Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Tale Of Two Programs

Want to know the difference between the football programs at Miami and Florida right now? Simply look at their current coaching searches.

Miami fired Randy Shannon after he and his team lost the season finale to South Florida. Since that time, the 'Canes have thrown out lots of big names, including Jon Gruden and Bo Pelini. But my sources tell me that the job will be offered to Temple's Al Golden or Connecticut's Randy Edsall.

Really Miami? You have a job open for two weeks, and that's the best you can do? No offense meant to Golden or Edsall. Both are good coaches who have done tremendous jobs at their current stops. But is one of these guys supposed to turn Miami back into the 'Canes of the 1980's and 1990's? I'm not buying it.

On the other side of the coin, check out Florida's coaching search. Urban Meyer resigns on Wednesday. And on Saturday, Florida AD Jeremy Foley announces the hiring of Will Muschamp as the new head coach.

Three days, and a coach is hired. And, by all accounts, Muschamp is one of the rising stars in coaching. Muschamp was the "coach in waiting" at Texas, but with no retirement coming from Mack Brown, he decided to jump ship and take the Florida job.

Granted, no one knows how Muschamp will do as a head coach, since he's never served in that capacity before. But all indications are that the 39-year-old will be an outstanding head coach, and he'll certainly have all of the resources he needs in Gainesville.

It's a shame that Miami's search is going the way it's going, while another Florida school is able to make a quick and solid decision. NCAA Football would be better if Miami were better, but as the brass at UM botch another search, it may be a while before that happens.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

BCS Gets It Right

Love it or hate it, the Bowl Championship Series got it right on Sunday night. The matchup between Auburn and Oregon should be a classic. And, after what we saw on Saturday, these are clearly the two best teams in the country.

Auburn dismantled the Ol' Ball Coach and his South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Oregon visited arch rival Oregon State and took care of business, with their typical big second half.

These two teams figure to provide the nation with an offensive explosion in the BCS Championship Game. Both teams average more than 40 points per game. Auburn is led by Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton, while Oregon has its own Heisman candidate in running back LaMichael James.

Those that cry foul each year during the college football season really have no argument this season. Sure, TCU is unbeaten and is being left out of the title game, but the Horned Frogs play in a non-automatic qualifying conference (for now), and they clearly did not face the schedule that either Auburn or Oregon faced.

Other Big Bowl Matchups

Utah vs. Boise State (MAACO Bowl Las Vegas) - Two previous BCS Busters meet in this one. Both teams are nationally-ranked, and Boise State figures to be highly motivated after a devistating loss at Nevada last weekend. Utah has been up and down, but Kyle Whittingham always has his team ready to play in its bowl game (just ask Nick Saban).

Tulsa vs. Hawaii (Sheraton Hawaii Bowl) - If you like points, keep an eye on this game on Christmas Eve. Tulsa is 10th nationally, averaging 39.7 points per game. Hawaii is ninth in the same category, posting 39.9 points per outing.

Miami (Fla.) vs. Notre Dame (Hyundai Sun Bowl) - OK, so it's not 1990, and it's not Catholics vs. Convicts, but this is still a matchup of two of college football's biggest names. Miami fired Randy Shannon at the end of the regular season, so it will be interesting to see how the 'Canes respond. Notre Dame has had its troubles this year as well, although it appears that Brian Kelly has them headed in the right direction.

Florida State vs. South Carolina (Chick-fil-A Bowl) - These two teams will enter the game after losing in their conference title game. Jimbo Fisher has the 'Noles back in the national picture despite falling to Virginia Tech in Charlotte on Saturday. Steve Spurrier has to get his team to rebound from the pounding they took at the hands of Auburn in the SEC Championship.

Penn State vs. Florida (Outback Bowl) - Joe Paterno has already announced that he's returning for his 95th season next year (slight exaggeration only). His team will face Florida, a team that had a very disappointing regular season. However, the Outback Bowl skipped South Carolina to take the Gators, and Urban Meyer should have his team ready to face the Nittany Lions.

Alabama vs. Michigan State (Capital One Bowl) - Another SEC vs. Big Ten matchup in this one. The defending national champs are 9-3, with tough losses to South Carolina, LSU and Auburn. Michigan State lost only once (37-6 at Iowa), but the Spartans did not face Ohio State. However, they did beat Wisconsin in Week 5.

Michigan vs. Mississippi State (Konica Minolta Gator Bowl) - The interesting thing in this game, to me, is whether either of these teams will have the same coach at the beginning of next season. Rich Rodriguez is under pressure at Michigan, while Mississippi State's Dan Mullen figures to be a hot commodity once this game is over.

TCU vs. Wisconsin (Rose Bowl presented by Vizio) - This game is a clash of styles. TCU is unbeaten and does it with defense. The Horned Frogs give up only 215 yards and 11.4 points per game, leading the nation in both categories. They will face a Wisconsin team that is fourth nationally in scoring (43.3 points per game). Side note: TCU also averages 43.3 points per game.

Arkansas vs. Ohio State (Allstate Sugar Bowl) - Arkansas was perhaps the hottest team in the country at the end of the season. Quarterback Ryan Mallett puts up huge numbers in Bobby Petrino's offense, and that will be a challenge for the Buckeyes' defense. On the other side, Arkansas must find a way to stop Terrelle Pryor and the Ohio State offense.

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oregon Rolls Again, Crushing USC In Week 9

Oregon headed into what was supposed to be a challenge in the Pac-10, and the Ducks rolled out of Los Angeles with a 21-point win over and over-rated USC team.

Oregon, plain and simple, is the best team in the country right now. I’m not saying they’ll win the national championship. But if it were played on October 30, I’d say they could beat anyone. The potent offense the Ducks possess puts opponents in a tough situation. Stop the run (OK, slow down the run, there’s no stopping them) and they’ll beat you with the pass. And vice versa.

LaMichael James is the only person not named Cam Newton in the Heisman Trophy discussion, and quarterback Darron Thomas continues to improve for the Ducks.

Oregon faces two more difficult road tests in the Pac-10, but if they continue to play like this, they will be in the BCS National Championship Game.

Stock up

Nebraska – A couple of weeks ago, this team suffered a devastating loss to Texas, one that could have derailed their season. But since that loss, the Huskers have rebounded nicely, including Saturday’s 31-17 win over previously unbeaten Missouri. Roy Helu, Jr. had a huge day for Nebraska, which is not totally out of the national championship race at this point.

Baylor – OK, three weeks ago, if I had told you that Baylor would go to Austin and beat Texas, you would have called me crazy. But that acutally happened on Saturday, and it wasn’t a fluke. The Bears, behind quarterback Robert Griffin, controlled the game against the Longhorns, and went home with a 30-22 win. Baylor leads the Big 12 South and controls its own destiny into the Big 12 Championship Game.

