Category Archives: College Football

Phil Fulmer Is Set To Be “The Don” Of The VolNation Family

John Currie has been fired by Tennessee. With the soap opera coaching search that was underway at Tennessee, his firing shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But let’s be honest, Currie was in a precarious position from the beginning.

Currie’s job was a position that Phil Fulmer coveted. The former football coach left a storied past on the sidelines and he hoped to lead the program back to the top as A.D. He was a finalist for the position that Currie was ultimately selected for.

Fulmer received a consolation prize in place of the job he pined away for when the university hired him as a special advisor. That sort of thing happens a lot but, in this instance, it left Currie in a shaky position from day-1 on the job. All it would take is one real or perceived slip up for the hardcore Vol fans to get their wish. That slip up occurred when Currie attempted to hire Greg Schiano to replace Butch Jones.

It was all downhill from there for Currie and the writing was on the wall.

There are now reports that Fulmer has been sabotaging Currie’s coaching search in hopes of replacing the Rocky Top outsider. This isn’t a good look but if we’re being honest, it’s exactly what #VolNation has deeply desired all along.

#VolNation marched on Knoxville in protest of the attempted hiring of Schiano due to their high moral standards. Those fans couldn’t fathom the thought of a man like Schiano roaming the sidelines inside of Neyland Stadium. Under no circumstances could they have Schiano acting as the face of the program. And Currie was considered guilty by association.

But #VolNation is just fine with Fulmer.

Each year college football presents a laundry list of awards to players, coaches, and teams. Many are serious. Some are not. The Fulmer Cup is one of those parody awards.

The Fulmer Cup tracks player arrests. If your program had the most players arrested, you win the award. And why is it named The Fulmer Cup? Easy. Because Phil Fulmer ran a program whose arrest record rivaled its winning percentage. Ah yes. The good old days!

This is all well and good for #VolNation. You can run your program like Tony Soprano if you’re considered a True Vol. If you’re an outsider, like Currie and Schiano, then perceived moral improprieties will have you pushed off of Rocky Top.

With Fulmer lurking over his shoulder, Currie was placed in an impossible situation from his first day in Knoxville. All he had to do was give Fulmer and his fans a reason to hate him. Once that happened, Fulmer seems to have taken care of the rest.

All that’s left to do is for Tennessee to name Fulmer as A.D., name Peyton Manning as a special advisor to the program, and to bring Tee Martin in as head coach. Once the ’90s are reestablished in Knoxville, all will be right for #VolNation.

The thing is, I don’t know if we should call this Rocky Top family an athletic department or a syndicate. Rick Barnes better watch his back or Don DeVoe may be brought back to coach the basketball team.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

Photo: Flickr

Virginia Football is Heading in the Right Direction – Despite the Last 2 Games

It’s a shame that disappointment was the overriding sentiment among Virginia faithful as the regular season came to a close on Saturday in Charlottesville. The current sentiment is understandable but should not be the prevailing sentiment when looking at the full body of work and the progress Virginia football demonstrated during the year. That said, I get the current feelings of disappointment and pondering what might have been.

Two weeks prior, Virginia completely dominated the #3 team in the country, on the road, for two and a half quarters before falling apart and adding an expected, but still disappointing loss to the 2017 record. Overmatched and on the road, Virginia looked like they could play with some of the best teams in the country before mistakes and fatigue showed that they couldn’t.

If I’d have been offered the following bet prior to this weekend’s game against Virginia Tech – if UVA holds VT to 10 points in the game, would you bet $ 100 that UVA wins the game? – I would have taken the bet in a heartbeat…which reinforces the reasons why I’m not much of a gambler. Virginia’s defense played very well against a respectable Virginia Tech offense, while Virginia’s offense posted its worst performance of the year against a solid but far from great Virginia Tech defense.

Virginia Tech feasted on wimpy opponents to start the year, bolstering its defensive stats by smashing lousy Delaware, ODU, and ECU teams while pitching shutouts in two of those three scrimmages. On Saturday however, Virginia’s offense helped the Hokie defense look like 1975 Steelers. It is hard to fathom that this was the same Virginia offense that racked up 28 points and 440 yards of total offense the prior week against a far more talented Miami defense. The Virginia offense had a couple of chances to score enough points to beat Virginia Tech, but unlike several games prior, dropped passes, overthrown balls, and a fatigued offensive line sealed Virginia’s fate.

