Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The SEC has its first (and possibly only) coaching casualty of the 2011 season as Houston Nutt has gotten the ax at Ole Miss. Here's the essential questions that need answering in the wake of the Rebels' decision, and our best attempt at answering them:
Two seasons ago Nutt won his second straight Cotton Bowl, the best back-to-back seasons for the Rebels since their 1960s heyday. Now he's staring an 0-8 SEC season in the face and unemployed. What happened?
Several things, but none more damaging than that Nutt's last couple of recruiting classes weren't nearly as good as advertised. Ed Orgeron left the cupboard well-stocked for his successor, and to Nutt's credit he made far more use of Dexter McCluster, Jevan Snead, Peria Jerry and other stars than Orgeron ever did. But his seeming emphasis on quantity over quality -- unfortunately, the 2009 38-member signing class that spawned the SEC's 28-signee "Houston Nutt Rule" may be as much his Oxford legacy as those two bowl victories -- left the 2010 and 2011 Rebels entirely devoid of difference-making SEC stars. (It didn't help that several of his highest-profile signees, like now-exiled receiver Patrick Patterson, wound up being total busts.)
Nutt hasn't done a good job of day-to-day coaching (by any stretch of the imagination) these last two seasons, and his utter failure to develop a reliable quarterback for this 2011 campaign may have been his single biggest mistake of all. But on a broader level, his losses and misssteps on the recruiting trail meant that once Oregeron's players graduated, he was starting down the barrel of a sizable talent disadvantage against nearly every SEC team he faced in 2010 and '11.
Why now? Why not wait until the end of the season?
If the Rebels have the funds necessary to buy Nutt out of his ginormous contract, it really doesn't make any sense to wait--with LSU still on the schedule, Ole Miss's best-case scenario at the end of the season is a 4-8 overall, 1-7 record in the SEC. Coming off of last season's disappointment and with no reason to think next year will be dramatically better, that sort of record should result in Nutt's canning as long as the athletic department has the cash to get rid of him. Since they apparently do, now the coaching search can start in earnest ... and the sooner the new coach is hired, the sooner he can try and salvage something out of the Rebels' 2012 recruiting class.
Speaking of: who will the Rebels target?
Until he actually moves on from the Plains, the first name on any list of candidates for a mid- to lower-tier SEC job is going to be Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, even with his Tigers taking a step back offensively this season after Cam Newton's departure. The former Arkansas high school coach may not be able to resist the chance to prove he could outperform his old boss (and now bitter coaching rival, according to many) at the same position.
But the job is attractive enough that the Rebels may be able to pick-and-choose if they decide Malzahn's not the right fit (or vice versa). According to one report boosters have already contacted Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. It would make sense for current Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora to be in the mix, too, after taking his Eagles to 8-1 on the year. And of course there's always Mike Leach, who'll be along any minute to mention how much he'd love a shot at coaching in the SEC.
Tags: Alabama, Alabama, Auburn, Brent Venables, Cam Newton, Cotton Bowl, Dexter McCluster, Ed Oregeron, Gus Malzahn, Houston, Houston Nut fired, Houston Nutt, Jerry Hinnen, Jevan Snead, Kevin Sumlin, Kirby Smart, Kirby Smart, Larry Fedora, LSU, Mike Leach, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Patrick Patterson, Peria Jerry, Pete Boone, SEC, Southern Miss
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
UPDATE: From CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman
Expect to hear that former Ole Miss great Archie Manning and FedEX VP Mike Glenn to be announced as heading the Ole Miss search committee to replace Houston Nutt. Rebel AD Pete Boone will step down, which may get categorized as him "retiring" and have no real role in the school's coaching search, a source at Ole Miss told CBS Monday morning.
It's a move that most people have been expecting to happen, but Ole Miss' 30-13 loss to Kentucky on Saturday appears to have been the final nail in Houston Nutt's coffin. According to reports, Nutt has been informed by the school that this will be his final season at Ole Miss.
Nutt came to Ole Miss in 2008 after serving as head coach at SEC West rival Arkansas from 1998 to 2007. Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss started with a lot of promise, as his Rebels went 9-4 in each of his first two seasons and won consecutive Cotton Bowls. Since then, however, things haven't been nearly as encouraging.
Nutt's team followed those Cotton Bowl wins with a 4-8 record in 2010, including a 1-7 mark in SEC play. So far in 2011 the Rebels are 2-7 and 0-6 in conference play, including a school record 12 consecutive conference losses. His team's only wins on the season have come against Southern Illinois and Fresno State.
