Tag Archives: Houston Cougars

The Group of 5 Does Not Need its Own College Football Playoff

The debate that has been raging since the inception of the College Football Playoff is whether or not four teams are enough. Some say that four teams are enough. Others say, “not so fast,” we need more than four participants. And there is yet a third opinionated group of voices that tells us that a playoff isn’t needed regardless of the number of teams participating.

And now there is a fourth voice in the argument and its proposal would be the most disruptive of all. Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier is leading the charge for the Group of 5 to have its own college football playoff.

Schools that compete in the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences feel like they’re living on the Island of Misfit Toys. The reason that these conferences feel this way is justified, but it’s also not unfair.

Even when schools like Houston and Western Michigan have magical years, they don’t get into the playoff. Houston proved with its 2015 Peach Bowl victory over Florida State that it could not only compete with but beat a Power 5 school. The Cougars followed that up with a 2016 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. Then, as the season progressed, things went down hill for Houston.

As Tom Herman led the Cougars into the October 8 game against Navy, Houston was sitting at 5-0. That unblemished record was highlighted with the win over the Sooners. The team had positioned itself well for playoff consideration. And then Houston lost to Navy. But that wasn’t Houston’s only loss. The Cougars then lost to SMU and Memphis. Game over. Playoff consideration was off the table and rightfully so.

But being shunned by the playoff committee was not the fault of the playoff committee. It was Houston’s fault. Houston took care of Oklahoma but then couldn’t take care of its AAC business. Too bad. Go back to the Island of Misfit Toys.

Having a separate playoff for the Group of 5 will not solve this problem because there isn’t a problem to be solved. All that this proposed second tier playoff will do is create a larger divide between the Group of 5 and Power 5 schools. The perceived difference in quality will grow at an exponential rate.

Frazier believes that the current playoff system is designed to crown a Power 5 champion. He believes that the Group of 5 is being held down and left out at a systemic level. Frazier wants us all to ignore the fact that the highest-ranked Group of 5 team is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s 6 bowls. That isn’t the definition of being left out. That isn’t being confined to the Island of Misfit toys no matter what your teams do.

Western Michigan is the 2016 version of the 2015 Houston program. P.J. Fleck and his Broncos rowed the boat all the way to a 13-0 season. The reward is a trip to the Cotton Bowl where the opponent will be the Wisconsin Badgers. Western Michigan had a great season, but don’t be fooled, all 13-0 seasons are not created equal. The Broncos, much to Frazier’s assumed chagrin, do not belong in the playoff. Western Michigan didn’t have its “rightful” spot in the playoff stolen.

P.J. Fleck did go undefeated against the Big Ten this season, but those wins came against a 7-6 Northwestern team and a 3-9 Illinois team. Nope. Sorry/not sorry. The Broncos don’t belong in the playoff. And to be honest, the Broncos are lucky to be in the Cotton Bowl. Thank goodness for negotiated contractual clauses.

2017 has the potential to be an interesting year in terms of playoff consideration if, and only if, Western Michigan can upset Wisconsin. If Western Michigan can manage to do that, it will surely start 2017 off with a high preseason ranking. Package that potential ranking with road games against Southern Cal and Michigan State and the Broncos could be in consideration for the 2017 playoff. But even if the Broncos knock-off Wisconsin, Southern Cal and Michigan State, Fleck will still have to go undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. Sound easy? Just ask Houston about beating schools from the Power 5 only to screw it all up by struggling against its Group of 5 competition.

The Group of 5 is what it is. It’s a collection of good, but not great football programs. There are teams like Houston and Western Michigan that have the potential to be in the same conversation as the Power 5 schools, but teams like the Cougars and Broncos have to build up to a playoff run over the course of multiple seasons. Unlike a Power 5 school, it can’t be done during a single season. Creating a Group of 5 playoff won’t solve this non-problem. If anything, it will be perceived as the Group of 5 creating its own participation trophy.

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

Photo: Pixabay

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Tom Herman will be in Over His Head at Texas

Tom Herman is the new head football coach at the University of Texas. For most people, this is a match made in heaven. Campus Pressbox’s own Chase Holik is one of those people who is showering Texas with unapologetic praise for the hire.

I’m here to tell Chase and the rest of the Tom Herman fan club to slow down.

