Tag Archives: BYU

The Big 12 is Talking about Expansion Again

Over the course of an eight hour period, the Big 12 conference went from placing expansion on hold to being all in with expansion. The only thing that seemed to have changed within that eight hour window was that the ACC announced their mega media rights deal.

But in its reactionary mindset, the Big 12 now has expansion back on the table.

If you want numbers, Clay Travis has you covered in one of his recent Outkick The Coverage articles. If it’s an opinion on what the hell the Big 12 and these teams are thinking, then hang on and fasten your seatbelts.

Commissioner Bowlsby announced that the league will add two or four teams to the league. Saying that the league announced this is an understatement. It’s more like Texas decided that it was time to expand the conference because they figured out a way of screwing everyone.

So who are the teams being considered for membership in the Big 12 as Texas’ newest peons? The teams include Central Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida, Connecticut, Colorado State, Houston and BYU.

First of all, let me say this – Adding teams to the conference makes absolutely zero sense.

Sure, the conference will increase its market share and the geographic footprint that seems to be so important to them, but adding teams to the conference will not add value to the league. I’m sorry/not sorry for bursting the bubbles of Central Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida, Connecticut, Colorado State, Houston and BYU, but you add no real value here.

The allure of adding any of these teams is so the Big 12 can give the impression that their footprint is larger than the SEC’s. Hey Big 12! Your Napoleon Complex is showing.

And how about Houston and BYU? These are the schools truly vying for the affection of Texas. Surprise, surprise, Texas is at the forefront of this reality dating show. Just who will Texas give its rose to? Tune in next week to find out!

The Longhorns already have the governors of Texas and Utah lobbying for their vote.

Governor Greg Abbott started his wooing campaign on Twitter:

 

And not to be out done, so did Governor Gary Herbert:

 

This is all so cute. Houston and BYU are bickering over who gets to be the first to join the dysfunctional family that is the Big 12.

And all for what? To be short changed at the bank? These schools are willing to settle for less as opposed to staying where they are at. Way to sell yourselves short.

Central Florida, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida, Connecticut, Colorado State, Houston and BYU have all had their share of success where they are at. No, none of these teams have made a football playoff appearance, but joining the Big 12 wouldn’t have changed that.

As good as Memphis, Houston and BYU in particular have been, they still wouldn’t have sniffed a Big 12 championship and, as a result, wouldn’t have come any closer to a college football playoff appearance.  They are now begging to join a conference that will place them at a financial disadvantage to the other conference members while still not truly being in contention for a football national championship. What are they thinking? Being a member of a Power 5 school for the sake of Power 5 membership is incredibly shortsighted.

Conference expansion makes no sense for the Big 12 or for the teams who are positioning themselves for an invitation. But if the Big 12 stays true to form, all of this expansion talk will evaporate in a few weeks and the conference will go back to figuring out how to make a conference championship work with a 10 team league.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: Twitter

College Football: Week 1 Features Ohio State’s Embarrassment of Riches

It only took five days, but our first weekend of College Football is in the books. We had a lot of chalk and some disappointment, but it was the “Wow!” moments that really jumped off the page. The bar was really set high for the individuals that the consensus expects to be in the running for that big heavy trophy, and for the schools interested in playing in that little tournament, well, they just had to win.

From the home of the Belk Bowl to the campus of the last program to slay the dragon that Urban Meyer built in Central Ohio, it was an extended weekend of debuts, vengeance, and perhaps an introduction to some new contenders. We’ll start in Blacksburg, where the first unanimous Preseason AP #1 team in the country took on Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies, seeking their pound of flesh for what took place in Columbus a year ago.

Ohio State 42 Virginia Tech 24

The story has been told, time and time again. Cardale Jones has never started a game in his own stadium for Ohio State, and on Monday night, he earned his first regular season victory, so it’s long past the time we stop referring to him as the Buckeye’s 3rd-string quarterback. In case you felt his previous three performances were some type of sorcery on the part of Meyer last December and January, the junior from Cleveland showed the magic is still there on Ohio State’s first possession, hitting Curtis Samuel on the money with a throw off of his back foot, good for a 24-yard touchdown. The next time the Buckeyes snapped the ball, Ezekiel Elliott went 80 yards to make it 14-0 in favor of the defending champs, perhaps making fans in Tuscaloosa feel better about things, but likely not.

It appeared the Buckeyes were going to roll, but misfortune, the type that goes beyond taking the field at Lane Stadium without Joey Bosa or Jalin Marshall on the field, struck, and the Hokies ripped off 17 unanswered, taking a 17-14 lead into the break. A missed Ohio State field goal gave the home team some momentum towards the end of the first quarter, but all of the credit in the world goes to Virginia Tech for designing a wheel route to full back Sam Rogers, who was all by himself on the left sideline. The big man had to hustle, but Eli Apple stood between him and the goal line and he shook the Buckeyes’ the third-year corner out of his shoes to cut the early advantage in half. Without the services of Marshall, Meyer had Elliott back returning punts, and call it inexperience or whatever, but the All-World running back struggled to field AJ Hughes second punt of the night, and four plays later, another nicely designed throwback to Ryan Malleck on third down gave the Hokies the lead.

Anyone remember Braxton Miller, the forgotten head on the three-headed monster of Ohio State’s open competition for the starting role last spring? They gave him a new number and a new position, and it only took him about a half of football to get his sea-legs beneath him. He did have a couple of rushing attempts and a nice diving 24-yard catch in the first half, which I think showed us he’s still a legitimate player, even when not behind center. On the third play of the second half, he took a pass from Jones and tip-toed by the Hokie defender, down the right sideline for 54 yards and the score. On the Bucks next offensive play from scrimmage, he gave the Scarlet and Gray their first Wow Moment of the season with a spin move that you can, yeah, only do on video games. From there, the rout was on.

https://vine.co/v/etJnO1lvnKm

Give Beamer and company some credit; they nearly made Mark May look smart. While the final score really was indicative of the game we watched, they did some really good things to take the straight-up running game away from Ohio State, despite big plays from Elliott and Miller, and they found enough vulnerabilities in the defense to put some points on the board and make this prime time affair interesting into the late night hours of Labor Day. The game really didn’t get out of hand until Brenden Motley had to spell starting quarterback Michael Brewer.