Iowa – The Hawkeyes proved that they are still in the mix for the Big Ten title on Saturday, thumping previously unbeaten Michigan State, 37-6. Iowa has lost only once in conference play, and still has a game against Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium (Nov. 20), where they could claim at least a portion of the conference title.

Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane did something that no one expected on Saturday, winning 28-27 at Notre Dame. Most experts figured that the Fighting Irish, facing an internal tragedy, would come out and play well in honor of their fallen videographer. Instead, quarterback Dayne Crist was injured, and Tulsa was able to take advantage. Coach Todd Graham, one of the nice guys in the game, deserves a win like this.

Syracuse – The Orange are 6-2 for the first time since 2001 after Saturday’s 31-7 thumping of Cincinnati. And Syracuse finds itself just a half game behind Pittsburgh in the Big East standings. Having already lost to the Panthers, Syracuse must win out and hope that Pitt falls at least once so that the Orange can claim a share of the Big East title.

Stock down

West Virginia – The Mountaineers make the stock down list for the second week in a row. It’s inexplicable that this team is not at the top of the Big East standings. The Big East is NOT a tough conference. There are no ranked teams in the conference. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are two of the best teams. And WVU can’t compete with Connecticut? That’s a problem.

Florida State – The Seminoles had a huge opportunity on Thursday night to basically claim the ACC’s Atlantic Division by beating N.C. State. Instead, Jimbo Fisher’s squad blew the lead late, and lost to the Wolfpack. Now, Florida State has a tenuous lead in the division, with division games remaining against Clemson and Maryland.

Michigan – The Wolverines opened the season with five straight wins, and appeared to be on the right path. Denard Robinson was the front-runner for the Heisman, and Rich Rodriguez appeared to have saved his job. Four weeks later, Michigan is 5-3, having suffered three straight losses, and a season of promise is turning into the same old Michigan (Rodriguez Era only). Michigan still faces Illinois, visits Purdue, hosts Wisconsin and visits Ohio State. They need to find one win to be bowl eligible. Rodriguez might need two wins (at least) to save his job.

Clemson – The Tigers should not have lost to Boston College on Saturday. They clearly have better talent (minus Montel Harris, of course), but Kyle Parker and his team simply should not have lost this game. Clemson is now 4-4 on the season, and they need to find two more wins to be bowl-eligible. Clemson hosts N.C. State, visits Florida State and Wake Forest, then hosts South Carolina. Could be tough sledding for Dabo Swinney’s team.

Miami – OK, so it’s pick on the ACC week. But Randy Shannon’s Hurricanes are better than this. A Virginia team that had only beaten FCS members Richmond and VMI, as well as pathetic Eastern Michigan, should not beat a ranked opponent. But that’s what the Cavaliers did to the Hurricanes on Saturday. The ‘Canes need to regroup for their final four games, so they can get to the best bowl available to them.

Statistical Studs – Week 9

Roy Helu, Jr., Nebraska – Think about the 1980’s and 1990’s, and how many times Nebraska ran the ball. Roger Craig, Turner Gill, Eric Crouch, etc. On Saturday, Helu outdid them all, rushing for a school-record 307 yards as the Huskers beat Missouri. Helu had three touchdowns, and they covered 66, 73 and 53 yards.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M – Tannehill connected on 36-of-50 passes for 449 yards with four touchdowns as the Aggies beat Texas Tech, 45-27. The 449 yards is a school record for passing yards in a game at Texas A&M.

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma – Staying in the Big 12, Broyles set an Oklahoma school record with 208 receiving yards, in a 43-10 win over Colorado. For the game, Broyles caught nine passes, including three touchdown passes (16, 81 and 64 yards).

LaMichael James, Oregon – James continues to stay in the Heisman Trophy race, as his team stays in contention for the national championship. In Saturday’s 53-32 thumping of USC, James carried 36 times for 239 yards and three touchdowns. This guy is the best running back in the nation, without question. The Heisman Trophy should come down to a race between James and Auburn’s Cam Newton.

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas – OK, so Mallett was only facing Vanderbilt, but he still had a huge game. Mallett passes for a school-record 409 yards and three touchdowns as the Razorbacks beat the Commodores 49-14 in Nashville. Mallett completed 27-of-44 passes and hit on three touchdowns in the game.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 10

No. 4 TCU at No. 6 Utah
No. 5 Alabama at No. 12 LSU
No. 13 Arizona at No. 10 Stanford
No. 17 Arkansas at No. 18 South Carolina
No. 22 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Auburn Shines In Week 8

Another weekend, and another huge showdown in the SEC. This time, it was Auburn remaining undefeated, knocking of previously unbeaten LSU 24-17.

Auburn’s Cam Newton put on a show yet again in this game. It’s amazing that a quarterback can pass for only 86 yards and still dominate a game. But when he rushes 28 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, Newton accomplishes just that.

Auburn is now 8-0 and controls its own destiny to the SEC West, SEC and national titles. If the Tigers keep winning, they would win each of those titles. And who saw that coming at the beginning of the season? Of course, the Tigers close by visiting Alabama on Nov. 26 in the Iron Bowl.

Stock up

Missouri – Gary Pinkel’s team proved that it can play with the big boys by beating Oklahoma on Saturday night in Columbia. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert passed for 308 yards and a touchdown in the win, which was one of the biggest in school history.

Michigan State – The Spartans appeared to be dead in the water, headed for their first loss of the season, but a fourth quarter rally allowed Michigan State to stay unbeaten, as they won 35-27 at Northwestern. The Spartans still face tough tests at Iowa and at Penn State.

Wisconsin – One week after upsetting then-No. 1 Ohio State, the Badgers showed no signs of a letdown, scoring a late touchdown to beat Iowa 31-30. John Clay scored two touchdowns for Wisconsin, now one of the primary contenders in the Big Ten race.

Navy – Not too long ago, the thought of Navy beating Notre Dame was ludicrous. Now, the Midshipmen have proved that they have at least as good of a program as Notre Dame, if not better. Saturday’s 35-17 win over the Irish wasn’t a fluke, it was a domination. Navy rushed for 367 yards in the game, which means they controlled the line of scrimmage.

Baylor – The Bears find themselves ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 15 years, and it’s well-deserved. On Saturday, Baylor beat Kansas State, 47-42, behind an outstanding effort from quarterback Robert Griffin, who passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Stock down

West Virginia – This team is tough to figure out. Saturday’s 19-14 loss to Syracuse continues to add to the mystery. The Mountaineers scored 14 points in the first quarter, then failed to score for the rest of the game. Quarterback Geno Smith threw three interceptions, which did not help the cause.