Nutt's record at Ole Miss is currently 24-23, but it's the 10-20 mark in the SEC that has ultimately led to this.
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.
Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.
LOSER: "Make his ass quit."
But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards. LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.
Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.
WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market.
The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.
WINNER: Joker Phillips.
There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.
But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline.
LOSER: Pete Boone.
Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.
WINNER: Jeff Demps.
For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms.
That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Dennis Johnson, Florida, Georgia, Houston Nutt, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, LSU, Mark Richt, Michael Ford, Mike Gillislee, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, SEC, SEC Winners and Losers, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky
Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 4:50 pm
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, 12pmMan - 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, 12pmMan - 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, 3:30pmMan - 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, 3:30pmMan - 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, 7pmMan - 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, 7:15pmMan - 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, 8pmMan - 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, 8pmMan - 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, 10:30pmMan - 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
StandingsSeason 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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Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffery, Arkansas, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cincinnati, Colorado, Dan Persa, Denard Robinson, Geno Smith, Iowa, Kansas State, Landry Jones, Les Miles, Louisville, LSU, Man vs Woman vs Machine, Marcus Lattimore, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nick Saban, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-12, Pitt, Ray Graham, Rex Burkhead, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, West Virginia
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:37 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
SOUTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: they can play keep-away. Much as they've struggled the past two weeks, Arkansas still has arguably the most explosive offense in the SEC (particularly with Dennis Johnson taking more of the load at running back) and will be primed to make up for the close calls at home. The current iteration of the Gamecock offense -- with no Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looking average-at-best away from the friendly confines of Williams-Brice, and Alshon Jeffery on the verge of winding up on a milk carton -- is not going to win a shootout against the Hogs in Fayetteville. The best way to avoid that? Do what the Gamecocks did against Tennessee: milk the clock. Freshman tailback Brandon Wilds doesn't have nearly Lattimore's burst, but his 137 yards against the Vols kept the chains moving and led to a whopping 13-plus minute advantage in time-of-possession. Given that the Hog defense has been dreadful of late (giving up an average of 248 yards their past five games), the opportunity is there for Wilds and the Gamecock ground game to do something similar against the Hogs ... and keep the game the kind of low-scoring slog they pulled out against Mississippi State and the Vols.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they show up for the first half. The Hogs have been absolutely dominant in recent second halves, outscoring their last four opponents 81-17 after the break. But they've had to, since they've been outscored 87-59 in the first half of those same four games and trailed three times. Those opponents, however, haven't had anything to throw at the Hogs defensively like Carolina will in Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and a secondary ranked third in the country in pass defense. Another comeback won't be so easy. That said, if Tyler Wilson can get out to an early lead and force the Gamecocks out of their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust comfort zone -- and the game into Shaw's hands -- the game could get away fro mthe visitors in a hurry.
THE X-FACTOR: Johnson. It's only fitting that Johnson has taken over as the Hogs' No. 1 rusher during the Halloween season, since he's the very definition of a trick-or-treat player. His 57-yard touchdown on a late first-half draw against Ole Miss turned the momentum of that game ... but his critical second-half fumbles against both the Rebels and Vanderbilt also helped both those teams stay in touch when it looked like Arkansas might put them away. If Johnson can avoid giving the ball away, he should be a major factor--but that's a big if.
Posted on: October 31, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 7:51 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.
With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.
AP Poll Coaches Poll Harris Poll BCS
(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)
Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC
Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Penn State
It took awhile but we're finally on board with the Nittany Lions. As my colleague Bruce Feldman asked, has any 8-1, Joe Paterno-coached team ever been this disrespected? Yes, the offense is pitiful outside of Silas Redd and they seem to enjoy tormenting the local media by never naming a starter. They're the leader in the, um, Leaders division and certainly have a chance at winning their last three games to get to the Big Ten title game. 10th is a little high (Jim Wogan, John Hunt) but 20th or below? Not right now.
Overrated: Michigan State
Hard to pick just one team that is overrated this week, it seems like everybody below Oklahoma has serious issues (and Oregon/OU aren't great top 10 by any means). But Michigan State seems ripe at 15th in the AP poll and 16th in the Coaches poll. The loss to Notre Dame (31-13) doesn't look good at all in retrospect just as the Wisconsin win doesn't help all that much. They impressed in a win against Michigan but they only have three BCS wins and won by three in one and needed a hail mary in another.
