Tag Archives: Art Briles

Top Five Coaching Jobs in College Football

Ranking things is difficult.  The first step in ranking anything is deciding what the criteria should be.  This is often the root of any disagreement that stems from an attempt to develop a hierarchy.

If nothing else, I’d like us all to, at least, come close to an agreement upon what makes a college football head coaching job attractive.

It boils down to five categories: prestige (history), winning (chance of success), culture (fan base), challenge (building from scratch), and leeway (free rein to do it your way).

Now, people are going to value each of these to different degrees.  For example, if you’re a person who wants to start with next to nothing and build up your program, chances are you won’t be doing it at a prestigious football school.  Those opportunities just don’t come around often.

Considering these five categories, here’s the five most desirable head coaching jobs in college football.

Warning: This list is not going to be a simple rundown of the top programs in the country.  Remember, prestige is only one of the criteria here.

Number Five: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

You think I’m crazy, but hear me out.

There is little winning history at Hawaii other than an undefeated 2007 regular season, which the Warriors followed up with a 41-10 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  Win a New Year’s Day bowl game and you’ve just completed the program’s best season ever.  There’s no serious pressure, as long as you finish .500 or above people will be thrilled with the performance.

Winning right away at Hawaii would be tough.  Recruiting would involve a ton of travel, but after establishing yourself as a serious place to come play football it shouldn’t be too hard to convince the west coast’s best high school players to come spend four years at a vacation destination.  Once you’ve done that take a look at your conference competition.  Boise State is the only speedbump on that road.

The culture surrounding Hawaii football isn’t notable, mostly because the wins haven’t been there.  It takes a diehard to genuinely root for a team that rarely wins anything significant.  The locals don’t strike me as people who would waste their time following a loser.

The challenge and the leeway categories are why you take the job at Hawaii.  As mentioned in the history section, there’s hardly any precedent or much to work with.  This is a good thing though.  It’s a blank slate with which you colt-brennan-hawaiican try out pretty much anything you’d like.  I don’t expect anyone to complain too much, as long as you can prove your method works.  The only way to do that is by winning.

You want to take the job in Hawaii because expectations are low and there’s nothing but room for improvement.  There’s only one team in your conference that will perennially give you trouble.  Your team wears some of the sharpest-looking jerseys around.  You get to live in Hawaii.  And the toughest part of the gig would be trying to convince high school kids to come play their ball in a literal paradise.  I’ll take that challenge.

Number Four: Baylor Bears

Baylor hasn’t been this good in thirty years.  The Bears have won the last two Big 12 championships (2014 title shared with TCU).  Other than those trophies, there’s not much to speak of.

They’re coming into this season as a favorite to make it to the playoff.  Their chance of winning right away is the best on this list.

20259246_BG1If you won a national championship, Baylor fans will love you forever.  Texans live and die with their football teams, even in the eastern part of the state.

The Bears don’t need to be built from the bottom.  They’re already near the top.  This is the biggest plus about the Baylor job.

For the most part, Art Briles has been left to his own devices since taking over the Baylor program in 2008.  As is the case with Hawaii (and every other job for that matter) if you win you tend to get your way.

You want to hop on the Baylor train right now because the program is on the rise.  You could argue they’re the most underrated team of the past five years, despite choking in bowl games.  The Bears had a great season in 2014, and are poised to make another run at winning it all.  You want that job.

Number Three: Miami Hurricanes

We’ve all seen the four letter network’s documentary film on The U in the 80s (if you haven’t, I recommend it).  The football history is evident.  That would be a cool tradition to be a part of.

The Hurricanes need help with getting back to the winning part of their BCS Playofftradition.  They haven’t won a national championship since 2001.  14 years is a long time to wait for a team that won five title in 18 years from 1983-2001.  They haven’t even won a bowl game in five tries since 2006.

The culture, like the history, can’t really be questioned when it comes to Miami.  They love their football in Florida too, and with many of the top high schoolers staying in-state to play it becomes that much more interesting.

Taking over Miami football, at this point, is a daunting challenge.  There’s been a thick cloud of mediocrity encapsulating the program for years as everyone tries to figure out the Nevin Shapiro situation.

Politics seem like they play a big part in Coral Gables culture.  You could end up having significant pressure coming from the administration and the community.  Many have trouble behaving themselves in Miami.  You’ll surely have to deal out a degree of discipline to your players.

How fun would it be to bring back The U?  That’s about all you’d have to say.  Recruiting almost takes care of itself.  Like Hawaii, once you’ve got your players you get to the fun part of winning some games.  You can put yourself in the history books while restoring a once-great program.

Number Two: UCLA Bruins

Jim MoraThe powder blue tops and the gold accommodations make for the cleanest look in major college football, big plus.  Recently, under Jim Mora, the Bruins have been on an upward trend.  They’ve played in a bowl game three straight seasons, winning the last two

They’re part of a crowded Pac-12 South that looks like it’ll be the best division in college football this season.  They’ll contend, but their work is cut out for them with tough competition throughout the conference.

Playing six home games per season at the Rose Bowl would be supremely cool.  The atmosphere speaks for itself.

The Bruins aren’t far behind Baylor in terms of being ready to win now without too much work needed first.  UCLA will start the season ranked somewhere in the teens with Baylor in the top 10.

Thinking about working toward overshadowing USC would be more than enough to get me out of bed every day.  An inter-city rivalry is rare in college.  Playing for the bragging rights to Los Angeles is the biggest perk of the UCLA job.

Number One: Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols haven’t had a double-digit-win season since 2007.  The program won a vast majority of their games during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, but has really fallen off since, with losing records in all but two of their last seven seasons.

Butch Jones has convinced some top recruits to finally believe in UT again.  The players are there, now it’s time for them to prove their worth.  Tennessee is my team to watch this season (says just about everyone).  They have the potential to win some games this year.

Baylor fans would love you for bringing them a championship.  Tennessee fans would worship you.  A vast majority of the fan base has only seen their most recent national championship back in ’98.  Neyland Stadium still sells out routinely, despite the team’s struggles.  Vol fans crave a title like your dog craves people food (and they don’t have your kid sister slipping them pieces of steak under the table).

Tennessee-neyland-stadium

All the challenge and leeway you can handle are both in Knoxville.  The team hasn’t won anything in a long time and the powers that be are ready to try almost anything to end the drought.