Texas – Can someone explain this team to me? They lose at home to a weak UCLA team, they go on the road and beat a decent Nebraska team, then they lose at home to Iowa State. Mack Brown will likely have a few more gray hairs trying to figure out the 2010 Longhorns.

Tennessee – Granted, they lost to a very good Alabama team, but the Vols are now 2-5 on the season, and that won’t sit well with fans in the land of Rocky Top. Derek Dooley must rally the Volunteers, as they visit South Carolina this weekend.

North Carolina – It’s been a tough season for the Tar Heels, with all of the suspensions, questions from the NCAA and more. But Saturday’s 33-10 loss at Miami should not have happened. Even missing some star players, the Hurricanes are not that much better than the Tar Heels.

Air Force – Just a couple of weeks ago, the Falcons were ranked and heading into a game at San Diego State. Now, they’ve lost two in a row, including Saturday’s 38-7 loss at TCU. And things don’t get easier for Air Force, as they visit Utah on Saturday.

Statistical Studs – Week 8

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska – The Freshman quarterback bounced back from a lousy effort in last week’s loss to Texas by passing for 323 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 112 yards on 19 carries as the Cornhuskers beat Oklahoma State.

Julio Jones, Alabama – All Jones did was set a school record with 221 receiving yards as the Tide rolled past rival Tennessee. Jones caught 12 passes for the 221 yards and amazingly did not score a touchdown.

Juan Nunez, Western Michigan – Nunez caught only six passes, but he covered 192 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Broncos thumped Akron, 56-10.

Jordan Wynn, Utah – Wynn played barely more than a half of football on Saturday, but he had huge numbers in spite of that. Wynn was 23-of-29 passing for 321 yards and three touchdowns as the Utes crushed Colorado State, 59-6.

Alexander Teich, Navy – Teich had a huge game on Saturday, rushing 26 times for 210 yards as Navy beat Notre Dame, 35-17.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 9

No. 1 Oregon at No. 24 USC
No. 7 Missouri at No. 14 Nebraska
No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa
No. 8 Utah at Air Force
No. 25 Baylor at Texas

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No. 1 Goes Down Again In Week 7

For the second straight week, the top team in the land was upset by a conference opponent, shaking up the college football landscape.

This week’s victim was Ohio State, which was dominated in the first half before mounting a valiant comeback against Wisconsin, only to lose 31-17. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was average, at best, and he didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates.

Wisconsin’s mammoth offensive line was able to dominate the Ohio State defensive front, allowing the Badgers to run the ball 43 times for 184 yards, controlling the clock in the process.

Ohio State’s dream of an unbeaten season is done, and their hopes of making it to the BCS Championship Game took a major hit in this loss. However, if teams ranked above them continue to lose (three top ten teams lost on Saturday), perhaps the Buckeyes can climb back into the national championship hunt.

Stock up

Auburn – The Tigers got a big win on Saturday, beating Arkansas 65-43 on the Plains. Cam Newton was amazing again for Auburn, now 7-0 on the season. The Tigers are looking to return to the glory days of Bo Jackson and Pat Dye, and Gene Chizik has done a great job of restoring the prominence of the program. If Auburn can beat LSU this weekend, national championship and Heisman Trophy talk will get very serious.

Boise State – Sure, Boise State crushed San Jose State 48-0 on Saturday night. That’s not news. What IS news is that Boise State keeps winning, while many teams around them in the polls continue to lose. This can only help Boise State’s position as the Broncos hope to make the BCS Championship Game. The BCS standings show Boise State ranked third, but any slip-up by Oklahoma or Oregon, and they could be right there.

Kentucky – The Wildcats ended a couple of streaks in Saturday’s 31-28 upset of South Carolina. Kentucky broke a ten-game losing streak to South Carolina, and also beat Steve Spurrier for the first time in 18 tries. Quarterback Mike Hartline was huge for the Wildcats, as was receiver Chris Matthews, but in the end, it was Randall Cobb making the big plays for a huge Kentucky victory. If the ‘Cats can beat Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt, they’ll be bowling again.

Virginia Tech – Remember the team that barely lost to Boise State in the season opener, then lost to James Madison the following week? That team has since run off five straight wins, and is rallying in time to become the team to beat in the ACC. The Hokies put up 52 points in Saturday’s spanking of Wake Forest. The schedule does get tougher, as Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami remain.

Eastern Michigan – Congratulations to coach Ron English and the Eagles, who snapped an 18-game losing streak on Saturday by beating Ball State 41-38. The Eagles fell behind 28-7, but ran off 28 unanswered points before eventually winning the game in overtime.

Stock down

Nebraska – What in the world happened to them on Saturday? This team had been outstanding all year, was facing an opponent that was reeling, and had home field advantage. All of those factors should equal a win, but they didn’t, as Texas beat Nebraska 20-13 in Lincoln. Freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez was largely ineffective, and the Nebraska offense never mustered much against the Longhorn defense. And now, the Cornhuskers visit No. 17 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Florida – A three-game losing streak? Losing to Mississippi State at home? Scoring seven (SEVEN!) points in a game? What in the world is going on in Gainesville? Maybe Urban Meyer should return to being fired up on the sidelines (take care of yourself Urban, no matter what). This Florida team is experiencing serious troubles. The good news is, they get this weekend off before facing arch rival Georgia on Oct. 30.

Nevada – Everything appeared to be set for a Nov. 26 showdown between unbeaten Boise State and unbeaten Nevada. Then, Hawaii entered the fray. The Wolf Pack made the long journey to paradise on Saturday night, and returned only with a 27-21 loss. Nevada has now fallen out of the polls, and most people will give them little chance of winning in Boise late in the season.

Air Force – The Falcons had emerged as a contender in the Mountain West, but Saturday’s 27-25 loss at San Diego State derailed that train. And things don’t get easier, as Air Force visits TCU this weekend before hosting Utah on Oct. 30. Air Force should be bowl eligible, but this loss certainly hurt their national standing.

Oregon State – Can someone explain this team to me? Please? Just when I think I have the Beavers figured out, they do something that I can’t explain. On Saturday night, they visited Washington, in a game they should have won, and they couldn’t get the job done. Granted, they were without James Rodgers, but beating this Washington team is something Oregon State should have accomplished. And, they still must face USC, Stanford and Oregon later in the season.

Statistical Studs – Week 7

Cam Newton, Auburn – The Auburn quarterback has turned himself into a Heisman Trophy contender. In the huge SEC West win over Arkansas, Newton rushed 25 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns, while hitting on 10-of-14 passes for 140 yards and another score.

Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech – Jenkins hit on 31-of-44 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-35 win over Idaho. Jenkins also rushed eight times for 34 yards and a touchdown in the game.

Josh Harris, Wake Forest – In a loss to Virginia Tech, Harris had a huge game. He carried 20 times for 241 yards, including an 87-yard scamper. Harris scored two touchdowns for the Demon Deacons in the game.

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State – If you haven’t heard of this player, you need to pay attention. On Saturday, he caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, as the Cowboys beat Texas Tech 34-17. Blackmon leads the nation with 955 receiving yards.

Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State – Hillman rushed 24 times for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Aztecs upset Air Force, 27-25.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 8

No. 6 LSU at No. 5 Auburn
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 13 Iowa
No. 14 Nebraska at No. 17 Oklahoma State
Air Force at No. 4 TCU

Sunday, October 10, 2010

South Carolina Upsets Alabama In Week 6 Clash

So, Alabama is human after all. Despite being virtually handed the crystal football trophy by some experts, the Crimson Tide proved its mortality on Saturday, losing to South Carolina 35-21 in Columbia.

Many times in an upset, there are fluke plays that allow the underdog team to pull out a victory. That was not the case in this game. South Carolina dominated the line of scrimmage in this game, outrushing Alabama 110-36 and sacking Tide quarterback Greg McElroy repeatedly.

Steve Spurrier got by far his biggest win as coach at South Carolina, and he now hopes that his Gamecocks can build on this win and compete for the SEC East title.

Meanwhile, Alabama coach Nick Saban must get his troops focused on cleaning up the mistakes that cost them this game. Alabama faces a tough schedule down the stretch, with games at LSU and against Auburn. Those two teams, along with Alabama and Arkansas, are all in the SEC West race.

Stock up

Michigan State – The Spartans went into the Big House on Saturday with their head coach in the press box, still recovering from a heart attack and a blot clot. Despite being on the road and facing adversity, the Spartans beat Michigan 34-17 to move to 6-0 on the season. Michigan State beat Michigan for the third straight time, the first time that has happened since the 60’s.

LSU – Les Miles has been called “The Hat” because of the way he wears his cap. But while many people are poking fun at Miles by calling him that, his hat just might be magic. Miles and his Tigers pulled out another huge victory on Saturday, beating Florida 33-29 in the Swamp. Included in the game-winning drive was a fake field goal, with the kicker running for the first down (after picking the ball up off the turf).

Florida State – The Seminoles were impressive again on Saturday, crushing Miami 45-17 on the road. Quarterback Christian Ponder continues to lead the offense, which appears to be getting better each week. Running backs Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson provide a tough duo for opponents to stop. The Seminoles are in the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic Division at this point in the season.

Purdue – The Boilermakers were on the verge of seeing the 2010 season go down the tubes after losing to Toledo two weeks ago. But Coach Danny Hope used last week’s open date to rally his troops, and whatever he did, it worked. Purdue went on the road and beat No. 25 Northwestern 20-17 in Evanston. Quarterback Rob Henry rushed for 132 yards for Purdue, which handed Northwestern its first loss of the season.

Syracuse – Guess who’s 4-1? Has anyone noticed the Orange? Granted, the schedule hasn’t been great so far. Syracuse has beaten Akron, Maine and Colgate. But Saturday’s Big East win at South Florida was impressive. We’ll find out if the Orange are for real over the next two games, when they host Pittsburgh then visit West Virginia.

Stock down

Arizona – The Wildcats were unbeaten, ranked in the nation’s Top Ten, and facing an unranked conference opponent at home. That doesn’t sound like a disaster scenario, but it was. Arizona trailed for nearly the entire game and lost, 29-27 to Oregon State in Tucson. Arizona now falls off the pace in the Pac-10 race, and faces a daunting schedule that includes trips to Stanford and Oregon.

Florida – Say what you will about Tim Tebow, but the guy was a winner. And that’s not a knock on John Brantley or any of the current Gators. But over the last four years, if the game was close at the end, you just knew Tebow and the Gators would pull it out. But in 2010, the Gators just don’t have the same finishing ability. Florida has now lost two in a row and finds itself looking up at South Carolina in the SEC East.

Penn State – It’s not just the fact that the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois on Saturday. They lost badly, falling 33-13 in Happy Valley. That’s two consecutive Big Ten losses of at least 20 points for Joe Pa’s team. At 3-3 this year, Penn State will need to rally to have a winning season. Penn State still has games against Michigan, at Ohio State and against Michigan State.

UCLA – This team went to Austin and thumped Texas? The same team that lost 35-7 at Cal on Saturday? I’m certainly confused by this team, and I would guess that Rick Neuheisel is as well. The good news for the Bruins is that they have this weekend off to regroup. The bad news is, when they play again, they visit Oregon in Eugene.

USC – Speaking of Los Angeles teams, Lane Kiffin’s bunch lost again on Saturday, falling 37-35 at Stanford. No shame in losing to a ranked team on the road. But if you look at the Trojans’ schedule, those first four wins are certainly suspect. Beating Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota and Washington State, teams that have combined beaten only four FBS teams, is not all that impressive. USC still must face Oregon, Arizona, Oregon State and Notre Dame, so they probably aren’t done losing this season.

Statistical Studs – Week 6

Cam Newton, Auburn – Newton had a huge game on Saturday night against Kentucky, rushing 28 times for 198 yards and four touchdowns, while hitting on 13-of-21 passing for 210 yards, as the Tigers held off the Wildcats 37-34.

Randall Cobb, Kentucky – Playing against Newton, Cobb was all over the field, as he usually is. Cobb rushed 11 times for 47 yards and two touchdowns, caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, and connected on his only pass for six yards and another TD. For good measure, Cobb returned three kickoffs for 86 yards. He was also the holder on field goals and extra points. And he sold popcorn while the Wildcats played defense (kidding, of course).

Ryan Katz, Oregon State – The Beavers’ signal caller had a huge game as Oregon State won at Arizona. Katz hit on 30-of-42 passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for seven yards and another TD.

Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech – Allen rushed 25 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns as the Yellow Jackets downed Virginia, 33-21 in Atlanta.

Robert Woods, USC – In a losing effort, the freshman had a huge game for the Trojans. Woods caught a career-high 12 passes for a career-high 224 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in the game. The 224 yards surpassed his career total coming into the game.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 7

No. 1 Ohio State at No. 18 Wisconsin
No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn
Texas at No. 5 Nebraska
No. 20 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
No. 24 Oregon State at Washington

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 5 Review: Tide Rolls Past Gators In Tuscaloosa

I was visiting with a friend of mine last week, and this friend is an Alabama alum and a big Crimson Tide fan. He told me he was worried about Saturday’s game against Florida. I told him not to fear. In fact, I said, I thought the game could turn into a blowout.

