impressive in and of itself, with Fuente bringing the gaudier offensive resume and McElwain the bigger name-brand. Fuente's offensive track record and youthful energy should get Memphis out of the C-USA cellar at the minimum, but whether he'll recruit or defend well enough to do more remains to be seen.

NEW MEXICO

OUT: Mike Locksley, fired Sept. 25, a day after a recruit was arrested and charged with DWI while driving a car registered to Locksley. He left with a 2-26 record at the Lobos' helm.

IN: Bob Davie, former Notre Dame head coach and longtime ESPN analyst. Hired November 16, Davie hasn't coached since 2001 but went 35-25 in his five years in South Bend.

WHAT WE THINK: The marriage of a program that desperately needs a burst of energy/enthusiasm and a 57 year-old coach who hasn't been on a sideline in a decade is an odd one. But Davie didn't rise to the Irish head coaching position by being an idiot, and his name recognition and classiness should bring some dignity back to a program stinging from a long string of embarrassments under Locksley. Could the Lobos really have done much better?

TULANE

OUT: Bob Toledo, who "mutually agreed" to resign Oct. 15 after four and a half years at the Green Wave helm, during which he compiled a 15-40 record.

IN: New Orleans Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson is the choice. A New Orleans native and local high school graduate, Johnson has spent five seasons with the Saints after nine as a receivers coach at Miami, tutoring the likes of Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson.

WHAT WE THINK:
It's hard to imagine a candidate with closer ties to the New Orleans community or one with more immediate credibility on the local recruiting trail, and Johnson's Saints colleagues (including Sean Payton) have said he's ready for a head coaching position. But the track record of NFL assistants turned college head coaches who haven't had so much as a coordinator's job have a spotty track record, at best. Johnson could be the Green Wave's Doug Marrone ... or its Tim Brewster.

UAB

OUT: Neil Callaway, who "resigned" Nov. 27 after his first head coaching job produced an 18-42 record over five seasons.

IN: Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee is the choice after helping guide the Razorback offense to top-two finishes in the SEC in back-to-back seasons (not to mention a pair of 10-2 records). McGee is a finalist for this year's Broyles Award and enjoyed two productive years as the OC at Northwestern before joining Bobby Petrino's Razorback staff. 

WHAT WE THINK: Corralling an experienced, highly respected SEC-level coordinator is quite an accomplishment for a program with as little track record of success as UAB's--not to mention their major issues in facilities quality and fan support. We don't know if McGee will succeed or not (though the Blazers shouldn't lack for offense), but he's going to give the Blazers as much of a chance as any candidate in their pool. 

COLORADO STATE

OUT:
Per CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Steve Fairchild, who coached the Rams for four seasons but couldn't finish any better than 3-9 in any of his final three. After starting 3-1 this season, the Rams dropped their final eight, including a third straight "Border War" loss to Wyoming. 

IN:
Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who has overseen offensive improvement relative to the SEC all four of his seasons in Tuscalooa after one equally promising season as a play-caller at Fresno State. McElwain has never been a collegiate head coach.

WHAT WE THINK: McElwain's schemes aren't revolutionary and may not be quite as effective without Crimson Tide-type personnel, but that still shouldn't overshadow what he accomplished for Nick Saban--back-to-back years in the top 10 in yards per-play and three straight in the top 21 in scoring offense. Coordinators that do those those sorts of things for national championship-caliber squads typically go to much larger jobs than this one, making this a legitimate coup for the Rams.

FRESNO STATE

OUT: Pat Hill,
the dean of WAC coaches whose all-comers scheduling philosophy and BCS-level upsets arguably put Fresno football on the map. He leaves with a 112-80 overall record and 11 bowl appearances, but zero outright conference titles and a 4-9 record this season.

IN: Tim DeRuyter, current Texas A&M interim head coach and Aggie defensive coordinator, who officially took the job Dec. 14. After helping turning around previous defenses at stops like Ohio and Air Force, the California native spent two years taking the Aggies from 90th nationally in yards allowed per-play to back-to-back top-25 finishes in that statistic.