If you’re coaching Tennessee right now you’ve finally got some players on campus.  There’s room to build your own way and a passionate fan base that’s yearning to burst into celebration mode.  Things are looking up at UT and you’d be lucky to be a part of it.

The Crossroads: It’s Time, Marcus Mariota

The final week of the first playoff regular season is perfection. The Top 7 teams will be in action. With the exception of TCU’s layup against Iowa, the other six will play teams ranked no lower than 16. There are a million possible outcomes. Do you really think the Top 4 are going to win and we smoothly enter the semifinals?

Since it’s The Crossroads for everyone, we’re going to examine who is facing the most pressure this week for the Top 7 teams. We’ll add in Boise State, who will cap a wild Saturday by playing for the elusive Group of Five bid at 10 p.m. on CBS. I mean, if these games don’t get you excited, why are you watching college football? And why the heck are you reading this?

Alabama’s secondary

Yes, the Alabama offense was incredible in the Iron Bowl. Yes, the defense eventually made stops. And yes, the game was over early in the fourth quarter. That doesn’t change the fact Auburn had everything rolling for three quarters and if not for red zone troubles in the first half, may have sprinted out to a big enough lead to hold on.

The main culprit? A secondary that kept getting beat. They didn’t play poorly at times but Auburn wide receivers kept making big play after big play. The Tide is heavily favored to dispatch Missouri in the Georgia Dome Saturday afternoon but so was Tennessee….and so was Texas A&M….and so was Arkansas. Missouri hasn’t gotten an ounce of respect for a month straight yet they won’t lose.

If Missouri has any chance, they will have to follow their game plan in last year’s SEC Title Game – namely, through the ball deep and test the secondary. It is likely Alabama’s only weakness. It is definitely Missouri’s only chance

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

If you’ve been reading me this year, you know I have not boarded the Mariota for Heisman bandwagon. He may be the best quarterback in the country and I would love to see him piloting my Jets next year on Sundays. But I still can’t get the image of him being stripped to end the Arizona game out of my head.

Lo and behold, he gets his revenge game. If Mariota puts up the type of numbers that he has since that game, then Oregon wins the Pac-12, rolls into Pasadena on New Year’s Day and Mariota wins the Heisman in a landslide. But what if he doesn’t? Arizona, for whatever reason, has completely and totally owned Mariota the past two years. What if they do it again?

Simply put, everything is on the line for Mariota with potentially no in-between. With a loss, the Ducks certainly won’t make the playoff. With a loss – depending on Melvin Gordon’s performance later that night – he could lose the Heisman. The Friday night spotlight will be shining bright on Mariota. If he is as good as he has looked for the past six weeks, it shouldn’t be a problem.

TCU coach Gary Patterson

This is the type of game a coach dreads. TCU is a massive favorite over hopelessly overmatched Iowa State. They have just been moved to #3 in the playoff rankings. They do what they are supposed to do and they move on to the semifinals.

To assume they will is to ignore so much recent history. Remember USC gagging away a title game slot in 2006 to a mediocre UCLA team? Remember West Virginia losing at home, beyond all rational thought, to a 4-7 Pitt team with everything on the line in 2007? Or how about just last week when Baylor needed to escape against Texas Tech or the week before when Ohio State nearly stumbled at home against Indiana?

Make no mistake: TCU should annihilate Iowa State. The problem is that they have to. Will the Kansas escape serve as motivation? Or did they put too much into last week’s beatdown of Texas? If the game is close – only Gary Patterson will be blamed.

Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Obviously, right? He just played the worst game of his career and Florida State escpaed yet again. Whenever the Seminoles play, all the focus is on Jameis. It’s crazy to think he has never lost as a starting quarterback in college yet they feel incredibly vulnerable.

Is this the week it finally ends? If Florida State falls behind, Georgia Tech will gladly deflate the football and run til the clock hits zero. Jameis is the leader of this team but we have rarely seen him at his best in 2014. Have all the distractions, allegations and investigations finally caught up with him?

Ohio State’s front seven

If I’m Urban Meyer, I am petrified and it has nothing to do with Cardale Jones at quarterback. As impressive as J.T. Barrett has been, it feels like the Ohio State offense could thrive with anyone under center. After they figured out the protection issues after the Virginia Tech game, the offense has been quite literally unstoppable. Wisconsin is not a great defensive team. There is no reason to think Ohio State won’t score at least 28 points.

The problem is how many they give up. Michigan – not known for its offensive prowess – ran for 121 yards. The week prior, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman ran for 228 yards and 3 TDs.  The week before that, Minnesota’s David Cobb ran for 145 yards and 3 TDs. If you ask me, that’s a giant red flag and a bad trend going into a game against the nation’s best running back in Melvin Gordon. But that’s just me.

Baylor coach Art Briles

Baylor has had a knack over the past two years of losing at the most inopportune time. The Oklahoma State game. The Fiesta Bowl. The road trip to West Virginia. Baylor’s last three losses have all come as big favorites. The difference Saturday night is they get Kansas State at home with a massive ESPN spotlight to make a final push to show the committee why the deserve a Top 4 spot.

If you had to ask me to choose between Art Briles and Bill Snyder to win one game, I’d choose the latter every time. Can Briles prove me wrong and finally win the big one?

Arizona LB Scooby Wright

In fairness, I should put the entire Arizona defense here because their ability to confuse and frustrate the Ducks the past two years has been unmatched. But Wright is the flash point. He’s the guy who stripped Mariota. He’s the guy that is the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year and probably the best defender in the nation.

If Arizona wants to pull off a remarkable hat trick of Oregon wins, Wright has to play another spectacular game.

Boise State QB Grant Hedrick

Of all the teams playing important games – and that includes TCU – no team should win as easily as Boise State. The Broncos host 6-6 Fresno State and a win sends them to the Fiesta Bowl. In RB Jay Ajayi, the Broncos could run the ball 50 times and win easy. Indeed, there is only one way the Broncos lose – if Grant Hedrick reverts to early-season form and plays poorly. That’s it. As long as Hedrick plays even close to his recent form, it will be a cakewalk. But if he doesn’t…

The Selection Committee

They have appeared to be unafraid of criticism. They have stuck to their buzzwords like game control and important metrics like strength of schedule. They have the undefeated, defending national champion ranked #4. They don’t seem to care about the TCU/Baylor head-to-head matchup.

When the semifinals are announced Sunday afternoon, the committee’s decision will be heavily scrutinized. Will they stick to their guns? Will they be decisive? Will they limit the controversy or make it worse?