Unfortunately for Brewer, we live in a world where what you say with a certain expectation of privacy is subject to “going viral”. He was caught on camera, and yes, it’s likely he knew it was in his face, spouting off some one-liner about how it’s going to take a lot more than a fairly brutal hit he took on the Hokies last drive of the half to knock him out of the game. You can’t blame the kid; he was talking to his teammates in the locker room, more so than the national television audience through the lens of ESPN’s camera, but people are going to talk about karma. To that, I say “whatever”.

It’s widely believed that this is Ohio State’s last real test before Michigan State visits Columbus in November, and it’s hard to disagree. Up next, the Buckeyes get Hawaii, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan at home, and then a relatively simple conference slate, though I’m not ready to overlook Minnesota’s visit to the ‘Shoe on November 7th. For the Hokies, don’t expect the season to instantly go down the toilet after this acceptable performance. Last year, East Carolina beat Virginia Tech on their home field a week after they stunned Ohio State. Don’t expect Furman to follow suit; in fact, I’d say you can expect the Hokies to get their own pound of flesh from ECU on the road in a couple of weeks, and for them to be competitive in the ACC.

Marshall 41 Purdue 31

It was tough sledding for Darrell Hazell and Purdue in the only game on the slate for this pre-NFL Sunday. If Hazell and his signal-caller Austin Appleby never see Tiquan Lang again, it will be too soon for the both of them. Though, I’m very open to the possibility that Appleby never saw Lang at all, yeilding two pick-sixes to the Thundering Herd’s junior safety, which were good for the first and last scores of the game.

On the game’s very first play from scrimmage, Lang stepped in front of the intended receiver, and went 30 yards untouched to give Marshall the early lead, but there was still a good 59 minutes and change of football to be played. Purdue was able to recover on a DJ Knox touchdown run, on his way too a 100-yard day on the ground, but the game went back and forth all afternoon. The visiting Boilermakers led for most of the first half, until Devon Johnson put Marshall back up 34-31 with a 6-yard score, but Appleby had one more chance. After timeouts by both teams, it appeared the Purdue junior had too much time to think about it once again. And once again, an ill-fated pass attempt fell into the hands of Lang, who had to work harder on his second return, cutting across the field for a 55-yard score to put it to bed.

Given their early success in making the jump from Division I to Division I-AA with Chad Pennington and Randy Moss nearly twenty years ago, it’s difficult to believe Sunday’s win, in front of a home crowd of nearly 39,000 in Huntington, was the school’s first win over a Big Ten program, but the Boilermakers seem to be giving a few mid-Majors that milestone in recent years.

Alabama 35 Wisconsin 17

Hey Badger fans, I think Derrick Henry just scored again! Okay, maybe not, but the Alabama junior running back averaged 11.3 yards per carry, en route to three touchdowns on the ground at “The House That Jerry Built” in North Texas on Saturday. It probably would have been more, but the end zone kept stopping him. If there’s honestly a debate about the quarterback position at Alabama, and I don’t think there is, we gained no clarity about it on Saturday night. My gut tells me Nick Saban will let Jake Coker assume the role, unless his poor play forces his hand or Cooper Bateman takes things to a new level in the time he’s getting.

So, I know Gene Chizik was 5-19 at Iowa State before being awarded the Auburn job, where he landed the services of Cam Newton and won a title in his second season, so maybe I don’t read too much into Paul Chryst’s 19-19 mark at Pittsburgh. Seriously though, in Chryst’s debut with the Badgers, he wasn’t just behind the curve with the X’s and O’s, that Big Ten size and strength, which is supposed to be their finest asset in Madison, it’s not there. I’ve long thought that Barry Alvarez was the reason Gary Andersen chose a new gig in Corvalis over what he’s built in Madison, but he might have just seen the writing on the wall with what he wasn’t able to recruit. Sorry, but 16 yards on 8 carries for Corey Clement just isn’t getting it done; Melvin Gordon III isn’t walking back through that door and head coaches will dare Joel Stave to beat them all season.

Texas A&M 38 Arizona State 17

Is it possible to lose a game by more than just the numbers on the scoreboard? In being picked apart by Scottsdale, Arizona’s Kyle Allen and Christian Kirk, the very successful head coach of the Sun Devils, Todd Graham, was exposed for losses to the state of Texas in the recruiting game. Allen, the sophomore quarterback fighting off highly touted freshman Kyler Murray, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but Kirk was the star of the show. You get sick of hearing about video games when you’re discussing actual human athletes, but between his 79-yard punt return that put the Aggies up 14-0 early and his 66-yard touchdown catch and run, that status quo had cheat codes on their mind. I’d reference the Game Genie here, but it would be lost on everyone not born between 1975 and 1985.

After A&M’s season went downhill after their big win in the opener against South Carolina a year ago, Aggie fans can only be cautiously optimistic about Kevin Sumlin’s squad’s chances in the SEC. On the other hand, after watching how hapless the ASU offense was in Houston, there has to be some concern about senior quarterback Mike Berovici, a guy that wasn’t spectacular in his understudy role in 2014, despite the team’s success in games he started.

This neutral site game was the only game of any sort on the 2015 schedule that paired a Pac-12 school against a team from the Southeastern Conference. If you’re an SEC honk, you want the Sun Devils to dominate their conference. If you support a Pac-12 contender that isn’t Arizona State, you’re probably hoping your program isn’t basically a coin flip for that fourth playoff spot with a member of the SEC in December.

Northwestern 16 Stanford 6

We should probably acknowledge this battle of Academia that took place in Evanston, the most watchable matinee of the day on Saturday. Was this more about Kevin Hogan and Stanford being inept on offense, or does Pat Fitzgerald have a great defense at Northwestern? I fear David Shaw may be on the decline, the more we see time separate this program from the days of Jim Harbaugh.

One thing I’m hearing and I don’t agree with is that Stanford is suddenly too slow. Sure Hogan isn’t a runner on the level that Andrew Luck was, and Ty Montgomery is gone from the offense and special teams, but Michael Rector isn’t slow and we should see more of Christian McCaffrey in both the running and passing games. My guess is the offense works it out, but I don’t know if the glass is less than half-full when I look at that defense. The departing talent hasn’t been replaced, or the newbies haven’t been developed, but Northwestern owned the line of scrimmage when they had the ball. That’s going to be a problem for the Cardinal all year.

