Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:46 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary gets some help. The Bulldogs were hoping to be sitting prettier than 5-5 at this stage when the season began, but it hasn't been the defensive backfield's fault; led by a pair of senior safeties and junior corner Johnthan Banks's All-SEC caliber performance, State ranks 14th in the nation in pass defense and in the top 30 in opposing passer rating. Even on the road, even without injured safety Nickoe Whitley, the Bulldogs figure to cause Tyler Wilson as many headaches as any team he's faced since Alabama; it was just last week the Tide's AJ McCarron posted the second-lowest QB rating of his season in Starkville, lower even than his performance vs. LSU. But just keeping Wilson (relatively) in check won't be enough. The rapidly improving front seven has to prevent the boom-or-bust Dennis Johnson from getting rolling; the State running game has to move the chains and keep the low-fi Bulldog offense from getting in field position trouble; and of course the Bulldog special teams can't give up cheap to scores to Joe Adams on punt returns or Johnson on kickoffs.
Do all of those things, and the secondary should provide enough of a defensive foundation to build an upset win around.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they keep coming up with big plays. Mississippi State is a team simply not built to win a shootout on the road; since their Week 2 explosion vs. Auburn, they've averaged just 12.6 points per their five SEC games. Meanwhile, the Hogs have scored 49 and 44 points against their last two SEC opponents, many of them coming via the home run. Against Tennessee there was Adams' ridiculous punt return, a 70-yard Johnson sprint, and a 40-yard bomb, again, to Adams; against South Carolina the Hogs got a Johnson kickoff return for TD, a 68-yard strike to Jarius Wright, and the game-icing sack-and-strip from Jake Bequette that set the offense up at the 1. Big plays like those not only demoralize the opposition and put points on the board in a hurry, they represent quick possessions that pack more possessions and plays into a game and offer the Hog offense even more chances at pushing their total in the 30s or 40s. Do that against MSU, and the Bulldogs won't have a prayer of keeping up.
THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. The junior has struggled the past two years with injuries and thanks in part to fumbling issues, didn't break into the Hog lineup immediately this season even after the loss of Knile Davis. But Johnson's combination of power and explosiveness offers the Arkansas running game a spark it just doesn't have otherwise, and Bobby Petrino has shown for years that if he can pair some kind of legitimate ground attack with his aerial fireworks ... watch out.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 2:20 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn
1. Georgia (8-2, 6-1 conference)
2. South Carolina (8-2, 6-2)
1. LSU (10-0, 6-0)
2. Alabama (9-1, 6-1)
3. Arkansas (9-1, 5-1)
Week 12 Key Games: Kentucky at Georgia; Mississippi State at Arkansas; LSU at Ole Miss
Pick: LSU. The SEC West contenders all have games that should be easy wins this weekend before setting up the dramatic finale to the division race. Alabama needs to travel to Auburn for the Iron Bowl and Arkansas visits LSU in Baton Rouge for an eventful Thanksgiving weekend in the SEC. However, the East will be wrapped up by Saturday afternoon. If Georgia beats Kentucky at home, the Bulldogs win the East outright and punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC title game. If the Wildcats pull the upset, South Carolina wins the title game bid thanks to the 45-42 victory in Athens earlier this season.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma
1. Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0 conference)
2. Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1)
Week 12 Key Games: Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday); Oklahoma at Baylor
Pick: Oklahoma State. With Oklahoma State's dismantling of Texas Tech, Kansas State mathematically falls out of the running for the Big 12 title. Now everything is set up for Bedlam, with the Cowboys having a slight advantage with the extra preparation time. After Iowa State on Friday, Mike Gundy will have 15 days to get ready for Oklahoma's visit to Stillwater. In that time, the Sooners face Baylor on the road and Iowa State at home.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon
1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0 conference)
2. Stanford (9-1, 7-1)
1. Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)
1. UCLA (5-5, 4-3)
3. Utah (6-4, 3-4)
Key Week 12 Games: Utah at Washington State; Colorado at UCLA; USC at Oregon; California at Stanford
Pick: Oregon. With their impressive road win against Stanford, the Ducks jumped into the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North and also made themselves players in the national title discussion. Their argument as the nation's best one loss team is strong, but they will be tested again with a visit from a hot USC team. An upset at the hands of the Trojans would make the North interesting, but the way Oregon has been leaving opponents in the dust I think they take care of business down the stretch. The South is just a mess, with Arizona State and UCLA losing winnable games in Week 11 and suddenly making Utah a player in the race. The Bruins have the head-to-head on the Sun Devils, but Arizona State has more favorable matchups left on the schedule and a victory against Utah. Then again, no one in that division (at least no one eligible for the postseason) has been predictable.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State
1. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 conference)
2. Michigan (8-2, 4-2)
2. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2)
4. Iowa (6-4, 3-3)
1. Penn State (8-2, 5-1)
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2)
3. Ohio State (6-4, 3-3)
3. Purdue (5-5, 3-3)
Key Week 12 Games: Indiana at Michigan State; Nebraska at Michigan; Wisconsin at Illinois; Iowa at Purdue; Penn State at Ohio State
Pick: Wisconsin. Even without taking off-field situations into consideration, Penn State desperately needed to win against Nebraska on Saturday for the Big Ten title race. The loss brought the rest of the division one game closer in the standings, and now interim head coach Tom Bradley must lead them on the road against Ohio State and Wisconsin to wrap up a tumultuous November for the program. Ohio State did themselves no favors in the overtime loss to Purdue, which negated the one game they picked up on Wisconsin with 33-29 win in Week 9. If the Badgers can avoid an upset against the Fighting Zooks this week, it will set up a division title game with Penn State in Camp Randall. Everything considered, I like the Badgers' chances in that matchup. The Spartans control their own destiny in the Leaders Division, with a one game lead and just Indiana and Northwestern left on the schedule. The loser of Nebraska - Michigan this weekend falls out of the title hunt, while the winner hopes for a Spartan slip-up. The Cornhuskers are in the best position to overtake Michigan State, but the schedule is not favorable with Michigan and Iowa left.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game - Orange Bowl
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech
1. Clemson (9-1, 6-1 conference) - CLINCHED DIVISION
1. Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1)
2. Virginia (7-3, 4-2)
Key Week 11 Games: North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Thursday); Virginia at Florida State
Pick: Clemson. The Tigers nearly avoided letting the Atlantic Division slip away with the 31-28 come-from-behind victory over Wake Forest at home on Saturday. The Coastal Division race narrowed last weekend as well, with Virginia Tech knocking Georgia Tech from competition in the Thursday night contest in Atlanta. The Hokies return to action on Thursday against a reeling North Carolina team. Virginia needs a win over Florida State or a Virginia Tech loss to set up a season finale meeting with the Hokies for the Coastal Division title. A Cavaliers' loss to the Seminoles paired with a Virginia Tech win on Thursday will clinch Frank Beamer's fifth division title in seven years.
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh
1. Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 conference)
2. Rutgers (7-3, 3-2)
2. West Virginia (7-3, 3-2)
2. Louisville (5-5, 3-2)
2. Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2)
6. Connecticut (4-5, 2-2)
Key Week 12 Games: Louisville at Connecticut; Cincinnati at Rutgers
Pick: West Virginia. Cincinnati and Louisville needed wins in Week 11 to create some distance in the always-muddled Big East title race. Instead both teams lost and now we are left with this six-team dash towards the finish line. The Bearcats' loss was not just in the standings on Saturday, but starting quarterback Zach Collaros has been ruled out for the season with a broken ankle. Victories over Cincinnati and Rutgers put West Virginia in the best position heading down the stretch, but the Mountaineers cannot afford another loss with the Backyard Brawl in two weeks and at USF in the season finale. The conference is rooting for Rutgers to knock off the banged up Bearcats and even the playing field with two-loss teams. The Scarlet Knights just have Connecticut left on the schedule, but will need some help to overtake West Virginia. Louisville has a favorable schedule with Connecticut and USF, but both games are on the road and they need Cincinnati to lose twice. Pittsburgh and Connecticut are still technically in the race, though there is little evidence in their resume that they are prepared to close out against the competition.
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF
1. Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1 conference)
2. Marshall (4-5, 3-2)
1. Houston (10-0, 6-0)
1. Tulsa (7-3, 6-0)
Key Week 12 Games: Southern Miss at UAB (Thursday); SMU at Houston; Marshall at Memphis; Tulsa at UTEP
Pick: Houston. East Carolina fell from contention with a loss in Week 11, and Southern Miss avoided dropping a costly game to UCF with a gritty 30-29 victory. The Golden Eagles have a favorable slate left, with UAB and Memphis as the obstacles left in the way of a Conference USA title game bid. The West Division continues to set up for a potentially scoreboard friendly regular season finale between Houston and Tulsa. I don't expect the Cougars to lose focus at this point, particularly now that a BCS bowl game bid has become a possibility for Case Keenum and Co..
