Tag:What I learned
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 3:18 pm
 

What I learned from the SEC: Bowl Edition

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. The SEC is still the best conference in college football.  Yes, the conference may have only gone 5-5 in bowl games this season, and it may have included a couple losses against a Conference USA team and a Big East team, but here is the stat that actually mattered: for the fifth straight year, the national champion calls the SEC home.  Oh, and let's not just ignore the fact that a twelve team league had ten teams playing in bowl games to begin with.  Fans of other conferences around the country may have been hoping the conference would get knocked down a peg this postseason, but prepare yourselves for plenty more "ESSSS  EEEEEEE SEEEEEE" chants in 2011.

2. The 2010 season belonged to Cam Newton and Auburn.  Whether the headlines were good or bad this season, the college football world seemed to revolve around a tiny town in eastern Alabama and the quarterback that caught a nation's eye.  It's somewhat fitting that on the final drive of the season, the one that gave Auburn its national championship, the one player who put the team on his back for most of the season had to play a secondary role thanks to being banged up.  For once, Cam Newton 's defense and his offense decided to carry him to the finish line.  We don't know for sure what Cam Newton's future will hold, but odds are that Newton is bound for the NFL.  How will Auburn fare next season without its Superman?

3. Alabama is still really good .  Honestly, if college football did have a playoff system in place of the bowls, would any of you have been shocked to see Alabama make it to another title game?  The Tide suffered three losses this season.  They came at the hands of South Carolina , LSU and Auburn .  When the worst loss of your season is against the SEC East champion, you didn't have a bad season.  Then the Tide went out and put an exclamation point on the year by pasting Michigan State -- a team with one loss and ranked in the top ten -- by 42 points.

4. The SEC East should be better next season.  While the SEC may have gone 5-5 as a whole during the bowl season, the SEC East was responsible for four of those losses.  The good news for the division is that things should improve a bit next year, as Georgia and Tennessee aren't likely to suffer two losing seasons in a row, South Carolina will still have Marcus Lattimore and won't have Stephen Garcia , and Florida might actually have an offensive system suited for its quarterback.  Well, if John Brantley stays.  Plus, with all the key players that Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU will be losing to the NFL this spring, the West shouldn't be nearly as dominant.
Posted on: November 28, 2010 12:02 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov 27)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Wisconsin would run over its own mother if she got in the way.  Not because Wisconsin doesn't like its mother, but because it just doesn't know how to stop.  For the third time this season the Badgers put up at least 70 points, this time against Northwestern.  Though it does seem like Bret Bielema at least learned how to slow his boys down a little bit, as they had 70 at the end of the third quarter and decided not to go for 100.  Which is very considerate of the Badgers.  Of course, most importantly, the win means that Wisconsin should be going to the Rose Bowl.

2. At least I think it does.  Nobody will be sure until Sunday night which Big Ten team is going to the Rose Bowl.  Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State are all tied for first in the conference, and the BCS rankings will decide which team gets to go to Pasadena.  Well, Wisconsin has been the highest ranked of the three for weeks, and it's hard to think that either Ohio State or Michigan State will pass the Badgers after a game in which they just hung 70 points on the board again.  Then again, who knows?

3. Rich Rodriguez is in trouble. What? You think that a coach with a team that's gone 7-5 is safe?  How'd that work out for Randy Shannon this season? Exactly, and Shannon didn't have people calling for his head since the second his name was announced as the new head coach as Rodriguez has.  Getting to 7-5 and going to a bowl game for the first time since coming to Ann Arbor is nice, but beating Ohio State once in a while would be nicer.  Here's a nice little stat for you to consider.  During his three years at Michigan, Rodriguez has won three conference games in the Big House.  Three.  During Jim Tressel's career at Ohio State, he's won four games inside the Big House.  He only gets to play there once every two years.

4. Ohio State is the best program in the Big Ten.  I didn't say they were the best team this season, as I think that title belongs to Wisconsin, but the best program in the Big Ten is clearly Ohio State.  The Buckeyes clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title for the sixth consecutive season, which is hard to do in any conference, let alone the Big Ten.  The last school to win six straight Big Ten titles?  Ohio State of course, from 1972-77.