The victory in the trenches translated to a good game for running back Justin Jackson, who ran for 134 yards. However, it was quarterback Clayton Thorson’s 42 yard run, on what looked like a designed draw play, that represented the only touchdown of the day. The Wildcats will host an FCS team next week, and visit Duke in a few weeks, but expect them to finish non-conference play 4-0, setting up a big match up with Minnesota, on October 2nd at Ryan Field.

Ole Miss 76 Tennessee-Martin 3

Yuck, just yuck. Hugh Freeze, you’re in the SEC, and I know you want the home game at whatever price, but playing FCS foes is totally beneath you. Indiana got lucky doing this, but Wyoming, Washington State, and Kansas were not. Shame on everyone who partakes in this practice, even you Arizona State, where I’ll watch you rebound against cal-Poly, but still, Yuck!

Michigan State 37 Western Michigan 24

Kudos to the AD’s in East Lansing and Kalamazoo for making this happen, with the mid-major hosting the high major. PJ Fleck, your Western Michigan program isn’t quite there yet, but they didn’t look out of their element with a big boy from the Big Ten in town.

Michigan State might want to work on kick coverage this week, while the Broncos shouldn’t change a thing. Row your boat, fellas.

Charlotte 23 Georgia State 20

This game kicked off at 12:30 PM, during my work day on Friday. I caught the end on the ESPN app in my office. It was fourth College Football game I’d watched with some interest in a 24-hour span; yeah, I need help.

For the 49ers, it was their first game as an FBS program, and obviously also their first victory, but the Panthers of Georgia State made it interesting in the end.

TCU 23 Minnesota 17

I don’t know if I just don’t like the idea of B being a Heisman candidate, or if I have the bar set too high for him and, really, the rest of the Horned Frogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think TCU is phenomenal when they have the ball, and that’s where the expectation comes from, but they just didn’t seem to have it, despite a nice victory over an underlooked Minnesota team on Thursday night at TCF Stadium.

He’s got weapons all around him, most notably Josh Doctson, and 246 passing on a day he rushed for 92 is far from underwhelming, but in real-time, I didn’t think he was anything special. That just tells me we haven’t seen anything yet from the offense. Based on what SMU was able to do to Baylor for 30 minutes on Friday, they might make for an interesting opponent for Gary Patterson’s defense, still a question mark for me after Minnesota had many opportunities Thursday.

Jerry Kill has a nice little team in Minnesota. They hung around the entire game, even if TCU did adjust better at the half. Rodney Smith seems like a good find; the freshman had 88 yards on 16 carries, but a lot of it that offensive line. Junior quarterback Mitch Leidner needs to be more efficient or throw the ball less, but I don’t know how much less he can throw it, considering he was sacked 20 times a year ago.

That Ref Deserves a Hug

Sometimes, I just can’t get over how the universe can even itself out. Two years ago, going left to right across the Big Red “N” at midfield in Lincoln, a backup quarterback heaves up a prayer. You know the rest, Jordan Westerkamp is on the receiving end for the touchdown and the win against Nebraska. Redemption is spelled R-O-N (Kellog).

Fast forward to Saturday, BYU down 28-27, 1 tick on the clock for Tanner Magnum, on in relief of the injured Taysom Hill. Mitch Matthews hauls it in for the win, but #11 Terenn Houk is the star of this Vine.

https://vine.co/v/eTVKrzL5T0E

…and the rest.

These are all of the items that are too short for a capsule of their own.

  • Penn State, I’m glad you went to Philly to play Temple, but how did you lose that game?
  • Michigan, you can’t run the ball and don’t have a real answer at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh isn’t saving you right away.
  • Between the Cactus Bowl and Friday’s somewhat awkward return to Boise for Chris Petersen, I’ve now bailed on Washington at halftime in consecutive games, only to learn the second half was interesting, the next day. Show up in the first half, Huskies.
  • Nicely done, Josh Rosen.   What a performance for the true freshman; he came with a lot of hype, but lived up to it.  UCLA wasn’t playing an FCS school on Saturday, they were hosting a Power 5.  It was Virginia, but still.
  • Northern Illinois, that’s two years in a row that you’ve dominated UNLV, but let them hang around. A MAC rival will take advantage at some point, just watch.
    We’re so spoiled with digital options for viewing, that it was aggravating that CBS Sports didn’t have an option and I’m told didn’t regionally switch to the UNLV-NIU game in DeKalb, while overtime was played in Tulsa.
  • By the way, way to finish your win over Florida Atlantic, Tulsa.
  • So, Auburn is pretty good.  Louisville might be too, but not based on their play Saturday.  Either way, good to see Verne and Gary on CBS in Week 1. (They called Ohio State-Navy for CBS Sports Network to open the 2014 season)
  • Play-by-play announcers and color analysts, it’s okay to punt in College Football. Not every opponent is Oregon, and not every situation near or behind midfield equals four-down territory. Our game is about field position, and you win it by punting when appropriate.
  • Adults that paint their bodies and dedicate their lives to “me time” on camera for their favorite College Football team don’t deserve the air time.
  • I’d rather get neutral site games than no game at all, but there’s something about the games being played on campus. Steve Spurrier, that atmosphere sucked with all of the empty seats in Charlotte. Go to Chapel Hill or have Larry Fedora bring his team to Columbia, and stop trying to do too much.
  • Nice touchdown reception, Robert Nkemdiche.  We’ll talk more about the two-way play of the Ole Miss pass-rusher, when they play an FBS foe.

Lastly, I think I underestimated how cool Scott Van Pelt’s midnight Sportscenter would be, because I was mostly upset about losing his radio show on my mid-day drives. I’d planned on getting straight to my writing room when the game ended, but I stuck around. It’s a shame the technical stuff had to be difficult in Virginia, I really would have loved to see him interview Braxton Miller.

Back on Sunday to discuss Week 2…61 hours until Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky kickoff.

Problems with the Playoff

I can’t pretend like the College Football Playoff didn’t make this season even more intriguing than normal. With the excitement building in the last few weeks of the regular season and culminating in the three playoff games themselves, it’s fair to say the long-awaited experiment was a success. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found some design flaws. There is certainly room for improvement and that’s what I’m here to do.

