This season's real problem? There are just too many dominant teams
This season has sparked a recurring complaint, one that surfaced again following Week 13 scares from Texas and Alabama:
There was a time earlier this year when I felt that way myself, but now, with the finish line just a week away, I'd argue this season has suffered from the polar opposite oddity: There are
It's been a top-heavy season, not just nationally, but within most conferences. In addition to the five leagues with official championship games, the Big East (Cincinnati-Pittsburgh), Big Ten (Iowa-Ohio State), Pac-10 (Oregon-Oregon State) and WAC (Boise State-Nevada) all wound up staging (or will stage) unofficial title showdowns. It's a scheduling coincidence made possible by the fact that, in each case, two teams separated from the pack. (Not so in the Mountain West, where TCU beat its two closest competitors, Utah and BYU, by a combined score of 93-35.)
Finally, this weekend, we get to see two of the Big Six collide when No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama stage their long-anticipated SEC Championship showdown in Atlanta.
"I can't think of a bigger football game that we've been a part of," Gators coach
The Gators and Tide have looked vulnerable at times. Some might argue Florida, which has averaged a modest 27.6 points in SEC play, isn't as dominant a team as it was a year ago, when the eventual national champs routinely put up 40- or 50-plus points against conference opponents. But lest we forget, last year's Gators actually lost a game to Ole Miss. This year's version has only suffered one truly close call, a 23-20 last-second win over Arkansas.
Some might also argue that Alabama's come-from-behind 26-21 win at 7-5 Auburn last weekend exposed the Tide as overrated. That's one way of looking at it. The other is to marvel at team that managed a 15-play, seven-minute, 79-yard game-winning drive despite its Heisman-contending running back watching from the bench. 'Bama has had more close calls than Florida (
"Even though we had some games where we felt like we didn't play our best football, we made some big plays, and players responded when they needed to," said Alabama coach
The Gators and Tide so thoroughly dominated the nation's purportedly toughest conference that they each nailed down their spot in Saturday's matchup by Nov. 7. Florida won its division by a staggering four games; Alabama by three. At last, we'll get to see them face a worthy adversary.
"College football wants this game," said Meyer. "I've been hearing it for a long time, trying to ignore it, push it back, but now it's here."
If only we could draw up a similar crescendo for No. 3 Texas. The watered-down Big 12 has produced a championship matchup between the 12-0 Longhorns and 9-3 Nebraska. Texas has beaten just two ranked teams, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State; the Sooners finished 7-5, and just beat the Cowboys 27-0. Critics looking to poke holes at the 'Horns found ammunition in last week's 49-39 shootout at 6-6 Texas A&M, while conveniently ignoring the fact Texas never trailed after wiping out A&M's early 7-0 lead. When that's your team's equivalent of a "close call," you know you're doing something right.
This isn't 2007, when LSU won the national championship with two losses. There should be little doubt by day's end Saturday that we'll be watching two truly elite teams in Pasadena. The problem is, there could be as many as three similarly dominant teams left sitting on the sideline. While Florida and Alabama get to settle their half of the bracket on the field, TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati (should it beat Pittsburgh) must sit and root for Nebraska to beat Texas. Even then, two of them won't get a shot.
The computers will say they didn't play as rigorous a schedule as the SEC and Big 12 champs, but those same computers are told to disregard margin of victory. The closest any opponent came to the Horned Frogs over their last seven games was 27 points. Nevada brought an eight-game winning streak to Boise last Friday and fell behind 27-3 by early second quarter (the Broncos won 44-33). If not for a pair of futile last-second touchdowns by Connecticut and West Virginia, the Bearcats would have just one single-digit victory (28-20 over Fresno State) on their docket.
Consider, we stand just a week away from a potential Florida-Texas title matchup that many
The first 13 weeks have been fun, but these last two could be epic.
It was interesting to watch how the largely muddled Heisman race seemed to finally crystallize itself over the course of the holiday weekend. It began Thursday night with
Then, on Friday afternoon, Alabama's
On Saturday, Clemson's
And then, Stanford's
We could spend all day debating who
That's how Cincinnati coach
Aggravating seems more fitting than silly. No one but the people involved truly know where and when a particular coaching search is headed, which means 90 percent of what gets reported is either misleading or downright false. This weekend alone, regarding Notre Dame's impending opening, CBS analysts "reported" both that
Jeez. Maybe Kelly isn't even on the Irish wish list.
As of now, Notre Dame, Louisville and Virginia are the lone BCS-conference schools looking for new coaches, though that could change at any moment. Kansas will soon need to reach a decision regarding
And then there's the potential mother of all coaching changes brewing in Tallahassee. After steadfastly maintaining all season he'd be back in 2010,
Those bosses will reportedly meet with Bowden and anointed successor
Why Alabama? I couldn't tell you. The SEC game is a complete toss-up as far as I'm concerned. I've had the Tide penciled in since October, so I'll stick by them for one last week.
