Week 13 CFB (11/24) Picks and Discussion

RJ Esq

Prick Since 1974
2006-07 CFB YTD
62-39-3 +49.42 units

Took last week off so I could have the pleasure of having the jury fuck me and my client in court. Needless to say my mind is not back on capping or anything else for that matter.

So, due to my brain no longer working for me, I will be playing this week carefully.

Also, just a quick review of the lines leads me to believe that this week will favor the dogs overall.

All plays for $250 unless otherwise stated.


None yet


A&M (Shoulda jumped on +14. If it gets back to that number I might take it. Then again I might not since I will be at the game and cheering for Texas)
I don't see how A&M will run the ball at all against UT. Then it will be up to McGee and I don't think he can do it.
goodlcuck rj but texas will beat the aggies by 20+.
goodluck this week. :cheers:
Last edited by a moderator:
McCoy and Blalock Both Ready for Aggy Ass Kicking

McCoy ‘should be 100 percent’ healthy for Texas A&M

By Staff | Monday, November 20, 2006, 11:05 AM
Quarterback Colt McCoy, who missed most of the Kansas State game with a neck stinger and shoulder weakness, has been cleared to play and will start for Texas this week against Texas A&M.
“He should be 100 percent and ready to go,” Longhorn coach Mack Brown said Monday.
McCoy enters the game just two touchdown passes shy of the NCAA record of 29 TD passes by a freshman. The Kansas State game, which McCoy left after scoring on a quarterback sneak to cap the opening drive, was McCoy’s first without a touchdown pass.
McCoy described the injury as a pinched nerve and said it was “really frustrating not being out there” after the injury. But he said he knew that he couldn’t return during the K-State game.
Texas A&M is another matter. “I had a good doctor’s appointment yesterday,” McCoy said. “and I’m ready to get back out there today.”
Also ready to go is offensive lineman Justin Blalock, who left the K-State game with a left knee injury.
Five Thoughts from CFN.com

5 Thoughts - Michigan is No. 2 ... NUMBER 2


By Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2006

Michigan had its chance to be number one and lost. Pete Fiutak doesn't think Chad Henne and the Wolverines deserve another shot. Did Bo's death have anything to do with the loss? Matt Zemek's take on Quinn for Heisman, Cirminello on why going to a bowl matters, and Harris pleading for the voters to wait until the regular season is over in the latest 5 Thoughts.

Michigan is number two. That's where it should stay.

[FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]By Pete Fiutak
[/SIZE][/FONT]1. Why, exactly, is everyone so sure Michigan is the number two team in the nation? I think it is, but that defense was beyond awful and while this certainly didn’t look like the second best team in the country. If you’re going to dog USC for an “average” performance, even though it shut down the high-powered Cal offense in the second half and only gave up one touchdown while winning the biggest game of the Pac 10 season by 14 points, then you have to blast the Michigan defense for getting pantsed in the latest Game of the Century.

Are you willing to bet the house, farm and kids that the Wolverine defense could stop USC and its fantastic receiving corps? How about Steve Slaton, Pat White and West Virginia? Are you 100% sold that Michigan would beat Florida, Arkansas, Louisville, LSU or Boise State? Maybe you are (I am too), and maybe Mike Hart is right and the Wolverines would win a rematch … too bad.

We know what happened when Michigan got its shot against the number one team in the nation; it lost. Now it’s time for someone else to get its chance. You might think Michigan is the number two team in the nation, but one thing’s for sure; it’s not number one.

<SPAN class=storybody>

Bo didn't lose on Saturday.

[FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]By Pete Fiutak
[/SIZE][/FONT]. If you want to throw the theoretical argument out there that you want to see what Michigan and Ohio State would do on a neutral field, I’ll listen. If home field advantage is supposed to count for three points, then yes, this was a dead even game. However, don’t dare use Bo Schembechler’s death as any sort of a reason why Michigan lost. If Bo were alive, the Michigan defensive back seven wouldn’t have tackled better. Troy Smith wouldn’t have been any less brilliant. Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells wouldn’t have been any slower on their breathtaking touchdown runs. If anything, Michigan was more inspired to win the game for Bo. It’s not fair to the man’s legend, or to Ohio State’s win, to suggest anything different.

Go bowling matters.

By Richard Cirminiello
There are 32 bowl games this year. 32. That’s 64 of the 119 I-A programs with a chance to bask in the glow of the bowl season. Kind of goofy, right? For teams, such as Florida State and Iowa that are hovering around the .500 mark, absolutely. Who really needs or wants to see the Seminoles or the Hawkeyes closing out an unimpressive season with an uninspired effort in a game that has all the intrigue and drama of the TomKat wedding? However, that only tells half the story.

For every Alabama that considers six wins a catastrophe that might cost a coach his job, there is a Rice that celebrates win No. 6 as if it’s Y2K all over again. The Owls are bowl eligible, which means they might be playing in December for the first time since 1961. That’s big news. So are SMU, Kent State and Ohio, schools that haven’t bowled in decades, but sure would like an opportunity to get an invite one year. How about Arizona, which desperately needs the exposure and 15 extra practices that come with a bid in order to break through to a new level under head coach Mike Stoops? Or Kentucky, whose validation that things truly are getting better under Rich Brooks comes in the form of bowl committees sniffing around Commonwealth Stadium when the Wildcats have a home game?

The point is that, yes, a glut of bowl games does reward mediocrity in some cases, but it also creates tremendous opportunities for smaller and perennial losing teams that can literally use one high-visibility game as a program launching pad. Just ask Rutgers, which got on the tarmac last December, when it faced Arizona State in a competitive and highly entertaining Insight Bowl. Keep that in mind the next time you snicker when learning that a school has become eligible. You may find it ridiculous, but for the East Carolinas and the Cincinnatis of the college football world, the money and the attention that comes with a bowl game is no laughing matter.

Not sold on Quinn.

[FONT=verdana, arial,
sans serif][SIZE=-1]Matthew Zemek[/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=verdana, arial, sans serif][SIZE=-2]
[/SIZE][/FONT]There's a lot to be said about media manipulation and unfairness in broadcasting, which are particularly injurious and damning in matters of hard-news coverage that affect lives to a much greater degree than college football does.

But a word, for now, is in order with respect to the Heisman Trophy edition of "media manipulation": it's not politics, war or peace, but within the college football industry, it merits attention.

Why was it that, on Saturday's broadcast of the Ohio State-Michigan game, ABC/ESPN production graphics pertaining to the Heisman Trophy were reserved for only two people, Troy Smith and Brady Quinn?

Where were the graphics, stats and other bells or whistles for Darren McFadden, Mike Hart, Colt Brennan, Pat White, and a few other people who deserve to be mentioned in the chase for the award?

Let's not insult anyone's intelligence here: while, as a matter of political analysis of the real situation, Brady Quinn is indeed second to Smith in the Heisman race, it is also true that in a non-political assessment of raw football merits, Quinn hasn't done a fraction of what other Heisman contenders have done in 2006... not yet, anyway. Quinn got punked by Michigan in the money game of Notre Dame's season to date. He struggled mightily before leading one very impressive drive in the final minutes against UCLA, a decent but hardly spectacular team. He played horribly at Michigan State and got his bacon saved only by a few interceptions--one of them a pick-six--by his defense against a Spartan team that completely crumbled.

Quinn couldn't even light up the scoreboard in a really big way against Stanford, and the Irish scored just 13 points in the first 27 minutes of their game against Army on Saturday.

Pat White lit up Louisville on the road at night without a healthy Steve Slaton.
Darren McFadden has overwhelmed most of the SEC defenses that have come his way.

Colt Brennan has posted numbers, if numbers mean a darn in this game.
Mike Hart--whose Wolverines crushed Quinn's Irish--proved to be sensational against Ohio State. How come the ABC/ESPN hype machine (and graphics production truck) has its limits in weird places?

It's really quite simple: the media--in all aspects of human life--controls what we see. If it puts up some graphics and not others, promoting some teams and not others, promoting some players and not others, pimping some conferences and not others, the masses will be influenced. However, I'd be morally bankrupt and ethically impoverished if I didn't keep trying to fight the good fight.

