Category Archives: NCAA Football

Big Ten Conference Expansion: A Maryland fan’s perspective

The University of Maryland’s move from the ACC to the Big Ten Conference has been debated, discussed and analyzed. I have a unique East Coast perspective that I would like to share with you.

You see, I have been through conference realignment already. This year, my Alma Mater, the University of Missouri moved from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC…and I had some real issues with it…as did hundreds of thousands of Mizzou grads, students and supporters. One thing I liked was that since I live in Asheville, NC, I could now attend Mizzou games – easily. This year we saw the Tigers play at South Carolina (a two hour drive from home) and at Tennessee (less than two hours). Next season, we can go to Georgia (three hours), Kentucky (5 hours) and Vanderbilt (four hours).

When Mizzou announced they were leaving the Big 12, after being a member in it my entire life, it hurt…and it’s going to hurt those friends of the turtle in 2014 who have only known ACC rivalries.  Going to your school for a game, or travelling on the road, brings you back to a time in your life that really wasn’t too bad. All you did was go to class, study, go out, drink, maybe work a part-time job (waiting tables in a sorority…okay!). So it kind of brings you back to that mind-set when things were simpler than they are not.

For me, Mizzou’s move to the SEC meant the end to rivalries such as Mizzou-Kansas basketball or football games… Mizzou-Oklahoma (U. or State) football games…Mizzou-Nebraska (already left the conference earlier) football games. And my Maryland friends will go through this starting in 2014. No more Maryland-Duke basketball…no more Maryland-North Carolina basketball…no more Maryland-Virginia ANYTHING. And that’s where it will hurt.

Two weeks ago, I met with Todd McCubbin, the Mizzou Alumni Director, at the UT tailgate. He told me that while Mizzou used to get 600 – 800 fans travelling to Iowa State, for instance, this year, with the lure of the best football in the nation, he has seen 6,000 – 8,000 fans at road games (many buying tickets from Mizzou). In fact, the demand was so great for the Tennessee game, the Alumni tailgate party had to be moved from a large indoor facility to an even larger tented facility on the parking lot of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

So even with Mizzou mired deep down in the SEC East standings, fans are coming…and that translates into more people joining the Missouri Alumni Association and travelling to games…MORE MONEY FOR ALL!

So I understand how things are going to go with Maryland and the Big Ten Conference. To begin with, neither conference looks like they did when I was in school. Expansion…and chasing the almighty dollar…have changed the face of not only the ACC and Big Ten, but every other conference in the country. Even the Big South Conference has expanded, adding Longwood University to its membership, and, in fact, has gone to two divisions for basketball.

Simply put, Maryland (and Rutgers) have moved to the Big Ten for money…and the conference added these two fine East Coast-based schools for…you guessed it…money. The Big Ten Network sees two huge markets – Baltimore/D.C. and New York – with dollar signs in their eyes. The more cable subscribers (at $1.10 per subscriber on basic cable) they can get, the more money they make. Here’s how that works:

The owner of a cable network — such as the Big Ten Network — receives a fee from each distributor (your cable or satellite company) for each subscriber. These fees range from a few cents to an industry estimate of $5 per month per subscriber for ESPN. (That’s just ESPN. All the other ESPN channels command their own lower-but-not-unsubstantial monthly fee.) Industry insiders talking about how television has impacted college football said the BTN commands about a dime a month for cable subscribers outside the Big Ten’s geographic footprint and about $1.10 a month for subscribers inside the Big Ten footprint, where BTN lives in the expanded basic package on most cable systems.

By adding Maryland, BTN could likely get placement in the expanded basic package by cable systems serving millions of subscribers. The television markets in Washington and Baltimore — the two that would be considered Maryland’s local markets — contain about 3.4 million television households. If the league can negotiate with cable and satellite providers to get $1 more per subscriber for three million subscribers in the market, that would generate an additional $3 million per month, or $36 million per year. This is before the first ad gets sold. Rutgers is a bit more complicated. New Jersey doesn’t exist as a TV market; its population is included mostly in the New York and Philadelphia markets. It is highly doubtful the BTN would be in such demand that it would go on expanded basic for the 10.3 million households in those markets, but less than a fifth of that number would generate an additional $24 million per year. At those (very conservative) numbers, Maryland and Rutgers would pay for themselves. They also will allow the Big Ten to move into areas where the population is growing instead of shrinking

Yes, it’s that simple. Money makes the world go round.

Maryland’s unique football uniforms – love ’em or hate ’em – are made by Under Armour

Many of the current student-athletes in College Park are bitter, and have been doing a lot of tweeting about it. Some said they would never have gone to Maryland if not for the rivalries with the ACC teams. Others said they will never give a dime back to the school because of this. We’ll see what really happens.

