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8/29/12

2012 College Football Preview



I'm not quite sure why the polls are always done in a Top 25 format, because in college football it's really only the top two that matter and only about 15 that are relevant. I guess its so guys like me can incite debates with blogs. 

Like South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said in a preseason interview “The thing I like about baseball is every school in America has a chance to win the National Championship.” He cites Stony Brook in baseball and Butler in basketball, and I’ll add Fresno State to the list, who won the College World Series after being the last team into a field of 64 a few years ago.

“College football, we don’t do that,” Spurrier said. “If we had the six conference champs, the six BCS conferences, and two at large teams, almost every player could say ‘well if we really, really have a great year, we could win in all.’ That’s just a suggestion to try to get more in modern times.”

The four-team playoff gives two more teams a chance. Big deal.

My opinion, which doesn’t count, is that the first qualifier for the four-team playoff is that you are unbeaten. You win em all, and you have a chance. Of course the problem comes when, in the rare occasion like 2009 where we had five unbeatens, Boise, TCU, Alabama, Texas and Cincinnati. Its not perfection, its progress.

As is this column. And thank heaven we have football back, finally. This season I’ll be doing a weekly TD & Three, your seven best picks and strategy to win your pick em league.

For the preview this year we’re going to take the AP Top 25 and analyze them in a unique style that will project their record (Including title and bowl games) and their projected floor/ceiling ranking. Let the debate begin.

1.  USC – (14-0) – Ceiling 1 / Floor 5 – The Trojans are finally off the Reggie Bush naughty list and this is the opportunity QB Matt Barkley has been waiting for. Its BCS Title or bust this year. USC has 17 total starters returning from a 10-2 season and barring another slip up to the likes of Arizona State, USC controls their destiny, finally. The one game they have to be aware of, besides the obvious Oregon, is @Washington, which is a team that could see a ranking by year end.

2. 
Alabama – (11-2) – Ceiling 3 / Floor 10 – Could Alabama win another title this year. Sure they could, anyone in the SEC could. Alabama returns QB AJ McCarron, yes, but the reality is The Tide were a mediocre 69th in passing offense last year. Their strength is defense and ball control and they lose 1500+ rushing yards and their second-leading receiver with the departure of Trent Richardson, not to mention nine regulars on defense. Their swing games are Michigan, @Arkansas, @Mizzou, @LSU , and I think they lose two of those.

3. LSU – (12-2) – Ceiling 2 / Floor 12 - I see LSU taking a step back. Although their lines are stout, lost is Tyrann Mathieu and his defensive production and special teams game changing. There will be title buzz for the first couple months as their season doesn’t really intensify until Oct 6 @Florida and that four-week stretch will test them.

4. Oklahoma (12-1) – Ceiling 1 / Floor 5 – Oklahoma shouldn’t lose more than one game and they better hope that one game is the BCS title, because if they stumble in the regular season, they risk a one-loss SEC team getting voted ahead of them. But I see Landry Jones sweeping his team through the regular season and the lack of a Big XII title game may benefit them, a la Ohio State a few years back. They return 17 starters from a team that was Top 50 in rushing, 31st in scoring D, 10th in scoring and 5th in passing. The Big XII is deep, but I don’t see Kansas State, Okie State or even West Virginia, not to mention an overrated Texas team, having the stones to better the Sooners.
5. Oregon (12-2) Ceiling 5 / Floor 8 – To me, it’s very clear how the Ducks season is going to go down. Their schedule is pretty weak, other than the inevitable track meet against Washington on Oct. 6. Otherwise its simple, they lose twice to USC and win their bowl game. Thus with two losses, they won’t crack the top 4, but won’t be any lower than 8.

6. Georgia (11-3) Ceiling 1/Floor 15 – Georgia is a complete wild card at the No. 6 spot. How lucky they got to be in the SEC and not play Alabama, Arkansas or LSU until the potential SEC title game, which is why I give them a No 1 ceiling. Their tests are @Mizzou, @South Carolina and Florida. They are the one SEC team that you could argue that even if they run the table, you would take an unbeaten Oklahoma over them.

7. Florida State (13-1) Ceiling 1 / Floor 10 – Here we go again with Florida State getting pre-season love. This year I think will be different. In years past I have been correctly critical of their preseason hype. This year I think they deserve it more. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, the ACC isn’t a strong enough conference for any team to withstand one regular season loss and still get into the BCS title. I think FSU loses a regular season game and all hopes are dashed.

8. Michigan (12-2) Ceiling 5/Floor 13 – I applaud Michigan for having the stripes to schedule Alabama right out of the gate and I am in the minority thinking they might actually win that game. However Michigan is still prone to let down (see Iowa 2011). I think they win the Big Ten but drop one to either Michigan State, @Nebraska or @Ohio State.

9. South Carolina – (9-4) Ceiling 10/Floor Unranked – Despite Spurrier’s common sense approach to the playoff system, his team No. 9 South Carolina is way over rated. With Georgia, @LSU, @Florida back-to-back-to-back then Arkansas and @Clemson, I’m hard pressed to see how the Cocks win double digits.

10. Arkansas – (11-2) Ceiling 4 / Floor 16 – Returning QB Tyler Wilson to an offense that was 13th in passing and 15th in scoring is a step in the right direction for the Hogs. They get both Alabama and LSU at home but they probably lose at least one of those games, and if they do, they don’t make the SEC championship, considering the three are in the same division. They win them both then they are in the BCS title game vs. USC.

11. West Virginia – (11-2) Ceiling 7 / Floor 23 – Welcome to the Big XII, West Virginia! Their transition to the new conference adds depth to a conference sans title game. On the surface WVU plays five teams in the preseason Top 25. I don’t expect three of those teams to be ranked by year end. With the passing proficiency the Mountaineers have, they should fit right in, but that will also be a challenge for a defense that was 61st last year. I might be more optimistic than I should be about these guys.
12.Wisconsin – (9-4) Ceiling 15 / Floor 25 – Wisconsin returns Heisman hopeful Monte Ball, but little else. Just 10 starters returning from a team that was two hail Mary’s from a perfect regular season, the Badgers missed their chance last season. They will make the conference championship game by default (Ohio State and Penn State ineligible) but they won’t win. Either Nebraska or Michigan will beat them there. Reputation alone has them No. 12.

13. Michigan State – (8-5) Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – Unranked is most likely for the Spartans this year. The defense is the specialty of this team, but last year’s 11-3 was a bit of luck. Three point wins over Georgia and Ohio State and a miracle against Wisconsin or this team is 7-6 last year, and this year’s squad isn’t as good offensively. Schedule includes Boise, Notre Dame and OSU then @Michigan, @Wisconsin, Nebraska all in a row.
14. Clemson – (11-2) Ceiling 5 / Floor 17 – This is perhaps a bit low for Clemson. We will see how they rebound from the Orange Bowl thumping from West Virginia, but if Clemson comes out and stomps Auburn and carries momentum to Florida State they could easily win the ACC. But alas, I think FSU is too good this year. Tajh Boyd is the key.

