Ohio State was admitted into the 2016 College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes’ second appearance in three years and it wasn’t because of their iconic brand name.
The Buckeyes were simply one of the four best and most deserving teams in the country and boasted the most impressive resume outside of Alabama. Ohio State defeated three top-10 opponents in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan and recorded the most impressive out of conference victory with their pummeling of Oklahoma in Norman, the defacto Big 12 champion.
With all of that being said, I understand the argument for Penn State to be included in the playoff instead of Ohio State. It’s just incorrect. For the record, I think Penn State should be in the playoff after winning the toughest conference in the country and coming out of the toughest division in the nation, just not at Ohio State’s expense.
The fact is that Penn State lost two games this season and Ohio State lost one. That’s a big deal. Ohio State has no argument whatsoever if both teams have the same amount of losses. Head-to-head results on the field and conference championships are used to differentiate similar teams when their resumes are comparable.
While Penn State’s non-conference schedule is respectable that includes a close victory over AAC champion Temple and a close defeat to four-loss Pittsburgh, it’s not even comparable to the Buckeyes’ blowout of Oklahoma. Keep in mind this was also the first true road game for 16 of Ohio State’s 22 starters.
Now, some will argue that Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes was fluky and that Ohio State controlled the majority of the game. This is all true, but Penn State won the football game. However, that doesn’t make Penn State better or even more deserving of a playoff spot with two losses. Thanks to Penn State’s rise from mediocrity, the Buckeyes possess the best overall loss concerning any of the one-loss teams.
Penn State lost to a mediocre Pitt team and was destroyed by Michigan 49-10. Should that be excusable because it was before Penn State got hot and won nine consecutive games? When Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014, it was a bad loss, but it was their only loss. I realize Pitt traveled to Death Valley and beat Clemson, but they also lost four games and surrendered 61 points to Syracuse at home.
If you want to say that if the resumes were reversed and Ohio State had two losses with a victory over Penn State and a Big Ten title, it would be the Buckeyes still claiming a spot in the playoff based on their brand, you’re wrong. First of all, if Ohio State lost to Michigan 49-10, that’s an absurd concept and the Buckeyes would surely never get in based on that result alone.
The Penn State argument is that their losses were early in the season so let’s say Ohio State lost to Pitt and Wisconsin and Penn State’s only loss was to the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions still have the better resume even if Ohio State wins the Big Ten title with two losses and an even better loss because of how highly ranked Ohio State was to begin the season.
The only reason Ohio State leapfrogged TCU in 2014 to make the playoff is because both teams had one loss and the 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game was used as the deciding factor. Sure, it will always be debatable as to why TCU dropped with a similar margin of victory against Iowa State on the same day, but nevertheless, head-to-head victories and conference championships put a team over the top when overall record and resumes are near identical.
That’s just not the case with Ohio State and Penn State. The selection committee factors in the entire regular season and not just the last nine weeks. Whether it’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Washington, not one of those teams would have been a home underdog to Maryland at any point during the season and that’s exactly what Penn State was in early October. It’s a moot point now, however it just goes to show you that you cannot earn a playoff appearance in September and October, but you can certainly lose the opportunity.
Last season, Michigan State defeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game with the Spartans going on to get trounced by Alabama in the playoff. Were Michigan State and Iowa truly the best two teams in the Big Ten? With the way everything unfolded, Penn State earned the right to ultimately win the Big Ten championship, but the two best teams in the Big Ten in 2016 were Ohio State and Michigan.
Ohio State is Ohio State because of their excellence on the field and overall body of work on a yearly basis. 2016 was no different as the Buckeyes truly earned their way into the playoff. The committee got it right.
Throw the records out and forget about whether Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh have closed the talent gap on Ohio State. It’s going to be a battle for the ages on Saturday and will serve as the centerpiece for the 2016 edition of the college football playoff.
The new AP poll has been released and includes three Big Ten teams in the top-five for the first time since 1960. Wisconsin is listed at No. 5 with Ohio State and Michigan slotted at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
The 113th chapter of The Game clearly has everything on the line and is probably the most pivotal matchup between the storied rivals since their 2006 clash. Ohio State and Michigan were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 and it was a virtual play-in game into the BCS national title game. However, we are now in an era where a postseason playoff exists, so this Ohio State/Michigan game is as good as it gets and the stakes surely don’t get any bigger than this.