But even I couldn’t have imagined what happened on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa as Nick Saban’s team put the smackdown on Florida, winning 31-6. The Tide dominated the first half, then cruised home in the second half for an easy win over the then-No. 7 Gators.

Alabama is a team that has been clicking on offense all season long. However, the Tide showed on Saturday that its young defense is getting better every week. And if that happens, we may be looking at back-to-back national championships for the Tide.

Florida continues to have struggles on offense. With Jeff Demps limited due to injury, and John Brantley proving to be ineffective, the Gators had virtually no offense after the first drive of the game (which ended with a Trey Burton jump pass being intercepted by Bama’s Nico Johnson).

Alabama must not let down its guard this weekend, when the Tide heads to Columbia to face the Old Ball Coach and his South Carolina Gamecocks.

Stock up

Oregon – The Ducks trailed Stanford 31-24 at the half on Saturday night, but stormed back in the second half, outscoring the Cardinal 28-0 and winning 52-31. To say that Oregon is a second half team would be an understatement. The Ducks have outscored their opponents 114-7 in the second half this season.

Northwestern – Guess who’s 5-0 and now nationally-ranked? It’s Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, who beat Minnesota 29-28 in Minneapolis on Saturday. And the upcoming schedule sets up nicely for Northwestern, as the Wildcats do not have to play either Ohio State or Michigan this season.

LSU –Don’t credit me, but the joke on the internet Saturday night was about “Lucky” State University. Or maybe the “L” is for Les, as in Miles, who continually pulls games out of the fire. At any rate, the Tigers got a miracle win over Tennessee on Saturday, and are now 5-0 and heading to Gainesville to face the wounded Gators.

Florida State – Most of the nation stopped paying attention to the Seminoles after they were blasted by Oklahoma in Week 2. Since that loss, however, Jimbo Fisher’s squad has won three straight and is now 4-1 on the season. And in the ACC, they are right in the mix, along with nearly every other conference team.

Air Force – Over the past few seasons, there has been little doubt that Navy has been the best of the service academies, as far as football goes. This year, it’s Air Force. The Falcons beat the Midshipmen 14-6 on Saturday, and are now 4-1 on the season, with the only loss being a tough, hard-fought 27-24 loss at Oklahoma two weeks ago.

Stock down

BYU – Things have gotten really bad for Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars. Is it really possible that they might be the third-best team in their own state? After Friday’s 31-16 loss at Utah State, perhaps it is. Mendenhall has fired his defensive coordinator, and now hopes to stop a four-game losing skid against San Diego State on Saturday in Provo.

N.C. State – Last week, the Wolfpack had all of the momentum, were the only unbeaten ACC team, were nationally-ranked, and things looked good. Amazing how things can change in a week. N.C. State had a chance to make a statement on Saturday, and they did, but it wasn’t the one they wanted to make, as they lost 41-30 to Virginia Tech. There are now no unbeaten teams left in the ACC.

Florida – One week after blasting Kentucky (which has become an annual ritual), the Gators were outclassed by Alabama on Saturday night. They were clearly the less physical of the two teams, and they were unable to use their team speed to their advantage against a quick Alabama defense. The Gators hope they weren’t beaten up too badly, as they host LSU on Saturday.

Kansas – Can someone explain this team to me please? Bad loss, nice win, bad loss, nice win, bad loss. I guess their next opponent, Kansas State, had better be on the lookout for the good Kansas team to show up that week. Saturday’s 55-7 loss at Baylor provides just another example of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this Jayhawk team.

Georgia – Mark Richt, your seat is officially hot. Georgia doesn’t do four-game losing streaks, but the 2010 Bulldogs are on one at the moment after Saturday’s 29-27 loss at Colorado. It wasn’t only the loss, but how they lost. The ‘Dogs were driving for a game-winning touchdown or field goal, when an untimely fumble handed the game to the Buffs.

Statistical Studs – Week 5

Denard Robinson, Michigan – He could make this list every week. On Saturday against Indiana, Robinson carried 19 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while hitting on 10-of-16 passing for 277 yards and three scores.

Ben Chappell, Indiana – Playing against Robinson, the Hoosier quarterback had a big day as well. Chappell was 45-of-64 through the air for 480 yards and three touchdowns. Chappell set school records for passing yards, completions and attempts in the game.

Robert Griffin, Baylor – The Bears quarterback was huge in Saturday’s 55-7 thumping of Kansas. Griffin was 26-of-36 passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing eight times for 64 yards and another score.

Ray Graham, Pittsburgh – The Panthers tailback, subbing for Dion Lewis, made the most of his opportunity, rushing 29 times for 277 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Florida International.

LaMichael James, Oregon – The Ducks have the nation’s best offense, and James is a big reason why. In what was supposed to be a Pac-10 showdown on Saturday night, the lightning-quick James carried 31 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a huge Oregon win over Stanford. James can now be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Games I’ll Be Watching in Week 6

No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 South Carolina
No. 12 LSU at No. 14 Florida
No. 17 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan
No. 7 Nebraska at Kansas State
No. 23 Florida State at No. 13 Miami

Friday, October 1, 2010

College Football Weekend Preview: Gators Visit Tide in SEC Clash

Florida against Alabama. The SEC East against the SEC West. Two of the nation’s premier programs. The past two national champions. And they meet on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Both teams are 4-0 on the season, and this game could determine which of these teams stays in contention for the BCS National Championship Game.

Alabama survived at Arkansas last week, ultimately winning on a Mark Ingram touchdown with 3:18 remaining. Florida looked much better last weekend against Kentucky, as freshman Trey Burton set a school record with six touchdowns in a game.

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has not lost as a starter since high school, and he hopes to keep that streak alive on Saturday. Handing the ball to Ingram or Trent Richardson have been effective options, as has passing to the outstanding wide receiver Julio Jones.

Florida quarterback John Brantley has been up-and-down for the Gators, but he is certainly surrounded by a plethora of weapons. Jeff Demps, Mike Gillislee and Emmanuel Moody have all contributed for the Gators, and Florida will need to spread the ball out to beat the Tide on Saturday.

This game can be seen at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Other games to watch

No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 4 Oregon (8 p.m. ET, ABC) – A huge clash in the Pac-10 takes place on Saturday, as Stanford visits Oregon. Both teams are off to fast starts, and both have eyes for at least the Rose Bowl, if not the BCS National Championship Game. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been solid for Stanford, and he’ll need to be on his game in this one. Oregon is averaging 57.8 points per contest, and running back LaMichael James has been huge for the Ducks.