Virginia fans know this drill. So close, but no cigar. Hence, the pervasive and familiar feeling of disappointment.

I’d suggest that Virginia fans need to shake off the disappointment and recognize that the 2017 football season was not only a success but could be a turning point in the return to football respectability. Optimistic projections entering the 2017 campaign predicted 5 wins in ’17. Many fans would have seen progress if not success in more than doubling last season’s win total with a 5-win season.

While close-but-no-cigar is recognizable territory for Virginia fans across the athletic spectrum, “close” has not really been part of the equation for football for the past 5 years. Not only was Virginia close in most of their games this season, they won 6 of them and are going bowling for the first time since 2011.

While a bowl game is a significant achievement for a previously 2-10 team and a nice reward for seniors who worked hard to turn the fortunes of Virginia football around, the best outcome of making a bowl may not be apparent until next season. Making a bowl means an extra month of practice for a Virginia team that sports a plethora of red-shirt and true freshman in their 2-deep. An additional month of practice gives Bronco and his staff the opportunity to give younger guys significant practice time and more first-team reps than usual. This extra practice time is invaluable for young teams working to build on a successful season.

Virginia fans can do their part in the turn around of Virginia football by forgetting the disappointment of 2 losses to end the season plus the distraction of a nice start to basketball season by turning out for the bowl game this year. Most projections have Virginia playing in the Military Bowl in Annapolis which is right in the drivable heart of the Virginia fan base. If Virginia draws the short straw and ends up in Detroit at the Quick Lane Bowl I understand that is a slightly less desirable trip and may not see a stellar Cavalier turnout.

Given the breaks of the last two games, I think this team is overdue for a bit of good luck. See you in Annapolis!

The Horns Still Have The “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” Culture

Tom Herman made it clear exactly one year ago that he came to Austin to change the Longhorns football program into a winning culture again. He thought he was doing all of the right things, but he didn’t know what he was getting into until the opening game.

Fast forward a bit to last week, and it looked like Texas had established an identity and gained some confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But just like the past three years, the team took one step forward against West Virginia, and two steps back against Texas Tech the following week.

How can a team look so fluid and on the same page with one another, and then be completely discombobulated the next? It’s the culture that’s been established since at least 2014, that’s how.

This program simply doesn’t know how to handle success, even as minor as the success may be. Getting to bowl eligibility is something to be celebrated for this program since it’s something they haven’t achieved since 2014. I don’t think they celebrated too much and overlooked Texas Tech, though. But I do think the players heard people talking all week about how much better they looked and had all the momentum in their favor.

The culture for the players is to believe the hype without playing the game. This team simply isn’t good enough to beat anyone on talent alone, and it was proved yet again on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

So what’s next for the Horns?

They will get an invite to a bad bowl game that will likely be played in the middle of the day during the last week of the year. No one around Austin will be excited about the bowl game, which means the players probably won’t be either. That will be especially true if the handful of juniors who could make the jump to the NFL have already made their decision that they won’t be returning for their senior season.

Quite honestly, I don’t know if winning or losing the bowl game will make a difference for the culture Herman is trying to instill. I really don’t believe it will affect recruiting one way or another. But what it will do is help Herman prepare for next season. Out of the 15 bowl practices the team gets, I would be surprised if the majority of them aren’t focused on next year rather than actually winning the bowl game.

But as Herman has realized this season, he has a whole lot more work to do to get his players mentally ready to be successful. You can’t have a team that feels good about themselves after a win over an average team, and then completely lays an egg the next week against a below average team. The result you get with that type of culture will always be a team with 4-6 losses every single year, and that’s assuming you have enough talent to beat a few average teams on your schedule.