The calls for an 8-team playoff have already begun – some, including myself, believe a 16-team playoff is inevitable. How this first year plays out will determine whether the current four-team iteration is here to stay or a short-time interloper.

The College Quickie: Dynasty Mode

DYNASTY MODE

Pat Forde published an enlightening article the other day in regards to Florida AD Jeremy Foley and where he saw his Florida Gator football program. The scene was the 2010 Sugar Bowl and then coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow had just polished off the Cincinnati Bearcats. Forde had just published an article where he focused his thoughts on Urban Meyer stepping down as coach and what that would mean to the Gator program. In Forde’s opinion, the Dynasty was over.

Jeremy Foley offered Forde some Gator-centric criticism of the article and told Forde:

“This is not the last night of the Florida dynasty,” Foley said, friendly but firm. “I guarantee you that.”

Clearly, Foley believed he was playing the game in dynasty mode. In reality he is playing the game in rookie mode.

Foley had hit a home run with the hiring of Urban Meyer. In 6 full seasons, Meyer amassed a record of 65-15. His time spent in Gainesville included two national championships. What Foley hit with Muschamp was a broken bat fielder’s choice.

Whoever is hired by the Florida Gators has to win. Period. He doesn’t necessarily have to win in dynasty mode, but he does have to win in experienced mode. Everyone else has offered their list of who should be considered, so here is mine.

WHO GETS A ROSE?

Art Briles

Briles is 52-33 at Baylor. His defenses are good enough and his offenses are top notch. If Foley is serious about installing a capable offense, Briles must be called. The question is, would Briles listen?

We could call Briles the Yellow Rose Of Texas. He IS Texas. He was born in Texas. He played his college ball at Houston, he coached high school ball in Texas, he was an assistant coach and head coach at Texas universities. I think you get the picture. The man has never lived outside of Texas. At least not that I am aware of. Would the lure of the SEC be enough to pull him away? I don’t know, but he’s worth a call.

Mike Gundy

Yea, i’m staying in the Big 12. LSU has done quite well for itself with former Oklahoma St. coach Les Miles. Could another Cowboy head east and find success in the SEC?

For starters, it has been rumored for years that Gundy’s attitude was on the disgruntled side at his alma mater. He has spent 10 years as the Cowboy head coach and this has been his only head coaching gig. In that time, Gundy is 82-43. Definitely a successful career. As I right about Gundy as a potential candidate, Vegas is listing him as the odds on favorite to be hired by Foley and the Gators. In the end, the question may be this: Is T. Boone Pickens willing to go all in to keep his head coach?

Brian Schottenheimer

Every good head coaching search needs that from-out-in-left-field candidate that sort of makes sense but doesn’t really make sense. Brian Schottenheimer fills that role for me. Schottenheimer spent 1994-1996 as the Gator’s backup quarterback for Steve Spurrier. In that time, the Gators won 1 national championship. Was he a vital component to that championship? No. But he does understand what it takes to win at Florida.

Schottenheimer fits Foley’s offensive minded criteria. He has spent 15 years as an NFL assistant coach with the past 9 years as an offensive coordinator. Schottenheimer is currently the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. Remember what the Rams just did? They beat the Denver Broncos. And this wasn’t a Brady/Manning showdown. It was a Davis/Manning showdown. My point? Schottenheimer can turn rust into gold when it comes to nurturing a quarterback and an offense. He might, MIGHT, be able to put a shine on Jeff Driskel and an anemic offense.

WHO GETS THE LAST ROSE

OK. I’m going to take the easy way out and not offer an opinion on who I think Foley hires. If I were in Foley’s shoes and making a hire that would make or break my career as the AD at Florida, I would go with Gundy.

Gundy is old enough to be a man, but still young enough to have the energy to put out a dumpster fire.

From the Tiger to the Bears

Tiger Ellison

Since Tiger Ellison’s legendary creation, the Run-and-Shoot Offense, was architected in 1958, it would be a gross understatement to suggest that mere “bits and pieces” of it exist today, even at the highest levels of American football. In this article, I argue that what is currently taking place in Waco, TX is as important to the shaping of football’s future as the forward pass did back when it was first tried legally more than 100 years ago.

While it’s very true that other spread-no-huddle offenses like the Auburn Tigers, Oregon Ducks, Oklahoma Sooners, etc bear very strong similarities to the Ellison creation, Art Briles has almost literally replicated it, albeit in a slightly altered facsimile out of the shotgun formation.

Briles’ roots as an offensive guru stem back to his days as an assistant coach at Sweetwater High School in the Northwest Texas region in the early 1980’s. It was there that Briles began to mold himself as a Veer coach, believe it or not. At the age of 28, he was named the head coach at Hamlin High School, where he took this Veer concept, which had been established by Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston nearly a decade earlier, and built a juggernaut. Initially, Hamlin was destined to be a Veer team throughout Briles’ tenure, but he had a revelation. As he explained in an interview with SB Nation, “my first year there, we had a great football team, ran the split-back veer, went 13-0-1. In the second year, I saw that if you got deep in the playoffs, you’re gonna face people with talent just as good or better than yours. So what I looked for was an edge, something different; so in ’85 we went to the one-back, for wides and went 14-1.”

That mid-tenure transition would be replicated in his stint at Stephenville. A lot is misunderstood about that/those transition(s), however. To this day, Briles kept to the same principles of the Veer running game. The only difference was that, at Stephenville, his team was running these plays out of the shotgun in spread formations instead of using the quarterback under center with a full house in the backfield. The only real changes made, both at Hamlin and Stephenville, was the frequency and style of the passing game.

With his seemingly newfound love for the forward pass, his mentality shifted dramatically towards the concept of option routes…well at least as they’re traditionally understood. To further understand this distinction, one has to bear in mind yet another fact about Briles’ offense: there is no playbook. As Briles explained, “a guy’s not going to read or study [a playbook]. Kids play video games, so we show them the plays on video. Everything is on an iPad, and we label it and number them. A playbook is something we don’t do. I’m a visual learner, and people learn differently. If you can see something, you remember it. If you read it and try to interpret it, it’s a little different. We do a lot of repetition on the field so guys can learn it.”

