Ten Things - Week Nine
Posted By:Wes Mewbourne - Birmingham, AL Tags:
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What kind of world are we living in? Notre Dame is national title contender? Undefeated Florida losing to Georgia? Kansas State is the prohibitive Big 12 favorite while Texas and Oklahoma are also-rans? At least we know that college football can still provide that shock factor. And really, isn’t that what we all love? As bad as the feeling of your heart plummeting to your stomach is, the pure exuberance that comes from a well-timed fumble recovery, watching your underdog team shine in the spotlight, or watching a potential rival collapse under the pressure more than compensate. Last weekend saw all three of these happen and for every fan who sank into his or her seat, there was another who was walking on air. And as heart-wrenching as those losses were for the fans, nothing they experienced will come close to what Marcus Lattimore experienced as he ended his second straight season in injury. Even in the bad, there is good, though. And we’ll see it all in the best of the week that was…
1. BCS Mess-in-the-Making – With the top four teams in the BCS standings undefeated, talks are already churning into what potential mess the BCS might find itself in. Even though history tells us the chances of Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all finishing without a loss are next to none, the knowledge that there is always some unresolved issue at the end of the season (and a conveniently numbered four team playoff looming on the horizon) gets the mouths of critics watering like Pavlov’s dogs. This week’s showdowns of Oregon-USC and Bama-LSU would, in theory, whittle down the competition. But with the way The Ducks and Tide have played this year don’t bet on it. Not yet, anyway.
2. From Title Game to Spoiler Role– Before the season began, you would be hard pressed to find a national championship game prediction that didn’t include USC. After last week’s loss to Arizona, the Trojans pick up their second loss of the season and have been relegated to playing spoiler. They will get their chance soon enough. Oregon visits the Coliseum to avenge last year’s 38-35 loss in Eugene. In an ironic twist, expect fans in the SEC to become Lane Kiffin supporters from here on out. If USC is able to knock off the Ducks and Notre Dame (Nov 24) it would all but assure at least one SEC team, if not two, play in Miami for a seventh straight national title.
3. Coaching Carousel Begins – Idaho released coach Rob Akey after a 1-7 record. I can’t say I’m surprised by the move, since the Vandals have just three wins since the beginning of the 2011 season. That’s just the first step, though. Another 1-7 program may be replacing their coach just two years removed from a national title (Auburn), and a few other jobs may become open over the next couple months – including Cal, Boston College, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado.
4. Cowboys Want a Repeat – Defending Big Twelve champ Oklahoma State started the season with some major questions, the biggest being will they be able to sustain success following the departure of quarterback Brandon Weeden. New starter Wes Lunt started the season well before being replaced by now-injured J.W. Walsh, and will be back in the starting role when the Cowboys travel to Manhattan, KS for a big showdown with the second ranked Wildcats. Last year’s game was a typical high-scoring Big Twelve touchdown fest, with the Cowboys edging out the Wildcats 52-45 after 5 lead changes and 32 points combined in the fourth quarter alone. A strong showing would give KSU some much needed support in the computer polls, while a Cowboy win would put Mike Gundy’s team in the pilot’s seat for the second straight year.
5. QB Woes Continue – Has anyone had a worse year with any position that Maryland has had this season with quarterbacks? First, Danny O’Brien transfers to Wisconsin. Then, CJ Brown tore his ACL before the season began. Replacement Perry Hills tore his ACL two weeks ago against NC State. In the same game against the Wolfpack, Devin Burns broke his foot. Last week, Caleb Rowe tore his ACL and is also out for the year. To recap, that’s five quarterbacks gone in a calendar year, four out in one season, and three done in the last two weeks. This week, the starter will be freshman linebacker (yes, linebacker) Shawn Petty, who played quarterback in high school.
6. BCS Busters? – Last year was the first since 2005 that didn’t have a non-BCS school in one of the big bowl games. Among the names that have been tossed out as potential party crashers this year are Ohio, Louisiana Tech, and….Boise State. Yes, the Broncos haven’t played the best schedule in the world (their best win is against 5-4 BYU and they lost to 5-4 Michigan State). But after Louisiana Tech’s first loss against Texas A&M three weeks ago and Ohio’s first loss last week at Miami (OH), the Broncos are the highest ranked non-BCS school and if they can finish in the top 16 (and ahead of the Big Ten champ), they will truly see what it’s like to be one of the big boys. They will play a softer schedule and get picked solely based on recent history. Now that you’ve arrived, don’t screw it up, Broncos.