Until Herman is able to at least change the culture to a “two steps forward, one step back” culture, there’s going to be a similar amount of loss in the Texas football program. And no matter how much we hear about the culture being changed, we will never truly know it has happened until we see the results in the win column.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Tennessee Volunteer Football Fans Have Lost Their Minds

It’s been nine years since the SEC football conference champion came out of the East. It’s for good reason that the division is known as the SEC Least. For that to change, a better collection of coaches have to be assembled in the East and that is beginning to happen. Sort of.

There were two openings created in the East when Tennessee and Florida fired its coaches mid-season. Tennessee fans planned on singing Rocky Top with Jon Gruden. Florida fans planned on doing the Gator chomp with Chip Kelly. Once reality set in, Gruden stayed put with Monday Night Football and Kelly accepted the natural fit at UCLA.

That left Tennessee with Greg Schiano and Florida with Dan Mullen. I was going to write about both of these hires, but after looking into the storylines, I’ve decided to focus on the would-be marriage between Schiano and Tennessee.

Schiano isn’t a hire that will excite Tennessee fans. He may be an underwhelming hire, but the reaction from those fans, both influential and Average Joe, is downright scary. Some fans want Currie’s plane to crash while a local coffee shop, Remedy Coffee, says that Schiano isn’t allowed in the establishment.

The reason why some fans are hoping for Currie’s death and coffee shops won’t sell Schiano a dirty chai is because he coached at Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Fans and politicians can’t believe that Currie would allow someone who supported child molestation into Neyland Stadium. The outrage is so strong that some believe the offer to be the Tennessee head coach will be pulled. If this is the case, it’s a huge overreaction.


First, let me say this; Schiano doesn’t support or condone child molestation. I don’t know the man and I’ve never spoken to him. But I’m confident in making that statement. Jerry Sandusky and Penn State were both prosecuted. What happened in Happy Valley was awful but it’s been dealt with. I’m sure that isn’t a popular opinion but it’s the truth. Schiano is innocent.

Now for the hammer to be dropped.

The problem is with the Tennessee fanbase. You’re all off of your rockers. Many college football fanbases are rabid, volatile, emotion-filled groups of people. But this group of fans perched upon Rocky Top is really something special.

This group of Tennessee fans, comprised of no-names, politicians, and business owners, are so upset that they didn’t get Gruden that they’re trying to run off a coach before he’s stepped foot on campus. Schiano has coached at Penn State is just a convenient excuse. Not getting Gruden, or even Dan Mullen was a huge blow to the over-inflated egos that root for Tennessee football. It’s just a bad look for any fanbase.

Remember this; there’s no room for Schiano in Knoxville but Peyton Manning remains a living deity. Accusations and assumptions are only damning when the target isn’t a member of the Tennessee’s Mount Rushmore.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

The Unfortunate Return of “The U”

Like Jason in the “Friday the 13th” Movies, “The U” appears to be back.

I know “everyone” (defined as the college football media and the FCS-sized Miami fan base) seems to be excited about the reemergence of “The U”. I’m not going to lie, I kind of liked Miami more when they were “The Who?” based on their pedestrian performance since joining the ACC in 2004.

Let’s be honest about Miami, they don’t represent the best that college sports have to offer America’s youth, even when they aren’t very good. What does Miami have in common with classic NFL warriors like Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Heath Miller, & Mike Singletary? I’d say the answer is nothing.

Unfortunately, Virginia gave the ‘Canes the opportunity to sport their ridiculous turnover chain 3 times on Saturday. Virginia played a spirited game against Miami on Saturday. Virginia fans might complain that this was a winnable, signature game that got away. Virginia has rallied well many times this season when they took a punch from their opponents and turned tough games into wins. Miami’s punches didn’t crush Virginia on Saturday, rather Virginia punching itself undid its aspirations for an unlikely win. For all the things Virginia did well against the Canes, to beat the #3 team in the country on the road takes a near flawless performance. For all of the positive plays Virginia made, there were too many field-position mistakes that allowed Miami’s offense to start with short fields well inside Virginia territory.

The bottom line on the game? Miami has more better players than Virginia, an outstanding head coach, and played in front of a crowd that exceeded Miami’s normal FCS standards. Virginia made a few critical mistakes that hurt their cause. If one is a conspiracy theorist, the fix was in from on high from the ACC or the NCAA as officiating was below Pop Warner quality, with the worst calls all going against Virginia.