A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.
It was really hard to pass on Wolf being in this space after he went on national television to defend his Boise State first place vote and failed miserably. But based on the ballot turned in, Wilner once again falls in the California Craziness section. 13th and 14th seem really high to rank Arizona State and USC, and all Auburn did this week was beat Ole Miss - are they really 17th ahead of Virginia Tech? Texas 19th, ahead of undefeated Houston at 25th (!) is highly questionable, as is Washington at 18th. Also, Georgia Tech and Penn State are unranked.
What were you thinking? Chris Fowler, Idaho Statesman
Chris, Poll Attacks here, big fan of your work on GameDay and with tennis coverage. Here's the thing though, you can't rank USC 12th in the country after they lost to Stanford. You also can't rank the Trojans ahead of Arizona State, who beat them badly when they met earlier this year. Outside of that, the ballot looks pretty good. But still, USC 12th ahead of ASU? Come on man. Also probably a bit early to put in Ohio State.
Also have to say shame on the Idaho Statesman this week. With Boise State on a bye, they furloughed beat writer Chadd Cripe. That in, itself, would earned them a mention in this space. BUT, they also prevented Cripe from voting in this week's AP poll because it would have constituted working. So not only do you force him to the couch (likely to watch plenty of football) without pay, but you prevent him from sending a simple email about who he thinks is a top 25 team. Love the paper's coverage of Broncos athletics but really? What are you thinking? Not sure why Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant didn't turn in a vote either but hope he has a good excuse.
Tags: ACC, AP Poll, Arizona State, Auburn, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Chadd Cripe, Chris Fowler, Coaches Poll, Desmond Conner, Gary Parrish, Georgia Tech, Harris Poll, Houston, Idaho Statesman, Jim Wogan, Joe Paterno, John Hunt, Jon Wilner, Michigan, Michigan State, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Poll Attacks, Ray Ratto, Scott Wolf, SEC, Silas Redd, Stanford, Texas, The Poll Attacks, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, Week 9
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
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.
- 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.
3. Oklahoma State
5. Boise State
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.
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Alshon Jeffrey, Andrew Luck, Andy Staples, Arkansas, Army, Auburn, Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Boise State, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Brian Kelly, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Bennett, Bryan Fischer, Case Keenum, CBS, Clemson, Coliseum, Darron Thomas, De'Anthony Thomas, Dennis Dodd, Devin Smith, Dominique Whaley, Doug Marrone, FBS, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Graham Harrell, Greg Matison, Gus Malzahn, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Henry Josey, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, James Franklin, Joe Paterno, Joesph Randle, Justin Allen, Kansas, Kansas State, Kirk Cousins, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Lane Kiffink Oakland Raiders, Les Miles, Longhorn Network, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Mark Richt, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Minnesota, Missouri, Monte Kiffin, N.C. State, NCAA, NCAA, Nebraska, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-10, Pac-12, Penn State, Pete Carroll, Rex Burkhead, Rice, Robert Griffin III, Robert Woods, Rodney Dangerfield, Russell Wilson, Rutgers, Ryan Broyles, SEC, Stanford, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, T.J. Graham, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Tennessee, Tennessee, Tevin Washington, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas Tech, Toledo, Tom O'Brien, Troy Smith, Tulane, UNC, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State, Week 9, West Virginia, Will Muschamp
Posted on: October 30, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 9:36 pm
Posted by Eye On College Football
On Sunday night the new BCS standings were released. There were some shakeups at the top with the losses of Clemson and Kansas State, and Stanford also leapt in front of Boise State following its win over USC.
You can check out a rundown of the Top 10 below, with some thoughts from our College Football Bloggers. For a full breakdown of the Top 25 teams in the BCS formula, you can check out the comprehensive standings.
