Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shouldn't Be Ranked Weekend

There are now only 23 undefeated teams in the country:
ACC - Boston College, Clemson
Big 12 - Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas
Big East - West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers, Cincinnati, UConn
Big 10 - Wisconsin, Ohio St., Michigan St., Purdue
Pac 10 - USC, California, Oregon, Arizona St.
SEC - LSU, Florida, Kentucky
Others - Hawaii

Because there are now less than 25 teams, this is traditionally the week that an unworthy team sneaks into the polls. You know, the team that has played only cupcakes, and yet still somehow mystifies voters with its undefeated status. So which of these 23 undefeated teams do not deserve to be in the Top 25?

1. Kansas - They've beaten Central Michigan, Toledo, SE Louisiana, and Florida International. (Yep, the same Florida International with the longest losing streak in the country.)

2. Purdue - They've beaten Central Michigan, Toledo, E. Illinois and Minnesota. (Yep, the same Minnesota that lost to Florida Atlantic and Bowling Green.)

3. UConn - If you look on ESPN or your newspaper, the league standings show UConn in first because UConn is 1-0 in conference, ahead of teams like West Virginia. But all UConn has done is beat Pittsburgh, and that doesn't seem to be too hard these days.

4. Michigan St. - Hey, they beat Pittsburgh and N. Dame. Oh, right.

5. Rutgers - Wins against Buffalo, Navy, and Norfolk St. don't mean much, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt based on last season.

6. Hawaii - Wins against N. Colorado, UNLV, C. Southern, and Louisisana Tech by 1 pt don't impress me much. But, they do have a fun offense.

7. Texas - They struggled against Arkansas St., TCU, and UCF, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt based on tradition.

OK, so just don't vote for Kansas yet. As for Purdue, we'll see how they do against N. Dame. Oh, right.

Conference Cup
Only the Big 12 and Big East were focused on non-conference games this weekend, so little changed in these standings.

Wins vs BCS/ND, Losses vs BCS/ND, Non BCS Losses
4-3-0 SEC
8-4-3 Big 10
5-5-0 Big East
5-3-3 Pac10
5-6-5 Big 12
4-6-4 ACC
0-4-0 Notre Dame

Ball St. came oh-so-close to beating Nebraska and dropping the Big 12 into last in the cup standings.

BCS vs BCS this week
Miami beat Texas A&M
South Florida beat North Carolina
Michigan St. beat Notre Dame

Non-BCS Losses
Toledo beat Iowa St.
Navy beat Duke

Iowa St. barely lost to Toledo, but they still lost to their 3rd non-BCS team of the year. I still think on a neutral field that they beat Minnesota. But Northwestern, really has me wondering at this point. And now that Syracuse beat Louisville, Notre Dame is the only winless team of BCS stature.

Final Thoughts

The MWC is still wide open after Air Force lost at BYU.

UCF still looks like they will have a great season, even if they lost to Texas. They crushed Memphis in their Conf-USA opener.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fear the Orange

Even though Louisville was playing an early season Big East game against Syracuse, it felt like a non-conference cupcake game. Louisville was roughly a 5 TD favorite. Syracuse was winless. But as Chris Berman likes to say, “That’s why they play the games.”

65 passes attempted by Louisville QB Brian Brohm, a career high
45 passes completed by Brohm
555 yards passing for Brohm
3 pts - winning margin for Syracuse
20 games – Home winning streak ended for Louisville

Syracuse finally won, but it still wasn’t easy. After a long reception gave them a first down at the 10 yard line with under 2 minutes to play, we send it up to the booth,

“All Syracuse needs to do now is hold on to the ballllll it’s a fumble! Louisville recovers!”

Yep, Syracuse tried its best to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. They fumbled and allowed a TD in the final minute. But Louisville had the final mistake. They booted the onside kick only 5 yards, which gave possession to Syracuse, and the game was over.

Louisville remains a must-watch team, win or lose. When your defense is that bad, and your offense is that good, you are going to have some entertaining games.

Other News
What is Oklahoma doing playing on Friday? They are the 4th ranked team in the country?!!

This is what I like to call, “Shouldn’t be ranked weekend.” A lot of teams will make it out of this week undefeated and even if they’ve beaten no one, they will sneak into the polls. Indiana had a chance to do just that. An Indiana win over Illinois and a 4-0 start may have garnered Indiana enough votes to crack the polls. As it turned out, that was not meant to be. Indiana fell at home to Illinois, improving Ron Zook’s record at Illinois to 7-20.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The streak is over!