No. 21 Texas vs. No. 8 Oklahoma (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) – The latest edition of the Red River Rivalry takes place on Saturday in Dallas. While it would have been more special had Texas not lost to UCLA last week, this game is always hard-fought. Oklahoma is unbeaten, and quarterback Landry Jones leads a potent offense. Texas needs to get things together in time for Saturday’s game, and Mack Brown will make sure that happens.

No. 11 Wisconsin vs. No. 24 Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) – A pair of Big Ten unbeatens face off in East Lansing on Saturday. Wisconsin has survived a couple of challenges this season en route to a 4-0 start. Running back John Clay has been a stalwart for the Badgers thus far. Michigan State wasn’t expected to be in the national discussion, but a win in this game would make the Spartans serious Big Ten contenders.

No. 22 Penn State vs. No. 17 Iowa (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) – This game has turned into quite a rivalry, especially after the 2008 meeting when Iowa derailed Penn State’s run for the national title. This season, both have one loss to a ranked opponent, and both are trying to climb their way into the Big Ten race. Penn State freshman quarterback Rob Bolden has had his ups-and-downs, but running back Evan Royster has carried the load for the Nittany Lions. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi and running back Adam Robinson are the main offensive weapons for Iowa.

No. 16 Miami (Fla.) vs. Clemson (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2) – A pair of 2-1 ACC teams open conference play against each other on Saturday in Death Valley. Miami is the ranked of the two opponents, winning twice while only losing at second-ranked Ohio State. Clemson’s only loss was at nationally-ranked Auburn. Quarterback Jacory Harris needs to step up his game for the Hurricanes. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker leads the Tigers’ offensive attack.

Five for the Heisman

Denard Robinson, Michigan – Robinson played less than a quarter before leaving with a knee injury in Saturday’s big win over Bowling Green. However, the Wolverine signal caller was still able to rush for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while going 4-of-4 through the air for 60 yards. For the season, Robinson has rushed 79 times for 688 yards and six scores, while connecting on 57-of-80 passes for 731 yards and four TDs. Michigan visits Indiana on Saturday, and Robinson is expected to play.

Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State – Pryor had a big day in the Buckeyes’ 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan. He rushed seven times for 104 yards and a touchdown, and he connected on 20-of-26 passing for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Through four games, Pryor has rushed 43 times for 269 yards and three scores, while hitting on 71-of-107 through the air for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ohio State visits Illinois on Saturday.

Kellen Moore, Boise State – Moore stepped in a big game once again for the Broncos on Saturday. In a 37-24 win over Oregon State, Moore was 19-of-27 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, Moore has hit on 62-of-95 passes for 873 yards and eight touchdowns. Boise State visits New Mexico State on Saturday.

Mark Ingram, Alabama – The defending Heisman winner is not going to let the trophy go without a fight. In a huge win at Arkansas, Ingram carried the ball 24 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. In two games since returning from knee surgery, Ingram has rushed 33 times for 308 yards and four scores. The Tide host Florida on Saturday.

Russell Wilson, N.C. State – Wilson joins the Heisman race for two reasons: one, his team is 4-0; and two, he continues to put up huge numbers. In Saturday’s 45-28 win at Georgia Tech, Wilson was 28-of-41 passing for 368 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 16 yards and a TD. For the 2010 campaign, Wilson is 85-of-142 through the air for 1,112 yards, with 11 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 84 yards and one score. N.C. State hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Friday, May 7, 2010 Releases Top 100s in Baseball, Softball

I have recently had the opportunity to assist the staff at in assembling the Top 100 baseball and softball players in the state of Kentucky.

While there are listings for preseason all-state teams in both sports, no one has attempted to accomplish what iHigh is trying to do. The plan is to put together an initial list of players in the preseason, add to and/or adjust that list in the mid-season poll, and hopefully have a comprehensive poll at the end of the regular season.

Three polls in one year, with ups and downs in the player rankings, just like there would be risers and fallers in the team polls. Makes sense to me.

The other facet of this poll that makes a lot of sense is that these rankings incorporate both the media and the coaches. In my opinion, this makes the poll stronger because coaches most likely know the game better than the media, but the media members have the chance to see more teams, in most cases. Including coaches and media makes the poll more well-rounded.

Finally, after looking at the initial list, if someone has been omitted, there is a link to click, and a player that you know can be nominated. Kentucky is a very wide state, geographically, and players can easily fall through the cracks. This link will help there be fewer of those players.

The response to these polls has been tremendous, and it is my hope that will expand the rankings to include other sports. These polls give Kentucky student-athletes the recognition that they deserve, which, in my mind, is a very good thing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Draft Tebow, or Pass on Him? NFL Teams Answer Tonight

Those of us that follow college football closely have marvelled at the accomplishments of Tim Tebow at Florida over the past four years. The Gator quarterback became the first sophomore ever to win the Heisman Trophy. He won two national championships. He broke the record for rushing touchdowns in the SEC.

However, to hear some NFL personnel people talk about Tebow, you'd think that they had never seen him play.

Or maybe they have.

At Florida, Tebow was not a prototypical NFL-type quarterback. He did much of his damage on the ground, rather than through the air. His throwing motion was long, which NFL folks frown upon. And the fact that, when facing a severe rush Tebow would tuck and run, does not bode well with NFL people.

This is a fact: Tim Tebow will be drafted over the next three days. But where he will be drafted is the big question mark. That, and the question of which position he will play in the NFL. Will he be a true quarterback? A "Wildcat" specialist? An H-back? Even a fullback?

Tebow is not the best NFL prospect in the draft, that's for certain. He's probably the fourth or fifth best quarterback in the 2010 class. But my guess is that some team will bank on his "intangibles", and draft him earlier that Mel Kiper or Todd McShay think he should be drafted.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Couples, Watson, Woods Create Memories at Augusta

The primary storyline for day one of the 2010 Masters was bound to be the return of the world's number one player, Tiger Woods. How would he fare after a 144-day layoff? Would his game show signs of rust? Could he play well enough to be in contention on Sunday?

However, Woods was in the next-to-last group to tee off on Thursday at Augusta, so there was plenty of time for other stories to develop. And boy, did they develop.

First, it was 60-year-old Tom Watson shooting a 5-under par 67, tying his best round ever at Augusta National and grabbing the lead. After nearly winning the British Open at Turnberry, Watson is once again in contention at a major on the young guys' tour.

But later in the day, Watson was done one better by fellow Champions Tour player Fred Couples, who shot a 6-under par 66, good enough for the lead after round one. In the process, Couples became the oldest player to lead the Masters after the first round.

