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It’s bowl season!!!

While these clearly sophisticated SEC fans get to see their teams square off in a rematch for the national title, the rest of the country has to deal with the fact that their football teams don't matter.

Ok, perhaps I should temper my excitement. You see, instead of a national championship game, we are being given an SEC championship game, and instead of the most deserving teams reaching the best bowls, we are being forced to watch mediocre teams because they have large fan bases. This should come as no surprise to anyone that is at all familiar with a bowl selection process. Bowls select schools as a “product,” not a team, and a product that attracts more eyeballs is always going to be picked over a team that is slightly more deserving.

For my part, this may be the least excited I have been for the bowl season ever, and that’s with my Purdue Boilermakers finally making it back to the postseason after three consecutive losing campaigns. Perhaps Purdue’s situation is really what is irking me since they beat Illinois and Ohio State head-to-head, finished ahead of them in the conference and are still facing a MAC team in Detroit. Meanwhile, scandal riddled Ohio State faces Florida in the Sunshine State and the Illini get to spend New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. Oh, and Northwestern, who also finished behind Purdue, gets a January 2nd bowl in Houston.

So, in the spirit of me being peeved(because I’m sure as hell not going to Detroit), here is a quick preview of all the bowl games and a look at why they are worth watching/suck.

New Mexico Bowl: Wyoming vs Temple

Of course you gotta open bowl season in an exotic locale like Albuquerque! If you’re watching this game and didn’t attend one of these schools, what are you doing man? Kidding aside, Temple is a program on the rise, but you may need to get them a map to show them they don’t belong in the MAC.

Idaho Potato Bowl: Utah State vs Ohio

We stay in America’s more obscure states for this clash. Utah State is a distant third in their own state and so is Ohio. This game will prove, once and for all, which state has better fifth-tier recruits. It’s all about depth baby.

New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs San Diego State

Grab yo self a Po Boy and watch the Rajin’ Cajuns whoop that Aztec!

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl: Florida International vs Marshall

T.Y Hilton of FIU is one of the more explosive players in the country, so just watch him. Keep up with the Kardashians when Marshall has the ball.

Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs Louisiana Tech

TCU is a ranked team that is forced to play in these low-tier bowls every time they don’t make the BCS. So why watch? Louisiana Tech won the WAC, which basically makes them as good as Boise State.

Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs Arizona State

Oh, just kidding Boise. The Broncos also got the shaft as they finished No. 7 in the country but were not chosen by a BCS bowl game. It should be fun to watch Boise senior quarterback Kellen Moore end his career thrashing an Arizona State team that has quit on this season and will probably be hitting Ghost Bar pretty hard the week of the game.

Hawaii: Southern Miss vs Nevada

Southern Miss knocked Houston out of the BCS, and now have a pretty intriguing matchup with another high-powered offense. This has the makings of a really fun game.

Independence Bowl: North Carolina vs Missouri

Both teams underachieved this season and are really missing quarterbacks they lost to the NFL. But, who would’ve thought that T.J. Yates would be playing better than Blaine Gabbert right now?

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl: Purdue vs Western Michigan

Oh God! Why does Detroit have a bowl game, why?!?!?!

Belk Bowl: NC State vs Louisville

This used to be the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but now that game is in Texas. That fact is about as interesting as watching these two teams play.

Military Bowl: Air Force vs Toledo

Toledo comes in with a potent offense but, like the rest of the MAC, very little defense. This one should be a shoot-out.

Holiday Bowl: Texas vs Cal

Seriously, how is Texas ranked? I feel like they’re sitting just inside the top-25 every week, lose to fall out, then beat some also-ran and jump back in the next week. What gives?

Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State vs Notre Dame

I hear Lou Holtz and Bobby Bowden also don’t care about this game. Still, a win here would give either program some momentum heading into next season after pretty lukewarm 2011 campaigns.

Alamo Bowl: Baylor vs Washington

Fun quarterback matchup between Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III and Washington up-and-comer Keith Price. As an added bonus, neither team plays any defense. Man, I feel like I’m saying that about every game.

Armed Forces Bowl: BYU vs Tulsa

BYU’s first season as an independent was decent, but uninspiring. Tulsa’s four losses all came to teams that were ranked in the top-10 at the time. What does this mean? It means I don’t know nearly enough about these two teams to write anything entertaining.

Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa State vs Rutgers

Rutgers, I swear, you better beat those jerks from Iowa State that stuck us with an all-SEC title game!

Music City Bowl: Wake Forest vs Mississippi State

Wake Forest was surprisingly good in the ACC this year, while Miss State was surprisingly bad in the SEC. So, you’re still taking that SEC team aren’t you? Dammit, you’re part of the problem! Just kidding, Vandy smacked Wake last week, I’m going with the Dogs.