Duke has finally won. The Bule Devils no longer hold the nation's longest losing streak. That honor is now held by Florida International. In the major conferences only Syracuse and Notre Dame are winless.

Let's see how Syracuse does against Miami (OH) in two weeks before we annoint them the worst BCS team. At least they have been losing to other BCS schools. Meanwhile, Minnesota has lost to a MAC and Sun Belt team and the only win was against a MAC team in overtime. By my count, Minnesota is clearly the worst BCS team so far this year.

There is really no reason for me to comment on Notre Dame, since everyone else already has, but let me say this: If Notre Dame wants to have any chance at a Bowl, they have to win 2 of the next 3 games (Purdue, Michigan St., and UCLA). They don't look like a team that can beat Boston College or USC so in order to avoid 7 losses, they have to win 2 of the next 3 games.

By the way, what's up with Boston College's schedule? They started with 3 ACC games, (all wins by the way), and now have non-conference games against Army, UMass, and Bowling Green. The way the team is playing, I think they'd rather keep playing ACC games.

Conference Cup
Wins vs BCS/ND, Losses vs BCS/ND, Non BCS Losses
4-3-0 SEC
7-4-3 Big 10
5-3-3 Pac10
4-5-0 Big East
5-5-4 Big 12
3-5-3 ACC
0-3-0 Notre Dame

West Virginia beat Maryland
Michigan St. beat Pittsburgh
Illinois beat Syracuse
Iowa St. beat Iowa
Ohio St. beat Washington
Michigan beat Notre Dame
Kentucky beat Louisville
USC beat Nebraska
Duke beat Northwestern
Florida St. beat Colorado

BCS Losses to MWC
Utah beat UCLA
New Mexico beat Arizona

Really Bad Losses
Florida Atlantic beat Minnesota
Troy beat Oklahoma St.

Bad week for the Big East. Not only does Auburn lose again, reducing the impact of USF's win, but Lousville and Pittsburgh also lost.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

UCF vs Texas

As I mentioned two weeks ago, UCF won on the road in its opener and was opening a new stadium. Texas came in after two uninspired performances and was ripe for the upset. Here are some observations:

1) The ball is not round. UCF trailed by 5 late in the game when UCF's QB fumbled the ball after running for a first down. The ball squirted out of the QB's hand and nearly went out of bounds when it suddenly reversed course and rolled back onto the field where it was picked up by a Texas defender. It was a critical turn of events that can only happen in football.

2) Mack Brown does not understand math. Brown went for 2 with an 11 point lead with 3 minutes left. When you are down by 12 or 13, you are guaranteed to need 2 TDs. When you are down by 11, a FG, TD and 2 point conversion will do it. For this reason, many people will claim that Mack Brown is an idiot. In his defense, Brown was probably hoping to make the margin of victory look bigger against UCF. But, it would have cost Texas if UCF could have recovered the onside kick at the end of the game.

3) George O'Leary pulled a Denny Green. This refers to Dennis Green's decision in 1997 to Punt on 4th and Long with 2 minutes left in the NFC Wild Card Game when trailing by 10 points. It paid off for the Vikings who got the ball back and won 23-22. O'Leary punted on 4th and 22 with 2 minutes left and also got the ball back. UCF pulled within 3 points with 35 seconds left, but couldn't recover the onside kick and lost the game.

While I certainly understand the criticism of O'Leary and Green in both cases, my question is, is it ever OK to punt when trailing that late in the game? What about if you had 4th and 50? If the only play available to you was a hail mary, would you always take the hail mary? I haven't run the numbers, but I'd be curious to know how often a team fumbles with the lead late in the game or fails to pick up one first down, so that the punting strategy is somewhat justifiable. 4th and 22 is a pretty tough down to convert, but it still seems like a higher percentage play then punting and getting the ball back.

Other Games
I didn't watch much else college football Saturday, but glancing at the box scores, the following is apparent.

-Great week for the Sun Belt. Friday, Troy beat Oklahoma St. and Saturday, Florida Atlantic forced seven Minnesota turnovers and beat the Gophers.

-Minnesota replaces Iowa St. as the worst BCS team having lost to both a Sun Belt and MAC team, and Minnesota's only win was an overtime home win against a MAC team. Meanwhile, Iowa St. broke through with a win against Iowa. Syracuse and Duke have mostly lost to BCS competitition so I cut them some slack.

