Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am
We're just a few days away from the official start of bowl season and I'm pretty fired up about that. This week's Tuesday Top 10: the match-ups I'm most intrigued by:
1- BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Bama: I realize many of you don't want to see a rematch of a game that didn't have a single TD the first time out. To me, Les Miles is always Must-See TV and I'm very curious to see how Trent Richardson does against the LSU D the second-time around. Also, curious what the Honey Badger does on a stage this big. Pregame
2-Rose Bowl, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Chip Kelly's team will try and end its little two-game BCS bowl skip against a physical Badger team. The Ducks have had a hard time against top teams who have had plenty of time to prepare for their scheme. Wisconsin comes into the the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense. Pregame
3- Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: So, you're looking for a BCS bowl where you'll see plenty of offense? This is your game. OSU is No. 2 in scoring nationally. Stanford is No. 5. I'm very curious to see how Andrew Luck handles the country's most opportunistic defense (42 turnovers forced this season.) Pregame
4-Outback Bowl, Jan 2. Michigan State vs. Georgia: The Spartans got embarrassed by Alabama last year in the bowl after a strong regular-season and come into this riding a four-game bowl losing streak under Mark Dantonio. Are they good enough to make a statement for the Big Ten this time around? Pregame
5-Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs Washington: If RG3 is playing, I'm watching. . . . Oh, and if you're looking for defense, this really ain't it. Washington ranks 99th in scoring defense. Baylor is 109th. Pregame
6-Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. WVU: A pair of cutting-edge offensive minds in Clemson's Chad Morris and WVU's Dana Holgorsen. Both have QBs primed to get a jump on some 2012 Heisman hype, especially since each is working with gifted receiving crews. Pregame
7-Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Va. Tech vs. Michigan: I know both of these programs looked brutal in January bowl games a year ago, but I'm curious because of the match-ups: Bud Foster's D against Denard Robinson sounds like fun. Same for Greg Mattison's improved Wolverines defense against David Wilson. Pregame
8-TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State: Kevin Sumlin is already at A&M leaving his righthand man Tony Levine to get the Cougars ready for a very tough Penn State D, by far the best defense Case Keenum has seen all year. The Nittany Lions are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency D. Pregame
9-Gator Bowl: Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State: Hard to get excited about two 6-6 teams that have had such down years? Normally, that'd be the case, but given the Urban Meyer factor hanging over this game, you'd think there's a lot more pressure on Will Muschamp than on the OSU sidelines. Then again, how about the Buckeyes looking to impress their new boss? I'm in. Pregame
10-Champs Sports, Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Two programs with rich histories who had duds of seasons amid a lot of lofty speculation. Winner can make the claim that they finished strong and were really "just a year away." Pregame
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 11:26 am
Coming into the season there was so much optimism at different programs, but fast forward three months and there's been a lot of disappointment. This week's Top 10 list: biggest duds of the 2011 season. (I'm leaving off the BCS, which you could make a strong case for deserving to be on this list every year.)
1. Maryland: Randy Edsall's first season in College Park was a disaster of the highest order. The Terps got off to a nice start, edging a seriously depleted Miami team that was gutted by NCAA suspensions, but then things completely fell apart. They didn't beat another FBS program the rest of the way. They got blown out at home by Temple 38-7. They lost to a bad BC team by 11. They blew a huge second-half lead against NC State. The stunning part in all of this was it's not like Edsall inherited the FAU squad. They were 9-4 last year and had the best young QB in the conference in Danny O'Brien. However, the sophomore quarterback regressed in a big way under Edsall. The team was 111th in passing efficiency. In the final eight games of the season, the Terps managed to scored more than 21 points twice. Somewhere, Ralph Friedgen is probably still laughing at his bosses who ran him out of his alma mater after winning ACC Coach of the Year honors.
2. The State of Florida: The Noles were preseason No. 6 and slogged their way to an 8-4 record where they didn't even make it to the ACC title game. At one point they had a three-game losing streak. In mid-November, they lost at home against unranked UVA. ... The Gators, No. 22 in preseason, fizzled on offense and went 6-6 by dropping six of their last eight games. . . . Miami's hopes were torpedoed on the eve of the season by the Nevin Shapiro mess that would sideline a bunch of key players early. The Canes never recovered, losing six games by eight points or less before opting out of what figured to be a mediocre bowl game in hopes of appeasing the NCAA down the road. Their final game: a home loss to a 3-8 BC team. ... USF got off to a fast start, beating a ranked Notre Dame team on the road, but then Skip Holtz team flopped, losing seven of their final eight. ... UCF, which despite having the No. 11 D in the country, failed to even get bowl eligible, going 5-7. Last year UCF was 11-3. Now there is much uncertainty and who knows if sophomore QB Jeff Godfrey, who had seemed to be the centerpiece of the upstart program, will be back in Orlando in 2012?
3. Texas A&M: The Aggies, preseason No. 8, had way too much firepower to go 6-6. Even 8-4 would've felt like a big let down. Statistically, they were a very hard team to figure out. They were seventh in the country in total offense, first in fewest sacks allowed, first in sacks, 13th in rushing defense but they also were 100th in turnover margin. They blew a ridiculous amount of games in the second half. They ended up losing four of their last five and Mike Sherman lost his job because of it.
4. Ole Miss: A lot of people pegged the Rebels for the bottom of the SEC West, but no one would've expected they'd have the worst season in school history. Houston Nutt's lackluster recruiting at Ole Miss really caught up with him. His team got thumped by Vandy in a way that the Commodores never beat another SEC program. The Rebels also lost by 17 to lowly Kentucky and then get crunched by La. Tech 27-7 at the their homecoming game. The 2-10 season cost Nutt his job and was punctuated with another blowout loss to arch-rival Miss. State, 31-3.