WHAT WE THINK: Though DeRuyter has often been mentioned as a bright up-and-coming coordinator since landing in College Station, he might still be underrated; A&M's up-tempo offense and the Big 12's regular shootouts have kept his total defense and scoring numbers artificially low. We like DeRuyter's first-time-head-coach energy and Cali connections as well as his 3-4 schemes, too; given Fresno's budget crunch, it's hard to imagine them having done any better than this.

HAWAII


OUT: Greg McMackin. The head coach since 2008, McMackin announced his retirement on Monday after four seasons in which his teams went 29-25 and made two bowl appearances. The team went 6-7 in 2011.

IN: Norm Chow, the Hawaii native who earned a deserved reputation as one of the college game's brightest offensive minds through years of helming devastating attacks at BYU and then USC. This is the 65-year-old's first college head coaching position.

WHAT WE THINK: If this was still 2003 or 2004, the Warriors would have just made one of the biggest, best hires of the season. But Chow's star has dimmed of late, with his UCLA tenure a total bust and Utah not seeing much in the way of results this season, either (110th in total offense). Still, Chow's certainly no dummy when it comes to offensive scheming, and in full command of his own offense at a place that's always enjoyed plenty of aerial success, the Warriors should still put up plenty of points. Chow's legendary status on the islands won't hurt recruiting, either. But at his age, how long can Chow handle the pressures of the job?

ARKANSAS STATE

OUT: The aformentioned Hugh Freeze, who took the Ole Miss head coaching position after one spectacular 10-2 season in Jonesboro, the only 10-win campaign in Sun Belt conference history.

IN: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn agreed to become the Red Wolves' new head coach Dec. 13, following a spectacular run as an assistant at Tulsa and then on the Plains that saw him turn the Golden Hurricane into the nation's No. 1 offense two years running and the Tigers into Heisman-winning national champions.

WHAT WE THINK: While the Auburn faithful are left wondering why Malzahn turned down a far more lucrative offer to coach Vanderbilt in 2010 only to bolt for a traditional Sun Belt also-ran in 2011, there's no question marks on ASU's end: they landed a native Arkansan who just-so-happens to be one of college football's brightest minds and hottest assistants, all for a salary reported to be nearly four times less than what Vandy would have paid him. It's not just a home run, it's a walk-off grand slam.

SOUTHERN MISS 

OUT: Larry Fedora, who (as you know if you read the first entry on this list) accepted the headcoaching position at North Carolina.

IN: Ellis Johnson, the just-turned-60-years-old defensive coordinator of South Carolina, named head coach Dec. 20. A former USM DC himself, Johnson has 29 years of coaching experience, including head coaching stints at Gardner-Webb and his alma mater the Citadel. 

WHAT WE THINK: With his experience recruiting in the state of Mississippi (Johnson also had a successful stint under Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State) and long track record of outstanding defenses, Johnson should fix the Eagles' persistent defensive woes sooner rather than later. But Johnson's earlier head coaching gigs were less than successful, his ideas about offense seem an oil-and-water mix with USM's established spread attack, and at his age there are inevitable questions about how much energy he'll bring to the position. A solid-but-not-spectacular hire.

TOLEDO

OUT: Tim Beckman, who has accepted the Illinois job after three outstanding seasons with the Rockets.

IN: Rocket offensive coordinator Matt Campbell has been promoted to the full head coaching position after guiding the Toledo offense to two top-15 finishes in total offense the past three years. At 32 years of age, Campbell replaces Fuente as the youngest FBS head coach.

WHAT WE THINK: Campbell had the trust and support of the Rocket players and fellow coaches, an insider's knowledge of both the program and (as an Ohio native) its recruiting grounds, all the offensive production you could want from an offensive-minded coach, and all the enthusiasm you'd expect from a 32-year-old on his first head coaching gig. The Rockets still have to repair some defensive issues to get over the hump and deliver a MAC title, but promoting Campbell looks like a no-brainer from here. 

HOUSTON

OUT: After four outstanding seasons, Kevin Sumlin, now the head coach at nearby Texas A&M.

IN: Popular associate head coach/inside receivers coach Tony Levine, promoted Dec. 21 after a brief spell as the Cougars' interim coach. Levine is in his fourth season in Houston and has also spent time as an assistant at Louisville and with the Carolina Panthers. 