5. Iowa must be a huge Walking Dead fan.  It's the only explanation for the way they walked through the last month of the season like a bunch of brain dead zombies.  The day before Halloween the Hawkeyes pasted Michigan State 37-6 to improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten and remain in the Rose Bowl hunt.  They then went 1-3 in November, with that one win coming against Indiana, and that game saw Damarlo Belcher drop a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds.  The Hawkeyes then followed that narrow escape with losses to Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota.  What happened?
Posted on: November 28, 2010 1:57 am
 

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 27)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. The Ducks are who we thought they were. It's just not accurate to say we learned anything new about Oregon in their 48-29 Friday night win over Arizona . We knew already they were as dominant a second-half team as any in the country (save maybe their likely BCS title game foils at Auburn ), and that's how they played. We knew already with weapons like LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and even the ever-more-terrifying Josh Huff , the Ducks could put up nearly 50 points without even being particularly sharp in the first half, and that's what they did. We knew that playing in the comfort zone of Autzen Stadium, they were going to win and win comfortably when all was said and done, and in the end the Wildcats feel by nearly three touchdowns. (We also knew their defense could have the occasional

In short, we knew that Oregon was the 2010 Pac-10 champion and almost certainly on their way to the BCS championship game, and that's what we still know. If there was anything surprising about their dismantling of the Wildcats, it was the realization that by this point of the season, Oregon's championship-caliber excellence isn't even surprising any more.

2. And yeah, you can forget about them choking away that title berth in the Civil War. Mike Riley will almost certainly have his Oregon State team ready to play a competitive game against their archrivals at home in Corvallis, but it's hard to imagine that he has the horses to actually finish off the hypothetical shocker of the season, not when two of the Beavers' previous three results are a home loss to Washington State and today's hideous 38-0 whitewashing at the hands of Stanford . The Cardinal are legitimately playing as well as any team in the country right now, but still; fewer than 300 total yards an zero points doesn't exactly portend the kind of offensive explosion that will be necessary to stay with the Ducks.

3. USC is ready for its season to be over. The Oregon State result sandwiched between the aforementioned losses to Wazzu and Stanford? An inexplicable-looking 36-7 demolition of the Trojans that this space immediately chalked up to USC's longtime tendency to break into football hives upon crossing the Oregon border. But after watching USC's listless, often yawn-inducing performance in a 20-16 loss to a Notre Dame team that at times seemed determined to give the game away -- Irish quarterback Tommy Rees threw three interceptions, more than one of the highly charitable variety -- it may be time to wonder if Lane Kiffin is still able to get through to a team with nothing to play for other than pride.

Now, true, the Trojans still would have pulled out the victory if Ronald Johnson hadn't dropped a certain game-winning reception late, and the absence of Matt Barkley (coupled with a shaky-looking first start from Mitch Mustain , who averaged less than 5 yards an attempt and failed to throw a touchdown pass) no doubt didn't help USC's cause in the least, either. But for a team playing its oldest and arguably biggest rival, the spark needed to really get the Trojan blood pumping (and the crowd involved) seemed curiously absent. Maybe it was the rain. But maybe it's just Week 12 of a season whose self-described bowl game took place a month ago.

4. The end to one team's bowl streak is just the start of someone else's.  Or so it would appear after Washington edged Cal 16-13 to pull within a game of bowl eligibility at 5-6, with only the feeble specter of Washington State (surely not due for two major upsets this season) standing in the way of the Huskies' first postseason appearance since 2002. Steve Sarkisian 's second season in charge hasn't always lived up to the outsized expectations of the preseason, but at least he can point towards some concrete progress.

Unfortunately for Jeff Tedford , unless you count the upcoming long-since-overdue renovations to the Bears' Memorial Stadium, "concrete progress" seems further away than ever. Kevin Riley 's career-ending injury a few weeks back appears to have been a fatal dagger for Cal's bowl hopes, which finally dissolved in the loss and resulting final record of 5-7. The record is the worst of Tedford's nine-year Cal tenure, with the Bears missing the postseason for the first time since -- whaddya know -- 2002. Tedford's not in any kind of trouble just yet (don't forget that Cal was hands-down the worst program in the Pac-10 when he took over), but the heady mid-aughts days when the Bears were serious Rose Bowl and BCS contenders have never seemed further away than they did on Saturday.