The Buckeyes are coming off a nail biting 17-16 victory over Michigan State. I’ve always said that Ohio State is a team that is built for overtime, but head coach Urban Meyer may want to thank Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio later for his failed two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, Michigan State has always been a thorn in the side for Ohio State and coach Meyer, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Spartans presented the Buckeyes quite a challenge, even in a down year.
Michigan State has interrupted and quite possibly prevented three separate national championship seasons for Ohio State (1998, 2013, 2015). In any case, the Buckeyes got through it and in November, you’ll take a win any way you can get it. Ohio State can now return home and think about nothing except that team up north.
Should we be worried about what would be a devastating loss to the Wolverines? Michigan can’t truly declare itself “back” until they beat Ohio State, especially when the stakes are at a level such as this. Whether we want to admit it or not, Michigan is going to win one of these games sooner rather than later, but it’s not going to be this year in the Horseshoe with a playoff spot on the line. No, not with Meyer in the scarlet and gray’s corner. Michigan is not Michigan State and let’s remember that in the championship department, it still reads Meyer 3-0 over Harbaugh.
As for the game itself, is Michigan backup quarterback John O’Korn going to deliver a victory on the road if starter Wilton Speight is unable to play? Boy, doesn’t that sound familiar to Ohio State fans. Cardale Jones worked out, O’Korn will not. I know it was a snow-covered field in less-than desirable conditions in Michigan’s victory over Indiana, but 7/16 for 59 yards just isn’t going to cut it. Something tells me that Speight will find a way to play Saturday because if not, it will be tough for the Wolverines to do much offensively.
Regardless of who lines up under center for Michigan, the Silver Bullets will be ready. When it comes to the Buckeyes offensively, quarterback J.T. Barrett and the combination of Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel should be tough to defend, even for Michigan’s stout defense. Weber is now over 1000 yards on the season as a redshirt freshman and we know Samuel can deliver a house-call any time he touches the football. Most importantly, I like Ohio State’s chances strictly because of Barrett’s experience.
This isn’t going to be Barrett’s first Ohio State/Michigan game like it will be for either Speight or O’Korn. It really does give the Buckeyes the advantage. Now, there have been plenty of times where experience proved to be irrelevant in the rivalry. Former Buckeye Craig Krenzel sure didn’t have a problem delivering a victory in Ann Arbor back in 2001, the day the rivalry swung in Ohio State’s favor. However, with young cats all over the field in their first experience of The Game, Barrett has been here before and should be able to put Ohio State over the top.
This is a game where legends are made and regardless of anything that has happened up to this point in the season, we can be sure that The Game will live up to its billing as it so often does. As it should be, it’s now a one-game season.
Maybe the third try will be the charm for Harbaugh and Michigan in 2017 because this time around, Barrett and the Buckeyes earn a spot in the playoff and provide more happy times in Columbus. Ohio State wins 27-23 with a goal line stand to preserve the victory. Everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!
That is the combined score that Ohio State has used to defeat its last two opponents with consecutive 62-3 blowouts of Nebraska and Maryland. The Buckeyes have regained their swagger and are hitting on all cylinders at the right time. Especially with three of the top four teams in the latest playoff rankings falling to defeat, on what might have been the most chaotic college football Saturday in over 30 years, Ohio State is once again playing like the top team in the country outside of Alabama.
But there is one minor problem.
Michigan decided to be Michigan and found a way to lose to a struggling Iowa team and that makes the playoff picture a bit foggy for Ohio State. Although, Ohio State fans can’t say much after the Buckeyes were dealt a similar type of loss to Penn State. In any case, Penn State holds the tiebreaker with Ohio State in the Big Ten East to make it to the Big Ten title game due to their head-to-head victory should both teams finish with one conference loss. The Wolverines certainly paid an additional price in defeat with the loss of starting quarterback Wilton Speight to a broken collarbone.
