Snap Judgments: Pac-10 TV woes, Richt's future, LSU's puzzling loss

Publish date:

I'm in Tallahassee after covering the Florida State-Maryland game, and I just watched an illegal feed of the Arizona-Oregon game on Why did I knowingly break the law? Because for some reason, ESPN/ABC elected not to show a significant chunk of the country any portion of the most exciting game in the nation's most exciting conference this season. Check the map for Oregon-Arizona. If you live in the purple zone, your cable company didn't show you any part of Oregon's thrilling double-overtime win.

The ABC affiliate here showed me the entire Texas blowout of Kansas, right down to the Colt McCoy interview at the end. Then a brief studio hit with John Saunders and Jesse Palmer. Then the late local news. I would have used the ESPN360 Web service, but the Internet service provider where I am doesn't provide ESPN360, which, I must admit, is an utterly fantastic service when it's available.

Judging by the map, I'm guessing ESPN was contractually obligated to keep Oregon-Arizona on the GamePlan pay-per-view package in the SEC and Big 12 footprints, but in an age when everything is on the Internet, this is an incredibly foolish way to do business.

Presumably, ESPN paid a significant fee for the rights to broadcast Pac-10 games. One would think that with 87 different channels, the Worldwide Leader has the means, the opportunity and the desire to allow its viewers to watch one of the most exciting football games of the season. Presumably, the advertisers who bought time on the telecast would appreciate all the extra eyeballs from casual fans surfing to a great game.

But instead, ESPN drove me to, where my viewership will not be measured by anyone, meaning ESPN will not be able to use my eyeballs to charge advertisers more in the future. I realize ESPN is so big that its executives probably burn $100 bills for warmth, but there's more money in showing good games to everyone. It's just common sense.

This also should raise alarm bells for first-year Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. One of Scott's critical early tasks is re-negotiating his conference's horrendous television contracts. When he sits down with ESPN executives, he needs to walk out of the room at the first mention of the phrase "split telecast."

The split was designed for a three-channel universe. We have hundreds now, and seemingly half of them have ESPN somewhere in their name. So don't make excuses, Worldwide Leader. Just show us the games.

Because I'm going to find a way to watch the game, whether it's on one of your networks or in a darker corner of cyberspace. You may as well make some money off me.

The director of the TV crew at the Kentucky-Georgia game probably set a record for "concerned fan with his hand over his open mouth" shots, but the visual storytelling seemed entirely appropriate. Kentucky's 34-27 win really makes me wonder.

For the past few weeks, I've said there is no way Georgia coach Mark Richt loses his job. He's too good and his success from 2001-08 more than makes up for a lousy 2009. I guessed that if Richt sacrificed defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and possibly offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, he'd be fine. Now I'm not so sure.

Georgia will be an underdog at Georgia Tech next Saturday, and nothing the Bulldogs have done this year suggests they're anywhere near disciplined enough to beat the Yellow Jackets. If Georgia doesn't pull the upset, things could get dicey in Athens.

I still believe Richt will survive. Of course, I never believed Phillip Fulmer or Tommy Tuberville would get fired last year -- until they did.

If Florida's Tim Tebow and Alabama's Mark Ingram get stymied by the stellar defenses in the SEC title game, expect all eyes to turn to Arlington, Texas, where an unlikely Heisman Trophy candidate may play his way to New York.

I'm not talking about Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who deserves to be invited anyway. I'm talking about Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

If Nebraska were the 11-0 Big 12 team instead of Texas, we'd already be talking about Suh becoming the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997. But since the Cornhuskers have been up and down this season, Suh hasn't gotten the attention he probably deserves.

He'll get it Dec. 5 if his defense comes to play in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma held Texas to 16 points in an October loss, so the Longhorns can be contained. And the Texas line hasn't seen anyone like Suh, who is tied with fellow stud Jared Crick for the team lead in tackles with 65. Suh also has 6.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hurries. Oh, he also has 10 pass break-ups and an interception. Remember, he plays defensive tackle. In Saturday's 17-3 win against Kansas State to clinch the Big 12 North title, Suh had nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, a hurry and two pass break-ups.