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland grad, and one of the network’s leading personalities (and board member at Maryland’s Journalism school) said he is hurt…but his love for the school makes this acceptable. Accepting more money was apparently, very important to Maryland (and Rutgers). Just this year, Maryland dropped seven sports…not enough money to go around.

This happened because the Terrapins athletics department was in a financial mess. Before she abruptly left Maryland for N.C. State, then-Athletics Director Debbie Yow (and the board) approved an ill-conceived growth plan to expand Byrd Stadium, the venerable home for Maryland football (and occasionally lacrosse). And why not? The school was enjoying success on the gridiron (Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, ACC titles) and on the court (2002 NCAA champs). The economy was good…but as we all know, in 2008, just when the suites were ready for sale, everything changed. And know this…Maryland is in a PROFESSIONAL SPORTS MARKET. They face tremendous competition from the Washington Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, Nationals and, yes, even D.C. United’s soccer team. Oh…and right down the road, more competition comes from the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles. There are only so many entertainment dollars to go around. (And, when the plan was approved, the Washington Nationals did not exist…further shrinking the pie.)

Taking on considerable debt to build new suites and expand Tyser Tower (for the high-rollers and the press) and renovate the stadium has been a disaster. It looks great…but many suites are unsold. The mess continued with the uncalled-for firing of football coach Ralph Friedgen, who has been enjoying his retirement because he is still getting millions from the school. New coach Randy Edsall may have been a very poor hire. He lost a lot of football players…didn’t like his tough ways…and has lost a lot of games in his two seasons as coach.

The bottom line is this: Maryland will make more money in the Big Ten. So will Rutgers, which is expected to announce its move Tuesday. Maryland’s athletic department is in a financial crisis now because it doesn’t take a subsidy from the university. With more money flowing in, it should never have to ask for one. That’s one less thing Maryland’s students and taxpayers will have to pay for in the future. In the ACC, Maryland could expect to make between $20-25 million per year from the league. In the Big Ten, which has its own cable network and probably will set a new all-time high when it renegotiates its Tier 1 television rights in a few years, the distribution will be closer to $40 million a year beginning in 2017. Maryland’s proud history as a charter member of the ACC means little at a time when universities must cherish every dollar they can get. The math is pretty simple. The Big Ten offers a better deal than the ACC. “We’re still living paycheck to paycheck,” Maryland president Wallace Loh said Monday. “What membership in the Big Ten does is allow us to truly guarantee the financial stability of Maryland athletics for a long, long, long time.”

More money will allow Maryland to handle that debt and meet its budget without taking more money from taxpayers or students. Some schools in big-revenue conferences such as the Big Ten and the SEC actually give money back to the academic side after balancing their budgets. This is obviously a better arrangement.

But still, there is the matter of the $50 million ACC exit fee. I don’t expect Maryland to pay the full amount. In most of these realignment cases, the school has negotiated the exit fee down. That doesn’t mean Maryland will pay nothing, though. The Terrapins will have to come up with a significant chunk of change on the front end to make more on the back end. Here’s a link to this story about Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank cashing in $64.5 million in stock. (Plank was a walk-on for the Terps football team and today, Under Armour is the official outfitter – for better or worse – of the Maryland athletics program…and many more.)

The bottom line advice I can give to my Maryland friends…and to those of you in Big Ten country wondering why in the world this is happening (and we know you wanted Notre Dame…)…my advice is to embrace the change. And, when your team plays at Maryland, plan to spend several days…it only takes a few minutes to ride the Metro from College Park to downtown D.C. Make a vacation out of it…the tailgate will be fun…and, I’m guessing many travelling folks will enjoy the outcome of the football game in Byrd Stadium.  Maybe not in 2014, but hopefully soon thereafter, Big Ten folks will learn to “Fear the Turtle!”

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Football America: NCAA and NFL games to watch this week

Today, the best of both worlds…NCAA and NFL football. Both the college kids and the pros have full slates this weekend. Last week, NCAA games drew great numbers of fans to television screens and stadiums (except at Maryland, where only 31,000 – they say – fans cheered the mighty Terps onto a 7-6 win over Bill and Mary).

USC’s Matt Barkley is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy after week one…

So today, let’s start with the college game. Simply stated, at the end of last season, I said USC (yes, THAT USC…the one in Southern California, not South Carolina) would win the 2013 BCS title…and I am sticking with it. This week, they go into the Meadowlands to play Syracuse. Hardly a fair fight, but at least the folks in the East will get a chance to see the Heisman-frontrunner, SC quarterback Matt Barkley in person. It won’t be as grizzly as Florida State-Savannah State, but the men of Troy will prevail.

Georgia at Missouri:

I do like my Alma Mater, MIZZOU, to upset Georgia tomorrow in Columbia. I said it as soon as the schedule was announced, so I cannot go back on my word now. Yes, Georgia is good…but I think the Tigers will really be up for this special once-in-a-lifetime game.