In hiring Herman, I feel like we’ve witnessed this kind of enthusiasm about a previous Texas head coaching hire. Remember when Charlie Strong was hired in 2014? I do. And Strong was the hot, unproven coaching commodity in 2014 just as Herman is now. Even though the perception is that Herman and Strong are nothing like, let’s compare the two at comparable points in their careers.

Prior to accepting the Texas job, Strong boasted an impressive resume. He spent time as an assistant coach at high profile schools like Florida and Notre Dame. He was a position coach for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and was the defensive coordinator for Florida’s 2006 and 2008 national championship teams. He turned his success as an assistant coach into a head coaching opportunity at Louisville.

In 2010, Strong took over a Louisville program that had gone 15-21 under Steve Kragthorpe. Strong took that struggling program and, through recruiting players like Teddy Bridgewater, went 37-15. In his four seasons at Louisville, Strong turned the Cardinals back into winners. His tenure was highlighted by a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. His reward for rebuilding Louisville was being tapped to do the same at Texas. Texas was coming off of an 8-5 season under Mack Brown. Times were tough in Austin when Strong took over.

The state of the Longhorn program is important to remember when assessing Strong’s record at Texas. He was having to rebuild the program both inside and out.

Herman and Strong’s rise to coaching prominence is similar. Herman’s claim to fame was the success Ohio State had during his time as offensive coordinator. He is credited with being the architect of the Buckeye offense that won the 2014 national championship. Herman used this accomplishment to gain his first head coaching job at Houston.

Herman then took over a Houston program that had fallen on hard times under head coach Tony Levine. Levine went 21-17 at Houston prior to Herman taking over. Like Strong did at Louisville, Herman brought Houston back to national prominence. Herman went 22-4 at Houston and the highlight was beating Florida State in the 2015 Peach Bowl.

The similarities between Herman and Strong not only include impressive resumes as assistant coaches but also includes success as mid-major head coaches. But the decision made by the Texas administration to hire Herman is based on the idea that Herman is completely different than Strong. Texas is wrong. Herman and Strong are more similar on the field than anyone at Texas cares to admit.

Herman knows football. There’s no question about that. When it comes right down to it, so does Strong. But there’s more to succeeding at Texas than just knowing football. Coaching at Texas also means living inside a vast political machine that includes overbearing boosters and a savage Austin sports media cabal. And that is what I doubt Herman is prepared to manage. Strong was over his head and my best guess is that Herman will also be in over his head.

Texas would have been better off hiring an experienced head coach. Sorry, but Herman’s two years at Houston just doesn’t cut it. Herman couldn’t handle a bit of friction with Nick Wright and John Lopez. Keep in mind that this happened while Herman was winning at Houston. What will he do if he falls on hard times at Texas and the Austin media rip into him? Wright and Lopez aren’t Kirk Bohls and Chip Brown. I’ll wish Herman good luck right now if he rubs either of those Austin sports media legends the wrong way.

Being the head coach at Louisville was different than being in charge of the Longhorns. And being in charge at Houston is different than being the head coach at Texas. It’s not so much about football knowledge as it is the ability to maneuver through a 24-hour labyrinth of media and booster scrutiny.

There will be no honeymoon period for Herman just as there wasn’t for Strong. Herman may have had the head coaching pedigree to handle a job as big as Texas down the road, but I don’t believe that day is today.

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Louisville Fans, Don’t Give Up Now!

Imagine a world where you don’t have the front-runner for the Heisman trophy playing quarterback for your team who has led your team to 9 victories this season and hopefully a 10th next week.  Imagine never being ranked in the top 25 let alone the top 10 this entire season and imagine having more open seats in the stadium than filled seats.  Finally imagine your season being over already and you having nothing to play or cheer for. Well welcome to the reality of 45 FBS teams that are currently bowl ineligible and most likely will remain that way heading into the final week of the season.  What I’m trying to stress is that even though Louisville may be out of playoff contention, but their season is far from over and needs to be recognized as one of the most successful Louisville seasons in recent years.

Since 2006, Louisville has only won double-digit games 3 times.  In 2006 the Cardinals beat 3 ranked teams and finished that season with only one loss. In 2012 (aside from beating #3 Florida in the Russel Athletic Bowl) and 2013 the team had high win seasons with incredibly sub-par opponents (thanks, Big East). The 2013 Louisville team never played a ranked opponent so when you have now NFL elite quarterback Teddy Bridgewater taking the snaps you are expected to do as well as the Cards did that season.  Now this season has been filled will numerous big name opponents with Florida State currently ranked 17th, Clemson at 4th and Houston who will definitely be ranked after this week.  Though this year the cards have soon to be Heisman winner Lamar Jackson,  these are still very big games two of which were road games in prime time adding to the already harsh environments.

