Tag Archives: NCAA Football

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!

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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.

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!

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 Things I Learned About College Football – Week 13 Review

Calling for five upsets (well, picking the underdogs) in my Top Five Picks probably wasn’t the safest thing to do…but, as they say, no guts, no glory. What we all should have learned about college football this weekend was this: during rivalry weeks, forget about picking games and just enjoy them.

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

LSU and Alabama wil more than likely meet in a rematch for the BCS Championship on January 9 in New Orleans

1. Unfortunately, this coming weekend’s SEC Championship game and the Big 12’s Bedlam game won’t count for a thing in determining the BCS Championship game. It’s about as official as you can get, we’re getting a rematch between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama…this time in the Superdome in New Orleans. While LSU and Georgia will be playing in Atlanta this weekend for the SEC title, even if the Bulldogs pull an upset, LSU is very, very likely to return to the BCS title game. Alabama is off…and therefore will not drop below the No. 2 slot it occupies. Georgia, if they win, will get to the Sugar Bowl, and the SEC would get three BCS teams. Georgia is playing well (they thrashed Georgia Tech Saturday), but I don’t see them winning.

Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin, left, shakes hands with UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel after USC posted a 50-0 win over the Bruins

2. UCLA is a joke. A 50-0 loss in your rivalry game against a VERY GOOD USC team…disgraceful. It will probably cost Rick Neuheisel his job. Oregon will ROMP over the Bruins Friday night in Eugene (they opened as 31-point favorites) and will be the Pac 12’s representative in the Rose Bowl. USC is ineligible, which is too bad, because they have gotten much better as the year has progressed. I have been impressed with them over the past month and would have really liked to see them play Oregon again. But, to have a team like UCLA representing the South Division of the Pac 12 speaks for the poor quality of those teams. There’s only one decent team in that division…that’s Southern Cal.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is wrapped up and tackled by South Carolina defenders Shaq Wilson, back, and Antonio Allen (26)...a scene repeated all too often in the Gamecocks victory over the Tigers

3. Same Old Clemson. There…I said it. Once again, the Tigers fell FLAT ON THEIR FACES in a game with meaning…their annual rivalry game in Columbia against South Carolina. They were hideous…and if they play this way in Saturday’s ACC Championship game in Charlotte against Virginia Tech, the Hokies will run them out of the park. Va. Tech has opened as just 7-point favorites in this one. I don’t see this happening…but I see Va. Tech looking at this one as a revenge game for the beating they took in Blacksburg earlier this year. Mark it down…Va. Tech will, once again, be heading to the Orange Bowl as the ACC Champions.

Wisconsin's Montee Ball (28) runs into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown run against Penn State on Saturday

4. Wisconsin could beat anyone at home…and would give LSU and Alabama a tough time in Madison. Too bad they had to go on the road this year. Saturday, as 15 – 17 point FAVORITES, not only did they cover against Penn State, but they made the Nittany Lions look like a high school team. I seriously wondered if PSU could keep up their fine play following the distractions they have been through. But, I really thought their defense could contain the Badgers…and boy, was I ever wrong! For two weeks they did play well…but not against the Badgers. Russell Wilson and Montee Ball were outstanding. Wisconsin’s offensive line just kept pushing and pushing…and PSU could not push back. They clearly were sending a message to Michigan State…THIS is the team you will see in the Big Ten title match in Indianapolis on Saturday (Wisconsin has opened as 10 point favorites). Despite the fact that MSU beat Wisconsin with a last-second Hail Mary pass in East Lansing earlier this season, I think Wisconsin comes into the dome and blows MSU away. Then again, it is a neutral site game…if it was in Madison, I’d bet the farm (small as it is) on the Badgers.

And speaking of the Big Ten, how about that GREAT Michigan – Ohio State game? Finally…The Game is back and is relevant. A 40-34 win over the Buckeyes…it had been since 2003 since Michigan beat “Ohio”…plenty of action and drama…And we now have a 10-win Michigan team that will go to a major bowl…not a BCS bowl, but a nice way to end the season for Brady Hoke and his Wolverines!  And breaking news – Urban Meyer is the new OSU head coach…what a shocker…

According to reports, former Florida coach Urban Meyer will return to his Ohio roots as he will be the Ohio State University's new head football coach in 2012.