Vanderbilt at Northwestern:

In the Brainiac Bowl, shouldn’t there be a spelling bee or a math contest here?  Both teams want to play big-boy football…but it’s the Commodores that will rule this one. Head Coach James Franklin has everyone believing they are good…and they are. They could have beaten USC (no…the one from Columbia, SC with the Ol’ Ball Coach) last week…so they are a serious team.

Nebraska at UCLA:

And out west, I think Nebraska will bring smiles to their hordes of fans who travel to UCLA to see Big Red win. The Huskers have fallen in early West Coast games before, but I think this is a different team and I expect big things from them. Huskers…big…over the Uclans!

In the NFL, we had a great opener (getting a fantastic 16.8 rating) on Wednesday night as the defending Super Bowl champs, the New York football Giants lost to Dallas. The Giants were not that bad…in fact, they are pretty good. If not for a horse-collar tackle by the end zone (yes, a correctly-called penalty against Dallas) and a couple of dropped balls by Victor Cruz, the game could have gone the other way.

Sunday’s action features seven games that could swing either way…but these are the ones I really like:

Will Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton suffer from the sophomore slump? I doubt it!

Carolina at Tampa:

In the battle of Convention cities, there’s too much Cam Newton…even if RB Jonathan Stewart does not play, the Panthers are the better team. Jon Beason returns to linebacker, and he is joined by first-round pick Luke Kuechly, who is much better than you think, plus my friends, both of whom I predicted would beat out veteran, incumbent kickers, P Brad Nortman and PK Justin Medlock, are keys to the win. Panthers (-1) by 7 points.

Washington at New Orleans:

Great storylines on both sides…those of you who have followed my writing know how high I was on Robert Griffin III (from now on, RGIII) for the past two years while he was at Baylor. The Heisman winner leads the Redskins into the future…but not Sunday. He needs a lot of help…and he will be running for his life at times as the Saints take all their venom out on the undermanned Redskins. It was bad enough to lose your head coach for a season, your first interim coach for six games…but add to this the wrath of Hurricane Isaac…and the Saints are once again playing for the city of New Orleans. NOLA will survive…the Skins, not so much. Saints (-7) win by 17 points.

Miami at Houston:

We’ve all been “wowed” by the enthusiastic new head coach of the Dolphins (yawn), Joe Philbin. Seems like a very, very nice man. Should be my accountant. I’m no expert, but I have yet to see the man raise his voice. New QB Ryan Tannehill returns to the Lone Star State, where he played his collegiate ball (Texas A&M), but he’s not facing KU or Texas this time. He’s facing a terrific defense and a very, very good team, with high expectations. No worries, Houston. The Texans (-12) also win by 17 points.

So there you go…the weekend outlook for six games, NCAA and NFL…hope you enjoy your viewing!

Penn State NCAA Sanctions: Near-Death Experience

Penn State football was crippled this morning when NCAA president Mark Emmert announced sanctions against the university.  “Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” Emmert said as he announced the penalties at a news conference in Indianapolis.  While stopping short of  the “death penalty”, the football program is on life-support…at least for the next few years.

The sanctions are as follows:

  • $60 million in fines
  • A ban on postseason play for four years
  • Capping scholarships at 20 below the normal limit for four years
  • Vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, costing former head coach Joe Paterno 111 wins
  • Penn State put on probation for five years

In my opinion, the NCAA did things right.  While you may not agree, I believe the loss of scholarships (20 below the normal limit for four years) will hurt the most.  In comparison, the harsh NCAA sanctions placed upon USC several years ago left the Trojans with only 75 scholarships per year over a three-year period.  USC appealed the ruling to the NCAA for two years, thus allowing them (and their new staff at the time) the ability to recruit and to “stockpile” personnel.  But Penn State will not appeal the ruling and basically will be looking at a loss of personnel.

One thing I really liked about the sanctions is that it allows ANY current or incoming football players are free to transfer and be immediately eligible to compete at another school.  They had nothing to do with the Sandusky situation and to let them go to another school that is eligible for championships is the right thing.  Also, should these players decide to stay at Penn State, the school must honor their scholarships even if they do not play sports.

The $60 million in fines provides money that must go directly to endow external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and many not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.  Emmert said the $60 million fine is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program.

Not only has Penn State been cut out of the post-season bowls for the next four seasons, the Big Ten Conference announced they will not be allowed to share in the conference’s bowl revenue during the NCAA’s postseason ban, an estimated loss of about $13 million.  And the NCAA reserved the right to add additional penalties.

And to add further hurt to the school, every win from 1998-2011 will be vacated.  This means Joe Paterno’s 111 wins (of the 112 during that period) are stricken from the record, and former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins.  Paterno will be credited with 298 wins.