Insight Bowl: Oklahoma vs Iowa

This has the makings of a blow out as a highly talented Oklahoma team takes on a remarkably average Iowa squad. Still, Bob Stoops has an excellent track record for not getting his team ready to play for bowl games, and Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt is almost as good at football as his name is fun to say.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Northwestern vs Texas A&M

Dan Persa gives the Wildcats a chance to win any game they’re in, but A&M has the better athletes across the board. Should be fun to watch Northwestern try to pull this one out in Houston.

Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech vs Utah

The Yellow Jackets’ triple option is tough to prepare for on a week-to-week basis, but teams have been much more successful slowing it down with the extra preparation time a bowl game affords. The Utes have a top-20 defense nationally, but struggle to score points. Could be a slug fest.

Liberty Bowl: Vanderbilt vs Cincinnati

Did you know that Aaron Rodgers’ little brother is Vanderbilt’s quarterback? I mean, he can’t throw, but they are related.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Illinois vs UCLA

This one should be called the “No Coach Bowl” after the firings of Ron Zook at Illinois and Rick Neuheisel at UCLA.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Virginia vs Auburn

Another case of an overachieving ACC team facing a disappointing SEC team. Neither is particularly explosive, and Virginia really struggled against the one good defense they faced all year in Virginia Tech.

Ticketcity Bowl: Houston vs Penn State

Neither team is happy to be here. The Nittany Lions finished 6-2 in the Big Ten, but the Jerry Sandusky scandal made them radioactive to upper-level bowl committees. Houston, on the other hand, fell from the top-10 to national afterthought after losing to Southern Miss in the Conference-USA championship game. Who shows up? My guess is the mid-major team that is out to prove they weren’t a fraud and the product of a soft schedule. Still, Penn State will bring the best defense star quarterback Case Keenum has seen all season. I’m actually salivating about this game as I write this.

Outback Bowl: Georgia vs Michigan State

Georgia was red-hot heading into the SEC title game, but failed to cash in on some early opportunities against LSU. Michigan State played Wisconsin to the wire twice this year, winning one, and was able to smack around Michigan. Georgia is more talented, but the Spartans just have a way of hanging around.

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina vs Nebraska

I never really got a good read on Nebraska this year. They got walloped by Wisconsin, then were up-and-down the rest of the Big Ten season. South Carolina is missing its opening day starters at quarterback and running back. This looks like it’s gonna be one of those bowls where whichever team shows up first wins.

Gator Bowl: Florida vs Ohio State

Oh, the “Urban Bowl.” I really think Urban Meyer needs to walk the sidelines in a reversible sweater-vest for this game as we all tune in for the sub-plots instead of the football. You will never see a more exciting matchup of 6-6 teams in your life.

Cotton Bowl: Arkansas vs Kansas State

Arkansas’ only two losses are to the teams playing in the championship game, while Kansas State fell to both Oklahoma teams. There’s not a “bad” loss on either teams resume, but the Wildcats were absolutely stomped by Oklahoma 58-17. In the process, we learned that if you can load up against K-State’s option run game, they really can’t beat you through the air. With a ton of time and impressive athleticism in its front, look for Arkansas to rail the Wildcats in a game that looks good on paper, but could become a laugher.

Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs SMU

The Pitt Panthers are making a return trip to Birmingham, and you can best believe they aren’t happy about it. A 6-6 season in the worst major conference in college football doesn’t exactly inspire support, and Heinz Field has been nearly empty for Pitt games in 2011. SMU is an average C-USA team, but I still wouldn’t bet against them here.

GoDaddy.com Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Arkansas State

This is another late Alabama bowl game. Like the Compass Bowl, you will probably stumble upon this game the day before the title game and be like “there’s an Arkansas STATE?”

BCS Bowls

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs Oregon

Midwestern power against Northwest speed! This, like last year’s Wisconsin-TCU thriller, is gonna be a great one.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs Stanford

All respect to the Rose Bowl, but this is the game I am most looking forward to. Okie State has weapons galore and a solid trigger-man in Brandon Weeden, but Stanford has Andrew Luck and a dominant ground game. Both teams will be able to score points, but will Stanford be able to keep up with Cowboy receivers enough to get a few stops? On the other side, can Oklahoma State slow down a Stanford running game that appears to have them overmatched on paper? Oh, and then that Luck guy is still pretty good. I’m going against the grain here and liking Stanford.

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs West Virginia

Wow, I don’t think I have ever cared about a BCS game less, and these two teams actually won their conference titles.

Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs Virginia Tech

Neither of these teams deserve to be in the BCS, but at least this game features Denard Robinson and the suddenly creative Michigan play-calling.  I actually don’t have as much of a problem with a two-loss UM team that has solid wins over Nebraska, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Virginia Tech, however, only has one good win to their name, and that came against Georgia Tech just before the bottom fell out of their season.