Now of course for the 2016 Cards to become the 4th double digit win team in the last 11 years for the program, they still need to beat the University of Kentucky.  Last week Kentucky dismantled winless Austin Peay 49-13.  Kentucky is now bowl eligible for the first time under Mark Stoops so this is already a successful season for the Wildcats but what would put the icing on the cake would be if they could knock off the mighty Cardinals who they haven’t beat at Papa John’s stadium since 2010.    Kentucky has a 3-pronged rushing attack spear headed by Benjamin Snell Jr. who had 152 yards on 14 attempts also scoring 2 TDs on the day.  The Cardinals must take this rushing attack seriously or we may see a possible repeat of last week’s failure.

With double-digit wins looming large on the horizon for the Cardinals now is not the time for the fans to turn our backs on our team.  Petrino’s team has fought tooth and nail to get to this point and found ways to get through adversity.  Now it’s our turn as fans to show our support for our team. We need a packed house when the other team from Kentucky comes to town to show that Louisville fans and its team will not lie down and will continue to fight till the end of this season.

 

Photo: FlickrMedia

 

The Sunday Morning Notebook: Another Afternoon Edition

This week of college football wasn’t nearly as exciting as the last, but there were definitely some shakeups in the college football world, including a tough Thursday night for a potential playoff squad and a big program firing (or not) that we all saw coming.

Enjoy a slightly later version of the Sunday Morning Notebook.

 

Louisville Falls from Playoff Contention

Not only that, but Lamar Jackson may have lost his chance at a Heisman after his Cardinals lost to Houston, 36-10, on Thursday.

Jackson, who was the presumed front-runner for the Heisman trophy, completed less than half of his passing attempts for 211 yards and a touchdown.  However, his 33 rushing yards were the fewest he’s totaled in a game all season even though he tallied the second highest carry total of the season.

The loss definitely exposed Louisville as a team that is dependent on the success of one player (Jackson).

The loss also adds a second to Louisville’s season total.  The Cardinals won’t be playing for an ACC Championship, so they can say goodbye to any hope of getting a playoff bid.

Notes:

  • Jackson’s 95.4 quarterback rating is the lowest rating he’s received all season and the only time his rating has been under 100.  He also failed to record more than one touchdown for just the second time this season, and the second time in two weeks.
  • Houston stormed out to a 31-0 halftime lead.  That’s a pretty staggering stat considering Louisville hasn’t trailed by more than 18 points all season.
  • Houston won its eighth game of the season and moved to 2-0 against top 10 teams.  We’ll talk more about UH Head Coach Tom Herman in a second.

 

Strong’s Time at Texas Coming to an End

 The story of the week was that University of Texas boosters desperately wanted head coach Charlie Strong fired and Houston HC Tom Herman hired.  That decision was made easier when Texas lost to Kansas.  Why? Because Kansas had a 23 game FBS losing streak and hadn’t beaten Texas since 1938.

Shortly after the game, strong was fired. Or was he? Yeah, he was. Wait… No, he wasn’t. Sources. Sources. Sources. Twitter…Sigh.

Either way, Strong is more-than-likely on his way out, which means Texas will need to find a new coach.  The most likely candidate- Tom Herman.

Notes:

  • Herman has a great résumé.  He led Ohio State’s offense to a Big Ten and National Championship in his last season as OSU offensive coordinator.  In two years as Houston’s head coach, Herman has amassed a 22-3 record with a conference championship and bowl victory.
  • If Texas can’t lure Herman, they may have to look to Les Miles, who is currently trying to figure out what to do in retirement.
  • Honestly, if Herman doesn’t work out, the Texas program will look even more silly than it already does.  Strong didn’t have enough time to develop a program at Texas and is probably still the best option for them, despite being fired.  I’d wager a decent amount of money that Strong will find success at another program.

Other Notes:

-Ohio State barely escaped East Lansing with a victory, and Michigan struggled as well.  The weather was terrible in both instances and each team’s struggle should not negatively impact their spot in the standings. That means we get to see a 2v3 matchup next week in Columbus.

-Clemson clinched a spot in the ACC Championship with its win over Wake Forest.  If the Tigers can win out, they should have no problem getting into the playoff.