5. Rick Neuheisel had better have something more up his sleeve this offseason than just canning Norm Chow. Because when you give up 55 points to Arizona State 's backup quarterback , your offensive coordinator is pretty obviously not the only thing wrong with your football team. 
Posted on: November 28, 2010 1:06 am
 

What I learned from the SEC (Nov 27)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Cam Newton is your Heisman Trophy winner.  Seriously, just give him the trophy now.  Don't even invite anybody else to New York because there isn't a point. After leading Auburn to that comeback win against Alabama, after falling behind 24-0 on the road, LaMichael James -- or any other contender -- would literally have to score 80 touchdowns in a game while saving a group of children from a burning building to take the Heisman away from him.  I'm not even sure I care if he did take money at this point. 

2. Hogs can smell sugar.  And they really seem to like it.  Arkansas took care of LSU on Saturday in Little Rock, and because of it, the Hogs still have a chance to go to the Sugar Bowl.  All they need is for Auburn to beat South Carolina next week and move on to the title game.  That would free the Sugar Bowl up to select an SEC team, and you have to think Arkansas would get a look.

3. Florida's nightmare season can get worse.  Go ahead, ask any Gators fan if they feel any better about 2010 after seeing the Gators get knocked around by Florida State on Saturday.  Honestly, I don't see how Urban Meyer can consider bringing Steve Addazio back next season unless his ultimate plan is to have Gainesville burn to the ground.

4. Georgia is going bowling after all.  It took longer than any Georgia fan was probably hoping for, but after beating Georgia Tech on Saturday night, the Bulldogs now have six wins and can get an extra two weeks of practice.  Considering how the season started, it's a small miracle.

5. Kentucky may never beat Tennessee.  Seriously, if there was ever going to be a season in which the Wildcats would finally knock off the Vols, this would have been the one, right?  Sorry, not the case.  Tennessee took care of the 'Cats and like Georgia, is now bowl eligible.  Which is an even bigger miracle than the one Georgia pulled off.
Posted on: November 28, 2010 12:46 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Nov.27)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. They call it Bedlam for a reason.  Seriously, Saturday night's game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State lived up to the hype, particularly in the fourth quarter and the closing minutes.  Over the final 15 minutes the two teams combined for 40 points, 31 of which came in the final five minutes.  When the dust cleared Oklahoma emerged victorious, and there was a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South.  Though odds are that when the BCS rankings come out on Sunday, Oklahoma will be ranked the highest and therefore be on its way to Dallas for the Big 12 title game.

2. Which is where they'll find Nebraska.  Nebraska took any possible drama out of the race for the Big 12 North and disposed of it on Friday afternoon, smacking Colorado around to the tune of a 45-17 victory.  Of course, the Big 12 wasn't on hand to reward the Cornhuskers for their division championship because the conference was afraid. Seriously, I don't know if you heard, but Nebraska and the Big 12 aren't exactly BFF.

3. Missouri still has BCS hopes.  It's a long shot, sure, but the Tigers still have a chance to sneak in to a BCS game now that Boise State has lost, and depending on what happens next week.  It wouldn't be a bad consolation prize for Gary Pinkel's team.  By the way, did you know that Missouri has four 10-win seasons in school history and three of them have come with Pinkel in charge?  He's a keeper.

4. Somebody is getting fired in Texas. You know, something told me that if Texas could manage to get a win against Texas A&M on Thursday night and become bowl eligible, even though the season would be seen as a failure overall, the good will of beating the Aggies might save some jobs.  I doubt that's going to be the case anymore.  Sorry, Greg Davis.  I'm not sure you deserve it, but somebody has to be the scapegoat, and I don't think Mack Brown is falling on his sword.
Posted on: November 21, 2010 4:36 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 20)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Wisconsin fans shouldn't necessarily buy tickets to Pasadena, but they should at least be pricing them. We're sure that Badger fans weren't terribly excited to see their nemeses in East Lansing complete the comeback today, leaving the Big Ten title picture still in some measure of doubt, but Ohio State 's own comeback against Iowa later that day means that barring a sensational boost in the BCS rankings for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin is one win away from the Rose Bowl. Considering Northwestern -- the Badgers' last opponent -- clearly misses injured QB Dan Persa and struggles to stop the run, the likelihood of an upset at Camp Randall seems slim. Famous last words, yes, but still.