WHAT WE THINK:
If it ain't broke, why fix it? Promoting Kevin Sumlin from the Cougar assistant ranks to old boss Art Briles's job worked like a charm last time Houston needed a head coach, so you can hardly fault the Cougar brass for going the same route again. Still, Levine hasn't held any title anywhere above the level of position coach; if he can't keep current UH offensive coordinator Jason Phillips in the fold, he may run into trouble.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Akron, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Bill Moos, Bob Davie, Bob Toledo, Boise State, Braxton Miller, Butch Davis, Butch Jones, Cal, Charlie Strong, Chicago Bears, Chris Hatcher, Chris Petersen, Cincinnati, Clemson, Coaching Carousel, Coaching Changes, Colorado State, Curtis Johnson, Dan Guerrero, Dan Mullen, Dennis Erickson, Doug Nussmaier, Eddie Gran, Everett Withers, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Wilson, Fresno State, Georgia Southern, Greg Byrne, Greg Schiano, Gus Malzahn, Holden Thorp, Houston, Houston Nutt, Howard Schnellenberger, Hugh Freeze, Illinois, Jason Phillips, Jeff Monken, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Leavitt, Jim McElwain, Jim McElwain, Jim Michalczik, Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno, John L. Smith, John Neal, Kansas, Kevin Sumlin, Kirby Smart, Lance Thompson, Larry Fedora, Larry Porter, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Fickell, Mark Hudspeth, Mark Stoops, Memphis, Miami, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Bellotti, Mike Haywood, Mike Leach, Mike Locksley, Mike London, Mike Martz, Mike Sherman, Mike Stoops, Mike Stoops, Mike Thomas, Mississippi State, Mountain West, Murray State, Neil Callaway, New Mexico, New Orleans Saints, Nick Saban, North Alabama, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oakland Raiders, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Hill, Pat Narduzzi, Paul Winters, Paul Wulff, Penn State, Pitt, Randy Shannon, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Rob Ianello, Ron Zook, Sheahon Zenger, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Southern Miss, Syeve Fairchild, Tennessee, Terry Bowden, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tim Beckman, Todd Monken, Toledo, Tom Bradley, Tom Cable, Tommy Bowden, Tulane, Turner Gill, UAB, UCLA, UL-Lafayette, Urban Meyer, USC, Virginia, VMI, WAC, Washington State, Wayne State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
 
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.

As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.

Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.

Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.

The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.

Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.

The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.

It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.

It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.

"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.

"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."

Nothing like beating a rival.

Stat of the week

In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.

Stats of week

- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)

- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.

- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.

- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).

 - LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.

Yard-by-yard

- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.

- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.

- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.

- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.

- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.

- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.

- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.

- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.

- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.

- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.

- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.

- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.

- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.

- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.

Tweet of the week

"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.

- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. USC

6. Oregon

7. Boise State

8. Arkansas

9. Houston

10. Virginia Tech


Where we'll be this week

I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Leaning this way

Georgia vs. LSU

Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.


Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:23 am
 

Big 12 Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The SEC

Were you one of the people who were dreading the idea of a rematch between LSU and Alabama for the BCS title? Well, blame the Big 12 because I don't think you've got any other choice right now. Thanks to Iowa State and Baylor knocking off Oklahoma State and Oklahoma this weekend, two of the biggest threats to SEC dominance have been knocked out of the running. Oddly enough, even though Oklahoma State lost on Friday night, it actually had a chance to still be in the running given all the other losses in the top ten this week, but then Oklahoma had to go lose to Baylor.

Now if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma in Bedlam, it won't mean as much with the Sooners already suffering two losses.

WINNER: Paul Rhoads

The man is becoming an expert at upsetting high-powered offenses en route to the BCS title game. He did it as Pitt's defensive coordinator against West Virginia in 2007, and now he's done it to Oklahoma State in Ames. I'm not sure if Iowa State is ever going to be a contender for a Big 12 title under Rhoads, but there's no denying that he has this program headed in the right direction. The Cyclones will have to work hard to keep him in Ames, too, because it won't be long before other schools come calling.