Though this does not in and of itself mean Baylor runs option routes in its passing game, this mentality has its effects. They have base plays and constraint plays, to be sure, and they have plays that contradict each other. Any fluid offense possesses these attributes. But when you’re a coach and “everything is visual,” that means you have to retool as a season progresses. In fact, you have to retool in the middle of games. Hardly anything you do in Week 1 will look exactly that way in Week 12. In the spread, the game is about attacking the weakness of the defense. In addition, it’s well understood that a lot of what Baylor does in the passing game has to do with sending at least two, if not three, receivers on deep routes. One would be naïve to believe that even the bulk of those plays, let alone all of them, don’t allow for the deep receivers to adjust based on what they see in front of them.

In essence, Briles is running the option nearly every play. The Bears have plays where the quarterback can either check out of a run and throw a screen, check out of a run and throw a quick hitch, drop back and throw to a couple of people who could be in different spots based on what he sees, and they also have the inside mesh concept (commonly referred to as the “zone read” by sportscasters). With the kind of athletes the Bears are recruiting, it’s no wonder why they were averaging 60+ points per game for a large part of the 2013 season.

One of the greatest attributes that makes the deep passing game work for Baylor so well is their play action game, which is by far the best ever seen in a college offense. Baylor’s play action game is not built like a classic spread team, which is usually just based on a fake quick draw. There are those who believe that the key to selling play action is the quarterback selling the fake hand off. This has its benefits, to be sure, but the real benefit happens before that. It begins with the offensive line moving as if to suggest a run. When play action fails, it’s usually because the team in question is faking a draw (i.e. selling the pass already) and the draw hasn’t presented itself as a threatening play to the defense. Baylor rarely blocks with standard drop protection on play action. Most likely what they’ll do is pull a guard, stretch block, slip a back into the flat, etc. They literally have a play fake off every running play they have, and that’s quite an arsenal in itself. Bill Walsh said it best regarding play action when he said “the Play-Pass is the one fundamentally sound football play that does everything possible to contradict the basic principles of defense. I truly believe it is the single best tool available to take advantage of a disciplined defense. By using the play-pass as an integral part of your offense you are trying to take advantage of a defensive team that is very anxious very intense and very fired-up to play football. The play-pass is one of the best ways to cool all of that emotion and intensity down because the object of the play-pass is to get the defensive team to commit to a fake run and then throw behind them. Once you get the defensive team distracted and disoriented, they begin to think about options and, therefore, are susceptible to the running game.”

Walsh’s framework is perhaps the most fundamental reason Baylor’s offense thrives like it does: it has an ethos, but they can adjust the order in which said ethos plays out. If a defense wants to commit to stopping the Bears’ running game first with a base defense, they’ll get beat over the top. If the opposition wants to play against the pass early in the game, Baylor will run up the middle in a variety of ways. If they want to load the box and/or blitz, they’ll get destroyed by the screen and short passing game.

But Walsh uttered these words decades after Tiger Ellison made his much larger mark on the game of offensive football. Ellison said of the play action, and about his offense in general, “we made every pass look like a run and every run look like a pass. Offenses that pass from a pocket split their attack into two phases-their running game and their passing game. The setting up of the quarterback in the pocket screams “Pass” to every defender on the field. Even though pocket-passing teams often fake the ball to a runner before setting up in the pocket, still the fake wards off detection for only a moment, after which all defenders spring into anti-aircraft action. The Run and Shoot offense did not split its attack–it was just one game, running and passing performed anywhere anytime with no distinguishing clue to signal run or pass.”

It’s for these reasons I argue that Ellison’s revolution, which began 55 years ago, is in motion (pun intended) faster than ever and that with the increased implementation of safety rules, various deviations of Ellison and Briles’ schemes will be centerpieces of every single football team at every level, as well they should be. In my view, football is not about lining up and pummeling the guy in front of you. Does that help? Yes, but it’s not the prime directive. The prime directive is to score more points than the other team. In my view, no one understands this reality better than Art Briles.

Big XII Year In Review

There are actually ten teams in the Big XII, and we’re just going to have to get over it.

Big-12-logo_medium

To think this conference almost died three years ago would have been a crying shame.  They’ve given us some pretty good football since Larry Scott almost gutted the meat and potatoes of this league to go the Cali-forny Way in a potential 16-team Pacific Coast super-conference, and it’s had very little to do with that school in Austin.  Well, they didn’t need the University of Texas to hold their own on the field, but it took the ridiculousness that is ESPN’s partnership with the school to keep 19 year-old conference glued together for this long.

That’s all in the past, though it doesn’t mean that they’ve been unaffected by conference expansion in Big XII country.  Four of its charter members have sought greener pastures, while only two have been replaced.  Only Colorado, one of Scott’s six targets (the others were Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State) made the jump to the old Pac-10, but Texas A&M and Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference, while Nebraska found a new home in the Big 10…which now has 12 teams.  Again, get over it.

In 2011, Oklahoma State had a clear path to a national championship appearance until a missed field goal on a Friday night in Ames, Iowa knocked them off course.  The next year, with A&M and Mizzu off to the SEC, West Virginia and Texas Christian (TCU) were the new kids on the block.  The new guys found that they actually would have to be in Kansas every now and again, and found themselves towards the basement of their new digs.  Speaking of Kansas, Kansas State to be specific, the school in Manhattan, Kansas had their sights set on a National Championship berth, but a night in Waco, Texas suggested that it was not to be for the Wildcats.

That brings us to 2013, and a new dawn in the Big XII.  Were we really thinking Baylor, two years removed from Robert Griffin III and a year removed from Nick Florence, could win this conference?  Hell, when the chips began to fall, we were actually thinking the final BCS National Championship might actually pit the Baylor Bears in the 16-year series final game, while a traditional favorite like Ohio State would be left out.  That was all in theory and on paper, after all the games were played, the guess-work was easy, if not non-existent.

However, the 2013 story of this conference runs much deeper than getting a team to Pasadena.  You could throw away the chalk.  This particular season could have served as a thesis for, “that’s why they play the games.”

Any Given Saturday

Iowa State, Kansas, West Virginia, and TCU were all denied the opportunity to go bowling, unless they were renting shoes at the local Brunswick house.  None of them won more than two conference games on a nine-game schedule, and even with the benefit of an FCS opponent on each of their schedules, these four schools couldn’t eclipse the four-win mark on the year.  In Iowa State’s case, the FCS opponent wasn’t a given; the Panthers of Northern Iowa defeated the Cyclones in Ames by a count of 28-20.  Even West Virginia trailed William & Mary by 10 at the half, before a second-half comeback.  But, you didn’t want to commit yourself to yard-work when these teams were in action; they had some fight in them, and yes, that even includes the hapless Kansas Jayhawks.