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU
1. TCU (8-2, 5-0 conference)
2. Boise State (8-1, 3-1)
2. Wyoming (6-3, 3-1)
Key Week 12 Games: New Mexico at Wyoming; Colorado State at TCU; Boise State at San Diego State
Pick: TCU. For the second year in a row, Boise State is knocked from their perch in the national rankings and conference standings with a missed field goal in the final moments of a close loss. The only way TCU loses the Mountain West conference at this point is falling to Colorado State (3-6) and UNLV (2-7). If sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall is 50% as productive as he was against the Broncos, the Horned Frogs should have the conference locked up in the coming weeks. Still, Wyoming and Boise State can win out to keep alive. But I wouldn't bet on TCU slipping down the stretch.
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii
1. Nevada (6-3, 4-0 conference)
2. Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1)
3. Utah State (4-5, 2-2)
Key Week 12 Games: Louisiana Tech at Nevada; Utah State at Idaho
Pick: Nevada. HUGE game in the WAC this weekend as Louisiana Tech squares off against conference-leading Nevada. The winner takes the driver's seat in the conference title race, with the Wolf Pack nearly locking up the championship if they can get the win at home. Utah State still technically has a shot to finish on top, but the extent of help they would need to jump both teams seems unrealistic. Louisiana Tech is on a five game winning streak after starting 1-4, but cannot afford to drop another game if they hope to steal the WAC from Nevada.
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)
1. Ohio (7-3, 4-2 conference)
2. Temple (6-4, 4-3)
3. Kent State (4-6, 3-3)
3. Miami (OH) (4-6, 3-3)
1. Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1)
1. Toledo (6-4, 5-1)
3 Ball State (6-4, 4-2)
Key Week 12 Games: Ball State at Northern Illinois (Tuesday); Ohio at Bowling Green (Wednesday); Western Michigan at Miami (OH) (Wednesday); Toledo at Central Michigan (Friday); Eastern Michigan at Kent State
Pick: Northern Illinois. The Huskies continue to own the inside track in the West Division thanks to their 63-60 victory over Toledo earlier this month, but Ball State can shake things up with a win Tuesday night. Toledo needs to win out in-conference and get help from Ball State or Eastern Michigan to jump into first place, while the Cardinals will get an opportunity to knock off both frontrunners in their next contests. The East is even more confusing, with three three-loss teams hoping Ohio slips up down the stretch against Bowling Green and/or Miami (OH). Next week will be the deciding weekend for the MAC East, with Ohio facing Miami and Kent State taking on Temple. Regardless of who finishes on top, taking down Northern Illinois or Toledo in the MAC title game will be no easy task.
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy
1. Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0 conference)
2. Western Kentucky (5-5, 5-1)
Key Week 12 Games: Arkansas State at Middle Tennessee; Western Kentucky at North Texas
Pick: Arkansas State. Arkansas State continued their surprising tear through the Sun Belt with a much-needed victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 11. The loss eliminated the Ragin' Cajuns from title contention, and now Arkansas State needs just one more conference win to clinch the title. Western Kentucky remains in contention, but need the Red Wolves to lose their final two games to overtake them in the standings.
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Tags: ACC, Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Boston College, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Clemson, Conference Championship, Conference Standings, Conference Title Update, Conference USA, Connecticut, East Carolina, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Houston, Kansas State, La-Lafayette, Leaders, Legends, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, MAC, Miami (OH), Michigan, Michigan State, Mountain West Conference, Nebraska, Nevada, Non-BCS, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Pittsburgh, SEC, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Sun Belt, TCU, Temple, Toledo, Tulsa, UCF, UCLA, Virginia Tech, WAC, Wake Forest, Washington, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Posted on: November 14, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 2:16 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the SEC fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
Thanks, TCU: thanks to the Horned Frogs ruining another Boise State dream season, the Tigers picked up the final first-place vote to become the AP's first unanimous No. 1 since Texas in October of 2008. LSU wasn't at their sharpest in beating Western Kentucky 42-9, but thanks to what still stands as the nation's best body of work by a mile, one mild off-week was never going to have any effect where the polls are concerned. Now the Tigers just have to make sure their Thanksgiving week showdown with Arkansas doesn't become what that 2008 Texas team's showdown vs. Texas Tech became.
Thanks to Stanford's loss at Oregon, the Tide are now just one Oklahoma State slip-up from ascending to the No. 2 spot in both polls ... assuming the voters aren't so impressed with Oklahoma if that slip-up comes against the Sooners that OU leapfrogs the Tide. But with the Ducks still wedged between the two teams and a healthy margin between Alabama and both Oregon and Oklahoma, that seems doubtful. The vagaries of anti-rematch antipathy voting and the BCS computers means we certainly can't rule out an LSU-Oklahoma title game -- as projected by our own Jerry Palm -- but the Tide should still expect to be No. 2 in the polls if the Sooners win out.
