Week 10 (11/4) CFB Picks and Leans

RJ Esq

Prick Since 1974
2006-07 CFB YTD
51-33-3 (61%) +36.32 Units

Honestly a bad week with a past result for week 9. Went 2-3-1 on my picks. The saving grace is that I hedged out of half of one of my losses at half (Buffalo) and hit my largest play of the year (NW +35) for 5 units. Everything else went to shit but thanks to those and a push on the total from Baylor and A&M, I ended up 2.27 units.

All picks are for $250 except as otherwise noted:

Cal -17 (-104)
BYU -13.5 (-105)
Nevada -11 (-110)
OU -3 (-103)
WVU -1 (-105)
Kansas -2.5 (-110)

ASU +3 (Both ASU and OSU playing better than expected but ASU has the offense to stick around)
Arkansas -2 (Right side, under a FG)
BC -3.5 or -4 (Think this line is going to be in Dr. Bob's picks)

On Cal--
Think I'm getting a good price for the home fav on the opening line. Remember that Cal lost a close one at the Rose Bowl on the way to their worst season in awhile and a Las Vegas Bowl appearance. Sure, UW snuck up on them and that's why the line isn't 3 TDs. Still reserving the right to sell out of this as I think the line will go much higher.

BYU and Nevada--
Cash machines this year. BYU is perfect, except a push against BC. I still consider this perfect. Nevada has 1 ATS loss all year. BYU is playing a struggling Colorado St team and Nevada has a very up tempo offense that should do well against Idaho. Only game Idaho has done well in recently was against Boise and that is a rivalry game for Idaho. Think both will win big.

Good luck this week.
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Actually kinda surprised this one has dropped to 16.5. I also thought it would start moving the other direction.

Also noticed that A&M dropped from +3 to +1 pretty quickly and the OSU line also dropped pretty quickly from 28.5 to 27, although the 28.5 was offered at +109 juice.

Best of luck in week 10.

Yeah I agree about A&M. I considered it at 3, but by the time I blinked it had already moved. A no play for me at 1. I have missed out on OSU every week pretty much so don't wanna take a chance on em now as this will probably be the week they call off the dogs early and I get burned with a backdoor cover so no play for me on the Buckeyes either.
CB--I'm leaning to the dogs in the Big XII right now--except A&M. Mizzou +7 and OSU +17 or so looks good to me. OSU scares me after watching their game against Nebraska, Texas' last 2 games, and our history with OSU.
Projected BCS Standings from BCSGuru.com

1. Ohio State; 2. Michigan; 3. West Virginia; 4. Auburn; 5. Florida; 6. Texas; 7. Louisville; 8. USC; 9. Tennessee; 10. Notre Dame.
CFN's What's Hot and What's Not

Who's Hot & Who's Not ... Week Nine


By Pete Fiutak
Posted Oct 29, 2006

IU passing, Michigan run D, USC and Illinois turnovers, and more.
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Who’s Hot …[FONT=verdana, arial,
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[/SIZE][/FONT][/FONT][FONT=verdana, arial,
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[/FONT]Indiana tandem of QB Kellen Lewis to WR James HardyWho's the hottest Big Ten pass-catch combination? Smith to Ginn or Gonzalez? Yeah, but Indiana freshman QB Kellen Lewis to sophomore WR James Hardy has been more amazing. Even in the loss to Ohio State, Hardy caught six passes for 45 yards, but against Iowa and Michigan State, Lewis threw for 516 yards and eight touchdowns, with two rushing scores, in the wins with Hardy catching 14 passes for 187 yards and seven touchdowns. Hardy has 18 touchdown catches in 17 career games.

Middle Tennessee S Damon Nickson
The junior became the first player in Sun Belt history to pick off four passes in a game returning one for a touchdown in the 34-20 win over UL Lafayette. He also recovered an onside kick, led the team with six tackles, forced a fumble, returned two kickoffs for 60 yards, and returned a punt for 14 yards.

Oklahoma's offensive backfield
Talk about picking up the slack, with Adrian Peterson out, junior Allen Patrick has been the workhorse rushing 71 times for 272 yards and a touchdown in key wins against Colorado and Missouri. QB Paul Thompson hasn't been explosive, but he has completed 28 of 45 passes (62%) with three touchdowns and a rushing score over the last two games.

Florida Atlantic Defense
The Owls don't score all that much, but over the last three games, Howard Schnellenberger's defense has been a rock allowing just 13 points to Southern Utah, UL Lafayette, and Arkansas State. ASU netted just 104 yards, the Ragin' Cajuns gained 228 and managed just two field goals, and SU didn't get on the board until garbage time in the fourth quarter. Up next is Middle Tennessee, the current favorite to win the Sun Belt title.

Michigan's run defense
Michigan isn't just stuffing the run, it's wiping it out. To put what the Wolverines are doing in perspective, TCU is third in the nation in run defense giving up 61 yards per game. That's over twice as many as Michigan, who's giving up 28.4 per game. Texas is second allowing 41.2 per outing, but that's partially due to playing teams like Baylor and Texas Tech who do nothing but throw. The Wolverines stopped Northwestern for -13 yards in the 17-3 win, and held Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin under wraps. All rank in the top half of the nation in rushing.
Who’s Not …[FONT=verdana, arial,
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[/SIZE][FONT=verdana, arial,
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[/FONT][/FONT]USC turnover marginUSC is currently 71st in the nation in turnover margin with 11 turnovers and ten takeaways. While that might not seem like that big a deal, consider that the Trojans were +14 in 2001, +18 in 2002, +20 in 2003, +19 in 2004, and +21 in 2005. There's a correlation between the team's recent average play and the mistakes. USC lost four turnovers, and didn't force any, in the 33-31 loss to Oregon State.

Purdue offense
Talk about falling off the map, one of the nation's best offenses over the first seven games of the year, and the Big Ten leader in total offense and passing offense, has managed just three points against both Wisconsin and Penn State gaining a total of just 526 yards in the two games. Fortunately, Michigan State is up next.

Turnovers in North Carolina
There's a reason the Wolfpack and Tar Heels are sliding. NC State is 118th in the nation in turnover margin losing 16 and gaining six, North Carolina is dead last losing 22 and taking away eight, and Duke is 112th losing 22 and gaining 13. On the plus side, East Carolina is 38th.

Illinois in the second half Over the last four weeks, Illinois led Indiana, Ohio, Penn State and Wisconsin in the second half and led three of the four (Penn State the exception) in the fourth quarter, and lost all four.

The Big 12 North
Just when it looked like the gap between the two Big 12 divisions was closing, there was this weekend. Missouri got rolled over at home by Oklahoma 26-10, Nebraska, a week after losing at home to Texas, got its doors blown off by Oklahoma State 41-29, and in divisional battles, Iowa State took yet another step back in a horrendous season in a blowout loss to Kansas State, while Colorado lost to Kansas. When all is said and done, it's possible just Nebraska and Missouri get bowl bids from the North.
BCS Analysis from CFN

BCS Analysis - Week Three


By Pete Fiutak
Posted Oct 29, 2006

Breaking down the top ten in the week three BCS rankings.

</B>BCS Rankings | Computer Rankings[SIZE=-1]
[FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-1]
[/SIZE][/FONT][SIZE=-1]In week three of the BCS rankings, USC drops to eight, but in the key move of the week, Florida moves to fourth to get in range of the coveted number two spot. West Virginia is third and Louisville fourth making the battle on Thursday as big as it gets for a Big East battle. [/SIZE]Boise State is 15th, still three spots out of an automatic spot, and Notre Dame is ninth, one spot out of an automatic invite.

Don’t forget that the BCS takes the entire season into account, so there will be wild changes from the computers as the year goes on, but once again, the two polls will be the biggest factors.

The Big Winners: Florida (6th to 4th), Georgia Tech (24th to 20th), Maryland (41st to 35th), Oklahoma State (unrated to 38th)
The Big Losers: USC (3rd to 8th), Clemson (12th to 19th), Missouri (20th to 29th), Nebraska (22nd to 30th)

1. Ohio State [SIZE=-1]Last Week's BCS Ranking: 1[/SIZE]
Ohio State moves up even more as the number one finally getting some respect from the computers getting the number two spot behind Michigan in five of the six polls. There's still a wide gap between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, and a massive chasm between them and No. 3 West Virginia.
predicted wins: at Illinois, at Northwestern, Michigan
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 12-0
predicted bowl: BCS Championship

2. Michigan [SIZE=-1]Last Week's BCS Ranking: 2[/SIZE]No real change in the overall situation, win three games and it's BCS championship game time, except Michigan went from being 0.002 ahead of No. 3 USC to a massive 0.184. With five of the six computers giving the Wolverines the number one spot, even more fuel is being added to the fire for the November 18th showdown.
predicted wins: Ball State, at Indiana
predicted losses: at Ohio State
predicted record: 11-1
predicted bowl: Rose Bowl

3. [SIZE=-1]West Virginia Last Week's BCS Ranking: 4Let the debates begin. West Virginia is in the coveted number three spot with a chance to move up in everyone's ranking with a wins over Louisville, Pitt and Rutgers. The computers still despite the Mountaineer schedule with only one putting WVU in the top ten.
predicted wins: at Louisville, at Pitt, South Florida, Rutgers
predicted losses: None
predicted record: 12-0
predicted bowl: BCS Championship Game[/SIZE]

4. [SIZE=-1]Florida Last Week's BCS Ranking: [/SIZE]
[SIZE=-1]6[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]In the big move of the week, Florida leapfrogged Auburn to get into the number four spot and in range of taking over at number three with a little bit of luck. However, the Mountaineer computer ranking will go nowhere but up over the next few weeks, so Florida can't slip and has to somehow get more credit from the humans and get into the number three ranking. That's unlikely if West Virginia keeps winning.
predicted wins: at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Western Carolina, at Florida State, at SEC Championship
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 12-1
predicted bowl: Sugar Bowl[/SIZE]

5. [SIZE=-1]Louisville Last Week's BCS Ranking: 8One of the week's big winners without doing anything, the Cardinals cranked up three spots to the five, and will likely get to three if they can beat West Virginia this Thursday. The computers cranked the Cards up in a big way, while the USC freefall certainly helped in the human polls. Winning at Rutgers and at Pitt would do nothing to hurt the overall stats.
predicted wins: at Rutgers, South Florida, Connecticut
predicted losses: West Virginia, at Pitt
predicted record: 12-0
predicted bowl: Texas Bowl[/SIZE]

6. Auburn [SIZE=-1]Last Week's BCS Ranking: 5[/SIZE]Auburn's chances for the national title took a serious hit this week dropping from fifth to sixth getting passed over by Louisville and Florida. It'll be a strange situation down the stretch, but Auburn might turn out to have a better shot of getting into the BCS if it doesn't play in the SEC title game, if it loses. A win in the SEC Championship obviously means the Sugar Bowl, at worst, but 11-1 might be enough to get an at-large bid. 11-2 might make things tough.
predicted wins:
Arkansas State, Georgia, at Alabama
predicted losses: SEC Championship
predicted record: 11-2
predicted bowl: Orange Bowl[SIZE=-1]
7. [SIZE=-1]Texas Last Week's BCS Ranking: 7
What does Texas have to do to get a little love? The Longhorns lost to one team, Ohio State, and has a few nice wins over teams like Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas Tech, but only one computer has them in the top five and only one other has them in the top ten. Unfortunately, for UT fans, there aren't many wow games left to move up the charts. However, there are two sure losses ahead for the top six teams, and maybe three if Auburn and Florida play for the SEC title.
predicted losses: Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, Texas A&M, Big 12 Championship
predicted record: 12-1
predicted bowl: Fiesta Bowl

8. USC Last Week's BCS Ranking: [/SIZE]
[SIZE=-1]2[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]And bu-bye to all national title hopes. The human polls dropped the Trojans like a stone, but the computers still give a little bit of love keeping distant dreams alive of moving up quickly with some big games ahead. To get in the hunt for a top two spot, USC has to go nuts and start to impress the humans in a big hurry, and then the computers will likely follow suit.
predicted wins: at Stanford, Oregon, Notre Dame, at UCLA
predicted losses: California
predicted record: 11-1
predicted bowl: Holiday Bowl

9. Notre Dame Last Week's BCS Ranking: 9Notre Dame still hasn't beaten anyone of note outside of the opener against Georgia Tech, but the computers are starting to like the Irish more and more. Three have Brady Quinn in the boys in the top three, and one other has them in the top six. It's all about the USC game to finish up, and for national title hopes, the Trojans' loss to Oregon State might have turned out to be a killer.
predicted wins: North Carolina, at Air Force, Army
predicted losses: at USC
predicted record: 10-2
predicted bowl: Sugar Bowl

10. California Last Week's BCS Ranking: 10
Cal moved up this week without doing a thing. Blame the relatively low ranking on the humans; four of the six computers have the Bears No. 3, and all have them ranked in the top seven. Beating UCLA won't do anything, but a win at USC should do wonders in the human polls. Even so, it'll likely take winning the Pac 10 title to get into the BCS.
predicted wins: UCLA, at Arizona, at USC, Stanford
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 11-1
predicted bowl: Rose Bowl

In Range
11. Tennessee
12. Rutgers
13. Arkansas
14. Boise State
15. Boston College
16. Wisconsin
17. LSU
18. Oklahoma
19. Clemson
20. Georgia Tech[/SIZE]
Five Thoughts from CFN

5 Thoughts - USC's Unbelievable Run


By Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2006

Now that USC lost to Oregon State, it's easier to take a step back and realize just how amazing the last few years have been under head coach Pete Carroll. Can Boise State really play? Should we be talking about Michigan and Ohio State for the national title? These and more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

In honor of USC

[FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]By Pete Fiutak
[/SIZE][/FONT]1. The major sports story of the weekend wasn’t St. Louis winning the World Series, no one outside of eastern Missouri and the greater Detroit area could even name who played in it. The passing of Red Auerbach was certainly sad, but as a friend of mine put it, “he was still alive?” No, the big buzz was about USC losing a regular season game, and rightly so. The Trojans had won 27 straight Pac 10 games, 38 regular season games, and 18 straight on the road before being upset by Oregon State.

Has everyone really realized what an amazing run it’s been, and continues to be under Pete Carroll?

The last three losses came thanks to a tipped two-point conversion in the final moments against Oregon State, one of the all-time greatest performances by Vince Young in a thrilling 41-38 Rose Bowl, and in overtime, thanks to a missed field goal, against Cal in 2003. Under Carroll, ten of the 11 losses have come by seven points or fewer. In fact, the average loss has been by an average of 3.9 points with the worst defeat coming to Notre Dame in 2001, 27-16. It’s sort of wrong that it takes a loss to fully appreciate everything USC has done. If USC bounces back immediately and keeps on rolling, as college football fans, let’s enjoy the ride.

Maybe, just maybe, Boise State can play

[FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]By Pete Fiutak
[/SIZE][/FONT]. In case you forgot, Boise State obliterated the same Oregon State team that just beat USC. Actually, that’s wrong. The Beaver team the Broncos beat had top RB Yvenson Bernard when it got its doors blown off 42-14. Yeah, I’m front and center in the line to argue about how lousy Boise State’s schedule is and how the team doesn’t deserve to play for the national title ahead of several one-loss teams, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t play. Are you really sure Boise State can’t beat someone tough? Look at how Texas Tech (who lost to Colorado) pushed Texas. Look at how Ole Miss battled Auburn. Look at how Oregon State beat USC.

The Broncos don’t have the talented depth to survive a season unscathed in a top league like the SEC or Big 12, but in this crazy year where upsets are happening all over the place, are so sure they couldn’t beat someone in the top ten. Dismiss from your mind that opening day blowout loss at Georgia last year; that was last year. These Broncos have a veteran quarterback, a legitimate All-America candidate in RB Ian Johnson, and, arguably, the program’s strongest, most talented defense ever.

Count me in.

If the Broncos go unbeaten, I want to see them play in a BCS game. No, not the national championship, but sure, give them their spot in the sun in the Fiesta against Texas or in the Rose against either Michigan or Ohio State. I don’t care if they end up losing by 30; it’s all about the opportunity. With that said, I humbly request that you don’t throw this back in my face when I’m whining after the Longhorns get up 27-0 in the first half.

The rivalry so nice let's do it twice

By Richard Cirminiello
. If the purpose of the BCS is to pit the nation's two best teams against one another, why hasn't there been more of a groundswell about a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State in Glendale if 1) the teams play a competitive game when they meet in Columbus Nov. 18 and 2) the Big East fails to deliver an undefeated team? If you believe, as I do, that the Buckeyes and the Wolverines are the two best teams in the country today, why would you feel any differently if, say, Michigan loses to Ohio State 26-20? Or, even worse, if the favored Buckeyes lose after having cruised through their schedule. Listen, as it stands today, there are no dominant one-loss teams in America or any that lost early and have been unstoppable since. So why shouldn't the loser of next month's epic game emerge out of a crowded field if the criteria is to select the two most deserving programs? Yeah, a rematch in a major bowl game would absolutely suck for everyone outside Columbus and Ann Arbor and good luck making sense of things if they split, but after USC lost on Saturday, don't we have to at least explore the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams in 2006, regardless of who wins in 20 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds?