If anyone has a soul or any shred of integrity left in the media-industrial complex of college football, how about deciding football awards on who the players have beaten and what they've done against the top teams and not because of the schools (and TV ratings) connected to certain players' names?

Let the season play out.

[SIZE=-1]By [/SIZE][SIZE=-1]John Harris[/SIZE]
5. The one prevailing thought for this weekend isn’t really a thought; it’s more of a plea. If you are a voter in the either the Harris Poll (aptly named, of course) or a coach voting in the Top 25, please, PLEASE let this season play all the way through before convincing yourself that Michigan is rightly placed at number two. Now, that isn’t meant to be a knock on Michigan. Not at all in the slightest, but with all the talk that led up to this game and all the rematch talk that came out of that game, it’s easy to look at those two teams and determine, right now, that Ohio State and Michigan are numbers one and two in the country, no questions asked. But, USC, Florida, Arkansas and Notre Dame still have games left to show either it belongs as the Two or it doesn’t, so don’t make your mind up, just yet.

Michigan did have a big win at Notre Dame, but nearly had to go to overtime with, ahem, Ball State. Other than that, how overwhelmingly dominant were the Wolverines this year? I loved the guts and courage they showed in Columbus, but can you honestly say that they’re definitely, no questions asked the number Two this morning? I’m not ready to do that. Three years ago, we all anointed Oklahoma as the second coming and they got waxed in the Big 12 Championship game by Kansas State, who exploited the Sooner defense with the big play. Michigan’s defense finally got exposed yesterday by Ohio State’s big play capabilities. But, they hung with Ohio State, clearly the number one team in the country on its slippery turf, so there’s got to be a rematch, right?

<FONT face=Arial size=2>Don’t buy that bill of
Quick Outs from CFN.com

Quick Outs


By Richard Cirminiello
Posted Nov 19, 2006

Summa Cum Laude – Ohio State – Whenever the Buckeyes needed to make a play, the offense delivered, keeping Michigan from ever taking a lead after the opening quarter.

Ohio State got touchdowns from six different players, which wound up being just enough to position the program for its second national championship under Jim Tressel’s watchful eye.

2. Arizona – It has taken a few years and this season was certainly no pleasure cruise, but Mike Stoops has finally broken through at Arizona. After a rocky start, the Wildcats have exploded with statement wins against Washington State, Cal and Oregon that have propelled the program back to the postseason for the first time in eight years. It’ll get a lot of mileage from playing a bowl game in December, but long term, Stoops might have to find a franchise quarterback. Willie Tuitama was supposed to be that guy, but a series of concussions this fall has left his future a bit cloudy.

3. Boston College LB Jolonn Dunbar – Three minutes into the Eagles’ game with Maryland, Dunbar had already scored a pair of touchdowns off fumble recoveries, sucking the life right out of the Terrapins. He also chipped in with 14 tackles to pace the BC defense.

4. West Virginia’s Steve Slaton and Patrick White – If you’re hoping to see Slaton or White get stopped by an opposing defense, you’re going to have to wait until the pair gets to the NFL. There’s not a unit in the country that can derail this dynamic duo, which shredded the Pittsburgh defense for 565 yards and six touchdowns Thursday night. They won’t make it to Glendale, however, the Mountaineers are one of the wild card teams that could actually knock off Ohio State in January if given a chance.

5. Rice and SMU – Congratulations ought to go out to a couple of off-the-radar Texas schools, which became bowl eligible just a few minutes apart on Saturday. If the Owls and Mustangs, two of this year’s pleasant surprises, can cop one of Conference USA’s seven automatic bowl berths, it would provide a dramatic lift and exposure to a pair of programs with upward mobility.

Summa Cum Lousy – Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights didn’t just get beat by Cincinnati Saturday night. They got destroyed in a sloppy, seven-turnover performance that looked nothing like the team that started 9-0 and conjured up talk of a possible national championship. Being the hunter? So much easier than being the hunted.

2. Oregon QBs – Does Bill Musgrave have any eligibility left? Based on the last couple of weeks, you sort of saw this coming, but 25-of-44 for 183 yards and four interceptions from Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf was still really hard to watch on Saturday.

3. Cal – The Golden Bears proved to be Pac-10 pretenders, losing to USC 23-9 in a disappointing effort. Cal struggled all night to generate much offense, leaving it to shoot for a hollow berth in the Holiday Bowl.

4. Missouri – The Tigers have digressed into a shell of the team that started 6-0 and looked as if it would challenge Nebraska for the Big 12 North. Missouri lost 21-16 Saturday to Iowa State, a team that was 3-8, and allowed senior Ryan Kock to nearly double his career rushing total.

5. Washington State – With its bowl fate hanging in the balance, Wazzu got dumped 35-32 by the same out-of-gas Washington team that came into the game on a six-game losing streak and had handed Stanford its only win of the year last Saturday.

Offensive Coordinator of the Week – Jim Bollman, Ohio State – That Wolverine defense that the Buckeyes gutted for 503 yards, 180 more than any other team in 2006, and 42 points entered the game as one of the stingiest in the country. Ohio State got big plays when it had to in the running and passing games, punting just three times and allowing a single sack.

Defensive Coordinator of the Week – Bill Young, Kansas – Young’s defense forced six turnovers, had four sacks and held Kansas State to just one offensive touchdown in a 39-20 upset that stamped the Jayhawks bowl-eligible for the second straight year.

Reason No. 74 why you shouldn’t invest too much energy into signing day: Ohio State QB Troy Smith was the last recruit in the Buckeyes’ 2002 class of recruits. As hard as it is to imagine these days, Justin Zwick, he of the seven career touchdown passes, was considered the better recruit at the time. Smith was routinely magnificent in Saturday’s 42-39 win over Michigan, something we’ve come to expect from the senior quarterback in big games. Unless someone like Brady Quinn or Darren McFadden goes absolutely berserk in a spotlight game, Smith will win the Heisman by a comfortable margin.

The game between the Wolverines and Buckeyes more than lived up to the hype, so you hate to nit-pick, but wouldn’t it be nice if someone could have made a defensive stop on Saturday. Sure, 900 yards of total offense and 81 points are fun, but this is Michigan and Ohio State for heaven’s sake. Yeah, some people are just impossible to please.

Are we really going to have to wait another 50 days just to find out what became evident Saturday evening? No one is beating Ohio State in this championship season. Purely from an entertainment standpoint, here’s hoping someone other than Michigan has an opportunity to make me look stupid.

Now that Arkansas has clinched the SEC West, this week’s visit from LSU lost its relevance, right? No way. If Florida winds up winning the SEC Championship game on Dec. 2, the winner of Friday’s game between the Hogs and the Tigers could have the inside track on the last remaining BCS at-large bid after Michigan, Boise State and Notre Dame receive their offers.

USC is currently in third place in the BCS rankings, a shade behind Michigan in a fluid process that should change if the Trojans beat Notre Dame in the coliseum Saturday night. The defense has really stepped up since the loss to Oregon State, holding Stanford, Oregon and Cal to 19 points combined, en route to a fifth Pac-10 championship in-a-row under Pete Carroll. On Saturday, Bears Nate Longshore, Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson were each held to one of his worst efforts of the season. If Carroll gets this Trojan team to a third straight National Championship game, go ahead and label it his best work since arriving at Troy.

Does anyone realize that it’s been more than two months that Notre Dame has played an opponent that’s currently ranked? Now that the Armys and the Stanfords are in the rear view mirror, it’s about time we see if the Irish have improved since getting spanked by Michigan 47-21 way back on Sept. 16. Bring on USC.

Does anyone want to see 5-6 Miami, losers of four straight games, beat Boston College this Thursday and qualify for a lower-tier bowl game? It was brutal watching a disinterested Cane team in the Peach Bowl last year. Imagine the level of lethargy if the program, likely playing with an interim coach, shows up to play, say, the Dec. 27 Emerald Bowl. It would be much better for all parties if the program is able to turn the page on this season as quickly as humanly possible.