7. Heisman Watch – Geno Smith seems to have bowed out with back to back losses where he had just as many interceptions (2) as touchdowns. Matt Barkley has faded, and really…when’s the last time a quarterback on a multiple loss, non-title team won the Heisman? Oh, right. Robert Griffin did it last year, so Barkley still has a chance (cue Lloyd Christmas clip here). Right now, it seems like a strong race between quarterbacks Colin Klein of KSU and AJ McCarron of Alabama, and linebacker Manti Te’o. Yep, even this late in the season a defense only player is in the thick of the race. While other candidates could sneak in (I see you, D’Anthony Thomas), and Te’o makes a strong case, it looks like it’s Klein’s award to lose. He is playing near perfect football and is on a title contender. As long as KSU stays undefeated, look for Klein’s name to top the list.
8. Rise of the Cardinals – Since Bobby Petrino left town in 2007, Louisville has gone from a program that went 41-9 in four seasons to a declining win total that bottomed out a four in 2008 – the last for coach Steve Kragthorpe. The 2010 season marked a turning point, though, with the hire of former Gator DC Charlie Strong. After back to back 7-6 seasons, a bowl win, and a (debatable) “share” of the Big East title, Strong has his team undefeated and ranked tenth in the BCS. For a conference that badly needs some positive publicity, this is the biggest gift since Cincy went undefeated and made it as high as #5. For a school that has desperately floundered in the wake of Petrino’s departure (kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), it couldn’t come at a better time. And for a coach who has been patient and by all accounts a class guy, this is a well-deserved position that opens the door for even more success.
9. State of the SEC – If you haven’t heard, there is a mildly important game in Baton Rouge this weekend (more on that later). In other news, by this time next year nearly a third of the conference will likely have new coaches. John L Smith is all but done at Arkansas, Gene Chizik is trying to set the record for shortest time between a crystal football and a pink slip, Joker Phillips has run out of goodwill in Lexington, and Derek Dooley is maybe one Vandy loss away from limping out the door on those crutches. Meanwhile, the two new guys have proven to be worth including. Mizzou is the new Vandy – a victory over Kentucky is the only win in conference and they are undefeated out of conference. Texas A&M and Johnny Football are making waves in and out of the conference, giving the SEC another top-15 program. We just won’t talk about the Ugliest Outdoor Turnover Party in Jacksonville last week.
10. Top Three to See
Alabama @ LSU – For the third time in two years, the “Game of the Year/Decade/Millennium/All-Time Ever” involves these two. As much as I’d like to say that Bama will run away with the game, but in a rivalry anything is possible. Everyone has heard of Bama’s D and McCarron’s improved quarterback play. Don’t forget about LSU’s defense, though. And as good as Alabama is running the ball, the Tigers have a stable of backs themselves. And let’s not forget that Death Valley is, as coach Les Miles so eloquently put it, “the place where opponents dreams come to die”. Still, it’s tough to doubt “The Process”. Bama wins a close one, 26-16
Oregon @ USC – The Ducks travel down south to pad their strength of schedule. It seems the only thing separating Oregon from a firm grasp on the #2 spot is the computer rankings. USC poses what many feel to be the most potent threat to Oregon’s perfect record, but don’t be on it. Arizona runs a simplified version of Oregon’s spread attack, and they gutted the Trojans. You put the athletes from Eugene on the field and this one could get ugly. Oregon wins going away, 45-20.
Oklahoma State @ Kansas State – As previously noted, OSU is looking to hold on to the conference crown, though Bill Snyder has his own juggernaut in the making. Home field doesn’t seem to have the same advantage in the Big Twelve, but it’s hard to understate the emotion the Wildcats will have playing on a field named after their own coach. And this year, KSU plays defense much better than last year (up from #72 and #68 in total and scoring defense to #31 and #13). Moral of the story, Kansas State keeps rolling, 31-13
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