I believe the current university-athlete-money relationship in college football has become unjust. Major college football needs to evolve in such a way that it can rectify this imbalance. Read my full column on the subject at the Fifth Quarter.
Congratulations to the Florida St Seminoles. The luck of the Auburn Tigers finally ran out as the Noles won the BCS National Championship 34-31 on a last minute touchdown pass. The pass capped an incredible comeback from an 18-point first half deficit. Florida St ends the BCS era as they began it, with an uncontroversial BCS National Championship. The win also pushed Florida St past the Tigers in the Victory Point Rankings and earned the Seminoles their third VPR National Championship.
Despite the clear cut championship and an undefeated season, the Seminoles have little to no claim on legendary status. They had only the seventh strongest season among the last ten VPR national champions, besting only a 2012 Notre Dame team that fell apart in its bowl game, the 2007 LSU Tigers that lost two games, and the 2004 USC Trojans that lacked a conference championship game. The Seminoles only had 85 points. By comparison, the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 2010 Auburn Tigers, the two best champions of the last decade, both finished the season with 101 points.
Despite the disappointment of a second place finish, Auburn has an upward trajectory. After finishing #91 last year, their fans should feel excited by the quick turnaround. Offensive wizard and Head Coach Gus Malzahn has the Tiger offense again looking as dangerous as it did during the 2010 championship. He should give those tough SEC defenses fits for years to come.
#3 Missouri also shocked fans, viewers, and pundits alike. They leapt from a thoroughly mediocre and injury-riddled 2012 season to an SEC Championship Game appearance and Cotton Bowl victory in 2013. They enjoyed proving everyone wrong who suggested that the Tigers could not compete in the stacked SEC.
#4 Stanford had the most opportunity this year to become that legendary champion, but they let it slip away. Despite three losses, including a close loss in the Rose Bowl, the Pac 12 champions finish in the top five for the second season in a row thanks to a quality schedule. The Cardinal have become a card carrying member of college football’s nouveau riche, non-traditional teams like Oregon and Virginia Tech that have routinely put up exceptional seasons in the last twenty years but just can’t seem to win the big one.
#5 Michigan St offers an example of the anti-Stanford. A traditional power that lacked great success over the last two decades, the Spartans played a weak schedule in the mediocre Big Ten, but they won when it mattered most, vanquishing the favored Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game and coming from behind to beat the aforementioned Cardinal in the Rose Bowl. They won the eldest Bowl for the first time in a quarter century.
#24 Duke joins Auburn on the list of surprising turnarounds. Head Coach David Cutcliffe has done a masterful job with the Blue Devils. The upperclassmen on this team still have vivid memories of final rankings close to a hundred only a couple years ago (#99 in both 2010 and 2011). This year Duke won Coastal Division of the ACC and only an electrifying performance by Johnny Manziel kept the Blue Devils from winning the Peach Bowl.
My Hokies had another disappointing season, finishing 8-5 and outside the Top 25. #28 Virginia Tech only salvaged a respectable season thanks to wins over #27 East Carolina and #29 Miami (FL). They went 0-3 against the Top 25. Last year the Hokies finished outside the Top 25 for the first time in nine years. However, the Hokies haven’t finished outside the nation’s elite in consecutive seasons since before their string of dominance began way back in 1992.
I believe we have seen the beginning of Head Coach Frank Beamer’s Bowden/Paterno years. We won’t win a National Championship as long as he remains the head coach. For the foreseeable future we can expect stretches of mediocrity punctuated by one or two surprising major bowl runs. A proud program, Hokies have come to expect much more than that.
#126 Georgia St claims the title of the worst team in FBS this year, narrowly edging #125 Miami (OH) and #124 Southern Miss. I expect such futility from Georgia St; they started the football program only four seasons ago and they played at the FBS level for the first time this season. However, Miami and Southern Miss both have great success in recent memory. The Redhawks claimed a shocking VPR National Championship behind QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2003. Southern Miss won the C-USA Championship in 2011, but have gone 1-23 in the two years since as they struggle to replace former Head Coach Larry Fedora.
The SEC claimed the title of top conference for the eighth consecutive season. The other conferences closed the enormous gap from last season, but SEC still beat its nearest competitor by over a hundred points. The conference finished with six teams in the Top 25, including an incredible three in the Top 6 (#2 Auburn, #3 Missouri, #6 South Carolina, #11 Alabama, #19 Texas A&M, #22 LSU).
The Pac 12 had its best season in over a decade. They failed to produce a late season contender for the National Championship only because they spent all year beating each other up. They equalled the SEC’s mark with six teams finishing in the Top 25 (#4 Stanford, #13 Arizona St, #15 UCLA, #16 Oregon, #18 USC, #25 Washington). With so many emerging teams and coaches, the future of the Pac 12 excites me.
The ACC also had a bounce back season, its best in five years. However, while previous vintages tried to get by on top-to-bottom depth, the conference finally produced a true contender this year – National Champion Florida St – and a second BCS winner in Orange Bowl Champion Clemson. The ACC only placed three teams in the final Top 25 (#1 Florida St, #12 Clemson, #24 Duke), but they had three more teams that just missed the cut (#28 Virginia Tech, #29 Miami, #36 Pittsburgh).