5. The BCS is flawed…and hopefully, sometime in my lifetime, there will be a tournament to determine the best college football team. Clearly, LSU and Alabama are the top teams this year…or are they? Let’s compare Alabama to Oklahoma State, whose one loss in overtime to Iowa State on a devastating day for OSU‘s athletic program has led to the probable SEC rematch in the BCS Championship Game on January 9. These numbers are what the NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee would be looking at, for instance:

  • Wins over current BCS Top 25 teams: Oklahoma State: 5, Alabama: 2.
  • Wins over current BCS Top 50 teams: Oklahoma State: 7, Alabama: 5.
  • Wins over FBS teams with winning records: Oklahoma State: 6, Alabama: 3.
  • Conference titles: Oklahoma State: 1, Alabama: 0.
  • Losses to Iowa State: Oklahoma State: 1, Alabama: 0.

Wow…on paper it certainly looks like Oklahoma State has the better team…but we’ll never know. Alabama has legions of followers, and as well as the Cowboys‘ fans think they travel…the truth is SEC teams travel better and maybe that’s something to consider. But the truth is this…SEC teams win national championships, the Big 12 teams do not.

And undefeated Houston will have ABSOLUTELY NO SHOT at the BCS title game either. They were very convincing in their win over Tulsa on Saturday, and now will face Southern Mississippi for the C-USA title on Saturday (Houston is a 13-1/2-point favorite, by the way).

There are MILLIONS ($$$) of reasons to have a playoff…Let’s not talk about the relevance of the minor bowl games…I know they provide money for the communities in which they are located, but, I said it last year and I’ll say it again, I just don’t care about a game between the sixth choice from the Big 10 and the 5th choice from the ACC. Seriously…won’t pick these games either. There are the big bowl games that will have some great match-ups…and I will watch casually. But there’s only one game everyone will watch…the Championship game in New Orleans…a short drive from both participants’ fan bases. That will be a fun time!

I’ll be back with a look at next weekend’s action later this week!

5 Top College Football Games to Watch – Week 13 Preview

There are plenty of huge games this weekend, starting on Friday for your enjoyment.  It’s Rivalry Weekend, so let’s start with Missouri and Kansas meeting in the Border War, the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi, (and maybe for the last time) in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.  In bowl implication games, Pitt is at West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl; Penn State is visiting Wisconsin in the third unbelievably tough game for the Nittany Lions in a row; Tennessee travels to Lexington to play Kentucky – and if you think the Vols have had a bad year, win this game and they are bowl eligible – and Clemson and South Carolina meet in a game full of hatred (more below).

There are lots of other great traditional rivalry games like Michigan at Ohio State, Georgia at Georgia Tech, Oregon State at Oregon in the Uncivil War, Duke and North Carolina (better in basketball), Washington at Washington State for the Apple Cup and a really big one for the Bruins in Los AngelesUCLA at USC (If UCLA wins, they win the Pac-12 South).

I like rivalry games, but I can only pick 5 top games to watchso , for this short week, I present five short reviews because, by now, you know about these teams.  These picks were made on Tuesday due to personal obligations, so please consult the latest odds, if you plan to partake…

Here are my 5 Top College Football Games to Watch in Week 13:

FRIDAY GAMES:

Houston quarterback Case Keenum (7) reacts after 16-yard touchdown run during the fourth quarter against SMU last week

1.  Houston at Tulsa (Noon) – The Cougars are undefeated…Tulsa has lost three games.  This game could take Houston from a BCS bowl game (Sugar) to nowhere, if they lose.  The winner of this game wins the C-USA West and will play Southern Mississippi for the league title.  Houston you know about…Case Keenum is a terrific quarterback who has set several major NCAA passing records.  Their defense is also good.  But, I think Tulsa is the best team they have faced this year…and that could mean trouble.  Tulsa has G.J. Kinne as their quarterback, and he is a good leader and they score points.   I will call for a major upset.  MY PICK IS: TULSA +3-1/2 