1. LSU: The Tigers hold steady at the top of the BCS standings after their first off-week of the season. SEC partisans hoping for a rematch between the combatants in this week's Game to End All Games will be rooting for Alabama; thanks to LSU's top-notch nonconference schedule giving them a computer boost, their pre-loaded positioning at the No. 1 team in the country and -- most importantly -- that they're forced to play the Crimson Tide on the road, they loom as much more likely to leap back into the BCS top two following a loss Saturday than their Tuscaloosa counterparts. - Jerry Hinnen
2. Alabama: No change this week for the Crimson Tide, either, as they stay in the No. 2 spot following a bye of their own. But we doubt the Tide minds all that much. For one thing, they know they don't have to worry about ascending to the top spot if they come out victorious this week; Oklahoma State already has the best computer rankings in the formula and still isn't within real striking distance of the top two. They have no chance of leapfrogging the LSU-Alabama winner as long as that team stays perfect. For another, the No. 2 slot has some nice precedent for Alabama--that's where they stayed in the BCS standings throughout the 2009 season, too, behind Florida ... until smashing the Gators personally and going on to win the national title. Is their a repeat in the cards for 2011? - JH
3. Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State currently sits in the best position amongst anybody to climb into the top two next week. With Alabama and LSU playing on Saturday, somebody is going to move into that second spot, and the Cowboys will be that team if they beat Kansas State. If Oklahoma State can get through its final four games without a setback, then it's the favorite to be playing for a national title. Of course, getting through those games is a lot easier said than done. - Tom Fornelli
4. Stanford: The Cardinal got their toughest test of the season on Saturday night, but they were able to knock off USC and remain unbeaten. Aside from Oregon, I don't see much of a threat for Stanford remaining in the Pac-12. Maybe, and I mean maaaaybe, Notre Dame can get to them, but if Stanford gets by Oregon I don't see a loss on the schedule. Stanford is a very real threat to get to New Orleans. - TF
5. Boise State: Good news for Boise State: Clemson took a loss and is out of the way! Not good news: Stanford has passed the Broncos after a 3-OT win over USC on Saturday, so Boise's still stuck at 5. Still, of the top five teams, the Broncos have the lowest probability of sustaining a loss from here on out in the regular season, so it's likely that Boise's not finished rising up the standings -- even if going undefeated may, once again, not be enough to satisfy the BCS. - Adam Jacobi
6. Oklahoma: It's not the same as being in the top three, but Oklahoma climbs back up to six following a big win over Kansas State. The Sooners are still very much a darkhorse to play for the BCS title this January as a one-loss team, with games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State still on the schedule. They also don't have a conference championship to get through, so if the Sooners can win out, they're going to climb even further. - TF
7. Arkansas: You might expect the third-best team in the SEC to be entirely deserving of the No. 7 spot in the FBS. But the Hogs haven't come close to playing the part the past two weeks, struggling at hapless Ole Miss and getting straight-up outplayed on the road at Vanderbilt last Saturday. Thanks to Tyler Wilson the Razorbacks have the offensive horses to play with anyone, and their season-ending visit to LSU still has the potential to turn the entire college football season on its head. But after yielding 462 yards (and 6.6 per play) to the previously low-fi Commodore offense, it's hard to see the Hog defense getting nearly enough stops to challenge the Tigers. - JH
8. Oregon: Oregon's hanging tough at No. 8, and that's fine, but it's going to take multiple quantum leaps for the Ducks to get into the national championship conversation. Step 1 is obviously a win over Stanford in two weeks, but even if they pull that off, it's going to take a LOT of help for Oregon to get any higher than fourth or fifth. The secondary's going to get tested over the next few weeks with games against Keith Price, Matt Barkley, and of course Andrew Luck. No pressure, Ducks. - AJ
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks benefit from the losses of both Kansas State and Clemson this week by climbing into the top ten of the BCS, but is this really a team we can expect to be here much longer? Take away a 54-3 blowout of Kentucky, and this is an offense that's been struggling to score points for over a month now, and Marcus Lattimore is out for the season. Add in a road game against Arkansas this weekend and Clemson at the end of the season, and I don't like South Carolina's odds. - TF
10. Nebraska: A few weeks ago, it didn't seem like Nebraska was ever going to be the top team in the Big Ten this season; the Huskers were sorely lacking in big wins, while Wisconsin and Michigan looked like the class of each division. How quickly circumstances change, however, and now the Big Ten's only representation in the Top 12 of automatic bids is Big Red. The real fun for Nebraska begins on November 12, when the Huskers travel to Penn State and follow that up with a road date at Michigan. Two wins, and Nebraska's got a case for being a Top 5 team. Another loss, and it's back to chaos in the Big Ten. - AJ
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arkansas, BCS, BCS Rankings, BCS Reactions, BCS Standings, Big 12, Big Ten, Boise State, Boise State, Clemson, Florida, Jerry Hinnen, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kentucky, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Mountain West, MWC, Nebraska, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pac-12, Penn State, Poll Reactions, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stanford, Texas A&M, Tom Fornelli, Tyler Wilson, USC, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin