Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:58 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season is over.
If the finality hasn't hit you, it's ok. Hold on to it, savor it, try not to let it go.
Though things off the field in the sport - realignment, arrests, suspensions, infractions and on and on - may never have been worse, the product on the field was pretty good. There were hail mary's and punt returns, one-handed catches and devastating sacks. There was a Honey Badger, All Russell Wilson Everything and some epic comebacks.
With that in mind, in the final Surveying the Field of 2011, a look back at just about every bowl team and a few lines about them looking forward.
National Championship Game
Looking back: It wasn't pretty at times but the Tigers rolled to the national title game in impressive fashion, dispatching Pac-12 champion Oregon by 13 at a neutral site to open the season, Big East champion West Virginia by 26 on the road, beat their title game foe Alabama at home and rolled over SEC East winner Georgia by 32 in what amounted to their home crowd. Tyrann Mathieu was the ball-hawking fire starter for the team but, gasp, the best player might have been punter Brad Wing who was crucial in establishing good field position every time.
Looking ahead: How much is there left to prove? The rematch in New Orleans can be Les Miles chance to end any doubt as to who was far and away the best team in 2011 by turning the national championship game into a coronation with a convincing win. Lose and an AP National Title likely awaits. The Tigers are in a can't lose situation.
Looking back: Before the season, many in Tuscaloosa said this could be Nick Saban's best defense. It's hard to argue if you look at the numbers, first in rush, pass, total and scoring defense. The most points they gave up the entire year was 21. The offense wasn't too shabby either, not with Heisman candidate Trent Richardson delivering electrifying runs.
Looking ahead: LSU came into their house and won, now it's time for them to do the same for the crystal ball. They might not have won their division but they can win the national title.
Looking back: Early on, it seemed like they were going to struggle. A close win against Wofford? Then it seemed like Sammy Watkins started to heat up and the Tigers moved to 8-0 and people were talking titles. But there was also talk of Clemson being Clemson - and it happened at Georgia Tech. And again at N.C. State. And at South Carolina. But the slide ended in Charlotte with another win over Virginia Tech to win the first ACC title since 1991.
Looking ahead: Dabo Swinney said it best after winning the conference championships, saying he's taking his, "Clemson talents to South Beach." The defense shut down the Hokies once again but they are taking a much bigger step up facing Dana Holgorsen with a month to prepare.
Looking back: A 9-3 season, Big East title and BCS bowl berth is not to shabby debut for Dana Holgorsen as a head coach. The offense was as advertised, jumping from 67th last year to 17th at 459.6 yards per game. They were blown out against LSU thanks to turnovers and that was a theme in their losses. The Mountaineers won several close games and that could pay off down the road.
Looking ahead: Given how mediocre the conference was, perhaps this BCS bowl berth should count for the Big 12, the league the school is departing for in 2012. Nothing would be better than for athletic director Oliver Luck to say thanks for the memories like a trophy full of oranges (which he might throw at the Big East offices).
Looking back: They were blitzed at their rival Michigan State and somehow lost to Iowa but the season was certainly a successful inaugural campaign for Brady 'Michigan Man' Hoke. Most of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has turned around a unit that couldn't tackle to one that finished 7th in the country in total defense. Denard Robinson struggled at times to adapt to a new offense but still manage to deliver thrills such as one of the craziest endings of the year against Notre Dame. It paled in comparison to the final few snaps at the Big House however, as the Wolverines finally beat rival Ohio State.
Looking ahead: Sure this group might be mostly Rich Rodriguez' players but Hoke has taken them to the next level with an easy schedule and tough-love coaching. Winning their first BCS game would send a message to the rest of the country that the program was indeed back.
Looking back: Hokies fans will get upset but it seems pretty accurate to say the team was the least deserving of the at-large selections given their lackluster group of wins (not one BCS team on the non-conference slate, lost to Clemson by a combined margin of 61-13). There were positives on offense, such as Logan Thomas taking over during stretches with his arm or his legs and David Wilson was a tackle-breaking machine. The defense was at normal high standards under Bud Foster.
Looking ahead: Don't belong? Ok, so prove it, it's that easy. Winning the game after last year's bowl performance will also do wonders for Frank Beamer, who enters as the winningest active head coach.
Looking back: Oh what could have been, Oklahoma State was so close to playing for a national title and would have been headed to New Orleans had it not been for the upset-minded Iowa State team on the road in double overtime. The offense was the second best in the country through the air and elder statesman Brandon Weeden made things click with ease. For all the knocks they were given, the defense was actually impressive when you consider they forced 42 turnovers and allowed a lot of their points and yards when the starters were on the sidelines.
Looking ahead: While Boone Pickens might be upset and threatening to investigate the BCS with his piles of money, the Cowboys can't allow their disappointment to ruin the best season in school history with a Fiesta Bowl loss.
Looking back: It's not often you mention Stanford as a BCS contender but here we are, back-to-back games thanks to Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and despite having a first-time head coach taking over in David Shaw. Though they battled injuries all season long both sides of the ball turned in performances that were fitting of a top five team. The triple overtime thriller against USC might have been the highlight (more points scored against the Trojans than any other team) but a turnover-filled day at home against Oregon was the low-light that prevented them from the conference title. Still it was one of the most impressive seasons in school history.
Looking ahead: No better way for Luck to end his career than a victory against what everybody considers one of the three best teams in the country. In doing so, they'll help the Pac-12's reputation get off to a great start in the league's first year with 12 teams.
Looking back: Heisman campaigns were abound in this backfield with the ever efficient Russell Wilson running things at quarterback and Montee Ball finding the end zone more than entire teams did in the regular season. If the defense could have just defended hail mary's better we'd be talking about the national title game for the Badgers but ending up in the granddaddy of them all with a shot to win is the best consolation prize around.
Looking ahead: Despite the two losses on their record, this could still go down as one of the most dominant teams in Wisconsin history with a Rose Bowl win.
Looking back: Their third straight conference title might have been one of the sweetest in school history given the way the season went. The opener was tough as they failed to beat an SEC team and largely fumbled things away. Oregon did what Oregon typically has done under Chip Kelly in conference except for one night at home against USC. Things got a little bit better when the Ducks hoisted the first ever Pac-12 championship up at Autzen Stadium but the program's standards are now so high that the season is sort of considered a disappointment.