The Big Ten finished fourth, probably a little better than its critics would lead you to believe, but worse than the Spartan and Buckeye fans hoped for. In its first season, the AAC finished with negative victory points and tied for sixth with the Sun Belt Conference. Had the BCS survived, the AAC could not have justified the automatic bid it inherited from the Big East. Conversely, the Sun Belt must take great encouragement from the season as they look for national respect. Last year the conference finished outside the bottom two for only the second time in its brief history. This season they set a new high water mark as the Sun Belt bested every other mid-major conference.
|61.||San Diego St||8-5||8|
|69.||San Jose St||6-6||2|
|117.||New Mexico St||2-10||-56|
The National Championship game is set. For the first time in four years the BCS and the Victory Point Rankings will most likely agree on the two teams that deserve to play in the game without controversy: the #1 Auburn Tigers and the #2 Florida St Seminoles. What? The BCS has the Seminoles #1 despite playing a schedule that got progressively weaker as the season went along, one that didn’t feature a single team that finished with a winning record in the Noles last four regular season games?
Okay, so we have a little disagreement. Still, the VPR doesn’t face the difficulties it had with the BCS in years past, like teams that would still win the Championship even if they lost to their inferior BCS opponent (2010 Auburn, 2012 Notre Dame) or a champion forced to play a team ineligible for the VPR National Championship altogether (2011 LSU). 2013 has a straightforward championship scenario. The two most deserving teams will play in the BCS Championship Game and the winner will undoubtedly crown the final standings of the Victory Point Rankings. In the final season of the BCS it finally worked like its creators intended.
Auburn and Florida St both made it to the BCS title game, but they had vastly different degrees of difficulty in accomplishing the feat. #1 Auburn had to knock #6 Missouri out of the top five in the SEC Championship Game to earn their ticket. Defense need not apply for this matchup. The two Tigers lit up the scoreboard in the highest scoring championship game in SEC history, a 59-42 Auburn win. The teams combined for over 1200 yards of total offense and the more southern Tigers accounted for a video game-like 545 rushing yards. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn once again looked an offensive genius as his team scored 50 in the SEC title game en route to a BCS Championship Game appearance for the second time in four years.
I hope that #6 Missouri does not get lost in the bowl shuffle. By BCS rules, no conference can place more than two teams in the major bowls. The SEC has three teams in the VPR top nine. The Tigers deserve Auburn’s vacated spot in the Sugar Bowl, but I fear the bowl runners will select the less deserving – but more prestigious – #9 Alabama instead.
#2 Florida St blew the doors off #20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game, 45-7. Duke has won twelve of their thirteen games by 27 points or more. I doubt #1 Auburn will roll over for the Seminoles as the rest of their schedule has. I look forward to seeing how Florida St responds the first time they get punched in the mouth. Will they wilt under the pressure like a challenged bully or will the rush of real competition push them to even greater heights?
Every time I look at #3 Stanford, I wonder what could have been. The Cardinal ran through #8 Arizona St for the second time this season, vanquishing the Sun Devils 38-14 in the Pac 12 Championship game. Stanford looked great for much of the season as they conquered a resurgent Pac 12 and conquered top teams like #18 UCLA, #19 Oregon, and #23 Notre Dame. If not for a lapse of concentration against 5-7 Utah and a tough road loss at #26 USC, the Cardinal would find themselves in the BCS title game; I would most likely endorse this tough, gritty team to win. Alas, those of us among college football’s nouveau riche must wait another year for one of our own to crash the glass ceiling.
#8 Arizona St fell from the top five and now find themselves in the same situation as Missouri. The Sun Devils deserve a spot in the BCS, but they may get passed over for the second Pac 12 slot by the overrated – but more well known – #19 Oregon Ducks. I usually try to support other nouveau riche teams, but I feel like Oregon has gone to the dark side with all of that Phil Knight money. I get the feeling that they have sold out to the establishment without changing the way the old aristocracy operates. I am likely reading more into this than what is really there.
#4 Ohio St didn’t get the same benefit of any easy foe that Florida St did. After a fairly easy regular season schedule the Buckeyes finally had to put up or shut up against #7 Michigan St and the toughest defense in the country. The competition found Ohio St lacking. Sparty jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half. The Buckeyes fought back to take the lead late, but they couldn’t close it out. Michigan St came up smelling roses with two fourth quarter touchdowns and a 34-24 victory. Maybe now we can put to rest some of Ohio St’s misguided sense of superiority and entitlement.
#5 Baylor has achieved one of the best seasons in team history. They clinched the Big XII Championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl by defeating Texas, 30-10. The game became the de facto Big XII Championship game after #12 Oklahoma beat arch rival #13 Oklahoma St earlier in the day. This season the Bears have set the record for most wins in team history and won their first outright conference title since they won the SWC in 1980. Their appearance in the Fiesta Bowl also signifies their first trip to a major bowl since the Cotton Bowl loss after that 1980 season and their first trip to a bowl currently in the BCS since a win over Tennessee in the 1956/57 Sugar Bowl.
