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Tag:Louisville
Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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Posted on: November 5, 2011 10:37 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 10:40 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 23 Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 23

Posted by Chip Patterson

CINCINNATI WON. The Bearcats overcame a frustrating start offensively to battle back from a 10-point third quarter deficit and win 26-23 at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Zach Collaros completed just 19 of 32 passes for 214 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions as the defense held Pittsburgh scoreless in the final 28 minutes of play.

HOW CINCINNATI WON: Pittsburgh entered Saturday night's game leading the nation with 36 sacks allowed. In the second half, protection for quarterback Tino Sunseri evaporated and the Bearcats pass rush kept the Panthers' offense out of sync and off rhythm. Even in Week 10, the talented offensive line is still struggling with the new offensive scheme. Pittsburgh's offensive inefficiencies in the second half gave Cincinnati enough opportunities to to climb back into the game. Credit the Bearcats defense for stepping up the pressure and allowing Cincinnati to remain undefeated in conference play.

WHEN CINCINNATI WON: Pittsburgh kicker Kevin Harper hit a career-long 52 yard field goal in the first quarter, but with the option of a 55-yard field goal head coach Todd Graham decided to go for it on fourth down. The misread by quarterback Tino Sunseri on the 4th and 6 pass to Devin Street gave the ball back to the Bearcats with less than four minutes remaining. But then Harper was given another shot, with a 50-yard field goal opportunity in the final seconds to tie the game. The kick went wide right, and Cincinnati held on to win a crucial conference road game.

WHAT CINCINNATI WON: The Bearcats hold on to their spot at the top of the Big East standings, gaining two games on West Virginia. Cincinnati owns the head-to-head tie breaker with one-loss Louisville, and a win next week against West Virginia could give them great odds at sealing the Big East title in November.

WHAT PITTSBURGH LOST: The Panthers lost a ten point second-half lead that could have been a season-altering home victory. With road contests against Louisville and West Virginia in the coming weeks, Pittsburgh needed to get that fifth win tonight to give themselves the best chance at bowl eligibility. At 4-5, things are not looking as promising for Todd Graham in his first year at the helm.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Pittsburgh had so many opportunities to win the game, but Tino Sunseri and the Panthers offense could not get close enough to Harper's comfort zone to tie the game. Two potential game-tying drives in the final minutes produced no points, and Butch Jones' bounce-back second year continues as Cincinnati improves to 7-1.

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Posted on: November 5, 2011 3:46 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 3:48 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Louisville upsets West Virginia 38-35

Posted by Chip Patterson

LOUISVILLE WON. After a 2-4 start, the Cardinals are suddenly in contention for a BCS bowl berth thanks to do a 38-35 win against No. 24 West Virginia in Morgantown on Saturday. Teddy Bridgewater led a methodical offensive attack, picking his spots int he Mountaineer defense for 246 yards and a touchdown.

HOW LOUISVILLE WON: The Louisville defense was able to take a bend but don't break approach to West Virginia's high-powered passing attack, and was able to answer with enough big plays to keep it close until the fourth quarter. Geno Smith put his numbers up, per usual, completing 25 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. But the Cardinals were able to lean on a rushing attack led by Dominique Brown to control the ball in the fourth quarter, keeping the Mountaineers from having an opportunity to come back.

WHEN LOUISVILLE WON: After West Virginia cut Louisville's lead to 31-28 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Louisville orchestrated a 13 play, 66 yard touchdown drive that ended in a Dominique Brown touchdown. West Virginia had four opportunities to stop the Cardinals on third down, and even allowed Dominique Brown to convert on 4th down in West Virginia territory. The drive ate up more than seven minutes of game clock, a smart move considering the speed with which the Mountaineers can score.