Like Woodson, Suh also makes cameos on offense. The Huskers will slip him in at fullback on the goal line.

If Suh dominates and Nebraska either shocks Texas or plays the Longhorns to the wire, some tuxedo shop in Lincoln is going to have to do some serious alterations in a hurry.

LSU fans, who aren't known for their mild temperaments, went into total meltdown after Saturday's bizarre 25-23 loss at Ole Miss. A lot of them weren't enamored with Les Miles' coaching ability before Saturday, and LSU's final possession gave them even more ammunition.

On, one fan posed an interesting question on the message board. If you could ask Miles one question, what would it be? The first response came from a poster named Northwestern Tiger.

"When are you leaving?"

And that was before the Ole Miss game began. LSU's last drive provided plenty more questions. We'll ignore for a second that coming out of a timeout, LSU coaches called the Jordan Jefferson-to-Stevan Ridley pass that lost seven yards. That was an execution issue. What makes no sense is why LSU coaches allowed so much time to drain off the clock before they called their final timeout. The Tigers faced fourth-and-26 on the Ole Miss 48, but they were on offense. If by some miracle they converted the fourth down, they could control the clock with a spike.

Miles said the Tigers tried to call timeout, but the officials didn't hear them. "That play, the clock ran down, timeouts were being called verbally and I didn't relate to the official apparently, and that was the mistake," he said. "We didn't know that it hadn't been called." Miles blamed himself for the mistake, and he was correct. He or someone on his staff should have ensured the official recognized the timeout call.

Nine seconds remained when the timeout got called. Then, by some miracle, LSU converted on fourth down with 45-yard pass from Jefferson to Terrance Toliver. Now one second remained, and it would tick off as soon as the chains were set. LSU had to run a play. The Tigers could not spike. Jefferson spiked.

That speaks to coaching. Miles or offensive coordinator Gary Crowton should have taught Jefferson well enough to know a spike play takes longer than a second. Jefferson has been the starter since last November; youth isn't an excuse.

Miles should have plenty of latitude thanks to the 2007 BCS title, but a lot of people on the bayou believe that team -- stocked with Nick Saban recruits -- couldn't lose. In fact, it lost the final weekend of the regular season to an Arkansas team coached by Houston Nutt, who now has beaten Miles three years running.

With all the talent in Baton Rouge, that shouldn't happen.

Don't expect Notre Dame's double-overtime loss to Connecticut to accelerate Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick's timetable for an announcement about the future of coach Charlie Weis.

There's about a 99.999999 percent chance Swarbrick will fire Weis, but there's no need for him to say anything this week. If Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly is indeed the top candidate to replace Weis, he doesn't wrap his regular season until Dec. 5. That's the earliest Notre Dame would need to have a vacancy.

This way, Notre Dame can finish the season under Weis. Judging by its recent performance, the Fighting Irish don't stand much of a chance next week at Stanford, but that doesn't matter. No need to launch a media circus as the players prepare for their final regular-season game.

Another good candidate for Notre Dame would be Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, who finishes his regular season next week against the Irish. But some Notre Dame boosters may be squeamish about hiring Stanford's coach again after Tyrone Willingham's unsuccessful tenure, and Harbaugh may want to join his brother, John, as an NFL head coach.

In 2004, Notre Dame waited too long to fire Willingham and missed out on Urban Meyer, whom Florida had begun courting before the Irish decided to pull the trigger on Willingham. That won't be an issue this year. Unless Michigan cans Rich Rodriguez, there won't be any other jobs open at huge programs. Kelly or Harbaugh would only leave their current programs for an A-plus job, and this season, Notre Dame is probably the only game in town.

Some poor conference intern wore himself out Saturday spouting propaganda on the official BCS Twitter feed. The basic message from the BCS to anyone who asked about a playoff: A playoff would cause more controversy because teams also would be left out of the national title picture.

This argument is idiotic because leaving out teams five and six or teams nine and 10 isn't nearly as bad as leaving out teams three, four and five, which this season could be undefeated Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State.

The BCS isn't doing itself any favors with its forays into Twitter and Facebook. This is an obvious response to government pressure, but BCS officials would be much better off saying nothing.

