Category:NCAAF
Posted on: December 4, 2011 8:48 am
 

Week 14 Power Poll: Oklahoma State over Bama

There’s just something wrong about a team that didn’t win its division getting a national championship berth while sitting on the couch.

Such was Alabama’s fate on Saturday. The Tide seemingly got to New Orleans without lifting a weight, running a lap or repping a play on the last day of the season. Look, I don’t have a Dawg in the hunt – neither does Georgia – but there is something weird about that.

All props to the Tide to getting to their second national championship game in three years. Alabama perhaps had the “best” loss of any team behind LSU. But the best thing Bama had going for it on Saturday was Nick Saban. There are worst spokesman to have.

As the regular season closes, the Power Poll is going with Oklahoma State at No. 2 and Bama at No. 3. We’ve got a month to debate. Fire away.



1. LSU – Closed out with combined 83-3 rallies against Arkansas and Georgia.
2. Oklahoma State – Won conference. Handed Bob Stoops his second-worst loss. Beat five ranked teams.
3. Alabama – Didn’t win division. Lost at home to LSU while missing four field goals and throwing two interceptions.
4. Stanford – Best era in Cardinal history? 23-2 last two seasons under two coaches. More than just Andrew Luck.
5. Arkansas – Please, Garrick McGee, you can do better than UAB.
6. Boise State – Kellen Moore lost three games in his career by a total of five points.
7. USC – Lane Kiffin, Pac-12 coach of the year.
8. Oregon – Time for Ducks to step up in third consecutive BCS bowl.
9. Wisconsin – Montee Ball’s 38 total touchdowns more than 52 teams.
10. Michigan – First Sugar Bowl since 1984?
11. South Carolina – Spurrier best coaching job of his career?
12. Kansas State – Look who finished second in the Big 12.
13. Virginia Tech – It’s called the ACC title game. Your supposed to show up for it.
14. Baylor – “I could be wrong but I think Baylor won its first Heisman tonight,” RGIII.
15. TCU – So Gary Patterson's defense didn’t finish No. 1. So what? Frogs rebound to win 10 in “off” year.
16. Southern Miss – Furious Bradley scoop and scored for Southern Miss. That should have been the first sign that Houston was in for an upset.
17. Houston – Looked distracted by coach’s job rumors. Looked entitled playing for CUSA at home.
18. Georgia – Should have stopped and taken team picture with “10-0” on the scoreboard in the background vs. LSU.
19. Clemson – Those are the Tigers we knew before November.
20. Oklahoma – Landry Jones slumped badly this season.
21. Michigan State – The wait for the Rose Bowl enters its 24<sup>th</sup> year.
22. Nebraska – DC Carl Pelini reportedly leaving for Florida Atlantic.
23. West Virginia – Yes, this is the Big East and, yes, this particular tri-champion is ranked.
24. Florida State – Looking back, Atlantic Division was decided on Sept. 24 in five-point loss at Clemson.
25. Cincinnati  -- There’s a reason Butch Jones is getting all these job mentions.  

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 3, 2011 11:51 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2011 1:05 am
 

Uncertainty awaits 'Bama, OK State in BCS

If it all goes away for Alabama, Nick Saban will have taken his last shot on GameDay.

Complimenting LSU.

Smooth move or last gasp? 

That's the lasting image of Alabama's push for a national championship berth that could be slipping away overnight in the BCS. Jerry Palm says, for now, 'Bama looks solid at No. 2.

But let's review: The savvy Saban did his savvy best to be savvy Saturday morning, giving LSU its proper props. Even the mother of all TV hypefests may not help 'Bama as it sat on the sideline on the last day of the regular season. The intent, of course, was to expose Alabama as much as possible for two hours on national television.

What Saban failed to mention, or perhaps comprehend, was that Oklahoma State would be responsible for Bob Stoops's second-worst career loss. The Cowboys' 34-point over margin over Oklahoma on Saturday night was second only to OU’s 2005 BCS title game loss in the Orange Bowl. That 55-19 trounching at the hands of USC team that had to vacate its season because Reggie Bush was competing while ineligible.

Just to put a nice, neat bow on this season. Yeah, right. There is nothing but uncertainty as we wait for the final BCS standings Sunday night. Palm says Oklahoma State will have to make a significant leap in the human polls to pass Alabama. Consider the computers a wash. Alabama came into the day leading the Cowboys in that category, .9500-.9300.