The rest of the picture cleared up considerably with Oklahoma State's loss to Oklahoma. Boise State is virtually assured a bid at this point. Assuming Texas beats Nebraska, the Fiesta Bowl is now free to select Iowa, which it's been coveting for years. There are two scenarios that could change this projection: 1) If Clemson beats Georgia Tech, the Orange will need to avoid a TCU rematch. It would likely take the Big East champ instead. There's also a slight possibility the Fiesta could opt to pit undefeated TCU against undefeated Cincinnati if it feels it can sell enough tickets. In that event, the Orange may tap Penn State over Iowa.
• The old "throw out the records" cliché played out with abandon this Rivalry Weekend, as a whopping six unranked teams knocked off their ranked rivals -- Georgia over No. 7 Georgia Tech, West Virginia over No. 8 Pittsburgh, Oklahoma over No. 11 Oklahoma State, South Carolina over No. 15 Clemson, Mississippi State over No. 20 Ole Miss and N.C. State over No. 23 UNC.
All the more reason Texas and Alabama deserve credit for surviving theirs.
• BYU and Utah staged another classic Holy War, with Cougars star
• Missouri and Kansas are making an annual tradition of wild Thanksgiving weekend shootouts. A year after the Jayhawks won 40-37 on a last-second
• Arizona State receiver
• Oft-criticized West Virginia coach
• Boise State jumped up 27-3 on Nevada last Friday, then went nearly 35 minutes with just one touchdown. It's no coincidence the drought began after the Broncos' star receiver,
• In his first start since Oct. 15, Cincinnati quarterback
• A week after
• Miami's 31-10 rout of USF coupled with losses by Clemson (8-4) and North Carolina (8-4) greatly improved the 'Canes' chances of playing on New Year's Day. If Georgia Tech wins the ACC title game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will likely take 9-3 Virginia Tech and the Gator will take Miami (9-3).
• SEC bowls are going to have a heck of a time sorting through potential selections after six teams finished with 7-5 records. LSU (9-3) figures to land the Capital One Bowl, but after that it's anyone's guess. Ole Miss finished 8-4 but lost a lot of luster with it Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Meanwhile, a team like South Carolina (7-5) could land anywhere from Atlanta to Shreveport.
• Even in defeat, Texas A&M gave its fans long-awaited cause for optimism with its performance against Texas, highlighted by quarterback
• It's been six years since then-Nebraska AD
• Tennessee (7-5) continued its quarter-century hex over Kentucky thanks to
• It took a 17-16 win over Colorado State (3-9, 0-8 MWC) just to become eligible, but first-year coach
• Meanwhile, in the bizarre college football world that includes a playoff (Division I-AA), top seed Montana staged a Herculean comeback against South Dakota State in Saturday's first round, rallying from a 41-14 deficit to win 61-48.
Personally, I've never understood the perennial outrage among fans and media over coaches "running up the score." This isn't Little League. We spend most of the time exhorting our favorite coaches and players to "punish" their opponents, to show "intensity," "tenacity" "hunger," "drive," etc., etc. -- but then, once they've achieved their desired goal, we request that they morph into respectful golf buddies.
That said, even I cringed upon first seeing the
Upon further reflection, however, and after reading various opinions around Cyberspace, I can't come down too hard on Carroll for the decision. For one thing, he initially
"He called timeout, nothing wrong with that, just compete," said Carroll. "Then the play came up on the headset [from offensive coordinator
Lest we forget -- these guys are rivals. They rightfully hate each other. Neuheisel took out an ad in the
My beefs with Carroll involve his reaction
But most gallingly, in his postgame news conference, USC's coach attempted some convenient revisionist history regarding
The real shame of Carroll's UCLA controversy is that earlier the same day, he and his program were featured in one of the most powerful segments I've ever seen ESPN's GameDay produce. Reporter
Put aside six minutes and
One of the great mysteries of football is how a wide receiver can look in a catch while remaining acutely aware of exactly where the sideline marker is. Perhaps Notre Dame's receiver can explain how exactly he did this.
If you were watching on CBS, you saw the flicker of flashbulbs (presumably camera phones) light up the Swamp every time it appeared Tebow might score his last touchdown. I'd say this fan got a pretty darn good view.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games
• Florida vs. Alabama, Saturday (4 p.m. ET): Tebow's defining performance to date came in last year's game, when he led consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives to knock off the top-ranked Tide 31-20. There's every reason to believe this one will go down to the wire, too. Who will be this year's game-winning hero?
• Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Saturday (Noon ET): The Bearcats' biggest challenge figured to be slowing down Panthers standout
• Texas vs. Nebraska, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): Texas' McCoy will be going against the toughest defense he's faced since the Oct. 17 Oklahoma game. Nebraska has recorded 33 sacks, but if the 'Horns manage just half their season average of 43 points per game, it should be enough to top the offensively challenged Huskers.