“The sanctions needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change,” Emmert said.  The postseason ban is the longest handed out by the NCAA since it gave a four-year ban to Indiana football in 1960.

NCAA president Mark Emmert speaking Monday morning at the press conference annoucing the sanctions against the Penn State football program

Emmert was asked why the NCAA did not do their own investigation, but relied on information gathered by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.  He stated that Freeh’s report was far more thorough than anything the NCAA could have done, including over 450 personal interviews and over 3 million documents including e-mails and personal notes.  Emmert also stated that the trial in which Jerry Sandusky was convicted provided more evidence.

“This case is obviously incredibly unprecedented in every aspect of it,” Emmert said, “as are these actions that we’re taking today.”

And I totally agree with them.

NCAA conference realignment continues making news

NCAA conference realignment continues to make news.  Two years ago, I wrote an article strongly suggesting there could be five or six 16-team conferences for the big boys…and that’s it.  A case could be made for four by really weeding out some schools, but seriously, enough is enough.  (And for this article, I will not comment on the goings-on in the Colonial, CUSA and possibly other smaller conferences…just the major ones!)

Two years later, continuing the past two seasons of upheaval in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC, the realignment merry-go-round is still moving.  The latest rumor: Clemson, Florida State and Miami leaving the ACC to join the Big 12.  My take: Let it happen.  I say, let’s just get the commissioners together and hash this thing out once and for all.  Get conferences and teams realigned and get started making new rivalries.

The ACC is in flux and, apparently, so is the Big 12 (who definitely would love Notre Dame to join).  The Big East may be stronger…or weaker…than ever.  Yeah, Boise State and San Diego State DEFINITELY belong in the Big East (East of Japan) Conference.  But back to the real point – realignment is still on the drawing board.  We will be getting a BCS four-team playoff in 2014. The SEC and Big 12 have already scheduled a game between their two top teams for January 1, 2014.  Mark my words…it’ll be in New Orleans or Dallas.  And, should a team be invited to the Plus-Four Playoff from either (or both) conferences, the next-best team will go to the new “bowl” game.

I have no problem with that other than now the ACC is probably looking to partner with another conference…possibly the Big East…to play a game also.  This is just going to continue to water down the competition.  The bowl games, which already we have way too many of, will suffer and could face elimination somewhere down the road.

I refuse to write another word about college conference realignment until it gets settled out.  That may be never.  In the column I wrote two years ago, (which, unfortunately is no longer available since I changed blogging companies) I did have some correct moves…and some pie-in-the-sky moves (non so radical as the Boise and SDS move to the Big East, though).  Mostly, it was set with geography and natural rivals in mind.  And yes, I did have Notre Dame going to the Big Ten Conference.

My original post had many changes, but upon review, the proposed 16-team leagues would just be unfair.  Take the proportional money Texas makes and, if you would add, let’s say the University of Houston to the Big 12, the Cougars would be woefully underfunded and undermanned.  Same thing if UH was added to the SEC.  Louisville would be in the same boat. The reality of the situation is this…schools will forever look out for themselves.  If Boise could have kept their football program in the Mountain West and be paid the same as they will be in the Big East, logically would they move? No.

The reality is the big boys have way too much money and there will always be a have-have not situation.  I really don’t know the answer looking at the situation two years later.

Many people have asked me if Mizzou is a fit for the SEC.  Looking at the big picture…no.  But many Tigers fans live in the southeast part of the state (the Boot Heel)…and they are physically closer to Arkansas, Kentucky and Vandy than they are to COLUMBIA, MO…home of the Tigers.  As for me, they will be visiting Tennessee and South Carolina this season…each just a short two-hour drive from my home…so I like the move.  Financially, the athletic department says they will be better off as well.

The situation will remain fluid.  Conferences have always expanded and contracted…it’s just that today, with round-the-clock coverage on the ESPN family of networks, we cannot get through a week without some talking head bringing the latest rumor to light.  Twitter has allowed us to have instant information…for good and bad.  The world is a much quicker place than it was even two years ago.  For now, sit back and just let the players play and we’ll see where the teams end up.

At least there is light at the end of the tunnel for the football members…at least the Plus-four playoff will help get everyone through the season upcoming.  Just a hunch…an SEC team will again be in the BCS Championship game in January.

Alabama Demoralizes LSU; Wins BCS Title With Shutout

If you had Alabama winning the BCS National Championship game Monday night, I’m pretty sure you did not have them winning so decisively.  Nor did you really think the Tide’s outstanding running back Trent Richardson would gain more yards (96) than the entire LSU offense (92).

Alabama's Trent Richardson scored the only touchdown in two games played between Bama and LSU this year...and it was with just a few minutes remaining in Monday night's game.

