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)

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