Looking ahead: If the program wants to its cement status as one of the game's elite than they're going to have to win the Rose Bowl no if's and's, or but's about it. That it would be the school's second ever win (and first since 1917) would also cement the squad as one of the best in Oregon history.
Looking back: The MAC champions had a thrilling come-from-behind win to capture the league title thanks in large part to quarterback Chandler Harnish. Northern Illinois also ran off eight straight wins after a narrow loss to Central Michigan earlier in the year.
Looking forward: There was nothing like mid-week MACtion this year and it's up for the Huskies to end the season on a high note.
Looking back: Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense produced the school's first winning season since 1995 and a host of records. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is 11th in total offense and was a dual-threat that couldn't be stopped during Sun Belt play. Given that their only two losses were to BCS foes (including a closer than expected loss to BCS-bound Virginia Tech), this is easily the most successful year in the program's history.
Looking forward: Though Freeze will depart for Ole Miss, there will be plenty of players around that can still beat NIU.
BBVA Compass Bowl
Looking back: Things started on the wrong foot in the opener but running back Zach Line was the big star to emerge for SMU as they pulled together a seven win season. The Mustangs had a five game winning streak before coming back to reality later in the year and were actually led by a solid defensive unit.
Looking ahead: Head coach June Jones might be moving on to greener pastures but after 25 years of no bowls, the school's third straight postseason trip is something to cherish.
Looking back: It was an up and down debut season for new head coach Todd Graham as Pitt never could find consistency. They were never blown out, losing four games by 11 points, but couldn't put together back-to-back wins outside of the first two games against lackluster teams.
Looking ahead: The Panthers return to Birmingham for the second straight year trying to give Graham and staff, some of whom are headed to Arizona, momentum heading into the offseason.
Looking back: One of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs in a career full of them, Kansas State was left out of a BCS bowl but found their way into a de facto one after a 10 win season - the highest win total since 2003. The Wildcats started 7-0 before dropping two straight to the Oklahoma schools before puling things together. Quarterback Collin Klein leads the team in both passing and rushing and has scored an impressive 26 touchdowns. It may not have been the prettiest team in the country but they found every which way to win.
Looking ahead: The team could tie the school-record for wins in a season, a remarkable accomplishment considering they were picked 8th in the preseason.
Looking back: Though they won't be going to the BCS, they can still hang their hats on the fact that their only losses came on the road to the teams ranked first and second. The Razorbacks explosive offense led behind quarterback Tyler Wilson is one reason for their success even if he's been beaten up behind his offensive line.
Looking ahead: They've played in this building before and had a furious comeback against Texas A&M so the stage shouldn't be an issue for the Hogs. They're ranked sixth and could turn in the best season under Bobby Petrino with a win.
Looking back: Michigan State fell short of a Big Ten championship but still put together a successful season that included wins over rival Michigan and a thrilling hail mary to beat Wisconsin. The offense is solid with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell in the backfield but the defense is the reason for the success this year. The Spartans not only captured a 10-win season but also won the first ever Legends division title.
Looking ahead: MSU will have to play through the disappointment of their tough championship game loss and refocus for a bowl game. They remember all too well what happened last year so coming out with a win is imperative as the impressive senior group departs.
Looking back: The season started with Mark Richt on the hot seat and two losses to top teams that turned the pressure up a notch. Georgia responded, running off 10 straight thanks to the ease of the schedule and the toughness of their defense. Linebacker Jarvis Jones was a star, leading the SEC in sacks, as the Bulldogs found their way back to Atlanta by winning the East. The lack of depth hurt at times but Aaron Murray was a solid young quarterback and Isaiah Crowell lived up to his billing at running back.
Looking ahead: The Dawgs are playing in January and need a big win to end the year on a high note and make everybody forget about last year.
Looking back: A once promising season started to unravel in the offseason, with something negative happening to the program seemingly every month since it became known about the "Buckeye Five." Jim Tressel was out and Luke Fickell was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at head coach. The defense was good but the offense was pretty bad, especially the passing game. Freshman Braxton Miller was a good spark and showed flashes of being something special.
Looking ahead: The Urban Meyer Bowl is an understandable storyline but the Buckeyes won't have their opponent's former head coach on the sidelines coaching them. Showing him what he has to work with will be big for the program however.
Looking back: It was a terrible season by the lofty standards in Gainesville but more than that, it just wasn't fun to watch Florida's offense. John Brantley figured to be a good fit in Charlie Weis' system but wasn't and got hurt. It was tough to produce first downs much less big plays and the defense, though solid, didn't seem to make the stops needed to get some wins. The Gators finished below .500 in the conference, won only three games versus BCS schools and lost four straight to in the middle of a forgettable season.
Looking ahead: The bumps and bruises of the year can all be erased against Ohio State and a small measure of revenge against their former head coach who left just a year ago.
Capital One Bowl
Looking back: A solid first effort in the Big Ten for Nebraska, which ended with nine wins but seemed to have issues being consistent. Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't make the leap you'd expect this year and the defense wasn't as impressive as many thought they would be. Injuries played a part but don't explain losses to teams like Northwestern at home or blowouts to Wisconsin and Michigan.
Looking ahead: A rare match up against an SEC team for the Cornhuskers, a win would give them a 10 win season for the third straight year and allow them to count their Big Ten money at home in a much happier mood.
Looking back: There are wild rides and there's South Carolina under the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. They looked a little shaky early but overcame adversity by managing a 10-2 season despite losing their starting quarterback and running back to suspension and injury, respectively. They almost won the division but, in retrospect, perhaps it was better that they didn't face LSU this year.
Looking ahead: The Gamecocks are looking to post their first 11 win season in more than 100 years and end a three-bowl losing streak by riding the momentum of beating rival Clemson at the end of the year.
Looking back: It looked like it was going to be a surprisingly good season before the Jerry Sandusky scandal showed the world the skeletons locked in Penn State's closets. Joe Paterno is out and the issues facing the program are still very much ongoing.
Looking ahead: Nittany Lions players are not happy to have fallen this far in the bowl pecking order but they're still going to need to show up if they want a 10th win and something positive to think about in the offseason.
Looking back: Oh what could have been. The dream season led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum ended in a thud in the Conference USA championship game at home. The offense was the focal point with a slew of weapons at wide out and running back but there's no doubt that last game zapped all the positive things gong for a program that almost made the BCS.
Looking ahead: Kevin Sumlin might be at another school by the time the Cougars play but Keenum and the senior class can still go out on top by beating a marquee opponent and posting one of the best year's in school history.