So, there you have it.  Why LSU coach Les Miles stuck with Jordan Jefferson for the entire game will forever remain a mystery.  He at least owed Jarrett Lee a shot, because without Lee, LSU would never have been in New Orleans last night.  But, no…we got to see Jefferson for four quarters.  He had a miserable game…completing 11 passes for 53 (gasp!) yards.  That’s what the top defensive unit in college football will do to you.

They not only held the LSU offense (one that had been scoring around 40 points a game) to nothing…in fact, they posted the first shut-out in BCS history…they demoralized the Tigers team in its entirety.

I saw absolutely no life on the bench.  Your leader (your quarterback) showed no emotion…he didn’t try to rally his team.  He was as dead as could be, and his play showed it.  This really surprised me as Les Miles has won national championships before.  He has seen this team come back in second halves before – heck, they were losing to Georgia 10-0 at halftime before putting 35 unanswered points up in the second half of the SEC Championship game.  But, as everyone knows, this wasn’t the Dawgs defense out there.

Alabama's defense dominated, demoralized and plain beat-up LSU's offense. They posted the first shutout in BCS history winning the National Championship Monday night in New Orleans.

The Tide’s defense was unrelenting.  It was a massacre.  It was demoralizing.  It was devastating.  It was what it had been all year…the best defense possibly in college football history.  Just how dominating was this defense?  Consider this: Alabama is the first team in 25 years to finish No. 1 nationally in all four statistical defense categories (total, rushing, passing and scoring defense).  It finished the season having allowed just 8.2 points per game.  The Tide allowed as many touchdowns – 10 – in 13 games as ACC champion Clemson allowed in one night in the Orange Bowl.

But, let’s give credit where credit is due…LSU was 13-0 in the regular season.  The Tigers beat eight ranked teams, including Alabama at Tuscaloosa.  Coach Miles earned National Coach of the Year honors and he handled a potentially divisive quarterback rotation between Jefferson and fellow senior Lee.  Why, however, Lee not get a shot when clearly, Jefferson was totally ineffective Monday night.

“We did consider Jarrett Lee,” said coach Miles.  “But we felt like with the pass rush that we were getting that we needed a guy that could move the seat and not sustain that pass rush.”

This game just added more discussion to change the BCS next time the television contract is up.  My guess is they will finally decide to go to a Plus-One system where the top four teams would meet in two bowl games (1 vs. 4 and 2 vs.3) with the winner meeting for the title.  No system is perfect, but that system would have given us Alabama vs. Oregon and LSU vs. Oklahoma State.  That would have been fun to watch.  I think most everyone in the country would have wanted this system to be in place…unless you were an Arkansas Razorback fan, player or administrator.  They were the No. 5 team in the country…they also were my dark horse team this year to get to the BCS title game.  They were close…but they did lose to both Alabama and Arkansas, so, they really weren’t that close.

Looking ahead to 2012, look for the Pac-12 to be challenging for a top spot.  USC will again be eligible and with quarterback Matt Barkley returning, they will battle Oregon for a potential spot in next year’s game.  And, it will be against an SEC team.  Not sure which one, but the conference just has to be in it, right?

Sugar Bowl Preview – Michigan vs. Virginia Tech

Hello, Friends! I don’t think we can top yesterday’s overtime games for excitement, but the Sugar Bowl should be very interesting to watch…even though neither team deserves to be in New Orleans.

VA TECH has a lot to prove.  After their beat-down by Clemson in the ACC championship game, no one had them going to a BCS bowl.  Certainly there are those people out there who believe the Gator Bowl would be the best they could get…but, here we are.

MICHIGAN has featured a stingy defense all year.  They have a huge front four and allowed 30-plus points only to Notre Dame and Ohio State and more than 400 yards only to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

Let’s take a look at the offense for both teams.  Michigan is more than quarterback Denard Robinson, although he not only passed for 2056 yards, but ran for 1,163 (best on the team).  He was responsible for 34 touchdowns also.  Michigan tailback, Fitz Toussaint, has rushed for 1,011 yards and averages 5.8 yards per carry.  Tech counters with QB Logan Thomas and friends.  Thomas passed for 2,799 yards, and was responsible for 29 TD’s.  Tech’s leading rusher, David Wilson, rushed for 1,627 yards on 266 carries for a 6.1 average.

David Molk is the nation's top center

Michigan has the nation’s top center, David Molk…so maybe a slight edge…ever so slight…to the Wolverines.

Michigan beat Notre Dame and Nebraska and ended a seven-year losing streak against Ohio State.  The lost road games to quality opponents, Iowa and Michigan State.

Va. Tech  beat Miami, Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech (quality win), North Carolina and Virginia…but lost twice to Clemson (once at home and once on a neutral site in Charlotte).  They did not play against a murderers row slate of opponents.