#16 Louisville catapulted into the Top 25 with a victory over AAC conference rival Cincinnati, 31-24. The Cardinals needed overtime to overcome the Bearcats, but they finish the regular season with an impressive 11-1 record. Unfortunately, the Cardinals blew their shot at the BCS and a dark horse run for the national title when they lost to UCF in October. The Golden Knights will get the money and recognition of the BCS, while the Cardinals will have to slog it out in a December bowl.
#21 Rice completed an unexpected run into the Top 25 with a comfortable 41-24 win over Marshall in the C-USA Championship Game. This season marks only the third ten-win season in Owls history, but the second since head coach David Bailiff took over in 2007. He took over a team that had gone 1-10 two years before and had only made one bowl game in the previous 45 years. This year Bailiff will take Rice to a bowl game for the third time in his seven year tenure. The Owls have always had the advantage of Texas recruiting base, but it appears Bailiff has finally made good on that promise.
Bowl Game Selections
If you have read this column in the past, you know that I have my own peculiar selection process for bowl season. First, I prefer to pare down the bowl schedule to only twenty games. The proliferation of bowls over the last two decades has reduced the meaning of the postseason and allowed a number of undeserving teams to hurt our eyes in December. Only the rarest 6-6 teams and occasional 7-5 teams have any business playing in late December. I select the five BCS Bowls and fifteen of the oldest and most respected bowl games, nothing under a decade old.
Only the ten conference champions and the next thirty best non-champions in the VPR achieve bowl eligibility. This makes sure that only the best teams earn the postseason while still rewarding the champions of inferior conferences like the Sun Belt. For the selection process, I try to maintain the official conference ties, but as well as the SEC plays, even they can’t fill out the nine ties they have in these twenty elder bowls. The surprising upstarts from lesser conferences tend to fill in the gaps.
#40 Mississippi ended up as the last team out this year. Heading into conference championship week, the Rebels held the final spot in the ranking at #39. The inferior Sun Belt champion had already reserved the fortieth and final slot in the postseason. However, when Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois to claim the MAC championship, Mississippi fell out. Northern Illinois had a strong enough resume to earn a bowl spot regardless, but the Falcons required the win to slip in. They stole Mississippi’s bid.
|BCS National Championship||#1 Auburn vs #2 Florida St|
|Rose Bowl||#3 Stanford vs #7 Michigan St|
|Sugar Bowl||#6 Missouri vs #12 Oklahoma|
|Orange Bowl||#4 Ohio St vs #8 Arizona St|
|Fiesta Bowl||#5 Baylor vs #10 UCF|
|Sun Bowl||#25 Virginia Tech vs USC|
|Cotton Bowl||#11 South Carolina vs #13 Oklahoma St|
|Gator Bowl||LSU vs Michigan|
|Liberty Bowl||#21 Rice vs Houston|
|Tangerine Bowl||#9 Alabama vs Wisconsin|
|Peach Bowl||#17 Clemson vs #24 Texas A&M|
|Independence Bowl||Ball St vs East Carolina|
|Holiday Bowl||#19 Oregon vs BYU|
|Hall of Fame Bowl||#22 Georgia vs Iowa|
|Copper Bowl||#23 Notre Dame vs Minnesota|
|Sunshine Classic||#16 Louisville vs #20 Duke|
|Las Vegas Bowl||#14 Fresno St vs Washington|
|Alamo Bowl||#18 UCLA vs Texas|
|Music City Bowl||#15 Northern Illinois vs Miami (FL)|
|Humanitarian Bowl||Bowling Green vs UL-Lafayette|
I had more fun watching football yesterday than any saturday in a long time. Rivalry weekend always feels great when your team takes home the cup. #21 Virginia Tech vanquished a particularly poor vintage of UVA 16-6. I would have preferred more sharpness from the Hokies – we looked more than a little sloppy at times, missed passes and missed assignments that could have continued a drive or stopped an enemy drive – but we made enough big plays to prevent the upset in a defense-first game in Charlottesville. I especially loved the passion that both teams played with. Rivalry games should not pass with the stoic demeanor of any other saturday. Both the Hokies and the Cavaliers showed a bit of fire, getting involved in a little extracurricular activity after the whistle. To their credit, the refs let both teams burn off steam, but the game never seemed in danger of getting out of hand.
With the victory, the Hokies take home the Commonwealth Cup for the tenth year in a row. The trophy is far from the best or most interesting rivalry trophy – even the Black Diamond trophy we took from West Virginia has more character – but it’s ours. Our continuous possession of the cup shows the dominance we have maintained over our in-state rival since my freshman year. It almost feels like we’re in danger of becoming the bullies of the rivalry rather than the upstart underdogs we have typically represented. Regardless, it always feels good to beat UVA.