TCU certainly hasn't left anything to chance as it attempts to become the first mid-major to bust the BCS title game.

The Horned Frogs didn't even commit a penalty in a 45-10 drubbing of Wyoming on Saturday. Since a 20-17 win at Air Force, TCU has won its past six games by 35.8 points. That's good. The BCS computer rankings no longer use a margin-of-victory component, but the human voters in the coaches' and Harris polls can't help but consider margin of victory.

Unfortunately for the Frogs, some of their Mountain West brethren have floundered. That hurts TCU in the computer rankings. Next week's season finale is an absolute killer. TCU faces New Mexico, which entered Saturday at 0-10. There was a bit of good news for the Frogs, though. The Lobos led Colorado State 17-14 at halftime.

Attention, members of the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowl committees: Unless you're taking Boise State, do not stiff Iowa.

Chances are, one of the non-Rose BCS bowls will need to take a team that can put butts in the seats and generate some TV buzz. Judging strictly by records, an undefeated Boise State would be the obvious choice for the final at-large slot. Unfortunately, the Broncos won't draw the kind of crowd a Big Ten team would.

If the bowls pass over Boise State, they may not pick the Hawkeyes, the next best choice. Iowa closed a 10-2 regular season Saturday by beating Minnesota for the Floyd of Rosedale -- the finest pig trophy every sculpted.Yet Iowa could wind up in Orlando on Jan. 1 while a conference rival enjoys the BCS luxury.

Iowa fans travel well, but hardly anyone outside the state wants to watch the Hawkeyes play. Penn State, another two-loss team, would sell out a stadium and bring in bigger ratings.

There's only one problem. Iowa whipped Penn State in State College in September. The Hawkeyes are the superior team, and they deserve the BCS slot. But bowl officials may not see it that way.

Saturday began sadly with a moment of silence in the press box at Florida State in honor of longtime Tallahassee Democrat FSU beat writer Steve Ellis, who died Thursday from complications related to a surgery following a massive heart attack.

Ellis suffered the heart attack Nov. 10. That night, he filed a story from his hospital room. That's the kind of pro Steve was, and he will be sorely missed.

Duke's quest for its first bowl trip since the 1994 season is over thanks to a 34-16 loss at Miami. The Blue Devils have five wins, and they still have a home game remaining against Wake Forest, but their scheduling choices will keep them out of a bowl.

Duke entered Saturday needing to win at Miami and against Wake Forest to make a bowl. The reason? The Blue Devils' Sept. 26 win against North Carolina Central doesn't count for bowl eligibility because NC Central is transitioning to Division I this season.

For three quarters Saturday, it seemed Duke might keep itself in the hunt for a bowl berth. The Blue Devils took a 16-10 lead on a 26-yard Will Snyderwine field goal early in the third, and they carried a 16-13 lead into the fourth. Then Miami turned on the afterburners, scoring on a Damien Berry run, a Leonard Hankerson touchdown pass from Jacory Harris and a 73-yard Darryl Sharpton interception return.

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will leave as the school's all-time leading passer, but he will not get a chance to pad his stats in a bowl. The Blue Devils have to be kicking themselves over a season-opening loss to Richmond. Had they won that game, they would have clinched bowl eligibility on Oct. 31.

Sorry to twist the knife, Duke fans, but it appears North Carolina is going to take the award for sneaky-good team of the year.

Most of us wrote off the Tar Heels after a home loss to Florida State on Oct. 22 dropped the Tar Heels to 4-3. North Carolina has won four in a row since, including a 31-13 drubbing of Boston College on Saturday. The Tar Heels should be favored to beat NC State next week and finish 9-3.

Maybe it's karma. North Carolina coach Butch Davis was one of the few coaches who cheerfully turned over his coaches' poll ballot earlier this season when used open records laws to request ballots. If the Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack, there's a good chance they'll end this season where they'll start next season: in the Georgia Dome. North Carolina would be an excellent choice for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Whether or not the Chick-fil-A takes the Heels, they'll be in Atlanta in September. They open the season there against LSU.