And finally, at 1:42 ET, Woods hit his tee shot on the first hole, and his round was underway. Woods put together a 4-under par 68, his best-ever first round score in the Masters. He also recorded a pair of eagles, at No. 8 and No. 15, the first time he'd ever had multiple eagles in a Masters round.

The "patrons", as the gallery is called at Augusta, could not have been more supportive of Woods. He got a wonderful ovation on the first tee, and the crowds were cheering for him on nearly every hole.

The leaderboard is littered with big names. Couples leads the way, and is followed by a group of six golfers at 5-under par. In that group are Watson, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi. Among those at 4-under par are Woods, Anthony Kim, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney and Ricky Barnes.

It was a good day for players over 50. In addition to the stellar rounds by Couples and Watson, Sandy Lyle shot 3-under par 69, while Bernhard Langer shot 71.

2010 Masters Preview

The most magical of golf's four majors gets underway on Thursday when PGA Tour pros tee it up at Augusta National for the 2010 Masters.

The story of the week, without question, is the return of the world's top player, Tiger Woods, who hasn't played in 144 days while dealing with a sex scandal that rocked the golf world. Woods is sure to be rusty upon returning to the tour, but he is perhaps the greatest player ever, and even when he doesn't have his "A"-game, Woods could still make some noise.

Here's a look at the top 10 contenders to win this season's first major, and the coveted green jacket.

1. Tiger Woods - Never count him out. He's won here four times, although none since 2005. If he's in the hunt on the weekend, nearly everyone will be watching.

2. Ernie Els - The South African has won twice already this season, and appears to be back on top of his game. The Big Easy has played well before at Augusta, and seeing him near the top of the leaderboard this week will not be a surprise.

3. Phil Mickelson - The 2004 and 2006 Masters champion, Mickelson has been plagued this season by bad rounds. One awful round has taken him out of contention in two of his last three outings. But Lefty loves this course, because he can be agressive with his driver and let his short game make up for any mistakes.

4. Padraig Harrington - Many seem to forget about Harrington, who has won three majors in his career. Harrington has been playing well lately, and he's a clutch player who, if in contention on Sunday, has shown that he can close the deal.

5. Retief Goosen - Like his fellow countryman Els, Goosen has also been resurgent this season. He has made six cuts in seven events, and has five top 10s. The former U.S. Open champ should be in the mix this week.

6. Lee Westwood - Westwood has played well lately in majors, finishing third in last season's British Open and PGA. He's off to a fast start this year as well, and has played well at Augusta in the past.

7. Jim Furyk - After winning earlier this season, Furyk has proven he's got his game back. He certainly knows the Augusta National layout, and has finished in the top 35 there for five straight years.

8. Mike Weir - The Canadian lefty won at Augusta in 2003, and he's off to a great start in 2010. It would not be a surprise to see him in contention on Sunday.

9. Chad Campbell - The Texan was a part of the three-man playoff last year, but was eliminated on the first hole by eventual winner Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry. Campbell has played well thus far in 2010, and could be back near the leaders in this event.

10. Steve Stricker - At the end of last season, Stricker was one of the best players on the tour. He's continued that momentum this year, although he didn't play well at Bay Hill. Stricker has a ton of experience, although he's never won a major.

Calipari, Kentucky See Mass Defections

The 2009-10 season was a magical one for the Kentucky Wildcats. After suffering through two seasons of the Billy Gillispie error (um..era), the Cats were back among the nation's elite this season.

However, news came on Wednesday that five Kentucky players, including four freshmen, would enter the NBA Draft. Freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton have all submitted their names, and junior Patrick Patterson is widely expected to do the same, although he may not have done it just yet.

All of the players are projected to go in the first round by

Add this to the loss of seniors Perry Stevenson, Mark Krebs and Ramon Harris, and Kentucky only has five players left from last year's team. And it's not a star-studded bunch. Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrelson, Jon Hood and Darnell Dodson are the projected returnees, although there is some question about whether Dodson will return.

So Calipari must now do another magical recruiting job, just as he did last season. Some of the nation's best players are still considering UK, and it's Calipari's task to bring in another crop of super recruits to keep the Big Blue momentum.

Among those still considering UK are the nation's top player, according to, point guard Brandon Knight from Florida, the No. 4 player in the country, guard Josh Selby from Maryland, the No. 13 player, forward Terrence Jones from Oregon, and the No. 14 player, forward C.J. Leslie, a high school teammate of Wall from North Carolina. The 21st-ranked player, guard Doron Lamb, is also considering the Cats, who already have committments from forward Stacey Poole (No. 27 overall) and Turkish big man Enes Kanter.

The next few weeks will determine Kentucky's fate for the 2010-11 season. Big Blue fans are hoping Calipari can work his recruiting magic one more time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Brings Multiple Huge Stories

Monday, April 5 could be one of the biggest days of sports news ever. Simply put. There are a plethora of gigantic stories taking place on this first Monday of the month.

First, the Major League Baseball season really gets underway today, after Sunday's opening game. For many people, the beginning of baseball marks the start of Spring. Every team, even my beloved Cincinnati Reds, has hope for the new season on Opening Day.

The NCAA Mens' Basketball National Championship Game is also tonight, pitting the Cinderella Butler Bulldogs against the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils. Can the Bulldogs pull off a "Hoosiers"-type upset in their own backyard?

What could be the most interesting story of the day is Tiger Woods meeting a full throng of media for the first time since his sex scandal began shortly after Thanksgiving. Can the unflappable Tiger keep his cool in the face of some questions that he surely doesn't want to answer?

As if that weren't enough, late on Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles traded All-Pro quarterback Donovan McNabb within the division, sending him to Washington for a pair of draft picks.

Today has to be one of the biggest days for sports in a long time. It should be interesting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This NCAA Tournament Truly Provides March Madness

So, I had this dream over the weekend. It was about college basketball, specifically about this year's NCAA Tournament. Crazy things happened. For example, the 12 seed in the East, Cornell, not only beat fifth-seeded Temple in the first round. The Big Red followed that up with a pounding of fourth-seeded Wisconsin.

After that, my dream showed the tenth-seeded St. Mary's Gaels pulling a stunner by upsetting second-seeded Villanova in the South regional.

But the kicker was, get this, that "mid-major" Northern Iowa stunned overall number one seed Kansas in the second round in Oklahoma City, not far from Jayhawk head man Bill Self's hometown. Not only did the Panthers pull the shocker, but they pretty much dominated the game from start to finish.

Funny thing is, I woke up this morning and realized that all of those things actually happened. It was a wild weekend for sure, with four of those so-called "mid-majors" still alive in the Big Dance. Butler survived yet another "mid-major", Murray State, to make it back to the Sweet 16.