WHAT LOUISVILLE WON: The Cardinals are now a part of the Big East title race. This team struggled to get going offensively earlier in the season. But with new play-calling, Teddy Bridgewater under center, and Dominique Brown sharing the tailback duties, the Louisville offense suddenly has life. With Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and South Florida left on the schedule, winning out is not impossible. Their win over West Virginia puts the pressure on Cincinnati heading into the final weeks of league play.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA LOST: Likely their shot at a share of the Big East title. The best way to assure yourself a BCS bowl berth in the Big East is to go undefeated in league play, or at least finish with only one loss. Now West Virginia will need to win out, and get some help, in order to avoid a return to a December bowl.

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 10



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

As defined by Webster's, hubris means "exaggerated pride or self-confidence." Unfortunately, I didn't need to look that up because I'm already quite familiar with hubris, as is Woman. For you see, as human beings, we are prone to suffering from feelings and getting a bit too full of ourselves. Because of this hubris that both Woman and I experienced, we seem to have forgotten there was a third member of this competition.

The thoughtless, emotionless machine. Now, after a mediocre week from both Man and Woman, the Machine has made its move. The two-horse race now has a third member, and things should get interesting down the home stretch.

Colorado vs. USC (-22 1/2) - Friday, 9pm (All times Eastern)

Man - It's been hard to watch USC the last two weeks and not be very impressed with what the Trojans have been doing. Compare that to how Colorado has played all season, and I don't really care if it's at home and is getting over 3 touchdowns, I'm not relying on it. Pick: USC

Woman - "Hey, Tom, have you noticed while we're fighting each other, the zombie Machine is catching up fast? All I can say is, I'm Shane, you're Otis. As for the Pac-12 Loser Bowl, let's review the numbers. Colorado lost to Stanford 48-7.  Stanford needed triple OT to best USC. And the line starts to look smaller..." Pick: USC 

Machine - Does not really appreciate being called a zombie, but it agrees with Woman anyway. USC wins 42-13. Pick: USC

West Virginia (-14 1/2) vs. Louisville - Saturday, 12pm

Man - When it comes to the Big East your first option should always be to lean toward chaos, but from what I've seen from Louisville this season, I just don't see the Cardinals being able to hang with the Mountaineers. Which means Louisville will probably win 9-7, but I'm picking West Virginia anyway. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "West Virginia should have this won but Louisville is coming off a two-week high, beating both Rutgers and Syracuse. With both teams tied at 2-1 in the Big East standings, I'm guessing the game will be closer than the spread. (And by the way, kind of sad that Cardinals cheerleaders don't feel safe enough to cheer at Mountaineer Field.)" Pick: Louisville

Machine - Geno Smith is going to have a day to remember, as he throws for over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns as West Virginia rolls 49-21. Pick: West Virginia

Iowa vs. Michigan (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Normally in a Big Ten game played in Kinnick Stadium if I saw Iowa was getting points I wouldn't have to think that much before going with the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately this year's Iowa team is not something I want to depend on for anything, and Michigan has a lot left to play for, so I'm rolling with the Wolverines. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Big Blue's one slip this season was on the road.  But with a stout defense, Denard Robinson at the helm, and an opponent that's underperformed all season, I'm thinking Kinnick Stadium won't pose much of a threat to the Wolverines." Pick: Michigan

Machine - The Machine must not have seen Iowa play against Minnesota last week, because it doesn't see the Hawkeyes having a whole lot of trouble with the Wolverines. Iowa wins 28-17. Pick: Iowa

Nebraska (-17 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Nebraska is a team that worries me every week, but after seeing what it was able to do with Michigan State in Lincoln last week, I'm going to put that fear aside and trust that Rex Burkhead will run all over the Northwestern defense. Pick: Nebraska

Woman - "It's a shame Northwestern QB Dan Persa can't play defense.  And it's really a shame the Northwestern defense can't play defense. Not gonna be pretty (especially at crazed Memorial Stadium)." Pick: Nebraska

Machine - The Machine sees the Nebraska offense taking full advantage of the Northwestern defense, but it also sees Dan Persa and company having some success as well. Nebraska wins 38-30. Pick: Northwestern