Will watch TV for food

[FONT=verdana, arial,
sans serif][SIZE=-1]Matthew Zemek[/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]
[/SIZE][/FONT]People are getting paid for being officials and replay reviewers, correct?

If that's the case, I'd like to apply for a job, especially in the replay booth in either Corvallis or Lubbock.

The worst injustices in the world are the ones happening in places such as Darfur, Baghdad, Kabul, Colombo, Moscow (especially if you're a Russian journalist), and numerous other locales where poverty, war and oppression reign. But for what it's worth, some pretty outrageous football felonies are being committed by arbiters who are making astonishingly bad calls in the face of ample evidence to the contrary.
Lots of calls made by officials (and reviewers) are judgment decisions, but a handful of plays are clearer than clear, and when these obvious plays arise in key situations, it should be refreshing for everyone involved. After all, when you see a replay and find that a given play had a definite outcome, there's a sense of relief even among fans of the disadvantaged team. Why? Because the integrity of the competition is upheld.

A team that fumbles--and sees on the jumbotron that it did indeed fumble--knows that it made a mistake. Knowing that you goofed is a much better feeling than wondering whether or not you messed up. When calls are clear, the disadvantaged team knows that it stumbled; the refs don't have to be blamed, and everyone can focus on the quality of play as the deciding factor in a football game. The integrity of college football increases each time a losing team doesn't have to think the refs took a game away from them. A healthy sport will involve losing teams who lose because of their own ineptitude or an opponent's excellence; a diseased sport, on the other hand, will feature teams who will hold the officials primarily responsible for a close loss.

So with all this being said, there were clear calls in Corvallis and Lubbock--clearer than clear, in fact--that were somehow missed. Steve Smith of USC was viewed by replay officials to be in bounds on his late 4th and 2 "catch" against Oregon State. Texas Tech receiver Joel Filani clearly caught a first-down-gaining pass with 2:27 left in the first quarter of Saturday night's game against Texas. Replay officials, though, overturned it.

At the end of the day, the calls didn't matter since Oregon State ended up holding on against USC and Texas Tech got a pick-six a few moments after it got jobbed, but that's not the point. Since we're bothering to pay people to do jobs in a billion-dollar industry, we could bother to make sure that someone will see Smith's foot out of bounds, or Filani was firmly in control of a football.

Again, where can I get an application form? I already watch 13 hours of TV every fall Saturday to begin with.

And the new nation's longest loser with 16 straight ...

[SIZE=-1]By [/SIZE][SIZE=-1]John Harris[/SIZE]
5. The scrawl came across sometime Saturday afternoon…”game losing streak is over”. That’s all I saw, but I knew instantly what it meant – Temple had ended its 20 game losing streak. Al Golden’s Owls had knocked off Bowling Green on Saturday to give the first year head man his first collegiate victory…and first Gatorade bath as well.

I spent my afternoon in Durham at Wallace Wade Stadium watching Vanderbilt take on winless Duke. My friend and former college teammate Bill O’Brien is Duke’s offensive coordinator, after having spent his coaching career with Georgia Tech and Maryland. All afternoon, his offense struggled to put points on the board and loss number eight seemed to be on its way. But, then the offense started to click in the fourth quarter. After a couple of TDs, a successful two point conversion and a beautiful onside kick, the Blue Devils were within 16 with seven minutes left. RB Justin Boyle then had an incredible 32 yard run for a TD to get them within ten, but the two point conversion came up, literally, inches short. Having to now onside kick again down two scores, the Commodores recovered and scored one play after a near sack on third and three turned into a long run down to the one yard line
I watched Bill much of the game and saw him pulling aside his true freshman QB Thaddeus Lewis throughout the afternoon. It was obvious how much coaching he had to do in this situation. How much coaching do other coaches have to do?

Think about it…what do you think Jim Tressel tells Troy Smith when he comes off the field? Nice throw? Beautiful run? What do you tell a true freshman QB when he misses a read…again and again?

All season we’ll talk and argue about the Ohio States, the Michigans and the West Virginias of the world, yet it’s these moments – a team like Temple getting a hard earned win or a team fighting all afternoon to get one – that make you appreciate how hard it is to actually get a win in college football. Bill and I suffered through an 0-10 season many eons ago and it’s not pretty whatsoever; now he’s coaching through one. For these kids and coaches, it’s not about the BCS formula or style points, it’s about just one time having more points than the other guy when the clock hits all zeroes. Temple got to experience it yesterday and now the watch will be on Duke.
Good luck RJ...

Like them all... will wait to put in my college plays this week as it didn't work out last week to lock in early... ex. tenny, nebraska, etc...

Nevada down to 10 ... like that one alot.

Cal I have at 17.5 right now which sucks... might have to wait.

ASU... perfect spot for them here... and perfect letdown spot for OSU.. see Clemson last week... just don't see this offense getting all the breaks like they did vs. USC.
CFN's Monday Morning QB

Zemek's Monday Morning Quarterback 2006

By Matt Zemek
Posted Oct 30, 2006

USC's hopes of remaining unbeaten in the Pac-10 and contending for the national title were sidelined on Saturday... literally as well as figuratively.

By Matthew Zemek

If you want to look beneath the surface and get a much deeper feel for the struggles of Pete Carroll's Trojans, the sideline is a good place to start. Well, no, that's not a reference to the coaches themselves; we're talking about the actual sideline here, that thick white boundary on the side of the field. Yes, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian need to do some tweaking--that part of the "USC sideline" needs to get better for sure--but the main point of focus in this week's MMQ is the physical sideline, which played a leading role in derailing Dwayne Jarrett and the Trojans against an Oregon State team with some smart corners.

The starting point for this discussion is a basic truth that links play calling and player execution: namely, if the players aren't executing, the play callers are put in a box. This was very clear in games other than USC-Oregon State from the past weekend. Florida's play calling, for example--under Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen--found few good answers against Georgia, but the horrible execution of Chris Leak and the Gators' offensive line had a lot to do with the unsuccessful play calling and substandard production. If players aren't doing their jobs, play callers have no leg to stand on. This has to be kept in mind by Trojan fans who might be inclined to rip the combo of offensive coordinators known as "Sarkiffin."

Here was the clear thought process of Sarkiffin in the Oregon State game. The two-headed play calling monster knew that Dwayne Jarrett had to get untracked. Given Jarrett's sizeable and tall frame, the best course of action seemed to be: "throw the ball to the boundary in places where only No. 8 can catch it." There was a considerable amount of logic behind this strategy, especially when you consider the turnover-prone nature of John David Booty's recent performances... which, by the way, didn't leave the building on Saturday. Sarkiffin wisely reasoned that if Booty--the biggest problem with the USC offense when it's all said and done--is struggling, the guesswork and complexity need to be taken out of the offense unless or until the quarterback gets a better rhythm. Accordingly, Sarkiffin tried to trust Jarrett with the difficult playmaking and overall heavy lifting, while making the exercise simpler for Booty. This involved sideline routes that tried to get Jarrett in one-on-one situations where he could outmuscle and outmaneuver corners for catches. In theory, it was a very sound tactical decision on Sarkiffin's part.

But here's where the big, bad sideline--and some failures of nuance from both the coordinators and the quarterback--did USC in.

If you've been reading this columnist for any appreciable length of time, you know that the one NCAA football rule that simply MUST be changed in my world is the asinine provision that a receiver has to get a foot (or knee, etc.) in bounds for his catch to be legal. If the corner or safety can hit a flanker in the air and push said flanker out of bounds on the fly, there is no "force-out" provision, unlike the NFL. If a corner is smart enough and strong enough to hit or lift a receiver out of bounds and prevent that receiver from coming down with a foot in bounds, it's an incomplete pass. Forget the fact that the receiver smoked or outjumped or otherwise outperformed the corner to catch a ball two or three yards inside the field of play; if the corner can hit the receiver out of bounds, it's no catch. This rule--if we want to reward players for making reasonable plays, a fundamental goal of every sport--has to be changed. Coaches committees and rules subcommittees need to address this item along with eliminating the new clock rules when they convene to reform the on-field product of college football.

With that rule in mind, then, it has to be acknowledged that while the sideline is an extra defender at any level of football, it is an especially good defender in the college game--more so than in the NFL. On Saturday, none other than Dwayne Jarrett was denied a catch (and a rather impressive one at that) because of this very rule. It was part of an afternoon in which Jarrett was literally sidelined at every turn. Unfriendly rules hurt the tall receiver, but a lack of attention to detail--from Sarkiffin and Booty--also prevented No. 8 from scoring six points on a number of occasions.

Sarkiffin's noble and logical attempt to take the guesswork out of Booty's decision-making process--and set up Jarrett to make plays in isolated matchups--was undone by the trajectory of Booty's passes to that big, bad sideline. Throughout the afternoon in Corvallis, and especially in the red zone, Booty did indeed trust Jarrett to make plays by throwing the ball his way in traffic. In this sense, USC's offensive braintrust got what it wanted. However, Booty didn't trust Jarrett in the particular way he should have. Confused? Here's the explanation.

While it's true that Booty trusted Jarrett on a general level, by merely throwing the ball in Jarrett's direction, Booty lacked trust in Jarrett in a more specific sense. A constant feature of the unsuccessful passes Booty threw to Jarrett in the red zone was their decidedly flat trajectory. Booty threw the passes as though they were out routes or similarly directional passes that are thrown with an appreciable amount of zip. If Sarkiffin could have changed one aspect of their red zone attack against Oregon State--specifically with respect to involving Jarrett in the passing game--they would have instructed Booty to avoid zipping the ball on those sideline routes that continued to meet with failure. Instead, SC's coordinators would have told their quarterback to throw soft, high-arcing pop-ups, true jump balls that receivers from Maurice Stovall to Weegie Thompson to R.C. Owens (do Google searches on those older names if you don't know them) would own. Jarrett's tall and rangy frame demands that he be given the chance to win vertical jumping and stretching contests. Throwing a sideline route with normal zip and a flat trajectory actually diminishes Jarrett's ability to make a play.

To Sarkiffin's credit, the USC braintrust finally began to tweak their red zone pass routes late in the game against Oregon State. Steve Smith's last-second touchdown came on a sit-down route, in which the receiver stops short and boxes out the defender. This was a brilliant move by Sarkiffin, because they knew that Oregon State's corners--based on SC's previous red zone forays--would have expected a fade or another kind of sideline route when the Trojans pushed the ball downfield in the final minute of Saturday's game. Right after that sit-down touchdown to Smith, Sarkiffin tried the same sit-down to Jarrett on the other (left) side of the field. The smart part of the call was that it made Jarrett's body more of a factor in the play, while also taking the big, bad sideline out of the equation. But the negative part of the call was that the sit-down route demands that a ball be zipped, not lofted, and when the Beavers got pressure up front, Booty's pass got tipped at the line of scrimmage. The lingering deficiency of Sarkiffin's play selection--which wasn't nearly as bad as many would make it out to be--is that when Dwayne Jarrett is involved in the offense, he is not given true jump balls. If Sarkiffin want to get Jarrett involved in the red zone attack for USC, they must insist that John David Booty learn to throw pop-ups that bring Jarrett's towering height into the equation. Pete Carroll's offensive coordinators never embraced this need, and that deficiency proved to be crucial in the Trojans' upset loss. Against Oregon and Cal, look for the ways in which Sarkiffin tweak the SC passing game, especially in relationship to Dwayne Jarrett's role--and the trajectory of John David Booty's throws--in the red zone.

The other major story from this past weekend of play calling and strategy came in the Tennessee-South Carolina game, where Phil Fulmer got back at Steve Spurrier by doing something Spurrier often does to opponents. Spurrier has become a decorated coach for many reasons, but high on the list is his combination of competitive cockiness (pun not intended, given his association with a team named the Gamecocks and a mascot called Cocky) and deceptive simplicity. Spurrier has won many games--and unintentionally irritated opponents--by calling the same play on back-to-back snaps, or otherwise sticking with a basic formula if he feels the opposition isn't in position to stop it. "Balance for the sake of balance"--one of the worst and most overused coaching approaches (sadly) alive today--is a philosophy that has never been adopted by Spurrier, and that's why he gets so much out of his given pool of talent, no matter where he coaches.

On Saturday night in Columbia, Fulmer and his close friend, Volunteer offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, showed a similarly stubborn streak that paved the way for a huge Tennessee victory.

On the decisive drive of the game, the Vols' go-ahead touchdown march that bridged the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter, Fulmer and the man called "Cut" decided to be relentlessly stubborn with the passing game. For the old offensive lineman from Winchester, Tenn., running the ball or--as they like to say in Knoxville--"pounding the rock" is the preferred mode of transportation for an offense. But against South Carolina's defense, which emphasized taking away the run, Fulmer and Cut were open-minded enough to throw the ball relentlessly, and it was this very intentional decision--along with Erik Ainge's guts--that legitimately propelled the Vols to their go-ahead score, which came precisely when the Gamecocks--with a stop--could have substantially cemented their newfound scoreboard advantage. A longtime proponent of the ground game was willing to take to the skies, and that's why Phil Fulmer should be on cloud nine today after besting Spurrier in a very well-coached game.

The final part of this week's column--a good case study in the realm of football analysis--is a necessary response to a fan base that perceived a given set of analytical statements to be lacking in merit and, most regrettably, an insult to their team. The fan base is a Nebraska Nation that felt it was insulting to say that Texas gift-wrapped the Husker victory that almost was on October 21.

In continuing to explore the relationship between football writers and fans, it must be said that a very understandable and natural source of friction is the simple fact that the national columnist doesn't live in the neighborhood where fans of a given team reside. I don't eat breakfast at the local Omaha diner seven mornings a week, or even three. I don't know the librarians in Lincoln or the optometrist in Ord. Safe to say, no national writer can ever enjoy real conversational intimacy with a local fan base... unless you're Mitch Albom and you wind up going anywhere and everywhere because of non-sports books you crank out that obliterate the boundary between you and a previously foreign constituency. Nebraska fans were quite personally pissed at me, and frankly, I can't blame them.

But this is where the long twilight struggle of forging better football conversations, and establishing a better architecture for astute analysis, continues.

Passion is the friend of college football from an aesthetic standpoint. Emotion makes this sport sing, giving each snap the crackle of intensity that electrifies the gameday experience. But in the sober, cerebral world of football analysis and discussion, emotion is an enemy, for emotions color perspectives. Fan loyalties--borne from connections to a school, a college town, and a state--necessarily run deep, and they give college football a level of enthusiasm the NFL can never hope to match. The deeper bonds between team and community that exist in the college game lie at the heart of its appeal and goodness. But when it comes time to talk straight football--and to discuss the ins and outs of football journalism that inevitably arise from such conversations--emotions have to be laid aside. It's just that simple.

A fundamental reality I've observed from this columnist's chair over the course of (nearly) six years is that fans will not allow a writer's words to mean merely what they in fact mean. (If you want a book-length treatise on this subject, you may e-mail me and request extended writings that I penned in January of 2005.) With respect to the hubub and hoohah that erupted over my Texas-Nebraska commentaries, one must look at an analytical statement in a levelheaded manner. If a writer says that Texas gift-wrapped a victory for Nebraska (with Nebraska then marking the package "return to sender," a comment I should have made in my initial pieces but didn't... that's a small mistake I freely acknowledge), the statement must be allowed to mean exactly that... no more, no less. Such a statement is not code for "Nebraska displayed insufficient effort and didn't deserve any of the good things that came its way." Yet, Husker fans perceived that very meaning behind the surface statement. One Husker fan viewed the "gift-wrapped" terminology as "condescending."

The difficult element of this situation lies in the fact that postgame analysis of Texas-Nebraska--at least from a Nebraska perspective--did not come in the MMQ or Weekly Affirmation, the two feature-length or "long-form" forums I have for providing college football analysis each week. Instead, my analysis of the game came in two "short-form" analytical forums: the "Five Thoughts" segment and the "Instant Analysis" pieces that are filed no more than 90 minutes after the conclusion of the week's biggest and most noteworthy games. When strong statements are made in "short-form" forums, there is a greater potential for comments to be taken the wrong way. But this is where a brief discussion of journalism and, more specifically, editorial commentary/news analysis, is necessary.

In the endlessly polarized world of college football, where fans of every team and conference think they are the unique victims of entrenched institutional media bias (not merely innocent bias, which every human being unavoidably possesses), the big, bad "B-word" is unfailingly applied to commentaries from national writers that: A) are laced with appeciably strong or unapologetic comments; and B) cut in a direction that's unfavorable to the local team. And may I say--as someone who acknowledges with sadness the failings of journalism, in the sports world as well as in the hard-news realm--that it's good for fans to be vigilant about media bias. A journalist isn't worth a warm bucket of spit if s/he refuses to engage or listen to readers. The writer who refuses to learn from fans--and who lacks both the courage and the common sense to make acknowledgments of mistakes or concessions about the limitations of his (her) football analysis--is a writer who will not grow on personal or professional levels. For these and many other reasons, fans should indeed nail writers to the wall if there's real and unmistakable proof of a bias that goes beyond "innocent" and reaches the level of entrenched, institutional, systemic and patternistic prejudice that unfailingly cuts against a team, school, coach or player.