Charlie Weis, the place you start most arguments against hiring off the Bill Belichick Coaching Tree, had only one win in his first season in Lawrence, against South Dakota from the FCS ranks, so naturally Kansas invited another team from South Dakota in 2013, South Dakota State this time.  Weis was able to double his win total from 2012 with a 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech, a team that finished 4-8 in the mighty Conference USA.

Weis had his Any Given Saturday on November 16th, while playing host to West Virginia and NFL running back prospect Charles Sims.  It was a day for Sims to dominate, just not for Charles, who was held to 99 yards, while James Sims ran for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 31-19 win to snap a 27-game Big XII losing streak for Kansas.  The fans stormed the field and tore down goal posts in the lone bright spot for the Jayhawks in Big XII play.  In their other eight conference games, all losses, they were outscored by an average of 39-12.

Iowa State did not start well; there was the aforementioned loss to Northern Iowa, followed by a rivalry loss to another in-state rival, Iowa, before finally getting in the win column at Tulsa in Week 3.   One might make an argument for the Cyclones showing in a 31-30 loss, a game Texas won with a Case McCoy touchdown run and Anthony Fera’s subsequent extra point with 51 seconds left, on October 3rd as Iowa State’s big surprise of the year.  However, a lot of people might have expected Texas to go down on this Thursday night at Jack Trice Stadium, given how low everyone’s opinion of them was at that point; not to mention, I’m not getting into Any Given Thursday in this space.

If you want to polish a turd, go ahead, but that loss was the beginning of an 0-7 conference record; even Kansas had a win with a victory over West Virginia the week before these titans would clash in Ames on November 23rd.  For Kansas, a 34-0 was essentially par for the course; for Iowa State, this was a big win, but not quite their “Any Given Saturday” moment.

With neither team going bowling, with balls weighing less than 14 pounds anyway, Iowa State’s finale in Morgantown was a game played purely for pride.  In what is surely a far cry from the old Backyard Brawl they used to play with Pittsburgh in the Big East, as far as finales go, West Virginia gave the home crowd plenty to be proud about early, and looked to be finishing the season on a good note after a 76-yard Charles Sims touchdown run put them up 31-7 early in the 2nd quarter.

Obviously, we’re still talking about the Cyclones, so you probably know where this is going.  It’s going towards great moments in hook-up history, featuring Grant Rohach and Quenton Bundrage.  On the ensuing drive, Rohach, whose 54-yard 1st quarter touchdown run represented Iowa State’s only points of the day to that point, found Bundrage for a 10-yard scoring strike that narrowed the gap to 31-14 before the half.  After a scoreless third quarter, the teams traded touchdowns early in the game’s final frame.  The Cyclones found themselves down 17 once again when Rohach and Bundrage connected again, this time for 62 yards and the score, making it 38-28 in favor of the Mountaineers.  Then, it was time for Rohach to move on from Bundrage, who finished with 7 grabs for 93 yards to go along with his touchdown receptions.

With a minute left in regulation, Rohach, who finished the day with 331 yards with his arm, hit Justin Coleman to tie the game at 38, prolonging the 2013 season for both of these teams for at least one more possession apiece.  They did nothing but trade field goals for two consecutive overtime periods, but Iowa State wasted no time the third time around.

On the first play of Triple Overtime, Rohach hit Coleman, who had five catches for 91 yards, for the touchdown, then made the required two-point conversion attempt to go up 52-44.  West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett nearly equaled what his Iowa State counterpart did, but Charles Sims was pushed out of bounds at 3 in the “home half” of the third OT.  Despite having four tries, nor Trickett or Sims could find the end zone, and the game ended when Daikiel Shorts was pushed out of bounds at the 3 after a reception.  That was the end of the season for both squads; one elated, the other devastated.

Hold on, if West Virginia stunk so much, and they did finish 4-8, what’s so signature about those wins for Weis and Rhodes?  I guess goes back to late September, when the Mountaineers hosted a man with a gaggle of players well under the age of 40 from Stillwater, Oklahoma.  A win over Mississippi State, UT-San Antonio, and Lamar had earned the Cowboys the #11 spot in the polls, but no poll wanted any part of Dana Holgorsen’s team that was thumped 37-0 by Maryland in Baltimore a week earlier.

Clint Trickett would be West Virginia’s third quarterback in five games, but Trickett was no stranger to the clipboard after transferring from Florida State, where he was EJ Manuel’s understudy.  So, he hadn’t played since mop-up duty in October 2011.  He completed less than 50% of his passes and was intercepted twice versus one touchdown, but it was all about the West Virginia defense slowing down JW Walsh, Oklahoma State’s dynamic quarterback.

Walsh did have three touchdowns in the game, but the visiting team trailed 24-14 at the half, and his scoring strike to Josh Seaton closed the gap to 24-21, but that would conclude the scoring for the Cowboys in their first Big XII contest of the season.  A pair of Josh Lambert field goals, the second coming inside of the two-minute mark made it a two possession game, giving Holgorsen his only signature victory of the season.

Finding a signature win of any sort for TCU, a team that has struggled in their three years away from The Little Sisters of the Poor (the Mountain West Conference), was difficult, if not impossible, in 2013.   Their four victories came against Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Methodist, and the aforementioned dregs of the Big XII; at least West Virginia knocked off a big boy on the national scene, adding value to anyone who took them down.

TCU took the Titans of Appalachia to OT at home, but West Virginia pulled out a 30-27 win on the road.  I think they deserve more credit for giving Baylor all they could handle in a game Baylor had to have to keep themselves alive for a conference championship.  They still lost 41-38.  However, this was not a season without some mitigating circumstances for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs.  After missing the 2012 season to personal problems, quarterback Casey Pachall was sidelined for five games with a broken arm in 2013, forcing Patterson to play some depth chart musical chairs with athlete Trevone Boykin assuming the duties.

If it’s Brown…

As I’ve mentioned, time starts and stop with what’s going on in Austin, Texas.  I don’t want to take anything away from the heroics of Vince Young, financial statements notwithstanding, or even Colt McCoy, but I don’t know when the expectations for the Longhorns reached the level of some mythical place where Mack Brown isn’t allowed to lose any games, like ever.  So, 5-7 isn’t where you’re supposed to be if you’re Texas; when that happened in 2010, it was the Longhorns’ first losing season since 1997, but they’ve lived in that 8-9 win range ever since.