Title Game: LSU vs Alabama

9-6 LSU in OT, bank it! Oh wait, that was on my DVR. I’m not going to be one of those people who says they won’t watch the game because they hate the rematch, because I will. In all honesty, football national championships are pretty much fictitious in any given year. But this year, while I do believe Alabama is probably the No. 2 team in the country, I don’t know that for sure. For this reason, I just hate that the BCS made the first meeting between these teams meaningless and made every conference championship and rivalry game meaningless over the last week of the season. All this from an entity that still exists because it claims that “every game matters.” Eh, it just makes you borderline not care, it takes a lot for me to only sorta care about a football game.

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Week 13 NFL Podcast

Joe Parello, Heidi Leach and Jeremy Conlin break down the NFL weekend ahead.

 

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Breaking Down the Heisman Race

After a fantastic game against Auburn, Trent Richardson has Alabama penciled into the BCS championship game and himself leading the Heisman race.

The 2011 college football season has definitely been one to remember.

The SEC may get both teams in the BCS championship game(and a third team into the BCS if Georgia beats LSU this weekend), upstart Houston has replaced Boise State as the top mid-major, recruiting scandals rocked Ohio State and Miami and Joe Paterno’s legacy at Penn State will be forever tarnished by his alleged non-response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Add in Urban Meyer agreeing to coach the Buckeyes, the great year in Palo Alto and the weekend that saw No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Oklahoma all lose, and you have one heck of a year.

While there are still championships to be determined in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, ACC, MAC and Conference USA, many college football fans have already shifted their focus to the race for the Heisman Trophy. It is one of the more bizarre awards in American sports, and is often given as a reward for team success rather than individual brilliance. Still, there are examples of fine individual performances making up for a less than elite team, such as Tim Tebow’s video game numbers earning him the award in 2007, despite the Gators finishing 8-5.

But for every Tebow, there are dozens of Eric Crouches and Jason Whites. This year’s Heisman field offers us a few players that have a little bit of both qualities. So here are the Heisman candidates, in order of where they stack up right now, along with their “Heisman Stereotype.” I have also included some past Heisman winners to give you some examples of past greats that have won the award fulfilling each of these stereotypes. This does not take position into account. For instance, the best comparison for Andrew Luck is Hershel Walker, though Luck is a quarterback and Walker was a running back.

1. Trent Richardson: Alabama-Running Back “The stud QB/RB on a team playing for the title.”

 Past Winner Comparisons- Cam Newton, Mark Ingram  

While Richardson is pegged as a guy on this list because of his team’s dominance, he also offers eye-popping numbers in the toughest conference in football. Richardson averages over six yards a carry, and has accumulated nearly 2,000 total yards to go with 23 touchdowns. He fits the mold of past winner, and former teammate, Mark Ingram, but Richardson is actually having an even better year statistically.

Pros: Obviously the fact that his team is in line for a trip to the title game and his huge numbers are important, but Richardson also saved his best for last. In a game that is sure to be fresh in voters’ minds, Richardson ran wild against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, piling up 208 total yards and a touchdown against a stingy Auburn defense. Consistency is also big, as Richardson has rushed for over 100 yards in nine of Alabama’s 12 games.

Cons: While he has run well against several solid defenses(Florida, Penn State, Arkansas and Auburn) Richardson came up small in the biggest game of the year against LSU. To be fair, the Tigers boast the top rush defense in the SEC, and he still managed 89 yards, but 3.9 yards per carry, while not terrible, is not what you’re looking for. At the end of the day this appears to be a pretty small blemish, but most winners of the award have their “Heisman moment” in their team’s biggest game.

2. Andrew Luck: Stanford- Quarterback “The guy we all thought would win it before the year started and he hasn’t done anything to screw it up.”

Past Winner Comparisons: Gino Torreta, Herschel Walker

Don’t let the title fool you, Luck has been great this year. The Cardinal quarterback has taken a physical offense whose passing game was built around multiple tight end formations and made them look explosive. He is college football’s Tom Brady in this regard. While his numbers aren’t as gaudy as some other QB’s, they are nothing to sneeze at either. Luck has thrown for 35 touchdowns to only nine interceptions, and has led the Cardinal to their second consecutive 11-1 regular season.

Pros: He is certainly a likeable candidate playing for a team that is easy to root for. Also, never underestimate the fact that he came into the year with incredible hype and that most pro scouts are hailing him as the NFL’s next great quarterback. As I said, the numbers are also good, and he has led Stanford to another highly successful season, which gives him a good mix of statistics and winning. And, when you put on the tape of this guy, he really just looks the part of a Heisman quarterback. Oh, and he calls his own plays, sometimes, so there’s a cute novelty factor for you too.

