Season's best race, Michigan's coaching conundrum, more mail
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm no fan of conference championship games. They work in the SEC, where the game always sells out and we can usually count on an elite team emerging from each division. The Big 12's edition, on the other hand, has produced such recent classics as Oklahoma 42, Colorado 3 (2004), Texas 70, Colorado 3 (2005) and Oklahoma 62, Missouri 21 (2008).
And then there's my all-time personal favorite, the 2006 ACC championship in which Wake Forest topped Georgia Tech, 9-6, in front of a few thousand friends, family and masochists.
With that in mind, you'll understand why it took me about three seconds to settle on an answer to this question:
The Pac-10's -- and it's not even close.
Obviously, I'm excited for Florida-Alabama and Cincinnati-Pittsburgh, but those conferences morphed into two-team races weeks ago. Everything leading up to those final battles has become anticlimactic. Meanwhile, Iowa and Ohio State played an unofficial conference-title game last week that neither team's coach appeared interested in winning. Georgia Tech ran away with its side of the ACC, and this weekend 6-5 Kansas State will be playing for a spot in the Big 12 title game. (Though the Nebraska-K-State game is not without stakes -- if the Wildcats lose, they won't go to
The Pac-10 race, on the other hand, continues to fascinate. Even at this late stage of the game, four realistic contenders remain, all of them solid, exciting teams, and all of them still with meaningful games to play. This weekend, No. 11 Oregon (8-2, 6-1) visits Arizona (6-3, 4-2) to determine which team takes over the conference driver's seat, while No. 14 Stanford (7-3, 6-2) hosts Cal (7-3, 4-3) needing a win to remain in the mix (the Cardinal won't fare well in most tiebreaker scenarios). On Dec. 3, No. 20 Oregon State (7-3, 5-2), the creeping dark horse, visits Oregon for a potential winner-takes-all Civil War; that is, unless Arizona (which already beat Oregon State) topples the Ducks this weekend, in which case the Wildcats may be playing for roses two days later at No. 22 USC (7-3, 4-3).
If you got lost somewhere in the above paragraph, check out
To me, this is college football at its finest -- a competitive, high-stakes race in which every game and every week has consequences. Unfortunately, it's become an increasing rarity. The Pac-10 makes a season like this possible by going against the grain and playing a nine-game, full-league round robin. Imagine if this was the Big Ten, and this happened to be the year Oregon and Arizona didn't meet. Or the league split into two divisions, and Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford all played in the "North."
Unfortunately, the very thing that makes this year's Pac-10 race so exciting is probably hurting the conference more than it helps. By playing an extra conference game, half the teams in the league are guaranteed an extra loss, and one less nonconference game means one less chance to schedule a creampuff and inflate records. That makes the league unlikely to earn a second BCS berth (it hasn't since 2002), which, sadly, means there's really no incentive for other leagues to copy its model.
I agree, he's not a good fit. From nearly the day Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor, a significant faction of Wolverines fans simply hasn't liked him, whether because he's not a "Michigan Man" like
That said, I'm still 90 percent certain he'll get another year. AD
As for Harbaugh, there's no doubt he'd be a great hire, but I'm hearing the Michigan brass hasn't yet forgiven him for
Well first of all, that's exactly the same matchup Utah got last season, and it hardly quieted the politicians; if anything, it empowered them. Personally, I would love to see TCU play Florida or Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. I think it would be fascinating, and it would be a far better measuring stick for the Horned Frogs than playing Boise State or Iowa. The problem is that in this year's selection order, the Sugar Bowl has last choice of at-large picks, and it's looking increasingly likely the Horned Frogs won't be available.