-The fourth playoff spot is still in question.  If it isn’t Washington, it may very well be a second Big Ten team.  Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State are all sitting in the AP Top Ten.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @evanskilliter.

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why Lamar Jackson Will Undoubtedly Win the Heisman

The Heisman race this year has been more competitive and talked about than in recent years because of the amount of standout athletes that have taken their talents to the next level in college football. While all the contenders have their cases as to why they should win, at the end of the day there is one man who stands above all the rest: Lamar Jackson.

Lamar Jackson is a freak of nature, and no one else can be compared with him, not this year, not last year and not for many more years to come. Statistically speaking he is a literal record breaker, both at the FBS level and at the university level. After the game against Boston College Jackson now becomes the first player in UofL history to break 1,000 yards rushing at the quarterback position. He has also broken the total offense record at UofL previously set by Teddy Bridgewater. With 47 touchdowns on the season and one regular season game left plus a bowl game, Lamar could be on pace to come close to the FBS record for most touchdowns in a single season set by Colt Brennan in 2006 with 63. If we do a little math that’s averaging eight touchdowns per game to tie the record. For most quarterbacks it would be a crazy number but with the talent of Lamar Jackson anything is possible.

These last two games and next week’s game also play a huge factor for Lamar’s Heisman chances because all three of these teams have winning records going into their games with Louisville, Wake Forest and Houston are already bowl eligible with Kentucky needing just one more win (over Austin Peay) to get there. This is important because out of the nine teams that UofL has played already only two are bowl eligible and one of those (Clemson) was a loss.

So, with these last two games and next week’s game coming up against teams who are above .500 (Kentucky should be 6-5 after this weekend) this will prove to be Louisville’s toughest stretch of games so far. Lamar may have not had the most dominating performance against Wake Forest but 145 yards passing and 153 more on the ground and a touchdown is still a decent performance against the 44th ranked defense in the nation. The real test for Jackson was against the 9th ranked Houston defense last night. Jackson ended with 211 yards passing and 33 more rushing as well as a touchdown in the hopes of all but solidifying his Heisman campaign.

To put this all in perspective let’s look at another dual-threat Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel. Manziel had 5,116 yards for his 2012 Heisman winning season and 46 touchdowns. On the other hand, Lamar Jackson, with one game left in the season, has 4,476 yards and 47 touchdowns. That means that, with one game left this season, Lamar already is responsible for more toushdowns than Manziel, even if he may fall just short of Manziel’s total yardage. If that’s not enough then why not look at another similar quarterback, Cam Newton? Newton had 4,369 yards and 51 touchdowns for his Heisman-winning season. So with one game left Lamar would need four more touchdowns to tie Newton’s number and is already ahead of Newton in total yards.

In conclusion, Lamar Jackson’s season has been by all standards incredible and a pleasure to watch. Unless some monumental collapse were to happen in this last game, Jackson is still the front-runner for the Heisman and will stay that way all the way to the ballots, even without a shot at a national title.

 

Photo: Wikimedia

The Alabama Crimson Tide Remain a Work in Progress

Teams get wake up calls throughout the course of a season. Wake up calls happen to the teams that we consider to be unbeatable. These teams that were considered to be unbeatable fall victim to an upset and the coaches get their teams back on track as they rise back to the top of the rankings.

We’ve watched some big time teams go down this year. Ohio State lost to Penn State, Oklahoma lost to Houston and Ohio State, Michigan lost to Iowa, Clemson lost to Pittsburgh, and Washington lost to USC. This list could be longer, but you get the point.

In the case of Oklahoma, the Sooners hit the snooze button and needed a second wake up call before going about their winning ways. The Buckeyes needed just one alarm to go off before resuming their winning ways. It remains to be seen how those other teams will rebound, but I bet those teams bounce back as well.

There is something to be said for a team losing and then regaining its focus. That speaks to the commitment of both the players and the coaches. Coaches like Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are elite level coaches who are able to use these minor setbacks as teaching tools. Elite coaches don’t allow minor setbacks to become major setbacks.

And then there is the true king of the coaching mountain. Nick Saban.

Saban has his team sitting pretty with a 10-0 record as we go into Week 12. People think that Saban and Alabama have it easy. He’s the best coach in the business who gets to coach the best talent in the business. But it’s a roster of 18-22 year olds. These kids can say they don’t read the hype that’s written about them, but they know who they are and who they play for. Simply being recruited by Saban provides their football identities.