Looking back: It was a successful turnaround for Mike London that had Virginia on the cusp of playing for the ACC title after several upsets along the way. Alas, a loss to the rival Hokies ended that but things are looking up in Charlottesville based on the way the team played week-in and week-out.
Looking ahead: Playing in their first bowl since 2007, the team is hungry to end the year with nine wins and plenty of positive vibes.
Looking back: Earlier this year Auburn was holding up a crystal ball. After a ton of losses on both sides of the ball, the Tigers took their lumps and struggled on offense and defense. The team was ran over in the Iron Bowl and ended the year on a sour note after surprising many with a win over South Carolina and bouncing around the top 25.
Looking ahead: Back to back lopsided losses in the final two SEC games will be a motivating factor for a young team that is looking to move back into contention for a West title next year.
Looking back: Cincinnati surprised many with six straight wins in the middle of the season and appeared to be on their way to a BCS bowl until quarterback Zach Collaros got hurt.
Looking ahead: The Bearcats have a chance at 10 wins and are playing in a bowl after missing one last season.
Looking back: James Franklin had one of the best coaching jobs in the country by taking a team that had gone 4-20 over the past to years to the school's fifth ever bowl game.
Looking ahead: It's all about building up the momentum for the Commodores under Franklin, who just signed a nice new contract. The senior class will be the only one in school history to play in two bowl and want to make sure they are also the first two win two.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Looking back: UCLA represented the Pac-12 South in the championship game thanks to crosstown rival USC's ineligibility but back-to-back bad losses left the Bruins with some lumps on the field and no head coach off it. There were some bright spots in Rick Neuheisel's final season but some bad losses as both sides of the ball struggled.
Looking ahead: The Interim Head Coach Bowl is all about history for UCLA, who received a waiver to play in the game at 6-7. The team is looking to avoid going 6-8 for the first time in NCAA history.
Looking back: A promising 6-0 start was soon undone by a stretch of six straight losses. Things reached a low point after losing to lowly Minnesota to end the season, sealing the fate of head coach Ron Zook after seven seasons.
Looking ahead: Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will lead the program and no doubt wants to leave a good impression, as do the Illini with the chance to go across the country and wind up with a winning season.
Looking back: Six straight wins to open the season had many thinking Georgia Tech as a team to watch out for with their option offense. Things hit a rough patch as they lost four of their next six but the Yellow Jackets still managed to upset Clemson and reach their 15th straight bowl game.
Looking ahead: This is the first time they'll head to El Paso and should be excited trying to reach the nine win plateau.
Looking back: It wasn't quite the way Utah wanted their first ever Pac-12 season to go but they still managed to pull out seven wins despite a rash of injuries. The defense wasn't bad at all but the offense struggled to score all year long.
Looking ahead: The Utes hope to enter the offseason healthy, wealthy and with a win.
Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl
Looking back: It started out as one of the most promising seasons in recent memory for Texas A&M but ended with quite a thud. There was the move to the SEC that dominated much of the conversation about the Aggies before they turned second half collapses into their trademark. As a result of the fall from grace, head coach Mike Sherman found himself looking for a new job.
Looking ahead: The Aggies are close to home and need a win to provide some sort of momentum as they look to head into the nation's toughest conference.
Looking back: The year began with a Heisman push for quarterback Dan Persa in the form of billboards and barbels touting "Persa Strong." He wasn't however, failing to recover from an Achilles injury soon enough leading to struggles early on. Things got turned around and the Wildcats even pulled off a huge upset against Nebraska.
Looking ahead: The program hasn't won a bowl game since 1948 so ending that streak seems like a good stepping stone into 2012.
Looking back: Remember when Oklahoma was the top team in the country? Yeah… Injuries to the Sooners' leading receiver and running back set the offense back a few steps and the defense never lived up to expectations. The trashing in Bedlam was rock bottom for a team that started with aspirations of a national title.
Looking ahead: The team doesn't want to be here and has rarely seen a non-BCS bowl under Bob Stoops so finding motivation will be a challenge. A loss will punctuate one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory so the still-talented Sooners will want to get that important 10th win.
Looking back: Not sure there is a team that could be as average this year as Iowa was. The offense and defense were just about in the middle of FBS and alternated wins and losses down the stretch to finish a game above .500. A win over Michigan was a season highlight but other than that, there wasn't much to get excited about.
Looking ahead: The Hawkeyes are a young team so they could use the trip out West as a building block for 2012.
Music City Bowl
Looking back: Wake Forest finished .500 on the year but managed to pull off some surprises, such as a win against Florida State and some closer than expected losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. The offense and defense were fairly nondescript this season.
Looking ahead: A third place finish in the division was a better than expected result for the regular season but dropping below the .500 mark would diminish things.
Looking back: After last season's banner year, many expected Mississippi State to keep things going under Dan Mullen. Inconsistency on offense, quarterback in particular, was part of the reason why the Bulldogs finished just .500 and had just two wins over BCS teams.
Looking ahead: An Egg Bowl win and second consecutive bowl game are a good thing to note when Mullen hits the recruiting trail.
Looking back: Iowa State's season didn't really come down to one game but it's pretty clear that the upset of Oklahoma State at home was the thing the Cyclones held their hats on. Beating Iowa earlier in the year in overtime also made it a successful season despite finishing 6-6.
Looking ahead: Paul Rhodes is building something up in Ames and a bowl win would be a nice capper to the season with such a young team.
Looking back: Hardly anybody gave Rutgers a chance to be more than average this year but they rode a strong defense to an 8-4 year. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was the bright spot, toping 1,110 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.
Looking ahead: Some said that Greg Schiano was on the hot seat but he's moved off of it and can firmly put the talk to bed with a ninth win.
Armed Forces Bowl
Looking back: BYU's first season as an independent didn't quite turn out like they wanted with a narrow loss to Texas and blowout loss to Utah on the schedule. The Cougars still finished up 9-3 and on a three game winning streak.
Looking ahead: Pointing at 10 wins in their first season on their own would be a nice way to end a tumultuous year.
Looking back: Despite changing head coaches, Tulsa had a great run through Conference USA and finished 8-4 with an iffy defense. Their only losses were to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston, whose records aren't too shabby.
Looking ahead: The Golden Hurricanes have won seven of eight and no doubt want to make it eight of nine.
Looking back: Robert Griffin III took a team with a defense ranked 110th in the country and led them to nine wins, including the first in school history over Oklahoma and another over Texas.