The worst part of Virginia’s loss to Miami was not the loss itself, but rather that it tossed fuel on the fire for the resurrection of “The U” and all that it entails. Some things are best left in the trash bin of American culture. Breakdancing, Pet Rocks, The Bee Gees, and the unfortunate antics of “The U” are things we all could have done without in perpetuity.

“The U” joined the ACC in 2004 along with Virginia Tech. There is no doubt ACC leadership had dreams of regular FSU/Miami championship games with packed stadiums and signed contracts for the first 5 ACC title games to be played in Florida. When Wake Forest showed up to play Georgia Tech in 2006, and Boston College played Virginia Tech the following 2 years, things were not exactly going according to plan.

Miami is finally going to make it to the ACC title game this year, albeit 12 years late. The worst thing that could happen for the ACC, college athletics, and the future of American culture would be for Miami to win this game. While the antics of “The U” are not yet down to the standards of the past, I loathe the thought of what could pass, should Miami beat Clemson in 2 weeks.

When I think about the epics struggles in American athletics over the years and the societal good that so many have delivered to American culture, I wonder what true legends like Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Hank Aaron would have to say about the turnover chain and the bravado of “The U”. I suspect they might wonder what it was they suffered and fought for if this was the end result.

Let’s hope for a Clemson victory in the ACC championship game and for a modicum of restraint if the unthinkable happens.

A Surprise To Playoff Contender Status

Last week I wrote a piece declaring that Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s one hope of making the College Football Playoff. I was pretty confident in that statement too. The Badgers hadn’t really played anyone of note at the time but given their undefeated record and where the other teams in the conference stood, it seems highly plausible.

Well, some things happened in week 11 of the season.

Ninth-ranked Washington chalked up a second loss to unranked Stanford. Auburn trucked number one Georgia and I don’t have a strong enough word to describe what Miami did to number three Notre Dame. Wisconsin still won the game against the 20th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes but something else happened.

Number 13 Ohio State but a 45-point beatdown on number 12 Michigan State. Suddenly Ohio State is back to the offensive powerhouse that put up more than 30 points against everyone but Iowa and Oklahoma. That loss against Iowa still doesn’t look very good but that loss to Oklahoma is looking better and better each week. The Sooners have dropped 50+ points on three different teams now.

So now we’ve got Ohio State occupying the ninth spot.

It’s not a great spot with only two weeks left in the season but suddenly, there is a path for the Buckeyes to get into the College Football Playoff. It’s a bit of a murky path but let’s take it.

Obviously, Ohio State needs to win both their upcoming games against Illinois and Michigan. If they lose either of those, the jig is up and we can forget about everything after this sentence. So the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume they win both of those. Illinois is a gimmie but Michigan could put up a fight but the Buckeyes should win.

So let’s look at the eight teams ahead of Ohio State right now:

Alabama

Clemson

Miami

Oklahoma

Wisconsin

Auburn

Georgia

Notre Dame

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

Notre Dame is basically done. Games against Navy and Stanford are left but what of the Fighting Irish’s spirit? Even with two wins, Notre Dame isn’t likely to move up much.

Georgia has only one shot: win the SEC title game. If the Bulldogs don’t bounce back against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, it’s all moot and can only help Ohio State. No matter what Georgia does, it helps clear the path for the Buckeyes.

Auburn’s basically in the same boat as Georgia. Ironically, it’s Alabama standing the ways of both of them. Win out and it’s even better for Ohio State.

Wisconsin is the most interesting of the remaining teams. Ohio State fans need to root for Wisconsin to win their remaining games but not by much. Michigan either needs to keep the game close or win it at the last second. Both scenarios should keep Wisconsin and Michigan ranked but the former will make Wisconsin an even more impressive conquest.

In the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State will need to do what it did the last time the two teams met. I was actually there and man, it got boring watching them smack Wisconsin all over the field. Trounce an undefeated or one-loss Wisconsin and Ohio State should see a good jump in the rankings.