15. Texas – (8-5) Ceiling 22 / Floor Unranked – This is a joke. Texas isn’t good. They lost 3 of 4 to close the regular season last year and this year they could lose three straight in late September/early October and then likely @KSU to close. McCoy to Shipley isn’t Colt to Jordan … if only.
16. Virginia Tech - (11-3) Ceiling 8 / Floor 16 – The ACC is top loaded. Clemson, FSU, Va Tech 
and everyone else. Va Tech may not be a premier team, but they may be unbeaten until the Oct 20 match-up at Clemson and by then may be a top 10 team. Two of their projected three losses could be to Florida State.

17.  Nebraska – (10-3) – Ceiling 10 / Floor 22 – The Huskers could be the spoiler of the Big Ten. They could get live up to the projection some have of a Fiesta Bowl bid. I’m a bit more skeptical. Until Nebraska proves it won’t overlook games like Northwestern last year, and they can win on the road, I’ll temper. Nebraska is probably the third best team in the conference, but the stretch of five games, three on the road in the heart of the season will be a true test. The offense if pretty much intact. The defense is assumed to be collectively better, and the Big Ten is down this year in my opinion. They have to beat Michigan at home to play for a title.
18.  Ohio State – (11-1) – Ceiling 5 / Floor 20 – If they were eligible, I would have the Buckeyes winning the Big Ten hands down. Urban Meyer will light Columbus on fire this year and if Braxton Miller can mature into his role at QB, he could be Terrelle Pryor reincarnate (skills-wise). They get both Michigan and Nebraska at home, which I believe to be their toughest two games.

19. Oklahoma State – (8-5) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – The loss to Iowa State will haunt the Cowboys until they get back to the top of the mountain. The losses of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will haunt them badly this year. Going from a 28 year-old QB to a trufrosh 18 year-old will come with adjustment and that adjustment feels like four games.

20. TCU – (9-4) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked – TCU could creep into the top 15, if not higher as their schedule doesn’t get difficult until late October. I could see them starting 7-0 or 6-1 but they finish with five straight pre-season Top 25 teams.

21.  Stanford – (10-3) Ceiling 12 / Floor 25 – They don’t get much prep for USC in the first couple games against San Jose and Duke and the USC loss will look worse than it actually is for this team. Stanford returns the core of a top 20 rushing game and will be fine for most games in the Pac 12.
22. Kansas State – (10-3) Ceiling 14 / Floor Unranked – Kansas State is an interesting wrinkle in the Big XII. Their only three losses last year came against teams that finished in the top 10. However seven of their wins were by seven points or less. Colin Klein is a force many teams won’t be able to deal with.

23.  Florida – (8-5) Ceiling 24 / Floor unranked – Florida shouldn’t be ranked, but because they are going into the year ranked, they probably will be until they play LSU on Oct 6. They might go 1-4 over those next five and the season will be lost.

24.  Boise State – (11-2) Ceiling 10 / Floor 20 – If Boise loses to Michigan State (which I don’t think they will), they won’t be ranked again until the pollsters start looking for one-loss teams in October. Do I think Boise is a top 10 team? Not this year. But I think Chris Petersen is a good enough coach to get the team past a weak schedule again.
25. Louisville – (11-3) – Ceiling 20 / Floor Unranked. Are we discussing the Big East this year? No? Ok.

In case you haven't figured out by now, I am picking USC to beat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship this year. Yes, LSU, Alabama and Georgia have a shot, but Georgia  mostly due to their easier road. Don’t forget to check back weekly for TD & Three, your weekly picks breakdown and thank me later!

6/14/12

Seven Out! Stories from the Sports Week

Its mid-week in mid-June and we are in the midst of the summer sports doldrums where we must suffer a nauseatingly endless string of Major League Baseball games until the glorious gridiron returns. Thank God for the Olympics ... at least that will keep our simple sporting minds occupied in the interim.

However, for those of you who have not mentally checked into September yet, there was an amazing number of compelling stories in sport and "sport" this week. Yes, there is a difference. Those of us paying attention were rewarded with the following Gatorade and Red Bull infused nuggets.

A Cup fit for a King
For the first time a championship trophy was lifted in Los Angeles, in June, and it wasn't the NBA trophy. Lord Stanley's Cup will reside near the Hollywood hills for the next year. This history comes coupled with several of it's own back stories. It's the first time the LA Kings have won the Cup. Hard to imagine given The Great One played eight years there while he was still performing at a legendary level. It's also the first time an eight seed has ever won the cup. Goalie Jonathan Quick stole the show, the Cup, and cashed a big fat check for himself in the process. Dude was stone cold throughout.
From the University of Nebraska - Omaha Facebook page
Want a local spin? Scott Parse, career points leader for UNO Maverick hockey, celebrated with the Kings on Monday night after the win, the first Mav alum to lift the cup. Still not sure if he will get his name on it, since he was out most of the year with injury, but just to lift it,  not bad, kid.


Game of Thorns 
Most recent story addressed first. If you have not heard the Jim Rome v. David Stern battle, YouTube it pronto. Great aural stimulation if nothing else. Rome asks Stern if the fix was in the the NBA draft. Stern eventually responds by asking Rome if he still beats his wife.
Listen, I get the point. Stern was asking Rome an outlandish question because he thought Rome's question on the fix was equally ridic. Stern crossed the line. Right or wrong, rational or not, enough fans are begging the question of the fix. Nobody is demanding Rome to prove he doesn't beat his wife. The question was a low blow to make a point and thus made Stern look like a prick.

Heavy lies the crown for LeBron James. That is, if King James actually ever had won a crown. He and the Heat managed to out-grind an aging Boston Celtic team and pick apart the four-leaf clover of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. May have been the death of an era in Boston.

However the Oklahoma City Thunder are poised to start a new dynasty and nothing would make me happier than to see them smash Bron Bron and Co. I hope he never wins one. The one thing that would change my opinion on LeBron James is if he looked remotely interested. C'mon man, fake the funk if you have to, just show me you want it. The whole Celtic team took their exit personally, emotionally, knowing it may be over for good. James takes the game for granted. He plays ball like Tiger plays golf, robotic, calculated, cold. At least Tiger knows what a win feels like and isn't completely immune to emotion when it comes.

Power Trio
Speaking of Tiger and winning, he takes his most recent tune up victory into the US Open this weekend and is paired with a group made for good television. They aren't exactly the Three Amigos, but Tiger, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson will play 36 holes together over the first two days of the tourney. Great theater, but the true power group is that of Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, the top three players in the world right now. Will it be one of these six dueling on Sunday or a Cinderella like 14-year old Andy Zhang. Fourteen and playing the US Open. Weekend swingers, wrap your head around that.

Two Teams to Midnight
The 2012 College World Series is thick with stories. The Stony Brook Seawolves (or as I like to call them, the East Coast Dirtbags) have barely landed in Omaha and they are already the darlings of the series. Try buying a Stony Brook hat anywhere in town. Not happening. Maybe its because Omaha loves a good underdog. Maybe its because their first opponent is the very UCLA team that ended Creighton's unlikely run. Either way its just cool to see David v. Goliaths. Pretty credible resume the Seawolves have though. As a four seed, they dropped their first game to Miami, had to claw back, win four in a row and did. Their reward, LSU in Baton Rouge. They lost their first there too, but in three games, slayed the Tigers. Next is  the UCLA Bruins. Canes, Tigers, now Bears ... oh my. Yep, I went there. Can we say Fresno State?