2. Don't mention fourth quarters to Iowa fans for a while. Or do if you want to anger them. In the Hawkeyes' game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes weathered Iowa's defense for three quarters before making a heroic drive in the last few minutes of the game to take the lead and win. For the Iowa fans, it was a broken record that desperately needs to stop; in each of Iowa's four losses, the vaunted Iowa defense has given up a go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes on the clock, at which point the Iowa offense has failed to answer under pressure. In fact, Iowa would have five losses of that exact nature if Indiana wideout Damario Belcher hadn't dropped an easy fourth-down touchdown two weeks ago. It's to the point where "small sample size" just doesn't work as an excuse anymore: the Iowa defense clearly doesn't have the juice to play for 60 minutes, and that painful fact has snuffed out the high hopes of the Hawkeye faithful in Iowa City.

3. The Spartans might not be going to the Rose Bowl, but their season's pretty special anyway. Barring an Ohio State loss to Michigan next week, Michigan State will not be going to Pasadena; the fact that MSU and OSU didn't play each other this season means that their tiebreaker would be BCS ranking, and OSU was already comfortably ahead of the Spartans even before OSU took down a ranked Iowa team while MSU struggled with very-not-ranked Purdue. Michigan State's season-ender at Penn State isn't a gimme, but even if the Spartans lose, this is still just the third time in program history that MSU has hit 10 wins on a season (1965, 1999). The Spartans have never won 11 games in a season, and they have two opportunities to do that now.

The accomplishment isn't that much of a stunner, as the Spartans looked on paper to be at worst a darkhorse contender for the league title. It's just, well, they barely ever do this, so it was hard not to wonder how MSU would screw it all up this year. But credit Mark Dantonio and his staff for keeping the team on track, even through Dantonio's heart attack and other off-field problems, and en route to its best Big Ten record its best conference record in at least 11 (and maybe 45) years.

4. Okay, so football at Wrigley can be pretty cool -- even if one of the end zones is sort of a death trap. The Big Ten got it right when it forbade Illinois and Northwestern to run offensive series toward that now-infamous east end zone at Wrigley, and when Northwestern defensive back Brian Peters took an interception to the house, he had to be tackled by teammates before hitting that wall. No, he wasn't three yards away from certain doom, and the tackle by his pals was also nice and celebratory, but still: he was only about three or four yards away from impact before being taken down as he slowed from his sprint. Running offensive plays (like fade routes) toward that wall would have been just begging for injuries -- and lawsuits.

But past that, the fans in attendance got to see a special occasion, even if Illinois absolutely worked the Wildcats. Wrigley Field is one of the most hallowed sports arenas, and to see its famed scoreboard used to show Big Ten football scores and its marquee painted purple must have been a thrill for Northwestern and Big Ten fans in Chicago. Ron Zook said he'd "absolutely" have his team play there again, and Pat Fitzgerald was equally effusive in his praise of the event. Should the two teams play their rivalry game there every year? Well, that seems like an abuse of the novelty of it all, but have you ever actually seen Memorial Stadium or Ryan Field? Not exactly cathedrals of the sport, those. It might -- just might -- be worth keeping Wrigley on the table going forward.


Posted on: November 21, 2010 1:11 am
Edited on: November 21, 2010 1:11 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. And then there was one (state).  As if the rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State needed any more significance in the state of Oklahoma, next week's game between the rivals will determine who wins the Big 12 South.  Should Oklahoma State win, then the Cowboys will be headed to Dallas -- don't let Justin Blackmon drive -- and it's settled.  If Oklahoma wins, things get a little dicey depending on what happens between Texas A&M and Texas.  Should the Aggies and Oklahoma win, that would leave all three teams tied at 6-2 and we'd have to go through a whole mess of tiebreakers to determine which team would win the division.

2. The North is still undecided. All Nebraska had to do on Saturday night was beat Texas A&M and they'd clinch the Big 12 North.  Well, I guess Nebraska didn't want to make it easy on us, instead picking up about 40 more penalties than points, and causing Bo Pelini to burst about 18 eardrums.  Now, the Cornhuskers still control their own fate thanks to a win against Missouri earlier this season.  If they beat Colorado this week, then they're going to Dallas.  If they don't, well then they need Kansas to beat Missouri.  In other words, they should probably win.