Cons: While the numbers are good, they are not on par with the next two candidates, and he put them up in a Pac 12 that only features two solid defenses. I don’t want to punish Luck for throwing less, but even if you look at efficiency numbers like completion percentage, yards per attempt and QB rating, he is still far behind the next two quarterbacks on this list. Luck, like Richardson, also came up small in his team’s biggest game, throwing a pair of interceptions in Stanford’s 23-point home loss to Oregon. It should also be noted that, while Luck atoned for his sin in overtime, he did throw a pick-six to USC that allowed the Trojans to tie the game in the fourth quarter earlier this year.

3. Case Keenum: Houston- Quarterback “The small conference guy that puts up crazy numbers.”

Past Winner Comparisons: Andre Ware, Ty Detmer

Like Luck, the stereotype is a bit misleading, because Keenum has done his fair share of winning as well. He has the Cougars knocking on the BCS’ door at 12-0 with only a championship game against Southern Miss standing in their way. True, these numbers have come against Conference USA competition, but Keenum’s 73% completion rate and 43/3 touchdown to interception ratio are just too good to ignore.

Pros: The biggest pro I see for this guy, and I have yet to hear one analyst bring this up, is that Houston went 5-7 when he missed last season with a torn ACL. So we are seeing that Houston is not just the one talented team in a small conference, they are an average team in that conference with an exceptional quarterback. Oh, and for those voters that like to give out lifetime achievement awards, Keenum has you covered there too, as he owns every significant NCAA career passing record.

Cons: The obvious one is level of competition. Keenum has yet to face a top-flight defense this season, and probably won’t until after the award is presented. The other thing working against Keenum, as a result of the first con, is that he has no “Heisman moment.” In fact, most casual fans have never even seen him play due to Conference USA’s regional television contracts. Because of this, many voters may unfairly peg Keenum as merely a system quarterback.

4. Robert Griffin III: Baylor- Quarterback “The guy with great numbers against elite competition, but has a few losses and no conference title.”

 Past Winner Comparisons: Tim Tebow, Ricky Williams

Griffin started the season quickly, lighting up a normally salty TCU defense. Three games into the season Griffin still had more touchdown passes(15) than incompletions(13). Though his team faded, mostly due to a horrific defense, Griffin played well throughout, and his efficiency numbers are actually better than Luck’s. All this coming in the nation’s second best conference.

Pros: As was said earlier, Griffin’s numbers are ridiculous, with a 34/5 touchdown to interception ratio. Even in losses to Kansas State and Texas A&M, Griffin was brilliant, completing over 72% of his passes and throwing for eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in those games. He also has a certifiable “Heisman moment,” coming when he beat then-No. 5 Oklahoma with a 34-yard touchdown pass in the game’s final seconds to cap off a 479-yard, four-touchdown night.

Cons: Uh, his team has three losses and, outside of Tim Tebow, that usually spells doom for a Heisman candidacy. If Baylor had any semblance of a defense(the Bears only held two opponents below 30 points all season, and one of them was 1AA Stephen F. Austin) Griffin would be the odds on favorite to win the award. Unfortunately, they do not. But this is not all on the defense, as Griffin’s one poor performance came in a huge game at Oklahoma State. Though he still completed 66% of his passes for 425 yards, Griffin threw two costly interceptions that allowed the game to get out of hand.

The Rest of the Field: Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Kellen Moore, LaMichael James, Brandon Weeden

Each of these guys had decent Heisman hype at one point, but this year’s race is such a good one that it just couldn’t last. Barkley’s hype is actually at its highest coming off a monster six-touchdown performance against rival UCLA, but sanctions against the Trojans have hurt his case. Ball’s Wisconsin Badgers have two losses, but the Big Ten’s probable player of the year has run all over defenses like Ohio State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Penn State. Moore and James both fell victims to late season losses, and Weeden never really had the numbers or quality wins to be in the race. None of these guys has a shot at the award, but it will be interesting to see which one gets invited to New York for the presentation.



Being thankful for a busted BCS, Backyard Brawls and Buckets

Winning a trophy game on rivalry weekend can make even a poor season bearable. Just ask the 2005 Purdue Boilermakers, or the 2008 Boilermakers, or the 2009 Boilermakers, or this year's Boilermakers or.. You get the point.

It’s that time of year. The time when family, food and football are all any true American wants to think about, though not necessarily in that order. It’s also the time when columnists come out with their “What I’m/They should be Thankful For” columns. It is a tired article template that, frankly, I am just plain sick of. They range from the serious(Michigan should be thankful Denard Robinson’s speed compliments his physical offensive line so well), to the down right sarcastic(LSU should be thankful that Jordan Jefferson hasn’t been arrested for assault in a few weeks, and has delivered the Tigers from the shackles of slightly below-average quarterback play to the promised land of average quarterback play).