Lost in all this Stony Brook love are the forgotten Flashes. The Kent State Golden Flashes may have had a smoother trip to get to Omaha, but now face Arkansas coached by former Husker coach Dave Van Horn. There is still Husker love for DVH for bringing Nebraska to Omaha, so the Flashes won't get the home field flavor that Stony will have.

The third story line is the three SEC teams acting like this is college football, and remaining in the field of eight. Top this all off by a South Carolina team trying to be the first team to three-peat in Omaha since the USC teams of the early 1970's. Rock ... chalk ... Gamecock?

I'll not Have Another
On to the Triple Crown that wasn't ... again. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another was scratched for last weekend's Belmont Stakes, ending any shot of a Triple Crown winner most were hoping to see. My initial reaction when hearing of a possible injury was "Good, he won't be like Barbaro." I also thought it was a great business decision. The horse goes out a two-time champ (save your John Elway jokes), and gets to play stud the rest of his life. Win-win-win.
What really stings is that after watching the Belmont I'm nearly certain that I'll Have Another wins the race going away.
But then I started reading. Trainer Doug O'Neill has had several run-ins with the horse powers that be, including an upcoming 45-day suspension. His horses have tested positive over and over again for what amounts to doping similar to how cyclists dope. O'Neill has been caught at least three times for causing horses carbon dioxide levels to be higher than normal. The withdraw of Another may have been a ploy to dodge further controversy, but that's obviously educated speculation.
For a sport hanging on to these three events on an annual, it didn't need this. I love the novelty and pageantry and never miss these three races. Lets just hope this sport doesn't become like boxing.

PacMan topped by Phantom Ghost
Controversy begets controversy and we got more than just the Belmont issue on the very same Saturday. Manny Pacquiao won a fight Saturday, just as he had done many Saturdays for the last seven years. Problem was that the only two people in the world that thought Timothy Bradley won just happened to be two of the three official judges.
I will only say this, do not leave it in the judges hands. Finish him, lest you be judged by Steven Tyler.
It is, however, sad that the only time people give a damn about boxing is when some silly stuff like this happens, and who knows, maybe that was the idea.
Whatever, wake me up when they get the Pacquiao-Mayweather square off. Not before.

Dirty Dozen for The Brat
Phil freaking Helmuth just won his 12th World Series of Poker bracelet extending his all-time lead.
Phil Helmuth bugs me too. The only thing that annoys me more than someone who is overtly cocky is someone who has no reason to be. Problem is, Phil has a reason, and he's actually humbling himself a bit as his legend grows. How annoying. Pick a side! Still, I detest.
Congrats to the guy, but I will still never think of him as the best ever.
And screw ESPN for editing the WSOP experience over the last few years. We have been given one hour a week for years now and that doesn't tell the story. Guys like Will "Poker Monkey" Souther tell the story. ESPN will tell you that the winner of the main event played 14 hours a day for seven days to win millions. Monkey will tell you about playing 14 hours a day for months on end just to make a living. He tells stories of poker dumps like the dog track in Florida. Or the converted-bar-turn-poker room in Council Bluffs. Or the auditorium in Saint Louis. They aint all the Rio in Vegas and they aint all for a million dollars. Some wins are the $8,000 variety that take 27 hours over two days. The Grind is the true story, and nobody tells it quite like Monkey.

That's seven solid stories from this week and I didn't even touch French Open Tennis, the Euro Cup or the swim trials. But like in craps ... 7-OUT!






11/11/11

View from the HD: College Football V. 2011 – Week 10

So it seems we’ve forgotten about college football. It’s almost like LSU vs. Alabama didn’t happen. It’s the least talked about loss the Huskers have ever suffered. We’ve totally ignored another upcoming match-up with national title implications.  
I’m not making light of the circumstance or the why behind the why. Nor am I ignoring it, I’m just saying nobody is talking college football games, so allow me an attempt at normal.

SEC Snoozer
Sorry, call me crazy, stupid, uninformed, tell me I just don’t understand … but LSU vs. Alabama was boring. Yep I said it, boring. And if you disagree with me, you probably like soccer, because you’re argument is similar. Defense is beautiful, you don’t get the intricacies of SEC football. Don’t you know defense wins championships? Let me re-iterate one of my old arguments. Defense doesn’t win championships, it prevents them. To win you have to score, period. A game with zero touchdowns, five field goals and damn near as many missed field goals is not entertaining. Its uncomfortable, the way getting a haircut in the morning and working all day with that scratchy hair on your neck and back is uncomfortable. Congrats to those of you who paid thousands on EBay for tickets. Tell me how you feel about that decision now.
Give me the back-and-forth that was Oklahoma State and Kansas State over that yawner any day. Unfortunately the BCS title will likely resemble the former, not the latter.

Pac 12 Track Meet
For the reasons stated above, I am much more excited about watching this week's Stanford vs. Oregon game than last week's No. 1 v. No. 2. This is the Pac-12 title game. Both teams play USC, as Stanford has already beaten them and Oregon will next week, this is it. Teams combined for 83 points last year and after Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead, Oregon outscored them 49-10 after the first quarter. Oregon is probably a bit more battle tested, but with any team designed like Oregon, teams are starting to catch up with them. Their points per game has been declining and only put up 34 at Washington. Its going to take more than that to beat a Stanford. Andrew Luck's stock rises or falls dramatically with this game. He wins or loses the Heisman Saturday. I like Stanford at home, and given the Live Wire curse, that means you should probably pick Oregon.
Top Ten
1. LSU - We know they are good, but they might not really have been the best team Saturday. Their special teams didn't suck. That's it. Give their D credit for the game and especially in the OT.
2. Oklahoma State - Finally faced some adversity and overcame it. Would love to see the dichotomy if they play LSU for the title.
3. Stanford - I'm rooting for as many teams to stay unbeaten as possible because I love chaos and I think chaos is the only way we get  playoff.
4. Boise State - Do I think they are better than Alabama, no. Have they lose a "playoff" game. No.
5. Alabama - You lost. Cry about it. I hope you don't get another shot. Though that would disprove all the BCS apologists.
6. Oregon - They can ruin Stanford's title shot and a Pac-12 representation in the BCS title game. The biggest question, though is what will the uni's look like?
7. Oklahoma - Another one-loss team that can only play spoiler.
8. Arkansas -  TCB against South Carolina. They have one last shot to become mayhem. Call All-State if that happens because LSU, Alabama and the Razorbacks are all in the SEC West and could all finish with one loss. We can only hope.
9. Clemson - Off week.
10. Houston - Our last unbeaten team. They will be a part of the "we're undefeated too, what about us?" argument with Boise when all is said and done.

For the Homers
I received a text from one of my best friends right after the Northwestern game that said “This is all your fault!” I felt a bit honored that he would give credit to the Live Wire feature curse as the reason Nebraska lost. But being a Nebraska fan myself, I vowed to not write any feature about Nebraska unless it was about their upcoming opponent for the rest of the season.
One point of reflection about last week real quick though … Here’s the difference between Northwestern football and Nebraska football: Northwestern had tee-shirts designed in celebration of beating Nebraska. 
When's the last time you owned
a Nebraska shirt commemorating
a regular season win? Bush league! 