5. Oklahoma: [Note: The Sooners were a bad omit on my part when I initially published this list.] They were preseason No. 1 and sputtered badly in the season half of the season, losing three of their last six. The first loss was home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that would end up having its worst season in almost 20 years. The Sooners finished off the season getting drilled by rival Oklahoma State, 44-10.
6-UCLA defense: Few teams look better on the hoof, but the Bruins just never could get it done under Rick Neuheisel. Despite a defensive unit were more than its share of former blue-chippers, the Bruins were 112th in sacks and 96th in scoring defense. They surrendered 38 or more six times this season.
7. Mississippi State: They were a long shot to win the incredibly stacked SEC West, but the Bulldogs were still a preseason top 20 team but they never got much of anything going. They went 6-6. The only team with a winning record they beat was 8-4 La. Tech. Their other four wins over FBS opponents went 12-36 combined.
8. Notre Dame offense: The Irish were ranked a respectable 43rd in scoring, but given the weapons Brian Kelly had (led by WR Michael Floyd) ND should've been a lot more dynamic. They were held to 20 points or less five times this season. They also were brutal when it came to taking care of the football, tying for third-worst in the country in turnover margin.
9. Kansas: Turner Gill was fired after just two seasons because the Jayhawks were so overwhelmed this season. They beat an FCS program and then knocked off the eventual MAC champs (NIU) in Week 2 and it was all downhill from them on as it was one epic blowout loss after another. They ranked 106th in total offense and 120 in total defense. Of their final 10 losses to finish the season, only two were decided by less than double-digits. They lost six games by 30 points or more.
10. Illinois offense: Things set up so well for Ron Zook this season. They had a dynamic young QB (Nate Scheelhaase) and some talented backs and receivers. The Illini jumped out to a 6-0 start and then the bottom drops out. They lose the next six, failing to score more than two TDs in any other game. They managed just seven points against a Minnesota D that was 102nd in scoring defense. They scored 14 on a Michigan, which is 51 points fewer than they scored on the Wolverines on a year ago. The Illini finished 91st in scoring, dropping 59 spots from where they were at mid-season. They also ended up 106th in sacks allowed.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 1:28 pm
The Oklahoma loss was painful, but FSU's loss at Clemson is potentially and excruciatingly devastating, writes Mike Bianchi.
I was on the Noles bandwagon coming into this season. I didn't think they'd win the BCS title, but I thought they'd be a top-five team. They still might be able to get there this year, but it does not look good right now. They're just 113th in rushing, 105th in sacks allowed and 87th in turnover margin despite opening against two woeful opponents. The biggest issues for them emerged in Death Valley on defense, where they really lost focus and committed back-breaking penalties and some assignment busts. They just couldn't get off the field on third downs as Tajh Boyd, a guy who had only a handful of starts, playing in a new system, carved them up. On top of that, Greg Reid, their top CB, has had the kind of off-field problems you wouldn't expect from a junior trying to show he's a leader.
I know the Noles are killing it recruiting. Of course, they always seem to be killing it in recruiting. It's the focus on the field, which Jimbo Fisher said all off-season he was confident was getting there, that has been lacking. Up next for them is five straight games against teams they should pound before they host a Miami team that looks pretty shaky too. I'm not sure they can prove to anyone outside of FSU diehards that they are even close to back until the final week of the regular season when they visit the Swamp.
*One of Miami's top commits, Miami Norland High School LB Keith Brown visited Clemson over the weekend and "loved" it and told CaneSport that while he would still consider himself a very soft Hurricane commitment, he also says "most likely I won't be going to Miami."
Thing is, Miami almost certainly will NOT know its fate with the NCAA by Signing Day, much less in December when mid-year signees would need to know.
*Mike Locksley was fired over the weekend. The move comes as no surprise. His time at New Mexico was a complete debacle. In fact, it was a tour de force for coaching ineptitude. He was 2-26 and, it wasn't like they were close. The Lobos were getting drilled by teams, not close to turning the corner. Worse still, he himself had all sorts of embarrassing issues off the field on top of that. I was stunned he got a third season.
*The Randy Edsall Era at Maryland has begun with a thud and John Feinstein isn't buying that the former UCONN coach was brought in to rebuild a wreck of a program.
Finestein makes a good point. Edsall inherited a team with the best QB in the ACC. Danny O'Brien is the kind of building block few others have. The Terps also have some pretty good talent on defense. There are some holes, but going into this season, this looked like an eight-win team. Now, after a dismal 1-2 start with a hefty ACC stretch coming in early October, you wonder if this team will even make it to a bowl game.
*After getting blown out in the fourth quarter at ASU, the USC offense merits a D+ grade, writes Michael Lev.
QB Matt Barkley missed Woods for a touchdown, threw two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and lost a fumble on a sack. … The offense converted only 1 of 9 third-down attempts and scored touchdowns on just 2 of 6 trips into the red zone.Heading into the weekend, I'd received some Tweets from some Trojan fans grousing about why Barkley wasn't being included in more Heisman talk. My feeling was that despite some impressive stats, the jury was still out on whether Barkley should be in the discussion with other Heisman contenders. He has struggled late in games and in crunch time. He and this USC team also haven't shined in many big spots against tough competition. Those are the kinds of things you must do to be seriously in the Heisman mix in the end.
The way they fell apart Saturday night has become shockingly common with this USC program in the past few years now. They also seemingly have too much talent at their skill positions to be only 79th in offense. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. The Trojans have a very interesting October coming up with games at Cal, at Notre Dame and then against Stanford. Those are games that people will keep an eye on. Not against Syracuse and Minnesota.