With that having been said, then, one must emphasize a simple point: if one is to claim entrenched, institutional, systemic and patternistic biases--the kinds of biases that are truly unprofessional, unacceptable and mean-spirited, and which point to the existence of real condescension on the part of writers--a fan base (or an individual reader) must come up with a thick stack of press clippings over an extended period of time to document and point out the abuses committed by the writer/columnist/editorialist. It's fine to level a serious charge if you have the evidence; if you're just shooting from the hip, though, you can't claim the moral high ground or any attendant credibility. Using the blanket "the media is biased" reference won't cut it. It's good to make specific claims, but that's just it: specific claims, not general ones. It's not too much to ask. Not if we, the football writers and columnists of America, have to absorb these body blows on a weekly basis.

So with that little journalistic aside over, let's get back to the comment about Texas "gift-wrapping" the Nebraska victory that almost was, and more specifically, to the idea that such a comment was "condescending" to Nebraska fans and an insult to the team. First of all, from an historical standpoint, this columnist has been quite independent-minded about football analysis with respect to the Huskers. Last year, after a very hard-to-analyze game between Nebraska and Texas Tech, the subsequent "Instant Analysis" piece I wrote--a result of careful and withering self-scrutiny--chose to place a tonal and substantive emphasis on the quality of the Huskers' performance, even though they lost the game. Meanwhile, the piece took a more critical route in dissecting the performance of the winning Red Raiders, who needed an inordinate amount of good fortune to escape Lincoln with a win. If there was any possibility that this writer possesses entrenched, institutional, systemic, patternistic bias against the Nebraska Cornhusker football team and program, it went out the window with that game. The problem, of course, is that in this instant-communication (and instant analysis) age of ours, attention spans are understandably short. While writers will remember what they wrote several years ago on a given topic, fans won't. This is not the fault of fans, who don't get paid to keep tabs on writers and who have more important things to do in their lives. But ah, if a fan wants to register a claim of entrenched bias and make a legitimate complaint, s/he must then enter into that very world where tabs--and press clippings--must indeed be kept over many years. If remarks on the 2006 Texas-Nebraska game are to be perceived as "condescending," prior comments on significant Nebraska games in past years must also be brought into the discussion. Otherwise, a columnist--especially if s/he comes to a public forum (Scout.com's Nebraska message board) and explains his (her) comments--deserves what is called "the benefit of the doubt."

When I said that Texas gift-wrapped the Nebraska victory that almost was, I came from a very specific place with a fully mapped-out mental architecture and intellectual framework. Mind you--and this is where the point about analysis not being fact, only one person's carefully-considered opinion/interpretation of news events as they played out, bears repeating--this was not the only intellectual framework one could erect in response to the Texas-Nebraska game. But it was one framework, and if it is supported with reasonable contentions, it should be viewed as reasonable analysis. Not perfect or comprehensive, but reasonable. Many Nebraska fans were man (or woman) enough to forthrightly acknowledge this: they disagreed substantially with my analysis, but could see where I was coming from, especially after I elaborated on some points. They also relaxed after I relented and conceded the point that Nebraska's second touchdown, a 49-yard Brandon Jackson romp off a shovel pass from Zac Taylor, had a lot to do with Jackson himself, and was not the sole result of poor Texas angling/tackling, as I had originally contended. (This represented a substantial concession, because if one attributes 14 Nebraska points to bad Texas tackling, but then concedes that seven of those 14 points--i.e., half--were actually attributable to Husker excellence instead, one is shifting 50 percent of an argument to the other column. Statistically if not for other reasons, that is undeniably a substantial concession. There is no way to counter that particular contention.)

But here's the biggest foundation for my analysis of Texas-Nebraska, and it's a point I never made in weeklong discussions with Husker fans (when I was frankly more concerned with explaining journalistic issues than football-only issues): the heart of my UT-NU analysis, and all comments that flowed from it, was the bad weather that clearly impacted the game.

In a bad weather football game, football becomes a simpler game, and it therefore becomes more of a running-based game. The fact that Texas ran the ball much better than Nebraska therefore represented, for me, a much bigger reality in comparison to other football analysts. This is not to say one's personal analysis is superior (it's most assuredly not), but it is intended to show that one's personal analysis comes from a very specific and well-mapped-out place, which therefore makes it reasonable. That's the humble standard being advanced here.

The bad weather in the UT-NU game also led me to the view that in such a contest, a nine-point lead is the equivalent of a much larger lead in good weather conditions. Texas might have had a lead no larger than 16-7, but I viewed that lead to be a huge bulge in a game with necessarily minimalist play calling. The ability of Texas to forge all of the sustained scoring drives (in contrast to Nebraska's small handful of home-run plays) resonated with my particular mental architecture as a football analyst. Had Nebraska beaten Texas cleanly on all three of its touchdown plays (instead of just two; and keep in mind, I conceded that Nebraska did beat Texas on two of the three plays, not just one, as I originally contended), this point of analysis would have been appreciably modified in a postgame write-up. But, of course, the game didn't play out (quite) that way. Thus, the core of the analysis deserved to remain.

Here's the final reason why the "gift-wrapped" reference wasn't condescending to Nebraska players, fans or coaches: the bad weather--while also affecting the ways in which I viewed the running game and sustained drives as indicators of Texas' (perceived) dominance--also limited Nebraska's and Bill Callahan's playbook. Here's what Husker fans needed to understand--but which couldn't easily be said in a "short-form" analytical outlet: I viewed the bad weather as a big disadvantage for Nebraska. Naturally, this was a disadvantage that had nothing to do with Nebraska's effort level or any other assessment of the Huskers' courage, grit and perseverance, which were--for the record--in abudant supply against the Longhorns. In fact, Nebraska's relentless and noble effort is the very thing that enabled the Huskers to grab a lead on a day when they (in my mind, maybe not someone else's mind) got severely outplayed by Texas. Nebraska should have been lauded for its collective will, which enabled a team to find its footing against a formidable opponent. When it was said that Texas "gift-wrapped" the victory Nebraska almost attained, the statement was made in light of the fact that Nebraska was disadvantaged by the weather, not to mention the fact that Texas left seven points unclaimed by way of missed kicks. The statement had no remote connection to any subtle or unspoken assumptions about Nebraska's supposedly poor effort level. In fact, had some (not all) Husker fans chosen to ask questions first and then shoot bullets at a football writer later on, they would have heard me say that "effort level" was Nebraska's foremost strength in the Texas game, not its glaring weakness.

Football is a game of emotion. Football analysis is an enterprise where emotions have to leave the building. Nebraska fans are stone-cold smart about their football, and they made me concede a number of important limitations and weaknesses in the "short-form" football analysis I provided on the Texas game. But they--like the partisans in any other fan base--must avoid projecting their own (unavoidable) emotions into the analytical realm, especially if they are to make serious charges about my moral character (it's pretty substantial to be called "condescending", at least if you sincerely try to be an honorable moral being when you walk the earth every day) or take the equally radical step of laughing a given piece of analysis off the stage, as if to suggest that said analysis doesn't deserve to be heard in the first place.

If a fan base laughs off a given piece of analysis, such an action clearly indicates an unwillingness to hear other divergent viewpoints. And if one side of an argument refuses to hear the other side, we don't have a discussion. The enterprise of football analysis ceases to have any claims to objectivity, in that case. After all, objectivity and truth transcend one viewpoint in a given argument; the reality of a situation, any situation, is always a fusion of the best points provided by two competing claims. If the truth of the Texas-Nebraska game (or any other game) is to be accurately arrived at, the best of the Nebraska perspective must be brought to the table--and it certainly was brought to me by astute Husker fans--but the Texas argument must also be heard as well. This is just the lastest--and quite necessary--extension of the ongoing project to make football analysis better. We'll see what the next few weeks will bring to the college football roundtable.
CFN's Weekly Affirmation

Zemek's Weekly Affirmation - 2006

By Matt Zemek
Posted Oct 30, 2006

It's rare that a season-defining, main-event football game gets played on Thursday night, so before dealing with national title debates, the flaws of the BCS (part ten million, six hundred thirty-nine thousand, four hundred seventeen), and everything else in between, let's tackle the Clash in the Commonwealth, as West Virginia rides into Louisville for a blockbuster Big East brouhaha.

By Matthew Zemek

Those who read the regular "Perspective Pieces" on the signature games of the upcoming week will know that on some occasions, a game lends itself to an X-and-O preview. But that's just a small portion of the panorama of possibilities possessed by a prospective Perspective Piece. A perspective on a game is not confined to a standard comparison of matchups, keys and stats. Other times, a more emotional preview is demanded, especially through the prism of a player or coach who has a lot to prove. And in still other situations, a game preview deserves the grand, sweeping poetry and romance that Grantland Rice brought to college football reportage when the sport became a national sensation in the 1920s.

In looking at 'Eers-Cards, then, let's tackle all three elements of the Battle in the Bluegrass. First, the matchup itself.

It's only one person's opinion, but in any game where there's a signature confrontation that gets most of the publicity, the belief here is that the less sexy matchup will make the difference. The big matchup in this game is clearly West Virginia's rush offense against the Cards' underappreciated and fairly athletic defense. If Pat White and Steve Slaton run wild, it's game over, period. But in light of this reality, Louisville will devote the balance of its pregame preparation to containing the WVU ground game. The scars of the 46-44 triple-OT loss in Morgantown last year will not allow Bobby Petrino's team to underestimate the explosiveness residing in the WVU backfield.

This means that the Mountaineer passing game will be one of the "shadow factors" that, while not heavily publicized, will loom large on Thursday at The Oven (aka, Papa John's Stadium). Rich Rodriguez has basically told the rest of the college football world that he doesn't need a passing game to beat Louisville or anyone else on the Mountaineer slate. Had Rodriguez valued the development of his team's passing game, he'd have thrown more than nine passes at Mississippi State. He'd have thrown more than 14 passes against Connecticut. The Mountaineers might indeed prove on Thursday that they won't need much of a passing game... perhaps because their 17-point comeback against UL in 2005 was achieved without a lot of help from the passing game. But that might be a WVU blind spot entering this contest.

Why? Because Louisville prepared for Adam Bednarik last season, not White, who came into the game only after Bednarik got injured and a few thousand Mountaineer fans left the ballpark, understandably thinking that Bednarik would never lead a comeback against the Cards. Rodriguez was able to surprise Louisville (and given that he started Bednarik at the beginning of the 2005 season, he obviously surprised himself) by unleashing White's blazing speed. It was a revelation few, if any, could have foreseen when last year's WVU-UL game started, and it's the very thing that made West Virginia's 2005 season a rags-to-riches tale unlike anything college football has seen in its 138-year history. This year, though, the Mountaineers--despite the hard-hit Appalachian region in which they reside--are the rich kids in college football. They're a member of the sport's elite (even if some claim they're not), a distinction legitimately earned with their road win (for all intents and purposes) over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Whether WVU maintains that elite status or not is another question, however, and if Coach Rodriguez thinks he doesn't need to pass the ball, he's taking a calculated risk that endangers his team's lofty status. Rushing yards don't figure to come as easily as they did in the fourth quarter and the three overtimes from last year's Louisville game. Passing proficiency will likely be needed to turn back the Cards. If WVU is good enough to dare UL to stop the run and still blow by the Cards with some Sugar Bowl shake-and-bake shiftiness, more power to them (and punch a ticket to Glendale for the Mountaineers, while you're at it). Chances are, though, that the passing game will need to come into play--and on more than a few occasions at that--for the Mountaineers to mount a big-time offensive charge against Louisville.

The other under-publicized matchup in this game--overshadowed by the WVU ground game's battle against UL's front seven--is the collision between Brian Brohm (and Mario Urrutia) against the Mountaineer secondary. If Louisville can set the pace in this game by racking up home-run pass plays against WVU's back line of defense, the scoreboard could force WVU to keep up in a track meet. And while White and Slaton have the speed of track studs, you get the idea: they'll be under more pressure to hit huge plays if pressed into a calculator-type game. It's not what Rich Rodriguez wants. The WVU coach would prefer a game in which Brohm and Urrutia (who have been struggling ever since Brohm re-entered the lineup a few weeks ago) grope for answers, while the 'Eers' ground game steadily gains a stranglehold on the proceedings.

For those who don't follow these teams closely but still know who Brian Brohm is (the UL quarterback), you might wonder who Mario Urrutia is. Urrutia (No. 7) is UL's cash-money receiver, blessed with an NFL body and all the attributes you'd want in a big-time pass catcher. Against Miami back in September, it was Urrutia who made the home-run plays Bobby Petrino needs from his offense in big games. In recent weeks, however, only tight end Gary Barnidge has been able to catch passes over 20 yards. Against West Virginia, it's Urrutia who must step up. He can't have a pedestrian outing in which he catches five passes totaling roughly 70 yards without a touchdown. Urrutia needs to hit at least one very long home run ball and make multiple plays of above-average significance for Louisville--without Michael Bush, remember--to ultimately prevail.

That takes care of matchups. Now, what about the emotions of the contest? Who has something to prove? Quite frankly, it's no one and everyone at the same time. West Virginia and Louisville have proven in the past that they belong at the big-boy table, if ever given the chance. As an extension of internal emotions or personal reputations, these two teams have nothing to prove, and they should be aware of that reality. But of course, from a national perspective deep inside the "media-industrial complex"--and in places such as Ann Arbor, Austin, Knoxville, Berkeley, L.A., Gainesville and Auburn--these teams have everything to prove. To put a finer point on this game, it is the Big East's equivalent of the Michigan-Ohio State showdown. If either one of these teams wants to make Glendale, it should only need to win. But to gain respect from the rest of the college football world--a different proposition altogether--both teams, as they try to win, will need to play well.

Finally, to the romance and magic of this game.

The sweet and poignant aspect of this event is that it puts college football outsiders inside the grand palace hall. These are rich kids (as said above), but they're the nouveau riche, the t-shirt-and-jean-short-wearing rebels who threaten the power establishment instead of bowing to its conventions. West Virginia and Louisville have resided in the top ten while figuring in preseason national title conversations over the past two years (UL in 2005, WVU this year). They dominate their conference. This confrontation on Nov. 2 has been greatly anticipated all year, and both teams (especially UL) should take pride in their ability to enter this matchup unbeaten. But in comparison to the rest of college football and its other BCS conferences, these teams--being in the Big East, the league that embarrassed itself and the sport with past debacles from Syracuse and Pitt in major bowl games--find themselves outside the center of conversation. WVU and UL are indeed playing for supreme riches, but the old-money establishment won't be seen within sniffing distance of either team at a formal dinner party. Most college football fans outside West Virginia and Kentucky think--at least from the e-mail I receive--that an unbeaten Big East team has no business being in Glendale in place of a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten, or Big XII. This means that while WVU and UL are rich kids in college football, they lack the social connections and dinner companions that make money go a lot farther in life. The Mountaineers and Cards are inside the palatial mansion with money to burn, but the attractive, well-placed and accomplished women of high society aren't choosing to be with them on cold Autumn nights. WVU and UL are filthy rich, but painfully alone and cut off from those who possess admiration, sex appeal, influence, and the other non-monetary trappings of wealth.

On Thursday night, West Virginia and Louisville will stage their own nouveau riche party in a state known for horses and stables. The beauty and impressiveness of this Bluegrass hoedown will determine if the rest of the college football world begins to respect the Big East the way it ought to. Should all this be the case? No. Is it the case? Yes.

This ends the West Virginia-Louisville portion of this week's column. Let's shift to the national title debate itself.

The race for Glendale brings up a classic point of differentiation between "predictive analysis" and "recommendation-based analysis." Predictive analysis is a straight reading of news events as they are ("what will happen"), while recommendation-based analysis is a considered opinion of what ought to happen as a matter of fairness or appropriateness ("what should happen in an ideal or reasonable world"). The national title debate--like any other significant discussion--demands that these two parts of analysis remain segregated. First, then, the predictive analysis.

In terms of what will happen, it's becoming more and more possible that Michigan--if it plays Ohio State close (but the Wolverines shouldn't sleep on Indiana the week before going to Columbus) on Nov. 18--could very definitely have a rematch with the Bucks in Glendale. Media hype has a way of gathering steam to the extent that, once entrenched, it creates its own self-fulfilling prophecies. With this in mind, a close and gallant UM performance against OSU--even in defeat--could very easily result in the pollsters keeping Michigan second in the polls, which would give the Maize and Blue considerable leverage in a season-ending BCS race.

In offering a preliminary pick on Wolverines-Bucks, I think OSU is ready to throttle a Michigan team whose offense--much like USC's--is skating by with pedestrian performances each week. In Columbus, Chad Henne will need to have the game of his life; maybe, in the end, he will deliver just that. But unless the UM offense shows signs of really cranking it into gear, the Bucks clearly have two strengths compared to Michigan's one. The English Majors could stuff Troy Smith and Co. for a half, maybe even three quarters, but if Henne can't take the heat off Mike Hart and the Michigan defense, a lack of balance will catch up with the Wolverines. A lack of both ball control and credible intermediate passing will create a losing field-position battle that will eventually swamp Michigan. It's up to the Maize and Blue to develop a big-boy offense in the coming weeks, so that Troy Smith will have an opposing offense he can respect. If Smith doesn't have any pressure to produce points, chances are he won't be taken out of his comfort zone. And if that's the case, Ohio State won't be challenged.