Like it was a huge deal to them. Like they had just won a bowl game. Like that would really hurt our ego. Newsflash Wildcats … unless you win two more, this WAS your bowl game. And if the Huskers win that game, we don’t make tee-shirts, we simply add your name to the list of routine wins. You win, David slayed Goliath, we win, drop in the bucket. It meant more to you. Good job. Revel in it for a year. You’ve got us every year from here on so enjoy it while it lasts.

On to this week’s game. I completely disagree with Dr. Tom Osborne. I have all respect for him, but as far as the caution to Husker fans about wearing red, I’m not in that camp.Why the hell should we hide and act like we're ashamed to be who we are. Why should we apologize for who we are as fans or supporters of our University. There may be a pack of Lions waiting for us, but I promise you there is no pride. They are the ones who should be turning their backs in shame. Their supporters should be boycotting the game, not marching on lawns. They should be turning in their tickets, not putting their booster dollars into a system that seems to have covered up such corruption.
And I won't expound on the situation in particular other than to say this is the most blatantly egregious abuse of power you can wrap your head around. To start a foundation for troubled youth to turn around and take advantage of the very situation you created violates everything about humanity and charity down to its very core.
That being said, the Lion is wounded. If they had their way, this game likely wouldn't even be played. How can you ask a team with no coach, whose players are unjustly associated with something bigger than themselves, to wake up on Saturday, act like nothing happened and actually play football. Nebraska has a chance to rub salt in the wounds. To put the nail in the coffin of a program on its proverbial death bed.

Predictions
Locks
1. Boise State over TCU - Boise has been cover gold 90% of the time. At home against a down TCU program is about as good as it gets.
2. Oklahoma State over Texas Tech - I have no idea what has happened to Tech after their win over Oklahoma. Since that game they lost to Iowa State by 34 and Texas by 32. The magic is gone.
3. Florida State over Miami - The Seminoles have been rolling. Their have won their last four games by nearly 29 points per and they are finally playing like their preseason ranking suggested.
*** Bonus Over - You would think I was going with Stanford vs. Oregon considering the total is only 68. But the better guess is LSU vs. Western Kentucky. Total is 48.5 and LSU may score that themselves. If WKU gets a late 10 points might clip 60.
Upsets
1. West Virginia is a dog at Cincinnati. The Mountaineers made a lot of mistakes at Louisville and while Cincy is 7-1, they haven't been lighting the world on fire. Ripe for upset.
2. Wyoming at Air Force. I wanted to take Wyoming last week against TCU and they played the Frogs close, but no cigar. This week they play Air Force who struggled against Army. The Cowboys have their shot.
3. Kansas State at Texas A&M - The Aggies are a five point fave here, but this is another chance to prove the Wildcats belong in the upper tier of the Big XII. The old coach gets this one done.

11/3/11

View from the HD: College Football V.2011 - Week 9

I give up. I am admitting I can no longer make sense nor predict the landscape of college football. All my locks last week lost outright, all my upset picks got covered and every time I do a feature on a team (Baylor, Kansas State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, not to mention propping Clemson all year) they lose. Stanford remains the one bright spot, on a 14-game cover streak. The old triple overtime eight point win to cover 7.5, no problem!
We're now in the heart of the season and the tide has changed dramatically with five unbeatens falling the last two weeks. We're now left with six unbeatens, at least one of which will fall Saturday and two (Boise State and Houston) that have no shot at a title. Never mind your politics on if Bose deserves a title shot, fact is unless Oklahoma State, LSU and Alabama lose twice, and Stanford loses to Oregon, Boise isn't going.
It will be very interesting to see the BCS standings next Sunday after the most anticipated game of the year between LSU and Alabama. How far will the loser fall? Will there be a possibility of a re-match between the Tigers and the Tide for the national championship, and does anybody want that? If the theory of BCS apologists rings true, that the regular season is the playoff, shouldn't that eliminate the loser from a shot. Isn't this their shot? Interesting. 

Thanks to Clemson, Kansas State, Wisconsin and Michigan State for ruining my Top 10. I have no clue who to put in there now. Here goes nothing ...
1. LSU - Defense allowing less than 12 per game, offense putting up almost 40 per game. Sounds a lot like the final score of their game against Florida. They have consistently beaten each team soundly.
2. Alabama - Ditto pretty much everything that was said about LSU. Alabama giving up less than a touchdown per game, pitching two shutouts and nobody has scored more than 14 against them.
3. Oklahoma State - Through eight games they are maintaining a 50 point per game stretch. Texas is the best defense they have faced and they racked them for 38 in Austin. They don't play a good defense until Oklahoma, if you consider them a good D. Because of that, IF they get to the BCS game they might be in for a rude awakening against whatever SEC team they face.
4. Boise State - I really wish these kids has a chance to play for it all. Last week we saw the difference between Boise State, who has been good for years, and Kansas State, who it just a flash in the pan. Boise would not have been overwhelmed like that.
5. Stanford - They passed their first test of the season. USC gave them more of a battle than I expected, but each time they were down they fought on back. They were opportunistic, Luck didn't rattle after throwing the late pick and they finished.
6. Oregon - I wanted to make some point about how the only reason Oregon is so high is because they lost week one. However their only loss is to the No.1 team and they have blown out everyone else. I still think it would take a miracle to get them to the title, but they still have it to strive for.
*** From this point on, were simply chasing waterfalls. As I eluded to a couple weeks ago, there are only six teams at this point that have a shot at playing in the title game. Those teams are listed above. Its all semantics now and second-tier good, not great teams from here down. 
7. Clemson - I'm sticking with the Tigers. They are an emerging force and with their youth, it was tough for them to figure out Georgia Tech. It's also hard to come from behind against a team like that who prides ball control.
8. Arkansas - Yes, their only loss is to Alabama, but they haven't been lighting it up in their other games either. They should have lost to Texas A&M and Vandy, and Ole Miss was no picnic.
9. Nebraska - If not the Husker, who? Ohio State may be considered a game Nebraska was supposed to win, but they came from way behind to win that game and then made a huge statement against Michigan State. Husker fans are expecting a Big Ten championship appearance now.
10. Houston - Hey, I love the underdog. Ironically they haven't been all year, but another small (non-BCS) school who plays big. Fifty-plus points a game on nearly 500 yards passing. Maybe I have them this high because its just fun to watch. Tell me I'm wrong, tell me they don't play anyone. Fine, who cares, they aren't going anywhere anyway, but another unbeaten throws fuel on the playoff fire, and I love that.

Game of the week
Month, year, century, whatever. I don't talk a lot of SEC football, because I try not write about things I don't know much about. Though my friend Aaron would argue that's not true. But I guess I have to write about this one. A lot of ESPN analysts are calling this game the SuperBowl of college football. No its not. LSU still plays next week. Alabama still has to get ready for Mississippi State afterwards. But they could be right about one thing. The season is over for the loser.
So even though I'm ranking LSU higher than Bama this week, I think the Tide has the edge. Their just a notch better on both offense and defense. There are still players on this Tide team that have tasted a championship. Their on-field experience and their icy-nerved coach puts them in the advantage this week. BamaLSU has had their toughest at home. Now they have to go to Tuscaloosa. Tide in a close one.

