Sunday, November 28, 2010

Auburn Validates Top Ranking By Winning at Alabama

The Auburn Tigers did exactly what they needed to do on Friday, winning at defending national champion and arch rival Alabama to solidify their position in the BCS standings. However, the manner in which the Tigers won wasn’t exactly the way Gene Chizik drew it up.

The Crimson Tide overwhelmed Auburn in the first half, jumping ahead 21-0 in the first quarter and leading 24-7 at the half.

That’s when the legend of Cam Newton grew again. Alabama did an outstanding job controlling Newton on the ground, so he went to the air. For the game, Newton connected on 13-of-20 passes for 216 yards and three big touchdowns. All of that, plus a rushing touchdown, were enough to bring the Tigers back in the second half and to win, 28-27.

Many experts doubted Auburn’s ability to visit Tuscaloosa and come out with a victory over Nick Saban’s team. However, the Tigers are now one win away from the BCS National Championship Game. Standing in the way are Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks, who the Tigers will meet on Saturday in Atlanta.

Stock up

Wisconsin – Offensively, is there a hotter team in the country right now? The Badgers have scored 70 points or more three times this season, including two of the last three weeks. Bret Bielema’s team is likely headed to the Rose Bowl, as the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings (we’ll know for sure next week, when the final BCS standings are released). An interesting bowl matchup would be Wisconsin’s potent offense against TCU’s stout defense.

Oklahoma – This year, the Sooners were expected to compete for not only the Big 12 title, but a national championship. But losing two-of-three in the middle of the season saw those hopes go by the wayside. However, Oklahoma rebounded to win its final three games and, by virtue of its BCS standing, the Sooners will represent the Big 12 South in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday. And, how appropriate, they will face Nebraska (neither Mike Rozier nor Brian Bosworth will be involved).

Arkansas – The Razorbacks have the second-longest winning streak in the SEC after Saturday’s 31-23 win over LSU in Little Rock. Bobby Petrino’s team has put itself in position for a BCS berth now, providing Auburn wins the SEC Championship game on Saturday. If that happens, expect Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks to be playing in the Sugar Bowl.

Notre Dame – Brian Kelly is an outstanding coach and, by most accounts, a good man. This season hasn’t gone the way he had hoped, with problems on and off the field. But on Saturday in Los Angeles, Kelly and his Irish made a big statement. Notre Dame went to USC and won, 20-16, beating the Trojans for the first time in eight years. With the win, Kelly is guaranteed a winning season, and a better bowl. Plus, he is 1-0 against Lane Kiffin, which has to feel good.

Tennessee – The Volunteers have not had a typical Tennessee season in 2010, but after opening 2-6, Derek Dooley’s troops rallied to win their last four and, after beating Kentucky on Saturday, the Vols are now bowl eligible. Tennessee won its 26th straight game against Kentucky on Saturday, the longest active streak of any FBS opponent against another.

Stock down

Boise State – What a tough loss for the Broncos. Kicker Kyle Brotzman missed not one but two field goals late in the game and in overtime, allowing Nevada to win, 34-31 in overtime, ending Boise’s 24-game winning streak and taking them out of contention for the BCS. Brotzman can’t bear all of the blame. Boise’s offense disappeared in the second half, and the defense allowed 27 points to the Wolf Pack in the second half and overtime.

Miami (Fla.) – Just two weeks ago, Miami was 7-3, facing a pair of winnable games that could allow them to close at 9-3. But things didn’t work out, as the Hurricanes lost to Virginia Tech (31-17) and South Florida (23-20), and suddenly, Miami was not only 7-5, but they were changing coaches. Randy Shannon was fired on Sunday, and the “U” will begin a national search for a coach immediately. Quite a change from only two weeks ago.

Florida – The Gators were thoroughly handled by Florida State on Saturday, losing 31-7 in Tallahassee. The loss dropped Florida to 7-5 on the season, marking the Gators’ first five-loss season since 2004. If the Gators lose their bowl game, it will be the first six-loss season since 1987. The disturbing thing is that Urban Meyer’s team appears to be confused about what’s actually happening on the field. The Gators are using three quarterbacks, and the offense has had no rhythm for the last three weeks (48 points against Appalachian State doesn’t count).