LOSER: Brandon Weeden's Heisman campaign

There are much worse things that happened to Oklahoma State this weekend, and I'm not just talking about football. Still, as far as losses on the field are concerned, Brandon Weeden lost quite a bit on Friday night. He can kiss his shot at the Heisman Trophy goodbye. He'd been building up steam every week, but after throwing 3 interceptions in Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State, he'll be falling off a lot of ballots.

WINNER: Robert Griffin's Heisman campaign

Griffin's Heisman candidacy had taken a hit in recent weeks thanks to some subpar performances against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but the whole country was able to see Griffin's game-winning drive against Oklahoma on Saturday night. In a season in which the Heisman may be more up for grabs than ever before, that was one of those drives that will be stuck in the memory of many a voter when it comes time to turn in the ballots.

LOSER: Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops had set himself up for some second-guessing in Waco on Saturday night. After Oklahoma scored in the final minute to cut the lead to 38-37 Stoops was ready to go for two and the win. Unfortunately a false start forced Oklahoma to have to kick the extra point, which may have saved Stoops because had Oklahoma gone for two and not gotten it, well, there'd have been a whole lot of 20/20 hindsight in Norman. Still, despite the second chance, Stoops had to go and make himself the goat anyway by calling a timeout when Baylor was content to head to overtime.

Then Baylor went down the field in a few plays before scoring the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left.

WINNER: Terrence Williams

There may not have been a more perfect target for Robert Griffin on that game-winning touchdown. Earlier in the contest Griffin found Williams for what would have been a sure touchdown, only Williams dropped the pass. Imagine how terrible Williams might have felt if Oklahoma had gone on to win in overtime? If he'd made that catch earlier, the overtime would have never happened. Instead he was able to redeem himself by catching the game-winner, which is a pretty great way to forget about your earlier mistake if you ask me.

LOSER: The Texas offense

In its last two games, after running roughshod over opponents in the previous two weeks, Texas has managed just 18 points and 481 yards of total offense with only 1 touchdown. To put that in perspective, Texas rushed for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns against Texas Tech three weeks ago. Making matters worse, the Longhorns seemed to be ready to roll with David Ash as their quarterback, but his performance the last few weeks could mean Case McCoy is starting against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving. In other words, letting Garrett Gilbert transfer may not have been the best idea.

WINNER: James Franklin

Poor, James Franklin. He had a monster game on Saturday but it's going to be overshadowed by Robert Griffin's performance and the losses of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Still, i'm going to give him his due here. Franklin finished his day with 324 total yards and 4 touchdowns, leading Missouri on a fourth quarter comeback and scoring the game-winning touchdown with 2:22 left. I'd say Gary Pinkel owes Franklin a beer, but Franklin's not old enough to drink and Pinkel's in enough trouble as it is.

LOSER: Kansas

I don't even know what to say to you anymore, Jayhawks. Every time I think things can't get any worse you go and have a game like the one you did on Saturday. The Jayhawks got destroyed by Texas A&M on Saturday, losing 61-7. If Turner Gill wasn't already on his way to a pink slip, I think it's safe to say he'll be getting one now.

WINNER: Kansas State's BCS hopes

It's a longshot considering that Kansas State can't win the Big 12 this season, but the Wildcats chances of landing an at-large berth in a BCS game increased a bit on Saturday. If Kansas State can go on to beat Iowa State next week -- and we can't just assume they will anymore, can we? -- and Oklahoma State knocks off Oklahoma in Bedlam, then the Wildcats will finish second in the Big 12 this season and likely in the top 12 of the BCS. Sure, the Wildcats need a few other things to happen before that from other schools around the country, but their prospects improved all the same.  
Posted on: November 19, 2011 12:12 am
Edited on: November 19, 2011 12:13 am
 

QUICK HITS: Iowa State 37 Oklahoma State 31 2OT

Posted by Tom Fornelli

IOWA STATE WON. That's right, Iowa State. A game that most people felt would be a mere formality before Oklahoma State moved on to play Oklahoma in two weeks -- I include myself in that -- turned out to be one of the biggest shockers in college football this season. Some will say that this was an Oklahoma State team distracted by the tragic airplane crash that took the lives of women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna. Others will say that Oklahoma State got caught looking ahead to Oklahoma. Then there will be those who admit that Iowa State just beat Oklahoma State because it made plays when it had to and Oklahoma State didn't.