For the Homers
I never did like Taylor Martinez. There I said it. He reminded me of Sam Keller, and Sam Keller represented for me the player figure that brought down the Husker tradition. He wasn't a Husker, much like Bill Callahan wasn't a Husker. But Keller came in with the attitude that he was the answer, the savior, the gift Husker fans had been waiting for since Eric Crouch. He was the arm that was going to usher in a new system, the future. He was cocksure and had a swagger and failed spectacularly and led Husker Nation down a four-year funk.
Enter Bo Pelini and Taylor Martinez. I always thought of Pelini more of an Oklahoma guy, LSU guy or an Ohio State guy or his stints in the NFL gave me deja-vu. Sure, Pelini had coached with the Huskers, but just for one year. He wasn't here long enough to "be" a Husker. And yes, I know that his first couple years he had ex-Callahan quarterbacks leading the team, but Joe Ganz and Zac Lee "felt" like Huskers. I don't know how to describe it, but Husker fans know that feeling.
Pelini had his ups and downs but after the leftovers, clearly wanted to run things his way. He was a bit embattled for his fiery attitude and had rubbed some old school fans the wrong way.
Then come Taylor Martinez. This cocky slinger from California. A freshman recruited on the tails of Lee and highly-touted recruit Cody Green. Did he really think he would come in and start over these guys? How dare he.
He did indeed win the job and sparked Nebraska immediately. A 5-0 start and talk of Heisman for a freshman? Sweet, we're back! Then the injury. His audacity with the situation, his insistence on coming back, while still injured. The lackluster finish and finally the bowl loss to a Washington team Nebraska has beaten by 35. To hell with this kid.
The more I watched him struggle to run and rainbow heave passes, the more I disliked him. I dealt with the ugliness of the passing game through the first couple games this season because the team kept winning. And like most of us, I was ready to give up on Martinez and Pelini both after the Wisconsin game. Bo can't win a big one. Martinez will never be a good passer. They don't play to the teams' strengths. The Dirk situation. I wasn't just another mad Husker fan, I was done ... with both of them.
What a difference a Buckeye makes. The first half of that game was more depressing than the second half of the Wisconsin game. But something changed in that game. It all changed. A defensive turnover sparked a comeback. Martinez slung one to Quincy Enunwa and let Rex run wild for a couple more and the miracle was complete.
Pelini said after the game, "You guys can choose to write whatever you want and attack him like the fans will, and now they'll praise him."
And they did, and I did. But it was more than that. They turned a corner, not just for 2011, but as a program, against Ohio State. Bill Callahan teams don't win that game, they mail it in. As a good Pelini team does, the defense led if off with a big turnover. But Martinez started to lean on and trust his team, and especially the veteran and emotional leader, Rex Burkhead. The coaches started to trust Martinez and call to his strengths. The team started to reflect their coach. Fire. And the game against Michigan State cemented that feeling. One of the most complete games Nebraska has played in a decade.

Truth is Martinez is a lot like Pelini. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with fire, he's a gamer and most of all he hates to lose. He is taking on the personality of his coach, and in turn so is the team. And when everyone gets on the same page with the direction of the team and the program, that's when magic happens. Pelini and Martinez don't coach or play to make the fans happy, they don't apologize for being in control, they don't apologize for creating a new tradition, and not following old traditions to a T. But they will do anything to win and they are mad as hell if they don't. That's the Husker Nation expectation. That's the Husker way. It's time to embrace the new regime. It's young, its brash, its up-and-coming and it makes no bones about wanting to be the best.  

Trivia
Which of these teams ranks in the top five defensively for points against?
1. Central Florida
2. Virginia Tech
3. Michigan State
4. Temple
5. Michigan
*Answer at bottom, after picks


Predictions
Locks: Okay so 0-3 last week, aside from the over pick ,which hit. No where to go but up.
1. Start the weekend off right taking USC over Colorado. Colorado ranks in the bottom 10 in rushing, scoring, and points allowed. They have lost their last four by an average 36.5 per. They gave up 37 to Ohio State during a stretch when the Buckeyes scored just over 14 per in four other games. USC found its offense last week against Stanford.
2. Stanford has covered 14 straight and they get Oregon State this week. Stanford's average score is 49-17 and that includes last weeks eeker against USC. Beavers only score 23 per game against weaker opponents so far and managed only eight against Utah.
3. Oklahoma State won't derail against Kansas State. The wind is out of the Wildcat sails as they move slowly into that good night. Three touchdowns? Might be five.
***Bonus over - Oregon and Washington (74). Oregon and Washington State combined for 71 last week and Oregon only scored 43. The Husky offense is better than Wazzu and their defense is worse. But the Huskies will hang with Oregon for at least a half prompting the Ducks to score again and again. 

Upsets: 
1. Iowa has burned me again and again. However is seems unusual that they are only a four point dog to Michigan. Michigan may come in cocky and assuming they will roll the Hawk fresh off an embarrassment against Minnesota. Don't be surprised by this one.
2. Troy State over Navy. Both teams are struggling, but Navy looked especially bad against Notre Dame. They are without their starting QB and the guy running the offense right now is green.
3. Missouri over Baylor. I hate giving Mizzou any credit at all, considering their Nebraska rivalry, but Missouri figured out who they were last week. Their defense is better than you think and teams are starting to figure RGIII out. Baylor is long past the hype.  

Trivia answer: This is sort of a trick question. Both Temple (No. 4) and UCF (No. 5) are in the top five in points against. Prior to Wednesday night's game against Ohio, Temple actually ranked No. 2 in the country, allowing just 10 points per game on a schedule that included Penn State and Maryland. Perhaps more surprising Michigan actually ranks sixth, ahead of Michigan State at seventh.

10/28/11

View from the HD: College Football V.2011 - Week 8

Let me first apologize for my absence last two weeks. Had something very important to accomplish at work. Thanks to my readers for pressing me to write again this week.

I was really upset to see two unbeatens fall last week. I'm a big proponent of a playoff and the chaos that six or more unbeaten teams would cause would really provide a great new argument. But alas, we're down to eight now, a couple of which play each other. But can you imagine the uproar if unbeaten Clemson and Stanford don't get a title shot, let alone Boise.

This is the week we start to see what garbage the BCS rankings are really. I don't have much issue with the top three, which mirrors mine. Where I start to see holes is Boise at No. 4. You all know I love Boise, but Clemson's resume with back-to-back-to-back wins over Auburn, Florida State and Va Tech should speak louder than Boise's one notable win over Georgia. True that we now know FSU was, as I said week 2, overrated. So Clemson, should be four, Boise five. Its a nit pick.
Stanford had played nobody but sixth is fine. Kansas State is finally getting some love and really should be ahead of Oregon (for now, more on them later). After all they did beat the Texas Tech team that just ruined the Sooner's season.
Things get very strange after that. Oklahoma loses to Tech, yet remain ranked above Arkansas (who's only loss is to Alabama), above Michigan State (who just beat Wisconsin), and above Va Tech (who's only loss is to Clemson).
Wisconsin loses on a last second bomb to a very good Sparty squad and falls from No. 4 to No. 15 BEHIND a Nebraska team that they slaughtered and a South Carolina team who lost to Auburn and has won three other games against lesser opponents by three points or less.
Last comment and its about undefeated Houston. The only difference between Houston's schedule and Boise State's schedule is basically Georgia (unless you consider Boise's resume over last five years, in which case proves the flaws of the BCS in a vacuum). Either Houston should be higher or Boise should be lower. Did you see Case Keenum last night? In just over three quarters he threw for 534 yards and NINE touchdowns ... in a driving rain.