Boise goes down, Stanford goes down, and the Hogs move two places up the conveyor belt. We're not sure they belong ahead of Clemson, since the Tigers have a pair of ranked wins over Virginia Tech and Florida State to the Razorbacks' one, but we're also not sure they belong behind Oklahoma, whose loss to Texas Tech now looks completely inexplicable. So sixth is probably just about right.
Penn State's tumble opens up room for the Bulldogs to move up a spot in both polls after their best win of the season, over Auburn. Of course, that the Dawgs' best win of the season came at home over Auburn illustrates why we're not sold on them as the No. 13 or 14 team in the country over the likes of Wisconsin, Kansas State or USC, all of whom have wins over teams still currently ranked. Or, AP voters, that South Carolina team whose biggest victory came on the road at ... Georgia.
14/13. SOUTH CAROLINA
As with last week, we're not sure Carolina belongs ahead of the rest of the poll's two-loss teams even after extending Florida's misery. But we are sure they belong ahead of Georgia, so kudos to the Coaches for getting that much right. Now if they'd just finally notice Clemson pounded Virginia Tech in Blacksburg a few weeks back, they'll be set.
And with Auburn now reduced to a handful of stray AP votes, that's it for the SEC in the poll. Five teams in the top 15 looks pretty spiffy--but that those are the only five teams anywhere near the top 25 should tell you just how top heavy the league is this season. A vintage year, this is not.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.
People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.
And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.
The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.
The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.
"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.
Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.
As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.
Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.
Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.
Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.
Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.
When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.
BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.
Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.
Stat of the week
Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.
Stats of the week
- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.
- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.
- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.
- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.
- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.
Tweet of the week
"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."
- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.
2. Oklahoma State
8. Boise State
Where we'll be this week
Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.
Leaning this way
Nebraska at Michigan
This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.
SMU at Houston
A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.
USC at Oregon
Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.
Tags: Aaron Dickens, Acc, Alabama, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brett McMurphy, Brian Murphy, Bryan Fischer, Case Keenum, Chip Kelly, Chris Petersen, Clemson, Coliseum, Conference USA, Connor Halliday, DeAnthony Thomas, Dennis Dodd, Florida, Georgia, Gregg Doyel, Houston, Husky Stadium, Idaho, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nick Aliotti, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Pete Carroll, Rose Bowl, SEC, Sewanee, SMU, South Carolina, Stanford, Surveying the Field, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State
Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:59 pm
Posted by Eye On College Football
On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. Well, well, well. Look at Oregon, right back in the thick of things after Saturday's mammoth win in Palo Alto. LSU is still king of the mountain, though, and with the losses by Boise State and Stanford, all of a sudden there's a clear No. 2 in Oklahoma State. So now the real question becomes what happens if one of the two unbeaten major conference teams suffers an upset, and who deserves to be next in line at the end of the day.
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: It's somewhat en vogue to just assume that LSU is going to be playing somebody for a title this January, and given that the Tigers are #1 in every poll, that's understandable. Still, assumptions have a tendency to make us look stupid in this sport, and LSU still has to play Arkansas and probably a Georgia team that's playing its best football of the season if it gets by the Razorbacks. It's foolish to assume that LSU is going to coast through those games. - Tom Fornelli
2. Oklahoma State: The situation hasn't really changed for Oklahoma State this week. Yes, it gets a bit of a boost by having both Stanford and Boise State suffer a loss -- as far as less competition for the title goes -- but the formula remains the same for the Cowboys: win out and Oklahoma State is going to the BCS title game. If Brandon Weeden and company lose, we're probably looking at the Cotton Bowl instead. - TF
3. Alabama: With the two high-profile losses this week, all of a sudden there are really only two teams with a legitimate case to make for being ahead of Alabama, and it's those two undefeated squads up top. Among the one-loss teams, though, it has to be the Tide at the top of the list; 'Bama was deservedly favored against LSU (leading to the rare "No. 1 upsets No. 2" situation last week), and that juggernaut of a defense isn't going anywhere. No, a rematch of LSU-Alabama isn't ideal, but the BCS is supposed to be here to put the best two teams on the field for the championship (right?), and we're one OSU loss away from that meaning LSU-Alabama again. - Adam Jacobi
