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.
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.”
While we are not looking at “THE” marquee game of the year this week, certainly, with everything that has happened in State College, PA, the Nebraska-Penn State game is a must-see. Joe Paterno will be coaching in his final home game ever, having “announced” his “retirement” on Wednesday morning. The other great must-see game this week is Oregon at Stanford…but more on that later.
Here are my Top Five College Football Games to Watch This Week:
1. Nebraska at Penn State (Noon, ESPN) – This game is intriguing on many levels. PSU is actually in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten – a perfect 5-0 in the Legends division…2 games in front of my pre-season favorite, Wisconsin. But what a way to end your season…Nebraska at home, on the road at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. This game will be the last home game Joe Paterno coaches for the Nittany Lions…and with that comes some huge emotional swings by the Blue and White. Originally, I was taking Nebraska because I think they are a little better team. Penn State struggles on offense. They are 88th in the nation and 10th in the Big Ten in total offense. They do, of course, counter that by having a great defense (8th and 3rd). The Huskers are 51st nationally on offense and 4th in the league. On defense, Big Red ranks 41st and 7th. That being said, I think the Penn State players come out as fired up as they ever have been…the huge crowd in Beaver Stadium will be as loud as ever…there will be tremendous support for the 84-year-old JoPa. Emotions will lift this team to a big win…and Penn State +3.5 is my choice!
2. Florida at South Carolina (Noon, CBS) – Really, unless you are a die-hard SEC fan, this game won’t mean anything to you…especially in light of the above competition. But it is a very important game for Steve Spurrier, as you would suspect. The former Gator QB and Head Ball Coach loves to beat his Alma Mater…and this year, he needs to…very badly. USC is a half-game behind Georgia in the SEC East. Which is a shame…for the Cocks. This is their LAST SEC game of the year, and a win is critical. If they beat Florida, they end up 6-2, and can only hope Georgia loses to either Auburn or Kentucky (both in Athens). Should that happen, USC would represent the East in the SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome having beaten Georgia 45-42 back in Week 2. A second game where emotions will play into the hands of one team. That team is South Carolina. I am confident they will compete and cover the 3.5 points. South Carolina is my pick.
3. Texas at Missouri (Noon, FX) – Once a year, I look at a game being played by my Alma Mater, MIZ – ZOU…and this is it. This is their first game since announcing the were headed to the SEC (where I can actually see them play in person in Knoxville, Columbia (SC), Athens, Lexington and even Nashville…and I don’t have to fly – all easy drives from here!). Now, as the newest representative of the best football conference, this should be worth a point or two. Texas (6-2) is a fine team, but this being the last time the Horns will come up to Columbia (MO), I am going with my heart on this one…Last weekend, they put up a frantic 25 points in the 4th quarter at Baylor…if they do that again, it’ll be an easy win. I don’t expect that, but I am picking MIZZOU +1 to beat Texas.
4. Tennessee at Arkansas (6:00 p.m., ESPN2) – Yep…I keep going back to the SEC to find interesting games, and this one hits home. My wife graduated from Tennessee; my niece from Arkansas. I said earlier this year (before the injury to Knile Davis) that Arkansas was my dark-horse pick to win the SEC and possibly go to the BCS National Championship Game. Well, that’s not going to happen, but the Hogs are the third-best team in the league…and are exciting to watch. Their offense (15th in the NCAA, 1st in the SEC) is scoring 37.7 points a game and their defense (40th and 8th) is giving up 23.1. Tennessee is a young team and, while they have struggled on offense (97th and 9th), their defense has been a real surprise. They rank 32nd in the NCAA and 7th in the SEC…and they have played LSU and Alabama also. They score 22.6 PPG but give up 21.2. I think Arkansas (8-1, 4-1) is a far superior team…and playing in Fayetteville will be too much for the young orange-clad team to overcome. Arkansas -14 is the pick.
5. Oregon at Stanford (8:00 p.m., ABC/ESPN2) – This one is for all the Pac-12 North marbles and it features two outstanding teams. Stanford, as I have been telling you, is much more than Andrew Luck. Their defense has been outstanding (okay, I will grant you they didn’t stop USC…but otherwise, nearly flawless) and that may be the edge in this game. I have taken Stanford every game this year and they have covered in 8 games with one push…a perfect mark. Oregon, meanwhile, is 4-4 against the spread. Considering it is a home game for Stanford, Oregon is getting 3.5 points, so the wise guys might know something. The line moved from Stanford -4 to -3.5 Wednesday when the Cardinal team doctors determined that wide receiver Chris Owusu would not play due to a concussion suffered last Saturday. Owusu was Luck’s deep threat and this could be significant. Or not. Hate to sound wishy-washy, but Stanford, the second-toughest school in the nation to get into (behind Harvard), has some smart people playing…and coaching. Here’s what you’ll see Saturday night.
Stanford’s offense likes to take it’s time. Andrew Luck is the general…and is in total command. The No. 3 Cardinal like to stay on the field as long as possible. Oregon’s offense, led by running back LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas, plays like the field is made of lava and they are barefooted. Get on…score…get off. Twenty-eight of their 51 touchdown drives this season have taken less than two minutes, and coach Chip Kelly believes time of possession is the most overrated statistic in the game.
“You can win time of possession against Oregon and be down 21 points,” Stanford coach David Shaw agreed.
I see this as an opportunity that Stanford has been waiting for since last year when they suffered their only loss of the season to the Ducks and had to eventually watch them play for the national title.
“Stanford will look like 1950 sometimes,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “They’ll have everybody within 10 yards of each other. And Oregon has everybody within 53 yards of each other, spread across the field.”
The result, though, is similarly lethal.
The Cardinal averages 48 points per game and 225 rushing yards by using hulking linemen and three tight ends and a grinding, old-school style that physically wears out opponents. It also allows Luck — “the best in the country,” Kelly said — to use play-action and take chances downfield.
The Ducks average 46 points and 298 yards on the ground with pure speed, using James — the nation’s leading rusher — Thomas and blazing backs Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas to race past exhausted defenses.
The Cardinal seems to have an advantage, with a run defense that ranks third nationally. It also has Luck, the presumptive No. 1 pick of the next NFL Draft, and a 3-1/2-point edge, according to oddsmakers.
However, these teams have a history. Two years ago, the Cardinal survived for a heart-stopping 51-42 victory at home, the last loss for the Ducks before their 18-game conference winning streak. Last year, the Ducks erupted from behind for a 52-31 win in Eugene, the last loss for Stanford before its 17-game winning streak.
Something has to give. One thing I can assure you…unlike last week’s LSU-Alabama game, there will be touchdowns scored in this one. It’ll be a thriller that will go down to the last quarter, and that’s where the game will be decided. If the Cardinal defense can stop the Ducks’ offense two times in the fourth quarter, they will win. Andrew Luck will see to it, just like he did in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. If, however, Oregon scores in the fourth quarter, they will win the game.
My pick: Oregon (+3-1/2) to upset Stanford.
I’ll be back Monday with my Top Five Things I Learned About College Football – Week 11 Review!