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) prepares to pass in last year's game against Arkansas

2. Arkansas at LSU (2:30 p.m., CBS) – LSU…the nation’s number one team…and ONLY major conference undefeated team (sorry, HoustonC-USA is NOT a major conference) AT HOME…and they are a HUGE favorite (12 to 13 points).  They should be…they have a great defense (second only to Alabama‘s) and a serviceable offense.  The Hogs, on the other hand, have been under the radar (except mine) all season…and “all of a sudden”, they are the No. 3 team in the BCS standings behind fellow SEC West members LSU and Alabama.  Even if they beat LSU, I don’t know if that will be enough to allow them to jump over one of those teams.  And does it seem strange to you that IF LSU wins this game, wins the West Division of the SEC, they get to play a red-hot Georgia team IN ATLANTA, for the SEC title.  If they lose that one, ALABAMA would slide right into the BCS title game without going through the gauntlet that faces the Bayou Bengals.  Stranger things have happened.  Nevertheless, I promised shorter reviews, so while LSU should win this game, MY PICK IS ARKANSAS +13

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith throws against Cincinnati during the Mountaineers' win last week

3. Pitt at West Virginia (7:00 p.m.) – The Big East will once again have a representative in the BCS, as called for by contract.  Whether or not they deserve it (and certainly, again this year, they do not), someone is going to the Orange Bowl (probably), so why not West Virginia?  Their annual game against Pitt has been, up until last year, a four-point game or less for three years.  This game will feature two good quarterbacks, WVU’s Geno Smith and Pitt’s Tino Sunseri.  West Virginia is giving 8 points away in this one and I think that might be too much. I think West Virginia will win.  However, MY PICK IS: PITT +8

SATURDAY GAMES: 

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (28) runs with the ball through the Illinois defense during the Badgers' win last week

4. Penn State at Wisconsin (3:30 p.m.) – It’s obvious Wisconsin is a much better team at Camp Randall Stadium than on the road.  This is Penn State’s third tough game in a row…and even if nothing “unusual” had happened three weeks ago in Happy Valley, running this kind of gauntlet would have been really difficult.  They split their first two games…losing to Nebraska at home but coming back to beat Ohio State in The Horseshoe last week.  This one is for all the marbles in the Leaders Division of the Big TenPSU has not seen a two-headed offensive monster like quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball.  Their defense will be tested as it never has been tested before.  I think the emotions of the past three weeks start to get the best of the Nittany Lions…and, while I like their talk of putting Joe Paterno’s name back on the Big Ten championship trophy (even if it is taped on it), the Badgers are going to prove too much.  Also going for the home team is the fact they want a rematch with Michigan State to prove to Sparty that their Hail Mary victory was a fluke.  I’ve been saying all season that Wisconsin was the best team in the Big Ten, and they will prove it over the next two weeks to grab the Rose Bowl berth as Big Ten champs.  I like the Badgers of Wisconsin to win this game…but, MY PICK IS: PENN STATE +15

Clemson's Brandon Ford breaks a tackle by North Carolina State's C.J. Wilson (20) in last week's loss to State

5. Clemson at South Carolina (7:45 p.m.) – This is an in-state rivalry that, if I didn’t live two hours from both schools, I would not believe how much hatred there is between these two teams.  Maybe not Alabama-Auburn hatred, but serious enough.  Enough that a few years ago, both teams brawled on the field and both schools administrations said “No bowl games this year.”  That much hatred.  For the Clemson people, you must be getting tired of hearing, ” Yep, same old Clemson” after both of your losses.  As for the South Carolina folk, the Ol’ Ball Coach promised more than he has delivered this year…although there are PLENTY of teams wishing they were 9-2 this year.  There will be NO SEC East title for the Gamecocks again this year.