It's a good news-bad news situation, then, for Michigan and its fans. The bad news? If UM's offense doesn't improve, it could get ugly in Columbus, and a lopsided loss would derail any Michigan hopes for a rematch on January 8. The good news, though, is this: if Michigan, up against the one true juggernaut in the sport, does indeed manage to keep things very close and competitive over 60 minutes, a lot of pollsters will keep UM second and thereby set the stage for a rematch. A close win might not lock up an OSU-UM sequel in the Desert Southwest, but it will radically improve the chances and make it a 50-50 proposition. Whoever winds up competing with Michigan come the final weekend of play (Saturday, Dec. 2) will be sweating bullets if Lloyd Carr's team pushes OSU to the wall in mid-November. That's the predictive analysis of the BCS race at this point. Unless anything truly dramatic happens (and you'll know if it does), that analysis remains in place until the Nov. 18 showdown in the Horseshoe.

Here, on the other hand, is the recommendation-based analysis of the BCS derby.

In terms of what SHOULD happen (not what WILL happen), the past weekend of play only affirmed (that's why we call this column the Weekly Affirmation) the arguments of Big East fans. If the Big Ten--OSU and Michigan's conference--is worthy of having both teams in the national title game (not just in two BCS bowls; it's clear that Michigan definitely deserves a BCS bowl--even if it might not deserve a ticket to Glendale--in the event of a loss to Ohio State), its third wheel should be an extremely good team. Not just pretty good, but really, really good. Borderline great, in fact.

But yesterday, there was Wisconsin, the third-best team in the Big Ten, coming very close to losing at home to Illinois. One doesn't need to make any passionate statements or catchy one liners to make this point. One can simply cite the fact (and it is a fact) that Illinois beat Wisconsin's defense for two easy touchdowns, only to drop a pass at the goal line and have quarterback Juice Williams overthrow a receiver by a country mile (the reference to a country mile is, of course, not factual; everything else is). If lowly Illinois could leave bunches of points on the field and still come within six of the Badgers at Camp Randall, the Big Ten--while more balanced than previously thought--is also a league whose third wheel isn't as dominant as it should be... at least if Michigan wants to go to Glendale on the heels of a loss in Columbus.

Other leagues also gave Big East fans still more arguments. Texas continues to pull games out on the road and show the heart of a champion, but the Longhorns are tempting fate with a lot of regularity, and are proving to be anything but dominant. Nebraska's loss hurts the Big XII's lack of star power at the top; if Oklahoma fails to beat Texas A&M this upcoming Saturday in College Station, you can call the Big XII a one-trick pony, albeit on a lower level compared to last year, when Mack Brown's Horns ruled the league with an even stronger iron fist.

And then look at what happened to Clemson, the most talented team in the ACC. Look at what happened to USC in the Pac-10. Florida and Auburn, the standard-bearers in the SEC (we finally get to see what Arkansas is really made of in its next two games against South Carolina and Tennessee), played very shaky ball before finally prevailing against inferior opponents. This amplifies a fundamental dimension of this raging debate: my agreement with the position of the Big East teams (and their fans) is not a hard-and-fast position; it is open to change and modification. If one of these "old-money" teams kicked butt each and every week, but had the proverbial "one bad game" to finish at 11-1, there would be substantial reason to give that kind of a team the nod over a 12-0 Big East champion... especially if WVU-UL proves to be a messy, sloppy, unsatisfying game in which both teams prove to be alarmingly weaker than expected. But unless or until I see a dominating 11-1 team that regularly blows away opponents, the benefit of the doubt in this whole argument MUST go to the Big East team. That's the best piece of recommendation-based analysis one can offer at this point in time.

What all of this shows is yet another another reason why the BCS is an awful system that needs to be blown up or radically restructured. BCS proponents--beginning with BCS founder and former SEC (read: old-money) Commissioner Roy Kramer--viewed the BCS as the perfect solution to college football's problems because it would "preserve the value and meaning of the regular season." The lingering argument against a playoff comes primarily from this strand of argumentation. "If the sanctity of the regular season is to be upheld," the reasoning goes, "teams can't get the second chance offered by a playoff. You have to win your regular season games to have a shot at the title."

Well, then, if that argument is to be upheld, there should be no debate at all: an unbeaten Big East champ--if it does indeed manage to go 12-0--should deserve Glendale more than any one-loss team... at least, if the "sanctity of the regular season" is to be preserved. That's just one reason why the BCS would once again prove to be a joke--and, more tellingly, a piece of hypocrisy that operates contrary to its originally stated purpose--if a one-loss team beats out an unbeaten Big East champion for Glendale.

But there's much more to the story as well. The other reason the BCS would prove to be a (much worse example of a) fraud if a one-loss team--especially Michigan--plays Ohio State on January 8 is as follows: it would totally and conclusively destroy the belief of BCS proponents that the regular season currently serves as a de facto playoff.

This point needs no explanation whatsoever. If Michigan and Ohio State play on Nov. 18, and then--in their very next game--wind up playing each other again on Jan. 8, nearly two months later, there is simply no "playoff element" to the regular season. Period. Therefore, while a careful analysis of news events suggests that Michigan will have a rematch with Ohio State IF (and this is the big "if" in the equation) it can play OSU very close on Nov. 18, one must appeal to the ranks of human pollsters--as a matter of personal editorial commentary--to drop the loser of that game in the rankings, so that no rematch will take place.

Folks need to understand something about the situation that is emerging here--and is well within the realm of possibility: regular-season rematches that take place in the national title game (Florida-Florida State from 1996'-97) are always distasteful. In a sport where so few marquee matchups materialize in the first place, it cheats and robs all of us--fans, journalists, coaches, players--when a fresh, new matchup doesn't emerge in a bowl game, and especially in the title game. If a rematch is to take place, there needs to be OVERWHELMING, EXTRAORDINARY, MORE-THAN-MERELY-SOLID EVIDENCE that such a matchup is warranted. But wait--there's still another dimension to this discussion that needs to be mentioned.

It's bad enough when any rematch takes place in a title game. But if Michigan and OSU were to have their rematch in Glendale, it would be a rematch of a conference rivalry, not a rare out-of-conference game that two non-conference schools had the guts to schedule. OSU-Texas would, for instance, be a much better rematch than OSU-Michigan if the debate for No. 2 came down to UM and UT. And before those in Ann Arbor suggest that I be strung up at high noon by Bo Schembechler or any other proud Michigan Man, let me hasten to say this: this has nothing to do with Michigan or any of UM's on-field merits (or demerits). The point is that two teams from the same conference have an unusual burden to separate themselves from the rest of the field if they really, really want to have a rematch in the national title game. This burden only grows when you consider the fact that this game would not only be a rematch; it would not only be a conference rematch of teams that annually play each other; no, it would be a conference rematch of teams that annually play each other IN CONSECUTIVE GAMES!

Except for the honor of being Big Ten champion, the UM-OSU game--if it leads to a rematch in Glendale--would amount to nothing more than a glorified scrimmage, a warm-up for the national title game. We can't have that... unless the Wolverines and Bucks are both light years ahead of every other team in college football. And while OSU just might be, UM definitely isn't. Not with an offense that is good for an average of about 17 points, one or two big pass plays, and 120 workmanlike yards from Mike Hart each game... and nothing more.

The other thing Wolverine fans have to understand--before having the distinct desire to lynch me and put my remains into a wood chipper--is that this argument is made on the basis of principles that transcend any conference. Simple example from outside the Big Ten: what if Tennessee had beaten Florida, 23-21, earlier in the season, and Auburn hadn't stubbed its toe against Arkansas? We would have had a situation where Tennessee and Auburn--at this point in time--would be looking at the possibility of an SEC Championship Game in which both teams might have identical 12-0 records. This is a situation that would have been almost exactly identical to what we currently have with OSU and Michigan. Wolverine fans, you had better believe that I'd be just as vociferous in pleading for no Volunteer-Tiger rematch in Glendale under such circumstances. I'd be making that appeal for all the same reasons mentioned above. Rematches--especially if they take place between conference opponents AND IN CONSECUTIVE GAMES--have no place in a national title game. If UM and OSU do play in back-to-back games on Nov. 18 and Jan. 8, the BCS is exponentially worse than it already is... and I currently think the reputation of the BCS is so low that it would have to touch a snake in order to gain a higher, more elevated standing in my thought world.

Finally, some quick hitters across the college football landscape.

While other teams pursue conference championships and BCS bowl games, the following poor orphans of the college football world could take huge steps toward cementing bowl bids (or at least non-losing seasons) this upcoming Saturday, or--for those with bye weeks--in their next game: Kentucky, Indiana, Vanderbilt, San Jose State, and Southern Methodist. How's that for a list of downtrodden schools rising from the ash heap? Big kudos to the kids at all those programs for not giving up the ship.

Another category of feel-good stories should be reserved for those schools that went a long time without success (most of the 1970s through the early 1990s, more or less), became noticeably good within the past decade, but then fell hard in the past two to three seasons, only to rebound this year: Maryland, Kansas State and Oregon State fit this profile to a "T." The Terps, Cats and Beavers were out in the wildnerness for many years, then briefly crashed the penthouse suite, only to be rudely kicked out, and now they're back to a stable blue-collar existence with a well-paying job. Washington State and Oklahoma State don't meet all the criteria of this category, but they've definitely bounced back from a few difficult seasons.

You don't have to be a college football fan to appreciate this: Temple won! Yay! Everyone in the world--even those downcast kids from Bowling Green--has to smile and cheer when Temple wins a football game. Long losing streaks are good for nobody, especially not the boys who have to live with that kind of albatross week in and week out. Hooray for the Temple Owls and their coach, Al Golden. A lot of young men just gained a beautiful and positive experience they'll take with themselves for the rest of their lives. While big-ticket programs compete for a huge pile of cash, the Temple Owls competed for--and won--something much more precious on Saturday in Philly: lifelong self-respect.

The past weekend offered a number of reasons why I don't follow recruiting at all, and consider the process of recruiting to be vastly overrated when it comes to finding brilliant individual performers (as opposed to establishing quality depth on a roster): great college football quarterbacks (think of a Jay Barker type more than a Peyton Manning type, a Tee Martin more than a Matt Leinart) always, always possess great intangible gifts. The big-time skills mean nothing if not accompanied by a cool head and a leader's mentality. This is why recruiting--especially at quarterback, the most important position in the sport--is oversold. You don't just plug in one great quarterback after the previous one leaves. Great quarterbacks need to have "that special something" in addition to the skills of a physical stud; they need to take mental and psychological ownership of the position, its responsibilities, and the relationships that any quarterback must forge with teammates. From this past weekend, one can appreciate how rare it is to have a truly great quarterback in college football. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee (and also Steve Spurrier at South Carolina) are realizing just how good they had it when Danny Wuerffel, Rex Grossman, David Greene, D.J. Shockley, Manning, Martin, and Casey Clausen led their teams. Paul Thompson is playing admirably for Oklahoma, but he's no Jason White--and that's no insult to Thompson; White was simply that good a leader and performer. John David Booty is showing signs that he might not be able to bear the weight of following Leinart and Carson Palmer at USC. Only November (after a bye week against Stanford) will tell. And in comparison to all those quarterbacks who are struggling at big-name programs, consider the example of the shining (Lone) Star at Texas, Colt McCoy. No. 12 lacks the complete package of Vince Young, but UT's Colt Hero is proving to be every bit the leader VY was. McCoy is very athletic with a solid and very accurate arm, but he clearly possesses poise way beyond his years, and that's an indication of a rare soul under center with qualities you can't coach or teach. Mack Brown hit the jackpot in much the same way Steve Spurrier did in 1993. Having one great prospect in the pipeline does not guarantee future success. New college kids need to own their new role every three or four years. Danny Wuerffels--and Colt Heroes such as the Real McCoy--are rare for a reason.
CFN's Quick Outs

Quick Outs


By Richard Cirminiello
Posted Oct 29, 2006

Summa Cum Laude – Oregon State – The Beavers handed USC its first conference loss in three years, authoring the program’s most important regular season win in school history.

Even after buckling in the fourth quarter, they held on for a dramatic two-point win. In a game filled with heroes, Oregon State WR Sammie Stroughter stood out for his eight catches and 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

2. Texas QB Colt McCoy – Is it possible that McCoy is growing exponentially as the Longhorn leader? For the second straight week, the freshman led Texas to a comeback win on the road, accounting for 324 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Texas Tech.

3. Indiana’s pitch-and catch combo of Kellen Lewis to James Hardy – Lewis threw five touchdown passes, a school-record four to Hardy, to bring the Hoosiers to within a win of bowl eligibility with a 46-21 demolition of Michigan State.

4. Washington State – After pounding UCLA in the Rose Bowl, Washington State has quietly slipped into the back end of the Top 25 and positioned itself for a possible nine-win season. The Cougars have unexpectedly moved into third place in the Pac-10, getting terrific play from the defense and 71 points in recent wins over the Bruins and Oregon.

5. Virginia Tech – Uhhh, maybe Virginia Tech isn’t on the slippery slope after all. Clemson couldn’t sustain the momentum it had against Georgia Tech last Saturday night, losing to the Hokies, which have gotten off the mat after losing back-to-back games earlier in the month. When the defense is inspired and Branden Ore is moving the chains, Tech is still one of the toughest teams in the country.

Summa Cum Lousy – USC – There’s no shame in losing a game, but the Trojans were uninspired mess until waking up midway through the second half in Corvallis. While the Trojans apprised themselves well in pulling within two in the final seconds, the loss likely ended a third-straight appearance in the BCS Championship game.

2. Michigan State – Even a historically epic comeback from a week ago couldn’t ignite this program to a second straight win. The Spartans got housed by Indiana 46-21 in a game that was even more one-sided than the score indicated.

3. UCLA – The Bruins are beginning to slide, losing to Washington State in a one-sided affair. The UCLA defense, the one mainstay in 2006, got torched by Alex Brink for more than 400 yards.

4. Clemson – In Blacksburg Thursday night, the Tigers were a shell of the team that ransacked Georgia Tech a week before, pushing the program to fourth place in the Atlantic Division.

5. UL-Lafayette QB Jerry Babb – In the Cajuns’ 34-20 loss to Middle Tennessee State, Babb threw four picks, all to Blue Raider defensive back Damon Nickson, who took one of the errant passes back for a touchdown.

Offensive Coordinator of the Week – Mike Levenseller, Washington State – The UCLA defense that Wazzu shredded for 542 yards and 37 points was leading the league in many statistical categories before the weekend began. Cougar QB Alex Brink was marvelous, spreading the ball to eight different receivers and throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive Coordinator of the Week – Bud Foster, Virginia Tech – Foster’s troops played an inspired game Thursday night, shutting down the same Clemson running game that ran roughshod on Georgia Tech three days earlier and leading the Hokies to their most poignant win of the 2006 season.

While USC’s sloppy and inept play for much of its game with Oregon State was a surprise, particularly coming off a bye week, the fact that the Trojans lost wasn’t as big of a shocker as many will have you believe. For weeks, the signs of a clunker had been there—too-close-for-comfort wins over inferior opponents, a lack of a pass rush, a lack of a consistent running game, a lack of big plays on offense and a reduction in takeaways. So when USC gets knocked off by the Beavers in Corvallis, it’s certainly big news for a million different ripple-effect reasons, but don’t buy into the suggestion that this was the biggest college football upset in recent memory. The 2006 Trojans are simply not sound enough to warrant that level of respect. Whether they can regroup quickly enough to cop a fifth straight Pac-10 title will be one of the juiciest storylines of November.

USC WR Steve Smith’s 11-catch, 258-yard, two-touchdown performance was one of the best efforts by a player on a losing team in years. Smith was heroic in the second half, hooking up repeatedly with QB John David Booty to nearly bring the Trojans all the way back from a 31-10 deficit. Dwayne Jarrett, on the other hand, had just four catches for 63 yards, something Biletnikoff Award voters ought to keep in mind before casting their final ballots next month.

Over the years, Bob Stoops has won everything from league titles and a national championship to bowl games and individuals awards. However, you get the feeling that Saturday’s pivotal upset of Missouri in Columbia was the coach’s proudest moment in quite some time. The Sooners, taking a standing eight count after losing a game to Texas and a legend to a broken collarbone, got 162 yards on the ground from Allen Patrick and four huge turnovers from the defense. Oh, and maligned QB Paul Thompson has accounted for six touchdowns and no turnovers during the Sooners’ current three-game winning streak.

Much like Joe Paterno a couple of years ago, Bobby Bowden has the earned the right to decide when he leaves Florida State and what changes are needed for the struggling Seminole program, now 7-9 over the last 16 games. However, is it unfair to question or criticize what’s happening in Tallahassee, as Bowden would have you believe? Florida State will relocate its footing again, likely prospering from this trough (see Tennessee and Michigan this year), but for anyone to suggest Bowden or his staff is beyond examination from the media is patently absurd.

The same NC State team that has beaten Boston College and Florida State has also lost to Akron and Southern Miss, is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and, at 3-5, is in serious danger of missing a bowl game. For coaches, inconsistency can wreak havoc on job security.

The same Michigan State team that just a week ago engineered the biggest comeback in college football history, got smoked by Indiana, allowing 46 unanswered points at one stage of the game. Again, a complete lack of consistency means some heads are going to roll in East Lansing before the end of the year.