This season, after poor showings against Ole Miss and BYU, angry mobs carried torches through the streets of Austin demanding Brown’s head on a platter—okay, not really, but they wanted him out.  I suppose that’s fair, but I’m not sure what part of that entitled them to the services of Nick Saban.  I know that all it would take for some people is a two or three Brinks trucks backing up to their front door, but Saban has money.  And right now, he has the University of Alabama football program under his charge; somehow, I believe that’s more priceless than all of the brisket in Texas.

The way things were made out to be after a 3-2 start, it was as if Mack Brown were somehow sabotaging the program.  Nobody gave him a chance in the Red River Shootout at the Cotton Bowl against Big Game Bob and his Sooners, but I guess this is why they play the games.  It was, in fact, Oklahoma that stood no chance at the Texas State Fair’s Main Event.  Aided by a good start that got them out to a 20-3 lead in the second quarter, Texas simply looked like the better team than #12 Oklahoma on this day.

Case McCoy was efficient, despite throwing a 4th quarter pick-six, which brought the Sooners back to within two possessions at 36-20, a score that held up until the final gun.  He did need to do anything special with the way his backs were running the ball; Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards.  While Brown was starting to find answers, questions were being raised up in Norman.  Blake Bell struggled mightily, and the Sooners offense converted just 2-of-13 third downs.

They’d go on to win six straight Big XII games in all, the sixth being 47-40 overtime thriller at West Virginia, before dropping three of their last four games, in what turned out to be Brown’s final season in Austin.  They did this, despite getting a new athletic director in-season and having to avoid the writing on the wall about their head coach’s fate.  Sure, there’s nothing good about a 1-3 finish, but do consider the 3 came at the hands of #10 Oklahoma State, #9 Baylor, and #12 Oregon.  In the end, it was Charlie Strong from Louisville, and not Saban, who was brought in to prove that Texas is indeed too good for 4 and 5 loss seasons.

By the way, Texas finished the regular season in Waco, with a chance to win a conference title.  Art Briles and the Baylor Bears weren’t about to let that happen in the swan song for Floyd Casey Stadium, but after all of the scrutiny, Brown brought home a 7-2 conference record, and had his team in a “win and you’re in” (the Fiesta Bowl) scenario.

Snyder of Manhattan

Every time I’m out in Goodyear, Arizona, the spring home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, I’m teased by the Synder of Hanover building.  And, it’s not that I so much that I have a problem with pretzels as I’m reminded that I’m time zones away from Snyder of Berlin and those delicious barbeque chips that answered many a snack cravings as a child.  Okay, where was I going?  That’s right; it’s Bill Snyder and the 2013 Kansas State Wildcats.

While they’re talking about doing better than Mack Brown at Texas, someday Kansas State is going to have to do something other than Bill Snyder with their football program.  Snyder is 74, and has served as the Wildcats head coach for 22 years, albeit non-consecutive years.  If the next guy doesn’t work out for them, I’m not sure another un-retirement is in the cards, but who’s talking about retirement?

A year removed from a Fiesta Bowl appearance, an occurrence that’s become more regular than it ought to be for the school in the Little Apple, the Wildcats had a rough start out of the gate, losing to an FCS school.  Never you mind the small fact that North Dakota State won the Division I Playoff, the FCS stigma still remains.  After that, they did drop four games, only to the league’s Top 4 teams, but they returned to Arizona and finished on a good note, shellacking Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (can I still just say BW3?) by a score of 31-14.

Off the Kliff

We knew something would have to give in the Big XII, especially if Texas wasn’t as bad as we believed them to be in September.  There just wasn’t enough room at the table for everyone, even with A&M long gone, if Baylor was really going to insist on a spot at the adult table.

In a decision that may very well have been based on the availability of grilled cheese on glazed donuts on Tom + Chee, Tommy Tuberville left Lubbock for the potentially greener pastures of Cincinnati, Ohio.  That left Kliff Kingsbury, who played quarterback at Texas Tech only a few years ago, but was more recently credited with the fast development of Johnny Manziel at A&M, to take over a Red Raiders program that’s fallen a long way since they dismissed Mike Leach.

They got out to a 7-0 start, which earned them a #10 ranking, but a non-conference slate of SMU, Stephen F Austin, and Texas State probably never instilled fear into the hearts of men.  Now, I never like to say a team got “exposed” because they hit a gauntlet in their schedule; Tech had to play the Top 5 teams in the final Big XII standings in consecutive weeks, and they lost them all.

They went to Oklahoma, hosted Oklahoma State and Kansas State, played a neutral site game with Baylor, and then lost 41-16 in Austin.  There’s only score to be read there, but it tells the tale of the entire losing streak; the offense scored no more than 34 points in any game of the losing streak, while the defense allowed no fewer than 38 in any of those games.

They drew Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, which was an underwhelming draw for the Sun Devils if you ask people who support the Pac-12 runners up, but Texas Tech dismissed all perceptions with a relatively dominating performance.  Davis Webb threw for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns, as the Red Raiders took the Sun Devils behind the woodshed for a good ole fashioned beat down.

What’s a Little Bedlam between Two Thursdays?

We know that Oklahoma State didn’t play much of a non-conference slate.  Hell, that goes ditto for Oklahoma, though the latter went to South Bend and avenged their 2012 loss to the Irish on the God-forsaken Plains.  It was going to come down to conference play, and both took an early loss.  Somehow, some way, West Virginia took down Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, and we know the story of what happened to Stoops at the Red River Shootout.  That said, each took down a giant, which gave shape to the Big XII title chase, and then un-did that very shape.

Somehow, some way, it was Baylor that became the giant that needed slaying.  On a Thursday night in Waco, Oklahoma showed that they were far from ready for the task.  It was a 41-12 loss that everyone not glued to every snap in the Oregon-Stanford game saw.  I’m not sure that game really set us up for what would go down in Stillwater, when those giants, I mean Bears, would claw their way into T. Boone Pickens Stadium for the Saturday Night Main Event.  What Baylor did, was take all of the goodwill given to them after beating up the team from Norman, and torch it over a couple of hours during a 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State.