Maybe Michigan (10-2) is simply better than Tech (11-2).  I think Tech is really hurting from their loss to Clemson in the ACC title game and want to come out to prove to every naysayer out there that they belong in the Sugar Bowl.  They HAVE to be tired of hearing that talk.

Ohio State showed how to score against the Wolverines.  If Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller can pass for 235 yards and run for 100 against Michigan, Thomas will have the opportunity to do the same.

Teamrankings.com projects Michigan to win 25-22 while ESPN’s accuscore says Va. Tech 29-27.

In November, I picked Tech to beat Virginia…and they did.

In December, I picked the Hokies to beat Clemson…and they didn’t.

In January, I am picking Virginia Tech +3…I think these points will come in handy tonight.

Enjoy the Sugar Bowl tonight!

Pick Six: Today’s NCAA Bowl Game Predictions

Friends, be warned! I have been moosed a couple of times on my bowl picks…It has always been my opinion that bowl games are hard to pick…some of you have done very, very well…and for that I send out my congratulations! Teams have not played in several weeks, so I always get the feeling if these games were played a week after the season ended, there would be different results.

That being said, there are six nice games today…so:

Houston's record-setting quarterback, Case Keenum, should light it up again!

TICKET CITY BOWL: Houston vs. Penn State – PSU has quarterback issues since I hear McGloin will not be playing. Not in love with Houston, but I think Case Keenum will be throwing all over the field.   HOUSTON -7

 

MSU's Keshawn Martin could be a real weapon today

OUTBACK BOWL: Michigan State vs. Georgia – Should be a great match-up. Georgia went on a good run to win the SEC East, but, of course, was blown up by LSU in Atlanta for the title. I have liked MSU all season long, and I think getting 3 points is nice.   MICHIGAN STATE +3
CAPITOL ONE BOWL: Nebraska vs. South Carolina – This is one of those games I wish had been played a week after the regular season. Nebraska has shown they can play anyone and USC, well, to me this is a very tough game to pick. I don’t trust either team, but I will take the points in this one as well.   NEBRASKA +3
GATOR BOWL: Florida vs. Ohio State
– Both teams were up and down this season, but were good enough to get a “New Year’s Day” bowl invitation. I have to go with the SEC in this one because I went Big 10 in the last two games. I think Florida will take this one…in a close game.   FLORIDA -2

LaMichael James is Oregon's most dynamic player and a key to tonight's game

ROSE BOWL: Wisconsin vs. Oregon – In “The Grandaddy of Them All”, it’s brawn vs. speed. Oregon will have those Darth Vaderish uniforms on today, but they will need everything they’ve got to beas the Badgers. Wisconsin has had my eye since August…I really like they way they played this year (at home) and Russell Wilson and friends had a great season. Everytime I watched Oregon I said, “those guys look small.” They do. Wisconsin is massive. If Oregon can get outside, the will win and win big. If not, Wisconsin will wear them down in the fourth quarter and win. So, who do I like here…OREGON -5

FIESTA BOWL: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State – This should be a dandy. Andrew Luck playing in his last college game will be able to exploit OSU’s porous defense. Brandon Weeden will find Stanford’s defense to be better than they expect. Every time I pick against OSU, they win…and win big. I like both teams here but since I have to pick one
I will go with…OKLAHOMA STATE +4

5 Things I Learned About College Football This Weekend – Week 14 Review

Championship weekend was spectacular…if you like lots of scoring.  And, if you don’t, you’ll probably get your wish when LSU and Alabama meet in the BCS title game on January 9, 2012.  But this weekend showcased some great football…HUGE upset in C-USA, as previously undefeated Houston was crushed by Southern Mississippi…and favored teams not covering the spread, but doing what they were supposed to do…win.  NOTE: This was written BEFORE THE BCS final standings were announced…so, IF somehow Oklahoma State leaps over Alabama, just replace Bama with Cowboys where necessary (ha!).

Here are the 5 Things I Learned About College Football This Weekend:

Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith scores against Oklahoma in Saturday night's 44-10 win over the Sooners in Bedlam.

1. Oklahoma State deserves a shot at No. 1 LSU in the BCS Championship Game.  Sure, say what you will, but they destroyed the No. 10 team in the nation on Saturday night in BedlamA 44-10 crushing defeat of their in-state rivals, Oklahoma, (and yes, I know OU was a bit shorthanded), told me the Pokes should be not only in the conversation, but in the game.  The offense we knew about…and their defense, while still giving up chunks of yardage, is good enough to keep the score down.  This team only lost one game, on that ill-fated night at Iowa State…and maybe, just maybe, that last-second field goal WAS good…so…The Cowboys are the Big 12 champs, and I would love to see them play for the national title.

LSU's Tryann Mathieu played a spectacular game Saturday night as the Tigers crushed Georgia for the SEC title and secured a spot in the BCS National Championship game on January 9, 2012.