Irrelevant weekly updates
First off, as Damien Bowman said a year ago, the actual College Football Playoff Rankings should not come out until after the final week of the season when everything is decided. What’s the point of releasing them weekly? Talking points. We’re going to tirelessly discuss the teams vying for the top spots regardless. Plenty of polls and opinions already exist. Leave it to them until you’re sure.

TCU went from five to three all the way down to six in the final three weeks of the season. All they did was win the ballgames on their schedule (I’ll address this separate issue later on). In turn, they were given false hope and punished. Eliminating the Playoff Rankings until the regular season is over will rid us of that ever happening again.

The role of conference championships
This is more of a conference alignment thing but my next point is that the Big 12 got screwed because it lacks a championship game. I do think a round robin approach is ideal, but if every other conference has a title game then you’re hurting yourself by not having one too. I think ultimately the committee couldn’t decide between Baylor and TCU, so they didn’t. Instead they chose Ohio State to be the fourth team in.

Now, some people will say Baylor is clearly the better team because they won the head-to-head matchup. Others will argue that was a dramatic comeback win on a last-second field goal in Baylor’s own stadium that happened half a season ago. The point is that a rematch would’ve settled the score, and the Big 12 wouldn’t have gotten shutout of the playoff.

The fix is simple. Either, add two (or more) teams (Boise State, BYU, Houston, Louisiana Tech?) or make sure your proposal to change NCAA rules gets through so you can keep your cute, little 10-team league.

The SEC showed exactly what’s wrong with the divisional approach to conference play. The West was ridiculously more difficult to navigate than the East was this season. Missouri won the East and earned their rightful spot in the championship game, but they got lucky by drawing Arkansas and Texas A&M as their inter-divisional opponents for this season. They avoided Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, and LSU. It would be gracious of you to write them down for more than one win out of those five.

This is why the divisional format is troubling. The two best teams in the conference don’t always meet up at the end. Unfortunately, in a 14-team conference not every team can play one another, unless you expand the regular season by a couple weeks (good luck with that). So, in the meantime let’s get rid of the fourth non-conference game that many SEC teams use as a glorified bye week midway through their tough schedule. Make them play one more conference foe to further sort out what the standings should look like come season’s end.

What about the little guys?
Remember the few seasons where it seemed like everyone became a Boise State fan just so we could see someone break the BCS and squeak into the national championship game as a little guy? Well, that never happened and now that we’ve got a four team playoff I really don’t see how it ever could.

Florida State had a hard enough time getting into the top four as an undefeated member of the ACC, and the defending national champs. How is Marshall supposed to have a chance at the playoff when the “Power 5” is halfway to autonomy? Boise State, at 20, was the one and only team from a “Group of 5” conference to be included in the committee’s final playoff rankings. Though they showed they definitely deserved it, they should consider themselves blessed to have gotten the opportunity to play in the Fiesta Bowl.

8 > 4
This is a slippery slope but I think an eight team playoff would be far superior to the four team format we have now. Immediately some will complain about these kids playing in too many games and there not being enough time to play them all. Don’t even. All those players would love to suit up one more time. And surely we could eliminate the three week hiatus between the playoff announcement and the bowls.

An eight team playoff would look like this: the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC champions each receive an automatic bid. Even though I’m a little leery to do that, it’s almost certainly what would happen anyway. The remaining three spots would be at-large bids reserved for the next three most-deserving teams (smaller conference champs, big conference runner-ups, or teams in situations like Mississippi State, who didn’t get a shot).

The Peach, Orange, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls would be your quarterfinals. The Rose and Sugar Bowls would be your semis. Then you could have your National Championship Game. You could still rotate between the six of them to spread the revenues around.

Wrap-up
In conclusion, I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten or overlooked. Please, add your own ideas. Praise me, call me an idiot and offer your own fix, anything. Getting a dialogue going is the only way to arrive at the best possible solution.

Think nobody’s listening and it’s pointless? Well, we finally got our playoff. Now that we’ve taken that daunting first step it’s time to take another.

Golden Bears Down to the Wire

Photo courtesy of onefootdown.com
Photo courtesy of onefootdown.com

 

 

I knew it would come to this. I didn’t want to admit it-hell, I even prayed against it. Well, not really prayed, but I thought awfully hard against Cal needing to win this final game to become bowl eligible and stave off a consecutive losing season under second year coach, Sonny Dykes.

You’d be hard pressed to say that the 117th Big Game between the Stanford Cardinal and the California Golden Bears was a full blown rout. Cal certainly had plenty of opportunities earlier on in the game to establish momentum, but they couldn’t catch a break to save their hides. Moreover, the referees were calling, in my humble opinion, a rather one sided game. Cal couldn’t sneeze sideways without catching a flag. Of course, the majority of the flags were defensive, which gave Stanford excellent field position all game long.

Short of costly penalties, Cal wasn’t too far out of this contest. But, the errors and the untimely turnovers were just too much to overcome as Cal dropped to 5-6 (3-6) with the 38-17 loss at Memorial Stadium.

With the twelfth and final game fast approaching, time is running out for the Golden Bears. If Cal can manage one last victory of the regular season, Cal will have clinched a bowl bid- most likely, the Hawaii Bowl.  With the way Cal has played these last couple of weeks, albeit against stiff competition, this will not be a walk in the park. They will have to play their collective asses off. No holds barred.

BYU strolls into Berkeley with a 7-4 record, and winners of three straight. Although the Cougars are not the same team without junior quarterback Taysom Hill under center, QB Christian Stewart has had a firm handle of things since Hill went down earlier on this season.

Yes BYU was an early season top 25 team, but since Hill went down, this team isn’t the same squad many have picked to provide many a headache for the opposition. Instead, the Cougars are a slightly above average team with one of the weakest strength of schedules I’ve seen among preseason top 25 teams.

Honestly, BYU’s record reflects exactly what I predicted it would be. Stomp the weaker programs and fold against stiffer competition. But I will say this, in their defeats, they averaged about 24 points per game- which tells me that they are still able to move the ball and put points on the board. That is a concern for me in regard to Cal’s defense.

Cal’s slow offensive starts have been a perpetual concern for me, too. With exception of the Sacramento State game, The Bear Raid has looked anything but in the first stages of the game. With early deficits, Cal has gotten away from the one thing that has set them apart from last year’s bunch. They ran the ball. Furthermore, the Cal o-line has increased the amount of offensive holding penalties, negating a lot positive runs and momentum shifting plays.