Conversely, Virginia has earned a low-level bowl game, bouncing back well from a 2-5 start with a very young nucleus led by freshman QB Jameel Sewell. The Cavaliers will need to upset rival Virginia Tech, however, which will be no small task in Blacksburg.

Message to Florida State: Now that Jeff Bowden is finally out of the picture, work overtime to find an offensive coordinator that might eventually be able to take over the program when Jeff’s dad retires. This is a perfect opportunity to attract a young, innovative coach that could learn from a legend, while taking part in a smooth transition that otherwise would be messy. Someone ought to contact Barry Alvarez up in Madison to get his blueprint for seamlessly bringing Bret Bielema into the mix a couple of years ago.

Was Missouri premature in giving head coach Gary Pinkel a new five-year contract last week? At 6-0, the move might have made sense, but at 7-4, the Tigers have quickly slid back into the mediocrity that has become commonplace with Pinkel at the helm. If Mizzou loses to Kansas Saturday, the head coach will have squandered in just over a month all of the goodwill he amassed during the first half of the season.

By the way, you’ll hear plenty of rumors pertaining to the imminent opening at Miami— discount any of the ones involving the name Steve Spurrier. Spurrier plans to donate a substantial amount of money to South Carolina’s capital campaign and has no interest of leaving Columbia any time soon.

Thanks to Ohio State and Michigan, Wisconsin may have just completed the quietest 11-win regular season in college football history. Despite being No. 8 in the latest BCS ranking, the Badgers will be blocked from a BCS game since no conference can have more than two teams represented in the five marquee games.

I’ve got an enormous amount of respect and admiration for Lou Holtz as a coach and a person, but he’s an absolute zero as a broadcaster. For a man with so much football knowledge, he imparts none of it on the viewers and his kumbaya, Mister Rogers approach to every difficult topic is impossible to digest.

Now that Butch Davis is officially on the job, watch North Carolina become the 2007 or 2008 version of Rutgers. The Tar Heels have the head coach, the young talent and the facilities to emerge as a force in an ACC that is clearly wide open for any team not named Duke that makes a commitment to football.

Don’t be overly shocked that Kansas State or Rutgers took it on the chin Saturday, one week after posting landmark wins over Texas and Louisville, respectively. The Wildcats and Scarlet Knights were absolutely foul in losses to Kansas and Cincinnati, but was anyone really that surprised by the outcomes? Both schools are still very young and totally unfamiliar with all the attention they received last week. Kansas State and Rutgers are headed in the right direction, but clunkers like the ones they delivered on Saturday should be expected.

Ditto Wake Forest, which can still win the ACC Atlantic Division, but looked out of its league Saturday night hosting Virginia Tech. Although the Hokies’ chance for a conference title ended weeks ago, they played with a passion and precision that’s been evident throughout a five-game winning streak since hitting bottom in mid-October.

If you look beyond Boston College QB Matt Ryan’s pedestrian numbers, you’ll see the best quarterback in the ACC, a junior that plays in pain and has outstanding leadership qualities. With one season still left at The Heights, Ryan has an opportunity to become the best the Eagles have had at the position since Doug Flutie two decades ago.

Two weeks ago, Louisville beat West Virginia and the stands emptied. Last week, Rutgers beat Louisville and the stands emptied. On Saturday night, Cincinnati beat Rutgers and the stands emptied. Connecticut hosts Cincinnati this Saturday. The Huskies better beef up security for the inevitable dash for the goal posts.

Nice recovery by Louisville, which rebounded from last week’s devastating loss to Rutgers by pounding a game South Florida team 31-8 at Papa John’s. After playing West Virginia and the Scarlet Knights in emotional, back-to-back games, the Cardinals showed that there’s still some gas left in the tank, pulling into a first-place tie in the Big East.

The block of the year goes to Pittsburgh’s leading receiver, Derek Kinder, who turned two Mountaineers into an accordion on a punt return that teammate Darelle Revis took back for a brilliant 73-yard touchdown.

The crowds are smaller and the media doesn’t pay as much attention, however, Frank Solich just keeps winning football games. In only his second year at Ohio, the former Nebraska coach has the Bobcats in the MAC Championship game and just one win over Central Michigan from the school’s first league title since 1968.

It wasn’t very pretty, but Kent State’s 14-6 win over Eastern Michigan made the Golden Flashes bowl eligible, the first step to playing in the program’s first postseason game since Jack Lambert was a starting linebacker in 1972. The MAC has bowl agreements with the GMAC, International, Motor City and Birmingham bowls and five programs that have garnered their necessary sixth victory.

There’s been a Garrett Wolfe sighting. The Northern Illinois back that once-upon-a-time was a Heisman contender broke a string of four straight pedestrian games with 203 yards and three scores in a 31-10 upset of Central Michigan that kept the Huskies alive for a bowl invitation.

Okay, he was playing against I-AA Western Carolina, but getting a good, long look at Florida’s Tim Tebow showed why Urban Meyer can’t wait to hand over the offense in 2007 to his prized true freshman. On Saturday, Tebow ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more, accounting for 247 yards in a 62-0 tune-up for Florida State.

For Minnesota, Floyd of Rosedale came with an added bonus this year—a December bowl game. The Gophers beat Iowa 34-24, their third straight win, to finish 6-6 and earn another game next month. Given up for dead after starting the Big Ten schedule 0-5, Minnesota rallied behind the passing of Bryan Cupito and the running of Amir Pinnix for wins over Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa for a fifth consecutive bowl appearance.

Oklahoma is one spot from being eligible to be considered for an at-large BCS bowl berth with two weekends left in the regular season. Will bowl committees, looking to fill that slot, factor in that the Sooners got rooked by officials in the Oregon loss and that Adrian Peterson could be back in time to play one final collegiate game? Remove the officiating gaffe in Eugene and Oklahoma is probably No. 7 in the country, not No. 15, where it’s stationed now.

Do you miss the wizardry that Barry Sanders used to display for Oklahoma State and the Detroit Lions? If so, find the film of South Carolina RB Cory Boyd’s 52-yard run off a screen pass Saturday afternoon that was delightfully reminiscent of the open field moves that Sanders used to make in Stillwater and Detroit.

BYU QB John Beck is getting way, way, way too little attention for being the nation’s second-rated passer, while leading the Cougars to a Mountain West title and an eight-game winning streak.

Marshall DE Albert McClellan is on the verge of becoming the next really big thing in a non-BCS defensive player. The sophomore with the great first step and the non-stop motor has 11½ sacks this season, including six over the last two weekends. McClellan is being compared to former Herd All-American Johnathan Goddard, only with a much bigger upside.
Monday Morning QB from CFN.com

Zemek's Monday Morning Quarterback


By Matt Zemek
Posted Nov 20, 2006

We have a Mr. Fowler providing commentary this week in the Monday Morning Quarterback... and no, it's not Chris.

By Matthew Zemek

This past weekend, regular Monday Morning Quarterback reader Jeff Fowler offered a particularly impressive dissertation on a burning issue in the college football world. The Houston resident satisfied this column's desires for length, nuance and philosophical depth, so much so that his private e-mail--sent to my desktop--is worthy of elevating into a column segment, and moreover, the lead story in this week's MMQ. As Rex Barney, the former Baltimore Oriole PA announcer, would say when an Oriole fan caught a foul ball in the stands, "give that man a contract." Here's Jeff Fowler on the rise and fall of coaches in college football. It's a terrific primer on the frailties, fluctuations and fickle forces that create such volatility in the profession, not to mention the attitudes of fans toward the sideline sultans of this sport.

Take it away, Jeff:

After watching two of the short list of current “great” coaches work Saturday, Jim Tressell and Pete Carroll, I am struck by the brevity of such accolades. The rarity of truly great coaches was a reality elevated and amplified by the loss of the truly great Bo Schembechler last Friday.

Bum Phillips, my favorite wordsmith, once said, “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that’s been fired and them that’s gonna be.” Right now, I see two coaches in all of college football who’ll never fit either category, Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, although some fans from both schools would like to see their own legend fired. But where are the coaches that wore the genius tag a few years earlier, and where are the legends of tomorrow?