2. LSU beat the hottest team in the nation…like a drum.  Tyrann Mathieu knows when to turn things around…and he certainly provided the spark necessary for the Bayou Bengals when they were trailing Georgia 10-0 down in Atlanta Saturday night.  The Bulldogs were beginning to think they were headed to the Sugar Bowl…but they should know better.  LSU generally took things over from that point on.  Having gained 36 feet (yes, FEET) in the first half, the girl who won the $100,000 Dr. Pepper scholarship challenge by throwing footballs into a giant can of soda looked like she could run LSU’s offense better than any of the Tigers’ quarterbacks.  But alas, she was not needed.  The Tigers picked up 202 yards rushing in the second half and looked like pros out there.  Mathieu’s video-game quality punt return was absolutely one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  My wife and I were in a restaurant bar waiting for our table…and I can tell you EVERYONE in the bar watching just gasped…EVERYONE.  Yeah, it was amazing.

Wisconsin's Montee Ball ran for 137 yards on 27 carries and scored four touchdowns leading the Badgers over Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

3. Wisconsin and Michigan State played the best game of the weekend.  No, Wisconsin did not blow Sparty out like some people (thank you…) predicted.  But, I know many people who stopped watching this one when it was 21-7 in the Badgers’ favor.  I was not one of them because I remembered how the Spartans put up 23 in the second quarter in the first game…I really didn’t think they would do it again.  I was correct…they only put up 22.  What an exciting game.  Russell Wilson’s late long distance pass that eerily looked like the Spartans’ Hail Mary pass in the first game led Wisconsin to the win.  But, as I did predict, Montee Ball had a monster game.  4 touchdowns (I said he’d get two or three), 27 carries for 137 yards, and a huge opening quarter to set things up.  This game had everything…Michigan State, NOT Michigan, should certainly be considered for a BCS bid…that is if TCU somehow doesn’t get an at-large bid.  State played a great game…as did Wisconsin.  Who knew the Big Ten would be this exciting.  The days of three yards and a cloud of dust are as far removed from these two teams as possible…yet the ground game is a significant part of their offenses.  State QB Kirk Cousins makes good decisions and will be a good NFL quarterback.  Wilson is a born leader and his career options still include baseball…so stay tuned.  Wisconsin vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl will be the best of the non-BCS title game bowls.  Size vs. speed.  Can’t wait for that one.  And I do hope somehow State can get to the Sugar Bowl…but realistically, it’ll be a lower bowl game…probably in Florida.

Oregon's LaMichael James led his Ducks to the first Pac-12 championship against UCLA Friday night in Oregon

4. UCLA played about as well as they could have played…and were still crushed by Oregon.  No surprise here, but the 31-point underdogs played their hearts out for outgoing coach Rick Neuheisel.  They just simply did not have enough athletes to play with Oregon.  And the 35 degree weather was something the Bruins certainly were not used to.  Now, will this 6-7 team go to a bowl?  They did get an NCAA waiver, so I suppose they will.  As for the Ducks, those green tops and black pants made every one of them look skinny and small…and that was against UCLA.  Wait til they see the Wisconsin farm boys lining up against them in the Rose Bowl.  The Wisconsin front-four out-weighs the Packers’ line.  I really wish there was going to be a playoff this year.  There are eight teams (LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Stanford, Oregon, Wisconsin, Boise State and yes, I would definitely put Michigan State in here) that would make for some compelling viewing!  Even the top four in a playoff would be great.

Southern Mississippi quarterback Austin Davis led his team to an upset win over previously undefeated Houston in the Conference USA title game. This is another reason we love college football...

5. The season is over.  Seriously, yes Army-Navy is next week, and that’s always a good game to watch, but other than watching YOUR team in a bowl (if they got there), are there any compelling games coming up…that will mean anything?  No.  The Rose Bowl match-up will be nice to watch, but, like last year, I just won’t be spending much time watching Boise State beat up someone in the MAACO Bowl.  And the Belk Bowl – and the others – who cares?  We will just have to wait for No. 1 vs. No. 2 on January 9…Over a month from today…for the final game of the season. 

As always, it was fun trying to give you some insight into college football.  While not all my picks were right (I went 40-25 on my Top Five Games on the season using actual point spreads this year for the first time instead of just saying one team will win), I learned that college football is exciting, competitive and fun.  The best night of the season was when I headed to my local sports bar/restaurant and watched LSU and Alabama and several other games with hundreds of die-hard fans…many of whom were wearing their college colors.  But, last night, in the quiet of my own home, watching Michigan State and Wisconsin, was as good as it gets.

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins led the Tigers to a shocking upset over Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game in Charlotte. Coming off a 1-3 streak, Clemson beat the Hokies and will head to the Orange Bowl.