These articles have been done, and I’m sick of hearing what everyone else is thankful for. But, one of these articles has never been written by me. So, for your reading pleasure, here is what I’m thankful for on rivalry weekend 2011.

BCS Madness

With Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Oregon are falling last weekend, the BCS is once again in a state of utter confusion. Three SEC teams, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas, respectively, top the BCS standings. Further complicating the matter is the fact that Arkansas is playing at LSU this weekend. If the Hogs beat the Tigers and Alabama beats Auburn, all bets are off. This comes thanks to Alabama beating Arkansas earlier this season. Add to the fact that this would create a three-way tie at the top of the SEC West, with the tie-breaker being, you guessed it,  the BCS standings, and no one can really know what would happen if such an event were to occur.

This leaves several teams waiting in the wings, hoping the system explodes. I’ll get to them in these rivalry game previews.

No. 25 Texas at Texas A&M- “The Lone Star State Pissing Match”(Not the official name)

The stakes: Just bragging rights. Really, that’s it. Texas A&M isn’t even ranked after opening the year in the top-10, and Texas is under .500 in the conference and is ranked on name alone. I guess this game could mean the difference between going to the Insight Bowl(Yes, Insight still has a bowl even though it was purchased by Time Warner) and dropping all the way to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas(Not to be confused with the original Meineke Car Care Bowl, played in Charlotte, and now called the Belk Bowl).

Be thankful for: If you’re Texas A&M, that you finally get to go out on your own, and your big brother can’t pick on you anymore. If you’re Texas, that you’re annoying little brother isn’t constantly trying to show you up.

Pittsburgh at West Virginia- “The Backyard Brawl”

The stakes: Whoever wins this game will have a vague shot at winning the Big East, but five out of eight teams have two conference losses, so I’m pretty sure a Ouija board will determine who will get smashed in a BCS bowl. But, the fans of the winning school will get to set fire to couches in unbelievable joy, while the fans of the losing school will set fire to couches in utter despair.

Be thankful for: Not being on either campus. If you’re a couch, that is.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech- “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”(Actually is the official name)

The stakes: Other than the obvious bragging rights, both Georgia schools are playing for credibility. Georgia began the year losing to Boise State and South Carolina, but has since rebounded with nine consecutive victories. Still, only one of those wins was against a ranked opponent, Auburn, and they were unable to claim the SEC East because South Carolina continued to win after losing ever offensive starter to injury or dismissal(Kidding. Sorta). GT has some nice wins(Clemson, North Carolina) and some confounding losses(Miami, Virginia). A win here would do a great deal to legitimize the Yellow Jackets and, perhaps the ACC as a whole.

Be thankful for: The triple-option against SEC speed. We’ve seen it the past couple years, but it’s still fun to watch.

Ohio State at No. 15 Michigan- “The game that used to really matter”(Should be the official name)

The stakes: The Wolverines are hoping to end a streak of seven straight Buckeye victories in the series, and a win may earn Michigan an at-large berth in the BCS. Ohio State can make this otherwise forgettable season worth remembering if they can upset Michigan and send them to the Outback Bowl(Try the Bloomin’ Onion!).

Be thankful for: Running quarterbacks, and if you aren’t, don’t watch this game. We know about Denard Robinson’s explosiveness, but Ohio State has an athletic signal-caller as well in freshman Braxton Miller. One problem: Miller can’t throw at all. The Buckeyes are ranked 118 out of 120 teams in passing yardage, with two option teams coming in behind them. Expect a heavy dosage of Braxton and Denard on the ground.

No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn- “The Iron Bowl”

The stakes: Alabama needs a win to have a shot at a national title, while Auburn will look to be the spoiler the Tide couldn’t be last year. Also, the losing team has to poison some trees, or something like that.

Be thankful for: Hard hitting defenses and somewhat vanilla offenses. If you hate strategy, but love fast people, this is the game for you.

No. 5 Virginia Tech at Virginia- “The Commonwealth Cup”

The stakes: Other than the cup itself, which would not look out-of-place in the final scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the winner of this game will head to the ACC championship game. For Virginia Tech, there could be a national title game shot on the line, but the Hokies would need a LOT of help.

Be thankful for: Virginia usually being terrible. The Cavaliers are known for their co-eds dressing up in cocktail dresses and looking like southern belles. If the team actually becomes decent, these girls might become fans and want to watch a football game, not get drunk at a fancy social event.

Purdue at Indiana- “The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket”

The stakes: Why, a Civil War-era oaken bucket, of course. Other than that, Purdue needs one more win qualify for a bowl for the first time since 2007, while Indiana needs a win to avoid dropping to 1-11. The Hoosiers have yet to defeat a Division 1A(FBS) opponent this season but, even as bad as this year has been, it will be a success by IU standards if they beat the Boilermakers and deny them the post season.