Consider gazing at Rutgers. In the late 1990’s, the Scarlet Knights rattled off 14 losses in a row. As recently as 2002, they went 1-11, losing to Temple. Going into the 2006 season, Rutgers was 10-39 under coach Greg Schiano.

Thursday night before last, we saw Rutgers overcome a 25-7 deficit to beat Louisville, 28-25. I’d swear that I heard the theme from
Rocky coming from my speakers as Rutgers kept taking Louisville haymakers and striking back. A smaller, slower, weaker team that simply refused to quit kept giving its best shot until the bigger, stronger, faster team was overwhelmed. Apollo Creed was sent to the canvas in Piscataway, and the crowd on the field at the end told the story. It was Rocky, Rudy, and Hoosiers all rolled into one, and Rutgers was 9-0.

Greg Schiano may be the hottest coaching property in the country today, but I wonder how many Rutgers fans were calling for his head a couple of years ago. The morning after the Louisville game, one Rutgers board contained a post calling for the replacement of Rutgers’ offensive coordinator. Its author blamed Rutgers’ early struggles in that game on his failure to call more running plays. No joke. Well, the poster wasn’t joking, anyhow. I wonder what that fan thinks after Saturday’s 30-11 loss to Cincinnati?

Many Texas fans were calling for Mack Brown’s scalp as recently as October of 2004. Brown, it was said, would never beat Oklahoma and never win a championship. After all, he never had. Of course, a national championship and consecutive wins over the coach he would never beat (though he had, in 1999) have improved Brown’s standing with these passionate observers to the point that even a crushing 45-42 loss to Kansas State failed to create a lynch mob. However, the potential loss of defensive coordinator Gene Chizik to a head coaching position elsewhere is no longer a hot topic for worrywarts in Austin.

Brown has now become the longest tenured coach in the Big 12, because Iowa State’s Dan McCarney has been fired. McCarney was once a hot property, and has taken ISU to five bowls since 2000, but had a lousy 4-8 year. McCarney is the victim of high expectations at Iowa State, and his team sent him off with a 21-16 win over Missouri. Why were there high expectations at Iowa State of all places, you ask? Because McCarney had done such a good job. Ah, the cruel ironies of the coaching business and the perceptions that sustain them.

Colorado was 7-6 last year, but fired another ex-hot property in Gary Barnett, who lost last year’s conference championship game and his bowl. Colorado then hired last year’s hot property, Dan Hawkins, who has discovered that it’s a little more difficult to win in the Big 12 than it is in the WAC. Hawkins is 2-9.

North Carolina fans swore they wouldn’t miss Mack Brown at all. After all, Brown failed to win the “big” games against FSU, back when nobody beat FSU. Sure enough, back in 2001, their second try, John Bunting, rewarded them with an 8-5 season and a win in the Peach Bowl. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels are 17-40 since then; worse, they lacked a win over a Division I-A program until Saturday. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. Bunting has been fired and will be replaced, according to rumor, by ex-Miami wizard Butch Davis... if Alabama doesn’t hire him first. Bunting’s team responded to this news by beating N.C. State, 23-9, on Saturday.

Alabama fans must have felt as though they dodged a bullet when ex-hot property Dennis Franchione bolted to Texas A&M after the Tide got the bad news from the NCAA. Only a year ago, Mike Shula had the Tide sitting at 9-0, while Fran’s A&M team was getting blown out at home 42-14 by McCarney’s Iowa State squad. Today, of course, Shula’s Tide team is 6-6 after a 22-15 loss in their annual bloodbath with Auburn.

Speaking of Auburn, we might note that the school came within a press leak of replacing its coach three years ago. That’s before Tommy Tuberville went 13-0 and became a hot property. Tuberville came into this season 60-27 at Auburn and had the War Eagles in the hunt for this year’s MNC before getting blown out 37-15 by Georgia on Nov. 11.

One might wonder if Mark Richt is still a hot property after his Dawgs have dropped four games this year, including losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky as well as their annual defeat by Florida.

Philip Fulmer in Knoxville is presumably safe again after Tennessee’s 5-6 season last year. Fulmer appears to have been saved by Mississippi’s curious decision to fire David Cutcliffe last year. Back in his role as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, Cutcliffe turned Eric Ainge into a competent quarterback before the snake-bitten signal caller got injured. Tennessee was 7-1 at the time, with only a one-point loss to Florida separating the Vols from unbeaten status. Even 8-3 must feel a lot better after last year.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss has profited from replacing Cutcliffe to the tune of a 2-9 season, with wins over Memphis and NW State to show for demanding a better coach. I’ll bet The Grove was really rocking after that big win over NW State Saturday before last, though Saturday’s effort against LSU in an overtime loss was likely more palatable.

Michigan’s Lloyd Carr was rumored to be on the hot seat going into this season. Michigan was 11-0 going into The Shoe to do battle for the top seed in the purported Mythical National Championship Game (still seeking a sponsor). I guess Lloyd is safe. Amazing what a season without mass injuries can do to make a coach smarter, isn’t it?

Fifteen months ago, before the start of the 2005 season, Kirk Ferentz was my pick for best coach in the country. Today, he’s 6-6 coming off 7-5.

In 2001, Larry Coker was the hottest thing going. Miami won a MNC his first year. Today, Coker is a dead man walking, as the powers that be in Coral Gables debate his replacement. What happened? How did the best offensive coordinator in college football come to preside over a totally inept offense? And how did the Miami program again sink into this previously unfathomable level of abject gangsterism under his watch? Who knows, but we all know that school President Donna "Sha-la-la-la-la" Shalala will not let the facts hinder her decisions. Meanwhile, Miami is 5-6. Miami.

Michigan State’s John L. Smith is toast after three straight losing seasons. This is a firing we can all understand. I doubt things are going to get any less disappointing in Lansing, even if Smith did beat Notre Dame half the time.

Oregon’s Mike Bellotti was the hottest property in the country five years ago, after consecutive 10-2 and 11-1 seasons. The bloom fell off that rose during subsequent 7-6, 8-5, and 5-6 seasons, which included a bowl blowout at the hands of Wake Forest. Bellotti was rehabilitated in last year’s 10-2 season, but is back to lukewarm following the Ducks’ 37-10 blowout loss at Arizona. Oregon is now 7-4, and Bellotti bashers can point out that they’d be 6-5 without the replay officials in the OU “win.”

Stoops the Lesser (Mike, not Bob) hardly won over the Arizona crowd with his 6-16 start, but he’s now 6-5 this season, following his third consecutive victory over a once-ranked team. Perhaps he may survive. Following John Mackovic, it’s easy for a coach to look good.

Earlier this year, former Kansas State coach and current beloved legend Bill Snyder found it necessary to issue a public call for patience on behalf of Ron Prince, who’d taken over a team picked to finish last in the woebegone Big 12 North. KSU was 4-4 at the time, and the natives were getting restless. Now KSU is 7-5 and bowl bound, with a huge win over Texas in its pocket. Presumably, Prince is no longer seated on the metal chair situated directly over the turkey fryer. Perhaps he’s now a genius, though such status was somewhat tainted by a 39-20 loss to Kansas Saturday. What a difference a few weeks can make!

Les Miles is less than a hero to LSU fans, who believe that two losses are unacceptable for this year’s team. Needing overtime to beat Ole Miss 23-20 on Saturday didn’t help, I’m sure. The pile of cordwood around his feet will get deeper if the Tigers do not win in Pig Ville this upcoming Friday.

Meanwhile, the aptly named Coach (Houston) Nutt is presumably off the scaffold and his hemp necktie has been removed, since the Hogs are now 10-1. Coach Nutt was widely regarded as quite the Mensa candidate following his victory over Texas in Austin in 2003. Fourteen subsequent conference losses and a pair of losing seasons dimmed the glow of his now-returning genius.