Not a whole lot can be done about Oklahoma. The Sooners are tearing it up but every win by them makes their defeat of Ohio State more reasonable.

Thankfully Miami and Clemson are right next to each other because they’re going to take care of each other. They’re going to meet on December 2nd and only one will survive. You can already cross one of them off the list already.

Last but not least, there’s Alabama. They haven’t been super impressive but they’re most likely going to win out. As long as they don’t lose close in the SEC title game, they’re either in or out.

Lots going on here but that works in favor of Ohio State. Only one or two things need to go right and Ohio State to win out and suddenly we’ve got a different Big Ten team into the playoffs.

Considering the ups and downs of the Buckeye season, credit has to be given to Urban Meyer and his staff. It’d be the second time he’d suffered what should’ve been a season-crippling loss and still made the playoff.

And that’s why college football is the best.

Email Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

Image courtesy Flickr

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Texas Is Back, Folks…

…to bowl eligibility! For the first time since the 2014 season, Charlie Strong’s first year at Texas, the Longhorns are eligible to participate in college football’s bowl season. While this should be an insignificant accomplishment, it is far from it at this point.

With Texas’ win on the road at West Virginia, the Longhorns now sit with a 6-5 record with one home game remaining against Texas Tech the day after Thanksgiving. A chance to win seven games in the regular season hasn’t happened since Mack Brown’s final year as head coach. Again, the standards should be higher at Texas, but this is something fans should celebrate as improvement.

I finally saw one of the most complete games of the season for the Longhorns in all three phases of the game against West Virginia. Shane Buechele started the game at quarterback and moved the ball somewhat efficiently, but the Longhorns didn’t get on the scoreboard until Sam Ehlinger came in and finished the game from the second quarter on.

But the real difference was in the running game. Texas had three players average more than 7.0 yards per carry on a combined 28 attempts among those three (Ehlinger, Daniel Young and Kyle Porter). The team ran for 233 total yards, which is about 100 yards over their season average.

The difference maker? The return of All-American Connor Williams at left tackle.

Combine Williams’ return with the emergence of a new H-back role for Chris Warren III, and the Longhorns running game actually looked like something a decent football team would have. It’s the first time this year that I actually saw some promise for the unit against a decent opponent, and it seemed like Tom Herman finally found an offensive line combination that can work for the rest of the year.

There are still plenty of issues to clean up, but this was a team that looked like they gained more confidence with nearly every snap.

And let’s talk about the defense for a bit. I wrote last week that Texas needed to have a good game from cornerback Kris Boyd to have a shot at winning. Fans who watched the game didn’t hear Boyd’s name called much on Saturday, which means he did his job. He held West Virginia’s best receiver to two catches for 47 yards. Bravo, Boyd! Now continue to play up to your potential like that on a weekly basis.

Now, what does getting to a bowl game mean for Texas? It means the team gets 15 additional practices after the conclusion of their season on Friday. The more organized repetitions you can get for Ehlinger and some of the other young playmakers, the better off the program will be in the future.

It’s really not about the bowl game they’ll be playing in or their opponent. We know it’s not going to be a great game, and it’s going to be against another mid-tier team in another conference. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to win against Texas Tech and then go on to win the bowl game.

The prospects of winning eight games looked bleak just a couple weeks ago, but after pulling off the upset against West Virginia, it’s not out of the question now. Herman will be able to preach improvement all offseason long, players should have some newfound confidence and recruits will hopefully take notice.

Texas still has a long way to go to be considered “back” to national relevance, but qualifying for a bowl game is a big first step for a fragile program that has been struggling for years.

Photo: Pixabay

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Virginia Football, Still Looking for Win Number 7

For many Virginia fans, after qualifying for the first bowl game since 2011, the football program was playing with house money. Virginia was ahead of most every projection for wins in 2017. Many experts saw 5 wins as the mark of good progress and here Virginia sat with 6 wins and 3 games to play. This is the definition of “house money” and Virginia had nothing to lose the rest of the way, right?

I think not. Despite their performance against Louisville, I don’t think the team is thinking that way either. I didn’t see anyone on the sidelines that looked satisfied with the season to date, resting on their laurels waiting for the announcement of the formerly elusive bowl game destination.