-South Florida's win at Auburn looks a little less impressive after Mississippi St. also won at Auburn this week. That said, it was nice to see Sylvester Croom pick up a rare SEC win for Mississippi St.

-Obvious comment of the week: Notre Dame has zero offensive TDS this year. Yikes.

-How did Utah crush UCLA this week? Does this mean Air Force is the MWC favorite having beaten Utah and TCU?

I'll be back with the conference cup standings tommorrow and any comments on the late games.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fear the Big East?

Given the Big East's weak bowl affiliations, I wasn't that impressed when the Big East went 5-0 in last year's bowl games. But give the Big East credit, they're off to a tremendous start again in the non-conference schedule and with South Florida winning at Auburn, you certainly can't make the claim that the conference hasn't beat any legitimate teams. In fact, were it not for Syracuse starting 0-2, the conference would be undefeated at this point.

If you stayed up to watch the USF-Auburn game, you saw plenty of drama. South Florida needed overtime to win despite having a plus 5 turnover margin. That was largely because of 4 missed FGs by Delbert Alvarado. Despite the 4 missed FGs, at the end of regulation, the USF coach chose to kick a 19 yard FG rather than go for the win on 4th down. Alvarado came through with the big FG and the decision to go to overtime paid off. USF answered Auburn's overtime FG with a Matt Grothe TD pass for the walk-off victory.

Conference Cup
Wins vs BCS/ND, Losses vs BCS/ND, Non BCS Losses
3-2-0 Big East
4-2-1 Pac10
3-3-0 SEC
3-2-2 Big 10
4-3-3 Big 12
1-4-3 ACC
0-2-0 Notre Dame

BCS vs BCS This Week
Cincinnati beat Oregon St.
Oregon beat Michigan
Oklahoma beat Miami
Penn St. beat Notre Dame
Nebraska beat Wake Forest
Missouri beat Mississippi
Iowa beat Syracuse
South Florida beat Auburn
LSU beat Virginia Tech
Arizona St. beat Colorado

Is there anything more embarassing that having a team use the Statue-of-Liberty-Play against you? How about when a team uses the SoLP and a fake SoLP as Oregon did against Michigan?

Really Bad Losses
East Carolina beat North Carolina
N. Iowa beat Iowa St.

Iowa St. looks to be in for a long season having lost to two small conference teams already.

By the way, you'll notice I'm not giving any credit for beating TCU or Boise St. I might give some credit in the conference cup later in the year, but I'd like to see the small conference teams truly establish themselves this season before I make those decisions.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Controversy that Wasn’t

The game of the day might have been Fresno St. at Texas A&M.

In the first overtime on the first possession, A&M kicked a field goal. With the second possession, Fresno St. completed a play-action pass to WR Marlin Moore who dove for the corner of the endzone and was called out of bounds by the official. The only problem was that he never stepped out of bounds. Instead he lost possession of the ball near the goal line. The question was whether he lost possession of the ball after crossing the plane, in which case Fresno St. won the game, or whether he fumbled the ball into the endzone where it was recovered by A&M, in which case A&M won the game. The officials would have to make the call based on the replay because replay clearly showed that the receiver did not step out of bounds. At first, the official on the field said there was no good replay and the ruling on the field stood. We then learned that the sideline cameraman was suffering from dehydration and had sat down during the last series. Doh. Finally, after several anxious moments, the official in the booth reached a decision. The replay official used the main feed and determined that the receiver was not out of bounds. Yep, we knew that. Furthermore, the receiver did fumble into the endzone, which means that Texas A&M was the winnerrrrrr… hold on a second. Apparently, there was also a roughing the passer penalty on A&M and therefore Fresno St. had a first down anyway. Wow.

Actually, I saw the flag on the initial play, so I have to say that the officials actually got everything correct, but it was still the biggest replay drama I have ever seen. Literally, the call on the field could not stand, so the weird replay angle had to decide the winner of the game, until we learned about the flag. You could just see the switchboard light up with A&M callers claiming that the game was rigged after the penalty came flying in. You could just imagine the controversy if A&M was just outside the BCS bowl picture because of a low computer ranking. And then, a funny thing happened. Fresno St. had to settle for a FG too, and the game was not decided until the third overtime when Fresno St. could not convert a tying 2 point conversion and Texas A&M won by 2 points. So in the end Texas A&M wins and there is no controversy.