George Welsh at Virginia was the man, until 7-5 and 6-6 seasons took the polish off his luster. Then Al Groh became the resident mastermind, going 9-5, 8-5 and 8-4 after a rocky first year
(Host columnist's note: Mr. Zemek doesn't view those seasons in the same light, but that's a different discussion for another day). Groh was nearing the hot property list before his stock cooled on a 7-5 season last year. Now, Virginia is 5-6 with Virginia Tech on the burner. In any other year, beating Miami last Saturday would be worth a free pass. This year, everybody beats Miami. Is Groh wearing a parachute?

Ralph Friedgen looked like the hottest thing around 2 years ago, winning 10, 11, and 10 games in his first 3 seasons at Maryland. A pair of 5-6 years sunk that. Now, he’s 8-3 and was headed for a nice recovery before Boston College slammed the Terps’ ACC title hopes, 38-16.

Chuck Amato at NC State certainly looked good a few years ago. State went 11-3 in 2002. Now I see a man who’s squandered more talent than Rock Hudson at a Hollywood cast party, and NC State is 3-8.

Who is still wearing the Great Coach label? You’ve got to name Tressell and Carroll. Right now, you’ve got to add Brown as well.

And you’ve got to give Bob Stoops his due, too. Sure, some of his problems are his own doing, but he’s handling them well. He’s winning with what he has, even if he never beats Mack Brown again. In fact, he might sell some tickets at JerryWorld, the new Cowboys stadium complex, if Tuna leaves after this season.

Urban Meyer was an offensive genius at Utah, but he’s winning with D at Florida. Good thing Zook left the cupboard full. Give Meyer his due, though. He’s got the Gators in the hunt even though they are playing a schedule that’d scare Mark Mangino away from a buffet.

Jeff Tedford at Cal has to make the list, even after an 8-4 season last year. I let Stoops skate with the same record. And this is Cal, not Oklahoma.

Newcomers? Besides Schiano?

Well, there’s Todd Graham at Rice. Rice is only 6-5, but they’ve played paycheck games against UCLA, Texas, and FSU, all on the road, and lost to Houston by a point. Not a bad first year. This is Rice.

There’s Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. Don’t look now, but the Demon Deacons were 9-1 after thumping FSU 30-0 just over a week ago. Even after a lopsided 27-6 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday, Wake is still in the hunt for the ACC crown. Wake has been playing football for 118 years. The last time Wake won nine games in a season? Never.

The question is a big one: who are the great coaches going to be when you start calling names five years from now? Athletic directors around the country want to know. So do I.

An even bigger question, given recent events, is this: decades from now, which current coaches will leave the entire college football world with a sense of loss at their departure, the feeling we all had when we learned that Bo Schembechler had passed? I’ll let you answer that one.

Thanks, Jeff. Your mention of Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll as elite coaches offers a perfect segue to part two of this week's column, the bread-and-butter of evaluating coaches in big games. There were two marquee matchups on Saturday, and the winning teams, not surprisingly, had the superior coaches who made the right tactical decisions.

Jim Tressel is first up in the queue. The Ohio State coach, you might recall, made the first big splash of his career in Columbus at a basketball arena, when he told Buckeye Nation in January of 2001 that it would be proud of his young men when they went to Ann Arbor to play Michigan later that year. It is only fitting, then, that Tressel made another basketball reference in his presser after Saturday's game against the Wolverines. The Ohio State coach, in reference to the unique flow of the contest, called it "a fast-break game all the way." The fact that Tressel could first identify the flow of the game, and then be correct in his assessment, shows how great a coach he is.

The great coaches--and we've talked about this before in this and past college football seasons--have the wisdom to realize that each game is its own unique entity. This Ohio State-Michigan game was not a Woody-Bo bruiser from the early 1970s; it had track stars on the edges, solid offensive fronts, and capable quarterbacks, with Troy Smith being especially outstanding in (or should we say on?) his field. The way a fast-break game is managed will be entirely different from the way in which a 10-10 slugfest is handled. At various points along the way, then, Jim Tressel made the kinds of game-management decisions and play-calling selections that vastly increased his team's chances of winning.

The first move by Tressel that would prove decisive was his stubborn use of spread formations early in the contest. Whereas so many coaches remain locked into the antiquated view (it was appropriate for Woody and Bo in the 70s; it's not nearly as relevant now) that you must run to set up the pass, Tressel had the vision to realize that he needed to pass in order to set up the run. Tressel led with his best dance step from Smith, his offensive leader, while also spreading out the English Majors and preventing Michigan's defense from attacking No. 10 in the pocket. Only after establishing effectiveness with this look did Tressel then mix in the power running game, and the two touchdown runs from Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman were the perfect products of a masterful sequencing of both play calls and formations.

The other major masterstroke from the best Buckeye brain in the land came with roughly six minutes left in the second quarter. A few minutes after Lloyd Carr and Michigan punted on a 4th and 1 from their own 49 in a game OSU led by seven (14-7), Tressel faced a 2nd and 1 from the Wolverine 38. If this was not a fast-break game and more of a Woody-Bo brawl, a power run for a chain-moving two-yard gain would have been in order. But since this was a track meet, Tressel used the down-and-distance situation to press his advantage and convert a kill shot. He had Smith throw a bomb to Ted Ginn for a quick-strike touchdown and a 21-7 advantage. This was the kind of executive decision making that enabled Ohio State to outpace Michigan all day long. While the final spread was just three points, the Buckeyes were never seriously in danger of losing. Michigan fought hard, but only to keep the game within a one-score margin. The difference on the field was Troy Smith, but the No. 1 team in the United States also had a difference-making coach. Without Jim Tressel's impressive combination of insight, feel and boldness, the Buckeyes would not have been able to light up Ron English's defense they way they did.

Roughly one hour after Tressel's Columbus coaching clinic concluded, Pete Carroll began his episode of excellence against Jeff Tedford of Cal. Much like Tressel, Carroll's feel for the flow of a football game is superb, a fact that was constantly in evidence on Saturday night in the City of Angels.

Carroll faced three fourth downs at distinctly different points in the proceedings of the Pac-10 game of the year. In each case, Carroll made the right decision, substantially enhancing his team's chances of prevailing in a high-stakes, big-money mega-match. On the first fourth down--a 4th and goal at the Bear 2 in the opening quarter--Carroll wisely realized that in the initial stages of a game, when many more battles have yet to be fought, it's generally wise to collect points... unless you have a fast-break game such as OSU-Michigan. Carroll--with a swarming, fumble-causing, hard-hitting defense in his corner--shrewdly calculated that this game would be a defense-first game. Playing at home and armed with the knowledge of his program's second-half successes over the past five years, Carroll made an ATM deposit and banked on a withdrawal later on. This strategy--given the kind of game USC was facing--overflowed with logic, and sure enough, its wisdom would be affirmed later on.

The second big fourth-down decision for Carroll came in the third quarter, with his team trailing 9-6 and facing 4th and 15 at the Cal 32. Given that regular placekicker Mario Danelo has a weak leg, the prospect of a 49-yard kick didn't inspire confidence in Carroll, who is notorious for eschewing field goals the way Steve Spurrier used to do when armed with a potent offense at Florida. However, the value of a fourth-down gamble was minimized by two overriding factors: the sluggish performance of the SC offense to that point in the game, and the three-point spread facing the Trojans. A long field goal might not have been a percentage play, but the alternative wasn't very good, either. This meant that, in a weird but unmistakable way, the aggressive play was to go for three points; not trying for a field goal when the distance is under 50 yards represents an extreme display of timidity. If you can't contest three points late in the third quarter of a three-point game, the decision to go for it on 4th and 15 is an act of cowardice more than a display of strength... at least in a defense-dominated game. (A calculator game would have made a 4th and 15 first-down try a little different.)

As it turned out, Carroll and his staff obviously had some kind of contingency plan in place... a plan named David Buehler, who wore an old-school piece of padding around his neck. And when Buehler nailed his field goal, a game--on the scoreboard and in the pscyhes of all who contested it--turned 180 degrees on a dime. The connection must be made between the first 4th down and the second one: had Carroll not collected those three points in the first quarter, his team would have trailed 9-3 late in the third quarter, in which case he probably would have gone for the first down instead (and probably would have had little choice). Assuming Cal would have turned aside that 4th and 15 play, the outcome of Saturday's game would have been different without Carroll's two championship choices on fateful fourth downs.