Looking ahead: You figure there's a good chance that RGIII wins or comes close to winning the Heisman and this game could be his final swan song if he moves on to the NFL.
Looking back: Everybody though it would be tough for Washington to get back to a bowl game after they lost quarterback Jake Locker but Keith Price took over and actually outperformed everybody's expectations. The defense was shaky and they couldn't come close to the conference's elite but still a nice season in Seattle.
Looking ahead: Steve Sarkisian is building a program up so their second straight bowl win is a great sign of progress but nothing like what a second straight bowl win would be like.
Champs Sports Bowl
Looking back: There was talk of a BCS bowl game this year for Notre Dame but expectations have a habit of being inflated for the Irish. They had a great win (in retrospect) over Michigan State but the season seemed to turn following the loss to USC with the team running off four straight and wind up 8-4.
Looking ahead: In a year considered a disappointment by their own high standards, a win over a team like Florida State will be a nice way to end the season.
Looking back: One of the biggest disappointments in college football, Florida State started in the top five but wind up 8-4 after losses to teams like Wake Forest. Injuries and youth played a part, sure, but it just wasn't the season Jimbo Fisher had hoped for when talking up this team earlier in the year.
Looking ahead: No one is recruiting like the Seminoles are and a big win in their home state while rivals are struggling would go a long ways.
Looking back: Jeff Tedford was likely going to get another year but how California did this season would determine just how hot the seat was. A nice win over Arizona State to end the season and a close than expected loss to Stanford in the Big Game mean it's not too bad for Tedford.
Looking ahead: This is for a little revenge, as Cal no doubt wants to beat Texas after the Longhorns advocated for a BCS bid over them a few years ago.
Looking back: It was a brief hiatus from the postseason for Texas and though they couldn't find a good option at quarterback, the defense was good and they ended the rivalry with Texas A&M with a last second win.
Looking ahead: An eight win season is something most programs would take in a heart beat but it's almost required of Mack Brown this year.
Looking back: Air Force comes in to the aptly named Military Bowl with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and option attack that was second in the country in rushing. The defense wasn't up to standards but a solid football team this year.
Looking ahead: They can't lose the Military Bowl, can they?
Looking back: Toledo seemed to go through the ringer this season with a close loss to Ohio State and the fiasco in the Syracuse finish. They ended the season winning seven of eight and have a high-powered offense people have to keep track of.
Looking ahead: They didn't win the MAC but a nine win season and bowl win are a nice thing to have for the Rockets.
Looking back: Not much was expected of Louisville this season, especially after losing to FIU at home, but Charlie Strong put together one of the best coaching jobs in the country as the Cardinals won five of their last six and beat champ West Virginia.
Looking ahead: Finishing strong and giving developing freshman Teddy Bridgewater are two things the program can take into the offseason.
Looking back: Despite the record, N.C. State didn't really put together a strong season when you consider they had just four wins over a BCS AQ team, one of whom didn't even go to a bowl game.
Looking ahead: Tom O'Brien is on the hot seat but he's 8-1 in bowl games and hopes an eight win season will cool things off for next year.
Looking back: James Franklin was solid in his first season as a starter and Missouri managed to pull out wins against all of the Texas schools except Baylor. The Tigers couldn't beat one of the Big 12's elite teams but it was a good effort for a team that had to replace several pieces on both sides of the ball.
Looking ahead: The school departs to the SEC and would like to have a bowl win on their resume (who knows, it might be awhile before they get back).
Looking back: Given that their coach was fired right after media days, a 7-5 campaign might be considered a success. The offense was surprisingly good with quarterback Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones at wide receiver and Giovani Bernard at running back.
Looking ahead: Who knows what NCAA sanctions might be for the program but a bowl win over an "SEC" team is a nice way to cap an up-and-down year in Chapel Hill.
Looking back: It's last year's successful campaign but it was a solid one nevertheless that included a five game winning streak led by new quarterback Cody Fajardo.
Looking ahead: They're going to the Hawaii Bowl so plenty of things to look forward to on the islands.
Looking back: Southern Miss had one of the most successful seasons in school history, finishing with 11 wins and the Conference USA championship. They had two puzzling losses, to Marshall and UAB, but upset Houston to throw a wrench into the BCS plans of their conference rival.
Looking ahead: They might be without their head coach but plenty to like about a trip out West.
Maaco Las Vegas Bowl
Looking back: What does it take for Boise State to get a good kicker? The Broncos lost a heartbreaker to TCU at home and that ended what could have been their chance to finally play for the national championship. It was still a very successful season with a big win over an SEC team but that one game against the Horned Frogs seemed to take a lot away.
Looking ahead: Kellen Moore is the winning starting quarterback in FBS history and would like one more to go out in style.
Looking back: It was such a promising year for Arizona State but a stretch run to forget. The offense exceeded expectations but had issues with turnovers and the defense didn't live up to their billing.
Looking ahead: Without a head coach, the Sun Devils don't have much to play for but their fans to get a trip to Vegas out of it.
Looking back: Had they not lost to SMU at home, TCU likely would have made the BCS. Instead, they wind up in San Diego but leave the Mountain West in style with conference title in hand and another double-digit win total.
Looking ahead: 11 wins and a top 15 ranking are a nice thing to have when joining the Big 12 next year.
Looking back: Louisiana Tech won the WAC with a 6-1 conference record and seven straight wins to end the season. They almost beat Houston earlier in the year as well.
Looking ahead: A marquee win is something the Bulldogs don't have this year but one over TCU would certainly qualify.
Stat of the week
Via Rivals' David Fox, Landry Jones is 110-of-200 with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in four games since receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt.
Stats of the week
- Wisconsin's Montee Ball led the country in scoring and rushing. He had 38 total touchdowns, which was more than 52 teams.
- Oklahoma State wins a conference title and trip to a major bowl for the first time since 1945.
- The final numbers for Case Keenum: 69% completion, 152 touchdowns-46 interceptions, 18,685 yards passing.
- Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are tied for 7th on the active list with 80 touchdown passes. Luck has been more efficient and has a chance to pass Barkley in the bowl game.
- LaMichael James still lead the country in rushing yards per game. He finished fourth in total yards despite playing fewer games than everybody else.
- Robert Griffin III (192.31) narrowly edged out Russell Wilson (191.60) for the top passing efficiency title. Both marks top the NCAA single season record by a considerable margin. Wilson set an NCAA record with a touchdown pass in 37 straight games.
- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly finished the year with 191 tackles, 44 more than anybody else.
- Stanford failed to score just once in the red zone (63/64 trips) and had 50 touchdowns and just 13 field goals.
- 46% of Trent Richardson's rushing yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn.
- First time Texas has finished below .500 in conference in back-to-back years since 1937-38.
Tweets of the week
"Bra we would <s class="hash" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; opacity: 0.7; text-decoration: none; display: inline-block;">#</s>smash OKST......they coach better calm down."
- LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard.
"I have no time for Mike Gundy. Dude just claimed Ok state would score 35 points on LSU..pass me what your drankin coach."
- Alabama tight end Brad Smelley.
3. Oklahoma State
4. Boise State
10. Kansas State
Leaning this way
National championship game: LSU
Rose Bowl: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Michigan
Orange Bowl: West Virginia
Tags: 2011, Aaron Murray, ACC, Air Force, Alabama, Alamo Bowl, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Armed Forces Bowl, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BBVA Compass Bowl, BCS, Belk Bowl, Big 12, Big East, Big House, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Boone Pickens, Boston College, Brad Smelly, Brad Wing, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryn Renner, Buckeye Five, Bud Foster, BYU, Cal, California, Capital One Bowl, Case Keenum, Central Michigan, Champs Sports Bowl, Chandler Harnish, Charlie Strong, Charlie Weis, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Chip Kelly, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cody Fajardo, Collin Klein, Conference USA, Cotton Bowl, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, David Shaw, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Dwight Jones, Edwin Baker, Egg Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gator Bowl, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Giovani Bernard, GoDaddy.com Bowl, Greg Mattison, Greg Schiano, Hawaii Bowl, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Holiday Bowl, Honey Badger, Hugh Freeze, Independence Bowl, Insight Bowl, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Isaiah Crowell, Jake Locker, James Franklin, James Franklin, Jarvis Jones, Jeff Tedford, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Tressel, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Cousins, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Les Miles, Liberty Bowl, Logan Thomas, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, Mack Brown, MACtion, Mark Richt, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Michigan State, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike London, Mike Sherman, Military Bowl, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Mohamed Sanu, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Music City Bowl, N.C. State, N.C. State, National Championship Game, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oliver Luck, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Outback Bowl, Pac-12, Paul Rhodes, Pinstripe Bowl, Pitt, Poinsettia Bowl, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Rose Bowl, Russell Shepard, Russell Wilson, Rutgers, Ryan Aplin, Ryan Broyles, Sammy Watkins, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, Sugar Bowl, Sun Belt, Sun Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Texas, Texas A&M, TicketCity Bowl, Todd Graham, Toledo, Tom O'Brien, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vic Koenning, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Wofford, Zach Collaros, Zach Line
Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:34 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Our very own Bryan Fischer has ruthlessly picked through the weekly ballots of Associated Press poll voters all season in the new college football edition of Poll Attacks. But the 59 coaches with votes in the USA Today Top 25 are able to escape the criticism of Mr. Fischer and college football fans everywhere as their ballots are not released to the public. The one exception is the annual release after the final regular season balloting.
USA Today published an infographic that breaks down their final Top 25 poll of the regular season - used as 1/3 of the BCS formula - showing where each coach ranked the 35 teams who received at least one vote on Sunday.
I encourage you to spend some time checking out where each coach ranked the top teams in the nation, but here are a few observations that jumped out - especially considering the way things played out in the BCS.
1. No shocker at the top: LSU is the top team in the nation. The Tigers not only wrapped up their perfect season with an impressive victory over Georgia in the title game, they were a unanimous decision from the coaches for the No. 1 spot. LSU was also a unanimous pick in the Associated Press and Harris Interactive polls in their final balloting.
2. T. Boone Pickens' new enemies: After dismantling Oklahoma for their first Big 12 title in program history, Oklahoma State had the best argument of any non-SEC team for a spot in the National Championship Game. But the coach who hurt the Cowboys the most in the USA Today poll was Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, ranking Oklahoma State behind Stanford (3) and Arkansas (4). Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and Syracuse's Doug Marrone both ranked Oklahoma State fourth, along with Nick Saban and Stanford head coach David Shaw - though those last two can easily be chalked up to self-interest.
3. About that Sugar Bowl...: When the BCS bowl pairings were released, arguably the biggest surprise came the Sugar Bowl selecting Virginia Tech and Michigan with their two at-large bids. The Hokies and Wolverines finished at No. 11 and No. 12, respectively, and were selected out of an available at-large pool that included Boise State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
The Hokies were blasted 38-10 by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. It was their second loss to the Tigers this season by 20 points or more, yet most coaches still ranked the Hokies ahead of the Tigers. Even head coach Frank Beamer put Clemson at No. 10 and his Hokies at No. 13. But enough coaches kept the Hokies high enough to allow them to finish in the top 14 and be eligible for that Sugar Bowl berth.
Michigan did not make the inaugural Big Ten title game after losing the division to Michigan State. Sparty played Wisconsin to a thrilling 42-39 loss in the Championship Game, but many of the voting coaches did feel they belonged near the magic Top 14 status needed to be eligible for a BCS at-large spot. Nineteen of the 59 voters placed Michigan State below No. 14, including three coaches (Baylor's Art Briles, Marshall's Doc Holliday, and Houston's Kevin Sumlin) who ranked the Spartans at No. 21.
4. Agree to Disagree: The one team that votes placing them all over the ballot was no-longer-undefeated Houston. The Cougars fell from their position in the Top 10 after a 49-28 blowout loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game. Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes and Califonia's Jeff Tedford both kept Houston in their Top 10, while James Franklin and Mark Hudspeth were among those who dropped the Cougars to the very fringe of the rankings at No. 23.
You can check out the interactive graphic breaking down the coaches' ballots at USAToday.com
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Tags: AP Poll, Arkansas, Baylor, BCS, BCS Reactions, BCS Standings, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Coaches Poll, Coaches Poll Reactions, Coaches Poll Votes, Coaches Poll Voting, Craig James, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Harris Poll, Kansas State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Poll Attacks, Poll Reactions, Stanford, TCU, Texas, The Poll Attacks, USA Today, USA Today Voting, USA Today Voting Reactions, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 4, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Eye On College Football
On Sunday night the final BCS standings were released. Despite Oklahoma State's impressive victory against Oklahoma to capture their first Big 12 Championship in program history, the Cowboys were left on the outside looking in of the BCS National Championship Game. Now it's Game of the Century II in New Orleans to decide the top team in college football. Love it or hate it, that is the way the numbers added up.