That being said, here's my Top 10 this week:
1. LSU - Two-thirds of the way through their regular season and they have yet to be tested. Outside of a 6-3 halftime score against Mississippi State they have impressively blown everyone else away. Their season begins or ends next week against Alabama.
2. Alabama - Like LSU, they have yet to really find relevant competition. The one thing Alabama has to worry about against LSU is that they start slow sometimes. Tied at half against Tennessee, trailed Florida early and failed to ever really put Penn State away.
3. Oklahoma State- The Cowboys are still being underestimated. Only a seven-point fav at Mizzou and killed that number, winning by 21. They host Baylor this week, which should really teach us something about their defense. Vegas says 80 points and if it goes under its because Baylor was held under 30 points.
4. Clemson - Great story. From unranked to a shot at the title. Tough test against the funky Georgia Tech offense this week, but Georgia Tech is sputtering lately. In it's last three games the Ramblin Wreck has been a wreck only scoring 16.33 points per. Not enough to stop Tajh.0.
5. Boise State - After laying waste to Fresno on national TV a couple weeks ago, they were sloppy against Air Force and their ironic iconic ground attack. They might however hang 100 on UNLV, even if Kellen Moore doesn't play the 2nd half.
6. Stanford - Moves up because of the Oklahoma and Wisconsin losses. They are however 2nd in overall points for and 4th in points against, which has made them a home-gamer darling. I think they have covered every week so far. A bit of a test at USC this week.
7. Kansas State - Wins in consecutive games over Miami, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech. Mini-feature after Top 10.
8. Oregon - Been humming along since the loss to LSU. The defense is either better than people think or the Pac-12 offenses really do suck. Date with Stanford looms big time, but I think Oregon is relegated to spoiler at this point.
9. Michigan State - Very gritty win over Wisconsin, with a little luck thrown in as well. The defense and special teams were amazing for the middle 40 minutes of the game. Watch out for the let down at Nebraska this week, though.
10. Wisconsin - Their season may have been ruined last week as I don't think enough obstacles can be over come by year end. They may have a chance for redemption in the Big Ten title game, but now they know how it feels to be Ohio State last year.

The old ball coach has still got the magic. And no, I'm not talking Steve Spurrier. This time, we're talking Bill Snyder of Kansas State. Fresh off his 72nd birthday Snyder is leading Kansas State back to the prominence they has in his previous tenure. The Wildcats are 7-0, battle-tested and hungry to prove themselves as a top tier team. Collin Klein is a machine that hasn't been stopped yet. Against Baylor, he out-Griffin'ed Griffin running for 113 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that put the Cats in position to just need a field goal the next drive to win. Klein has thrown for nearly 1000 yards and eight touchdowns, but has run for almost 700 yards and 14 scores. And the defense isn't bad either. Ranked 23rd overall in points against, they held both Texas Tech and Baylor to 35 points or less. The 35 points from Baylor sounds like a lot until you figure their previous season low was 48 against SF Austin, when they shut it down late. And the 34 allowed against Tech is impressive given the vaunted Oklahoma defense allowed 41.
Put this in perspective: If Kansas State runs the table, they will have beaten six, maybe seven teams ranked in the Top 25 this season. If they can beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma Stat in back to back games, they could find themselves No. 2 in the BCS come November 6. The next four games are all against BCS Top 25 teams, so the season is just getting started for Kansas State. Its a real shame Oklahoma lost last week or GameDay would be at the Little Apple this week.

For the Homers: Michigan State at Nebraska preview - Nebraska grew up as a team and may have entered a new era in the comeback win over Ohio State. Last year's Huskers, hell the last six Husker teams, would not have won that game. They thoroughly dismantled Minnesota in the first half and shut it down. The true test of whether they are back or not comes now. Michigan State is coming off a very emotional win over Wisconsin. The difference in the game was their special teams. That blocked punt touchdown changed the whole game and Wisconsin didn't get traction back until it was too late. The Huskers offensive special teams is better than the Spartans with Abdullah returning kicks. However its when Nebraska is kicking or punting that the Spartans are superior. Sparty may have an emotional let down after last week and coming into Lincoln. This game is now bigger for Nebraska than the Wisconsin game was because if the Huskers fail to win this one, all their goals to start the season became all but unattainable. William Gholston coming back for Michigan State makes it harder for Burkhead and unless Quincy Enunwa can become Nick Toon and fast, the Husker pass game might have trouble hauling in the rainbow heaves of Martinez. Every match up points to Michigan State, yet Nebraska is favored. Early kickoff may mean a long hangover for Husker nation. This is a barometer game for Husker Nation.

Predictions
Locks:
Starting Fresh This week:
1. Clemson over Georgia Tech - The Jackets are reeling. After a perfect start they have dropped two disappointing games against Virginia and Miami. This is not the game is looked like two weeks ago and Clemson is not the team you get back on track against. Clemson by 14.
2. Texas A&M over Mizzou - The Tigers are not the team anyone thought they would be and the A&M defense will be the hardest they have faced so far. A&M is looking for a statement game. This is it.
3.Iowa over Minnesota - I usually don't like double digit road favorites, but Minnesota has been gold to pick against. The Hawkeyes got correct against Indiana and the Gophers rank 109th or worse in passing, points for and points against.
***Bonus over*** Oklahoma State v. Baylor is tempting, even at 79, but realize that means we gotta get 21 per quarter in this one. W could also consider SMU at Tulsa. But for overs gold, look for gold helmets ... Notre Dame v. Navy. When ND played a similar type of offense in Air Force, the two combined for 92 points. Navy and AF combined for 69. Navy is top 40 in points for, 83rd in points against.

Upset Alerts:
1. Undefeated Kansas State is a 14 point dog at home against a down Oklahoma team. I'm not coming out and saying KSU wins, but last time they were a double-digit home dog was Baylor and they won that one outright.
2. Coming off a big win over West Virginia, Syracuse has an extra day and are getting points heading into Louisville, who is 114th in points for, averaging just over 16 a game. There is no explanation other than home field that Lou is favored.
3.Oregon State got off to a rocky start, but has put up 36 points a game the last three. Utah has struggled against aggressive passing teams, Washington and Arizona State.

10/6/11

View from the HD: College Football V.2011 - Week 5

Week five in college football was a bit disappointing. Both match-ups of Top 15 caliber teams were blowouts which is starting to show a major gap in the teams that actually have a chance to win the title. I think we're down to just six teams that legitimately have a shot at the BCS crown, and unfortunately Boise State isn't one of them, again.
But this week is crow eatin' time. I was proven wrong about so many things it's ridiculous. I asked for it on the Husker Rivals page too. I asked to be proven wrong and spouted something about black jerseys that was great for hits (broke a record for readers last week). This week will be laced with battle rants that I was just plain wrong about. And no, crow does not taste like chicken ... more like humility.
Crow on...
We learned that Nebraska is who they have been for each year under Bo. A good team that underwhelms in big situations. This was their chance to prove they were back. To exert themselves into the Big Ten and make a statement. The statement is whimpered loud and clear. They aren't ready to win a championship. The talent gap between Taylor Martinez (who is now being dubbed T-ragic, not T-magic) and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson is beyond evident. But it doesn't stop there. This battle was won on the scrimmage. Wisconsin's big nasties are just flat better right now, on both sides. Their secondary is better, their receivers are better, and as gritty as Rex Burkhead is, Montee Ball is better.
Keep in mind, however, just how young a team Nebraska fields. Martinez, sophomore. Abdullah, freshman. Enunwa, soph. Turner, freshman. The offensive line is littered with underclassmen and lacking in cohesion. The Huskers just aren't elite yet. They have the promise, but they haven't had the time. One last thought ... as talented as Martinez is, he better learn to keep possession of the ball, running or throwing. People are starting to question if the juice is worth the way he squeezes the ball out of his own hands.
Speaking of orange juice, Florida has it's own issues. They came out, similar to Nebraska, and took a lead at Alabama early on a John Brantley bomb. But Alabama ran all over the Gators as Trent Richardson rushed for over 180-yards. Brantley, and the Gators hopes of a home win, we're knocked out in the second quarter. On an up-note, Florida now has to play No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge. Lucky them.