Texas – The last team to play in the national championship game one year, then miss bowls altogether the next? Yep, it’s the 2010 Longhorns. Texas had a tremendous drop-off in the middle of the season. If you don’t remember, this team was 3-0 and 4-2 earlier this season. At 4-2, with games remaining against Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Florida Atlantic, you would figure the Longhorns could find the two wins to become bowl eligible. But they didn’t. They only beat FAU, and at 5-7, Mack Brown’s team will be home for the holidays.

Iowa – What in the world happened to the Hawkeyes on Saturday? This was supposed to be the fourth-best team in the Big Ten. And they faced the 10th-best (next-to-last) team in Minnesota. And the Golden Gophers were able to pull the stunner, winning 27-24 in Minneapolis. But this game wasn’t that close. Minnesota outgained Iowa 382 to 218, outrushing them 216 to 91. Not a strong ending for Kirk Ferentz’s team.

Statistical Studs - Week 13

Jordan La Secla, San Jose State – The Spartan quarterback hit on 35-of-65 passes for 496 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-38 loss to Louisiana Tech.

Alex Green, Hawaii – Green carried 19 times for 327 yards and three touchdowns as the Warriors crushed New Mexico State, 59-24.

Torrey Smith, Maryland – Smith caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns as the Terps upset No. 21 N.C. State, 38-31.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma – The Sooners’ signal called certainly threw it all over the field on Saturday night. Jones completed 37-of-62 through the air for 468 yards and four TDs in Oklahoma’s 47-41 win at Oklahoma State.

Lance Dunbar, North Texas – In a losing effort, Dunbar rushed 22 times for 270 yards and three touchdowns as the Big Green fell to Kansas State, 49-41.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 14

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 18 South Carolina (SEC Championship)
No. 1 Oregon at Oregon State
No. 20 Florida State vs. No. 12 Virginia Tech (ACC Championship)
No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Nebraska (Big 12 Championship)
No. 14 Nevada at Louisiana Tech

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 12: LSU Survives, Stays In The Hunt

For college football fans, Saturday was somewhat of a letdown. None of the nation’s top four teams played, as Oregon, Auburn and TCU had the weekend off, while Boise State played (and won) on Friday night.

The weekend did offer a few novelties. There was the Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field, where all offensive plays were run to the West (or towards the third base line). There was also Notre Dame’s “home” game against Army at the new Yankee Stadium. But overall, Week 12 wasn’t the most exciting weekend of college football this season.

Of course, if you are an LSU fan, every weekend is exciting (and an adventure). The Tigers, no matter who they are playing, seem to almost always find themselves in a close game. Such was the case on Saturday, when Ole Miss came calling. LSU clearly has more talent that the Rebels, but Ole Miss hung around and made it interesting all the way.

I would have to imagine that this season (as well as the Cajun cooking) has given many LSU fans an ulcer. But if the Tigers can survive Saturday’s tough test at Arkansas, a BCS bowl bid should be coming to Baton Rouge. I’m not sure what will happen in the LSU-Arkansas game, but I bet it’s close.

Stock up

Virginia Tech – Remember the first two weeks of the season? This team was left for dead after losing to Boise State and James Madison. Since then, Frank Beamer’s squad is 9-0, and has now clinched the ACC Coastal Division title. The Hokies are not only the only unbeaten team in the ACC, but they are the only team without at least two losses. Kudos to Beamer and his staff on keeping this team together after a horrible start.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes picked up a nice win on Saturday, winning at Iowa, 20-17. Jim Tressel’s team is 10-1 on the season, with only the game against Michigan remaining on the schedule. The bad news is, the Buckeyes are behind Wisconsin in the polls and the BCS Standings, so a three-way tie in the Big Ten standings would likely go the way of the Badgers, leaving Ohio State out of the Rose Bowl, but perhaps still in the BCS (Orange Bowl?)

Arkansas – Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks won in a very tough SEC West matchup on Saturday night, overcoming a tough Mississippi State team, and the cowbells, for a double overtime win. Believe it or not, Arkansas sees itself as a BCS contender. Stick with me here. If they beat LSU on Saturday, the Razorbacks will be 10-2, and would figure to at least be in the discussion for a BCS bowl bid. I think Alabama would be picked before Arkansas, but we’ll see how it plays out.

Tennessee – Has anyone noticed what the Vols are doing? At one point this season, Tennessee was 2-6 and headed toward disaster. Just three weeks later, the Big Orange are 5-6, and heading into what amounts to a guaranteed victory (a game against Kentucky, who they’ve beaten 25 times in a row). Derek Dooley has found a quarterback in freshman Tyler Bray, and the Vols are playing much better football. This team qualifying for a bowl would be just short of a miracle.