Ah, but once USC had attained an advantage, would Carroll continue to find the wisdom needed to put a game--and the Golden Bears--away? After merely keeping his team afloat on two fourth downs, Carroll hit a home run on the third.

The score was 16-9 in favor of the Trojans, with 8:26 left in regulation and USC facing a 4th and 2 at the Cal 37. True enough, this was a defensive game, in which case a punt might have been the percentage choice. However, the Trojans had just two yards to go from a point on the field that can be labeled as the "tweener" area of the gridiron: too close to punt, too far away for a field goal. With fresh momentum, especially on an offense that was just beginning to find some rhythm after slumbering for three quarters, Carroll felt that he should go for a kill shot... the same way Jim Tressel went for the jugular on that 2nd and 1 from the Michigan 38. Even more importantly, however, there was too much time left for Carroll to think that Cal would have just one more possession in the game. That's a point worth explaining.

It is smart to punt from the opponent's 37 in a seven-point game when one not only has a good defense, but can win the game with one stop--that's a high-percentage move. Had there been four minutes left in the game when SC faced that 4th and 2 at the Cal 37, such a move--especially with a well-executed punt--would have put the squeeze on the Golden Bears, who were straining in the face of a swaggering and swarming Trojan defense. Pinning the opposition deep has added value when one knows that the length of a drive--if it even threatens to score--will likely be the last possession for that offense in regulation time. Had there been just four minutes left, not 8:26, USC would have had the comfort of knowing that Cal would get only one chance with the ball in order to merely tie the game. Moreover, that one chance would come in the form of what would have to be a drive in the area of 90 yards. With four minutes left, a punt would have been the wise choice for the USC braintrust. But with 8:26 still to go, the time clock--and an awareness of it--led Carroll to go for the first down, which--in that situation--was the better move.

But with all this having been said, there was still one more reason why this particular choice fit the given moment.

Carroll used this situation to trust his offense, which is not just a game-to-game foundation for his decision making, but a larger philosophical underpinning of his larger gridiron mentality. The same boldness that led Carroll to go for it just past midfield in the final minutes of the Rose Bowl against Texas was re-introduced to the nation in this crucible against Cal. While it's true that coaches (Jim Tressel against Michigan is a prime example) have to be bold enough to emerge from a shell when they possess the horses needed to employ a style that's different from the norm, it is just as true that coaches also have to trust their longstanding football philosophy if a volatile or uncertain game hangs in the balance, and there's no clear-cut strategic path to victory. Pete Carroll's USC philosophy has always been to be bold in big situations, as shown in the 2006 Rose Bowl and the 2005 game in South Bend against Notre Dame. Considering the success rate Carroll has enjoyed while presiding over many Troy trouncings of run-down rivals, there's no need for the head Trojan to adjust his overall modus operandi. The trust Carroll inspired in Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart with fourth-down gambles has now been passed on to John David Booty, whom Carroll trusted with a pass play to Steve Smith on that 4th and 2 from the Cal 37 with 8:26 left in Saturday's game.

The result of Carroll's decision on his third fateful fourth down--a touchdown that broke the backs of the Bears and sealed USC's fourth-straight conference title (Wazzu won it in 2002, technicalities be damned; only the Rose Bowl participant or otherwise official BCS bowl representative should have the honor of being referred to as a conference champion)--shows how Carroll's trust in his players is constantly rewarded, over and over, with each passing year... and we do mean "passing" (as opposed to punting).

As my friend Jeff Fowler noted above, the great coach list in contemporary college football has Jim Tressel and Pete Carroll as its two firmly secure club members. There's a reason why the Ohio State and USC bosses are the best in their profession. Saturday offered ample proof of how those two coaches--with unparalleled feel for the ebb-and-flow of a game--manage to make better decisions than their colleagues at other schools. Michigan might get a rematch with the Buckeyes, but if USC sneaks into Glendale, you'll have the two best coaches in the country facing off for the national crown, and that would make a Trojan-Buckeye battle a treat for any coaching connoisseur.
Weekly Affirmation from CFN.com

Zemek's Weekly Affirmation


By Matt Zemek
Posted Nov 20, 2006

It's Thanksgiving week, which means it's time to be angry as hell about the state of college football. I'm thankful for my family, my pastor, and a lot of other wondeful people in my life, but I'm properly outraged by the condition of this sport and the mess that's exposing the BCS for the big, fat turkey it has always been since its inception in 1998.

By Matthew Zemek

There are two basic conversations to be had this week, as an all-too-familiar BCS disaster ruins our sit-down meal of the big bird and all the trimmings. One conversation is about legal correctness, otherwise known as the letter of the law, and the other conversation concerns justice, or the spirit of the law.

Without trying to hide it or deny it, I'll come right out and tell you that I'm a huge believer in the spirit of the law. There are many occasions throughout human history in which a technically or legally correct interpretation of the law has preserved, protected or otherwise sustained injustice in a given locality or society. Bad laws are made by governments, and in some cases, they're such egregious affonts to human dignity that they must be resisted even before a court of law can overturn them. It seems pretty useless, if not outright wrong, to uphold the worth of technical legality if the given law does not promote justice.

This is where the firestorm involving Michigan and USC comes into play.

It's not a simple decision by any means: Wolverines or Trojans against Ohio State if USC wins out? What is simple, however, is that the dysfunctional nature of the BCS puts all college football fans... in Gainesville, Fayetteville, South Bend, and Morgantown, in addition to Ann Arbor and Los Angeles... in a no-win position. You either have to support the letter of the law or the spirit of the law; if you get legality, you don't get justice, and even if you get justice, you know that a hopelessly broken system didn't work the way it was supposed to, which actually winds up eroding your sense of justice in the first place.

I've been writing this column since 2001, and the above paragraph is pretty much the same thing I wrote in 2003, during the Oklahoma-LSU-USC catfight which marred that particular season. The simple fact of the 2003 season is that it luckily and briefly preserved tradition (with respect to the Rose Bowl, a centerpiece of college football history), but created controversy and the split title the BCS was supposed to prevent. The BCS, in 2003, delivered justice without legality. It delivered the right result, but a result that tore apart the sport by pitting USC and LSU fans against each other in what amounted to a constitutional crisis pitting the system and its computers against open-minded human beings represented by the Associated Press poll. By not working the way it was supposed to as a matter of mechanics, the BCS--by preserving a classic Rose Bowl between USC and Michigan instead of breaking it up--actually worked in a larger sense in 2003. Tradition and a spiritually satisfying split title--at least for one season--endured at the expense of controversy and an emotionally unsatisfying split title. LSU fans felt cheated because the law did in fact stand on their side; USC fans felt vindicated because justice--and a piece of the national pie--resided on their side. The whole country, though, felt deprived because LSU and USC never got to play on the field. Except for those rare seasons when two and only two unbeaten teams reach the title game, college football doesn't get a marriage of both legality and justice. It almost always has to settle for just half of the equation, which means that half the country leaves a college football season filing divorce papers.

In many ways, we have the same situation this year, with a few unique twists.

The argument in favor of legality, and a technical interpretation of law as it exists on the BCS books, sides with Michigan. The good people at the Michigan Law School would tell you that the BCS is mechanically designed to pit the two best teams in America against each other, and after this past weekend, it seems pretty clear that Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams in the United States. If the BCS works the way it is mechanically designed to operate, Ohio State and Michigan will have a rematch on January 8 in Glendale. The law is a maize and blue entity in 2006, because the BCS's computer-weighted formula is designed to override the whims, extremes and other erratic, emotionally-influenced components of human judgment. Whereas polls might be inclined to drop Michigan after losing a game (think back to the Notre Dame-Florida State situation in 1993), the BCS--which probably would have kept Notre Dame No. 1 thirteen years ago--is meant to keep a team like Michigan toward the top of the standings.