Unlike coaches like Stoops and Meyer, Saban doesn’t need a full game to get the attention of his team. At least not this year. Alabama has had one bad half of football this year. Alabama found itself down 24-3 to Mississippi and went on to win 48-43. So while other coaches need full games of disappointment to get the attention of their team, all Saban needed was 30 minutes of poor football and a halftime speech to get his team back on track.

Saban doesn’t get the credit he deserves. This is particularly true this year. Going into this season, he lost his Heisman-winning running back to the NFL and had uncertainty at the quarterback position. He now relies on true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and a committee of running backs that also features another true freshman, Josh Jacobs. He has molded this youth on offense into a budding juggernaut as he leans on a defense that seems to feed off every bit of success it has.

As dominant as both his offense and defense have become, Saban’s team has had some growing pains this year. Youth and inexperience will do that. But Saban has kept his team on track while other top-10 programs have lost a time or two.

So while we may have already witnessed teams like Oklahoma and Ohio State peak, Alabama appears to still be finding its groove. It must be nice to be so good that your team is 10-0 as it continues to develop.

 

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Can the Oklahoma Sooners Crash the College Football Playoff Party?

Once the first 2016 college football playoff ranking was unveiled with all of the pageantry that ESPN could muster, college football fans had one more topic to argue about. Was Texas A&M deserving of its top four ranking or was Washington the more deserving team? It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. That fanatical argument doesn’t matter because there is still a lot of football left to be played this season and chances are good that one of the teams currently on the outside looking in will sneak into one of the playoff spots.

Oklahoma could be that sneaky team.

With two losses on its resume, Oklahoma may seem like a long shot that only a Big 12 homer such as myself (no, not really) could hold out hope for. But there are a few two-loss teams that are ranked ahead of the Sooners and some of those teams could realistically expect to lose another game or two. So please, hear me out on this.

Oklahoma’s loss to Houston no longer looks like the quality loss that it once did. Losing to Tom Herman is no longer the badge of honor that it once was considered. But how about that loss to Ohio State? I’ll tell you how that loss to Ohio State looks. It looks like a proverbial quality loss. That loss continues to look better and better if Ohio State continues to play like it did against Nebraska.

As for what Oklahoma can control? The Sooners control their own destiny to a large extent and it all starts this Saturday as Stoops and his Sooners end the season against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. All of those teams are ranked so all of those wins would strengthen the resume of the Sooners.

The Big 12 and Oklahoma aren’t known for suffocating defenses, but that’s just fine. The Sooners have the offensive fire power to rip through the remainder of the schedule. Baker Mayfield is torching opposing defenses with the help of Dede Westbrook. If the Sooners hadn’t lost to Ohio State, both of those players would be in the Heisman conversation based on the statistics that each are producing.

If having players the caliber of Mayfield and Westbrook weren’t enough for opposing defenses to deal with, the Sooners will have both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine available against Baylor. If Perine stays healthy and Mixon stops throwing temper tantrums at campus parking lot attendants, the Sooners should have all of the pieces in place to scare the rest of the conference.

The Big 12 has a bad reputation when it comes to comparing its teams to the upper echelon of teams from other conferences. I’m as guilty of that as everyone else. But if you’re a Big 12 fan and specifically a fan of Oklahoma, none of that should matter. What should matter to you is that the Sooners do have a puncher’s chance to slide into the playoff. Could the team win the championship? Get into the playoff first and then we’ll talk about that.

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

Photo: Wikimedia

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The Sunday Morning Notebook- Meyer, Tide, Utes, and More

Meyer Makes a Mistake

Urban Meyer proved he is a human last night.  His delayed decision to rush his kicking team onto the field late in the game turned a makeable field goal try into six points for Penn State.  Taking three points on a long field goal attempt was uncharacteristic for Meyer in the first place, and the hesitation only made the attempt more difficult.

Those six points gave the Nittany Lions a 24-21 lead with 4:27 left in the game, and the Buckeyes couldn’t answer.

It’s not common for Meyer to make coaching mistakes. That’s an obvious statement if you know anything about his career.  He’s 56-5 as Ohio State’s head coach, and 160-28 all time. When it’s all said and done, this will be an insignificant event in a hall of fame coach’s illustrious career.

For now, though, this loss could be significant.