Clemson, winners of the ACC Atlantic Division, will play either Virginia Tech or Virginia next week in Charlotte for the ACC title.  They have already beaten the Hokies in Blacksburg, which was the game that made a believer out of me.  But now, they have lost two out of their last three…to Georgia Tech and inexplicitly to N. C. State (“Yep, same old Clemson…”) and NEED to beat USC for many reasons…mostly to right the ship.  Nationally, they are 17th and 56th in offense and defense; 21st and 64th in points per game and PPG allowed.  Not the same old Clemson.  The University of South Carolina (and yes, not only are they referred to as “USC” here in the South, but also “Carolina” – except for those of us from NORTH Carolina, since there can only be ONE Carolina and that one is located in Chapel Hill) is 80th and 5th (offense and defense) nationally and 47th and 15th in the PPG categories.

In this game we will see a good Clemson offense, led by QB Tajh Boyd and running back sensation Sammy Watkins, going up against a really good South Carolina defense (it’s an SEC team…they have to be good…).

Here is what it comes down to: two 9-2 teams that will go to really nice bowl destinations this year and, will be even better in 2012, and just plain don’t like each other, playing for pride (and bragging rights) in beautiful Brice-Williams Stadium on Saturday night.

MY PICK IS: CLEMSON +4-1/2 (and I don’t know why).

I will be back Monday with my 5 Things I Learned About College Football – Week 13 Review.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Top Five College Football Games to Watch – Week 12 Preview

While this week’s offerings are not as exciting as the past two weeks’ worth, there are nearly a dozen pretty good games out there.  My Top Five Games To Watch list begins on Friday night with the Tar Heels of UNC playing at Virginia Tech.  Yes, it’s an ACC game which means most of you are not interested, but at least tune in to see and hear “Enter Sandman” as the Hokies come onto the field to open the game!

Here are my Top Five College Football Games To Watch – Week 12 Preview:

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas (3) struggles for a first down as Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson (1) hangs on

1. UNC at Virginia Tech (Friday, 8:00 p.m., ESPN) – I love night games at Lane Stadium…the crowd going crazy as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwmuPK9OEC4&feature=youtu.be (gotta watch this!) plays and the Hokies enter the arena!  That being said, Va Tech is ready to play for the ACC championship against Clemson…if they win this game and the regular season finale against Virginia (currently a game behind them in the standings).  Frank Beamer and his team love playing at night on ESPN…they used to be on a couple of times a year on Thursdays, it seemed.  Behind Logan Thomas’s passing and David Wilson’s rushing, the Hokies have had just one bad game (a loss to Clemson…in Blacksburg).  UNC  has struggled in the league (2-4) but this is their bowl game…at least as far as crowd noise and excitement goes.  Yes, they are 6-4 and are bowl eligible, but this atmosphere will be better than wherever they end up.  10-1/2 is a lot of points to lay…but not for the Hokies at home, at night.  Hokie Hokie Hey…VA TECH -10-1/2 is the play.

The rest of the games are the usual Saturday games:

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (28) runs for 15 yards as Minnesota defensive back Michael Carter (6) goes in for the tackle

2. Wisconsin at Illinois (Noon, ESPN2) – Wisconsin has been one of my favorite teams for a couple of years…and this year’s version is suddenly back in the driver’s seat in the Leaders division of the Big Ten.  I say this because even if Penn State can regroup (and they did pretty well last week in spite of all the goings-on in State College) and beat Ohio State Saturday (don’t count on it), the Nittany Lions STILL would have to travel to Madison to play the Badgers for the right to go to the Big Ten title game.  I think Wisconsin would be favored in that one by 10 points…so, the Badgers need to get by Illinois on Saturday to make that come true.  The Illini have lost four consecutive games and I don’t think they will win this one.  Wisconsin has so much going for them…Russell Wilson, Montee Ball…momentum…Wisconsin -14 is the pick.

Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne (4) dives for a first down past Central Florida defensive end LeBranden Richardson (59)

3. Tulsa at UTEP (3:00 p.m.) – Seriously…This is the Conference USA match-up you’ve not been waiting for…but I have to throw it in because of what it means this week.  We all know Houston is the “best” team in the league.  They are undefeated…they lead the nation in points scored and in total offense (sorry, Oklahoma State, but it’s true).  They are in line for a BCS Bowl bid.  But wait…here’s the catch.  They might not only not go undefeated, they might not win their division of  C-USA.  Because of Tulsa.  The Golden Hurricane is 6-0 in the league, same as Houston.  They are 19th and 28th in the nation offensively…so they are no slouches.  Quarterback G.J. Kinne has thrown for 2,400 yards and 21 TD’s.  Tulsa has lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State.  Pretty good trio if you have to lose three games.  In C-USA, only once (to UCF) have they not won by more than 14 points.  They are very aware of the fact that if they win this game, and beat Houston, they go to the league championship game (more likely to play Southern Mississippi) and possibly a nice bowl game.  It’s early, but I really think this could happen.  Tulsa -13-1/2 is the play.

Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy (2) runs between Kentucky defenders Danny Trevathan (22) and Cartier Rice (35), right, on his way to an 18-yard touchdown run last week

4. Vanderbilt at Tennessee (7:00 p.m., ESPNU) – I had to put this game in because most of us have NEVER seen this before…Vanderbilt University, the Stanford of the Mid-South, is FAVORED by 1-1/2 points over the flagship university of the state of Tennessee.  I have written about the new attitude coach James Franklin has brought to Nashville…and Vandy has played as well as they can…and sometimes better (see University of Florida game).  In fact, they has lost to the following SEC teams…but note how close these games have been: Georgia (5 points), Arkansas (3) and Florida (5).  Last week, they spanked Kentucky, 38-8, so maybe these Commodores are believing in themselves.  Tennessee has a young coach, who really is a lawyer, and, in the opinion of Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, “is just a weird dude”.  He took over a program that was really hurt by Lane Kiffin’s departure to USC, and add in the injuries they have suffered plus the usual SEC schedule, and you get the Vols in an 0-6 position in the league.  Thankfully for UT, they get the Kentucky Wildcats next week, so maybe they can get a win out of the SEC.  Because they won’t this week.  Vanderbilt -1-1/2 is the pick.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein (7) celebrates as he scores a touchdown during overtime against Texas A&M last week

5. Kansas State at Texas (8:00 p.m.) – In their last four games, K-State has either scored or given up over 50 points…sometimes, both.  They beat Kansas 59-21, lost to Oklahoma 58-17, lost to Oklahoma State 52-45 and beat Texas A&M 53-50.  That’s a lot of points any way you look at it.  Is KSU a great team?  No.  But, because they have quarterback Collin Klein (1504 passing yards, 21 TD’s and 1,009 rushing yards and 24 rushing TD’s) HE is a great team.  Not too many people have slowed him down, except for Oklahoma and they DO have a good defense, so what will Texas be able to do?  They didn’t do well against Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden (then again, who has?)…but Texas’ defense is the best K-State has seen since the Oklahoma game.  Texas, does rank first in the Big 12 in total defense, by the way, and that’s one big reason the Wildcats are getting 9-1/2 points in this game.  Coach Bill Snyder is a genius, and going up against Texas is a real challenge for him.  I’m sure he was watching lots of film from Texas’ game against Mizzou last week to see how the Tigers bottled up the Longhorns‘ running attack.  If he can do the same, K-State will be in good shape.  Snyder’s been to a rodeo or two in his time, and I think Kansas State can cover the points…so I am taking K-State and 9-1/2 in this game.

Other games worth watching:

Penn State at Ohio State (OSU is playing much better than a few weeks ago…PSU could be emotionally drained…OSU -6.5 would be my lean.)

Nebraska at Michigan (I’m leaning Nebraska +4)

USC at Oregon (The Ducks are 15 point favorites, and that’s a lot to give USC)

Cal at Stanford (The Cardinal, favored by 19 in The Big Game, need to make a statement after last week’s loss to Oregon…so they can get to the Fiesta Bowl.)

I’ll be back Monday with the Top Five Things I Learned About College Football This Week – Week 12 Review.

Top Five College Football Games to Watch – Week 11

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:

What a sad...and tragic...situation up at Penn State. Joe Paterno will be coaching his last home game Saturday

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!

The Ol' Ball Coach

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 CocksThis 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.

Missouri QB James Franklin is helping the Tigers offense transition this year

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.

Oregon running back LaMichael James runs against Washington last weekend

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.

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion (orange) is sacked in the end zone by Stanford defender Trent Murphy last weekend

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!