4. Oregon: No doubt about it, the Ducks were the weekend's big winners on and off the field. A drubbing of Stanford on national television put the flashy offense and surprisingly good defense back in everyone's minds and helped the team jump from seventh to fourth in the BCS standings. With some outside help, they're ready to state their case why it should be them and LSU in a rematch for the national title. - Bryan Fischer
5. Oklahoma: Everything that Oklahoma has needed to start happening is happening. Stanford has fallen, Boise State has fallen, and now the only unbeatens in Oklahoma's way are LSU and Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State at the end of the season, will it be a big enough boost to vault the Sooners into the top 2? It's still too early to tell, but after Oregon's victory on Saturday it's already jumped ahead of the Sooners. The question now becomes will a win over Oklahoma State be enough to jump over Oregon and Alabama? We'll have to wait and see. - TF
6. Arkansas: At No. 6, Arkansas is not out of the mix for the national title game just yet. The key for the Razorbacks will be winning the SEC West and getting a shot in the SEC Championship Game. The only way I see Arkansas getting enough help from the pollsters will be that extra week to add to their resume with some hardware in Atlanta. Of course, getting there requires victories on Saturday against Mississippi State and in the regular season finale at LSU. The Razorbacks could also use some help from Auburn in the Iron Bowl to jump Alabama if the division standings finish with multiple one-loss teams. - Chip Patterson
7. Clemson: After the Clemson Tigers fell from their position at No. 5 in the BCS Standings in the loss to Georgia Tech, head coach Dabo Swinney explained the new focus of the 2011 Tigers: A) Win the ACC Atlantic B) Win the state championship C) Win an ACC Championship. Clemson rallied back from a 28-14 second half deficit to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division in a 31-28 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. With the first goal scratched off the list, the Tigers eye their annual matchup with South Carolina on Nov. 26 for the next one. - CP
8. Virginia Tech: The Hokies move up after arguably their biggest win of the season on the road against division rival Georgia Tech. The loss knocked the Yellow Jackets from contention for the Coastal Division title, and now Virginia Tech just needs to close out against North Carolina and Virginia to book their fifth trip to the ACC Championship Game in the last seven years. David Wilson was a monster on the ground, picking up 175 yards on 23 carries. His performances down the stretch are making a strong case for ACC Player of the Year. Frank Beamer's squad is too far out to consider them even a longshot for the title game, so the focus for the Hokies is the automatic bid given to the ACC Champion in December. - CP
9. Stanford: The biggest game in Palo Alto in ages failed to live up to Cardinal fans' hopes as the speed vs. size match up fell decidedly in favor of the speedy Ducks. Though they're out of contention for a Pac-12 and national title (and Andrew Luck's Heisman campaign took a major blow), there's still a decent chance they find themselves in a BCS bowl as an at-large candidate at the end of the year. It's a little interesting to see them behind Virginia Tech, however. - BF
10. Boise State: Another missed field goal crushes the BCS busting dreams of the Broncos. Saturday's first-ever (and possibly only) conference matchup against TCU was the last respectable hurdle for Boise State. It was the last opportunity to really make a statement against an opponent with some national credibility. Casey Pachall shredded the Broncos' secondary and even Kellen Moore couldn't avoid the Horned Frog pass rush down the stretch. Winning out will keep the Broncos in contention for a BCS bowl, but now Houston (at No. 11 in the BCS) threatens to steal one of those at-large bids from Boise's grasp. - CP
Tags: ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, Auburn, BCS, BCS Rankings, BCS Reactions, BCS Standings, Big 12, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Casey Pachall, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Dabo Swinney, Dabo Swinney, David Wilson, Frank Beamer, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, 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, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 5:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Wait, whaddya mean, "not officially"? The only thing standing between Georgia and their trip to Atlanta is a home game against Kentucky, the same team that spent its Saturday getting drilled 38-8 by Vanderbilt. It's more likely some sort of bizarre last-minute eligibility scandal -- Bacarri Rambo busted for selling prime Sanford Stadium hedge clippings, or something -- keeps the Dawgs from the East crown than the Wildcats do. Arrange the days off, book the hotels, scalp the tickets--for the first time since 2005, Georgia's going to play for the SEC title.
LOSER: The ghost of Willie Martinez. So why have the Dawgs made the leap? The friendliest possible league schedule has had a lot to do with it -- if Georgia goes to Arkansas and it's South Carolina who gets to visit Ole Miss, the Gamecocks are booking their tickets today -- but it's also true that as much hand-wringing as there's been over the Dawgs' struggles since 2005 at quarterback, the offensive line, running back, play-calling, etc, their biggest problem has always been on the defensive side of the ball. And in his second season after replacing the exiled, despised Willie Martinez as Georgia's defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham has those problems nearly solved. His unit ranks in the national top 10 in rush defense, pass defense, and total defense, and showed why vs. Auburn. Clint Moseley got no time to throw, Michael Dyer found precious little room to run, Rambo made the biggest play of the game with a pick-six, and the bottom line was that a Tiger offense that had scored 41 points two weeks earlier got none after their opening drive.
After that performance, it's safe to declare the specter of Mr. Martinez's failures fully exorcised.