3. The Big 12 isn't happy about Nebraska leaving.  At least that's the impression that I got on Saturday night.  Now the 'Huskers didn't get 46 penalties called against them like I implied earlier, but they did pick up 16 penalties for 145 yards.  Some of them were deserved, but not all of them.  While I don't really condone Bo Pelini screaming obscenities into the side judge's ear all night long, I could understand why he was so upset.  I'm sure the Aggies committed a few penalties as well, but they were only called for two.

4. Colorado is still alive for a bowl game.  This is one of those things that I see in the standings and think to myself "that can't be right.  Somebody messed up."  But it's true.  Thanks to the Buffaloes second straight win in the post-Hawkins era, they find themselves at 5-6 on the season.  That means beating Colorado next week would not only kill Nebraska's conference hopes, but send the team bowling as well.  I wonder if Dan Hawkins will go to that game?

5. Texas should play in the Sun Belt.  It seems to be the only conference whose representatives they can beat in Austin these days.

6. Oklahoma can play well on the road.  Sure, it was against a Baylor team that has stumbled coming down the stretch, but the Sooners have had problems with just about everybody on the road.  Until Saturday night, anyway.  The Sooners came out firing on all cylinders and blasted the Bears, 53-24, and the game wasn't even that close.  Baylor scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter while the Sooners were on cruise control.

Posted on: November 20, 2010 11:55 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2010 12:01 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Nov. 20)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. It doesn't have to be pretty, Pittsburgh just found a way to win - It took almost three quarters, but the Panthers offense finally caught stride in the second half. A touchdown-less game saw back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives across a 12 minute span that put Pittsburgh up for good 17-10. Tito Sunseri efficiently led the way on the scoring drives, completing 8 of 9 passes in the second half. Dion Lewis was undoubtedly the Panthers' feature back, rushing 22 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Avoiding a loss keeps Pittsburgh alone atop the Big East standings, as we creep closer to the end of the season and crowning of a conference champion. With only two other two-loss teams left, all eyes will be on the 103rd Backyard Brawl against West Virginia next week. A Panthers win would eliminate all other contenders except Connecticut, a West Virginia victory blows the race wide open with a week left.

2. At 7-3, West Virginia can thank their defense for success - While many teams fear the power and potential of West Virginia's offense, their success in the 2010 season can be credited mostly to their defense. The Mountaineer defense is among the top five in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 12.9 points per game. No team has scored more than 21 points on West Virginia, Saturday's 17-10 victory over Louisville was another example of Bill Stewart's defensive unit closing out a game, pitching a second half shutout against a Cardinals rushing attack that entered the Saturday averaging 192.3 yards per game -- best in the conference.

3. Connecticut poses the biggest threat as a dark horse - On a three game winning streak, one of the conference's hottest teams is Connecticut. The Huskies have moved from winless and sub-.500 to one of three teams competing for a BCS Bowl birth in late November. The Huskies 3-2 conference record is good enough for second place, and with wins over West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, they own the tie-breaker against the conference's best teams. If Connecticut wins against Cincinnati and South Florida, all they need is one loss from Pittsburgh and the Huskies will find themselves bowling in January. It would be quite an accomplishment for a program that just joined Division I-A in 2002.

4. Learning the scenarios for the Big East title contenders -
For Pittsburgh to win the Big East - Simply - win both of their remaining games. Can also clinch the division with a win over West Virginia paired with a Connecticut loss. Losing to West Virginia would blow the title hunt wide open with Connecticut taking a slight advantage by owning both tiebreakers.

For West Virginia to win the Big East - West Virginia needs to win the Backyard Brawl and defeat Rutgers in the season finale. They also will need a Connecticut loss in order to avoid losing the conference championship to the Huskies in a tiebreaker.

For Connecticut to win the Big East - The Huskies need a Panthers loss in order to get a shot, but victories over the Panthers and Mountaineers have given Connecticut protection in the event of any ties. However, the Huskies would need to win out as well, and after watching Cincinnati hang 69 points on Rutgers, there are no guarantees in the Big East.

 
 
 
 
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