Drew Tate’s thumb injury in a season that Iowa is clearly not winning the Big Ten title may be the best thing that happens to the Hawkeyes. In Tate’s place, redshirt freshman Jake Christensen started the first game of his career, going a respectable 19-of-30 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Any reps Christensen gets in 2006 will benefit the program in 2007 and beyond.

Few programs in the country develop and utilize their tight ends better than Wisconsin. The same school that sent Owen Daniels and Jason Pociask to the NFL last year has its next generation of tight ends in sophomore Travis Beckum and junior Andy Crooks, which have combined 53 catches and seven touchdowns this season.

USC’s first loss of the year guaranteed the BCS will be back under attack again this season after getting a reprieve in 2005. There can only be a maximum of two undefeated BCS teams in 2006, however, one of those teams will come from the Big East, a conference that still hasn’t garnered the respect of a nation, despite enjoying a resurgence during the first half of the year. If West Virginia or Louisville runs the table, you better believe fans, coaches and players of one-loss powers, such as Texas, the SEC champion or Notre Dame are going to stump like an incumbent senatorial candidate that they’re team is better than the Big East champ. And if the Big East can’t deliver a perfect team, the battle to face the winner of Michigan-Ohio State could evolve into an epic debate. Stay tuned.

Kansas State DE Ian Campbell is the reason why school’s will always welcome walk-ons, who possess the right demeanor and passion for the sport. After notching just seven tackles in spot duty last year and having to fight for playing time in August, he has emerged as an unexpected force coming off the edge. Just a sophomore, and now on scholarship, Campbell has 49 tackles and leads the Wildcats with 14 tackles for loss and 9½, getting added two weeks ago to the Hendricks Award watch list.

It’s time to start treating Hawaii QB Colt Brennan like more than just a system kid that would fail in more conventional systems. Brennan has good zip on his passes, moves well around the pocket and now leads the country in passing efficiency after carving up the Idaho defense for his third straight five-touchdown day and fifth in his last six games.

If you’re looking for a deep, deep sleeper for coach of the year honors, consider Dick Tomey, who has San Jose State within one win of bowl eligibility with five games to play. The Spartans were a WAC afterthought before the season began and have not played a postseason game since 1990.

Texas A&M may have just authored the quietest 8-1 start from a major program in history. Nearly getting beaten by Army and Kansas could be a reason why the masses haven’t completely bought into the Aggies’ resurgence, however, there’s no denying that A&M is still very much alive for a Big 12 title with pivotal games against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas still upcoming.

It might be time to start referring to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy as the Mahatma after getting to 5-3 with a breakthrough win over Nebraska on Saturday. The second-year head coach has transformed the Cowboys into winners just a year after the program looked as if it didn’t belong in the Big 12. Gundy has helped turn former hot-shot recruit Bobby Reid into one of the league’s best quarterbacks, while getting big returns from newcomer backs Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston. If All-America candidate WR Adarius Bowman decides to return for his senior year, Gundy’s offense could really be ready for take-off in 2007.

So much for the Big 12’s North Division closing the gap on the South. Oklahoma’s win over Missouri and Oklahoma State upset of Nebraska sent a clear message that the balance of power won’t be shifting in the near future. While all six members of the South are within striking distance of bowl eligibility, the North may max out at just three.

Somehow, some way, Wake Forest is a second-half collapse against Clemson earlier this month from being one of just seven undefeated teams left in the country. The Deacons have found a way to piece together seven wins in eight games, despite losing QB Ben Mauk and RB Micah Andrews to season-ending injuries.

Good luck to ACC coaches and beat writers that’ll have to select an all-league quarterback in about a month. No one has been worthy of the honor in 2006. Wake freshman Riley Skinner leads the league in passing efficiency, an indication that either he’s the next coming or the ACC has a tremendous dearth of quality signal-callers. The latter makes more sense. Georgia Tech’s Reggie Ball is completing less than 50% of his passes, but should get the nod for helping bring the Jackets to what should be their first Coastal Division championship.

Odd state of the week: Alabama RB Kenneth Darby, who entered the season as one of the top 5 senior backs in the country and a target of NFL scouts, has had 172 touches in 2006, yet has not scored a touchdown. Darby had 10 carries for 70 and a three-yard reception in Saturday’s blowout of Florida International…but no points.

BYU continued to slowly expand the bridge to its glory days with Saturday’s 33-14 blowout of Air Force. With four games remaining, it’s going to take a complete collapse for the 6-2 Cougars not to win the Mountain West title.

It’s not going to resonate outside the Mid American Conference, however, Frank Solich and Ohio had an enormous win over streaking Kent State Saturday afternoon. The victory propelled the now-bowl eligible Bobcats into first place in the MAC East with games left against Eastern Michigan, Akron and Miami, which are just 5-20 combined.

Considering who he replaced, Chris Nickson has done a commendable job in his first season as Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback. The sophomore leads the Dores in rushing, has tossed 11 touchdown passes and has led the program to a once-every-generation upset of Georgia.

One of the lone bright spots in an otherwise dreadful 2-7 Ole Miss season has been the play of LB Rory Johnson. The junior college transfer had 63 tackles in the month of October, positioning himself to be the leader of the defense in 200, when Patrick Willis is playing in the NFL.

With its overtime road win at Southern Miss Saturday night, East Carolina is the surprising leader of the Conference USA Eastern Division with three league games remaining. In his second year in Greenville, Skip Holtz has battled injuries and some deflating early-season losses to get the Pirates in a position to contend for their first league title in three decades.

Don’t look now, but Cincinnati, behind an improving running game and a nasty defense, is 5-4 and vying for bowl berth, despite playing a schedule that includes Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia. The Bearcats have allowed an average of just 11 points over the last five games, taking on the personality of the Buckeye teams that head coach Mark Dantonio cuts his teeth with for years.

If North Carolina wants to leave Duke and join the parity that exists in the rest of the ACC, it ought to open up the vault for current Tulsa head coach Steve Kragthorpe. He’s young, well-liked by his kids and clearly capable of turning around a struggling program. What he’s done with the Golden Hurricane in less than four years—28 wins and the favorite to win a second Conference USA title—has been remarkable
Hey rj. I think Rowe's status is up in the air this week. Regardless, I still like Nevada laying 10 or less.

GL bro
Aztec--Yeah, I know Rowe is up in the air. But the backup got quality snaps against NMSU last weekend and played much of the game (whole 2nd half I think). I still think Rowe starts.

That being said, if I wasn't already on them, I wouldn't bet them. Still, think that they will work out for me.
Top 10 Unit Reviews by BurntOrangeNation.com

This is very good for BCS comparison, future capping, and bowl capping coming up.

BCS Contenders Unit Reviews
By HornsFan Section: Football
Posted on Mon Oct 30, 2006 at 11:03:14 AM EST

With four games left on the schedule for most teams, we're down to a final ten teams that are legitimate contenders for a BCS Title Game berth. Some of these teams play one another, and the field will certainly narrow as we go along, but let's take a moment and look closer at each of the ten remaining viable BCS Title Game contenders.

Really, there are about twelve teams that can be considered legitimate contenders, but we're going to eliminate two of them for the purposes of this discussion. First, we say good-bye to Arkansas, a team which has a shot if it wins out. I just can't see that happening, though, so we're dismissing them for now. Second, we say good-bye to Louisville, which can replace West Virginia on this list on Friday morning. For now, we bid them adieu. Really, though, they're plenty capable of beating WVA. If they do, insert them into the Mountaineers slot.

Below is a ranking of each team's units, with brief commentary following each. I put these together a little more hastily than I would have liked, so if I'm wrong somewhere, feel free to jump in.

Offense, Overall
  1. Ohio State
  2. Texas
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. California
  6. Michigan
  7. USC
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Florida
  10. Auburn
Comments: It's pretty amazing that Texas can make a legitimate claim to be the second best offense in this group, but really, it can. We thought this team would win close games with a smothering defense and limited offense. Instead, it's putting up points and yards from all over the field, and with McCoy's unbelievable development, you have to take the Horns offensive attack seriously.

As for the others, I think Ohio State's got the most balance and the most big play ability, which makes them the obvious #1. Behind them, each team has a weakness. West Virginia runs the ball exceptionally well, but doesn't pass well. California isn't consistent enough to be ranked above the teams in front of them. Michigan's offense is a different animal when Manningham's healthy, but for now, this looks about right.

Offense, Rushing
  1. West Virginia
  2. Michigan
  3. Texas
  4. Ohio State
  5. Tennessee
  6. Auburn
  7. California
  8. USC
  9. Florida
  10. Notre Dame
Comments: This isn't on the numbers alone, of course. We're factoring in everything - from scheme to offensive line. The most controversial choice here might be Michigan at #2, but I think I'd trust that line and Mike Hart to get the needed yards on a play more than any other team on that list. Hart just doesn't fumble, he can run between the tackles, and he's got great speed when he needs it.

For Texas, the big runs haven't been there, but the rush game as a whole is still one of the best. We complain that it doesn't always look good, but Texas continues to average gigantic yards per rush totals. Ugly or not, it works.

Offense, Passing
  1. Ohio State
  2. Tennessee
  3. California
  4. USC
  5. Texas
  6. Michigan
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Florida
  9. Auburn
  10. West Virginia
Comments: For all the love Brady Quinn gets from some folks, he isn't having a stellar year. Good? Yes. Superb? Hardly. The Irish throw a lot of dinky junk in their pass game, which means loooong sustained drives are required for scoring. As SMQ has noted several times, that can be problematic. I think Weis would do his group a huge favor by going deep more often.

The most surprising passing game this season has been Tennessee's, which has roared back from a down year to become a very potent attack. Meanwhile, for Texas, McCoy's making a case to move this team up each week. Since the Ohio State game, he's been one of the nation's best, by any standard. The team to watch, of course, is Michigan, which is plodding along fine without Manningham, but will need him for the big game at the end of the season.

Defense, Overall
  1. Florida
  2. Michigan
  3. Ohio State
  4. Auburn
  5. USC
  6. Texas
  7. Tennessee
  8. West Virginia
  9. California
  10. Notre Dame
Comments: I just don't see how some folks are considering the Irish national title contenders. The defense is still spotty, and the offense is overrated. Anyway. The two teams at the top of the list, Michigan and Florida, are just punishing opposing offenses. For Michigan, the run defense is unbelievably dominant, and the pass defense, thanks to the front four, is effective. Florida's outstanding everywhere.

Ohio State is playing very solid defense, and though they haven't been tested by an elite offense yet, they're playing good football. We'll get a good look at what the Mountaineer defense is capable of Thursday night. For the Horns, the run defense is terrific, but our struggles with the pass are well documented.

Defense, Rushing
  1. Michigan
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. USC
  5. Ohio State
  6. Auburn
  7. Tennessee
  8. West Virginia
  9. California
  10. Notre Dame
Comments: The top three teams are all brutally dominant against the run. After that, there's a little dropoff, but most of these teams do an above average job stopping the run. One wonders about Auburn, of course, after what happened in the Arkansas game.

Defense, Passing
  1. Florida
  2. Auburn
  3. USC
  4. Tennessee
  5. Ohio State
  6. Michigan
  7. West Virginia
  8. Notre Dame
  9. California
  10. Texas
Comments: Looking at all the above lists, it's pretty clear that if Texas can shore up its defensive woes in pass defense, it can be competitive with anybody. As is, there's work to do. No real surprises here, though I'll note in closing that West Virginia's a wild card here. They simply haven't played anybody. The numbers are good, but both times I've seen them play, the defense only looked average.
Calvalcade of Whimsy from CFN

Why Ohio State Might Not Be No. 1


By Pete Fiutak
Posted Oct 31, 2006

Ohio State might be everyone's number one team, but Pete Fiutak gives ten reasons why it might not be, along with thoughts on the Florida State coaching situation, the unsung Heisman candidate, and the ultimate, last second Halloween costume in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I’m defying Georgia president Michael Adams and Florida president Bernie Machen by calling it the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Column. Enjoy responsibly.

“E, I can’t fire my best friend, but I can fire my manager.” … If you ever needed a reason why a powerful head coach shouldn’t hire friends or family, look at Florida State. Simply put, Jeff Bowden isn’t getting the job done as the offensive coordinator, and he hasn't for a long time. I don’t care about any excuses about the line or the youth; no team with talent in the backfield like FSU has (wait and see how Lorenzo Booker becomes Leon Washington at the next level) should be 90th in the nation in rushing. Head coaches hire who they’re loyal to and who they trust, but sometimes, it’s better to hire assistants they can view on purely business terms.

With that said, it’s unbelievable that anyone would have the unmitigated gall to even think about asking Bobby Bowden to step down. Talk about earning the right to several hundred benefits of the doubt, this is the all-time winningest D-I head coach who won the ACC title last year. As fans need to keep being reminded, winning the conference title makes for a successful season no matter what. National championships require as much luck as anything else.

This year, Florida State is 4-4 and at the bottom of the Atlantic division. However, ten defensive players off the original two-deep have missed time or are out injured. 45% of the team’s original defense has been out, and it's still 16th in the nation allowing 276 yards per game. It’s not quite fair to look at things this way, but FSU lost to Clemson on a big James Davis run, lost to NC State late in the fourth quarter, lost to Boston College by five after shutting down the Eagle offense in the second half, and lost to Maryland on a blocked field goal. Those are four games by a touchdown or less and by a total of 19 points. Bowden might not be as far off from being an ACC contender as many think, as long as there are a few tweaks to the coaching staff like ...

But KeepHoustonNutt.com isn’t as much fun … I’m not saying Larry Coker should stick at Miami, but isn’t it funny what happens sometimes when impatient fans don’t get their way? Where are the Lloyd Carr, Phil Fulmer, and Houston Nutt bashers this year? Firing top assistants is sometimes a desperation move, but it certainly made a difference at Michigan, Tennessee and Arkansas.

But I do wish I could get my teeth that white … I don’t live in New York and don’t buy into the rule that the rest of the country has to care just because something big happens there. Fine, I’ll buy that Derek Jeter is the real deal Holyfield and deserving of the attention, but I appear to be the only human being who not only has no interest in anything Tiki Barber does, but also can’t understand why the media world can’t wait to get its hands on him full-time. Retire, don’t retire, whatever. He’s a very good running back who doesn’t appear to be a complete idiot. That’s it. I'd much rather see Clinton Portis hosting the Today show.

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over” … Temple broke its 20-game losing streak with a 28-14 win over Bowling Green meaning all things are now possible. The Owl win gives me hope that I can break my home losing streak of 163 consecutive days without my wife bringed me a KFC Famous Mashed Potato Bowl (720 calories, 32 grams of fat, 2,390 milligrams of sodium) while dressed up like a Texas pom or USC Song girl.

If you don’t live on a farm, can you let the clocks stay put so it’s still light out before dinner time? ... Everyone set their clocks back on Saturday for daylight savings time. It's easy to remember ever year. When Navy loses to Notre Dame, you gain an hour.

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with Anna Nicole Smith … For one week, I've declared a moratorium from using the phrase “the offense should go for the jugular” every single time there’s a big turnover.

And I promise, you won’t have to endure any TV ad spots for this campaign … Since the University of Hawaii isn’t promoting QB Colt Brennan, let me be the one to get the ball rolling: he’s really, really, really, really, really good. As the only mainland American who watches Hawaii football on a weekly basis, what Brennan is doing with the attack is scary. I know, the negative campaigns will complain that he’s averaging 367 passing yards per game with 33 touchdowns, five interceptions, with no picks in the last four games, while completing 74% of his throws because he plays in the WAC. It helps, but he also threw for 350 yards and two touchdown against Alabama. In his last six games he has thrown 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, and 5 touchdown passes.

Yes Tommy, getting through the SEC unscathed is impossible, but that doesn’t include Ole Miss … It ends here. I was going to rant about how everyone was about to do the “Clemson is the best ACC team” thing even though it wasn’t going to win its own division, and then came the shellacking at Virginia Tech. The same goes for Auburn, who was being hailed by the pretentious as the SEC’s best team last year, even though LSU won the West. Auburn went on to get dumped by Wisconsin 24-10 in the Capital One Bowl. If the Tigers don’t win the West, I don’t want to hear anything about it being the league’s best team at the end of the year.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Anyone who’s ever had to take a collegiate-level argument and persuasion type of class has had to do this: come up with the argument that you’re 100%, sky-is-blue certain you can win, and then create the counter-argument that could beat you. Another part of the exercise is to take an unwinnable position (Hitler was really a sweetie, Pepsi is better than Coke, Tom and Katie’s marriage won’t be a sham), and win. The point is to strengthen your skills of persuasion by understanding the other side of your debate.

With that in mind, I’m now going to attempt to do the impossible, and without a net, and try to convince you that Ohio State might not be the number one team in the country. Note the word might. Before your head explodes, Buckeye fans, I voted Ohio State in the top spot and do believe this is the best team in America. With that said …

10. 2006 USC, 2002 Miami and 2000 Florida State
In 2000, everyone handed the red-hot Florida State Seminoles the national title before playing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners won 13-2. The 2002 Miami team was being hailed as an unstoppable juggernaut before losing to Ohio State in the classic 2003 Fiesta Bowl. ESPN ran a whole series on how the 2006 USC team was the greatest team ever before Vince the Longhorns had other ideas. Of course, you surely remember how the 2003 Oklahoma team couldn’t be beaten until Kansas State applied a 35-7 whupping in the Big 12 title game. If one thing is constant in college football, it’s that things almost never go according to form. Just ask Ohio State because ...