WINNER: Hangovers. You play the Game of the Century one week, maybe it shouldn't be a surprise you don't quite play with your hair on fire the next. So even though they're LSU and Alabama, LSU and Alabama still took their leisurely time putting away outmatched opponents in Western Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. (The Hilltoppers a little more outmatched than the Bulldogs, obviously.) No one's immune to the week-after effect, apparently.
LOSER: The Rematch Resistance. Hangovers or no hangovers, though, LSU-Alabama II: Rematch of the Century took a big step closer to reality Saturday with both Stanford and Boise State falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. With Oregon unlikely to be any more palatable a rematch opponent for the Tigers than the Tide is, the only hurdle for Alabama to clear appears to be whichever team wins Bedlam: Oklahoma State would be undefeated and home-free, of course, but Oklahoma might also stake a claim with plenty of computer power and the voters' aversion to a sequel. But with that Texas Tech loss looking less and less explicable by the day, the educated guess here is that a Sooner win would send the Tide on for a second crack at the Tigers.
WINNER: Joe Adams. Because seriously:
LOSERS: Ole Miss supporters. Facing a substantially less-talented Louisiana Tech squad at home Saturday, the Rebels had a terrific opportunity to 1. rally for their fired head coach Houston Nutt 2. snap their six-game losing streak 3. show some kind of pride in their program and themselves regardless of the off-field distractions and coaching turnover. Instead they lost to the visitors from Ruston by three full touchdowns in what has to go down as the worst, most embarrassing nonconference loss for an SEC team this season. The Rebels still have two games to play this season -- at home to LSU and at Mississippi State -- and we don't envy anyone from Oxford compelled to watch either one.
WINNER: Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks won't be going back to Atlanta. They won't make any kind of dent in the national title race. They won't go down in history as some great team gone unrewarded, not having now won three SEC games in which they scored 17 points or fewer and having been the only SEC team to host Auburn and not blow the Tigers out of the water. Marcus Lattimore won't win the Heisman, Alshon Jeffery won't be named All-American or even All-SEC (today's tally: 2 receptions, 17 yards), and the less said about Stephen Garcia the better.
So on many, many levels, this 2011 season is a disappointment ... and on the other, even for all of those struggles, the Gamecocks have just won 6 SEC games for the first time ever. As Spurrier noted, they've gone 6-0 the past two seasons vs. their main East rivals at Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. And in players like Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Wilds and tackle Cody Gibson, there's still plenty of young talent to groom. The specific goal was to win another East title, and Spurrier failed at that. But maybe the larger, more important goal was to prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke -- that the old annual November swoon, perpetual also-ran Gamecocks were gone for good -- and on that count Spurrier has succeeded, without question. If he wasn't already the best coach in the Gamecocks' history, this 2011 season means he is now.
LOSER: Derek Dooley. Any talk of removing the second-year head man at Tennessee is wildly premature; if Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter are still healthy, who knows what the Vols' record is? And Dooley of course had nothing to do with a schedule that handed his team LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama out of the west. But it's one thing to lose a lot of games -- even SEC games, even six such games in a row -- and another to look as hopeless as the Vols did in their drubbing at Arkansas. Dooley's already been more good than outstanding on the recruiting trail, and if he loses next week to James Franklin and Vandy, the knives are going to really come out among the Vol faithful ... and that recruiting job is only going to get harder.
(Gene Chizik isn't in the same boat, but he deserves a mention here all the same. The 4-3 SEC record isn't bad, but in the non-Ole Miss portion of the schedule, those three wins have come by a total of 21 points and the three losses by 97. With a defense that Chizik has a major hand in the main culprit, those blowouts suggest last year's national champion has a lot of work to do between now and 2012.)
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas, Auburn, Bacarri Rambo, Boise State, Brandon Wilds, Clint Moseley, Cody Gibson, Derek Dooley, Florida, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston Nutt, Jadeveon Clowney, James Franklin, James Franklin the Vanderbilt coach not the Missouri quarterback, Jerry Hinnen, Joe Adams, Justin Worley, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, SEC, SEC Winners and Losers, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Spurrier, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Todd Grantham. Michael Dyer, Tyler Bray, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, Willie Martinez, Winners and Losers
Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 4:32 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY SOUTH CAROLINA WON: More than anything, their burst of physical running in the second quarter that gave the Gamecocks both their touchdowns, allowed them to play with the lead throughout the second half, and forced the Gators just that far out of their ground-based offensive comfort zone.
But 17 points shouldn't really be enough to win an SEC game, should it? Kudos are in order for the Gamecock defense, which hounded John Brantley in the pocket, kept the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps largely under wraps, and gave the Gators nothing in the downfield passing game. (We're not sure if any individual SEC unit has improved as much from 2010 to 2011 as the Carolina secondary, so eminently flammable in 2010 but one of the league's better defensive backfields in 2011. Of course, facing a steady diet of SEC quarterbacks tends to make any secondary look good.) But it's become obvious that the Gators' offensive troubles -- which many pinned on Brantley's absence or poor health in their four-game losing streak -- go much deeper than the quarterback position.