You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.
1. LSU:How dominant was the season just put together by Les Miles's Tigers? This might be the first time in the BCS era that a team has clinched a share of the national title before they even play the national title game. Considering that the best BCS championship opponent Alabama can do vs. the Tigers head-to-head is a 1-1 record (with a home loss, no less), and that LSU has a wider collection of quality wins and the SEC title in their back pocket, we'd suggest that AP voters consider awarding their No. 1 ranking to LSU regardless of what happens Jan. 9. Of course, the way they've played thus far this season -- and how well they're likely to play in home-away-from-home New Orleans -- the Tigers may not need the charity. - Jerry Hinnen
2. Alabama: Lost in the controversy over whether the Crimson Tide should have slotted into the national title game over Oklahoma State is that now that they have, their selection caps an incredible four-year run for Nick Saban's program: three BCS bowls, two perfect regular seasons, two SEC West titles, a 47-4 overall record, and now a pair of BCS championship appearances. Of course, that also heightens the stakes even further for the Tide as they head to New Orleans; a second loss to LSU will only drive home the point that for all of those accomplishments, Saban would still be sitting on a single SEC title and lone national title to Miles's two. - JH
3. Oklahoma State: .009 points. That's all that separated Oklahoma State from a trip to New Orleans to face LSU for the national title. Or, in football terms, about 12 inches on a Quinn Sharp field goal attempt in Ames, Iowa. Still, as disappointing as it may be for Oklahoma State to miss out on a title chance, there's still plenty to be thrilled about this season. The Cowboys not only won their first Big 12 title, but they also did it by throttling Oklahoma to finish the season. Plus, the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford isn't exactly a terrible consolation prize, so while the sting will last a bit, it's going to wear off eventually. Tom Fornelli
4. Stanford:The Cardinal have back-to-back trips to a BCS bowl game thanks to finishing in the top four and snagging a trip to the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. It gives Andrew Luck a marquee chance to end his college career on a high note against a defense that has been a turnover-forcing machine. They lost out on a Pac-12 title game but the consolation prize of a trip to the desert and a shot at ending up in the top three would be part of a historic run for a school known more for their alumni off the field than on it. - Bryan Fischer
5. Oregon:The Pac-12 champions are making their way to Pasadena after winning the league's first ever championship game against an overmatched UCLA team. The Ducks come in on a mission: win their first BCS bowl under Chip Kelly and the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1917. Should be an interesting clash of styles as the fast-paced offense takes on a Wisconsin team known for efficiently moving down the field. - BF
6. Arkansas:On the one hand, who knows how high the Hogs could have flown this season if they hadn't been in the SEC West? Swap them out with Oklahoma State and maybe it's the Razorbacks who are bucking for second and the Cowboys licking their wounds from a pair of blowout losses and a third-place divisional finish. Then again, there's the little fact that the Hogs never beat a team better than South Carolina, defeated just two teams with winning records, and struggled more badly with Ole Miss than any other team in the conference. Maybe the Razorbacks were unfortunate they didn't do better than 10 wins and the Cotton Bowl. Maybe they're lucky they've gotten that far. - BF
7. Boise State: Another one-loss season for the Broncos ends in a series of "What If's" as the missed field goal against TCU has cost Boise State a spot in a BCS bowl. Unfortunately, the trends are beginning to mount for Chris Petersen's squad. While Boise State is proud to celebrate their sixth Top 10 finish in the last eight final BCS standings, this is fourth time the Broncos have finished in the Top 10 and NOT been invited to a BCS game. Instead it will be another trip to Las Vegas for the Maaco Bowl against Arizona State, their first showdown with the Sun Devils since 1996. - Chip Patterson
8. Kansas State:There's plenty to be happy about here, and also reason for Kansas State fans to be upset. You can easily argue that Kansas State deserves to be playing in a BCS game this season more than either Michigan or Virginia Tech due to the Wildcats finishing ahead of both schools in the BCS rankings. Unfortunately that's just not the way the BCS works. Either way, I think it's safe to say that if you had told Kansas State fans before the season began that the team would go 10-2 in the regular season and finish the year in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas they'd have all jumped at the chance. - TF
9. South Carolina: One of these things is not like the other. Of the top 10 teams in the BCS standings, the other nine all earned either a conference title or serious consideration for a BCS at-large bid. And then there's the Gamecocks, well shut out thanks to ranking a distant fourth in the SEC pecking order. No one will claim this was a vintage year for the SEC, with claims the league was "top heavy" entirely accurate. But with four of the top nine teams in the final BCS standings, it's fair to say that top was heavy indeed. - JH
10. Wisconsin:The Badgers are the only team from the Big Ten to finish the regular season ranked in the top ten, though they aren't the only Big Ten team that will be playing in a BCS bowl game this year. Wisconsin is headed to the Rose Bowl after a thrilling victory against Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, and going to the Rose Bowl in consecutive seasons is nothing to be ashamed of. Still, it's got to be hard to get past the fact that the Badgers are basically two last second prayers away from being 13-0 and headed to New Orleans. - TF
Finally, the luckiest teams in all of the land: Virginia Tech and Michigan. The Hokies and Wolverines fall at 11 and 12 in the final BCS standings, and will face each other in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3.
11. Virginia Tech: Not that the Hokies themselves have done anything to deserve it, but the haters of the BCS's current selection process just got a new poster program. Plenty of teams with questionable credentials have been granted BCS admission before (heck, the Hokies will be playing one of them in the Sugar), but it's been a while since a team without a single win over a top-25 team and so clearly second-best in a back-of-the-BCS-pack conference got this kind of preferential treatment. That's not to say the Hokies haven't had an outstanding season--those 11 wins didn't fall into their lap. But when compared to Kansas State or Boise State, it's just another signal that however much the BCS likes to blather that "every game counts", some things still count far more than the games. - JH
12. Michigan: It's crazy how things can change, isn't it? Michigan went from being a program that was routinely letting its fan base down back to the BCS in one season under Brady Hoke. If you had told Michigan fans they'd end the season in the Sugar Bowl back in August, would they have believed you? Of course, the argument can also be made that there were other teams more deserving than the Wolverines, but this is the way things ended up. You can't chastise the Michigan fan base for being so enticing to BCS bowl games who are just as interested in selling seats as they are compelling matchups. (Though you should probably send a thank you card to Jim Delany.) - TF
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Tags: ACC, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, BCS, BCS Rankings, BCS Reactions, BCS Standings, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Casey Pachall, Chip Patterson, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Dabo Swinney, Dabo Swinney, David Wilson, Frank Beamer, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Jerry Hinnen, Kellen Moore, LSU, Mississippi State, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stanford, Tom Fornelli, Tom Fornelli, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Posted on: December 3, 2011 8:19 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY LSU WON: The same reason it always wins: the big play. Do you know how hard it is to rank 62nd in the nation in total yardage and still score more points than any other SEC team, and more than all but 12 other teams in the country? It takes special teams and defense that aren't just good but flat phenomenal, that time and again hand that offense the shortest of fields to work with.