There are just five weeks left before the Buckeyes host Michigan on November 26, and those five weeks include a meeting with undefeated Nebraska.  A one loss Ohio State squad will likely get into the playoff with a win over Michigan and a Big Ten Championship in the last two weeks of the season.  A two-loss Ohio State team may still get into the playoff with the same resume.

But what if Ohio State beats Michigan and loses in the Big Ten Championship. What if they beat Michigan by a small margin and lose in the Big Ten Championship? Does one loss, conference championship-less Michigan get in over the Bucks?

The “what-ifs” are endless, but if the Buckeyes would have taken care of business last night we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Notes:

  • J.T. Barrett’s Heisman stock took a slight hit.  His numbers were still impressive, but not nearly impressive enough for a player trying to keep pace with Lamar Jackson.  Barrett completed 24 of 43 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown.  His 26 rushing yards were the fewest he’s registered in a game all season, and last night marks just the third time in 2016 that Barrett hasn’t recorded a rushing touchdown.
  • There was absolutely a missed pass interference call on Penn State with a little over a minute left, but there is plenty more for fans to be angry about.  They can start with Ohio State’s offensive line, which gave up six sacks.
  • Penn State Head Coach James Franklin has been on the hot seat all season, but this win likely buys him another year.
  • ESPN’s Mark May never picks Ohio State. If you haven’t heard, he’s been pretty biased against the Buckeyes his whole television career.  However, he picked Ohio State to win last night. Must have been a reverse psychology trick.

Alabama Wins, Then Loses

The most anticipated game of the weekend was a battle of undefeated teams as sixth-ranked Texas A&M traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on number one Alabama.  After falling behind 14-13 early in the second half, Alabama outscored A&M 20-0 in the last 27:54 in the game en route to a 33-14 victory.

A&M went into Saturday’s matchup averaging over 530 yards of total offense per game (1st in SEC), but Alabama, statistically the conference’s second-best defense, held the Aggies to just 278 offensive yards.

‘Bama quarterback Jalen Hurts continued his stellar freshman season by turning in 93 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He added two more touchdowns and 164 yards through the air.

Alabama did receive some bad news, however, after senior defensive back Eddie Jackson was diagnosed with a broken leg. He is not expected to return this season.  Jackson averages three tackles per game, but plays a big part in the defensive backfield and on special teams. He has one interception returned for a touchdown this season, and he averages 25.8 yards per punt return with two touchdowns.

Notes:

  • Alabama sacked Trevor Knight five times.  The Tide average 3.86 sacks per game, which is good for third in the nation.
  • This fumble recovery for a touchdown marked Alabama’s 10th game in a row in which they’ve scored a non-offensive touchdown.
  • For weeks I’ve been calling Ohio State the best team in the country. After this weekend’s events, I have to eat my words. I’m not sure Ohio State wasn’t more impressive than the Tide for the first part of the season, but Alabama has earned that title.

 

Utah’s Williams Runs Wild in a Classic Pac-12 Shootout

Just over a month ago, Utah’s Joe Williams decided to quit the football team because he wasn’t passionate about the game anymore.

Yesterday, that same Joe Williams rushed for 332 yards and four touchdowns as the Utes outlasted UCLA 52-45.

That’s right, a guy that quit the team and decided to come back a month later turned in college football’s best rushing performance of the season.

You can read about his story elsewhere.

While we’re on the topic of staggering stats, UCLA backup quarterback Mike Fafaul, who was filling in for the injured Josh Rosen, attempted 70 passes, only 19 shy of Connor Halliday’s NCAA record of 89 attempts in 2013.  Fafaul completed 40 of those attempts for 464 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions.

Notes:

  • Utah is 7-1 this season, with a 4-1 mark against Pac-12 opponents.  The Utes are in first place in the Pac-12 South.  Next week they will host the undefeated Washington Huskies, who are ranked number five in the nation.  Don’t miss it.
  • In a preseason media poll, UCLA was picked to finished first in the Pac-12 South Division.  The Bruins are currently 3-5 overall and are fifth out of six teams in the Pac-12 South.

 

Other Notes:

-11th Ranked Houston lost 38-16 to SMU. That’s the Cougars’ second loss of the season. If Tom Herman’s Cougars keep struggling, Herman’s price tag could drop significantly.

-Lamar Jackson was excellent once again. Jackson accounted for 359 yards and four touchdowns in Louisville’s win over North Carolina State — in the first half.  After easing up on the gas in the second half, Jackson finished with 355 yards and three touchdowns through the air, and another 76 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  He is still the clear favorite to win the Heisman trophy.