I usually rag on Cal’s defense to limit mistake plays and keep the opposing offense in front of them. Now, it’s the offense that has hit somewhat of a lull; more specifically, the offensive line. Thankfully, it’s not as if the line plays passively, it’s quite the opposite. I think they are a little too aggressive. With back to back rivalry games (USC & Stanford) they may have been a little too hyped. With the post season at stake and a non-losing record to boot, Cal needs to reassess their level of focus and put together one more solid effort to earn this win.

Somehow, some way, I figured it would come down to this. I don’t think this season would have been as dramatic had it not. It’s the perfect scenario. Last game of the season. Player’s hopes, dreams, and redemption on the line. Plus, it’s a home game. C’mon, it couldn’t have shaken out any better. Well, it better shake out in a win. That’s all I’m saying.

I like to pride myself on being a “glass is half full” kind of guy. In Cal’s case, they bested last year’s record by four games already and, albeit very briefly, held first place in the Pac 12 North. That’s good stuff. But, that’s not enough. There’s way too much talent on this team to settle for mediocrity. Even a 6-6 record is mediocre given this level of talent. I will give a slight pass due to the level difficulty the Pac 12 possesses.

Cal’s schedule was no cake walk by any means. All I’m asking for is one more win. Of course the football gods may take me literally- Cal may be granted that one win, make a bowl game and politely get the snot beat out of them. I just want them to win this game- and win the next one after that. Consider this my early Christmas wish. I’ll forsake the extravagant gifts this year in return for football relevance in Golden Bear country. I need new socks anyway.

Top 25: Can an SEC team survive the season?

If the playoff is about having the four best teams, how many could come from one conference? Diehard SEC fans will tell you two, if not three teams from their conference should be in it. After all, it is the best conference and their Top 6 teams could win every other conference right? The SEC probably is the best conference, and there might’ve been some hope with the Big 10 and ACC struggles that a couple teams from the southeast could get enough support to land spots in the playoff. But after this last Saturday, they’re going to have a heck of a time accomplishing that.
With the Pac-12 and Big 12’s front-runners having the week off, and for all intents and purposes the Big 10’s with Michigan State playing Wyoming, much of the focus was on the SEC. While Saturday may have showed the strength of the conference as a whole, it also showed exactly why the SEC has no chance at getting multiple playoff teams this year. Auburn took care of business, but they don’t seem to be rolling on offense the way they were last year, and it remains to be seen if rotating quarterbacks will have a huge effect going forward. Texas A&M and Georgia both struggled against lower-tier schools from their divisions and had to survive the last few minutes to avoid upsets. Then there is South Carolina, who after a season saving win against Georgia followed up with a conference defeat of Vanderbilt, threw all that momentum away by losing at home to Missouri.
The SEC East’s only hope is Georgia, but with an upcoming stretch where they play at Missouri, at Arkansas, Florida, and Auburn in five a five week span they have a slim chance at finishing the year with only one loss. The SEC West is clearly stronger and at least has one complete team. Alabama has looked great up to this point and is the favorite so far to represent the SEC in the playoff. I think Auburn is the next best bet coming out of the West, but after that you have a group of teams who are all on the same level and will spend the rest of the year knocking each other off until they all wind up with at least two losses. The SEC’s best hope is the same situation as last year, with a one loss Alabama or Auburn where that loss came in a close game to the other. But with the strength of the rest of the division, it’s hard to see both teams navigating their schedules unscathed. Add in the unlikelihood of last year’s scenario occurring in back to back seasons and the SEC better just hope all of its teams don’t end up with two losses or more. With the ineptitude of the Big 10, Florida State’s struggles, and Notre Dame lurking, we may be headed for a playoff selection disaster, but it won’t include two SEC teams.
Top 25 (Last Week’s Rank in Parenthesis)
1. Alabama (1)
2. Oregon (2)
3. Michigan State (3)
4. Oklahoma (4)
5. Florida State (5)
6. Baylor (6)
7. Auburn (7)
8. Texas A&M (8)
9. Georgia (10)
10. Notre Dame (11)
11. USC (12)
12. Ole Miss (13)
13. Stanford (14)
14. Mississippi State (15)
15. UCLA (16)
16. LSU (17)
17. TCU (18)
18. Ohio State (19)
19. Missouri (UR)
20. South Carolina (9)
21. Nebraska (20)
22. East Carolina (21)
23. Clemson (22)
24. BYU (25)
25. Kansas State (UR)

ACC Coastal: Looming Chaos?

The fourth week of the season did little to provide clarity about the pecking order of the ACC Coastal division. If anything, it looks like the coastal crown might turn into a game of “hot potato”.
GT vs. VT. I expected Virginia Tech to win this game in a romp. Georgia Tech came to Lane Stadium undefeated but with a resume of underwhelming performances against an even more underwhelming slate of opponents. The Jackets left Blacksburg with a signature win and the Hokies scratching their heads trying to figure out what went wrong. Virginia Tech is a team with a lot of talent. How that talent lost to Georgia Tech is a classic example of the old adage that games are played on the field, not on paper. Georgia Tech was tenacious, never gave up, and made big plays when it counted. Virginia Tech on the other hand made silly mistakes that resulted in untimely penalties and followed those up with poor decisions and blown assignments. The harsh reality for Virginia Tech fans is that if Georgia Tech had even a mediocre passing game they would have won this game by more than two touchdowns. Georgia Tech failed to convert two wide-open touchdown passes that the average Pop Warner team completes on a weekly basis.
Virginia Tech has a lot of soul searching to do this week and Frank Beamer has to decide if Michael Brewer is the quarterback to lead this team. There is no question that Brewer has the arm to make every throw in the Hokie playbook. He has shown himself to be a tough quarterback who hustles on every play – as evidenced by his fumble recovery for a go-ahead touchdown this weekend. However Brewer is also a quarterback who makes some terrible decisions and can single handedly keep both teams in the game. Michael Brewer didn’t lose this game for the Hokies, but he made it a heck of a lot easier for the Yellow Jackets to win.
Were I Frank Beamer this week, I would first thank my lucky stars that I have Western Michigan this coming to Blacksburg on Saturday. Second, I would tell Michael Brewer he has the first half to put the Western Michigan game away. I would also tell Mark Leal that he will play the entire second half and has a chance to be the Hokies’ starting QB when they travel to Chapel Hill. I might have similar conversations with the starters across the offensive line as well. With the bright glow of a big win in Columbus fading to flicker, a talented Hokie team finds itself at an unexpected crossroads early in the season.
UNC vs. ECU: I thought the VT/GT game would be the biggest surprise of the weekend. I was wrong. East Carolina thumped UNC 70-41. This game was not close to being close. What struck me about UNC was that their defense never lost its swagger. A defense that gave up 70 points and almost 800 yards to ECU after giving up over 500 yards and 29 points to an unimpressive San Diego St team a week earlier continued to strut and preen as if they were playing shutdown defense instead of giving up an average of over 8 yards a play. On offense, the UNC QB shuffle was a mystery to me. Marquise Williams, while inconsistent to date, has tremendous upside and elite potential. He pressed and made mistakes re-entering the game after watching teammate Mitch Trubisky sputter the offense which did nothing to help the UNC cause.
I recall last year Carolina fans were worried about Larry Fedora and the lure of a big contract from a big-time program. I think the Heels can relax, because Coach Fedora will likely be in Chapel Hill as long as they can stand him.