As far as Ohio State is concerned, I wouldn’t be too worried about the Buckeyes’ playoff chances, assuming they are victorious in their final two regular season games. First off, Ohio State is playing like a playoff team and boasts one of the best resumes in the nation, whether they are a conference champion or not. The Buckeyes have impressive wins over Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nebraska with two of the three coming in true road games. Sure, Michigan’s loss likely means we will see a Wisconsin/Penn State matchup in the conference title game.
The Buckeyes’ most significant competition of playoff contenders may come from within the conference. Ohio State certainly has a valid argument over a two-loss Wisconsin team that includes a head-to-head victory. As long as Penn State doesn’t find a way to win the Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes should be fine.
It’s natural to believe that if Ohio State can’t become a conference champion, much less play in the title game, its chances can’t be that great, especially because of the requirements the playoff committee has laid out each of the first two years of the playoff.
When it came down to Ohio State and TCU in 2014, it was the Big Ten champion Buckeyes that received the final invitation into the playoff. It’s no secret that the Big 12 doesn’t play a conference championship and that came back to bite TCU hard in the eyes of the committee. However, 2016 is a different animal. There is likely going to be a conference with multiple teams included in the dance and it just might be the Big Ten.
Of course, it would be nice for Ohio State to have the ability to control its own destiny in the Big Ten title game. But seriously, any Ohio State fan would be lying if he or she didn’t at least crack a little smile at Michigan’s heartbreaking defeat. When the craziness of Saturday’s action finally settled, losses by Clemson and Washington almost canceled out Ohio State’s roadblock to Indianapolis caused by Michigan.
It would be different if Ohio State were sitting around No. 4 in the playoff rankings, but the Buckeyes are almost guaranteed to be slotted at No. 2 when the new rankings are revealed Tuesday night. Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest AP poll. As long as Ohio State takes care of business the next two weeks against that state up north, the Buckeyes may just get an extra week to prepare for a playoff semifinal during championship week.
With that said, let’s not pencil Penn State into the title game just yet. With just Rutgers and Michigan State left on the Nittany Lions’ schedule, it’s not exactly a daunting task but the Spartans certainly have a way of playing spoiler.
I don’t think it is even a question that Ohio State is one of the four best teams in the land, especially now that the Buckeyes are looking the part. With back-to-back 59-point victories, Ohio State is certainly trending in the right direction. A conference championship looks nice on paper but should be irrelevant in what has been a roller coaster ride across college football in 2016.
Do people really buy Ohio State merchandise celebrating a conference title? I know I don’t because it’s not the ultimate goal.
Even if Penn State were to do the unthinkable and run the table through the Big Ten Championship, would the committee really include Penn State in the playoff the way the rest of college football stands as of today? Did you watch Michigan State get throttled against Alabama last year?
For years, it’s been Ohio State carrying the Big Ten on its back as far the conference’s accomplishments go, and it will be more of the same in 2016. The Buckeyes were the first national champion of the playoff era and they might as well be the first team to make the playoff that does not play for their conference championship.
After a hiatus, Notre Dame and Michigan will renew their rivalry on the football field to start the 2018 season.
The two teams last met in the 2014 season with Notre Dame winning that matchup 31-0 in South Bend. The rivalry was put on pause due to the agreement that the Irish have with the Atlantic Coast Conference. That agreement states that Notre Dame has to put five ACC schools on the schedule every year. This forced Notre Dame into a decision between keeping Michigan, Navy, USC, and Stanford on the schedule. It would not be possible to retain schedule flexibility while having all four rivalries in addition to five ACC games.
The reunion on the gridiron isn’t permanent, but it opens the door for more future matchups. The two meetings scheduled for 2018 and 2019 are all that are on the docket for now, but that is certainly something that could change.
Obviously, 2018 a few seasons away, but looking ahead, Notre Dame certainly has made things difficult for that season. The Irish will have Michigan, Stanford and Florida State in South Bend, and road contests against Virginia Tech and the Trojans of Southern Cal. As hard as it is to predict what level teams will be playing at in future years, these programs have certainly given no reason to think they won’t be playing at a high level.