Following the conclusion of the Commonwealth’s rivalry, I immediately switched to the final moments of the Iron Bowl, the classic rivalry between Auburn and Alabama. The Tigers had spent most of the game clawing back against the Crimson Tide. Alabama took a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter, but Auburn added a touchdown right before the half and scored again in the third to make a tie game going into the fourth quarter. Alabama broke the game open again with a 99-yard touchdown pass early in the final period, but Auburn got a much needed defensive stop and again put together a valiant drive to tie it at 28 all with 32 seconds to go. Overtime appeared imminent.
Alabama would fall under their special teams. Their starting kicker missed three field goals early in the game or else Auburn never would have had a chance to begin with. Alabama QB AJ McCarron engineered a quick drive into Auburn territory with the half minute remaining. There Tide coach Nick Saban elected to attempt a 57-yard field goal.
I had placed my allegiance with Auburn throughout the game. I have always respected the Tigers as a tough opponent and a smart fan base. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Tide fans I met in Atlanta a few years back and I respect Nick Saban as the greatest coach in college football, I feel Alabama has taken advantage of the system to garner more acclaim than they deserve. The BCS has awarded Alabama three of the last four national championships, but the Victory Point Rankings believe they only deserve one. The Tide got an undeserved second chance against LSU, the champion of the SEC, two years ago and last year they rode a cream puff schedule to a title game appearance while Notre Dame ran the gauntlet. In both cases Nick Saban used his superior preparation skills to outcoach his opponent. That’s great for Alabama, but it’s not an advantage a team gets during the regular season where real champions grow. I felt an Alabama loss would be karmic.
As Alabama lined up for the field goal, I noticed Auburn place a return man in their own end zone. The long field goal could run short and Auburn would get a chance to run it out, but could I actually dare to hope that Chris Davis could score? Then this happened:
Even if you have seen it a hundred times, it still thrills. I jumped off the couch in my excitement as I watched in real time, but I can only imagine how Auburn diehards reacted. They still might not have stopped celebrating. As I perused reddit afterwards it looked like that return broke the internet. College football fans will not forget that finish for a long time.
I expected Auburn would get a boost from the victory, but I did not expect this. Showing a clear preference for the strong schedules of the SEC (and the Pac 12 for that matter) over the Big Ten and ACC, the VPR formula catapulted the Tigers up three spots to the top of the rankings. If #1 Auburn wins the SEC Championship Game this saturday, I expect the formula will endorse them for the National Championship Game. War Eagle indeed.
#2 Ohio St held steady this week. They needed an interception on a Michigan two-point conversion attempt at the end of The Game to survive the regular season unscathed. The Buckeyes deserve their place in the national title conversation, but it surprised me that they passed Florida St this week. The #3 Seminoles had likely hoped for a stronger boost to their strength of schedule from saturday’s victory over Florida when the season began, but the Gators have proceeded to self destruct over the course of the season. Still, the Noles remain only a point behind the Buckeyes. Ohio St plays the better team in their respective championship game, a match against #13 Michigan St, but that also means a higher likelihood of failure. Florida St should easily dispatch #18 Duke if they play to their full potential.
#4 Missouri also raised the profile of the SEC as they jumped into the Top 5. They took care of business at home against #24 Texas A&M to advance to the SEC Championship Game. It seems fitting to me that they should face #1 Auburn. For two or three weeks this season the VPR could not separate the two teams. I had them in a dead heat. Now they get the opportunity to answer the question on the field in Atlanta. I look forward to the game.
#5 Arizona St held their spot as they obliterated arch-rival Arizona, 58-21. With the victory, the Sun Devils earned the right to host this saturday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against #6 Stanford. The winner still has an outside shot at the VPR National Championship.
#7 Alabama dropped out of the top five following the heartbreak of the Iron Bowl. The Tide likely slid so far because they avoided the teeth of the SEC East – they played 2-10 Kentucky and 5-7 Tennessee – and played a mediocre non-conference schedule for the second consecutive year. The Crimson Tide have completed their regular season and await their likely selection to a major bowl.
#9 South Carolina, #14 UCLA, and #19 Georgia made the largest leaps this week at the expense of their most hated rivals. The Gamecocks defeated #16 Clemson, 31-17, with a dominating fourth quarter. With the victory, South Carolina landed a blow to ACC prestige and likely prevented Clemson from attending a major bowl.
#14 UCLA took the lead against cross-town rival #24 USC in the first quarter and never relinquished it. The Bruins hold onto the Victory Bell for back-to-back seasons for the first time in fifteen years.
#19 Georgia returned to the Top 25 after a 41-34 double overtime victory over Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs showed a lot of promise at the beginning of the season but have faced arguably the toughest schedule in the country while their roster has disintegrated into a trauma ward. They beat Georgia Tech without their starting quarterback. Despite a disappointing season, the Bulldogs still have bragging rights in their state for the next year.
As if the sting of losing to UCLA wasn’t enough, the Trojans dropped six spots in the rankings. The #25 Wisconsin Badgers joined them in their slide. Wisconsin had steadily crept up the rankings in recent weeks by winning six in a row, but an upset loss to a Penn St team outside the Top 40 threatened to undo their progress.