Whatever you want to feel happened on Friday night in Ames, you can't say you saw it coming.

WHY IOWA STATE WON. It started early with Iowa State's defensive scheme. The Cyclones continually brought pressure up the middle causing Brandon Weeden to move around, throwing the quarterback out of his rhythm. This led to an early turnover from Weeden, and Oklahoma State turning the ball over was a constant theme. On the night the Cowboys turned the ball over 5 times, and forced only 3 from the Cyclones.

WHEN IOWA STATE WON. This game may have needed two overtimes, but it may have ended when Quinn Sharp missed a field goal in the final seconds of regulation. Sharp's kick was wide right -- barely -- and you just got the feeling that this was just going to be Iowa State's night. After scoring on the first play of overtime, Iowa State allowed the Cowboys to tie the game and force a second overtime. Then, in that second overtime, Iowa State forced Weeden's third interception of the night. It then became a steady diet of Jeff Woody who accounted for all 25 yards on Iowa State's game-winning touchdown drive in the second overtime.

WHAT IOWA STATE WON. It's the first time Iowa State has beaten a team ranked #2 or higher in school history, and the victory gives the Cyclones its sixth victory of the season as well, making them bowl eligible. Still, this is nothing new for Paul Rhoads. Remember in 2007 when the high-scoring West Virginia offense was seemingly en route to the BCS title game only to be knocked off 13-9 by Pitt in the final game of the regular season? Well, Paul Rhoads was the defensive coordinator of that Pitt team. Seems stopping potent offenses on their way to a title game is becoming a Paul Rhoads specialty.

WHAT OKLAHOMA STATE LOST. Everything. This was a devastating loss to the Oklahoma State football team. No where near as important as the loss the school suffered on Thursday night, but this was an Oklahoma State team that was a few wins away from playing for a national title. Now that dream has been erased, and even though the Cowboys can still win the Big 12 and end up in the Fiesta Bowl, it won't feel like anything other than a disappointment now.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Coming into this game Iowa State was a four-touchdown underdog. When Texas Tech upset Oklahoma earlier this season, it was also a four-touchdown underdog.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 3:04 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 10

Posted by Tom Fornelli

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

Listen, we know what you're planning on having for dinner on Saturday night. The only college football fans who won't be tuning into Alabama and LSU on Saturday night are the ones who have their favorite teams playing at the same time. And even most of those people will be flipping back and forth.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other strong options out there on Saturday. I mean, every main course needs an appetizer or 8, right?

BREAKFAST

Iowa vs. #13 Michigan - ESPN, 12pm ET

Let's face it: it's not very fun to watch games with dynamic performers if those guys get shut down by a defense. Fortunately for Michigan, that's probably not a fate awaiting Denard Robinson against Iowa. The Hawkeye defense has been jarringly bad all season long, and "Shoelace" is likely to get in the end zone several times. What more can you ask for from an early game? - Adam Jacobi

Texas vs. Texas Tech - FX, 12pm ET

The word is that beginning next season these two teams will begin playing on Thanksgiving Day, so this may be the last time you watch this game without a turkey leg in your mouth. Both are looking to make a statement on Saturday, as the Longhorns would like the world to know that they're a good team that has lost to great teams. Texas Tech, meanwhile, would like to prove that the win over Oklahoma wasn't just a fluke and it wants to wash the stench of Iowa State off. - Tom Fornelli

Florida vs. Vanderbilt - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

Is this the week the Commodores finish the deal? After playing Georgia tough and Arkansas tougher, it would seem the reeling Gators, losers of four straight, would be ripe for the picking. But with John Brantley another week removed from his ankle injury and Will Muschamp's team now in desperation mode, the upset won't come easy. Vandy's struggled on the road, too, having lost their two SEC games away from Nashville (to South Carolina and Alabama) by combined 55-3. Can the Gators rebound? - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