Oklahoma (-13 1/2) vs. Texas A&M - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - When it comes to picking games against the spread I try to subscribe to the idea of never picking the underdog unless you think the underdog has a legit chance of winning the game. I don't think Texas A&M is going to go into Norman and hand the Sooners a second straight home loss, but I also think that the Aggies will cover what's nearly a 2 touchdown spread. So screw my rules. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "The Aggies have been my Kryptonite, letting me down every time I've picked them. That said, they haven't lost a game this season by more than seven points and have won all their away games. So, once more into the breach. Sooners win but Aggies cover." Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - Our worst fears are being realized. The Machine is adapting to reality, as it sees Texas A&M carry a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter only to lose 31-24. Pick: Texas A&M

Pitt vs. Cincinnati (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - I feel like I'm punishing myself for even including this game in the picks. I mean, seriously, it's the Big East. I have no idea what's going to happen, so let's let this nickel decide. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Some of the most excruciating college ball I've watched this season has been at the butterfingery hands of Pitt. Losing leading rusher Ray Graham for the season with a torn ACL does nothing to make the Panthers more appealing against the Big East leader." Pick: Cincinnati

Machine - The loss of Ray Graham will not be a huge blow to the Panthers this week, as they squeeze out a win against the Bearcats, throwing the Big East into total disarray. Pitt wins 28-27. Pick: Pitt

Arkansas (-4 1/2) vs. South Carolina - Saturday, 7:15pm

Man - A South Carolina offense that was already struggling before losing Marcus Lattimore for the season and has seemingly forgotten it has Alshon Jeffery on the road against an Arkansas offense averaging 37 points a game but also has a defense that's struggled to stop Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the last few weeks. So I'm just going to go with the home team. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "The Gamecocks 7-1 record is pretty misleading. They've scored a total of no more than 16 points three out of the last four games and, after dumping QB Stephen Garcia, now must deal with star RB Marcus Lattimore out for the season with a knee injury.  Meanwhile, Arkansas has averaged 37 points a game. Let's see, 37 minus 16 = " Pick: Arkansas

Machine - We got ourselves a clean sweep here, as Arkansas wins 31-14. Pick: Arkansas

Alabama (-4 1/2) vs. LSU - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Ah yes, the Game of The Century For This Year. Much like most of you, I've been looking forward to this one for weeks. A part of me didn't even want to pick this one just so I'd have no reason to care what the final score was and I could just enjoy it, but I also don't want to give a game away to the Woman or the Machine. I don't know who is going to win this game, but I do know that there are two incredibly good defenses facing each other. So points will be at a premium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, and since that's the case, I'm going to take the free points and LSU. Pick: LSU

Woman - "I made the horrible mistake of picking against the Tigers once this season.  That's once too many.  Calling Baton Rouge [Les Miles]." Pick: LSU

Machine - Shocking, I know, but The Machine has always been more of a Nick Saban fan than a Les Miles one. Alabama wins 28-20. Pick: Alabama

Oklahoma State (-21 1/2) vs. Kansas State - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Remember what we saw the Oklahoma offense do to Kansas State last week? I don't think that was a mirage, and now the Wildcats are facing an even more explosive offense and on the road. I let my heart pick the Wildcats last week, but this week I'm listening to my head. Let's hope I'm not as stupid as I think I am. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "The Wildcats have the unenviable task of coming off an embarrassing loss only to face the number three-ranked team in the country. The bad news for KSU: they're going to lose two games in a row. The good news: it won't be by more than three touchdowns." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, Kansas State, you'll always have September and the first three weeks of October. The Machine sees Brandon Weeden picking up where Landry Jones left off, and the Cowboys win 51-20. Pick: Oklahoma State

Washington vs. Oregon (-15 1/2) - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - Washington is averaging 39 points a game at home this season while Oregon is giving up over 25 points per game to Pac-12 opponents not named Colorado on the year. So if they want to give me more than 2 touchdowns with Washington at home, I'm going to take Washington. Pick: Washington

Woman - "It's the very last game ever at storied Husky Stadium and this is an intense rivalry folks east of the Rockies don't appreciate. The Huskies might lose but will not go gentle into that good night." Pick: Washington