The hardest loss of the week, however, goes to #20 Fresno St. The Bulldogs slid down eight spots after their loss 62-52 at San Jose St. No one played defense. The game set the mark for most combined points in the first half this season. Fresno St entered the game with a perfect record and knew they had to stay that way to earn a spot to a major bowl. The loss to a 6-6 Spartans team ended all hopes of the BCS and sent them tumbling down the VPR as well. The Bulldogs can still salvage a championship season with a win over Utah St this weekend in the MWC Championship game.
This week’s games featuring two Top 40 opponents:
|#15 Oklahoma at #10 Oklahoma St, Noon|
|Texas at #8 Baylor, 3:30 PM|
|#4 Missouri vs #1 Auburn, 4:00 PM|
|#6 Stanford at #5 Arizona St, 7:45 PM|
|#18 Duke at #3 Florida St, 8:00 PM|
|#2 Ohio St vs #13 Michigan St, 8:17 PM|
Forgive me if I gloss over Week 13 a little. Some teams won. Some teams lost. Baylor blew its shot at National Championship and possibly the Big XII title, too. I just can’t help but look forward to week 14 though. Everything remains up for grabs and many teams will have to prove that they belong.
As I see it, four “teams” still have a shot at the championship: an undefeated Florida St, an undefeated Ohio St, the SEC Champion, and a two-loss Pac 12 Champion with help. #1 Florida St has the easiest path. After they embarrass Florida this week – as if the Gators can feel any worse following this week’s loss to FCS Georgia Southern – the Seminoles should easily dispatch a Duke team just happy to be in the ACC Championship game or some other Coastal Division foe with at least three losses and no hope. Let’s just pencil in the Noles for the BCS National Championship Game now.
Following a season devoid of quality competition, #2 Ohio St finally gets the chance to prove they belong over the next to weeks. They must travel to Ann Arbor for the The Game with #33 Michigan this saturday. The Wolverines would love nothing more than ending the championship hopes of their arch rivals in the Big House. Should the Buckeyes survive, they must then face #15 Michigan St and arguably the toughest defense in the country in the Big Ten Championship game. I can easily see Ohio St losing at least one of those two contests.
The scenarios get interesting here. In the SEC, three teams can still claim the National Championship. The first knockout game occurs when #3 Alabama travels to #4 Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Saturday. For some championship systems, Alabama could absorb the loss to Auburn and still play for a championship. However, I believe that a team cannot exist as the best team in the country if they cannot conquer their own region. Both teams have everything to play for here, though. Auburn would like another title as much as Alabama, especially if it comes at the expense of their arch rival. Regardless, the winner will have a free pass to the National Championship game if they win the subsequent SEC Title Game. However, #6 Missouri aims to make that a very difficult proposition. If the one-loss Tigers defeat #20 Texas A&M on Saturday night and beat the Iron Bowl winner, they would have just as much a right to one of the top two spots in the country as any other team.
Despite its lack of even a one-loss team, the Pac 12 still has a slim opportunity to produce a National Champion. The conference has challenged the SEC for supremacy this year. The SEC currently holds a slim 8 teams to 6 margin in the Top 40. Despite two losses each, #5 Arizona St and #7 Stanford have proven themselves worthy against fierce competition. Arizona St has gone 4-2 against the Top 40 this year. Stanford has gone 4-1 against the Top 40. Stanford hosts #17 Notre Dame this weekend and plays Arizona St in two weeks in the Pac 12 Championship game. Both Stanford and Arizona St possess impressive resumes. They need a little help though. Two of the three things must happen to keep their slim National Championship hopes alive: Florida St loses, Ohio St loses, Missouri loses this weekend and #16 South Carolina wins the SEC Championship.
#1 Florida St retained the top spot after dropping 80 on hapless Idaho and beating yet another team by 30 or more. What else is new? That makes seven straight blowouts for the Seminoles and ten of eleven overall.
#2 Ohio St crept up to the outside pole position following a 42-14 beatdown of Indiana. The Buckeyes haven’t faced a significant challenge in over a month.
#3 Alabama slid down one spot after playing a bye week against FCS Chattanooga. The practice ended in a 49-0 Crimson Tide win.
#4 Auburn rested up for Iron Bowl and slid down one spot.
#5 Arizona St catapulted itself into the top five following a five-point victory over #24 UCLA. The Sun Devils jumped out to a 22-point halftime lead and held on against the second-half Bruin resurgence. Arizona St has won six in a row to place itself on the edges of the Pac 12 and National Championship conversations. The Sun Devils face in-state rival Arizona this weekend.
#9 Oklahoma St dominated national darling Baylor to take the lead in the Big XII. I wrote the Cowboys off after their upset loss to West Virginia earlier this season, but Oklahoma St rebounded with victories over Texas, Texas Tech, and #8 Baylor. If they defeat #13 Oklahoma in the Bedlam Rivalry at home in two weeks, they claim the conference championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
In a battle of the independents with insane schedules, #17 Notre Dame defeated BYU in South Bend, 23-13. It doesn’t get easier for the masochistic Irish. They have the showdown with #7 Stanford this weekend.