Brantley may not be 100 percent, but he wasn't all that far off in Columbia, and he still finished the day a mediocre 13-of-21 for just 119 yards and no touchdowns, And between his line's struggles in pass protection, his receiver's occasional butterfingers, and the continued boom-or-bust nature of the Gators' less-than-physical rushing game, he didn't get a lot of help. End result for the Gator attack: just 261 total offensive yards, just 12 points -- the Gators' fifth time at 20 points or fewer in six games -- and a final SEC record of 3-5, the program's first losing league record since 1979. Dear Charlie Weis: year 2 had better be a lot better if you'd like to get out of Gainesville alive.
WHEN SOUTH CAROLINA WON: Shaw basically made one important play all game in the passing department, but it was a biggie: facing first-and-15 at his own 37 immediately following a fourth-quarter Gator touchdown that cut the Carolina lead to two, Shaw threw deep to Ace Sanders for 46 yards. That was more than half of Shaw's passing total for the day, but more important it set up the Gamecocks for a short field goal and a 17-12 lead. The way the Gator offense had sputtered, asking them to score a second touchdown in the space of a quarter was always going to be too much.
WHAT SOUTH CAROLINA WON: A shot at the SEC East. If Georgia loses today to Auburn or next week to Kentucky (OK, if they lose today to Auburn), Carolina will go to Atlanta for the second time in two years.
WHAT FLORIDA LOST: a fifth SEC game for the first time in 32 years. Last week's win against Vanderbilt ensured the Gators won't miss a bowl game, but there's no way to color Will Muschamp's first season at the Gator helm as anything other than a disappointment now.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:45 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 been one of the longest weeks that I can remember in the world of college football because of what has been going in in State College this week, and I don't know about you, but I could really use a day to just immerse myself in football games and nothing else at this point.
So, thankfully, we've got a pretty decent slate of games on tap this weekend, though the schedule does get a bit thin toward the end of the day.
Texas Tech vs. #2 Oklahoma State - ABC, 12pm ET
Texas Tech has already spoiled the party for Oklahoma this season, and now it will be looking to finish off another Oklahoma school with BCS championship dreams. Of course, considering the way that Texas Tech has looked the last two weeks since that Oklahoma win, a victory against Oklahoma State in this one might be even more of a shocker. - Tom Fornelli
#13 South Carolina vs. Florida - CBS, 12pm ET
Steve Spurrier facing the program built by Steve Spurrier is always a headline-maker, but the bigger story is whether the Gamecocks can stay afloat in the SEC East title race. As in command as Georgia appears to be, a Carolina win over the Gators paired with an Auburn win over the Dawgs would have the East crown clinched for the Gamecocks by the end of the day. Florida may have something to say about that, though, after their previously moribund offense came to life with 410 total yards and 26 points vs. Vandy. - Jerry Hinnen
Iowa vs. #17 Michigan State - ESPN2, 12pm ET
There are approximately three games left (barring disastrous upsets) that will decide the Big Ten Legends Division race. This is one of them. Iowa, even with three losses, still controls its own destiny in the race, and has been undefeated at home. Meanwhile, Michigan State is the putative leader of the division, and a win here puts the Spartans in great shape to make it to Indianapolis in December. MSU hasn't been able to run on anybody, and Iowa hasn't been able to stop anybody on the ground. Something's gotta give. - Adam Jacobi
#5 Boise State vs. TCU - Versus, 3:30pm ET
Here it is, Boise State's Mountain West Super Bowl. With no conference championship, and a soft finish to the regular season schedule, this is the Broncos last chance to make a statement against an opponent with any national recognition. The Horned Frogs aren't the power they have been the last two seasons, but they definitely present the most difficult challenge to Boise State in the conference. Bad news for TCU though, the defense that is giving up 200+ yards per game through the air has to face Kellen Moore on the Smurf Turf. I expect Moore and Co. to take the opportunity to make a statement to the nation, so get the scoreboard warmed up now. - Chip Patterson
#14 Kansas State vs. Texas A&M - ABC, 3:30pm ET
If last week was any indication, we were all a bit early in writing off Kansas State following it's loss to Oklahoma. The Wildcats nearly put an end to Oklahoma State's BCS hopes last weekend, and they will be looking to put another nail in the coffin of Texas A&M this weekend. The Aggies have lost two in a row coming into this game, and lost running back Christine Michael for the season last week. Will the A&M offense be capable of making up for his absence? Also, will it even matter if Collin Klein has another amazing game for the Wildcats? - TF
#15 Georgia vs. #20 Auburn - CBS, 3:30pm ET