Enough ramble, Top 10 time.
1. LSU - Nice scrimmage against Kentucky last week. Florida at home sounds tough. But with the Gators likely playing a freshman quarterback, is no contest either.
2. Alabama - Stemmed an early tide against Florida. Three no-brainers leading up to LSU.
3. Oklahoma State- Off last week. Kansas coming, as is domination of the Jayhawks.
4. Oklahoma - Of course they beat Ball State by 56. Red River next up. Maybe I'll continue to be wrong about Texas and they'll give Oklahoma a game, but I doubt it.
5. Boise State - I said last week, all they do is win by 20, and that's exactly what they did against Nevada. About the only thing I got right last week. But Boise is losing luster, just like it does every October when the big boys play big boy games. More on Boise next week.
6. Wisconsin- Very impressive and thorough beating of Nebraska. So why not rank them above Boise? I think Boise would do the same to Nebraska at this point.
7. Clemson - Their resume is actually better, from a ranking standpoint, than most Top 10 teams. And by my normal method, I should have them third or fourth. Shutting Va Tech down to three points hasn't been done since 2006. But the Hokies, Auburn and Florida State are tier-two or three programs within the Top 25. Could they really beat those above them?
8. Stanford- The Boise State of the Pac 12. They just have yet to play anyone and won't until the de-facto conference title game against Oregon. Good thing for them the Pac 12 is a BCS conference, or they would be stuck with no shot at a title, too.
9. Georgia Tech - Thank you for the humble pie. I predicted a loss at NC State. Yeah the final score looked close, at 45-35, but GT had a 42-14 lead in the fourth quarter after a flurry of three scores in three minutes. They average almost 600 yards of total offense and that triple option run game gets almost 400 per. They hang 52 on everyone. The Clemson game later this month will be a bonus BCS game nobody saw coming.
10. Arkansas - I really wish Baylor would have beaten Kansas State. I had this spot all warmed up for them. The Razorbacks are the best one-loss team out there and their loss was to No. 2. Arkansas showed  a lot of tenacity in the comeback over A&M.

Not quite ready to give Michigan, Texas or Kansas State Top 10 love yet. They all three have brutal conference schedules to navigate.

Crow eating time! I was wrong about Texas. Maybe with Gilbert Grape out of their way, they will be good again. The Big XII really slapped me in the face all around. I gave love to Iowa State (lost), Baylor (lost), A&M (lost) and said Texas was still garbage (won big). I thought Wisconsin would be softened by their week schedule so far. Nope, tough as as bad meat. Gave props to Illinois, who had to rally late to clip a Northwestern team that isn't great. Pitt laid waste to South Florida, who I claimed had first rights to the conference. So, ok here it is ... I was wrong.

Games of the week:

Western Kentucky @ Middle Tennessee State: Just kidding ...
Oklahoma @ Texas: Obviously the biggest game of the week. Landry Jones is trying to prove he's not just a dark horse Heisman guy. The Sooners have more talent and Texas is a bit overrated. However this is the game that decides the Big XII and has for a number of years been a game that decides who plays in the BCS game. Both teams come in with a lot of momentum and a lot to prove. Let's just hope for viewer's sake their not the blowouts last week's two big games were.

Boise St. @ Fresno St. : You might skip past this one thinking its going to be another Boise walkthrough, but hold on. Boise has zombied through every game since the Georgia opener. Kellen Moore is likely the best pure passing QB in the country, but they are easy to set aside. Fresno's own QB Derek Carr in no slouch, however. I've seen first had how effective he can be on the roll out pass. This game gets national attention played on a Friday night and Fresno will give them hell.

So many more games had the potential to be marquee this week, if not for some losses already: Iowa State @ Baylor, Ohio State @ Nebraska, Auburn @ Arkansas, etc. So lets do this. Ill list the match-up, you tell me who has the better record (without going to ESPN.com or Yahoo! Sports!). Answers at the end.

-Texas A&M @Texas Tech
-TCU @ San Diego State
-Georgia @ Tennessee
-Cal @ Oregon
- Florida State @ Wake Forest
-Washington State @ UCLA

We'll do Conference Breakdowns next week as there are some big games this week.

Predictions

Locks: Three of four last week, not bad. I should have given you all Michigan over Minnesota instead of Northern Illinois on the road at Central Michigan, who won the game outright and blew my lock pick away. More crow.
This week: 
1. Give us Stanford at home again against Pac 12 newby Colorado, who is 1-4. Get your night right!
2. Georgia Tech over Maryland. If Temple can beat Maryland by 31 in Maryland, what's G-Tech going to do to them?
3. Baylor to cream Iowa State. The Cyclone inspiration bubble popped last week, and so did Baylor's perfect record. Baylor is mad, at home and RG3 may go 28-33 for 312 yards and five touchdowns. Just tossing it out there.
***Bonus over*** Had a lot of success with Kansas and overs, so lets stay comfy. Oklahoma State = fantastic offense, ok defense. Kansas = Bad defense, capable offense. This one gets away from the Jayhawks early and a bunch of late third and early fourth quarter garbage TD's send this one over.
Upset Alerts: I should know, by my day job, that past performance does not ensure future gains. I forgot this with my upsets last week. Yeah Utah State nearly made me a genius, but Iowa State and NC State got smoked. Try, try again.
1. Iowa is a dog at Penn State. Could be a trap, but common sense says Iowa.
2. Wake Forest covers Florida State and maybe win outright. Double digit home dog, Seminoles reeling, let down coming.
3. Kansas State is a home dog against Mizzou. If the KSU can stay up from the Baylor win, they'll win this battle of the Cats.
Answers to Better record:
-Texas Tech is still undefeated at 4-0. A&M is 2-2.
-TCU is 3-2 while San Diego State is 3-1 with a loss to Michigan.
-Tennessee is 3-1, which shocked me. Go Rocky Top. Georgia 3-2
-Cal and Oregon: Trick question, both are 3-1. Cal's first loss came last week at Washington.
-Wake Forest is a quiet 3-1 while Florida State is a very public 2-2.
-Washington State is 3-1. No really, they are. UCLA is 2-3 and floundering.

9/29/11

View from the HD: College Football V.2011 - Week 4

You know what makes college football different for me? I would rather watch literally any college football game rather than ESPN's College Game Day. By contrast, I like the NFL, but I'm equally or more excited to watch the fantasy football show or NFL Countdown then the NFL games themselves. I'm not sure why its like that for me, but I can't be the only one. 
Let's get crackin!
I was so ready to crucify Oklahoma State at halftime of their game against Texas A&M. Every year the Cowboys come in firing hot and in their first big game test to prove legitimacy they seem to let it slip. Not this time. State showed character coming from 17 down to win the game and they may actually have a decent defense as they only gave up seven second-half points (nobody counts that safety). Oklahoma State is poised for a really nice year and they get Baylor and Oklahoma at home. I'm now a believer.

Week four and one of the polls finally got it right as the AP has LSU No. 1. USA Today still has them at No. 2.
So my Top 10 looks like this:  
1. LSU - No other unbeaten team in college football has beaten two teams in this week's Top 25, one on the road. They hung 40+ on both Oregon and West Virgina. Enough said.
2. Alabama - The Tide defense has only allowed 32 points in four games. Just eight points per game. Stout!
3. Oklahoma State- Too high? Just ask Nebraska how easy it is to win AT A&M, when you're playing 11 on 12. See Oklahoma's ranking for further justification.
4. Boise State - All they do is win by 20 every week.  
5. Oklahoma - Florida State losing to Clemson takes a bit of cred from the Sooners. They will have plenty of chances to earn it back with Texas, A&M, Baylor and OKSt. still on the schedule.
6. Stanford- Another team known for offense whose defense is better than you think. Just 27 points allowed, yet against three weaker teams. 
7. Wisconsin- Have blown out four cupcakes by a combined 194-34. Week four against South Dakota though? Unfair. 
8. Nebraska - Moves up by sheer attrition. Defense may be improving with the return of some walking wounded. True test is this week at Wisconsin.
9. South Carolina  - They have been winning close games but they won't get tested again until November. By then, they will be 8-0 and a solid Top 10 team.
10. Clemson - Clemson? Yeah, they snapped the longest winning streak in football with the win against Auburn and followed that up by hanging 35 on Florida State, something Oklahoma couldn't do. No big deal.

Teams on Top 25 radar: Illinois (I know some polls have them in, but I'm not quite ready to give them that yet), Kansas State (play Baylor this week), Houston, Auburn, Iowa, Washington. Michigan State.

Games of the week: 
Nebraska @ Wisconsin - Welcome to the Big Ten and Camp Randall, Huskers. Nebraska is 0-8 in their last eight as a 10+ point dog. Nebraska's defensive philosophy is bend don't break, but Badger QB Russell Wilson is breaking everyone. Rumors of the black uniforms coming out to play for the Huskers, and fans will rock black but will the Blackshirts?
Clemson @ Virginia Tech - What looked like a ho-hum ACC game a month ago has BCS implications now. Clemson QB Tahj Boyd is 66% passing, 13 TDs and two picks. Ridiculous numbers, especially for a sophomore. Virginia Tech has a solid run game and usually wins the intangible battle.
Alabama @ Florida - This is the first in a long line of major SEC match-ups this year. This week we get to see if Florida is a pretender. The Gators have rolled on without much opposition but Alabama is battle tested and road tested already traveling to Penn State.

Random Thoughts
-Why on God's green earth is Texas ranked? Ohhh you beat BYU by a point and you break out against a bottom 10 UCLA team. Let's get real. Reputation has carried them to their current ranking, but pay no mind to that and let me be the one who said "I told you so" when they finish with four losses.
-Don't look now, but Iowa State in undefeated. But they have a month from hell coming up. Texas, at Baylor, at Mizzou, A&M at home. If they go 2-2 over next four, give them some love.
-Who would have thought with all the fantastic games last weekend, we would still be talking about Toledo v. Syracuse. You stand under the pole, parallel with the line to rule a kick in our out, and you screw that up? No wonder the Big East is in trouble. Good win, Toledo.
- Kudos to Wisconsin for scheduling a week four game against South Dakota. That's something you do in week one, not a softie right before Nebraska. The Coyotes, however would like to thank you for showing some discretion by not running up 70+ points like you did three times last year (83 against Indiana).
- Notre Dame v. Pitt was unwatchable. Just sayin.
- Congrats to Minnesota for dropping a game to a I-AA team for the second straight year after surviving a three-point win over South Dakota State in 2009. They aren't the only ones, though. UNLV lost at home by 25 to Southern Utah.
-Sick stat of the week: Baylor QB RG3 has more touchdown passes (13) than incompletions (12).
-Its the verge of UNO hockey season already? Holy crap!

Conference Breakdown
The Big XII is 28-4 with five teams in the top 17 (if you believe in Texas), and seven unbeatens. No other conference has more than four. Two of those losses are intra-conference already, which means a 26-2 non-conference. You can't argue with that. They are heading into conference season and the cream will rise, but the conference has at least two legit national championship contenders.

The SEC actually only has five teams in the Top 25 right now entering the meat of conference play. The SEC has some signature wins but also a couple of unfortunate losses. They are two-team top heavy, but really bad at the bottom. I wouldn't say its a down year because LSU and Alabama are in the conversation until December, but their bottom looks a lot like the bottom of the Big Ten.

The BigTen championship is this weekend. Pay no mind to whatever game in late December, unless its a rematch. The winner of the Wisconsin v. Nebraska match has the inside track to a conference crown. Illinois has been the story of the league so far, however. Allowing only 13 points a game and a win over Arizona State has given them some attention. Can they sustain? 

South Florida is carrying the flag for the Big East and is trying to earn eight wins for the sixth season in a row. Not bad for a "who's that" program before this streak. West Virginia stands in their way in the last game of the season, but look for the Bulls to keep charging forward. I don't think they are a Top 10 team but they may get there if they survive this upcoming stretch of four of their next five on the road.

Do I really have to talk about the Pac-12 the week? Stanford and Oregon are head and feathers above the rest and its not just Luck. Nice try making a name for yourself Washington and Arizona State. Oh and good pick up by adding Colorado. 

Predictions
Locks: 
1. West Virginia coming off an undressing against LSU will bounce back huge and run through Bowling Green like tissue paper. Maybe by 30. 
2.Northern Illinois over Central Michigan. The Chips may be in the Bottom 10 in football. In their last 10 quarters Central Michigan has been outscored 100-21. The only team NIU didn't score 40 on was Wisconsin.
3. Are the football god's really giving us Stanford at home against a reeling UCLA team? Thank you!
*4. Bonus over - Kansas and Texas Tech - I know a couple weeks ago I picked KU and the Georgia Tech over and that was too easy. Back to KU and Tech. Combined averaging 42.5 a game. Kansas allowing 40+ a game and Tech hasn't played anyone with any offense.
Upset Alerts: I was a week early on calling a Temple win over a BCS school. Huge win over Maryland. Nice job, boys.
1. Intra-state game for my first upset: Utah State to beat BYU. The Aggies hung tough with Auburn and BYU's QB looked lost at times against Central Florida. If USU jumps out early, hard for the Cougs to recover.
2. Watch out this week, Georgia Tech. You lost six games last year, one of them to North Carolina State. The Jackets travel this year.
3.Iowa State at home over Texas. Cyclones did it last year. Both teams are 3-0 and looking to make a statement. Paul Rhodes gets players jacked up for games like nobody else. The guy is genuine and you want to follow him to battle. A win may get them a ranking.