With respect to college football's postseason--as is also the case with the lack of a force-out rule on legal possession of a pass thrown to the sideline--there are those in America who, in football and other matters, value a given procedure for only one reason: they distrust human judgment. Removing human judgment from any kind of procedure, in college football or other human affairs, is the paramount principle--perhaps the only one--for many people in this country when they choose to support a particular rule, law, or course of action. The pro-computer faction of America's college football fans largely fits this category, which is generally associated with the argument in favor of legality. A clean procedure with numerical forumlas is believed to have the airtight structure needed to ward off evils such as media bias and human error, which do run rampant during every college football season (more on media bias later in this column). All misguided poll votes from seasons past gave rise to this basic line of thought, and the BCS is its latest, fullest manifestation.

In opposition to the legality argument lies the pro-justice element of the college football world. This community intellectually understands the pro-legality position and its pro-BCS, pro-computer, anti-human judgment leanings. (Surely, the pro-legality folks also understand the pro-justice arguments as well, even though disagreement persists.) However, the pro-justice segment of the population has the view that doing the right thing is more centrally important than doing the thing that's procedurally consistent or legally correct. In college football, there are two basic ways in which a pro-justice view is applied: in the defense of tradition, and in the promotion of purity in the crowning of a national champion.

To go back to 2003 for a moment, that season--while empty and unfulfilling from a legal/procedural standpoint--did not satisfy both pro-justice planks. The 2003 season did uphold tradition by preserving a Big Ten-Pac-10 Rose Bowl, but it did not promote purity in the sport because it didn't address the unresolved post-bowl controversy involving USC and LSU. If the process promoted purity, the Trojans and Tigers would have played a "plus-one" game after the Sugar Bowl for the undisputed title. Therein lies the most realistic solution for college football, a solution the power brokers in the sport should deliver to everyone who invests anything in this great game.

While Michigan and Ohio State were duking it out on Saturday before ABC cameras, Keith Jackson--a former employee of the network--was interviewed on NBC by former colleague Jim Lampley. In the interview, Mister College Football--while assailing the BCS as the result of a "money grab"--made the simple suggestion that a Final Four should be held after bowl games in which the old conference tie-ins are renewed and sustained. "Leave the Rose Bowl alone," Jackson said. "Leave the Sugar Bowl alone." Then have the playoff. That's what Keith Jackson wants, and if KJ wants something, chances are it's good for the sport he covered with distinction for so many years. One can debate whether there should be a plus-one or a Final Four, but one way or another, the emergent solution to college football's problems lies not in a classic playoff or some similarly "bracketed" hoops-style tournament with seeds and multiple playoff rounds. No, the solution lies in returning the bowls to their old pre-BCS format, and then having either a plus-one or a Final Four, which is not a tournament so much as a final championship stage of the long season. After the bowls, enough teams will be weeded out of the equation to ensure that no more than four teams will be viable national title contenders. At the end of the day, a football equivalent of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee (the only connection with hoops that college football truly needs) should determine whether a plus-one or a Final Four is needed. With old bowl tie-ins restored but a champion equitably (and indisputably) arrived at, justice can be served in America, with old traditions upheld and procedural purity intact.

This brings us back to the current debate between Michigan and USC.

While the pro-legality argument favors the Wolverines, the pro-justice argument sides with the Trojans. From a coldly analytical standpoint that is consistent with legal mechanics, Michigan is better than USC at this point in time. Michigan's one loss (Ohio State) has much more value than the Trojans' one defeat (Oregon State). Ohio State is the clear No. 1 team in the country, and Michigan fought the Buckeyes tooth and nail in Columbus. It is indeed hard to imagine another team playing the Buckeyes as close as the Wolverines did in the Horseshoe. Ergo, the pro-legality folks would say that Michigan deserves to be No. 2. It's the best contention based on the available evidence presented before the court.

Justice, however, deals in the not-so-specific practice of "drawing straight with crooked lines," and in making sense of the evidence not seen, the data not available, the non-story story, the deafening silence of a situation. The things you don't see with respect to this Michigan-USC situation are, in many ways, the defining points of the argument for the pro-justice crowd and its USC adherents.

Where's the big Michigan non-conference schedule outside of Notre Dame? Can't see it.

Where's the depth of the Big Ten, which formed the backbone of the Wolverines' schedule? Michigan's only big-time win in Big Ten play came against Wisconsin. Iowa, once thought of as an elite team, ended at 6-6, with a 2-6 Big Ten record.

USC played non-traditional opponents in some of its biggest games: Arkansas and Nebraska. These games weren't rivalry games filled with emotions; hence, they were tougher for USC in that the Trojans lacked the built-in motivation Michigan had against Ohio State... and that was before the death of Bo Schembechler, less than 29 hours before the OSU game. Where were Michigan's meaningful games without the benefit of rivalry-fed motivation? If Michigan's close game against Ohio State should make UM the No. 2 team in America--and I think it should--one should also realize that Michigan, despite playing the No. 1 team in America on the road, had a built-in advantage of motivation.

And here's the biggest argument of all along these lines: where's Michigan's conference championship, which should be a prerequisite for a national title contender other than unaffiliated Notre Dame? How can you allow Michigan to do what the ACC, SEC, Big East, and Big XII champions will not have the chance to do... and possibly USC as well?

Beyond these arguments, however, the pro-justice crowd has its trump cards, which were referred to earlier in the discussion of the 2003 season: tradition and purity.

The longstanding virtue of college football and its assorted traditions is found in the simple reality that the regular season means more than the regular season of any other sport. In fact, the notion of "preserving the sanctity of the regular season" was the very rationale for the creation of the BCS in the first place. Plainly put, then, college football tradition will be eroded (maybe slaughtered) if Michigan and Ohio State have a rematch on January 8. If the Wolverines and Buckeyes have a sequel, no one can ever again say that the regular season really matters in this sport. The outwardly-stated reason for the BCS' whole existence will be fully, frontally, forcefully, finally and fatefully assaulted, and no BCS proponent could ever again say that the regular season IS a playoff in itself. Period. Tradition will take a huge hit if Michigan plays Ohio State in roughly seven weeks.

In addition to tradition, there's also the question of purity. Since Michigan is the No. 2 team in America--or at least, it is very hard to disagree with such a contention (though one wishes there was more available evidence; sadly, there isn't)--one would like to find a way to enable Michigan to play Ohio State. But you see, pro-justice people in college football only want Michigan and Ohio State to play under the right circumstances... circumstances that would uphold tradition and promote purity. Such a circumstance cannot be achieved under the current legal mechanics of the BCS system; it could only be produced by a Keith Jackson-supported Final Four or a plus-one, as decided on by a Selection Committee.

If the purity of the process is to be upheld--and if Michigan is to play Ohio State under a "pure" system--there are two ways in which this dream scenario could come about.

In scenario number one, you take the current system, have USC play Ohio State in Glendale, and put Michigan against the SEC champion (assuming it has one loss) in the Sugar Bowl. If Notre Dame were to beat USC on Saturday and the SEC champion winds up with two losses, have Notre Dame play the Buckeyes and put Michigan against the Big East champion (who will almost certainly have just one loss at the end of the season) in the Orange Bowl. Then do a plus-one.

In scenario number two, one would have to envision a future reality after the current television contract expires. This reality--if attained--would make college football an ideal world for the first time in a long time, maybe ever: going back to the old bowl tie-ins, everything in the above scenario would exist except for the fact that USC and Ohio State would play in Pasadena, not Glendale; purity supplemented by tradition would be the new recipe for college football. (It's a distant dream at this point, but it's also the best plan available if only power brokers are willing to talk about a new deal for this sport.) If Michigan and Ohio State won their bowl games, they could meet again, and no one would have a single problem. Why? Because there would be a game (maybe two if in a Final Four setup) in between their first meeting and their sequel.

If Michigan and Ohio State are to play for the national title--and pro-justice people want to see it happen (but only in the right way at the right time)--let's have them win one game (followed by a plus-one) or two games (a bowl game and a Final Four semifinal) before having a rematch in the title game. The question pro-legality folks are asking right now is, "Should there be a rematch?" The question that SHOULD be asked at this time--and which pro-justice people are voicing right now--is this: "Under what circumstances should there be a rematch?" Breaking down the BCS mess in these terms enables one to have a clearer, broader and ultimately fairer view of the whole process.