Oregon State vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 3:30pm ET

Let down game? We'll see if Stanford struggles on the road after their big, overtime win at USC last week. Strange things have been known to happen up in Corvallis with highly ranked teams so keep your eye on this one even though it's a complete mismatch in favor of the Cardinal. - Bryan Fischer

#7 Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

With its slim hopes of winning the Big 12 dashed last week by Missouri, the Aggies are now resigned to playing the role of spoiler. What better way to say goodbye to Oklahoma than by killing its chances at a Big 12 title as well? Both of these teams have strong offenses, and we could be in store for quite the shootout in Norman on Saturday. - TF

#19 Wisconsin vs. Purdue - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

We're not saying this game won't be competitive, but before the third quarter is over, Russell Wilson will probably throw a sword at the press box then scream, "Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you have come out here?!" And then, if we haven't stretched the Gladiator reference past credulity and good taste, the Camp Randall crowd will begin chanting, "Caroliniard!" over and over. - AJ

Air Force vs. Army - CBS, 3:30pm ET

Air Force already withstood an 18-point comeback from Navy before winning 35-34 in overtime, and it would be a huge let down to follow that performance with a loss against Army at home.  The Falcons can capture their 18th outright win for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy if they can win the ground attack battle against the Black Knights.  Army and Air Force rank 1st and 3rd nationally in rushing offense, and Saturday's battle will be a test of defense and ball control as the two service academies square off in the annual rivalry.  With Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson reportedly playing with a broken nose, I expect senior Asher Clark to step up in the backfield with a big performance at home.  The Falcons are favored to win this nationally televised battle, but in these rivalry games with the service academies you never know what to expect.  - Chip Patterson

DINNER

Pitt vs. #23 Cincinnati - ESPNU, 7pm ET

The Bearcats have quietly made themselves Big East frontrunners, as the only team without a loss in conference play.  Two years ago Cincinnati came from behind to beat Pittsburgh 45-44 on Heinz Field to cap off an undefeated regular season and earn a berth to the Sugar Bowl.  Now with Butch Jones at the helm, they control their own destiny to return to a BCS bowl.  Their five-game home stretch starts with the Panthers, who will be looking to rebound from losing Ray Graham for the season with a knee injury.  Quarterback Tino Sunseri delivered one of his best performances of the season after Graham went down against UConn, and they'll need it again to take down the conference leaders. - CP

#8 Arkansas vs. #10 South Carolina - ESPN, 7:15pm ET 

Believe it or not, there's going to be two matchups of BCS top 10 teams in the SEC Saturday night. The Hogs and Gamecocks might have been able to draw a little more attention away from that other game if Carolina had done anything on offense of late, but -- go figure -- scoring just 28 points in their past two games doesn't seem to have done much to move the national needle. If Tyler Wilson can avoid getting an early shower courtesy of Melvin Ingram and the rest of the outstanding Gamecock pass rush, Carolina should be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Raozrback offense in Fayetteville. - JH

#3 Oklahoma State vs. #17 Kansas State - ABC/ESPN2, 8pm ET

Consider this Kansas State's last stand. The Wildcats were finally starting to gain the respect they deserved for their strong start to the season only to get trounced by Oklahoma last weekend. They either get off the mat and fight back against a very good Oklahoma State team or they'll just be a footnote in the 2011 season. As for Oklahoma State, they've got plenty to play for, as a berth in the BCS title game is very much in play. - TF

#2 Alabama vs. #1 LSU - CBS, 8pm ET

So, is it possible to sum up two solid weeks of previews and thousands and thousands of words in just a couple of sentences? We'll try: if AJ McCarron doesn't hand the Tigers big plays on defense and Rueben Randle doesn't break free for some big plays on offense, Alabama's brutal run game and equally brutal run defense will eventually wear down the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. But if McCarron does get sloppy and Randle does keep the Tide D off-balance, the matchup's close enough that just those handful of plays could swing it. - JH 

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington vs. #6 Oregon - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Washington fans hate Oregon. Oregon fans hate Washington. This Northwest rivalry is underrated by many nationally and has been one-sided as of late but this year's game should be very competitive. The Huskies can score some points on the Ducks defense but can UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt stop the fast-paced Oregon attack? - BF 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com