Aside from setting up a difficult 2018 schedule, this matchup brings back a little bit of life that college football was missing. That’s not to say the game suffered without the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry not there, but it will always be a welcomed rivalry.
In today’s world Jim Harbaugh has become one of college football’s most polarizing figures, both on the field and in the Twitter world as well. Harbaugh and the Wolverines are in the spotlight regularly, as is Notre Dame. Both of these games are locks to be nationally televised. The first matchup will be on NBC, as every Notre Dame home game is, and it is highly likely that Fox or ESPN will pick up the rematch in Ann Arbor the second year.
This will be a chance to renew a great rivalry with both teams trending up. As I said earlier, there is no telling how strong the teams will be when 2018 arrives, but the safe money is on both of them being relatively powerful. I could even say we will see a game with national championship implications, but I’d just be guessing as would anyone else.
It certainly was sad that Notre Dame had a tough choice to make when it came to which rival ties needed to be cut with, and the debate over whether or not they picked right will rage on forever. It is refreshing to see the Wolverines back on the schedule for Notre Dame. Hopefully this will be able to set up the teams playing at least four times a decade. The fact that the Big Ten is going to a nine game conference schedule may further complicate things as well. In order to make this happen they had to cancel a home-and-home they had previously set up with Arkansas.
2018 is a long way away, but this matchup is something for college football fans to look forward to.
We wanted to make this game happen.
Since it's the season opener at Notre Dame, @CoachJim4UM may need to break out the khaki shorts.
By now, Notre Dame fans know which games are most critical to the Irish’s hopes of running the regular season table this fall. Michigan State, Stanford, Miami, and Southern California are the marquee matchups featured on the 2016 docket for the Irish. If the Irish take care of business in these games, there will not be much debate about their place in the College Football Playoff picture.
However, should the Irish stumble along the way, style points will be at a premium. A few games not featuring a team in all-gold helmets will play a large part in the Irish’s ability to gain style points.
September 3rd – USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
The first week of the season features perhaps the most important game of the year in terms of Notre Dame’s strength of schedule. This matchup between the Trojans and Crimson Tide will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. USC is projected to finish at or near the top of the Pac-12, along with fellow Notre Dame opponent, Stanford. A win for the Trojans would validate the Pac-12 and deliver a blow to the SEC. This would be huge for the Irish, who have plenty of opportunity to prove themselves against Pac-12 opponents, but lack a matchup against the SEC. At season’s end, a debate between Notre Dame and Alabama for playoff positioning could be settled by how each performs against a common opponent.
October 29th – Michigan at Michigan State
On the day Notre Dame hosts the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium, there is another major midwest college football game that has plenty of bearing on Notre Dame’s path to the playoff. With Ohio State reloading after losing numerous starters, the Wolverines and Spartans figure to be the two teams contending for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Outside of Michigan State, Michigan and Notre Dame have no common opponents. In fact, Notre Dame’s game against Michigan State is the only time the Irish will face a Big Ten opponent this season. For this reason, Michigan State dominating the Big Ten would once again be beneficial for the Irish.
November 25th – TCU at Texas
Despite losing Josh Doctson and Trevone Boykin to the NFL, the TCU Horned Frogs still figure to be a contender for the always wide-open Big 12. This game, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving, is a potential trap game for the Horned Frogs. If Notre Dame takes care of Texas in the first game of the season and the Longhorns can steal a late-season game against the Horned Frogs, the Irish will certainly have a decided tiebreaker against teams from the Big 12. Much like the situation with Michigan State, Notre Dame’s only game against a Big 12 opponent comes against Texas. If Charlie Strong’s team can surprise college football experts, Notre Dame benefits.
Other games that should gain considerable notice from Irish fans include Florida State at Miami (October 8th) and Ohio State at Michigan State (November 19th). With a pseudo-Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, Notre Dame should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its worth against ACC opponents. If Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team can pick up where it left off last season, however, the matchup with the Spartans in East Lansing is arguably more important than the aforementioned Michigan – Michigan State matchup.