Sure, some things about this tournament seemed perfectly logical. The top seed in the East, Kentucky, dominated East Tennessee State and Wake Forest. Syracuse did the same to Vermont and Gonzaga. And Duke rolled through its two games in Jacksonville.

This NCAA Tournament has truly been March Madness. When the action gets underway again on Thursday, who knows what might happen next.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NCAA Tournament Seeding Raises Many Questions

First of all, I'll admit that I'm a Kentucky fan. With that being said, I do not understand what the NCAA Tournament committee did with their seeding for the 2010 "Big Dance".

Kentucky, the committee said, was the number two overall seed in the tournament, the number one seed in the East Regional. With that seed, the Wildcats should have had the seventh best team as the second seed in their regional. Let's say that team should have been Villanova. Instead, the committee placed the Big East Tournament champion, West Virginia, as the second seed in the East. The same West Virginia team that, according to CBS analysts Greg Anthony and Seth Davis, should have been a number one seed.

But the Wildcats may not even make it that far. If they beat East Tennessee State in the first round (which they should), they will likely face Texas. The same Texas Longhorn team that, at one point this season, was ranked number one in the nation. Granted, the Longhorns have fallen on tough times lately, but the number one seed having to face a former number one team in the second round? I can't remember that ever happening.

The committee also did Kentucky no favors by placing Wisconsin and Temple in the same bracket as UK. Both the Badgers and the Owls play a style that could cause Kentucky some problems. Kentucky definitely has more talent than either of those teams, but the style of play could take Kentucky out of their comfort zone.

For argument's sake, let's look at Duke. The Blue Devils shared the regular season title in a very weak ACC, then won the conference tournament title. As a reward for roaring through a tournament with no other ranked teams, the Blue Devils were rewarded with the number three overall seed. The second seed in their region is a Villanova team that has fallen on hard times. The three seed is Baylor, which hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game in 60 years. And the four seed is Purdue, whose best player is out for the season. Duke's toughest game could be a second round matchup against Louisville.

So again this year, the committee has slighted Kentucky. The Wildcats are 32-2, regular season champions of the SEC, and SEC Tournament champions. Their reward is the toughest region of the four. Here's hoping that John Calipari and his young team can navigate their way through, and get the Wildcats back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This is Why It's Called March Madness

Upsets, near upsets and more have turned Championship Week, literally, into March Madness.

On Thursday, it was the Big East's regular season champion, Syracuse, losing in the Big East quarterfinals to Georgetown. Not a bad loss for the Orange, mind you, but still an upset. Jim Boeheim's team now will sweat a little more on Selection Sunday, hoping to hang on to a number one seed. The Orange have now lost two in a row after taking over the number one spot in the rankings.

Friday started with what looked like an upset-in-the-making, as Alabama raced to an 11-point lead against Kentucky in the SEC quarterfinals. However, the Wildcats got their act together in the second half and rallied for a six-point win. The game was a lot closer than most anticipated, and it proved that Kentucky's youth could be a factor this postseason. While the Wildcats have as much talent as any team in the country, much of that talent had never played in a college postseason game until Friday. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky reacts in Saturday's semifinal matchup against rival Tennessee.

Friday evening, it was top-ranked Kansas falling behind in the first half before putting together a second half rally to down Texas A&M in the Big 12 Touranment. The Jayhawks are widely believed to be the best team in the country, but after two lackluster efforts in the conference tournament so far, some are beginning to question Kansas' superiority.

That's one of the great things about college basketball. In conference tournaments, as well as the NCAA Tournament, it's one-and-done. It's not a seven-game series. And in those one-game scenarios, anything can happen. That's why it's called March Madness.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tiger's Return at Masters is a Stroke of Genius

There are reports from several media outlets today that Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour at one of his most successful stops, Augusta National, where he has won four green jackets.

This move makes quite a bit of sense. First, Woods has won at Augusta four times, although he hasn't won there since 2005 (perhaps due to the "Tiger-proofing" of the course).

Second, Woods has said throughout his career that his goal is to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Sitting out a major, particularly one where he has had quite a bit of success, would make little sense.

More importantly, with the tough ticket at Augusta, even for the media, Woods will face only the credentialed media that the Augusta National allows into the venue for the storied event. This will prevent the invasion of tabloid media, who would want to talk about Tiger's sex life rather than his golf.

Woods is now working with former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who has become a sports "crisis management" expert since his days in Washington. The move to return at the Masters has Fleischer's name written all over it.

Woods has apologized for his alleged affairs, and now hopes to return to the world where he once was the king. It will be interesting to see how Woods is received upon his return. A man who was once beloved by most fans will most certainly face scrutiny upon his return to the tour. How he handles that will be another interesting facet of his return to competitve golf.

So prepare yourselves Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, etc. Tiger is coming back, and he's likely to be the Tiger of old.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SEC Coaches Get it (Almost) Right

The SEC announced its All-Conference teams on Tuesday, and, for the most part, the league's coaches got it right.

Kentucky's sensational freshman John Wall was named the SEC Player of the Year, while teammate and fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins was the Freshman of the Year.

Wall and Cousins were joined on the first team by Wildcat teammate Patrick Patterson, Trey Thompkins of Georgia, Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State, South Carolina's Devan Downey, Tennessee's Wayne Chism and Jermaine Beal of Vanderbilt.

Varnado, the NCAA's career blocked shots leader, was named the league's defensive player of the year.

Kentucky appeared primed to sweep the major awards, but the coaches gave the Coach of the Year Award to Vandy's Kevin Stallings rather than UK head man John Calipari.

Throughout the week, many have said that Calipari had the most talented team, therefore he shouldn't be awarded as Coach of the Year. My argument would be that recruiting is a HUGE part of college coaching, and since Calipari was able to bring in the nation's top recruiting class (and perhaps one of the best of all-time), shouldn't that count for something? Plus, Calipari was able to mesh his talented recruiting class with the existing players on the UK roster, and turn last year's NIT team into this year's SEC Champions, and perhaps a Final Four team.

Calipari also walked into a tough situation in Lexington, one created mostly by former coach Billy Gillispie. The Wildcats were a team in limbo, and Calipari brought the team together, and plugged in his talented recruting class en route to a 29-2 regular season mark.

Calipari also took a team that had played a grind-it-out style the last two seasons and made it a running team that was among the league's leaders in points scored. He implemented his dribble-drive motion offense, to a certain degree, to make this happen. But he also had to play to his team's strength, which was the post presence of Patterson and Cousins. He tweaked his offense enough to make this a formidable offensive team.

Sure, Calipari rubs many people the wrong way, and, in fact, many people don't like him. His brash style can, many times, make people mad. But even with that, the job that he's done at Kentucky this season certainly warrants AT LEAST the SEC Coach of the Year award.