Be thankful for: Having Indiana as your football rival. While IU has done its fair share of things on the hardwood, let’s just say their reputation on the gridiron is less than flattering. Sure, it makes the rare losses to the Hoosiers way more humiliating. But, most years, it gives Purdue an easy win at the end of the season to feel better about itself.

Duke at North Carolina- “Is it basketball season yet?”

The stakes: Absolutely nothing.

Be thankful for: The arrival of basketball season.

Florida State at Florida- “The Battle for the Governor’s Cup”

The stakes: The chance to turn a disappointing season into “that year where we really sucked, but at least we beat UF/FSU!”

Be thankful for: A bowl game, because neither of these teams earned it. Florida State has defeated one team that is heading to a bowl, NC State, while Florida trailed Furman by 15 points last week. The Gators also have zero wins over teams with winning records. Well, except for Furman, who sits at 6-5 in the Southern Conference of 1AA.

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina- “Battle of the Palmetto State”

The stakes: Each of these teams is heading to its conference’s respective championship game, so bragging rights and a chance to end the season in the top-10 will be on the line.

Be thankful for: The fact that the ACC could go 4-0 against the SEC this weekend if Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech win, and Wake Forest picks up a victory over Vanderbilt. That would shut those SEC fans up for like five minutes!

No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford- “The school that used to win with academic standards against the school that currently wins with academic standards”

The stakes: The Cardinal still has an outside shot at the national title, but would need some serious help to get in. Really, Stanford needs this win to lock up an at-large berth in the BCS, while Notre Dame coach Chip Kelly needs a marquee road win to get the Golden Domers off his back.

Be thankful for: Oregon, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma all wetting the bed last week and making this game nationally relevant.


The College Football Weekend Ahead

LaMichael James and the Ducks ran wild on Stanford, but is it too late for Oregon to make a push for the national title?

What a weekend of heart-break we just had. Hours after Boise State’s slim(or really, totally fabricated) title hopes were dashed by TCU, Stanford fell to Oregon amid a flurry of turnovers and big runs by LaMichael James. Things are still simple, for now, because if LSU and Oklahoma State win out, they’re both still making the BCS championship game. Where it now gets interesting, however, is if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma in Bedlam in two weeks and both Alabama and Oregon win out.

If that were to occur, then the only undefeated team left would be Houston, and I know nobody wants to see Houston play LSU for the title. To be honest, I actually assume the BCS would just go to Oklahoma because they’re a power program, but let’s assume common sense prevails and their terrible home loss to a bad Texas Tech team is actually taken into account. Then, it would become a question of rematches. Would you rather see a rematch of LSU’s convincing win over Oregon in Dallas on opening weekend, or a rematch of LSU’s remarkably boring 9-6 overtime win over Alabama in which both teams were on the verge of lulling the national television audience to sleep with their play calling?

For my part, give me the LSU-Oregon rematch. Oregon at least showed they could score points, and they played the majority of that game without Heisman hopeful LaMichael James in an environment that closely resembled Tiger Stadium. I think if LSU players were honest, they would say they were more concerned with a team that could spread them thin and use their speed to exploit individual matchups. This will be a moot point if Okie State wins out, but I just think Alabama had their shot, AT HOME, to knock off LSU before quarterback Jordan Jeffries got going. At this point, only Oklahoma St. and Oregon seem to be real threats to the Bayou Bengals.

With all that said, here is everything you need to know about this weekend’s college football games.

Game of the Week

Unfortunately, there are only two games between ranked opponents this week, and they are both of the “this game is not actually going to be any good and the lower ranked team is only ranked because they are in the Big 12” variety. So, forget about Oklahoma at Baylor(although that actually does have the makings of a trap game) and Kansas State at Texas(because neither of these teams are actually any good), and get ready for a sweet Conference-USA showdown.

Saturday at 3:30, Southern Methodist heads to Houston for the biggest game in Cougar football history. Houston leads the nation in total and passing offense, led by sensational quarterback Case Keenum. If the Cougars roll over SMU Saturday, look for them in a BCS bowl come January. That is assuming they beat SMU again in the C-USA title game in a few weeks. The saddest thing about this is, if you don’t live in Texas, you will probably have to stream this game illegally. Well, if you love high-powered spread offenses, I would recommend google searching “off-shore football gambling streams.”

The NFFCS

1. LSU- Most assume the Tigers are a lock, but a matchup with speedy Arkansas and the SEC title game still loom in the coming weeks. Don’t write LSU into the title game quite yet.

2. Oklahoma St.- The Cowboys have a laugher against Iowa St. this week, before Bedlam and the Sooners.

3. Oregon- Chip Kelly and his “Blur” offense reign supreme again. The Ducks have the inside track to a third consecutive conference title.

4. Alabama- The Tide is as talented as anyone, but if Nick Saban won’t take the handcuffs off his offense, they can’t beat LSU.