But enough of the solutions and suggestions. Let's deal with what's going to happen: reality is going to leave everyone unsatisfied... as is the case in every year that lacks the one golden "USC-Texas" scenario: two and only two unbeaten teams at the end of the season. Remember, college football is an ungodly mess, and the BCS is cause for plentiful amounts of outrage.

Getting past all the hopeful planning and wishful scenario-building, reality tells us that one of two things will happen: either Michigan will play Ohio State, or USC will. While everyone (pro-legality and pro-justice) will disagree about the team that should face Ohio State on January 8, everyone can agree that the result will be a very imperfect one... just like 2003. And as in every other instance when the BCS has not gotten its USC-Texas magic bullet, the fundamental conflict--the one that has always made the BCS a travesty from the very beginning of its (now) nine years of existence--will remain: if the system works, tradition or purity--sometimes both--get killed; if the system doesn't work--which will upset the fans of the unfortunate team--justice prevails, but at a cost.

In 2006, there won't be any purity regardless of Ohio State's ultimate opponent in Glendale. Tradition will be upheld if USC is the Buckeyes' opponent, but the two best teams in America won't be playing. Hence, the system won't work, delivering justice without legality. And if Michigan gets the rematch on January 8, enabling the two best teams in the country to compete, the tradition of college football will be dealt a death blow. Hence, the system will work and deliver legality, but without authentic justice. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the basic conflict that will always emerge whenever the BCS doesn't get the single magic scenario that saves it from itself. The BCS creates premature, forced and false choices between merit and tradition, legality and justice. One direction defeats the other, and ultimately leaves half the country--if not more--unsatisfied.

Just answer this question, or at least give it a try: in the six years when the BCS did not get its one dream scenario, was there ever a sense that, yeah, you know, the system actually worked and resolved lingering questions... just like Roy Kramer and the other BCS creators said it would? Tell Ohio State fans in 1998, Miami fans in 2000, Oregon fans in 2001, USC and LSU fans in 2003, Auburn fans in 2004, and one fan base this year (Michigan or USC) that the system worked. Undisputed national title? The BCS delivers one only when the one dream scenario arrives and takes all the guesswork out of the equation. Therefore, it's clear that this "system" can't produce systemic cleanliness or real justice whenever there's any doubt or uncertainty surrounding the larger process. That, in short, isn't much of a system. The only thing the BCS ever was--and ever will be--good for is that if there's a USC-Texas scenario, USC winds up playing Texas for the national title, whereas in past years, that never could have happened. But without its only magic bullet, the BCS is rendered impotent, and becomes utterly incapable of doing anything positive for the college football community... both its pro-legality and pro-justice factions. That's cause for anger in these days before Thanksgiving.

While the BCS is, frankly, enough for a full column, there's just too much controversy in college football for it to remain unnoticed or unmentioned at this high-drama point in the national title chase.

A few brief words have to be said on the matter of media bias, another anger-producing entity which is never far away from BCS controversies and the rankings behind them.

It's no secret that ABC/ESPN devoted a rather lavish and extensive amount of coverage to this game, more than ever before for a game of equivalent (if not greater) stature. This simple but powerful fact is important for one reason and one reason only: if anyone ever thought that USC was a permanent media darling because of the L.A. market, you can't think so anymore. This time, media hype has cut against the Trojans, and not in their favor. With the flashy skill-position stars last season, USC wasn't just a media market magnet; the Trojans had style points and sex appeal. This year, Michigan--especially after beating media-friendly Notre Dame and entering a cherished American sporting event (the Ohio State game, a sociocultural centerpiece in this country) undefeated and ranked second--is the sexier story. Bo Schembechler's death has only added to the Michigan aura, giving the Wolverines the kind of momentum and mythology that are unbeatable in terms of ratings points, newspaper sales, and other relevant elements of the synergistic "media-industrial complex" in college football. This is why Michigan-Ohio State is being called a classic, despite a number of mistakes that almost equaled (not quite, but close) the miscues made in the West Virginia-Louisville game on Nov. 2.

Would I rate the Michigan-Ohio State game a classic? Yes, but grudgingly, and not for the football itself. This game is a classic because it was produced under emotionally wrenching circumstances in a tremendously hyped game. Had there not been the over-the-top hype, and had Bo Schembechler not died to make this game a seminal moment in American sports history, the pure football merits of the game would not have elevated this game to the level of a classic. But when you take all the elements of this game and put them together, yes, the game manages to make the cut as a classic. Michigan's level of fight and grit, plus the Heisman-sealing performance of Troy Smith, provided enough historic elements needed to give this game elite status in the history of college football. Without those details, however, this game would not have passed the "classic" test.

Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes would have understood that contemporary football doesn't allow for the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality that prevailed during The Ten-Year War. The two now-deceased legends wouldn't have personally engaged in a "fast-break game all the way," as Jim Tressel put it, but if they had, they still would have insisted on the fundamentals they--and presumably, all Big Ten fans of defense, blocking, tackling, and sound kicking--viewed to be central to winning football. So, Big Ten fans (and also SEC fans, who view football in a similar way; by the way, that was a nice SEC/Big Ten-style game between Cal and USC... guess they can play defense in the Pac-10...), did you like the missed tackles, the bad pass interference penalties, the silly personal fouls, the two botched snaps that enabled Michigan to stay in the game, the two huge overthrows by Chad Henne, and the other turnovers that plagued this game? And if this game was such a classic on the football merits--as opposed to all the off-field stuff--why was OSU never in real or immediate danger of losing? Where was the riveting, nailbiting finish? When Michigan used its final timeout at the 2:55 mark, it became apparent that the Wolverines would have to recover the onside kick if they wanted to have a chance. That's a pretty anticlimactic way to end a big game. Yes, the game went back and forth, as some commentators observed, but it went back and forth between a one-score OSU lead and a two-score OSU lead. Had the "back-and-forth" involved constant lead changes, THAT would have made this game a lot more special on its own merits.

Yes, this game was a classic, but more so for the emotions, the spectacle, the hype, and the ghost of a just-deceased Bo Schembechler. The game itself was somewhat better than the West Virginia-Louisville game, but not by much. The 2006 Rose Bowl towers over both games as a pure football showcase. Don't let the excess of television and Internet coverage lead you to a different conclusion.

This media section promised to be brief, so we'll conclude very neatly and quickly. We'll wrap up this week's column with a suggestion that I hope the folks at ESPN will take very, very, VERY seriously heading into 2007.

Since the Worldwide Leader has such reach, visibility and scope in the college football broadcasting world... especially now that its production values and employees are attached to both ABC and GamePlan telecasts, which comprise most of a 13-hour Saturday of football (15 if you include College Gameday)... it would be a godsend if ESPN could have a half-hour show each week in which media hype could be blunted, even silenced, by straightforward analysis away from the frenzied crowds of a live on-site Gameday audience. Complaints about media bias would die down substantially if Gameday aired from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, followed by a 30-minute taped show (before the football games at Noon) in which the truly wonderful, accomplished and distinguished trio--Fowler, Corso, Herbstreit--sat in a video room and broke down film of top teams, followed by very specific, itemized explanations of why one team is better than another. If such a show could air each week during the college football season, and if such a process could take place throughout the ranks of college football analysts, we'd have a lot less hype and a lot more substance as we try to arrive at a legitimate national champion. After all, we're saddled with the BCS for a few more years, and unless the sport's influence peddlers institute a Final Four or plus-one, we'll have to make the best of a very bad situation. ESPN can either do the same old stuff, or create new shows in which its superior broadcast journalists--both Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit certainly qualify in this regard--can give very detailed explanations for their positions, which will eliminate much, if not all, of the suspicion and media manipulation that are sadly superabundant in the college football world.

We have the dysfunctional BCS. Why not have the media--its decision makers, not its accomplished journalists on the ground--become part of the solution, and not the problem?
RJ, that girl in your avatar would be of no use to me . . . . . . . . I have to be honest, my dick isn't big enough to fuck those titties!