When the two met in Stillwater on December 7th, Oklahoma State was playing for the conference title and a bid in the BCS.  A BCS bid was a long shot for the Sooners, but the opportunity to spoil the Cowboys title hopes sat right in front of them.  This was Bedlam, and absent a post-season conference championship game, this would serve as a de facto championship of sorts, and would turn out to be a BCS clinching game for the winner.

The game was tied after the first, second, and third quarter.  It had five lead changes, a punt return, a kicker scoring a touchdown, and it ended with a scoop and score as time ran out, and the Sooners upset the Cowboys in their own house.  They spoiled everything for Oklahoma State, and opened the door for Texas to play Baylor for a Fiesta Bowl berth.  The Cowboys were sent to Arlington to play Big XII expat Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, while the Sooners earned a date with the might Crimson Tide of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

A Friday night loss in the House of Jerry rendered Oklahoma State’s season forgettable to an extent, which isn’t to take anything away from them or Missouri, but it left me to believe they were just a team that upset Baylor, rather than being sold on them actually being the best team in the Big XII.  Oklahoma lost to Texas and Baylor, which left them mathematically ineligible for the conference title in the season finale, but they did enough to be noticed.

It was them, and not 2-loss Oregon from the Pac-12, that filled the final at-large spot in the BCS.  When it comes to believing a team without a conference title as the best, this Alabama team came to mind, weighing the reality of how they lost at Auburn to end their regular season.  No one gave Oklahoma a chance, except for maybe Bob Stoops and his young men.

However, when they took the field in New Orleans on that Thursday night, they showed that they were not only capable, but that Trevor Knight and company might have even been a downright better team that AJ McCarron and the Tide.  The nail in the coffin was similar to the finish at Bedlam, a scoop and score.  Final score: Oklahoma 45 Alabama 31.

Ida Gone To Baylor

So, the story goes like this, as my friend Miko would tell it.  Now, I haven’t seen Miko in a number of years, but this will stay with me forever.  He was an Oklahoma guy, an alumni, and he recalls a cowboy telling the Baylor mascot how it is, with a big ole chew in his mouth, in the thickest of thick cowboy accents, he says, “I’d have gone to Baylor, (spits tobacco juices) if they had a football team.”  Of course, it comes out like this, “Ida gawnta Bay-Ler, they had a Foot Bawl team!”

It was a good time for the Oklahoma program; in the same breath, it was a good time for Ohio State, the early 2000s.  Shortly after that, I’m pretty sure he moved back to Oklahoma shortly after that.  I’ve only heard from him once in the years since.  It was the night of October 22, 2005.  The first text read, “Oh shoot, maybe they do have a football team.”

I looked at the TV, a side TV because Baylor-Oklahoma was supposed to be a throw-away game.  Baylor quarterback Shawn Bell had thrown a 55-yard touchdown pass to bring the Bears within two.  Bell converted on the 2-point conversion with his legs, which tied the game at 27, and we had overtime in Norman.  Baylor kicked a field goal on their first possession of the bonus period, and it took a 39-yard boot from Garret Hartley to keep the game alive.  The Sooner held on in the second OT, and I got a second text from Miko, the last thing he ever said to me.

“Phew”

That was eight years ago.  Guy Moriss is out, Art Briles is in, and thanks to a 45-38 win over the Sooners in 2011, the Bears are no longer 0-for-forever against Oklahoma.  Art Briles has changed the program; Robert Griffin III obviously deserves some credit for changing the culture there.  They won’t accept 2nd-rate facilities or a 2nd-rate program in Waco.  They were contending for the national championship before their trip to Stillwater.

Though they stumbled in Glendale, Arizona on the big stage against an underrated Central Florida team, and it isn’t like they stumbled hard or even to a bad team.  They just lost a game they were favored to win, but I wouldn’t let the Vegas standard affect how I feel about Baylor.  Their biggest win came in retaining Briles, who easily could have and probably should have been the new man in Austin.  I see nothing but more of the same from this program, one that was left out of the fold when the entire conference was being poached, in favor of Colorado.  I know that it was more about the Denver TV market than anything else, but still, Baylor does more for their conference in 2014 and beyond than I ever see happening for the Pac-12 in Boulder.

 

 

 

Fiesta Knights

Since it moved from Tempe to Glendale in January of 2007, the Fiesta Bowl has taken on a different feel, more of a corporate one in an NFL stadium. I don’t really say that in a good way. Sun Devil Stadium hosted the first Bowl game officially designated as a championship game, the first that would mandate the #1 and #2 teams in the country be on the same field, where Tennessee knocked off Florida State. In a few days, Florida State will once again travel west to take on the champion of the Southeastern Conference to determine a title, in California this time around, but Arizona still hosts that Fiesta Bowl game, and 2014’s exhibition would feature two teams without a lot of curb appeal.

I understand why there are two domes in Arizona, which host the area’s NFL and MLB teams; the heat is unbearable for most of baseball season and for the first few weeks of football season also. The only major sport that gets played in a true outdoor stadium in these parts is Sun Devil Stadium, which is on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe and used to host the Arizona Cardinals. I never attended a regular season NFL game there, but it boasts a real college atmosphere. The Fiesta Bowl became a bit of an Ohio State Invitational, with the Buckeyes getting an invite in 2003, 2004, and 2006. The area around the stadium, Mill Avenue to be specific, was always electric with incredible fan bases from Manhattan, Kansas and South Bend, Indiana in the days before the game.

The games on campus always meant something, which isn’t to say that University of Phoenix Stadium hasn’t seen its fair share of thrillers in the past 8 years, but obviously it’s my personal opinion that college games are better in college stadiums. The games I did not attend, since moving to Arizona in 2001, featured teams in 2002 that had a legitimate beef with the system over their rightful chance at a title and a non-qualifier crashing the party in 2004. Of course, the inaugural Fiesta Bowl in Glendale may have been the most memorable non-Championship game in the 16-year history of the BCS, a 43-42 OT thriller that saw Boise State crash the party.

I’d hear arguments for Texas, the victor over Ohio State in the 2010 game, presenting themselves worthy of Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators for the crystal football, having knocked off the team that played the sacrificial lamb to the SEC in Miami that night. You won’t hear a lot of people bellyache about the Championship caliber teams coming to the desert, but there’s this perception with curb appeal when you don’t get the brand names. Wednesday’s Central Florida vs. Baylor game sounded about as lackluster as the 2010 game that featured teams from the Mountain West and WAC on paper, but if you watched the games in 2013, you knew this wasn’t your typical “directional” school versus the academic of a power conference. We saw Western Michigan play Northwestern in September, and this game would be better.