5. Oklahoma- If they can knock off the Cowboys in Bedlam, Oklahoma may get into the title game because voters don’t want a rematch. Oh, and they’re Oklahoma.

6. Arkansas- The Razorbacks have blown out back-to-back SEC opponents and still have a shot at the SEC west with a game at LSU in two weeks.

7. Houston- Keenum, Sumlin and the rest of the Cougars have two tests left on their schedule, and they will both involve hosting SMU. First challenge comes this weekend, then comes the C-USA title game in two weeks.

8. Stanford- The Cardinal were uncharacteristically turnover prone against Oregon. But, the scariest thing for Stanford was how slow their defense looked against the Ducks’ zone read. Then again, who doesn’t?

9. Clemson- The Tigers still only have one loss, but they seem to get less impressive by the week. I will be interested to see a rematch between Clemson and the team below in the ACC title game to see which direction both teams are moving in.

10. Virginia Tech- The Hokies beat UNC Thursday and are just a win at Virginia away from clinching a spot in the ACC title game.

The NFF Heisman Power Poll

1. Brandon Weeden- Eye-popping numbers and an undefeated team racing for the title game usually equals a Heisman Trophy.

2. Andrew Luck- We’ve seen that Luck is human in the games he’s been faced with athletic defenses. Also, Stanford’s offensive game plan is not conducive to video game stats. Still, the Cardinal quarterback is the top signal-caller in the nation, and his efficiency is unmatched throughout college football.

3. Case Keenum- He takes Kellen Moore’s spot as the “non-AQ QB that puts up huge numbers and hasn’t lost yet.” In all seriousness, Keenum now either holds, or will hold, every passing record in major college football history. That, and he has Houston on the fast track to a BCS bowl. Pretty impressive.

4. LaMichael James- He was slowed by injuries early on, but his performance against Stanford gets James right back into the conversation. However, time is running out, and he will need the three quarterbacks ahead of him to stumble.

5. Trent Richardson- Stereotypical Heisman candidate. Great runner on a great team that pounds the rock and plays defense.

The NFF BCS Bowl Projections

BCS Championship Games- LSU vs Oklahoma: Get ready for Oklahoma to knock off Okie State and jump all the way to the title game.

Fiesta Bowl- Oklahoma St. vs Houston: The Cowboys will do their best Sooner impression and limp into a BCS game. Much like Oklahoma, they will probably lose to a vastly inferior opponent.

Rose Bowl- Oregon vs Wisconsin: Speed against power. Speed usually wins in modern college football.

Sugar Bowl- Alabama vs Stanford: A battle between Alabama’s simple pro-style, run with superior athletes, and Stanford’s complex pro-style, run by a cerebral quarterback.

Orange Bowl- Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati: My God, who cares?!?!


Does the media matter?

More specifically, does a coach need to be “media savvy,” or “good with the media?”

The Boston Red Sox sure seem to think so, as every candidate to replace Terry Francona as the team’s manager has been put in front of the media even before being offered the job. Francona was known for being an amiable guy in media circles, and he helped end the Curse of the Bambino and bring two championships to Boston in his eight years as the Red Sox skipper. Still, Francona was roasted on his way out of town following Boston’s historic Septermber 2011 collapse. In a Boston Globe “investigative piece,” if you want to call it that, it was alleged that Francona has lost his clubhouse, was distracted by his now failing marriage and was abusing pain medication.

Pretty rough treatment for a guy the media supposedly liked, right?

So regardless of who the Red Sox hire, expect a full feeding frenzy every time something goes wrong and mixed reactions when things seem to be going well. That is the Boston media scene, and in today’s highly competitive and never-ending news cycle, people are going to be buried for the sake of “getting the story.” So, to answer the question, it does not matter how good a coach is with the media, but the reasons it does not matter vary from place to place.

In Boston, being good with the media still gets you a swift kick in the rear on your way out of town because, ultimately, Boston fans want results. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, one of the more closed off coaches in all of sports, gives the media very little to work with, but remains nearly untouchable because of his status as the NFL’s resident evil genius. I say nearly, because in a market like Boston, New York or Philadelphia, no one is untouchable. Despite three Super Bowl championships, Belichick still gets grief when his team loses on the road to fellow AFC power Pittsburgh, and gets called out for making questionable calls that imply he doesn’t trust his defense.

Never mind the fact that he is right to not trust his defense, but I digress.

So, in the major north-east markets, media savvy may by you the benefit of the doubt when things are going well, but it buys you nothing when the chips are down. But what about markets with a smaller media presence? Well, the media matters little there too, because powerful coaches can rule as semi-dictators, especially in college sports. In the end, the media is not going to make-or-break a coach, their results on the field/court will.