#19 Wisconsin knocked Minnesota for the Top 25 with a 20-7 win in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers had hoped to end a long win streak by the Badgers in the series. Wisconsin has sat in Ohio St’s shadow all year, but they get more recognition with every win.
#25 LSU rejoined the Top 25 following an upset of #20 Texas A&M. For the second year in a row, the Tigers’ defense made Heisman winner Johnny Manziel look average. Only LSU has found the key to shutting down the QB. Surely, the Tigers wanted more from this season, but they still have a very real shot at ten wins.
#20 Texas A&M, #24 UCLA, and Minnesota all felt the flipside of three of those big wins. All three dropped at least seven spots in the rankings with the loss.
Like Baylor, #22 Oregon thought they still had a chance to win the National Championship until they suffered a disheartening 42-16 loss to Arizona. Despite a 7-4 record, the Wildcats had shown little of relevance this season and they still remain outside the Top 40 even after the big win. Oregon can no longer hold Pac 12 or Rose Bowl aspirations. An earlier loss to Stanford gives the Cardinal the division tiebreaker even if the Ducks win the Civil War against Oregon St. With two losses now, even Oregon’s major bowl hopes appear thinning. I doubt the Ducks thought they would sit in this position when November began.
Mississippi lost their spot in the Top 25 as they became a casualty of #6 Missouri’s championship aspiration. The Rebels lost by two touchdowns at home. Mississippi hopes to rebound at rival Mississippi St in Thursday’s Egg Bowl. The Rebels have the added incentive of keeping the Bulldogs from bowl eligibility.
This week’s games featuring two Top 40 opponents:
|Iowa at Nebraska, Friday, Noon|
|Miami (FL) at Pittsburgh, Friday, 3:30 PM|
|#2 Ohio St at Michigan, Noon|
|Minnesota at #15 Michigan St, Noon|
|#23 Duke at North Carolina, Noon|
|#3 Alabama at #4 Auburn, 3:30 PM|
|#11 Clemson at #16 South Carolina, 7:00 PM|
|#17 Notre Dame at #7 Stanford, 7:00 PM|
|#20 Texas A&M at #6 Missouri, 7:45 PM|
|#24 UCLA at #18 USC, 8:00 PM|
I find it really soul-crushingly difficult to follow the Hokies sometimes. It begins with the inferiority complex I received with my diploma. The desire to prove ourselves has roots in our history as a middle class polytechnic, the public agricultural and mechanical school. Our elder brother in Charlottesville takes public funding too, but they never acted like it. We graduate engineers and architects, farmers and businessmen. UVA graduates doctors and lawyers and trust fund babies. There is a sense that Hokies have to fight and claw for everything we achieve, while the Wahoos get a head start.
This gulf felt especially hard to swallow when UVA would beat us on the field. We work harder; why should they get to buy victories too? Only when Beamer took over the program and the Hokies began this nine game win streak against the Cavaliers did we start to feel accomplished. We did not have to resign ourselves to “working for a UVA grad” as those in blue and orange would claim. We now had proof that we could outwork them on a consistent basis.
Since Beamer arrived, we have discovered a new glass ceiling. Along with the likes of Oregon and Boise St, Virginia Tech has become part of the the nouveau riche, an emerging class in college football. We have proven ourselves on the field with ten win seasons and major bowl victories. Like Oregon, we have come oh so close to capturing a crystal football. Yet without one, we cannot enter that elite class of the NCAA. We have our millions but we still get excluded from the clubs that the one percenters frequent. The SEC laughs at us. Ohio St and USC sneer at us. Texas patronizes us like a cute child. At least those are the voices that whisper in the back of my mind every time we lose.
Our success makes losses to Duke, to Boston College, to Maryland, so very difficult. I have become numb to this level of success. The ten win seasons never excite me any more. The Orange Bowl holds no luster. Only wins over Miami (FL) and Virginia can even begin to match the meteoric joy I once felt at Tech’s successes. I expect to win and the losses crush me.
Every loss reiterates what we don’t have. Every loss means another wasted season, another year of waiting for the ultimate triumph. I feel I could enjoy the highs and lows, the unique personality of each Tech team, if I could just say to all challengers once and for all, that we had that one glorious season where they couldn’t touch us. We would belong once and for all. No backslide into mediocrity could ever take that away from us. So I wait and I hope, mostly in vain. I love Beamer, but he just doesn’t have in him and maybe the Hokies never will.
Now that I have that emo little tirade off my chest, let’s talk week 12.
Florida St reclaimed the top spot with a commanding 59-3 victory against Syracuse. The margin between the Seminoles and #2 Alabama remains so slim that you really can’t separate the two teams. #1 Florida St should find itself in the National Championship Game if they simply take care of business. No one left on their schedule has healthy players with enough talent to match up to the Noles and Florida St has a significant points lead on #4 Ohio St and #5 Baylor.