-Leonard Fournette returned from injury and broke LSU’s single game rushing record after just eight carries.  Fournette finished the night with video game numbers, amassing 284 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. That’s an average of 17.8 yards per carry.

-Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook has been on an absolute tear during the last four weeks. After his receiving performance of 202 yards and two touchdowns last night against Texas Tech, Westbrook is averaging 194 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game over his last four games.

-I’d mention the rest of Oklahoma’s unbelievable offensive performances from last night, but playing against Big 12 defenses isn’t nearly as impressive as it used to be.

-BYU made the gutsiest fake punt call of the season, and perhaps ever.  It didn’t work.

-However, this Virginia fake-ish field goal did work, and it was awesome.

 

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter @skilliter.

Photo: Wikipedia

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 6

Welcome back to the sixth installment of Campus Pressbox’s weekly College Football Playoff rankings. As always,  rankings from the previous weeks can be found here.

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)

Alabama had a nice, quality 19-point win over Arkansas to start the Crimson Tide’s “October of Hell”. Still on the slate for ‘Bama this month is Tennessee, Texas A&M, and LSU. The Arkansas game should be a foreshadowing of how the rest of the month plays out, but if the Crimson Tide play less than stellar for one minute this month, anyone of those three teams could easily steal a game. The real question is which one of them will. Alabama remains the top pick in just about everyone’s book for the College Football Playoff.

  1. The Ohio State Buckeyes (2)

The Buckeyes handled themselves well in what many, including myself, considered a trap game against the Indiana Hoosiers. The schedule will continue to get more difficult as the Buckeyes move deeper into their Big Ten conference schedule.  Madison, Wisconsin awaits this weekend, in what could be the first true test for Ohio State following the blow out in Norman, Oklahoma in week three. Really, it will provide the Buckeyes’ offense a chance to face off against one of the top defenses in the country. The Buckeyes are on the right path for the CFP.

  1. Clemson Tigers (3)

Clemson’s Friday night dismantling of Boston College was missed by most, but the 46-point win was impressive nonetheless. The Eagles simply stood no chance against a team that truly proved itself the week prior against Louisville. And though Dabo Swinney still has some qualms about the Louisville game, the fact of the matter is that Clemson is in the driver’s seat now.  If Clemson can get through the Florida State game in two weeks, there may be no stopping the Tigers from walking away with an undefeated record for the second consecutive year.

  1. Washington Huskies (4)

Washington surprised most when beating Stanford by a wide margin, but the surprise was dulled this week as the Huskies put up 70 points against Oregon. None of the games left on Washington’s schedule are push overs, but none of them are necessarily challenges either. And the fact of the matter is that Houston’s loss over the weekend helped solidify the Huskies’ Playoff spot. As long as the Huskies can manage to walk away from the season with one loss or less, they will occupy the final spot in this year’s Playoff.

  1. Michigan Wolverines (5)

Do you like cheap, high quality steak? Because the Wolverines sure do. Michigan beat Rutgers 78-0. Frankly that score tells it all. Everyone has the right to feel bad for Illinois, the next team in the way of the bulldozing Wolverines. Michigan players and fans still only have November 26 circled on their calendars, however. In terms of Playoff hopes, the Ohio State game is all that matters.

  1. Texas A&M Aggies (7)

Despite the fact that the Aggies tried to choke the game away near the end, Texas A&M still wound up beating Tennessee in double overtime. Though many attribute the game to the Volunteers mistakes, the Aggies consistent, solid play should not be overlooked. In terms of Playoff hopes, next weekend’s game against Alabama in Tuscaloosa is an obvious must win for A&M.

  1. Louisville Cardinals (8)

Louisville was off this weekend, but moved up due to Houston being eliminated from the Playoff by Navy. Duke shouldn’t provide the Cardinals too much of a challenge Friday night, but it certainly is a trap game. As for now, unless things change pretty drastically, the Louisville Cardinals are outsiders and need a lot to change to achieve a Playoff berth.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers

Literally so many teams lost this past weekend that Wisconsin, on a bye, immediately following a loss to Michigan, snuck its way back into the top 10 behind Louisville. I say snuck in, but there are two more teams below the Badgers, emphasizing how weird this past weekend was. Wisconsin probably will follow last week’s pattern and be the next No. 8 team to fall out of the top 10, as the Badgers have to beat Ohio State to stay in any type of Playoff contention. Frankly, what the Badgers truly need, more than anything else right now, is some offense. Without it, they may get trampled on Saturday.