And so it was yet again in the Georgia Dome. First, there was this:
Seven points. Then, there was Michael Brockers forcing a Murray fumble at the Georgia 27. Seven more points. Then Mathieu's ridiculous second return, which started LSU's next drive at the 17. Seven more. 44 yards ... 21 points.
LSU's offense isn't the best. But the combination of the Tigers' defense and their special teams -- not just Mathieu, but punter Brad Wing, who helped LSU stay withing touching distance in that disastrous first half with a ridiculous 50.8 yard net average on six punts -- isn't just the best; it's so much better than anyone else's it's barely playing the same sport.
WHEN LSU WON: Kenny Hillard's second touchdown, which capped the quick 17-yard touchdown drive after Mathieu's second big return, put LSU up 21-10 with 26 minutes remaining. To overcome a two-possession deficit against that LSU defense would take Georgia much, much, much more time than that.
WHAT LSU WON: An SEC championship, a certain-beyond-every-doubt appearance in the national title game, and -- if the AP voters are feeling feisty following a hypothetical Alabama rematch victory -- possibly a share of the national title already.
WHAT GEORGIA LOST: A shot at the Sugar Bowl and Mark Richt's first conference title since 2005. But after those 10 straight wins and victories over Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, no one's going to complain too bitterly, we think. Maybe.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 2:29 pm
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.
It's the final weekend of the season, and therefore it's the final Saturday Meal Plan of 2011. It was a season that went by just a little too quickly for our tastes, but thankfully we have some excellent options on the menu for this weekend. There are some official conference championship games and then a few unofficial conference championship games.
All will leave you feeling full, and with fond memories of the last great Saturday of 2011.
#6 Houston vs. #24 Southern Miss - ABC 12pm ET
A BCS bid is on the line as Houston looks to capture the Conference USA title and pick up a school-record 13th win. Case Keenum also hopes to get plenty of Heisman consideration so expect big numbers against a solid Southern Miss defense. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 25 and might provide the Cougars their toughest test of the year. - Bryan Fischer
Cincinnati vs. UConn - ESPN 12pm ET
The Big East title race has come down to a noon kickoff between Connecticut and Cincinnati, because that's what kind of year it has been in the conference. With West Virginia's win against South Florida, they likely eliminated Cincinnati from earning the conference's one BCS berth. But the Bearcats can still win a share of the conference title win a win over the Huskies. Louisville is rooting for Connecticut, because a Bearcats loss would give the 7-5 Cardinals the tiebreaker edge over West Virginia and a spot in a BCS bowl game. The Mountaineers will likely win the three-team tiebreaker if Cincinnati wins. All of these scenarios are in the hands of Munchie Legaux, Jordan Luallen, Johnny McEntee, and Scott McCummings. Tune in for a show, with these four quarterbacks in the game. It'll be...something. - Chip Patterson
#17 Baylor vs. #22 Texas - ABC 3:30pm ET
Quite a bit on the line for both teams in this game, even if neither has a chance at a BCS bowl. There's Baylor's Robert Griffin who gets his final chance to impress a national audience and prove his Heisman case. Not to mention, a win here could possibly catapult the Bears to a Cotton Bowl appearance, and it would be Baylor's ninth win of the season. Meaning that it could finish the year with a double-digit win total. For Texas, following last season's 5-7 debacle, getting to eight wins in 2011 would be a nice turnaround for Mack Brown's program. Not to mention a chance to appear in a higher profile bowl game. - Tom Fornelli
#1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia - CBS 4pm ET
The Tigers might be going to the national championship game win or lose. But with an SEC championship and perfect season on the line in the annually electric atmosphere of the Georgia Dome, motivation is not going to be a problem. What might be: an underrated Georgia defense ranked in the top 10 in rush, total, and pass efficiency defense. Unlike Arkansas, the Dawgs are stout enough on D to make this a close game in the fourth quarter--and if they do, does Les Miles have yet another rabbit to pull out of his late-game hat? - Jerry Hinnen
#3 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET
The Big 12 may not have an official championship game, but Bedlam will do just fine. Essentially the entire Big 12 season has been building up to this game, and it's a huge game for both schools no matter what the stakes. For the Sooners, it's obvious. Win yet another contest against their state rivals and they'll be Big 12 champions yet again and on their way to the Fiesta Bowl. For Oklahoma State there's even more on the line. It's the chance to finally get the Oklahoma monkey off its back and win its first ever Big 12 title -- and first for any school not named Oklahoma or Texas since 2003. Plus, while their chances may not be great, there's still the possibility that the Cowboys can get to the BCS Championship if their performance in this game is strong enough. So, in a way, there's more on the line in this game than just about any other Saturday night. - TF
#5 Virginia Tech vs. #20 Clemson - ESPN 8pm ET
Clemson finally was accepted as a "legitimate contender" after their 23-3 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. But the two teams have finished the season in very different ways. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four game losing streak, and the Hokies are the hottest team in the ACC on a seven game winning streak. Clemson lost to NC State and South Carolina after locking up the Atlantic Division, while Virginia Tech rocked their in-state rivals from Virginia to win the Coastal Division last weekend. The Tigers are loaded with talent, and possibly as healthy as they have been since October. But can they regain momentum against a Championship Game veteran like Frank Beamer? Beamer has been to five of the last seven ACC Championship Games, and the Hokies are looking to win back-to-back ACC titles for second time in five years. - CP
#13 Michigan State vs. #15 Wisconsin - Fox 8:17pm ET
The inaugural Big Ten Championship promises to be a doozy. It's a reprisal of the conference's best game and best play of the year, a magical 37-31 victory by Michigan State where Keith Nichol caught a deflected Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation and briefly managed to twist across the goal line for the winning score. Montee Ball will make one last bid for Heisman legitimacy, and Kirk Cousins will look for an undisputed conference championship to put an exclamation point on his Big Ten career. A berth in the Rose Bowl awaits the winner, while it's likely going to be a Capital One or Outback bid for the loser. If this game's anything like its first iteration in East Lansing, there won't be a ton of defense in it, but there'll be plenty of points and drama. Don't miss this game. - Adam Jacobi
Tags: ACC, Arkansas, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bryan Fischer, C-USA, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Clemson, Frank Beamer, Georgia, Houston, Johnny McEntee, Jordan Luallen, Keith Nichol, Kirk Cousins, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Mack Brown, Michigan State, Montee Ball, Munchie Legaux, N.C. State, Non-BCS, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Robert Griffin, Saturday Meal Plan, Scott McCummings, SEC, South Carolina, South Florida, Southern Miss, Texas, Tom Fornelli, UConn, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: December 1, 2011 6:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Georgia didn't have any real problems with Georgia Tech last Saturday, but one look at the stat sheet will tell you that wasn't because of any dominant play from their tailbacks.