Machine - The Machine thinks you should stay up late to watch this one, because it's going to be a shootout. Oregon wins 48-42. Pick: Washington

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 55-40 (4-6)
1. Woman 55-40 (5-5)
3. Machine 52-43 (8-2)

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Big East Presidents approve, extend invitations

Posted by Chip Patterson

On Tuesday, the Big East held their annual meeting of the school Presidents in Philadelphia. As expected, commissioner John Marinatto used the gathering as an opportunity to get the official votes from league members regarding the specific plan for conference expansion. After the meeting, Marinatto provided a veiled update on the league's plan and timetable regarding expansion and the exit process for West Virginia.

“Our Presidents voted unanimously to extend invitations to specific institutions, including both football-only and all-sport members to join the Big East Conference," Marinatto explained in his official statement.  "I will be speaking to representatives of those schools shortly and look forward to announcing with them their acceptance into the Big East. The addition of these members will extend our reach, bring us to exciting new markets, strengthen our status within the BCS, and lay the foundation for possible further expansion, all while maintaining the high quality and standards our Conference is known for.

“In light of the lawsuit filed by West Virginia yesterday, the Presidents also discussed and confirmed our continuing commitment to enforce the Conference’s 27-month notification period for schools choosing to leave. The Conference believes these claims to be wholly without merit and will explore all its legal options to protect its interests and to ensure that West Virginia lives up to its obligations.”

There are not too many surprises in this update, including the clarification that both football-only and all-sports invitations will be extended. Navy, Air Force, and Boise State are expected to be among the football-only invitations, while Conference USA schools UCF, Houston, and SMU have been awaiting official invitations to join in all sports since the 12-team football expansion plans began taking shape.

The real development in the statement is the league's plan to hold West Virginia to the 27-month withdrawal period. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy detailed West Virginia's lawsuit against the Big East hoping for an exit in time to compete in the Big 12 for the 2012-2013 academic year. In the Big 12's teleconference, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck explained that "our team is working with their team" to make it happen. Marinatto's statement on Tuesday suggests that this may be a more difficult process than the Mountaineers originally imagined.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

More on College Football
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Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Sooners kick it into high gear a week too late.
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Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
Awaiting the LSU-Alabama showdown, Clemson and Kansas State drop out of the top 10. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
The Big Picture: Luck doing nothing to diminish legend. Read >>
Related links
Video
Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 11:24 pm
 

The Big 12 may not be done expanding

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The wheel of conference realignment never stops spinning, it only hits bumps in the road and crushes conferences beneath it occasionally.

When the Big 12 announed last week that West Virginia would be joining the conference as Missouri's replacement -- should Missouri leave, which is expected but just hasn't happened yet -- interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said that the conference was done expanding for now. He also said that the Big 12 was fine with 10 schools.

Well for now may not have lasted very long. According to Berry Tramel in The Oklahoman, the team that lost out to West Virginia to become the newest member of the Big 12 may still be in the running. Tramel says that the Big 12 may invite Louisville to join the conference soon and expand the league to 11 teams, much like the Big 10 did for years before adding Nebraska this season.

Tramel also says that the Big 12 might consider playing a 10-game round robin conference schedule if it expands to 11 schools in hopes of increasing television money by having more premiere games.

Of course, I'm of the opinion that if Louisville did eventually work its way to the Big 12, the conference wouldn't stop at 11, and would look to add another school. Much like the Big 12 would consider a 10-game conference schedule to increase revenue, it'd probably start thinking about the revenue it could get by rekindling the Big 12 title game as well.

Who that next team would be, I'm not sure. BYU could still come into play, even though the Big 12 seemed to pass on the Cougars already. In his report Tramel mentioned both Notre Dame and Cincinnati as possibilities, but I see no circumstance in which Notre Dame joins the Big 12 in football. Cincinnati might work because its current conference is in the process of falling apart, and it would provide the Big 12 with a nice market in Ohio, which could have some recruiting benefits as well.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com