Oklahoma State began the day fifth in both the Harris and coaches’ polls. Virginia Tech's loss to Clemson in the ACC title game helped but perhaps not enough. If the computers stay basically the same, Palm says Okie State has to finish at least 19 points ahead of Alabama in each of the human polls to have a chance. Oklahoma State currently trails Alabama by 342 points in the Harris poll and 166 points in the coaches' poll. That essentially means the Cowboys are going to have to pass Stanford, which didn’t play, and Virginia Tech in the human polls.

"I'm not sure one team ahead of [Oklahoma State] losing and one team putting up a big number [Clemson] is going to change the fact that everyone thought all along that LSU and Alabama were the two best teams," Palm said. "The voters would have to have an epiphany. That's basically what we're talking about."

That’s not to say the voters won’t change their minds. After watching one conference win five titles in a row, there could be such a thing as SEC Voter Fatigue.

The computers don’t know this was Stoops' second-worst loss. They don't know that Saban subtly was hyping his team on ESPN. A lot of the voters won’t either. Should it matter? Victory margin is largely factored out of the machines anyway. The circle argument will continue overnight until the final standings are released.

Computers don't know that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy endorsed Alabama at No. 2 last week, then went on the stump for his team immediately after the OU game.

Computers don't know the minds of the Cowboys on the night of Nov. 18. That was less than a day two Cowboys women's basketball coaches lost their lives in a plane crash. The next night the Cowboys lost their only game to Iowa State. Should that matter?

Computers don't care a hoot about an LSU-Alabama rematch which would be the first of its kind in BCS history.

So what we're left with are these base arguments:
  • Oklahoma State’s only loss in an 11-1 season came to unranked Iowa State on the road in overtime two weeks ago.
  • Alabama’s only loss came to No. 1 LSU at home in overtime a month ago.
  • Oklahoma State has an elite offense.
  • Alabama has an elite defense.
  • Oklahoma State won its conference.
  • Alabama didn't win its division.
Which team would you pick to play LSU in the national championship game? The answer isn't obvious. Immediately after the game Stoops said he would vote LSU-Oklahoma State 1-2.

That's one man. So is CBSSports.com blogger Tom Fornelli, who may have provided the most compelling evidence this week. Fornelli posted blind resumes of all the contenders for No. 2. Oklahoma State got 80 percent of the vote.

But the computers don't care about that either.


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 3, 2011 7:36 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Heisman Badger whips Dawgs

ATLANTA -- It was bordering on the ridiculous.

For two months since that slop of Game of the Century we’ve had to listen to SEC loyalists argue about the defensive aesthetic value of its top teams. For the first half of the SEC championship game the Strength Everywhere Conference had lost the benefit of the doubt. It shamed itself. It shamed football. It shamed the No. 1 ranking.

At least the top two BCS remain intact. Or so it seems after No. 1 LSU did enough in the second half Saturday to beat Georgia in the SEC title game thanks to a kid renamed Heisman Badger.

His real name, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, not only saved the game for the Tigers, in one stunning afternoon-turned-night that turned Georgia into goo. At the same time he saved the SEC’s rep and legitimized, somewhat, the BCS national championship game.

Mathieu returned one punt 62 yards and set up another score with a 47-yard in the third quarter. Somewhere, Johnny Rodgers was giving props. Everywhere crotchety gray-haired Heisman voters conditioned to write “Andrew Luck” on the top line over the top few weeks had to scramble.

Spelling lessons – no, it’s not Tyrone Matthew – and a highlight package were in order for the uninitiated. A cornerback for Heisman is an acquired taste. Ask Charles Woodson. Can Mathieu get to New York? Debatable. Should he win the Heisman? No question.

With apologies to Robert Griffin III, this might have been as big a Heisman Moment as there has been on the last Saturday in recent years.  

That was all a mostly punchless LSU offense needed. It had tortured its coach and LSU fans for most of the game, but particularly in the first half. The Tigers had 12 yards and no first downs at halftime. The only reason they any points was Mathieu’s punt return.

The defense took over in the third quarter, giving LSU field position that led to 21 points. That’s all the Tigers needed to (we think) secure a spot in the BCS title game for the third time in eight years. Believed to be accompanying LSU is Alabama which waited on the sidelines Saturday for the Tigers to rubber-stamp things.  