ECU. Gettin’ it done.

UVa vs. BYU: Virginia already had one moral victory this season. They didn’t need another one. Once again, a quick review of the box score suggests a UVa victory over BYU and once again that suggestion would be wrong. No other team in the country has played 3 ranked teams in their first 4 games. UVa has played well enough to be at worst 3-1. Instead, they are 2-2 and must win their next two games to remain relevant in the ACC coastal and give Mike London a chance to keep his job. The time has come for UVa to turn its improved play into real victories instead of moral victories. ‘Nuff said.
Pitt vs. Iowa: This was a great game with two teams that had to look across the field and think they were looking in the mirror. Pitt and Iowa are not teams that will beat you with overwhelming speed. They are both physical, straight- ahead, smash mouth teams. Running back James Connor and wide Receiver Tyler Boyd are all-ACC talents who had tremendous games on Saturday. Chad Voytik continued to show that he is a very solid QB who can make tough throws under pressure. Unfortunately for Pitt, when a team that looks like it is playing Big10 football encounters an opponent that lives and breathes Big10 football, the imposter usually comes up on the short end of the stick.  Pitt gets a week hone its game against the Akron Zips before a showdown under the lights in Charlottesville.
Miami vs. Nebraska: When Nebraska rushes for over 300 yards, they usually win. Saturday against Miami was no exception. Running the ball is Nebraska football. An inability to stop good running teams is quickly becoming part of Miami football. Miami was unable to stop the Nebraska ground game and squandered an impressive passing performance from freshman QB Brad Kaaya, coming up short against the ‘Huskers in Lincoln. After 4 games, Miami has two wins against overmatched opponents and two losses to very strong opponents. While Miami has an abundance of talent and an excellent head coach in Al Golden, the ‘Canes have yet to put forth an impressive 4 quarters of football 4 weeks into the season.
Duke: Duke played its fourth game in a row against an opponent that had no chance to win.
 
 

Mental Mistake Dooms Virginia

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The Cavaliers won the statistical battle but lost the game.

Four games, three ranked opponents, two losses, and one giant mental mistake. Virginia has played the country’s most daunting schedule to date and while many predicted Virginia would stand 1-3 at this point, the fact is that Virginia is 2-2 and really just a few plays away from being 3-1 or even 4-0. Playing away from Scott Stadium for the first time this year, UVA dominated the statistics in losing to BYU by eight points in a game in which it was a two touchdown underdog.  A moral victory?  Perhaps. In the losing effort Virginia proved again that the program has made significant strides in the past year.
The mental mistake? On the first play of the second quarter and at a point in which Virginia led 7-3 and clearly had the upper hand, the Hoos faced a 4th-and-1 at the BYU 1-yard line. Settling for red zone field goals while on the road against a ranked opponent is a losing strategy so I took it as a good sign that Mike London didn’t hesitate in deciding to go for the touchdown and the chance to extend UVA’s lead. It all looked very promising until right tackle Eric Smith committed a false start penalty that pushed UVA back to the six-yard line and out of London’s comfort zone.  The resultant field goal upped UVA’s lead to seven but the three points were a deflating result at a point when UVA badly wanted to impose its will on an off-balance Cougar defense. If London was willing to go for it at the one-yard line and potentially come away with zero, he should have done the same thing from the six.  UVA’s Canaan Severin and Miles Gooch had already won a couple of contested jump ball passes against BYU’s smaller secondary and Lambert looked sharp on his passes so why not go for it there?  UVA didn’t and BYU escaped. BYU QB Taysom Hill completed a 56-yard bomb to Devon Blackmon on the Cougars’ very next offensive play.  BYU scored four plays later to tie the score at 10.
It is of course impossible to say that one play decided the game but the false start penalty was huge and it changed UVA’s strategy.  Had UVA gotten the touchdown there and made it a two-score game there’s no telling how the rest of the game might have gone. As it was, UVA’s mistake allowed BYU to escape and the Cougars took full advantage of the reprieve by scoring the tying touchdown just five players later.  UVA does not have the luxury of being able to survive such mental miscues.  The 99-yard kickoff return that UVA surrendered later in the game was another costly mental mistake but had UVA scored in that earlier goal line situation it would have altered everything that happened afterward and UVA may not ever have been in the situation where BYU could return a late-game kickoff for a deciding touchdown.  Yes, I am making reference to the butterfly effect.
Nevertheless, the Hoos took some meaningful positives away from this game.  Last week I opined that a better showing by UVA’s offense would perhaps cover for the defense if the Cavalier defenders were unable to match the impressive effort it had put forth in the first three games.  Did you look at the box score?  Holy cow.
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In last year’s fourth game UVA posted a paltry 188 yards of total offense against Pitt.  Last weekend the Cavs put up an eye-popping 519 yards, the first time in sixty-three games that a team has posted 500 yards against BYU’s always-stout defense.  Virginia also ran a school-record 102 plays, completed passes to eleven different receivers, rushed for  192 yards and passed for 327 more.  When Lambert exited the game with an injury, Matt Johns again was effective and looked comfortable running the offense.  He gives Virginia a security blanket at a position that has been a real problem for the Hoos in recent years.  Looking at the box score you would be hard-pressed to believe that UVA lost the game, so dominant was UVA in the statistical battle.  UVA’s defensive game plan was to bottle up dual-threat QB Taysom Hill, deny him the rush and make him throw the ball. Again, a glance a that box score would indicate that this strategy was successful.  Hill rushed for only 72 yards and threw for 187.  Not eye-popping numbers for a player with Heisman Trophy aspirations but for the first time this year and for the first time in nine games UVA did not force a turnover. Prior to the BYU game UVA’s offense had scored almost half of its points this year off opponent turnovers so the lack of short-field scoring opportunities hurt despite the Hoos posting 33 points.  The Cavaliers also lost the field position battle for the first time this year thanks largely to the amazing punting day put up by BYU’s Scott Arellano, who had three punts of more than 60 yards and pinned UVA inside its own 20-yard line four times.
So, UVA comes back to Scott Stadium for its first game this season in which it is favored over an FBS opponent. Kent State is 0-3 and Virginia really should have no problem winning this game so long as it does the little things right, limits the mental mistakes, and remembers that it cannot look past any opponent this year, especially since every game is a referendum on Coach London’s job status.   Virginia has run the gauntlet in the season’s first four weeks, emerging with a better-than-expected 2-2 record.  These early season tests against ranked teams and Heisman candidates should serve the Cavaliers well when they enter league play and square off against teams with merely good quarterbacks and no national ranking. I agree with Coach London.  This team is legitimate.
 