Whatever the case, Notre Dame has plenty of opportunities to add wins against opponents from many of the Power 5 conferences to their resume. If the Irish take care of business at home (with the exception of the game against USC, all of their marquee matchups take place in South Bend), Notre Dame just may find its way into the College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception.
Twitter clebrated its much publicized 10th birthday this past week, and the attention has stayed on the media outlet since. First, Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar LeBron James created a buzz when he un-followed @cavs, the official Twitter account of the team he is attempting to bring a championship to, and a few other accounts. The next day more Twitter drama ensued, this time in the college football world, and more specifically the Big Ten.
This Twitter fued started after Ohio State University Athletic Director Gene Smith took a shot at The University of Michigan’s football program at a news conference.
Ohio State AD Gene Smith on holding spring practice in Florida: “If we were jump starting our program, I’d probably try to do that too.”
Smith’s comments seem cruel, but they aren’t too far off base. Over the past five seasons, Michigan is 41-23, which is well below its historic standards. The other issue at hand for the Wolverines is only having one win against the Buckeyes in the past five seasons, and two since 2001.
With that being understood, University of Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh took offense to Smith’s words and took to Twitter to voice his opinion.
Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco. Welcome back!
Notably, Ohio State’s most vocal and recognizable Twitter figure, Cardale Jones, sat this Twitter fight out.
Due to the Buckeyes domination of the Wolverines on the gridiron over the past decade and a half the rivalry has lost some of its luster. Things do look bright for this series, much brighter than they have in previous regimes for Michigan. Harbaugh led the team to a 10-3 record in his first season, with his losses to to Utah, Ohio State, and eventual Big Ten champion Michigan Stae.
This Twitter war may not mean a lot at the moment, but ultimately is great for the Big Ten and Ohio State. Lately, the conference has not been as good as it once was. The days of the Big Ten being a football powerhouse are no more, and quite frankly haven’t been here for a long time. Ohio State and Michigan State have both been very good programs, but the conference as a whole has been lacking depth and most importantly the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
Ohio State has taken a beating nationally as of late for their poor schedule quality. That will definitely change this year with a trip to Norman, Oklahoma on the schedule. Even with the addition of the Oklahoma Sooners to the schedule, the key might be the strength of the Wolverines. If Michigan is better the Big Ten is better. Even more than the Big Ten needs Michigan to be great, Ohio State needs them to be great.
It’s clear that the fire is still there between the two programs, it is doubtful that it will ever leave. The competition is what matters most, and that needs to return to how it once was.
After one year on the job, the feeling is that Harbaugh has Michigan heading in the right direction. Time will tell, but if the Big Ten wants to be back at the top of the college football food chain, then the conference will need more battles between Ohio State and Michigan on the field like the one the two sides had on Twitter.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s that time of year again.
Tuesday night the College Football Playoff Committee released their second Top 25 poll of the season. Now before you read any further, let me remind you that all of this is extremely fluid and is subject to change from week to week. For instance, Ohio State, last year’s eventual national champion was slotted at 16th in the opening poll of the season. Much can change between now and December 31st when the semi-final games are slated to be played.
With all of that said, Irish fans have to be extremely happy with the results that were revealed on November 10.
Notre Dame came in at fourth, the final spot of the playoff.
The high ranking does hold some weight however. Common thought would be that if Notre Dame is able to win their remaining four games they will not be held out of the Final Four. This is due to the fact that Notre Dame has a resume building win remaining on the schedule at Stanford, and some of the other teams may take care of themselves.
Left in the season are a few elimination games, or at least games that have the potential to strongly affect the Final Four.
Among these are many of the remaining Big 12 games, a possible matchup between an undefeated #3 Ohio State and an undefeated #5 Iowa in the B1G Championship Game, and Notre Dame’s late season trip to Palo Alto.
Last weekend, LSU was stomped in Tuscaloosa by the Crimson Tide. This caused LSU to fall out of the playoff picture for the time being, and Alabama sliding into the #2 spot that the Tigers briefly held. This, along with another Ole Miss loss, allows Alabama to control their own destiny on the way to an SEC Title Game.