That would be a matchup of the No. 31 (Alabama) and No. 62 (LSU) offenses. But on defense those teams are 1-2 in total defense. But there is only one Honey Badger which was the only original nickname stuck on the sophomore from New Orleans when he began making play after play.

For those of you not caught up on the Honey Badger saga, watch this. You too will see why the Honey Badger takes what he wants.

In the season opener against Oregon, Mathieu led all LSU tacklers with 10 accenting that with a strip and score of Duck Kenyon Barner. At the end of the season, in his 25<sup>th</sup> career game, Mathieu has averaged one big “Badger play” per game. That would be four career interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and two punt returns for touchdowns. Total: 25.

The SEC as a whole really couldn’t lose Saturday. LSU could have lost and possibly opened the door for the best postseason day in SEC history. Three teams – LSU, Alabama and Georgia – would have stood a chance of getting an unprecedented three BCS bids.

Turns out it doesn’t matter who lost that Nov. 5 Game of the Century. If it was LSU, Alabama would have been here causing Georgia to tap out. One was going to be No. 1 and the other was going to be No. 2. That is all but assured now. Right?

 

  

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Alabama, BCS, Georgia, LSU, SEC
 
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Les Miles does not answer The Question

ATLANTA -- Les Miles wouldn’t go there when The Question was asked.

It’s obvious that No. 1 LSU can afford to lose Saturday and still play for the national championship. That has led to the anti-climatic nature of the SEC title game here on Saturday. But LSU’s coach obviously didn’t want to consider the option of losing Friday when asked if a team that hasn’t won its conference should be allowed to play in the big game.

“I have a very strong opinion,” said Miles who then paused a few seconds. “It will be something I will share with you some other time in my life.”

Unspoken answer: You’re damn right we should be in the championship game. We’ve beaten seven ranked teams, three in the top three including Alabama.

The question was phrased another way during Friday’s pre-game press conferences: Should LSU be in the BCS title game win or lose?

“I have given little thought to that,” Miles said. “I do know that that is an issue out there for other folks. It’s not one for us. We’ve talked about it several times but not about the ‘What ifs.’ It’s about what we’ve accomplished at this point.”

Miles has an ally in Georgia coach Mark Richt. The Bulldogs were fourth going in the BCS going into the final weekend of the 2007 season behind Ohio State, West Virginia and Missouri. Missouri and West Virginia lost, leaving a bunch of two-loss teams (and one-loss Kansas which had completed its season) to compete for the other top-two spot.

LSU jumped Georgia that year, vaulting from No. 7 to No. 2 in the final BCS standings after winning the SEC title game over Tennessee. At that point Georgia was 10-2 having lost only to South Carolina and Tennessee. The Dawgs won their final seven regular-season games, finishing fifth in the BCS behind Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, LSU and Ohio State.

So much for a non-conference winner playing for it all. It has actually happened twice in BCS history -- Nebraska (2001) and Oklahoma (2003). Georgia did have a nice consolation prize that year, beating the snot out of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

“The bottom line is when you play a game or have a season or have a system there’s certain rules that you abide by,” Richt said. “If the rules say you must be conference champion then that’s the way it is. If the rules don’t say that then I don’t you have to be the conference championship to play in that [BCS title] game.

“ … Why should somebody go stumping and try to convince everybody that should be part of the criteria when it’s not?”

When told he had tap-danced nicely around the issue Friday, Miles told CBSSports.com, "Best I can do." 

 

 

 

Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:04 pm
 

A&M acts late on Sherman

Something happened with Mike Sherman.

A day ago he was talking about recruiting three stars and turning them into five stars. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why he was fired Thursday.

Targeting three stars is probably not the right philosophy going into the SEC.

Anyway, something happened to Sherman. Radically. A day ago it looked like the Aggies’ coach was safe. The athletic department owed a lot of money to a lot of people but … come to think to think of it, maybe that’s why he was fired Thursday.

Four years, .500 record. A&M had enough especially owing upwards of $50 million to various entities ($16 million loan to the university, $9 million to buyout Sherman, unknown exit fee to the Big 12).

Something happened to Mike Sherman and it likely has a brush mustache and is part of the Bowtie Revolution.

That would be president R. Bowen Loftin, the driving force behind the school’s move to the SEC. A little Bowen mind-reading here: Best to start with a clean slate with the competition about to be ratcheted up in the SEC.