Baylor is the type of team that scored 70 points on 4 different occasions this season, but from one week to the next, they’re just happy to be successful. Maybe they didn’t have a crystal football in mind when they were sweating out the Waco heat during two-a-days, but the prospects of getting to the National Championship were very real in mid-November, when they were being touted as the best undefeated team outside of Tallahasse, when they won convincingly over Oklahoma on a Thursday night where many of us were flipping over to Stanford’s home upset of previously unbeaten Oregon. The dream ended in Stillwater, where the Bears have not been able to sic the Cowboys in six decades, but this team was wild about qualifying for the Alamo Bowl two seasons ago, so the BCS was another step up for Art Briles and this Baylor program.

The American Athletic Conference did not exist last season, but they held an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) for this last year of the series. Most had penciled in Louisville, winners of last year’s Sugar Bowl and mere renters of space in The American for a year before the ACC is ready to welcome them for the 2014 season, to represent the conference in the BCS, but George O’Leary and the UCF Knights opted to screw up everyone’s plans with a win in Louisville on a Friday night. Does nothing major happen on Saturday any more?

You can look at the Knights schedule any way you’d like, but be prepared to be accused of having an agenda. You could say they avoided Cincinnati, skated past Akron and Florida International, and just had to catch lightning in a bottle against Louisville. There were some close calls against conference foes Houston, Temple, South Florida, and Southern Methodist (SMU). They lost to South Carolina in what was easily their most difficult non-conference game, if not the best game on their schedule. They lost by three points. They also won at Penn State, a team that ended up beating Wisconsin. It might be bold to say, with the way the dominoes fell with the undefeated teams late in the season, but the Knights might have been 3 points against Steve Spurrier from playing for the National Championship.

Dismiss that last notion, if you don’t mind. People were angry enough that the Fiesta Bowl got “stuck” with this 11-1 team. Sure, Blake Bortles is not Teddy Bridgewater, but he’d been making a name for himself all season and the UCF quarterback is certainly in the same NFL draft conversations as the Louisville junior. Still, their best season in school history was only good enough for the Fiesta Bowl, because Northern Illinois went to Detroit in early December and forfeited their invite to Glendale with a loss to Bowling Green.

Ticket sales weren’t great for this one, it ended up being the worst-attended game in the history of the new venue. On the day of the game, tickets could be found on the secondary market for $16. That’s a fairly stark contrast to my first attempt to attend a game in that stadium that looks like a UFO when driving past it on the 101-Loop; $2000 in cash wasn’t enough to satisfy the scalpers when Ohio State and Florida played for a title in 2007. This, on the other hand, ended up being an experience unlike that in any way. Yes, I realize comparing a National Championship of that magnitude to this exhibition was apples to dumptrucks.

Parking wasn’t cheap ($20), but it was easy. I’d been here before, in March of 2009 for the NCAA Basketball Regional Final, only this space was a desert terrain with broken glass and weeds, but still a stone’s throw from the football stadium. I’ve never been much of a fan of tailgating, but this was tailgating done right, with a grill borrowed from professionals and cold adult beverages. Doing tailgating right isn’t actually difficult, as it turns out.

I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but we saw mostly green and gold clad Baylor supporters in our parking lot, which isn’t to say there wasn’t a few stragglers in UCF colors. Also, the consensus was that Baylor would run away with this. Our caravan included a few Northern Illinois fans extending their vacation after seeing their team lose to Utah State in San Diego on December 26th, which was difficult to explain to passers by, who saw the Huskies flag flying high.

“We were hoping you would get to kill us,” our friend from DeKalb was heard telling Baylor fans. I’d been hearing it since Christmas Eve, how the silver lining for NIU fans was avoiding a 70-point game from Baylor. He was right, they couldn’t stop anyone, but I kept that same sentiment about Baylor tucked away in the back of my head. The team Baylor suited up for that 2011 Alamo Bowl was completely different from this installment of the Bears, but another 67-63 game wasn’t the craziest thought in the world.

The Knights received the opening kickoff and took it right down Baylor’s throat.  For a team with an alleged NFL-caliber quarterback, UCF didn’t worry about showcasing Bortles arm at all.  They ran the ball six times for 76 yards, and that included two runs greater than 20 yards, capped off with Storm Johnson’s 11-yard run 3:36 into the game.  They forced a punt, then Johnson hit paydirt again, however the Knights led 14-7 after one quarter of play.  The second quarter was about what you’d expect, the teams combined for 27 points, but thanks to a missed field goal attempt, from 45 yards out as the first half expired, the heavily favored team from Waco was down 28-20.

We got to see a little bit more of Bryce Petty’s coveted arm in the third quarter, notably on a 50 yard touchdown to Jay Lee, and the game was tied after a two-point conversion, which I thought was a mistake to attempt, unless it works, which it did.  I have a major problem with chasing points that way before the fourth quarter, and the only thought I had was, Art Briles isn’t going to get away with that when he takes the Texas job after this game.  There was some speak of Baylor covering the spread at that point; I believe they were favored by 16 or 17, depending on when you made your declaration…for entertainment purposes only, of course.

Bortles and company would be having none of that.  They scored on the very next drive, and after a stop, they found the end zone again.  14 points wasn’t impossible to overcome on paper, but the flags started flying every time it looked like the Baylor defense had stopped the UCF offense.  It was pointed out to me that trying to get away with pass interference was Baylor’s best bet to slow down UCF, but these SEC officials were on to them.  They couldn’t stop the run either, and ultimately couldn’t get any timely stops, as Johnson and William Stanback closed the game out, giving the fans who traveled from Orlando a big reason to celebrate.  When UCF hit a field goal that made it a 3-score game with 4 minutes left, it was time to head for the exits with our care package from Tostitos, two bags of chips, some chipolte salsa, and a coupon for the new White Queso Blanco dip, in hand.

Central Florida recovered an onside kick, as we listened to the call on the radio.  52-42 was the final.  Though it was probably preordained anyways, Briles would not be headed to Austin, and there is some real doubt that Petty will declare for the NFL draft.  I’m obligated to mention that Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright were spotted on the Baylor sideline, and joined by Cleveland Browns teammates Phil Taylor and Josh Gordon, meaning the pair has still not stood on a winning sideline since early November.