  1. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska, without any impressive wins, is a top 10 team. The Cornhuskers beat Oregon by three points. Yes, the same Oregon squad that Washington beat by 49 points. That really emphasizes the difference in abilities of the teams at the top of this list opposed to the teams at the bottom. Nebraska really needs to ramp up its play to have any chance against teams like Ohio State. Any hope that Nebraska has at a Playoff berth will surely be squashed on the Cornhuskers’ trip to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Buckeyes the first weekend of November, if not before.

  1. Baylor Bears

Baylor, just like Nebraska, has had no “impressive” victories this season. Despite that fact, the Bears are the current favorite to win the Big 12. However, the coaching staff’s current behavior could widen the gap between the administration and the team, potentially causing some locker room incidents. If it manages to win the conference with 1 loss or less, Baylor could be a factor in the Playoff race.

Dropouts and Honorable Mentions

Houston, following its loss to Navy, has officially been eliminated from the Playoff. Unless something drastic happens, the Cougars’ place on the list (or even the honorable mentions) will not exist. Tennessee and Miami both dropped from the top 10 following losses, but both are still worthy of honorable mentions this week. The final honorable mention this week goes to the undefeated Boise St. Broncos.

E-mail Cooper at [email protected]

Photo: wikipedia

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College Football Midterms

In college football, you either win or lose.  There are no letter grades.  You can try to put degrees on performances, but when it comes down to it, you pass or you fail.  This past weekend marked the halfway point for most teams as they played their sixth game of the season.

Let’s see who passed the test and who still has some studying to do.

Pass

Alabama – We don’t make a big deal about the Tide’s more impressive wins because we’re so used to them by now.   Until proven otherwise, this is still the best team going.  Saban’s big, bad Bama boys showed us why with a three-score road win over a ranked conference opponent.

Ohio State – The Buckeyes also earned a three-score victory over a conference opponent.  Indiana certainly isn’t on Arkansas’ level, but Ohio State doesn’t really need good wins.  At this point, just keep winning and you’ll be where you want to be.  The Buckeyes are.

Clemson – After a huge win like the one over Louisville two weeks ago, you need to avoid that hangover loss we often see from top teams.  The Tigers quickly shutdown any chance of that happening Friday night in Boston.

Michigan – I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care who the other team is.  Scoring 11 touchdowns on a conference opponent in their own barn is commendable.  Oh, and the Wolverines pitched a shutout, too.

Washington – Saturday night was duck season and it got quite ugly for those defenseless “Web Foots.”  In the last two weeks, the Huskies have embarrassed the two teams that have been dominating the Pac-12 North division for years.  Quickly, a team we didn’t know much about has legitimized its claim as a Playoff contender.

Texas A&M – A 21-point fourth quarter from Tennessee forced overtime, but finally the magic ran out.  Kevin Sumlin’s team now has three wins over ranked opponents.  Next is a date at Alabama, with A&M idle this week.

Fail

Houston – It’s tough to play with a target on your back, especially when you’re used to being the hunter, not the hunted.  The Cougars learned that by falling to the Navy Midshipmen, effectively ending their possible run to the Playoff.  Suddenly, Houston is in a position where it needs help just to have a shot at winning its division.

Tennessee – Let’s be honest.  It was a bit of a mini-miracle that the Vols had remained undefeated for as long as they did.  The furious comeback wasn’t quite enough and now the battle for the SEC East gets interesting.

Miami – As far as the most excruciating ways to lose a football game are concerned, this has to rank quite high.  I have been saying Mark Richt needs some time with his Hurricanes before they become real players in the ACC.  This loss proves my point.  They’re just not ready to be that good yet.

Stanford – Yikes.  Getting stomped by Washington on the road is one thing.  Getting rolled by Washington State at home is another entirely.  Clearly, the Cardinal is done-zo.

Failing the midterm exam doesn’t necessarily kill your semester, but it sure does make the latter half less fun.  Passing, on the other hand, allows you to focus on just taking care of your business, letting everything else take care of itself.  Such is now the task for the Tide, Buckeyes, Tigers, Wolverines, Huskies and Aggies.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke

Photo: Wikipedia

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