Barring a loss by Texas, the Sugar and Fiesta bowls will have first choice of replacement teams; the Sugar will almost certainly take the Florida-Alabama loser, while the Fiesta, as the Big 12's partner, will either take Oklahoma State if it qualifies; Penn State or Iowa (to sell tickets); or TCU. The Orange Bowl then has first choice of at-large teams and figures to take whichever of the two, TCU or Iowa/Penn State, the Fiesta doesn't. Even if the Orange passes on TCU as well in favor of the Big East champ, I'd be shocked if the Fiesta doesn't then snap up the Horned Frogs with the second at-large choice.
We're talking about the No. 4 (possibly No. 3 by then) team in the country. Brand name or not, the Frogs are going to be a coveted commodity. I just hope they get a worthy opponent; if not Florida/Alabama, then hopefully undefeated Cincinnati or one-loss Georgia Tech or Pittsburgh. Even if Boise State gets in, too, I don't think it serves anyone for those two to meet in a bowl for the second straight year.
USC fans better hope that's the case, but as of now I don't think it's a valid comparison. First of all, that Florida team fielded an eventual Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
The Trojans' demise this season reminds me more of Miami circa '04 and '05, when, after years of dominance, chinks in the armor started to show. The 'Canes had a lot of big-time recruits that never panned out; that may be what USC's going through for the first time under
DJ: How about you agree to admit you were drunk and/or emotional when you wrote this, and I'll agree not to rename it "Minnesota/Ole Miss Syndrome."
I love you, Buckeyes fans. I really do. After both the USC and Purdue losses this season, you inundated me with e-mails lambasting Tressel's play-calling, screaming for the offensive coordinator's head, the quarterback coach's head and, in some extreme cases,
First of all, I hold no ill will toward Ohio State. It's actually one of my favorite places to cover a game. The stadium is breathtaking. The band is phenomenal. And there's a McFlurry machine in the press box! You can't beat that. During the height of Buckeye/Big Ten-bashing in 2007 and '08, I was one of the few national writers who
If any doubt remained as to why most of the country holds the Big Ten in such low regard, the last three minutes of that game removed it. With a Rose Bowl berth hanging in the balance, neither coach made any attempt to win the game. If they could have played for the tie, a la Notre Dame in 1966, they just might have. Iowa, bless its heart, fielded not a single threatening offensive playmaker, yet managed to take the game to overtime in large part because Ohio State's most dangerous playmaker,
But Tressel may have the ultimate opportunity to shut up myself and
If Notre Dame finishes 7-5, most likely.
The Gator Bowl has first choice of Big East teams after the BCS, but it's also allowed to select Notre Dame once over a four-year period that ends this season. This is the bowl's last chance to get the Irish for the foreseeable future since the Gator is switching to an SEC-Big Ten matchup next year, and it's long been assumed the bowl will take advantage of it. The next Big East bowl after that is Meineke.
That said, the Gator knows how it will look publicly if it bypasses an 11-1 Cincinnati or 10-2 Pittsburgh team in favor of a 7-5 Notre Dame team (contrary to what's been published some places, there is no formal rule preventing this), and the bowl's president,
No sir, I was dead serious. I snuck into the Buckeyes' locker room after the game and saw the whole scene. He said it, and then he ripped off his sweater vest, drank a glass of raw eggs, clenched his biceps and shouted: "HEY RICHROD -- WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN TRESSELMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU?!"
The Wolf Pack have been hot recently, no question. They put up 70 on Idaho, 62 on San Jose State and, most impressively, 52 on Fresno State. But let's not forget, this is the same team that got shut out by Notre Dame and got waxed at home by Missouri. I mean no disrespect to
OK, OK, I'll leave you with an actual, true story from Saturday.
After the postgame interviews had ended, a few other writers and I trekked back to the other side of Ohio Stadium to get back to the press box. As we were walking down the concourse (alongside the bathrooms and the concession stands, etc.) toward the elevator, a car started coming toward us -- driving right in the middle of a stadium concourse.
We stepped to the side, and as the red, Toyota Venza drove past, we looked into the passenger-side window and saw ... coach Tressel, munching on a turkey sandwich.
A triumphant coach, literally riding off into the night. In a Venza.