I hope you enjoy Bowl Season…and have a great holiday.  Spend some time with your family…I know I will be doing that.  Get to know them after spending so much time from the end of August until last night watching college football!  Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments!

5 Top College Football Games to Watch – Week 14 Preview

League championships are up for grabs starting tonight in Eugene, OR, as UCLA visits heavily-favored Oregon (-31). I don’t see a lot of support for the underdogs this weekend…talking to colleagues around the country, it looks like the favorites will win each of the five games I will highlight. Whether or not they will cover…that’s another story.

Here are the 5 Top College Football Games to Watch This Week:

Oregon running back LaMichael James, left, fights for yardage against Oregon State defender Rashaad Reynolds. Look for plenty of this against an undermanned UCLA team tonight.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP: UCLA at Oregon (8:00 p.m.) – Seriously…what do I need to say about a team that has dominated nearly every game except for their opener? Oregon has speed and athletes. UCLA has a lame-duck coach, a .500 record, and are lucky enough to be in the Pac-12 South division…a collection of rag-tag teams (except for USC which is on probation) that can’t beat Betty White. 31 points is a lot (4 TD’s and a FG) but unless Chip Kelly decides to rest his starters very early, Oregon wins going away.

SATURDAY:

LSU players hold up "The Boot" trophy, part of an annual rivalry between LSU and Arkansas. They should pick up more hardware tomorrow evening after they beat Georgia for the SEC title on their way to the BCS National Championship Game.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP: LSU VS. Georgia (4:00 p.m.) – One of the hottest teams in the country (the Bulldogs) going up against the nation’s No. 1 team (LSU) in a virtual home game for Georgia. While LSU’s offense is not terrific, their defense is…and that’s how they will win this game. Nothing will deter Les Miles from winning the SEC title, although Georgia will hang tough with the Bayou Bengals for a while. A ten-game win streak and the nation’s number five defense adds to their credibility. However, better athletes win out…and LSU has ’em! 12 of the 13 SEC title games has been decided by 10 or more points. Unless Georgia’s QB Andy Murray becomes Andrew Luck, that trend continues. LSU wins by two touchdowns…late!

Wisconsin's Montee Ball (28) runs into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown run against Penn State last week. Watch for him to score two or three more against Michigan State Saturday night.

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (8:00 p.m.) – Indianapolis has been waiting to see some good football since…well, the last time Peyton Manning threw a pass in the dome…but Saturday night should be must-see action for any Hoosier within ticket-buying range. These two teams had a tough game in East Lansing earlier this season. I have been on Wisconsin for two years now, and with the addition of Russell Wilson, predicted they would win the Big Ten title back in August. I don’t see another game like their earlier one, however. In that game, played AT MSU, so many strange things happened…blocked kicks, interceptions, Montee Ball left the game early due to injury…and still, it took a last-second Hail Mary pass for Sparty to win…Not this time. Wisconsin has a huge front line, opening holes for Ball and anyone else who wants to run. Wilson will have a great game indoors where he doesn’t have to worry about the elements. Payback time…Wisconsin (-9-1/2) wins BIG and will play Oregon in what should be an entertaining Rose Bowl on Jan. 2!

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson (4) breaks the tackle of Virginia safety Corey Mosley (7) for a touchdown last week in the Hokies' 38-0 statement win over the Cavs.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson (8:00 p.m.) – Another rematch…and another game in which a payback will occur. Clemson gained a lot of credibility (at least for me) when they went into Blacksburg earlier this season and hammered Tech…a real beat-down…but then, they reverted to the Same Old Clemson we’ve come to love and enjoy. They enter this game on a down note (1-3 in their last four games) and come off a bad loss to in-state rival, South Carolina. All Va. Tech has done since that 23-3 loss to Clemson is win seven in a row…including a 38-0 victory over Virginia last week in Charlottesville…a game they had to win to get to the championship game Saturday night in Charlotte. If you think they are going to lose to Clemson for a second time, you are mistaken. Take Virginia Tech (-7) and ride this wave to the Orange Bowl.

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden throws and throws and throws...and he will need to be accurate Saturday night against Oklahoma if OSU is to win the Bedlam game and head to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 champs!

BEDLAM: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m.) – In what could have been one of the best, most-exciting and most important games of the season, these two bitter rivals meet in Stillwater…but unfortunately, due to three combined losses (two on the same weekend just two weeks ago), this game will just determine which team travels out to the Fiesta Bowl. Each team has terrific offenses…and Oklahoma has the better defense. Every time I have picked a team to cover against Oklahoma State (usually by double digits), Brandon Weeden comes out throwing to Justin Blackmon for about 500 yards and they put up 50 points or so. This time, I will pick OSU (-3) to win the game, and I think this will be the best game of the weekend.

I’ll be back next week with my review of the weekend!