More BTN Fun

Once again the Big Ten Network had a great afternoon, in large part due to the Big Ten's weakness against teams it is supposed to beat. Ohio St. trailed Akron 2-0 at the end of the first quarter and led only 3-2 at half-time. Bowling Green, which beat Minnesota last week, took a 14-7 lead at Michigan St. In the end, neither MAC team pulled the upset, but those early scares made for an entertaining start to the afternoon.

In the 2nd half, it was Northwestern-Nevada and Minnesota-Miami(OH) which provided the drama. Northwestern trailed by 4 with under 2 minutes left in the game and had to go for it on 4th down. They came up a foot short on the 4th down play and it looked like the Wolfpack would pull off the win. But Northwestern used its timeouts, got the ball back, and Bacher threw a TD to Ross Lane with 21 seconds left. Northwestern then tackled Nevada for a loss twice, including a safety on the final play of the game to secure the win.

Meanwhile, Minnesota squandered a 16 point lead in the final minutes and went into overtime for the second straight week. In the 2nd overtime, the Gophers missed a FG and it looked like an easy win for Miami (OH), but the Redhawks missed a FG of their own to send the game into a 3rd OT. In the 3rd OT, Minnesota intercepted a pass and then left nothing for granted. Having missed 3 FGs in the game, Minnesota made sure there would be no final FG scare by running the ball in for a TD to win the game.

The beauty of the Big Ten Network on DirectTV is that all of the games are on at once, on different channels. That meant there were 5 Big Ten games on at noon today. Things worked out fine for cable viewers however, as the national feed caught all the major drama. The national feed started with the Ohio St. game, switched to the Michigan St. game, to the Northwestern game, and finally to the Minnesota game before the noon action finally concluded at about 4:30 pm.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

More of the Same

The Big Ten book-ended the day with another home loss to a non-BCS foe. This time Minnesota fell at home to Bowling Green St. Minnesota was thoroughly dominated in the first half, trailing 21-0, leading me to proclaim that perhaps the new coaching staff would be immune to heart-breaking defeats and instead settle for blowout losses. As it turned out, Minnesota had one more heart-breaking loss in them. Minnesota forced overtime against Bowling Green and scored a TD on the first possession. But once again Minnesota managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Bowling Green answered with a TD on its overtime possession and converted a somewhat surprising 2 point conversion to win 32-31.

Glen Mason lost his job because of all the heart-breaking losses in his Minnesota Tenure (21 point home lead against Michigan, punt blocked in the final minutes vs Wisconsin, Texas Tech loss in last year’s bowl game), but in the end Minnesota proved the curse was not unique to Glen Mason.

Many experts predicted the Gophers to finish last in the Big Ten this year at 0-8 and this game helped validate that prediction. The problem is that new coach Tim Brewster is trying to implement a spread passing, option running offense, with Glen Mason’s players who have been trained in power running and zone run-blocking. Until Brewster recruits his type of personnel, Minnesota isn’t going to win a lot of games.

Conference Cup
Wins vs BCS/ND, Losses vs BCS/ND, Non BCS Losses
2-1-0 SEC
2-1-1 Pac10
1-1-0 Big East
1-1-2 ACC
1-1-2 Big 10
1-2-2 Big 12
0-1-0 Notre Dame

Georgia beat Oklahoma St
Auburn beat Kansas St.
California beat Tennessee
Washington beat Syracuse
Wisconsin beat Washington St.
UConn beat Duke
Georgia Tech beat Notre Dame
Missouri beat Illinois

BCS Losses to MWC
BYU beat Arizona
Wyoming beat Virginia
TCU beat Baylor

Colorado St. also lost in overtime to Colorado or the MWC would have had a terrific weekend.

Really Bad Losses
Central Florida beat NC State
Appalachian St. beat Michigan
Bowling Green beat Minnesota
Kent St. beat Iowa St.

“Resume Problems” O’Leary has proven that even if he isn’t accredited enough to coach at Notre Dame, he still knows how to win. Not only did his team pick up a big road win, they now host the biggest game in school history against Texas. Texas struggled some against Arkansas St., so on paper the game should be entertaining.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Outstanding Start to the Season

You couldn't have asked for a better start if you are the Big Ten network. By showing one of the biggest upsets of all-time, the network shows definitively that fans are missing something if they don't have access to this channel.