Irish fans should root for:
With Alabama controlling their own destiny, and appearing to have a firm grip on a spot in the playoff, the best chance for a Crimson Tide loss would be this weekend in Starkville against Mississippi State, or in an eventual SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators. Irish fans should be pulling for the Bulldogs and possibly the Gators as well. Although if Florida runs the table and wins the SEC, I would expect to see them garner a spot in the Final Four. As I said earlier I would be surprised if a two loss team would make the Final Four, but if it does happen, my money would be on it being Alabama.
The Big 12 is currently on the outside looking in as well. Baylor and Oklahoma State are both currently unbeaten, but find themselves sitting at six and eight, respectively. These two programs have played relatively weak schedules thus far, and also don’t play defense really well, if at all. The Cowboys do play much better defense than Baylor, but it is still nothing to write home about. That is just the way of life in the Big 12, and I think that the committee takes offense to that in their rankings. These two teams will square off on November 21st. It is very possible that Baylor could fall this week against the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that already has a loss. The Sooners lone hiccup is to Texas in the Red River Rivalry.
Irish fans should root for:
Oklahoma to win out. This would leave Oklahoma as the one loss Big 12 champion. It just so happens that the Sooners loss would come to a team that Notre Dame beat by 35 points. If there would be an undefeated team left out, my money would be on it coming out of the Big 12.
The Big Ten, or B1G as the cool kids call it these days, has two teams in the top ten in Ohio State (3) and Iowa (5). Yes, neither of them have been beaten thus far, but both have failed to notch an impressive win thus far. The Buckeyes have looked extremely average in a few of their games, but they have looked like a top team in a few others. Iowa has played well, however their best win is due to a last second, 57-yard field goal over currently unranked Pitt. A good win, but not a marquee one per se.
Irish fans should root for:
This scenario became a little clearer this past weekend with the loss of Michigan State to Nebraska. The hope is still for Michigan to win the conference, but now that is a little more likely to happen. If Ohio State can manage to defeat Illinois and Michigan State, and Michigan beats Indiana and Penn State, then that would set up a de facto B1G East Title Game on November 28 at the Big House between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. Irish fans would be pulling for Michigan to upset the Buckeyes and later defeat Iowa to win the B1G. I would be very surprised to see a two loss B1G team sneak into the Final Four.
Out west, teams in the Pac 12 have not done themselves many favors this season. Stanford is the highest ranked team in the conference at seven, up four spots from last week. They are followed by Utah at ten. Every team in the conference has at least one loss at this point in the season. The best chance for a Pac 12 representative in the Final Four would be Stanford winning out.
Irish fans should root for:
Stanford to win the Pac 12 title, with a loss to Notre Dame along the way. Sounds simple enough, right? It also would not hurt if USC won out, coupled with a Utah loss to set up a Pac-12 title game between two teams that Notre Dame would have defeated, assuring a win over a Power 5 Champion.
In the ACC things are far less complicated for Notre Dame fans. Obviously, the lone Irish loss of the season came in Death Valley to the Clemson Tigers. The hope would be that Clemson is able to finish an undefeated regular season and win the ACC crown. This would ensure that the Tigers reach the Final Four, and likely give Notre Dame the best loss that anyone in the country has. I hate the term best loss, but it would be true in this case. Clemson has a key game against Florida State this weekend. It also wouldn’t hurt Notre Dame if Pitt wins the remainder of their games after their clash with Notre Dame.
Irish fans should root for:
Clemson to win every game, and look good doing it, until a rematch in the semi-finals against the Irish.
Elsewhere, Notre Dame fans should also be rooting strongly for Navy and Temple to continue their winning ways and meet up in the AAC Title Game. Navy has SMU, Tulsa, and Houston left in AAC play, and then the traditional Army-Navy game would be played after a potential AAC Title Game. The Temple Owls have USF, Memphis, and UCONN left on their schedule. Each team should be ranked in each of their remaining games.
Ultimately, none of this matters if Notre Dame is not able to win their next three games. The remaining slate for Notre Dame is Wake Forest at home, Boston College at Fenway Park, and finally a trip to Palo Alto for a showdown with Stanford. If the Irish take care of business, they’ll be playing on New Year’s Eve.