We've seen this before
The 1998 team was better than the 2006 version, but it lost in a shocking upset to Michigan State. The 1996 team was a juggernaut that had the national title there for the taking before losing to Michigan at home. The 1995, 1979, 1975, 1973, 1970, and 1969 teams were all, arguably, better than this one, and they couldn’t close late in the year. Obviously this is a different team with a different coaching staff in a different era, but as good as it is, we’re not talking about a killer on the all-time scale. Could this team beat the 2005 version that lost two games? It’s debatable.

8. Run defense
NIU’s Garrett Wolfe ran for 171 yards against OSU in the opener. Texas, who for some reason abandoned the ground game in the 24-7 loss in September, rumbled for 172, and Penn State’s Tony Hunt ran for 135 yards. The Buckeyes would’ve beaten Michigan State no matter what, but it didn’t help Sparty that it was without Javon Ringer. The stats are misleading since most teams get down against TOSU (The Ohio State University) and have to start chucking it, but that doesn’t mean a good running game wouldn’t work against a solid, but not impenetrable, defensive front. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the Buckeyes had to deal with a team with a phenomenal running game like West Virginia, Clemson, Arkansas or …

Part of the nastiness of playing in a big-time league is having to sidestep several landmines. Wisconsin might not be better than Ohio State, but it’s growing into one of the Big Ten's best teams as the season has gone on. Forget the sleepwalking performance against Illinois, the Badgers have the defense (ranked seventh in the nation and second against the pass), and the running game that could’ve given OSU a fight … if they played. The Buckeyes miss Purdue and Wisconsin this year off the Big Ten schedule.

6. The offense has only faced two defenses with a pulse
Troy Smith was magnificent against Texas and struggled against Penn State. It’s one thing to beat a top defense once in a while, and it’s another to face good defenses week in and week out. No one outside of the Longhorns or Nittany Lions had the line or the pass rush to generate any sort of pressure on the future Heisman winner. Granted, Smith's mobility has allowed him to get out of dangerous situations, but …

5. The Big Ten isn’t exactly the SEC this season
Florida has had to face the nation’s No. 1 (LSU), No. 14 (Georgia), No. 18 (Alabama), No. 24 (Auburn), and No. 31 (Tennessee) defenses, and still has to face the No. 37 (South Carolina) and No. 16 (Florida State) Ds. Would Ohio State beat all those teams? In a one game shot, I think so, but ask the Gators about the cumulative effect of playing a nasty defense week in and week out. Ask LSU what it's like to play road games at Florida, at Auburn, at Tennessee and at Arkansas.

4. The best wide receivers quarterbacks the Buckeyes faced were …
As far as the receivers, the two best were Limas Sweed of Texas and James Hardy of Indiana. Quarterback-wise, Colt McCoy has improved by leaps and bounds since the September 9th game and is making far better decisions, but he wasn't nearly as good in the early meeting with OSU. Drew Tate and Drew Stanton have been major disappointments. That’s it as far as the decent quarterbacks the Buckeyes have faced, not to mention the receivers. We still haven’t seen what the secondary can do against a team with a high-octane passing attack like Tennessee, Notre Dame, Louisville, or just about anyone in the Pac 10. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Penn State would’ve won on September 23rd if it had a mature, developed big-game quarterback.

3. The Texas and Iowa wins might not have been that great
Remember, we’re just talking theory here. Ohio State cemented its spot at number one after impressive performances at Texas and Iowa. As it turns out, Iowa is totally average, and Texas, while improved since earlier in the year (as is Ohio State), got bombed on by Baylor and Texas Tech and came within an eyelash of losing at Nebraska. Fine, so Texas really is good, and that 24-7 win in Austin is the best by anyone so far this year, but that’s the only truly impressive victory on the résumé, and will be until the Michigan game.

2. The BCS computers
The cold, calculating, unfeeling, uncaring computers in the BCS formula are supposed to take all subjectivity out of the equation. How many of the six have Ohio State No. 1? One. Who’s number one in five of the six polls? …

1. Michigan
If you’re going to give Ohio State the benefit of the doubt and say it doesn’t blow out the decent teams (Bowling Green, Michigan State, Indiana and Minnesota don’t count) because that's not its style, then the same has to be said for Michigan. Run defense? No. 1 in America allowing just 28 yards per game. Wisconsin? Win, 27-13. Impressive road win? 47-21 over Notre Dame in a game that wasn’t even that close. If Ohio State is No. 1 in the nation, then Michigan is No. 1A. Fortunately, November 18th is just around the corner.

Unless it’s the 19th time The Fugitive or Jarhead is being shown today on Showtime, I don’t want repeats … I want talk of a possible rematch between Michigan and Ohio State for the national title to stop, and I want it to stop right now. The two are playing in a few weeks. That’s it. That decides it. The loser shouldn’t get a second chance, the winner shouldn’t have to prove itself again, it’ll be done. Over. I’d rather see Boise State play the winner than see the two tussle again. College football is great because the regular season matters. There’s no excuse to have a 1996 Florida-Florida State do-over (the Gators beat the unbeaten Noles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl for the national title after losing 24-21 in the regular season finale) even if it's a classic.

With that said, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if Ohio State wins by a last-second field goal. You’ll get some who’ll argue that they’d like to see what would happen if the two played on a neutral field. If Michigan wins, or it’s a blowout either way, forget about a rematch. However, if we have an Oklahoma-Oregon scenario with one of the teams losing on a botched call, get ready for part two.

“I’m feeling a bit verklept. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, discuss." ... My e-mail debate of the week: The most instantly forgotten major championship in recent sports history: 2006 World Series, St. Louis over Detroit vs. 2004 NCAA Basketball Championship, Connecticut over Georgia Tech. I've been arguing against the World Series for the last few days. No one watched, noticed, or cared. The second it was over, everyone was talking about USC, Red Auerbach, and the NFL.

Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be with you (or vice versa).
- Searching for the ultimate, last-second, easy Halloween costume? Bill Lumbergh of Office Space. Suspenders, big glasses, an Arrow collared shirt, and a coffee mug. Anyone who gets who you are on sight will think you’re a god.
- With Adrian Peterson out, Texas QB Colt McCoy is the Big 12 Player of the Year, and there’s not even a close second.
- I rip on ESPN all the time, mostly for being goofy, but kudos to whoever decided to give an inside look at the replay booth during the Connecticut-Rutgers game. That was far more interesting than any 97 channel, 394 camera angle Full Circle thing.
- Three under-the-radar teams that are starting to turn it on and will be “hot” going into next year: Maryland, Kansas State, and Cincinnati

My Heisman ballot this week would be … 1. Troy Smith, QB Ohio State, 2. Mike Hart, RB Michigan, 3. Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii, 4. Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame, 5. Pat White, QB West Virginia
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world1) Overrated: Good ‘n’ Plenty... Underrated: Kit Kat
2) Overrated: Rhett Bomar … Underrated: Paul Thompson
3) Overrated: Ear flick … Underrated: Wet willie
4) Overrated: Carolina’s Steve Smith ... Underrated: USC’s Steve Smith
5) Overrated:
Navy QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada ... Underrated: Washington State PK Romeen Abdollmohammadi

Sheer hubris run amok … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. I’m creeping back. Missouri’s loss to Oklahoma prevented a perfect week, but I’m feeling these three. Going 9-12 so far, here’s the official kiss of death for three teams … 1) Kansas -3 over Iowa State, 2) Louisiana Tech +3 over North Texas, 3) Florida Atlantic +16 at Middle Tennessee

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I was searching for the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party before the Florida – Georgia game, but since it obviously doesn’t exist anymore, I stopped into a Hooters. I’m still buzzed.
Dirty Bomb Bowl play:

OU -3 (-103)

Also Adding:

Purdue ML +120

Line in this should be Purdue -9. Michigan State is done for the year. Their heart is gone and ripped out. No bowl. Lost to ND at home, Michigan on the road, Ohio St at home, and most recently spanked to hell by IU and escaping a bad NW team. Purdue should beat them by DD.
TBS Curse and Texas off 2 Close Wins from BurntOrangeNation.com

TBS and Close Games Revisited
By aorist9 Section: Football
Posted on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 08:19:08 AM EST


In past weeks I've posted stories about the TBS curse and how the Longhorns have performed after close wins. At this point it seems there's a follow up in order as we are now coming off two close wins and are playing on TBS.

Games covered under the TBS curse have invariably featured an underachieving team playing up to the Horns, who are coming off a big win and have somewhat looked past the game. This year's Oklahoma State is a team hitting its stride. With their convincing win over Nebraska last weekend and Enemy of the Nation Shawn Bell's season ending ACL injury, the Cowboys are set for a dog fight with the struggling Red Raiders from Lubbock for fourth in the South Division, which will be good for 4th or 5th overall. Large halftime deficits the last two years should help to keep Horns from overlooking the Cowboys.

The only time Texas has been unaffected by TBS thus far has been against Texas Tech in 2004, the same Tech team that finished the year with a convincing win over Cal in the Holiday Bowl, case in point.
As for the close games, Texas under Mack Brown has only ever had two consecutive wins by 7 or less once. This was in 1999 when the Horns beat Nebraska 24-20 on October 23rd and Iowa State 44-41 on the 30th. The next game, on November 6th was a 34-21 win over Oklahoma State.

Is it a coincidence that these games took place in the same three weeks of the season and that the first and last opponents are the same? That's for the superstition in you to decide, but eventually Colt has to play as outstandingly as he has in the second half of the past few games for an entire game.
Is this wishful thinking? Perhaps we'll find out on Saturday night.
Morning Coffee from BurntOrangeNation.com

Morning Coffee
By HornsFan Section: Quick Hits
Posted on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 08:34:33 AM EST

Remember yesterday, when I directed you toward Kyle's tongue in cheek statement of disinterest in the Texas-Oklahoma State game? Well, I'm glad I did, as a pouty Cowboy fan saw the post and started a "discussion" thread on an OSU message board. I encourage you to read the entire strand of comments. They range from the infrequent note of sanity and intelligence to the much, much more frequent note of raging defensiveness. "What does Georgia have on Oklahoma State anyway?!" Other than a better school, located in a better city, with superior athletics and hotter girls? Nothing. Nothing at all.

I thought I'd covered it all in yesterday's Morning Coffee, but alas, no. Colt McCoy was also awarded a Game Ball by the Masters Coaches Survey. Meanwhile, Suzanne Haliburton takes her cue from this blog to ask whether McCoy should be all conference.

I love Wells to death, but he's flat wrong that Texas doesn't have a scheduling problem. And it's not just me that wonders whether the patsy schedule's going to hurt the Horns. Bruce Feldman writes in his blog (In$ider subscsription required) about his indecision over whether an undefeated Big East team would deserve a spot in the title game over other one-loss teams. Sadly, he adds this about Texas:

One thing that did dawn on me is in regards to Texas. I'm not sure the Longhorns would have a stronger case than an unbeaten Big East champ, even if it were Rutgers. My reasoning: UT would've lost handily at home to the only top-10 team it played (Ohio State). After that, the Horns best win will be over Oklahoma or Texas A&M and the Big 12 title game will have them beating a team that might not even be in the top 25. The Big East champ would have had to beat two top-15 teams.

Two big points, of course. One, for this season, we're getting killed by a weak Big 12 and by our decision to play North Texas, Rice, and Sam Houston State. Second, note that there's no consensus that an undefeated Big East champ deserves a spot over one-loss teams with real schedules. Texas might find itself on the wrong end of that discussion in coming years if the scheduling of cupcakes continues.
If you missed it below, AW's got your scrimmage notes from last night's game. Just a few thoughts of my own on what I saw: Kevin Durant is even more impressive physically than I thought. He's unbelievably long and can get his shot whenever he wants it. You could definitely tell that he's used to dominating on his talent alone, and he's got work to do one becoming a more fundamentally sound ballplayer, but there's no question he's going to have some "on" nights and drop 30 points with ease. There will also likely be other nights where he struggles. For the others, Damion James is much, much better than I realized. He's a tremendous athlete, very physical, and more polished as a basketball player than any freshman small forward I've seen in some time. Tremendous player. Lastly, AJ Abrams is terrific. AW nailed it when he said that the kid can hit threes from anywhere with that quick release. He's also just a heady, sound player. It's going to be a really, really fun season for the Horns.

Purdue ML

Cost me 4 cents to hedge out of this. I still think Purdue Wins SU but with the news that John L is getting fired, expect a different MSU team to show up. They will be emotionally fired up. Better to just stay away. Too unpredictable.
rj - I watched the "Your tears taste so good" Southpark episode last night. LMAO

Aztec--Yeah that one is hilarious. New one on tonight too.

Maybe I need to add a "Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home" Sig.
good luck RJ...I had to hedge that out as well...just too much uncertainty.

with you on arky, leaning towards OU, TAMU hasn't played anyone great IMO..and OU defense has been nasty.
horses said:
Great thread as always Ross

Thanks, Horses. Going to Players this weekend? Gotta get DMac down there too.

I'll be there for the TBS/Okie Lite fiasco.
Ross, one of my best friends at work is an OSU alum; I asked him "guess what UT fans call your school?" He knew immediately. Okie Lite indeed!
(he was very excited about their victory last week). He also told me that you guys tried to get Reid after Bomar and Freeman ('Canes) said 'No', but Reid basically said "Fuck Off" due to him being such a late choice. Not sure it's all entirely true but he sure enjoyed telling me about it...doubt he'd fit in at Player's at 4:00 PM Saturday, LOL.

I see that's a 4:00 PM kickoff; tell you what...if I do go, I won't be drinking water this time! Yes, I plan to be there but it's too early in the week for me to commit 100%.
I do have to say that I really think it's retarded to think TX dominated Nebraska. NU totally owned the first quarter other than the opening KO return. NU pretty much owned the 4th qtr as well up until the fumble. UT dominated the second qtr big time and pretty much owned the 3rd qtr. Total yardage was near even. Silly to point out the missed opportunities for UT but not point out that Nebraska shot themselves in the foot as well with Swift's big drop on a long pass and Taylor's INT in the 2nd Qtr.

L-ville -1 (-105)

Who am I to argue with almost every trusted poster here, HFA, huge revenge factor, and a bad WVU pass D? Plus Petrino is an evil man.

I'll ride along.

Kansas -2.5 (-110)

I wasn't going to play this originally. Two struggling teams and two coaches fighting for survival and I'm looking at the slight road fav.

My power rankings sometimes get out of whack and I get weird results. I thought that was the case here. I made the line -12 with my purely subjective rankings and -6 with my more objective rankings. No play when the line is -1 and I'm so far off. Sometimes it just smells wrong.

Then Dr. Bob and CKR confirmed my PRs. So I'm on it and hope it doesn't bite me in the ass.
GL buddy, on these with you as well... That Kansas QB that played last week and led them back could be a special one before it's all said and done, or so I am hearing...
Fulmer vague about how much injured QB can play

Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Injured Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge practiced again Thursday, but coach Phillip Fulmer was vague about how much the starter would be able to play against No. 13 LSU on Saturday.

Ainge sprained his right ankle in last week's game at South Carolina and has been limited in practice. His backup, Jonathan Crompton, a redshirt freshman, has been used sparingly this season but has been preparing to play if necessary.

The No. 8 Volunteers face one of the toughest defenses in Division I-A this weekend.

"Erik did everything today, practically everything. That's a real plus. That's much improved from yesterday. Still don't have any solid say on exactly what we're going to do, but I'd say it looks like he's going to be able to play," Fulmer said.

When asked to explain whether the decision is about Ainge starting or how much he will play, Fulmer said, "Just how we're going to do it. That's just kind of where we are. … That's all I need to say about it."

Fulmer said a game plan could be decided Friday or before kickoff.
Crompton missed last season to heal from offseason shoulder surgery. Ainge came out of spring practice ahead of Crompton in the rotation. Crompton has played in four games this season but attempted passes only against California and Memphis. He is 4-of-4 for 44 yards.

"Jonathan is talented [and] has done extremely well. He's ready to play. Either one that's out there I expect them to do the job and do well," Fulmer said.

"Obviously Jonathan … against the No. 1 defense in the country, that's not exactly how you want to start your career. He'll certainly get some time. Erik being a little bit on the gimpy side, although I believe he'll be fine to play, that's not exactly the kind of defense you want to go against."
Solon's Picks from EDSBS.com


We’ll put more pretty pics in this post ASAP, but for the junkies we post fast few pics bet win GO!

A sad day for me today (I’m writing this on Wednesday), as the legendary Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has closed its doors, making way for the building of Echelon Place, which is set to open in 2010. Anyone who has been there knows that the Stardust–the whole place, really–is a shitpile; its place in the history of sports betting in Vegas, however, is immeasurable.


Wayne Newton: that’s class.

A while back, I considered writing a piece on the most important figures in the history of sports betting in the USA. Suffice it to say, the column never got written, but the list was made–and there is little doubt, the #1 figure on any such list would be Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. For cinephiles, Mr. Rosenthal provided the inspiration for the Sam Rothstein character (played by Robert DeNiro) in the Martin Scorsese movie “Casino.”