Great idea except that Loftin is an academic making intrusions into a glorious, tradition-bound football program. That said, Sherman was a reach from the start. AD Bill Byrne handed a seven-year contract to the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator. Who exactly was Byrne’s competition?

What he got in exchange was a 25-25 record and numerous blown second-half leads. The Aggies, in a word, were soft. At least this year. A 20-3 halftime lead at home melted away against Oklahoma State and its 107<sup>th</sup>-ranked pass defense. There was an 18-point halftime lead against Baylor that went pffft. The Aggies led mediocre Missouri 14-0 at home. And blew that one too.

Much more was expected out of a team that was 9-4 in 2010 and returned 18 starters. Someone at A&M likely looked around and saw Arizona hire Rich Rodriguez and Washington State Mike Leach and asked, “Just what the hell are we doing about anything?”

That someone was probably Loftin. He conspicuously changed his tune on Sherman following the Thanksgiving night loss to Texas.

Before: “As far as I'm concerned, yes," he said Tuesday. "We don't want to make any hasty moves, and we look forward to him being our football coach in the future."

After:  "We're thinking hard about [the season and the future]."

A president is allowed to change his mind, but this president has his nose poked so far into athletics that, well, you get it. A&M most likely will pursue Kevin Sumlin, one of its former assistants. Sumlin is right down the road in Houston about to take the Cougars to a BCS bowl.

But A&M might be late. There was a report Thursday that Arizona State had already offered Sumlin. I’ve got a better idea. There’s a young guy up the road coordinating a salty defense. Had a great year. Name’s Manny Diaz. Works for Texas.

But that would be deal breaker for Bowtie Guy who just let century-old ties with the Longhorns to head South. His program may already be headed there. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 9:09 pm
 

Why UCLA is going bowling

UCLA’s waiver to go bowling at 6-7 hinged on three key issues according to an NCAA source.

The NCAA’s bowl licensing subcommittee made a bit of history when it granted the Bruins bowl eligibility even if it loses the Pac-12 championship game on Friday. They are currently 6-6.

UCLA will go bowling regardless according to an NCAA …

… because the Pac-12 championship was not a scheduled game. UCLA, then, is being viewed as a 6-6 team for bowl purposes. (Certainly not for bowl promoters’ purposes.)

…because the Pac-12 cannot fill all seven of its bowl slots.

More to the point, there are only 71 bowl-eligible teams at the moment. Denying UCLA would have put the college football right at the cut line – just enough teams to fill 35 bowls. That means that a non-regional team probably would have been shipped out West to fill the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

North Texas was allowed to play in a bowl after winning the Sun Belt at 5-6 in 2001. The Mean Green lost the New Orleans Bowl to Colorado State to finish 5-7. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 30, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:36 pm
 

Door finally opens for The Pirate at Wazzu

Mike Leach and Washington State have a lot of people to thank.

Start with Ohio State. Jim Tressel, Gordon Gee and Gene Smith in particular. Throw in USC, Penn State and Syracuse. There’s probably a few others out there, at least accused of reprehensible behavior. In their own way, they all opened the door a little further for Leach to find work again.

After sitting out the two previous seasons, The Pirate verbally agreed to take the Washington State job per our Bruce Feldman.

How bad does it look now suing a former employer? Not even. A potential courtroom smackdown of Craig James would draw a standing-room crowd. But it’s no reason to shun an accomplished coach. Leach’s legal preferences have nothing to do with cheating to win a championship, taking extra benefits, lying or looking the other way while alleged victims suffered. In fact, Leach should be admired for sticking to his beliefs and doggedly pursuing those three lawsuits. They dragged on at the same time college athletics made most of the news -- dragging itself into a sewer.

Time and circumstances, it seems, can always turn a pariah into a savior. Especially one armed with equal parts charisma, quirkiness and offensive innovation.

We reached critical mass on Wednesday. Washington State’s desperation to win outstripped any off-field concerns there would be about Leach. His case against Texas Tech currently caught up in the Texas State Court of Appeals doesn’t seem like that big a deal at the moment. Not when Ohio State is throwing $4 million a year at Urban Meyer at the same time it is fighting the NCAA on two fronts. Not when USC is just entering the worst phase of its NCAA penalties. Not when Penn State may never be the same.