Rolling into Saturday’s game, Louisville was due to put it all together. Unfortunately their best game of the season came against Virginia. Any team with Lamar Jackson is dangerous. He is an exceptional talent. Virginia fans will be glad to see a new quarterback in Scott stadium next year leading the Louisville program. However, everyone knew the Cardinals could produce on offense. The shocker on Saturday, and the driver of the win for Louisville, was the performance of their defense. A talented unit on paper, they had been shredded on multiple occasions in 2017, and as a result, Louisville was a surprising 5-4 heading into their match with Virginia.

While there have been many games over the years when obscure players and teams have had exceptional performances against Virginia, this was not one of those occasions. There was no excuse for Louisville’s defense to be ranked in the 80s among D1 (sorry, I still think in terms of D1, D2, & D3…not FBS & FCS) programs. There was too much talent on the sidelines for that kind of performance. Unfortunately for Virginia fans, the Cardinals’ defense put it all together against the Wahoos and the Cavs left Louisville with a convincing loss, and a record of 6-4. Virginia is still well above season expectations, but not lacking more than a dash of hope for a 7th win before Virginia learns its opponent and destination in the post-season bowl frenzy.

I don’t think Virginia was flat on Saturday against Louisville and I don’t think they were overly sloppy. Virginia just had one of those days when their opponents played very well and the Cavaliers were simply not up to the task. Remember Miami’s last game in the OB? Virginia won 48-0 against a Miami team that had far more future NFL players on the field at all times. Virginia steamrolled the Canes as Miami had one of “those games”.

Virginia has done a good job of putting tough losses behind them in 2017. Ugly losses against Indiana and Pitt have been followed by nice wins against UConn and Georgia Tech. This is a team that seems to have no memory. The past is the past and the next game = the most important game of the season. I credit the staff for building this culture and the players for executing in several tough circumstances.

After watching Miami dismantle Notre Dame this weekend, I am not going to call a Virginia win next week in Miami. However, I am going to predict that Virginia shows up next week well prepared and mentally ready to do what it takes to win, to fight until the final whistle, and possibly pull off the biggest surprise since their last blowout win in Miami.

Virginia might be playing with house money when looking at the “expert’s” predictions for the season. However, when I watch Virginia on the field, I see a team that is focused on nothing but win number 7, and after that win number 8.

What we saw against Louisville was the uncomfortable reality of a team rebuilding from the foundation up not a lackadaisical performance due to a sense of entitlement because a bowl game is in the cards. Unlike so many teams in the past decade, this Virginia team is focused and well-prepared and they win more than in the past..just not every week.

Texas’ Bowl Chances Could Rely On One Player

I understand a lot has happened this season and there are many reasons why Texas may or may not make a bowl game this season. However, with two games remaining and needing to win one of them, one player stands out to me as needing to step up: cornerback Kris Boyd.

For the casual followers of the Longhorns, I’ll tell you why he is more important now than he has been all year. Holton Hill was recently suspended for the rest of the season for a violation of team rules. Hill has been the best player on the Texas defense and has even been thought of as a potential first round NFL draft pick if he leaves school after the season as a junior. Unless you follow games closely, you may not have even heard of Hill, simply because opposing teams don’t throw the ball in his direction much. He’s been that good.

Now Kris Boyd has slid over into Hill’s role as the number one cornerback. Boyd has had a solid year, but he’s good for at least one blown coverage a game, and potentially a personal foul for a late hit or pass interference flag. There’s a lot of good and bad with Boyd, but now that he’s replacing Hill, there needs to be a lot more good.

Positive signs were not there against Kansas, who put up 27 points and over 350 yards of offense against a Texas defense that has been stout all season for the most part. The two remaining teams on the schedule, West Virginia and Texas Tech, have a lot better offenses than Kansas.

We all know Texas isn’t going to be able to win either of their upcoming games if they get into a shootout. They just aren’t equipped to score 30+ points against any team with an average defense. We are halfway through November and we still don’t know who’s going to start at quarterback any given week. That’s how bad things are.