The College Quickie: Virginia Tech Blows, Auburn Unimpressive, and Clemson Poops Themselves

This is a frenetic, rapid fire review of major games and storylines around the country from this past weekend. I felt it necessary to give you a heads up before you get lost in the following article: There is no actual structure or organization; it only serves to convey my thoughts on Week 4. One other word of caution: If you get halfway in and become paralyzed with fear because you’re lost, take a deep breath and continue reading to the end. You’ll find the exits prominently marked.
Would you take nine hundred thousand dollars to let someone kick your ass? That’s pretty much what Troy did. Georgia beat them mercilessly, 66-0.Todd Gurley’s backup, Sony Michel, did the majority of the work on the ground, giving Gurley a bit of a break.
What’s up with Bama’s defense? By this point in the season, the Tide’s defense usually finds its identity; I haven’t seen it yet. And the mistakes Bama made against Florida…wow. Four turnovers and seven penalties, this is not normal for Alabama. Luckily, the ground game was present as always, and Blake Sims’ 445 passing yards (second Tide quarterback to pass for 400+) sealed the 42-21 win.
There was a ton of points scored; several 60 and 70 point games all over the country provided some entertainment if you enjoy games without defense. Wisconsin scored 68 and broke the B1G record for team rushing yards with 644. Melvin Gordon accounted for 253 yards and 5 scores, tying a school record for touchdowns in a game.
Michigan State scored 73, Texas A & M had 58, and East Carolina dropped 70 points themselves. That’s a hell of a lot of points, in my opinion. Is anyone else impressed with East Carolina yet?
I think it’s safe to say Virginia Tech sucks. This amuses me, mostly because, in my mind, it confirms that Ohio State REALLY sucks. You may not subscribe to this particular school of thought, but I suspect the Buckeyes will confirm it to everyone before the season ends.
Auburn did not impress me at all. Too much emphasis was placed on the passing game, and Nick Marshall never seemed comfortable until Gus Malzahn loosened the reins in the second half and went back to the run. The Tigers were lucky to win such an ugly game. I had one final thought when this one ended: Why can’t kickers make field goals when facing Auburn?
I think we finally saw who LSU is this season. While Mississippi State is a very good team, they had been waiting on a signature win for Coach Dan Mullen since he took over. The final score didn’t reflect just how the Bulldogs controlled the game and owned the Tigers. LSU will lose more games, it’s all but guaranteed now.
I think BYU is a damn good team, with a great rushing attack. Virginia gave them a scare, but the Cougars remained calm and finished the game still undefeated. They stand a very good chance to run the table with what I see as minimal resistance. The question is whether that schedule makes them worthy of a playoff spot. I’m not convinced that it is.
Missouri may still have a shot at the SEC title, but they can’t lose another game if they expect to be taken seriously. It’s hard for me to get past the fact that a basketball school beat them, an unranked basketball school at that.
Really, Oregon? I know I said you’d choke at some point this season, but I didn’t consider Washington State to be responsible for it. The Ducks were lucky to escape with a win. The Cougars just gave the PAC12 this season’s blueprint for beating Oregon, and I’m sure there’s a team on their schedule that can pull it off.
How about Clemson? I had my heart set on this one being entertaining, and it didn’t disappoint. When I heard Jameis Winston would be suspended for the entire game, I felt an evil grin slowly creep across my face, followed by uncontrollable demonic laughter. I just KNEW the Seminoles would lose. I could feel it; I just couldn’t quite will it to happen. Clemson was *ThisClose* to winning, and then “Clemsoned” themselves in the end. The hope I took away was that Florida State was not invincible this season; and for that reason alone, I am officially a Notre Dame fan, at least until October 19. They will beat Florida State. I am going to cram this down your throats every chance I get until you believe it will happen as well, so get ready to believe the hype.
What happens this weekend? Will we finally see an epic upset? We seem to get a little closer each week so it’s bound to happen soon. All we can do is enjoy the games and wait for the big upset. Find us on Twitter (@CFBRoundTable) or talk to me and let me know your feelings (@KevinHicks77).

Top 25: What did we learn?