Can Mark Richt's team handle the pressure? Win this game, and the Bulldogs will be one home gimme over Kentucky from their first trip to the SEC Championship game since 2005--the sort of stakes under which Richt's team has repeatedly shriveled in those five preceding years. If Aaron Murray plays his game, the Dawg defense forces Clint Moseley to look like the sophomore making a third career start he is, and Isaiah Crowell can find a hole or two, Georgia should be home and dry. But if they don't? The Tigers showed against Carolina and Florida that they're perfectly happy dragging opposing pro-style offenses into a low-scoring slugfest where Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb dominate things ... and the Tigers win. - JH
Florida State vs. Miami - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET
The in-state rivalry enters a new chapter with both Miami and Florida State making coaching changes in the last two seasons. With EJ Manuel healthy again, the Seminoles are on a four-game winning streak averaging 38.5 points per game. They are likely out of the ACC Atlantic race, but there is still plenty to play for for these two Florida programs. Players from both locker rooms have made a point to mention this game meaning a little more, as you can feel the intensity returning to the rivalry. High profile recruits will be in the house, bragging rights will be on the line, and the Hurricanes are no doubt looking to get revenge after last season's embarrassing 45-17 loss at home. - CP
USC vs. Washington - FX, 3:45pm ET
Although USC can't play in a Pac-12 Championship game this season, it would still like to show the rest of the conference that it's the best team in the Pac-12 South this season, and if it continues to play like it has been the last few weeks, then Washington may be in for a long day. Of course, on the other side of the field is a Washington team that is improving but still doesn't have that signature win under Steve Sarkisian. Going to The Coliseum and handing USC a loss would be just that. - TF
Illinois vs. #24 Michigan - ABC/ESPN, 3:30pm ET
The last two times these teams squared off, the final score was a 67-65 3OT masterpiece in Michigan's favor. We might not see 132 total points scored (or even 100; quelle horreur!), as both defenses have been miles ahead of last year. That said, both teams' exciting quarterbacks are back and putting up solid numbers, and each squad should be extremely motivated to snap a losing streak with a big victory. Folks, it's Denard vs. Scheelhaase; why wouldn't you watch this game? - AJ
Maryland vs. Notre Dame - NBC, 7:30pm ET
Do you ever think to yourself that you hate your eyes? Well, if so, then this will be the game for you. Maryland will be breaking out the infamous uniforms we saw in their season opener against Miami earlier this year, and they'll be combined with Notre Dame's Trapper Keeper helmets. By the time the third quarter begins you'll feel like you've been trapped inside a Jackson Pollock painting. - TF
Mississippi State vs. #3 Alabama - ESPN, 7:45pm ET
Oh, Bulldogs, you did not pick the right time to face Alabama. Not that it likely would have any difference--since back-to-back shockers over the Tide in 2006 and 2007, State has lost three straight to Nick Saban's team by a combined score of 93-20. But catching Alabama the week after the wicked sting of losing to LSU won't do much for their chances. Unless Chris Relf and Tyler Russell took some seriously ginormous strides during last week's clobbering of FCS UT-Martin, it's doubtful a Bulldog offense that's had its share of troubles this season will find many solutions against the angry Tide. - JH
#4 Stanford vs. #7 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET
The Game of the Century may have been in Tuscaloosa this past weekend but the Game of the Century, Western edition will take place Saturday in Palo Alto as Oregon puts their 18 game conference streak against Stanford's nation-leading 17 game winning streak. This was a close game last season before the Ducks pulled away late, something Andrew Luck and company are intent on correcting in order to come out of the game with a win and their national title hopes alive. - Bryan Fischer
LATE NIGHT SNACK
Washington State vs. Arizona State - Versus, 10:30pm ET
Both teams are looking to make a statement and pick up a win but more is on the line for Arizona State after losing control of the Pac-12 South after last week's loss to UCLA. The Cougars are improved but will have to deal with Vontaze Burfict on defense and an offense with plenty of weapons to contain. - BF
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Auburn, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Chip Patterson, Chris Relf, Christine Michael, Clint Moseley, Collin Klein, Denard Robinson, E.J. Manuel, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Isaiah Crowell, Jackson Pollock, Jerry Hinnen, Kansas State, Kellen Moore, Kentucky, LSU, Mark Richt, Maryland, Miami, Michael Dyer, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Mountain West, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Onterrio McCalebb, Oregon, Pac-12, Saturday Meal Plan, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Russell, UCLA, USC, Vontaze Burfict, Washington, Washington State