#2 Alabama needed a gritty performance to overcome a game Mississippi St team looking for the upset on Saturday. The Tide will just try to keep pace until they face #3 Auburn in two weeks. Alabama has a bye against Chattanooga this weekend.
#3 Auburn jumped two places with a five-point win over previously ranked Georgia. The Bulldogs erased a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take a slim lead with less than two minutes left in the game. The Tigers needed a miracle touchdown on a pass tipped by a Georgia defensive back into the hands of an Auburn wideout. Championship teams often need a little luck, a touch of the charmed, to win it all. Auburn has now demonstrated this clutch gene. No one would have believed it at the start of the season, but the Tigers now have the potential to win their second national championship in four years. If they beat #2 Alabama in two weeks and win the subsequent SEC Championship Game, their strength of schedule would most assuredly lift them past Ohio St and Baylor and into the National Championship game.
#4 Ohio St continues to draft the leaders, taking care of business against inferior competition. This week they dispatched 3-7 Illinois with ease. Next week they get 4-6 Indiana. The Buckeyes can only keep winning and hope that the SEC implodes.
#5 Baylor finally climbed into the Top 5 after running away from Texas Tech. With games remaining against #15 Oklahoma St and Texas, the Bears have the potential to pass #4 Ohio St. However, they need some help from the ACC and SEC if they want to compete for it all.
#6 Stanford dropped four spots in the ranking. #22 USC punched the Cardinal in the mouth and pulled out the surprising upset on a last minute field goal in Los Angeles. The Cardinal looked like the best team in college football at times this year, but like many of the nouveau riche, they couldn’t get out of their own way when under pressure. Now Stanford needs help from Oregon’s opponents to even keep their slim Rose Bowl hopes alive. For all intents and purposes, their national championship aspirations are dead for 2013.
#22 USC jumped ten spots on the momentum of that win over Stanford. The Trojans have gone 5-1 since they fired former head coach Lane Kiffin with the lone defeat coming at #24 Notre Dame. Once again, USC has finally begun to look like a team with first pick of the rich talent in southern California.
#13 Northern Illinois finally gave the ranking something to sink its teeth into with a great win over conference rival Ball St (9-2). The Huskies have gone 10-0 against a schedule that lacked a single FBS team that currently has more than six wins until they faced the Cardinals. Northern Illinois gets another chance to prove itself at 7-3 Toledo this wednesday.
#21 Virginia Tech continued its yo-yoing through the rankings. After the elation of beating Miami (FL) last week, the Hokies lost at home in overtime to a Maryland team that most had left for dead. The Terrapins had lost four of five before pulling the upset in Blacksburg. Though subjectively I can’t say they deserve it, Virginia Tech remains ranked only because the formula still really likes their wins against East Carolina and Marshall early in the season.
Georgia felt the heartbreak on the other end of the Auburn miracle. Despite facing perhaps the toughest schedule in the nation, the loss combined with the inertia of three earlier losses forced the Bulldogs from the Top 25. Georgia has a good squad but everything has conspired against them this season.
Miami (FL) also dropped from the Top 25 after they continued to struggle against quality opponents. The Hurricanes lost their third in a row, this time an 18-point road loss to emergent Duke (the Blue Devils just missed out on the Top 25 this week on a tiebreaker with #25 Wisconsin). The Canes will hope they can right the ship this saturday against Virginia, a team winless in ACC play.
This week’s games featuring two Top 40 opponents:
|#13 Northern Illinois at Toledo, Wednesday, 8:00 PM|
|#12 Texas A&M at LSU, 3:30 PM|
|#25 Wisconsin at #20 Minnesota, 3:30 PM|
|BYU at #24 Notre Dame, 3:30 PM|
|#9 Arizona St at #17 UCLA, 7:00 PM|
|#8 Missouri at #23 Mississippi, 7:45 PM|
|#5 Baylor at #15 Oklahoma St, 8:00 PM|
The rankings this week from #7 down look like somebody threw the teams into a giant cocktail shaker and poured them out all over the bar. Only three teams in that section of this week’s ranking moved less than three spots. Five teams had double digit movement this weekend.
Upsets and pivotal conference match-ups largely caused the chaos. Baylor’s upset of Oklahoma caused 11 spots to change hands. UCLA returned to the Top 25 after downing Arizona. Upsets of Virginia Tech over Miami (FL), Central Florida over Houston, Wisconsin over BYU, Pittsburgh over Notre Dame, and Nebraska over Michigan disturbed everything we thought we knew about the status quo of college football this year.