This past weekend gave top teams scares (Oregon), close games (Florida State), wild finishes (Arizona), and teams proving themselves (Alabama, Oklahoma). So after an extremely entertaining Saturday, what can we take away? In the end, I’m not sure we learned a whole lot.
As exciting as the weekend was, LSU was the only top team to lose. Oregon and Florida State survived, but I think Florida State’s game is more concerning for them. Even though they played without Jameis Winston, it appears the Seminoles will struggle to run the ball all year long. And though the defense didn’t give up many points, they let an offense led mostly by a true freshman move the ball with relative ease. These are some of the reasons I finally moved Florida State out of the top spot in my Top 25. The Seminoles are in a precarious position. Obviously if they go undefeated they’ll make the playoff. But the way they’ve been playing it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them slip up at least once. So what happens in that scenario? You’d have a Florida State team who hasn’t lived up to their pre-season hype, as a one-loss conference champ in a league that might not have any other team finish in the Top 25. You could argue the ACC is worse than the Big 10 this year, so if Michigan State and Florida State both finish 12-1 and the Spartans loss is at Oregon, it would be hard to justify putting the Seminoles in the playoff over the Spartans.
As far as the rest of the country, the top teams have started to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. Alabama showed that the quarterback position is no longer a question mark, Oregon survived Washington State with the help of a scintillating performance by Marcus Mariota, and Oklahoma and Auburn had huge road wins in tough environments. Still, with Oklahoma and Baylor yet to play, Alabama having Texas A&M and Auburn’s offenses to deal with, Oregon with a tough Pac-12 schedule, and so many quality SEC teams, it is hard to envision any team going undefeated. The biggest question for me as the season unfolds, is will the selection committee be able to resist putting two SEC teams in the initial playoff?
Top 25 (Last week’s rank in parenthesis)
1. Alabama (2)
2. Oregon (3)
3. Michigan State (4)
4. Oklahoma (5)
5. Florida State (1)
6. Baylor (6)
7. Auburn (8)
8. Texas A&M (9)
9. South Carolina (10)
10. Georgia (11)
11. Notre Dame (12)
12. USC (13)
13. Ole Miss (16)
14. Stanford (18)
15. Mississippi State (UR)
16. UCLA (14)
17. LSU (7)
18. TCU (20)
19. Ohio State (21)
20. Nebraska (19)
21. East Carolina (25)
22. Clemson (15)
23. Arizona State (23)
24. Wisconsin (UR)
25. BYU (UR)

What We'll Be Talking About on Sunday

After a flurry of big games to start the college football season in weeks one and two, there’s a bit of a break this week with only one matchup between Top 25 teams. The action picks up again in Week 4, but let’s takes a look at some of the key points the college football world will be talking about on Sunday.

Who will look the best? UCLA

UCLA has been flying a bit under the radar this season, because they haven’t been living up to expectations. Many had them as Pac-12 champion and a playoff team, but they have yet to look the part. The first game saw the defense steal the show with three touchdowns while the offense struggled. Then last week QB Brett Hundley finally played closer to his potential, but the defense struggled in the win over Memphis. This is the week the Bruins remind everyone why they were a pre-season Top 10 team. Part of it is because of what Texas isn’t. With David Ash out and Jaxon Shipley questionable, the Bruins defense will be able to focus on shutting down the Longhorns run game. With the Texas offense unable to get anything going, there will be too much pressure on the defense once again. The Bruins will take this one handily, just like BYU did against the Horns last week.

What team will get too much credit? Oklahoma

If the Sooners, about three touchdown favorites against the Volunteers, perform like they should on Saturday, the hype train is going to get more out of control than it already is. After two weeks some are calling the Sooners the most complete team in the country and one of the favorites to make the playoff. While their current rank is understandable, I feel that if they win handily against Tennessee people will start to overrate them, if they haven’t already. Tennessee has been getting some buzz the first couple weeks, but they’re a team that didn’t have a single starter returning on their offensive or defensive line. As a team who has maybe the best combination of lines in the country, Oklahoma should handle Tennessee. The more interesting game will come next week when the Sooners visit Morgantown and play a West Virginia team that caused people to significantly question Alabama this year.

Can South Carolina save their season? Yes

South Carolina is right there with Ohio State as maybe the two most disappointing teams of the season so far. Unlike the Buckeyes, South Carolina doesn’t have a good excuse. After getting rolled in the season opener against Texas A&M, public perception seems to be that Georgia should win fairly easily. I’m not quite as troubled by South Carolina’s performance last week against East Carolina however. East Carolina isn’t a terrible team and it’s not surprising that the Gamecocks would struggle the game after getting housed at home on a national stage and the game before their only chance to salvage the season against Georgia. The possibility is there that South Carolina will simply struggle with spread offenses like A&M’s and be better against traditional ones, similar to what has been the case with Alabama the last few years. Hutson Mason didn’t exactly play lights out in Georgia’s win over Clemson, so if South Carolina can slow the Bulldogs’ rushing attack and use home field advantage to pull out a victory, they’ll be right back in the driver seat for where they want to go this season.

What team gets exposed? Missouri

Missouri has been cruising along the first couple weeks of the season, parlaying wins against San Diego State and Toledo to a #20 ranking. But I don’t think they’re the 20th best team in the country. Maty Mauk has played well for the most part, but he threw 2 interceptions last week and now faces what should be a stout UCF defense. The Knights have up a ton of yards to Penn State the first week in Ireland, but State threw the ball a ton, and I think the Knight defense plays more like the D they were last year than how they performed in the opener. The Tigers gave up over 5 ypc to Toledo last week on run plays which will allow the Knights to shorten the game and keep Mauk off the field. When the Missouri offense is on the field, they will struggle compared to the first couple weeks against a defense that has had an extra week to prepare. UCF wins in an upset.

Will there be continued uproar over Pat Haden running onto the field? No

I didn’t think the Pat Haden situation was a big deal when I saw it, so I was surprised when it was made into a huge ordeal to begin with. Then people started saying he shouldn’t be allowed to be a part of the playoff selection committee. Talk about blowing things out of proportion. Was it stupid for Pat Haden to run on the field during a game and scream at the officials? Yes. Did it look ridiculous and childish? Yes. But who cares? I would expect anyone with such strong ties to a program to be that invested in his school. Now all of a sudden he shouldn’t be on the selection committee; that’s an opinion that makes no sense to me. So if he never ran on the field last week people would assume that he wasn’t going to try and make a case for USC/the Pac-12 during playoff selection committee deliberation? In the end, basically every one of the committee members will have a bias towards some school, and that is why they have the recusal policy. If Pat Haden isn’t going to be allowed in the room when the committee discusses USC, it doesn’t matter if Haden runs on the field every week. Frankly, the type of passion Haden showed last Saturday is exactly the type of person we should want on the selection committee.