Mr. Rosenthal–blessed with a knack for statistics and mathematics–made his name as an accomplished horse and sports bettor, which attracted the attention of the Chicago mobsters, who were more than happy to listen to his input on gambling issues. Eventually, he earned their trust and was sent to Las Vegas to oversee the operation at the Stardust Hotel and Casino. In 1975, he testified in front of the Nevada State Legislature in favor of legislation allowing sports betting in the casinos, and he was instrumental in the legislation being passed. Prior to this point, the only legal sports betting in Nevada took place at “Turf Clubs”–unseemly places, similar to OTB parlors (for the New Yorkers among you), or to the betting shops in the UK. As it stood, these places were not especially conducive to betting–most visitors to Las Vegas preferred to spend their time at the larger hotel/casinos, and these places opened and closed with regularity.
After the legislation allowing sports betting in the casinos was passed, Mr. Rosenthal oversaw the construction of a Stardust Sportsbook that was quite visionary for its time. It was large–close to 10,000 square feet–and was designed to accommodate over 500 bettors. He installed a bank of large television sets in the wall opposite bettors, and devoted the majority of his space to horse racing, covering the five largest racetracks around the nation. All of this is SOP now, but at the time, it was revolutionary.
Even up until last year, the Stardust was the most highly respected ‘book in Vegas. On Sunday nights at 6.00 PM local time, they were the first sportsbook in town to post lines for the following week’s football games, a ritual that was followed by a lottery to determine the individuals that got first crack at them. In recent years, some of the offshore locations started putting up their lines before the Stardust would, but despite this the Stardust still generally set the trends with regard to the betting lines.
There’s little doubt that others have done it better since–Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Bay, and the Las Vegas Hilton are three that immediately come to mind–but, for my money, the Stardust was always special, and it’s sad to see it go.

But a hearty thanks to Mr. Rosenthal–still alive and living in Florida–for setting the standard that all the others have aspired to imitate.
Losses in the Thursday and Sunday games last week put me a damper on my weekend, but an 8-1 Saturday more than made up for it. My record stands at 55-35 for the season, a winning percentage of 61%. Often times, things can get away from you quickly, but hopefully I can keep it going this week. Here are this week’s selections:


Boston College (-3.5) v. WAKE FOREST

With all due respect to all of the other contenders–Greg Schiano, Bret Bielema, and Terry Hoeppner come immediately to mind–I think this game is a matchup of the two coaches who have done the best job this season. I have always liked Jim Grobe, and when you consider that his team is 7-1, rebounding nicely after a crushing collapse v. Clemson that would have doomed all but the most resilient of teams. All this despite losing his starting QB in week 1, and stud RB Andrews in week 3–both of which have been replaced by freshmen–the job he has done is even more impressive. In fact, it is so impressive that I think he warrants coach of the year consideration even if Wake loses its last 4 games, which they may well do. Almost as impressive is the job Tom O’Brien has done with BC; despite losing 5 starters off his D, including star DE Kiwanuka, he has cobbled together arguably the best D in the ACC. In addition, BC is winning despite their QB pretty much playing injured all season. Fortunately for BC, the schedule offered up a game against lowly Buffalo last week, allowing the Eagles to rest QB Ryan (along with WR Gonzalez and LB Dunbar) and all of them should be ready to play this week. Wake, for their part, have fresh injury problems; an injury to RB Harris means that they are moving WR Moore to RB this week to share carries with RB Bryant. I do not rate the Wake running game as particular strong anyway; they have only averaged 100 ypg since the opener (when running QB Mauk was injured) and injured RB Harris was, by far, the best of their remaining options at RB. Wake’s passing game is actually pretty efficient–I’d wager that QB Skinner is an upgrade over QB Mauk, at least as far as his passing goes–but they don’t throw enough to take advantage; they are averaging 17 passes per game this season, and hitting over 170 yds passing only once, against Duke. Either way, BC’s pass D is pretty solid; while they’ve given up 245 ypg this season, opposing teams have thrown an average of 40 passes a game to get to that number, and their ratio is an impressive 6-11–and much of that damage was done by BYU, one of the better passing attacks in the nation (without BYU, the numbers drop to 213 ypg and 5.78 ypp). On D, Wake is strong against the run, but are much weaker against the pass; for the season, they are giving up 6.44 ypp and have a 5-8 ratio. These are impressive numbers until you consider that they have played Duke, UConn, UNC, and Ole Miss, 4 of the worst passing teams in the nation, and the best QB they have faced is probably Clemson QB Proctor, last seen pissing his pants against VT when they Hokie D took away the run–something Wake’s D couldn’t do. QB Ryan is not the greatest QB but he is certainly serviceable and makes few errors; he should do a fine job against this D. The BC running game is also not overly flashy, but they are good and will get yards in this game; BC was stuffed by the Clemson, VT and FSU Ds–83 ypg–but Wake is not the equal of those teams. Wake gave up over 200 yds to Clemson, and NC State went for 150; I do not think BC’s running game is as good as those teams, but UNC went for 123 (albeit on 38 carries) and I think BC is much better than that unit. BC has already won at FSU this season, and I think they will get another workmanlike win in this spot and get ahead of this number.


Jim Grobe: underappreciated, underrated…and will likely lose this Saturday.

CLEMSON (-16) v. Maryland
Clemson was stuffed last week by the VT D, but as long as they have not given up on their season–and, that’s possible when you consider that last week’s loss likely dropped them from the Orange Bowl to the Peach Bowl–I think they will get back on track this week. http://www.cappingthegame.com/forum/It is evident that QB Proctor cannot win a game if he an opposing D can stop the Clemson running game, but I think that scenario is unlikely to unfold this week. Maryland has only held one 1-A opponent to less than 100 yards rushing–Florida International–and keep in mind that they also played MTSU, who ran for 117 yards against them. For the season against BCS teams, Maryland has given up an average of 212 ypg and 5.67 ypc, and, outside of West Va, none of the previous opponents are in Clemson’s class when it comes to running the ball. If further proof is needed, Florida State ran for 172 yards against Maryland last week; if you take out FSU’s game against Rice–who I rate as having the worst run D in the nation–they were previously averaging 66 ypg rushing, and that average includes games against Troy and Duke. Clemson QB Proctor struggled last week, but he is most effective when the Clemson running game alleviates the pressure, and the Maryland pass D does not really have the goods to make him struggle; they do not get a lot of pressure on opposing QBs, and they have given up 6.85 ypp with a 7-5 ratio despite facing a very modest slate of QBs–it’s tough to select the best passer among them, but I think it is probably either FSU backup QB Lee or West Va QB White (yes, that’s right, Pat White may be the best passer they have faced). Obviously I am down on Proctor but he beats the hell out of any QB Maryland has run up against this season, and I look for him to get a decent bit of production with WR Stuckey back healthy. The Maryland O is all right, and I am a little concerned about the way RB Ore ran over the Clemson D last Thursday; but, while I think Maryland RBs Ball and Lattimore are quality, the Maryland running game has only been especially effective only twice this season–against Virginia and NC State. While Virginia’s D is solid, it is not nearly as good as Clemson’s D, which, outside of the game against VT, has been very effective against the run this season, only allowing over 100 yards rushing to FSU, in a game where they were missing 5 defensive starters. And, keep in mind that while VT RB Ore did run over the Clemson D, the performance was largely attritional and appeared more impressive than it actually was; outside of a 3 play, 60 yard sequence by Ore on VT’s first scoring drive, the VT RBs ran for 173 yards on 48 carries. Maryland QB Hollenbach is decent but he is not overly prolific; 159 ypg and 6.45 ypp, and he has only gone over 200 yds once (against West Va, when he needed 45 passes to do it). Clemson’s pass D has been great this season, giving up 133 ypg and 5.65 ypp with a 3-3 ratio in ACC play, and I doubt that Hollenbach will be able to produce against them this week. Amazingly, despite having a 6-2 record, Maryland has not outgained a single 1-A opponent this season, and I think their run of luck will catch up with them here and I like Clemson’s O to return to form this week and cover this number.

Kent (-13.5) v. BUFFALO
Despite losing last week, Kent has really turned it around last season and this week’s game against Buffalo will provide the perfect opportunity to get things back on track. Kent has a strong running game, led by QB Edelman; Kent has rushed for at least 143 yards in every game this season, and they have averaged 181 ypg and 4.39 ypc. Buffalo’s rush D is among the worst in the nation; even eliminating games against Auburn and BC, they have given up 201 ypg and 5.23 ypc, despite only giving up 73 yards to Temple. Additionally, the one team they have played with mobile QBs–BG–ran for 280 yds, 184 of them were by the QBs. Most teams do not need to throw against Buffalo, but when they choose to, Buffalo struggles, giving up 7.76 ypp with an 8-5 ratio–and these numbers, once again, do not include Aub and BC. Kent QB Edelman has been a solid passer this season, averaging 7.90 ypp with an 8-7 ratio; in truth, though, his learning curve has been quite steep and after his first two starts–the first two starts of his career–those numbers have been 8.23 ypp with a 7-3 ratio; he struggled last week against Ohio, but their pass D is no joke and he will throw the ball much better this week. If you are going to do anything against Kent’s D it will be with the run (134 ypg and 3.58 ypc in MAC play), but Buffalo will not be able to take advantage; they have only hit 100 yards against Temple and Miami (O), and are averaging 91 ypg and 2.87 ypc against non-BCS opponents. Buffalo’s passing game is much better than their running game, but, in this case, the matchup is much worse for them; while Buffalo averages 201 ypg and 6.55 ypp with a 5-6 ratio against non-BCS opponents, Kent is only giving up 141 ypg and an amazing 4.83 ypp with a 5-9 ratio in these games. Akron and Temple have been the only teams to average as many as 5 ypp against them; note that Temple QB DiMichele has been on a great roll, averaging 10.90 ypp against Vandy, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green–but right in the middle of that was a 14-26, 144 yd performance against the Kent pass D. I don’t really understand how the city of Buffalo exists–seems like 250 years ago, it would have just been too cold to settle the area (keep in mind that I am a pampered Southern California boy, and I am used to it being 75 degrees and sunny on New Year’s Day)–but, fortunately, the weather should not be too bad this week (snow showers Friday, but sunny and 41 degrees on Saturday) and I am sure the Kent players will be able to handle the conditions. I expect them to easily get ahead of this number and take another step toward a 7-1 record in MAC play.

Texas Christian (-20.5) v. UNLV
UNLV’s offense this season has a very strange statistic. UNLV scored 28 pts in the 2nd quarter against New Mexico (before losing in OT), and 17 pts in the 4th quarter against Utah (after the game was decided). Outside of these two quarters, UNLV has scored a total of 34 points in 6 1/2 games against 1-A opponents this season. I have difficulty believing that they will get things together this week against a TCU D that is giving up 14 ppg and held Texas Tech without a TD. UNLV has no running game to speak of; they have yet to hit 100 yards in any game (against 1-A opponents) this season, and are averaging just 68 ypg and 2.44 ypc. Only Utah has reached 100 yds against TCU this season, and opponents are only averaging 59 ypg and 2.37 ypc. UNLV QB Steichen–who engineered the 28-point quarter against New Mexico–is out for the season, and QB Hinds is now the full-time starter. Hinds’ numbers are a bit modest; 5.48 ypp with a 3-9 ratio–and 2 of those TDs came after Utah had taken a 45-6 lead last week. TCU’s pass D has given up some yards, but they have faced Baylor, TCU, and BYU, all of which have pretty good passing attacks; and, even having played these teams, for the season TCU has given up 5.99 ypp with a 6-6 ratio. TCU struggled in losing to BYU and Utah, but stated their intention last week against MWC upstart Wyoming, who had won 3 MWC games in a row and had looked impressive doing so. Last week, TCU gained 432 yards against a Wyo D that had yet to give up that many to any opponent this season, and had been giving up an average of 210 ypg in conference play. TCU’s running game has been strengthened by the return to the lineup of RB Hobbs, and now they have the depth at RB that was so much a hallmark of their success in previous seasons. UNLV’s run D is quite poor; they have given up 166 ypg and 4.34 ypc in conference play, including 130 yards to CSU’s nonexistent running game (their next highest total this season is 78 yards, against AFA). In the two games where RBs Hobbs and Brown have been at full-strength, TCU has averaged 179 ypg and 4.48 ypc, and I expect that success to continue here. TCU’s passing game is at its best when they are not playing from behind; they are averaging 8.21 ypp in their wins, and given the UNLV offensive limitations it is unlikely that TCU will have to deal with chasing the game. So long as TCU does not bottle it after gaining a big lead and give up points late, I think they will get ahead of this number with ease.

Louisiana State (-3) v. TENNESSEE
Even though the SEC has 4 1-loss teams, I think that one could make the case that LSU–a 2-loss team–is actually the best team in the conference (i.e., that they’d beat any team in the conference at a neutral site). The schedule did them no favors this season; not only did they draw the two best teams from the SEC East, but they had to play both on the road; in addition, they also are away to Auburn and Arkansas, most likely the two best teams in the SEC West. Despite losing to Auburn, I thought they were clearly the better team on the day; while I did not think they were the better team against Florida, they were at least only marginally worse than the Gators on the day. I have been impressed with Tennessee this season, but their O is likely too one-dimensional to continue their success. Tennessee did not have an overly prolific running game prior to the injury to RB Coker, and without him it has disappeared completely; their other RBs have averaged 3.34 ypc this season. LSU’s run D is strong; only La-Lafayette has gained as many as 100 yards against them, and all opponents are averaging 73 ypg and 2.44 ypc. Tennessee has averaged 9.03 ypp with a 16-8 ratio this season, but against the two best pass defenses they have faced–Florida and Alabama–they have only averaged 6.67 ypp with a 1-5 ratio–and that TD was not thrown by Ainge, it was thrown by Lucas Taylor. The LSU pass D has put up the following numbers this season: 139 ypg and 4.99 ypp, with a 3-11 ratio. Really, the only QB that has done anything against them is Florida QB Tebow; incredibly, without his two passes, those numbers drop to 135 ypg and 4.87 ypp, with a 1-11 ratio. There is little doubt that Tennessee has a great passing attack, but their production will be severely curtailed this week against what I rate as the best pass D in the nation. On the other side of the ball, LSU does not have an especially great running game but it is far better than their opposite number; 134 ypg and 4.20 ypc against BCS opponents. And, since the opener at Cal, UT has been vulnerable against the run; AFA went for 281 yds against them, and Florida, Marshall, Georgia, and South Carolina all had success against the Vols on the ground. UT is strong against the pass–6.89 ypp and a 7-9 ratio against BCS opponents, despite facing Cal and Florida, among others–but the only team that has slowed down the LSU passing attack is Florida (who I rate as having the 2nd best pass D in the nation) and QB Russell was actually quite effective against Auburn’s strong pass D (267 yards and 7.63 ypp) in defeat. I think LSU will outrush and outpass the Vols, and as long as they avoid turnovers–something they couldn’t do against UF and Auburn–they should win this one relatively comfortably.

SOUTH CAROLINA (+2) v. Arkansas
Arkansas has done well so far this season, but I think it is about to all go pear-shaped for them. South Carolina was unfortunate to lose last week; in the 1st quarter against UT, they threw an int returned for a TD, and threw an int in the end zone; in addition, two SCar defenders tipped a ball thrown by Ainge that was then caught for a UT TD. Despite this, they overcame these mistakes and led the game going into the 4th quarter, when the game got away from them. Even with the loss, I was impressed with their performance and I think they match up better with this week’s opponent. Arkansas has a strong running game, but South Carolina seems to have gotten better against the run as the season has worn on; they gave up over 200 yds to Georgia, and nearly 300 to Wofford, but since the Georgia game they have held SEC opponents to 92 ypg and 3.16 ypc. Among those opponents were Vandy and Auburn; not nearly as strong as Arkansas, certainly, but both have decent running games. While I expect Arkansas to have some production on the ground, I do not expect them to do what they did to Auburn; and, please note that in Arkansas’ other SEC games (against Vandy, Bama, and Ole Miss) their rushing game production was a good-but-not-great 162 ypg. I do not rate QB Mustain as a passer, at least not yet; his performances have alternated between serviceable and inconsistent–13-20, 224 yds, 3-1 v. Vandy, but 5-13, 51 yds against SE Mo. State. I think he will struggle against the South Carolina pass D, which has had trouble against elite QBs Cox, Ainge, and Woodson ( 9.15 ypp with a 4-1 ratio), but has handled their other opponents rather well (5.59 ypp with an 0-7 ratio against MSU, UGA, and Vandy). I think Mustain is probably superior to the QBs of those schools, but he is certainly not in the class of Cox, Ainge, or Woodson. The other side of the ball is where SCar’s advantages become fully realized. Arkansas had a strong effort on D against Auburn, but otherwise have been a little shaky; ‘Bama threw on them, Vandy ran on them, and USC did both (Ole Miss didn’t do anything, but they don’t really have much of an O). I am especially concerned about their pass D; they had 5 picks against La-Monroe, and 2 picks against SE Mo State, but have an 8-0 ratio against BCS teams. Booty, Cox, and Wilson combined for 7.83 ypp with a 7-0 ratio. I am not sure SCar QB Newton is in their class but he is not too far off of them. He should also prove a running threat as well. Arkansas held Ole Miss QB Schaeffer to 5 yards on 5 carries, but Vandy QB Nickson had 74 yards on 13 carries, and La-Monroe QB Lancaster had 53 yards on 12 carries; as a running threat Newton is at least their equal, and in the last three games he has gained 67 ypg and 5.61 ypc, and he will likely do some damage with his legs as well as his arm. Additionally, RB Boyd has stepped it up as of late; 98 ypg and 4.61 ypc in his last 3 games. Arkansas stuffed Auburn, but gave up 179 yds on the ground to La-Monroe, and 240 yds rushing to Vandy–the two teams they have faced with mobile QBs–and they gave up 192 yds to USC as well. I expect SCarolina to move the ball well both running and throwing and pull off the (minor) upset at home.