Northern Illinois – The Huskies have won eight in a row after Saturday’s 59-21 drubbing of Ball State in Muncie, Ind. Northern Illinois has clinched the MAC West Division title and will play in the MAC title game on December 3. This team is 9-2 overall, with losses at Iowa State and at Illinois. The Huskies could find themselves ranked very soon.

Stock down

USC – OK, I want to know who in the hell these Associated Press voters are that keep ranking this team. Last week, USC was No. 20 in the AP Poll (they are ineligible for the USA Today poll, due to probation). So, being ranked that high, a game against a 4-5 Oregon State team shouldn’t be that tough, right? Wrong. Oregon State won the game 36-7. Lane Kiffin’s team is 7-4, and may be a lot of things, but they are NOT a Top 25 team. Saturday’s game against Notre Dame will actually be very interesting.

Baylor – Just a few weeks ago, the Bears were 7-2, nationally-ranked and flying high after beating Texas 30-22. Since then, Baylor has lost to Oklahoma State (55-28), Texas A&M (42-30) and Oklahoma (53-24). Granted, the Big 12 did them no favors with the schedule, but that’s a tough way to finish the season. Hopefully for Art Briles and his Bears, they will draw an easier bowl opponent.

Nebraska – This team is tough to figure out. At times, they look like they can compete with anyone. And at other times, they look like bottom feeders. Case in point, Saturday’s 9-6 loss to Texas A&M. Where’s the offense? This is a team with Taylor Martinez at quarterback and Roy Helu Jr. at running back. How do they only score six points? The Cornhuskers can still win the Big 12 North by beating Colorado on Friday.

East Carolina – The Pirates have lost three of four after Saturday’s 62-38 loss at Rice. The offense is not the problem for ECU. It’s the defense. In the last three games, ECU has given up 62 points to Rice, 42 to UAB and 76 to Navy. Houston, we have a problem. The Pirates are 6-5 on the season, but this trend can’t continue if they want to move forward.

Louisville – The Cardinals have had back-to-back home games where they could have reached the six-win plateau and become bowl-eligible. And in two straight weeks, Charlie Strong’s team has come up short. Now, the ‘Ville must win a road game at Rutgers to reach that magical six-win mark. Even if they do, there’s no guarantee that Louisville will make it to a bowl game. Short-term, bad news. Long-term, the Cards are more competitive under Strong and figure to be a Big East player very soon.

Statistical Studs – Week 12

Bryant Moniz, Hawaii – The Warrior quarterback was 32-of-44 for 560 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 win over San Jose State.

Mikel Leshoure, Illinois – Leshoure enjoyed the game at Wrigley Field, rushing 33 times for 330 yards and two touchdowns as the Illini pulled the upset, beating Northwestern, 48-27.

Mark Harrison, Rutgers – In a losing effort, Harrison caught 10 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns, as the Scarlet Knights lost to Cincinnati, 69-38.

Ryan Lindley, San Diego State – The Aztecs came up just short in their battle against Utah, but Lindley certainly did his part. He connected on 36-of-54 passes for 528 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-34 loss to No. 25 Utah.

Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky – The Hilltopper workhorse carried the ball 45 times for 248 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s tough 27-26 loss to Middle Tennessee. Rainey also caught four passes for 34 yards.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 13

No. 17 Texas A&M at Texas (Thursday)
No. 2 Auburn at No. 9 Alabama (Friday)
No. 20 Arizona at No. 1 Oregon (Friday)
No. 3 Boise State at No. 19 Nevada (Friday)
No. 5 LSU at No. 12 Arkansas (Saturday)
No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 10 Oklahoma State (Saturday)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week 10 Review - TCU Is For Real

One of the major arguments in college football this season is whether a non-automatic qualifying conference team (primarily TCU and/or Boise State) deserve to be in the national championship race against the “big boys” from the BCS conferences. The big discussion has been, does an unbeaten TCU or Boise State go to the BCS Championship ahead of a one-loss SEC or Big Ten team?

With that as the background, TCU made a huge statement on Saturday. The Horned Frogs went on the road, facing unbeaten Utah in Salt Lake City, and crushed the hometown Utes, 47-7. As usual, TCU did it with defense, holding Utah to 199 total yards, and only 51 yards rushing.