I particularly enjoyed the Virginia Tech win. After embarrassing losses to a surprisingly good Duke team and an unpredictable Boston College team, I don’t think I could have suffered through a loss to Miami (FL). We have long enjoyed a competitive rivalry with the Hurricanes. While I attended Tech, I watched in person as we ended the National Championship hopes of a #2 Miami (FL) team in 2003 – my greatest moment as a Tech fan – and they ended the National Championship hopes of a #3 Virginia Tech team in 2005 – my worst moment as a Tech fan. After the ’03 win, I rushed the field for the first time. After the ’05 loss, a black cloud hung over campus for days. I love to hate the Criminal Canes more than any team in college football. I get more satisfaction from the rivalry than the Virginia rivalry. We too easily dispatch the Wahoos ever year. Miami (FL) earns our respect and punches back.
We looked good in victory, too. We won by 18. We had a rushing game for the first time all year. Trey Edmunds punched it into the end zone on the ground four times. Logan Thomas threw for 366, completed 80% of his passes, and didn’t commit a single turnover. The rush defense returned as the defense stuffed Miami (FL), holding them to 1.2 yards per carry. Overall, the #11 Hokies exhibited a dominant performance and earned a return to the Top 15. The Hokies now have a 4-2 record against the current Top 40.
Next week presents another opportunity for movement in the rankings. Eight games, at least one every night between Wednesday and Saturday, feature two teams in the Top 40. We should have another fun week of college football.
#1 Alabama resumed the top spot this week with a 21-point victory over a Top 40 LSU team. The Tide should cruise through the next two weeks at Mississippi St and back home for Chattanooga. I really hope they paid the latter well, because that game will get ugly before halftime.
#2 Stanford continues to keep pace in the championship discussion despite that flukey loss to Utah. The Cardinal overpowered #15 Oregon, a media darling that had played a relatively easy schedule before Thursday. Stanford used its pro-level offensive line to grind and pound the Ducks. Their fresh defense managed to shutout the potent Ducks offense and their dangerous running game for three quarters before Oregon launched a special teams fueled rally in the fourth. Stanford now has three wins against the Top 20 and fourth against Top 40 Washington. Stanford can’t rest on their laurels. They must travel to a resurgent USC this Saturday.
#3 Florida St fell down two spots only because their competition slipped. Last week’s win over #24 Miami (FL) lost a touch of its luster after the Hurricanes dropped their second in a row against the Hokies. Meanwhile the scheduling gods left Florida St facing mediocre Wake Forest. The Seminoles did what they could, obliterating the Demon Deacons 52-0. The Noles had it won before the half.
#4 Ohio St took the week off, losing the extra game they had played over the other contenders. The Buckeyes have only played one game against the current Top 40, a win over Wisconsin.
#10 Oklahoma dropped from the Top 5 with their second loss. The Sooners looked flat against #7 Baylor. Their offense and defense both underperformed, they lost the turnover margin, and the Bears ran away with it. The Sooners certainly lost any slim National Championship hopes they retained, but they likely lost any chance at a conference title, too.
The two-headed monster of Auburn and Missouri share the fifth spot. I can’t separate these teams. They have identical victory points, identical overall records, and identical conference records in the superior SEC. Missouri roughed up Kentucky this week and Auburn did the same to Tennessee. Both teams have further opportunities to distinguish themselves. Missouri plays at #25 Mississippi and hosts #14 Texas A&M in the next three weeks. Auburn hosts #19 Georgia and #1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl over that same span. Both teams control their own destiny in the race for the SEC Championship.
#7 Baylor began laying out its case for a National Championship with their unquestioned victory over #10 Oklahoma. The Bears will have further opportunity to advance as they play three more Top 40 teams in the next months.
#11 Virginia Tech enjoyed a 12-spot hike in the ranking following the defeat of #14 Miami (FL).
#16 Central Florida leapt furiously into the ranking with a 19-14 home victory over previously ranked Houston. Central Florida opened a game lead with tiebreakers over their two closest competitors in the American Athletic Conference standings. The AAC still receives an automatic bid to the BCS, a remnant from the better days of the Big East.
#18 UCLA advanced eight spots by dispatching conference foe Arizona 31-26. The two teams played a back and forth game but UCLA came through in the clutch forcing an Arizona punt and interception on the Wildcats’ last two possessions and controlling the ball on offense enough to keep the second half of the fourth quarter scoreless.
#24 Miami (FL) felt the flip side of Virginia Tech’s ascension, falling ten spots.
#20 BYU suffered an upset loss on the road at Wisconsin. Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill only completed 46% of his 41 pass attempts. His inefficiency proved the difference in a close game.
#22 Notre Dame failed to win at Pittsburgh. The Irish outplayed the Panthers, but QB Tommy Rees struggled with his accuracy and threw two critical interceptions in the fourth quarter that gave the game away to Pittsburgh.
This week’s games featuring two Top 40 opponents:
|Ball St at Northern Illinois, Wednesday, 8:00 PM|
|Georgia Tech at #8 Clemson, Thursday, 7:30 PM|
|Washington at #18 UCLA, Friday, 9:00 PM|
|#19 Georgia at #5 Auburn, 3:30 PM|
|#24 Miami (FL) at Duke, 3:30 PM|
|Texas Tech vs #7 Baylor, 7:00 PM|
|Houston at Louisville, 7:00 PM|
|#2 Stanford at USC, 8:00 PM|