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.
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.
You've had nine months to come up with a first play.
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.
…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.
It is never too early to begin looking at the season ahead, and the release of the Terrapins’ 2015 football schedule presented the perfect opportunity to do so. At first glance there are some intriguing matchups, including a rematch with newly-crowned national champion Ohio State in Columbus. Here are a few games to mark on your 2015 calendar:
September 26 @ West Virginia
The Border Battle continues in 2015, as the Terps will travel to Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers. Maryland has faced West Virginia a total of 13 times over the past 15 college football seasons, and the rivalry has not proved particularly kind to the Terrapins. Maryland has defeated WVU on just four occasions, and three of those wins came during the 2001, 2002, and 2003 seasons. The Mountaineers defeated the Terps in seven straight matchups from 2004 to 2012, until the Terps finally prevailed again in 2013 with a resounding 37-0 shutout at a rainy contest played in M&T Bank Stadium. Last season, quarterback Clint Trickett led the Mountaineers to a 40-37 win over Maryland, throwing for 511 yards and four touchdowns. The loss was a heartbreaking one for the Terps, as they rallied after falling behind 28-6 to cut the West Virginia lead to 28-27. Maryland tied the game at 37 before Trickett led the Mountaineers down the field ending in a controversial game-winning field goal. Trickett will not be under center for WVU next season, as he graduated and in fact opted to retire from football altogether due to enduring multiple concussions over a relatively short time period in his short playing career. The future look of the Terps’ offense is still very much a mystery at this point as well, as starting quarterback C.J. Brown has used up his collegiate eligibility after six years and star wideout Stefon Diggs declared early for the 2015 NFL Draft. While the exact makeup of either team is still greatly unknown, the Terps seem to have righted the ship over the last two years as far as this rivalry goes and this should be another great game.
October 3 vs. Michigan
Michigan has uncharacteristically underperformed over the last few seasons, and the Terps added to their 2014 woes by defeating the Wolverines in Ann Arbor 23-16. Michigan finished last season with a 5-7 record, fired head coach Brady Hoke, and hired former Stanford and San Francisco 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh to take his place. Harbaugh was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1983-86, and even has a few ties to the state of Maryland as he quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens in 1998 and brother John is the current coach of the team. While it will likely take a few years for Harbaugh to get Michigan back on the winning track (if it all), this historic college football program making the trip to College Park is a must see. If anything, watching Jim Harbaugh jumping up and down along the sidelines should provide a sufficient amount of entertainment.
October 24 vs. Penn State
Maryland’s victory over Penn State in 2014 was arguably the biggest win of the season, as the Terps traveled to Happy Valley and Brad Craddock kicked the Terps to a 20-19 victory over the Nittany Lions. If not the best win, it was certainly the most memorable game of last season. Aside from the last-minute game-winning kick, the game itself was preceded by the infamous handshake snub at midfield by the Terrapins’ game captains. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on regarding the pregame incident, along with the way the game itself played out, it helped give birth to a new college football and Big Ten rivalry. Hopefully, the rivalry will only continue to grow (for the right reasons) between these two universities, and the 2015 matchup between Maryland and Penn State could be indicative of where the rivalry is headed. The game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, so the stadium should be rockin’ with Terps fans and Penn State fans alike. If you’re going to attend just one Terps football game in 2015, I strongly suggest it’s this one.
November 28 @ Rutgers
The most heartbreaking loss of the 2014 season came at the hands of Rutgers and offensive coordinator/former Terp head coach Ralph Friedgen in the regular season finale. After building a 25-point lead just before halftime, the Rutgers offense scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. While the offense gained ground on the scoreboard, the Rutgers defense completed the unforgettable comeback by holding Maryland to just one field goal in the entire second half and stuffing running back Brandon Ross on a 4th and 1 with just under three minutes remaining in the game. The loss dropped the Terps to 7-5 and prevented them from receiving an invitation to a more prestigious bowl. The exact circumstances surrounding Friedgen’s departure is more than cloudy, but it is safe to say his firing was less than amicable. Understandably so, after Friedgen won 75 games at Maryland over ten years and was assured by AD Kevin Anderson that his job was secure. The 2015 rematch after Ralph’s revenge to end the regular season could present similar postseason implications and ramifications to the 2014 collapse.