I’ll admit, I’m a big school, BCS conference guy. I think the SEC is much better than any other conference (maybe not quite as much this year, but they are still better). However, I think that this could be the year that one of the non-AQ schools gets a shot at the BCS Championship. And after Saturday, that team is likely to be TCU.

If either Oregon or Auburn fall, it’s going to be tough to keep TCU out of the national championship game. But there’s a lot of football left, so let’s let the season play out.

Stock up

LSU – At some point, doesn’t Les Miles deserve credit? Sure, he seems to be making wreckless decisions in crucial situations. But the guy almost always pulls them off. And on Saturday, with virtually no one giving his team a chance, the Tigers beat Alabama 24-21. And now, guess who’s the highest-ranked one-loss team in the BCS Standings.

Stanford – The Cardinal stepped up big on Saturday, crushing Arizona 42-17 in Palo Alto. Quarterback Andrew Luck was strong again, and Stanford remains the best team in the Pac-10 not named Oregon.

Oklahoma State – Who’s at the top of the Big 12 South standings? Texas? Nope. Oklahoma? Nope. How about Mike Gundy’s Cowboys, who are now 4-1 in Big 12 play after Saturday’s beatdown of Baylor. Two tough games remain for the Cowboys, including visiting a reeling Texas team this weekend.

North Carolina – The Tar Heels season has been derailed by NCAA investigations and suspensions, but UNC got its sixth win of the season on Saturday, upsetting No. 24 Florida State in Tallahassee. Butch Davis’ squad is now bowl-eligible, and has three games remaining with a chance to make some noise.

Central Florida – The Knights did just enough on Saturday to win at Houston, 40-33. Central Florida is now 7-2 on the season and leads Conference USA’s East Division with a 5-0 conference record. And, for good measure, the Knights are nationally-ranked this week.

Stock down

Texas – It’s understandable for the Longhorns to be a little down this season, after losing Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and all of the outstanding players from last season. But Texas should NEVER go to Kansas State and get blown away like the Longhorns did on Saturday. Texas is now 4-5 on the season and will need to upset Oklahoma State or Texas A&M to become (gulp) bowl-eligible.

Oklahoma – The Sooners are not nearly in as bad of a shape as their rival Longhorns, but Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M was unexpected, and likely took away any chance that Oklahoma had of playing in the BCS National Championship Game. The Sooners control their own destiny in the Big 12 South, and they’ll need to bounce back to make the Big 12 Championship Game.

Missouri – Sticking with the Big 12 theme, the Tigers fell out of a tie for first in the Big 12 North after Saturday’s loss at Texas Tech. The disappointing part of this for Mizzou is that the Tigers built a 17-3 lead before being shut out in the second half.

N.C. State – This team has the Houdini-like quality to show up and disappear, it just seems to happen at the wrong times. The offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, should never be held in check as they were in the 14-13 loss at Clemson. The Wolfpack remain in the ACC Atlantic Division race, and they hold the tiebreaker over Florida State. But another loss could be costly.

Hawaii – The Warriors entered Saturday’s game at Boise State with hopes of an upset. A potent offense, led by quarterback Bryant Moniz and receiver Kealoha Pilares, figured to give Boise State problems. Or, maybe not. The Broncos held Hawaii to 196 total yards, including just 151 through the air in a 42-7 thumping in Boise. Consolation prize for the Warriors, they got to return to Hawaii after the game.

Statistical Studs – Week 10

Kellen Moore, Boise State – How about 30-of-37 passing for 507 yards and three touchdowns? Not bad, especially considering Moore did all of that in just about three quarters, as the Broncos thumped Hawaii, 42-7.

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State – Blackmon caught 13 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ 55-28 win over Baylor. If that wasn’t enough, he also carried the ball once, rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Roy Roundtree, Michigan – In a wild game in Ann Arbor, Roundtree caught nine passes for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Wolverines downed Illinois 67-65 in triple overtime.

T.J. Yates, North Carolina – Yates had another big game on Saturday, hitting on 24-of-35 passing for 439 yards and three scores as the Tar Heels beat Florida State 37-35.

Montel Harris, Boston College – Harris hasn’t had the year that many expected in 2010, but Saturday was one of his best games of the season. Harris carried the ball 36 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns in a 23-13 win at Wake Forest.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 11

No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Alabama
No. 22 South Carolina at No. 24 Florida
No. 1 Oregon at California
No. 16 Virginia Tech at North Carolina
No. 23 Texas A&M at Baylor