Chad Henne was terrible, completing barely half his passes and he threw a terrible interception in the 4th quarter with his team still trailing by a TD. The interception looked like a classic freshman mistake. Henne rolled out to the right and while he had a player closely guarded (but still open underneath), Henne instead chose to throw across his body into traffic, and of course it was intercepted. Luckily for Michigan, Mike Hart bailed the team out, and almost single-handedly won the game. Hart's highlight reel TD run to give his team the lead in the 4th quarter was reason for optimism in Ann Arbor. Instead the day ended in heart-break for Wolverine fans and the odds of Lloyd Carr surving the season have gone down dramatically.

The end of the game actually looked like it would be a miracle comeback for the Wolverines, thanks to some questionable play calling by Appalachian State. Because Appalachian State had no timeouts left at the end of the game, they decided to kick a field goal with 30 seconds left and not risk a mistake. Michigan still had one timeout left. What Appalachian State could have done was run to the middle of the field on first down, draw the timeout, run to the middle of the field on second down, and spike the ball on third down before kicking the winning field goal with no time on the clock. Instead Appalachian State kicked it through the uprights with 26 seconds left.

While this may not seem like a huge mistake, a team receiving a kick-off has a great chance to get into field goal range in half a minute. First off, the clock stops on first downs in college, and now that kick-offs are from the 30 yard line, almost every possession starts with great field position. Most teams will only need 2-3 completed passes to get into field goal range, and as it turned out, Michigan only needed one completed pass to get into field goal range.

Luckily for fans of the upset, Appalachian State blocked a field goal for the second consecutive possesion and the Wolverines lost. But Appalachian State could have had a much easier win if they had just trusted their offense to do simple tasks like spike the ball.

In other action, the Colorado - Colorado St. game was decided by 7 or fewer points for the 6th consecutive year. Trailing by 3 in the final two minutes, Colorado elected not to attempt the 47 yard field goal on 4th and 4. After a disastorous year last year, the new Colorado coach was willing to take a risk to try to win at the end of regulation. As it turned out, his team got the first down, but still couldn't get a TD before time expired in the game. Colorado settled for a field goal and had to send the game into overtime. In OT, Colorado intercepted a pass and kicked the long field goal to earn the victory against their in-state rivals.

The late games are already underway with plenty more excitement. Washington St. and Wisconsin each scored a TD on their first two possessions.

Meanwhile, Illinois and Missouri are scoring in unique fashion. Illinois blocked a Missouri punt for a TD. Later, Illinois fumbled into Missouri's end zone and Missouri picked up the fumble and returned it over 100 yards for the score.

Finally, is there some rule that Notre Dame always has to play teams with the same colors as them? I swear with half of Notre Dame's opponents wear Notre Dame's opposite color scheme. This week Notre Dame is in Gold and Blue and Georgia Tech is in Gold and White. Notre Dame needs to play Tennessee and Clemson more often.

Are you kidding me?

Appalachian St. 28, Michigan 17 at halftime.

This can't last, can it?


Since I'm a DirectTV customer, I'm one of the few people in the country with the Big Ten Network. I start the day with 7 games available to me (4 on the BTN) and most are not that interesting:

Michigan vs Cupcake
Ohio St. vs Cupcake
Penn St. vs Cupcake
Northwestern vs Cupcake
Michigan St. vs Cupcake
Virginia Tech vs Cupcake

(Hey nice job Michigan's Cupcake, Dexter Jackson just split the Michigan defenders and scored on a 68 yard TD pass.)

Luckily, I do get Colorado vs Colorado St. which is frequently an instant classic. The last 5 games have been decided by 7 points or less. I most remember a game a few years back where Jeremy Bloom had a huge day including 2 big 4th quarter TDs. You may remember Jeremy Bloom was a college WR who had to give up his college football eligibility in order to raise funds as an Olympic skier.

At the end of the first quarter of Colorado-CSU, neither QB has an incompletion. Good stuff.

On a basketball note, the creation of the Big Ten Network probably means I'll save some money this year and not order the ESPN Plus basketball package. Since I get the syndicated Big East and ACC games locally and all the missing Big Ten games on the Big Ten Network, I don't think I'll be coughing up $100 for mostly SEC and Big 12 games. That's a little sad, since I'm trying to keep my blog as national as possible, but I'm already wasting enough time watching sports as is.