Boyd hasn’t shown the ability to be a lockdown cornerback like Hill was. And with other key injuries to the Texas secondary, it doesn’t bode well for the defense to be able to shut down their remaining opponents like they’ve done other teams this season.

I expect the defense to be able to hang around with West Virginia and Texas Tech regardless, but the absence of Hill could prove to be the difference. Teams will now be more willing to throw to their primary receiver since Boyd can be exposed more easily than Hill could. The main thing with Boyd is he absolutely cannot give up the big play or have a critical penalty at a crucial time in the game.

So when you’re watching the game on Saturday, keep an eye out for #2 playing defense for the burnt orange and white. If you hear Boyd’s name called for positive things, Texas has a chance to win out. But if you hear similar things that have been said all season about Boyd getting flagged or blowing coverages, Texas could get shut out of a bowl for a third straight year.

Photo: Wikimedia

E-mail Chase at chas[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Help Us Wisconsin, You’re Our Only Hope

I don’t think people realize it but 2017 is the most Big Ten year in quite a while. Recently we’ve had years with multiple teams losing only one or two games and usually to each other. Now we’re back in the good old days when suddenly everyone’s got at least one or two losses and a lot of them from unexpected teams.

No one expected Michigan State to be taken out by Northwestern, let alone Iowa taking down not one but two top ten teams. Of course, no one expected the Hawkeyes to absolutely manhandle Ohio State that way either. So now what was perceived as Big Ten’s best two chances to make the College Football Playoffs in Penn State and Ohio State now both have two losses.

But what about Wisconsin?

To be honest, no one really likes to talk about the Big Ten West because it’s not very good. Only Wisconsin and Northwestern having winning conference records and Iowa joining them with overall winning records. When people talk about powerhouse Big Ten teams, they usually aren’t referring to this division.

However, Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team without a loss and currently occupying the number eight spot in the playoff rankings. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State are lurking in the background at spots 12, 13, 14 but can they catapult themselves back into the race? Michigan State and Ohio State still have to play each other so one of them is for sure out. Penn State has a cakewalk left so not really any chance to impress the playoff committee.

What it boils down to is that as it stands right now, Wisconsin is currently the best chance has to make the College Football Playoffs.

But can they get there?

In terms of getting to the Big Ten Championship, that’s almost a lock. Technically the Badgers only need to win one out of the remaining three games to get to Indianapolis but if only one game is won, this whole thing is probably moot.

Here’s the problem with Wisconsin: the Badgers have beaten no one.

Iowa comes to visit this Saturday and it will be the first ranked team that Wisconsin plays all season, possibly the only ranked team. That’s going to be Wisconsin’s biggest issue. Even if Michigan crawls back into the rankings somehow, the Wolverines are not going to crack the top 20. As of this moment, Wisconsin’s marquee win is Northwestern which will most likely be replaced by a home win against Iowa.

Presumably, the Badgers will make it to the Big Ten Championship but in what shape is their opponent going to be? No one is really quite sure of what to make of the three most likely opponents in Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State. Best case scenario is a 10-2 Michigan State that’s going to have wins over what will now be a devalued Ohio State and Penn State. Will a win over the Big Ten East Champion really carry a ton of weight?

The committee has already shown that undefeated records don’t mean much if you don’t beat anyone. That’s no more obvious than when you take note that there are three teams in the top ten, ahead of Wisconsin, with one loss. There are actually three teams in the top 25 with three losses right now. Three losses!

Right now… I don’t think Wisconsin can make it in and that means the Big Ten is going to get shut out for the first time.

Be honest with yourself for just a moment. Picture Wisconsin in your mind on a neutral field. Now imagine the Badgers playing against Georgia. Or Notre Dame. Or Oklahoma. How many teams in the top ten or even 15 can you look at and go “Yeah, Wisconsin will rough them up.” I personally would say none of them. The Badgers don’t really seem to have that desire or ability to crush those who stand in their path like say a TCU or Oklahoma. Wisconsin is solid but not fantastic.

And to go to the playoffs, let alone win, solid isn’t enough.

Email Tim at tim [dot] bach [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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