COLORADO (-4) v. Kansas State
Colorado has some serious limitations this season; most notably, they have absolutely no passing game. Their D ranks 55th in the nation giving up 319 ypg, but if you look a little closer it is easy to see that this is a quality unit. Opponents have run 67 plays/game to get to that number; among D’s ranked above them, only Iowa’s D has spent as many plays on the field. Colorado’s D matches up well this week against a K State O that has averaged 307 ypg against BCS opposition. As poor as the Colorado passing game is, K State’s passing game might be even less efficient; against BCS teams, Colorado averages 5.36 ypp with a 3-7 ratio, whereas K State averages 5.54 ypp with a 1-9 ratio. The main difference is that Colorado’s O is run-based–64% of their plays are running plays–while K State’s is pass-based–54% of their plays are passes. In addition, Colorado’s pass D is pretty good; other than struggling against CSU QB Hanie and Georgia backup QB Cox–both of whom they played in September–no one has really torn them up, and they have gone up against some good passing games (’Zona State, Mizzou, Baylor, Texas Tech). In Big 12 play, they have given up 5.86 ypp with a 10-10 ratio. In addition, K State’s best WR, Moreira, is listed as doubtful for the game. The K State running game is more effective than their passing game, but, as pointed out above, it is largely ignored; in any event, the Colorado run D has been all right–3.55 ypc in Big 12 play–and they should be able to stuff whatever the K State running game throws at them. Colorado plays to its strength on O; they have a decent running game–only CSU and Oklahoma have held them under 100 yards, and they are averaging 151 ypg and 3.79 ypc against BCS opponents–and K State has shown a propensity to give up yards to teams with good running games; 168 to Mizzou, 190 to Nebraska, 193 to Oklahoma State, and 175 to a Bush-less Louisville. I think the Colorado D will make the difference in this one and I will trust the Colorado O to score enough points to get ahead of this number at home.

WASHINGTON STATE (-16) v. Arizona
‘Zona QB Tuitama is back this week but I think his presence will be marginalized by a good D and a fired up WSU team. ‘Zona HC Stoops has not decided whether or not Tuitama will start, but, at least statistically, the difference between the ‘Zona QBs is negligible and I think it will make little difference; Tuitama is averaging 5.73 ypp with a 2-5 ratio this season, and Heavner is averaging 5.73 ypp with a 0-2 ratio (for the record, I think Tuitama is far superior to Heavner, but I don’t think he’ll do the job this week). WSU has been pretty good against the pass since the opener, and in Pac 10 play they have given up 7.06 ypp with a 7-9 ratio, despite facing the 3 best QBs in the conference (Longshore, Dixon, and Booty), and facing Stanford when QB Edwards was playing. WSU’s run D is nearly as good as their pass D, but that is irrelevant this week, as ‘Zona has the worst running attack in the nation. WSU is wracked with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at DT, so much so that they have been reduced to playing a 3-4 for large portions of recent games–but ‘Zona’s run O is so poor their biggest weakness cannot be exploited. ‘Zona ran for 221 yds against Pac-10 doormat Stanford, but in their other Pac 10 games they have managed a total of -34 yards, and have only hit positive yardage once–a mere 7 yds against Oregon State. WSU have given up some yards to Auburn, USC, and Cal on the ground, but they have held lesser opponents in check and it is highly unlikely that the Zona running game will get on track against them this week. ‘Zona’s D is actually halfway decent; they have only given up 21 ppg and held the high-powered BYU O to 13 points. I think WSU’s O is hitting their stride–34 pts against Oregon and 37 pts against UCLA the past two weeks–and they will keep it going this week. WSU has an above-average running game, and last week against UCLA gave a strong effort, running for 110 yds against a strong Bruin run D; for the season, they have averaged 117 ypg against legitimate Pac-10 opponents ( i.e., those that are not Stanford). ‘Zona has struggled against good running games; LSU, USC, Wash, and OSU averaged 177 ypg against them. I do not think WSU will hit that number, but they will likely be able to move the chains running the ball and give the O some balance. WSU’s strength, of course, is their passing game; they have averaged 272 ypg and 7.66 ypp with a 10-7 ratio in Pac 10 play, and I would rate none of the pass defenses they have played as markedly worse than ‘Zona’s. ‘Zona did well against USC and Oregon State (180 ypg and 5.90 ypp with a 2-3 ratio), but both of those games were at home, where they have a large home-field advantage; on the road, they struggled against LSU ( 10.00 ypp) and UCLA QB Cowan went 20-29 for 201 yds, despite coming off the bench in the 1Q after starting QB Olson was injured. I rate WSU QB Brink as far superior to Cowan, and he went for 400 yds against a superior UCLA pass D on the road last week. I think WSU will probably finish the regular season at 9-3; they are on serious roll right now and I do not expect ‘Zona to derail them.

Brigham Young (-15) v. COLORADO STATE
I have a lot of respect for CSU HC Lubick but there is only so much the guy can do. CSU lost RB Bell to an ACL injury just prior to the start of the season, but they were still able to win 4 of their first 5 games; unfortunately, it has caught up with them and they have lost their last 3 games, and they have been unable to hold 4th quarter leads in 2 of those games. QB Hanie held it together early in the season, but his form has dipped recently; after averaging 9.75 ypp with a 7-2 ratio in his first 4 1/2 games this season against 1-A opponents, he has only thrown for 5.34 ypp with a 2-5 ratio since halftime of the Air Force game. Certainly, the defenses he has been facing have been better, but I also think being the only weapon on the CSU offense is catching up with him. While the BYU O is the reason they are winning games, their D is not a bad unit, by any means; they are only giving up 15 ppg, and the most anyone has scored on them in regulation is 24, and Tulsa only got to that number by adding a TD with 2 minutes left, long after the game had been decided. BYU held AFA to less than 200 yds rushing, and held Tulsa to less than 300 total yards. Against the pass–likely the only concern of the BYU D, given that the CSU is only averaging 60 ypg rushing, and 2.03 ypc–BYU held QBs Ryan, Smith, and Ballard–all probably better than Hanie–to 6.61 ypp with a 4-4 ratio; please note that all of these teams also had legitimate running games, so given that BYU will be able to focus on the passing game I do not expect Hanie to surpass this level of production. BYU’s O is great; against non-BCS opposition–and note that they have only played MWC, ConfUSA, and WAC teams, not Sun Belt or MAC teams–they are averaging 42 ppg, and have scored at least 31 in every game. BYU can run the ball a little bit; they are averaging 151 ypg and 4.55 ypc; only TCU and ‘Zona have held them under 100 yds. CSU has a good rush D–they held Colorado to 77 yds, and held Fresno to 74–but, they have shown some vulnerability; most notably, Wyo went for 151 yards against them 2 weeks ago, their second-highest total of the season. Even if CSU holds the BYU running game in check, the BYU passing game will make the difference here In all games, BYU is averaging 298 ypg passing and 9.16 ypp with a 20-4 ratio. CSU has been pretty good against the pass this season, but against the best QBs they have played–Nevada’s Rowe, Wyoming’s Sween, and New Mexico’s Porterie–they have given up 8.07 ypp with a 5-1 ratio; and, please note that CSU lost all of these games. There is little doubt that BYU QB Beck is far superior to any of those QBs, and his production should be much greater. BYU has already defeated TCU on the road this season, and went to BC and took them to OT; I think CSU is struggling and BYU should keep it going this week.

CALIFORNIA (-17) v. UCLA (Berkeley, CA)
I lost my bet in last year’s corresponding fixture in most incredible fashion; I had Cal +1.5, and my bet led start to finish–from the opening kickoff (when Cal was, obviously, up 1.5 points) I was not at any point behind the number until the clock read 0.00, as UCLA scored a TD on 4th and Goal from the 1 with no time on the clock to make the final score 47-40 (no XP attempted). The fortunes for each team has changed considerably since then, however, and I think Cal provides good value here. UCLA’s D is vastly improved this season from last, but as was shown last week, they can be thrown on; the quality QBs they have played–UW’s Stanback, Oregon’s Dixon, ND’s Quinn, and WSU’s Brink–have averaged 264 ypg and 7.89 ypp against the Bruins this season, with an 11-4 ratio. A case could be made that Cal QB Longshore is as good as any of those; after a shaky opener against UT, he has recovered and has only had one bad game since, against WSU; even with that game, in Pac 10 play he has thrown for 253 ypg and 8.45 ypp with an 11-5 ratio. Also, the Cal running game has recovered nicely from the opener (where they were ineffective) and they have averaged 170 ypg and 4.95 ypc rushing in Pac-10 play. UCLA is good against the run, but Oregon and WSU were able to move the ball on them, and Cal should do so as well, and provide some balance for Longshore. On the other side of the ball, UCLA has serious problems on O. Cal has shown some vulnerability against the run–UT went for 198 yds, ASU went for 237 yds, and UW went for 163 yds–but UCLA does not have the ability to match those numbers. RB Markey had a great game against Rice, but since then he has been considerably less prolific, averaging 67 ypg and 4.24 ypc, and he has not hit 100 yds since September 23rd against Washington. And, the only backup RB with significant experience (Bell) is listed as doubtful for the game. QB Olson is still a week away from being able to play, and that means QB Cowan starts again this week. For the season, he is averaging 5.96 ypp with a 5-4 ratio, and he goes up against a strong Cal pass D this week. It sounds like a broken record, but the Cal pass D has recovered nicely since the opener and they are giving up 7.05 ypp in Pac 10 play despite facing 4 pretty good QBs (and the book is still out on Bonnell), and they have an impressive 6-14 ratio–nearly 3 interceptions a game. UCLA will have trouble doing much of anything on O in this game, and I look for Cal to make amends from their close call against UW last time out and end up well ahead of this number.


LOUISVILLE (-1) v. West Virginia

I’ve gone back and forth on this game all season–initially, I liked Louisville, and even after injuries to RB Bush and QB Brohm, I still liked their chances. For the most part, I thought West Va was highly overrated, and I didn’t trust their D to get the job done. Even in last season’s Sugar Bowl–no doubt their apex–their D was shredded and they likely only held on for the win because a fake punt didn’t give the ball back to UGA late. All that said, West Va has been so workmanlike this season–even their one “iffy” win, over ECU, doesn’t look too bad in retrospect, as ECU stands a good shot to represent the ConfUSA East in the championship game–that I came around on them and viewed Louisville’s stuttering on O after getting QB Brohm back as indicative of trouble. Furthermore, the Louisville D–which I’ve never thought could stop the pass worth a damn (please note when they play Pitt)–showed some weakness against Cincy, allowing the Bearcats to run for over 200 yards. Despite this, I am back on Louisville this week. In my preseason column–where I listed the Cards as a good bet to win the National Title at +2352–my thinking was that they had pretty much a 2-game season, and both games were at home. I am willing to wager that they have been sleepwalking through their schedule since the Miami game, and if you look at what they have done, while they haven’t been particularly impressive they have only been challenged once, and that was in Brohm’s first game back against what has turned out to be a decent Cincinnati team. So, it’s one of those games where you look at things other than the matchups. The biggest factors here are (1) that I think Louisville has been wanting to play this game for a year, ever since they got stuffed by a bad call (for which the Big East called them and apologized) and blew a big lead in Morgantown, and (2) I think the Pizza Box will be straight-up insane for this game. Given that the spread is so small they just have to win to be the winning side. I think they will get the job done, and Bardstown Road will be host to a MASSIVE two-day party lasting from the end of the game until the start of the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday.

Oklahoma (-3) v. TEXAS A&M
Oklahoma’s D–which, coming into the season, appeared to be among the best in the country–finally decided to show up after getting torn up by Oregon. They held Texas’ solid O to 232 yards in defeat, undone by TOs, and have held their 3 Big 12 opponents since to an average of 7 points and 237 yards per game. I think Texas A&M has a good O, but they are likely no better than Mizzou’s; and, in the final analysis, their D is much worse than that of the Tigers. I generally do not trust Oklahoma QB Thompson, but I will trust him this week; any team A&M has played with a QB has torn them up (with the exception of Okla State, whose QB went out early in the 2nd quarter–and, whose backup threw for 3 TDs in just 16 passes in his absence)–Texas Tech, Mizzou, and Baylor averaged 9.76 ypp with a 6-1 ratio–and the interception was thrown by the Baylor backup after the starter was knocked out of the game late. Even La Tech threw on A&M. A&M certainly has a strong home-field edge, but in truth their edge there is largely overrated; in any event, I do not think that it is as strong as Mizzou’s edge at Faurot, and OU had little trouble at that venue last week. That said, the A&M O is solid and if the OU D reverts back to its previous form they could very well score points and that could be a problem for the Sooners, since I think their running game will have trouble achieving production in this game.


Lava Man (6/1) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic

Bernardini is a super-horse, a freak; in retrospect, it seems that even if Barbaro–the best 3-year-old since Point Given–had not gotten injured in the Preakness, Bernardini may well have won the race. Unfortunately, he offers little value at even-money and he has enough question marks–very pedestrian opposition, from the Preakness (given that Barbaro was injured) through to the Jockey Club Gold Cup–to suggest that the best of the older horses may have his measure (for the record, I do like Invasor nearly as much as I like Lava Man, but I do not believe that he can be trained up to this race without a legitimate prep and win it). Not only has Bernardini faced weak fields–and only faced older horses once, in a 4-horse Jockey Club Gold Cup–but he has had the running his own way; he went out in : 47.1 and 1:11.1 in the Jim Dandy, and went out in :48 and 1:12.3 in the Travers, but, amazingly was on the lead in each of those races. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he sat just off Wanderin Boy, who went out in :48 and 1.11.4 before a sweeping move took him into the lead going into the stretch and gave him a 6 3/4 length lead at the wire. He’ll catch no such breaks on Saturday, and he’ll have to deal with dirt in his face; Brother Derek, Lawyer Ron, and Suave all ensure that the Bernardini will be dealing with a different kind of pace, and will force Bernardini to pass multiple horses when he makes his move. Additionally, Bernardini has drawn the 3 post, and may very well face traffic troubles; he faced a similar position in the Preakness, but the quality of opposition on Saturday will be much steeper. Lava Man has drawn the 8 post and that should suit him well. He has the speed and temperment to sit just off the leaders, and he should be well-placed when it comes time to do the running; witness his performance in the Hollywood Gold Cup where he stumbled at the start and still rated in 3rd behind the leaders. The Hollywood Gold Cup is instructive; while Bernardini’s shortest win was a 3 3/4 length victory in the Withers, Lava Man showed his heart in the heat of a stretch run, coming out on top in a 4-horse drive to the wire, dispatching Magnum, and holding off Ace Blue and Super Frolic at the wire. If those two are in the stretch together, I think Lava Man–who has not lost a race this year, going 7 for 7–is better prepared, and he will show himself to be the stronger of the two.
Blogtoberfest from EDSBS.com


We bring you prime, steaming slices of the internet, stored at improper temperatures for hours on end in the Stanford locker room couch. Enjoy.

–SMQ has the inside scoop on announcers’ off-the-field work. If nothing else gets you to read another screamingly funny piece from SMQ, this should: Spencer Tillman, mannequin.



Clock rules, smaller numbers, crappy 3-2-5-e invective, blah blah blah

–Last night’s tennis match in Louisville shown in shocking detail here. Lots of long lines in both colors=ole! defense.

–Speaking of bright, unbearably tacky colors in one game: LSU plays Tennessee this weekend. Who loses? Good taste, as is always true when these two teams meet. The two teams playing on the same field look like what would happen if one could, in theory, vomit up an entire Mardi Gras parade on a single field.

–Michael Irvin doesn’t support Larry Coker? No, actually. But he does still love the Columbian party powder, so don’t let the name association confuse you. Michael Irvin still freaking loves the stuff. You may now return to your unjostled reality.


When the playmaker dreams…

–T.K. Weatherell is not hiring Norm Chow at FSU. “He’s got talent, and is not named Bowden, so we’re contractually barred from talking with him.”
They are considering Jefferson Lee Toby Keith Bass Pro Shops Bowden the 4th, who is only eight but “showing great promise as a playcaller,” said the FSU President.

–Texas/OSU will come to you this weekend “largely commercial-free,” courtesy of Phillips Electronics. (Miserly WSJ wants to to register and pay to view their stuff. Humbug!) Watch it, send the ratings through the roof, and encourage all other networks to do this so we can scrap rule 3-2-5-e.