In this sometimes sordid world of college athletics, these types of lawsuits seem like paper swords. This pirate swings a much more substantial such weapon. Winning remains the currency of choice, which it should be in Pullman.

This is a program that was in the Rose Bowl as recently as 2003. It’s also a program that ran itself into the ground with a series of bad hires and bad decisions. Remember when Mike Price went to Alabama? Wazzu is a small-budget operation that exists on the edge Throw in a suddenly winnable Pac-12, stability and money – lots of money – and the choice was easy for Washington State AD Bill Moos.

Did I say small budget? That, it should be noted, is about to change. The Pac-12 is counting on what could be a $30 million per year payout per school in the near future. Armed with those kinds of Benjamins, Moos acted decisively. Kansas was the other main suitor. Jayhawks AD Sheahon Zenger has a long relationship with Leach. Kansas football is experiencing a similar football downturn. Someone needs to put a bottle of Heinz 57 on Zenger’s desk. Ketchup! He just got skunked.

Or maybe it’s just the college football landscape. Maybe Leach was balancing offers from both schools. Washington State: 9-40 over the last four years, but a member of what claims to be the richest conference in the country. Kansas: 5-19 in two years under Turner Gill in a league that is guaranteed (we think) to stay together only six more years.

A bad rich program is better than a bad unstable one.

Either way, we can only hope that Craig James never again has to do either of their games, right?

 

 

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Coaches' realignment in Pac-12

At this rate, Washington State's head of football operations will be the dean of Pac-12 coaches.

Just kidding, a little.

Black Sunday turned into Black Monday when two more Pac-12 coaches were reportedly fired. UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson are done. That brings the total number of conference coaches to depart in the last year to five. (Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford)

This isn’t a changing of a guard, it’s a purge. It’s almost as if someone decided that with the conference about to launch it’s own network, it needed a new “look”.

Out: Erickson at Arizona State. In: Mike Bellotti?

Out: Dan Hawkins in 2010 at Colorado. In: Jon Embree

Out: Mike Stoops at Arizona. In: Rich Rodriguez.

Out: Jim Harbaugh, from Stanford to the 49ers. In: David Shaw.

Out: Neuheisel four days before the Pac-12 title game. In: ?

Next out: Paul Wulff at Washington State. Next in: Mike Leach?

Half the league has changed or is in the process of changing coaches, which led a lot of us to check our media guides. Who exactly IS the dean of Pac-12 coaches at this point? With apologies to the Wazzu ops guys, that would be Oregon State’s Mike Riley who just completed his 11<sup>th</sup> season in his second head coaching stop at the school. Cal’s Jeff Tedford is next at 10 years. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is third who just completed his seventh season. (But only his first in the conference.)

Neuheisel might be the first fired coach to participate in a conference championship game conference call. Give Slick Rick credit for manning up. His team is in the game only because USC is ineligible. The Bruins are prohibitive underdogs to Oregon a week after losing to the Trojans 50-0. Among the highlights from Monday:

On giving thought to even appearing on the conference call: “We all know what we’re getting into when we get into the profession … I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help bring it back to a place where I would be proud. [Positive things happened] they don’t always make it to the front pages of the newspaper. There was a lot of effort, good work done when I was here. It won’t be a bitter memory at all.”

On leaving: “Certainly when you’re the UCLA coach you’d like to play better against USC. When you lose in the fashion that we did, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.”

On the future:  “This has kind of hit me between the eyes a little bit. We’ll  make any decision about which course to take [in the future]. I love coaching, I know that. I’d have to take some time to figure all that out.  

On Friday’s championship game: “I hope like heck I’m not a distraction.”

This is a spectacular fall from grace for a favorite-son alum. At least another fall from grace. Don’t forget he left Washington after the NCAA tournament pool scandal that eventually led to him suing the NCAA – and winning.

Arizona State and UCLA are arguably the two best jobs in the league after USC. I’ve always wondered why 85 spectacularly talented kids wouldn’t want scholarships at Arizona State. The new coach will inherit a senior quarterback (Brock Osweiler), a good place to start in the Pac-12. Sun Devil Stadium is being remodeled.

UCLA should never be this far down. Big city. Access to big-time recruits. Rose Bowl. I’ve said it before but Neuheisel’s biggest mistake was that UCLA became boring. In L.A., the one thing you cannot be is boring. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com