This weekend the Michigan Wolverines will travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State in what is arguably the greatest rivalry in sports. This year “The Game” — as it has come to be called — will pit a dismal Michigan team against an Ohio State team with playoff aspirations, while many have said this rivalry has been diminished in recent years because of Michigan’s waning football program, Buckeyes everywhere need to be reminded of the 90’s and why our prolific dominance won’t last.
The year was 1988. Ohio State head coach had finished his final year at Ohio State, and Ohio State had hired former Arizona State coach, John Cooper. Cooper began his tenure with mediocre records, posting at least a four-loss seasons until 1992. It wasn’t until 1994 — seven years after he was hired — that he was able to finally get a victory against that team up north.
Much like Urban Meyer, Cooper was a gifted recruiter and was able to bring high-class talent to Columbus. Names like Bobby Hoying, Joe Germaine and Eddie George come to mind. After that 1994 victory, Cooper posted impressive records between the ’95 and ’98 seasons. His Achilles Heal however was always Michigan — or, in the case of the 1998 season, at least a school with “Michigan” in its name. During his tenure Cooper went 2-10-1 against the Wolverines, and brought many a Buckeye heartache during those November months.
Every generation of Buckeyes has a time when they remember becoming a fan. For some who are older it was the Woody and Archie era. For our younger generation it might be Jim Tressel, Troy Smith and Braxton Miller. But for those of use who grew up in the 90’s it was highlighted by Cooper’s teams with Eddie George, David Boston and Joe Germaine (honorable mention to Andy Katzenmoyer, Orlando Pace, and Antoine Winfield) that defined the beginnings of our fandom.
Growing up in the 90’s, I vividly remember watching Eddie George torch the likes of Notre Dame and Illinois, putting up video game numbers. I thought that team couldn’t be stopped and then came that dreaded game against Michigan in 1995. In my young recollection of the game, I remember Ohio State not being able to do a damn thing on offense, but the biggest thing to come from that game was a villain named Tim Biakabutuka who rushed for over 300 yards on 37 carries, giving Michigan the victory. Tim Biakabutuka was the first person to teach me at a young age, that sometimes the bad guy does win. And while different perspectives will have different opinions, that was the first time that, whether I knew it or not, the rivalry impacted me. My family was disappointed, I was disappointed, and I had only Michigan and Tim Biakabutuka to blame.
Cooper continued to disappoint throughout my childhood. Even that 1996-97 Rose Bowl season was tarnished with a 9-13 loss to Michigan. For whatever reason, even Cooper’s one victory — that I was old enough to remember — didn’t seem that great. That’s what made Tressel’s first victory over the Wolverines so sweet: He took a mediocre and depleted Ohio State team and beat Michigan at Michigan. It was the first time I had ever seen those 110,000 fans suffer a loss on their home turf to the Buckeyes, and I was overjoyed.
Tressel undid the childhood trauma that Lloyd Carr had bestowed upon the 90’s Buckeyes, and then something unusual happened: people started saying that the rivalry was losing steam. Buckeyes began expecting to win against Michigan, and somehow The Game has turned into a game where the underdog is consistently an underachieving Michigan team. I’ve even heard some Buckeye fans make the argument that if Michigan won once in awhile it would restore some of the value to the rivalry.
The above statement is downright shocking to me. While this rivalry has been one sided for the past decade, I defy you to ask a Michigan fan if they wanted the Buckeyes to beat them once in awhile in the 90’s, because I’ll bet the answer would be “are you friggin’ kidding?”
Michigan has already made a move to right its storied program, and whatever the next move is, it could bring balance to the rivalry. It was not long ago that DIAA coach from Youngstown consistently owned a national championship caliber coach. Enjoy it while it lasts Buckeye fans, because it was only a short while ago that the tables were turned, and it will inevitably happen again.
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