No one at Alabama will ever call for Nick Saban’s head for freaking out in a press conference, just like no one at Purdue will ever say that Danny Hope should get a contract extension for thanking the media for coming every day after practice. Saban came to Alabama, and everyone knew he was a jerk, but that didn’t give him any shorter of a leash. Hope came to Purdue and was nothing but courteous to the four reporters(one of them was me as a student) that showed up to practice, yet, as soon as the losses piled up, the criticism did as well.

Did Hope’s good will buy him any extra time? Absolutely not, but a bowl game might. As for Saban, now that he has been successful, he can be even less cordial with media members. It comes with the territory of being a powerful college football coach. It is a similar dynamic in pro towns that have slightly less of a following. In Miami, Pat Riley became the dictator of the Heat as soon as he arrived since he brought with him a championship track record. Media members in Tampa loved Jon Gruden because he was funny and a good quote, but that didn’t save him from getting canned, despite a Super Bowl win, after missing the playoffs in 2008.

The media has its place, but sometimes it tends to think, as collective group, that it means more than it does. Ultimately, a coach’s relative success will determine their fate, not whether or not the media likes them. So if you’re a jerk, continue to be a jerk, just be a winner too. And, if you’re a nice, courteous individual, continue to be that, but know that it will not buy you any favors if you don’t win.


The First NFFCS Rankings

"(Jamaican accent) Call me now for your free football rankings!!"

I know you’ve all been patiently waiting, and this week I am premiering my NotFantasyFootball Championship Series standings. It is a complex formula comprised of the USA Today Poll, the Harris Poll, several computer polls, my magic eight ball and the Ms. Cleo poll. I will be keeping this poll of the top-10 teams in the country for the rest of the year, and set up the NFFCS tournament after the weekend of the conference championship games.

Without further ado, here are the first NFFCS rankings!

Team                                     USA Today                Harris Poll               Computer Average               Magic 8 Ball                                   Ms. Cleo

1. LSU                                        1                               1                                        1(Tie)                        Signs point to yes.                                1

2. Stanford                               2                               3                                            8                             Ask again after Oregon.                        2

3. Oklahoma St.                       3                                2                                          1(Tie)                        Outlook good.                                      5

4. Boise St.                               5                               5                                            4                              Don’t count on it.                                3

5. Alabama                              4                               4                                            3                              Reply hazy, try again.                         10

6. Oklahoma                            7                               7                                            5                               It is decidedly so.                                6

7. Oregon                                6                               6                                             7                              Better not tell you now.                      4

8. Arkansas                             8                               8                                             6                               It is certain.                                        8

9. Clemson                            10                               9                                             9                              My reply is no.                                     9

10. Houston                            11                             11                                          13                            Outlook not so good.                            7

Magic 8 Ball Analysis

While the Magic 8 ball obviously knows all, it sure isn’t spilling the beans on who is going to win this weekend’s Pac 12 showdown between Stanford and Oregon. The 8 ball is very high on LSU and Oklahoma State, while it also thinks Oklahoma and Arkansas have great chances to make late season splashes. Unfortunately, the 8 ball is also a realist, and it is all too aware of the system working against small conference schools like Boise State and Houston. The 8 ball also seems to have lost all faith in Clemson, likely due to their poor defensive performance against Georgia Tech.

Ms. Cleo Analysis

After hours of consulting her tarot cards, Ms. Cleo has come back with an interesting list. She seems very down on Alabama, citing A.J. McCarron’s inconsistent play, a poor kicking game and unimaginative play calling as reasons for the Tide’s fall. On the flip side of that, she loves Houston’s high-powered passing attack, fueled by quarterback Case Keenum’s deadly accurate arm. In fact, it seems Ms. Cleo is a sucker for a good offense, ranking Stanford, Oregon, Boise State and Oklahoma State in her top-5.

Game I will definitely be watching

Duh, I’m gonna be in Palo Alto, so I think I have to watch Oregon at Stanford. This is the biggest game on the Pac 12 schedule this year, and is sure to a much higher scoring affair than last week’s SEC showdown. It will be the Ducks and their “Blur” offense attempting to run wild on a solid Stanford defense, while Andrew Luck tries to lead the balanced Stanford attack against a speedy Oregon D. Gonna be a fun one.

Most interesting betting line

TCU at Boise State(-15.5)

It’s amazing to me that this line has not come down at all. It opened at 15.5 and has stayed there all week. There is no doubt the Broncos are the superior team this year, but they have actually been less than impressive defensively this season. Against any team with a pulse, Boise is giving up over 20 points a game, and TCU has gone from a defensive minded team to an explosive offensive power.

Part of me thinks Boise could blow out TCU, but these two teams have sort of a “who’s the best team to be left out of the title game unfairly” rivalry, so I think the Horned Frogs will be ready. Add in the fact that Boise is only 4-4 against the spread this year, and I really don’t know what to think of this one.