With No. 1 running back Isaiah Crowell sidelined with a sprained ankle and No. 1a tailback Richard Samuel still recovering from an ankle surgery that's kept him sidelined for four weeks, replacements Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas carried 17 times ... for all of 45 yards, a 2.65 per-carry average. The Bulldogs' best tailback on the day was a moonlighting cornerback, Branden Smith, and even his 5 carries only netted 20 yards.
So with nothing less than the nation's fourth-ranked rush defense on tap in a game no less important than the SEC championship, it's understandable that Bulldog fans are anxious for some good news on their tailback position. Too bad Mark Richt isn't in the mood to give it to them.
"I don't want to talk about tailbacks," he said Wendesday after practice. "There’s no good answers, so I’m not going to answer any ... Let’s just talk about something else. I was really in a good mood and then you had to ask about that thing. No more tailback questions until after the game."
Despite Richt's reticence, there is some optimism available for Georgia supporters; Crowell practiced both Monday and Tuesday and was fit enough to at least dress (if not see the field) against the Yellow Jackets. Samuel hasn't practiced, but like Crowell is still reportedly expected to play.
That would be a huge boon to a Georgia running game that needs all the help it can get, and frankly, simply can't afford to run Malcome and Thomas against the likes of LSU.
Tailback has been such a question mark for the Dawgs all season, we don't blame Richt for both being a little tired of answering questions about it and not wanting to give the tigers any more information than he has to. But we also don't blame Dawg fans for being just a little nervous up until the moment Crowell and/or Samuel hit the field.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:17 pm
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, 8pmMan - 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, 12pmMan - 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, 12pmMan - 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, 12:30pmMan - 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, 3:30pmMan - 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, 4pmMan - 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, 8pmMan - 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, 8pmMan - 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, 8:17pmMan - 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
StandingsSeason Record (Last Week)
1. Woman 73-62 (4-6)
2. Machine 72-63 (8-2)
3. Man 71-64 (4-6)
Tags: ACC, Alabama, B.J. Daniels, Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bill Hancock, C-USA, Case Keenum, Clemson, Dana Holgorsen, Georgia, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas State, Les Miles, LSU, Mack Brown, Man vs Woman vs Machine, Michigan State, Non-BCS, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Pitt, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin, Sammy Watkins, SEC, South Florida, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Texas, Tino Sunseri, Tom Fornelli, Tulsa, UCLA, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 5:23 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: they can avoid giving LSU easy points. No kickoff returns for touchdown, no short fields following fumble giveaways, no pick-sixes or 60-yard bombs over the top. Simple, right?
Not against LSU, it's not; such is the Tigers' incredible strength in special teams and defense that they rank a mediocre 62nd in total offense ... and still a robust 13th in scoring offense at 38 points a game, better than all but seven other BCS conference teams. But as those low yardage totals indicate, putting together 8, 9-play drives that cover 75, 85 yards are not what LSU wants to do or what plays to their strengths. Even the 14-play, 77-yard march that got the Tigers on the board vs. Arkansas had to survive a botched option pitch and a near-interception from Jordan Jefferson to hit paydirt.
The Tigers can bang out those kinds of drives, of course, thanks to Spencer Ware and Michael Ford and the rest of LSU's pounding ground game. But Georgia can answer that with the nation's No. 6 rush defense, Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins, Christian Robinson and the rest. If Ware and Co. find some tough sledding somewhere between their own 20 and the end zone, is Jefferson good enough to repeatedly execute in the passing game -- against the nation's fourth-ranked secondary in opponent's QB rating, no less -- enough to put those usual 38 points on the board?
Probably not--which is why if Aaron Murray can protect the ball against Morris Claiborne and the rest of the LSU ballhawks, if the Dawgs can avoid getting burned in special teams, if Drew Butler can match Brad Wing inside-the-20 punt for inside-the-20 punt, if the Dawg secondary can keep Rueben Randle from shortcutting a long drive into a quick one, the Dawgs will have a chance. Those are big -- gigantic -- if's, of course. But that's where the Dawgs have to start.
LSU WILL WIN IF: they play their game. Georgia shouldn't be able to stay even in the special teams department when no one else has. Georgia shouldn't be able to run well enough to keep Murray out of the 3rd-and-8's in which Barkevious Mingo can tee off and Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, and the rest of the defensive backs thrive. Georgia shouldn't be able to get their receivers free against that secondary. Georgia shouldn't be able to offensively overcome to kinds of holes Wing will put them in.
LSU is the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. Georgia's good, but are they so good that if LSU plays to their potential, they'll be able to win anyway? No.
THE X-FACTOR: When Arkansas went up 14-0, the immediate reaction was "how will LSU respond?" Those 14 points represented a deficit more than three times larger than their previous season high ... and it was still erased and then some before halftime. But that was at home, against a team with no ability to stop the LSU ground game, and they got the benefit of Mathieu's game-swinging punt return. Let's say the Bulldogs not only ride a surge of early energy and momentum to a two touchdown first half lead, but hold on to keep a narrow edge into the game's final 20 minutes. Then how does LSU respond? It's a de facto road game. It's against the best defense they've seen since Alabama. It's for the SEC title. Do they keep their unflappable 2011 cool in that situation, too? Or not?
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