2009 College Football

College Football 2009 Regular Season Weekly Wrap-Up

College Football 2009 Bowl Game Wrap-Up 2009

 Washington Husky Football     2009 Michigan State Spartan Football

2009 College Football Feature Articles

College Football 2009 Regular Season Weekly Wrap-Up

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 1 - Brigham Young, Boise State, Alabama and Oklahoma State Are Huge Week 1 Winners

Brigham Young, Boise State, Alabama and Oklahoma State were college football's biggest winners in the opening week of the NCAA season. No. 20 BYU upset No. 3 Oklahoma 14-13, No. 14 Boise State whipped No. 16 Oregon 19-8, No. 5 Alabama beat No. 7 Virginia Tech 34-24, and No. 9 Oklahoma State turned back Georgia 24-10. Read the full results and see whose stock is rising and whose is falling.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 2 - Ohio State and Notre Dame Lose Big Time Games, So What Else Is New?

Only 7 teams remained on top at 2-0 and on track during the second week of the college football season—Florida, USC, Alabama, California, Boise State, Brigham Young and Kansas. Michigan upset Notre Dame, Houston upset Oklahoma State, and the Washington Huskies, who had lost 15 straight, beat Idaho, 42-23.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 3 - Dream Season Ends for Southern Cal, Brigham Young, Utah and Georgia Tech

The great difference why watching college football games is so much more enjoyable than watching pro football is not because it is exciting—heck, pro football can be exciting too—it's because college football is much more unpredictable. College football's third week of action is an excellent example. Find out why the fortunes of four teams—Southern California, Brigham Young, Utah and Georgia Tech—changed dramatically after losing this week.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 4 - Seven Upsets Turn Top 25 Poll Into a Scramble With Few Survivors

No win in College Football's 4th week of action was any bigger than unranked Iowa's 21-10 upset victory on-the-road over 5th-ranked Penn State. Iowa is now unbeaten at 4-0. The Hawkeyes ruined the Nittany Lions perfect 9-0 season last year with a 24-23 victory at home, and proved it was no fluke this year on Penn State's turf. There were 7 upsets this week among Top 25 teams, creating more confusion than clarity.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 5 - Only a Baker's Dozen of Teams Still Remain Undefeated After Five Weeks

Only 13 among the 120 major teams remain undefeated after the 5th week of a 16-week college football season. They are Florida, Texas, Alabama, LSU, Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU, Iowa, Kansas, Auburn, South Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin. Unranked UTEP upset 12th-ranked Houston, 58-41, 17th-ranked Miami (FL) upset 8th-ranked Oklahoma, and unranked Michigan State beat 22nd-ranked Michigan 26-20.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 6 - Florida Stays No. 1, Beats LSU 13-3, Four More Teams Suffer Their First Loss

Florida started the season as the No. 1 pick in the AP Top 25 Poll and will remain No. 1 for the 7th straight week after beating the No. 4 Louisiana State Tigers in Baton Rouge, 13-3, in this season's biggest match-up featuring two Top 5 teams. Learn which 4 undefeated teams lost this week.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 7 - Kansas, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Nebraska All Get Exposed as Frauds

Just when you thought some sense of stability might have returned to college football during the halfway point of the season, any semblance belies the truth that at least four more teams have become frauds in the national title chase—Kansas, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Nebraska. Find out why.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 8 - Alabama and Florida Barely Win, 12 Others Put on Muscle Shirts and Strut Their Stuff

There was only one real upset in college football's 8th week of play as 12 of the 20 top-ranked teams put on their muscle shirts and showed what they have, a sure sign that teams have begun to stabilize for their last 4 games. Find out who was glad and who was sad this week.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 9 - Oregon, Texas and Iowa Notch Critical Wins in the National Championship Qualifying Race

Oregon, Texas and Iowa won huge, critical victories to remain in contention for the National Championship Game during college football's 9th week of play. None of the three victories was more impressive or substantial than 10th-ranked Oregon's convincing, ultimately dominating 47-20 upset win at home over 4th-ranked Southern California. Learn why it mattered so much.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 10 - Upstart Northwestern Hands Iowa Its First Loss and 5 Other Top 25 Teams Are Upset

Unbeaten Iowa suffered the biggest loss as one of six AP Top 25 teams to be upset during college football's 9th week of competition. The others were Oregon, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and California. Find out why, and get all of the information in this week's wrap-up.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 11 - Southern Cal's 7-Year Record of Excellence Ends, Stanford Body Slams the Trojans, 55-21

Southern California's streaks of 7 straight BCS bowls, 7 straight 11-win seasons, 7 straight top-4 AP poll finishes, and a 7-year stranglehold on the Pac-10 Conference title ended when Stanford's Toby Gerhart rushed for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns as the 25th-ranked Cardinals upset the Trojans 55-21 in an away game. Read the full story.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 12 - In a Topsy-Turvy Season, Ohio State and Oegon Earn Big Victories to Stay on Top

In a great example of too little too late, there were 4 upsets of AP Top 25 teams in college football's 12th week and none of them had any real impact. On the other hand, two favorites won big time road games with big implications as Ohio State buried Michigan 21-10, and Oregon held off a very pesky Arizona team, 44-41. Read the full story.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 13 - Six Top 25 Teams Upset on the Road, Bloom Comes Off of the Atlantic Coast Conference Title Game

Six AP Top 25 teams can testify what a pain in the butt road games are—all were upset during college football's 13th week of play, and 2 of the 6 will be facing off in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this week. The away losers included Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Mississippi and North Carolina. Read the full story.

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 14 - Five Major Conference Teams Win Championships to Earn Coveted Spots in the BCS Bowl Games

Five of the nation's best major conference teams won titles in college football's 14th week to earn coveted spots in BCS bowl games. The best of the best included Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Oregon and Georgia Tech. Find out who they will face in the 5 major BCS bowl games, including the National Championship Game.

College Football 2009 Bowl Game Wrap-Up

Who Says That Freshmen Players Cannot Lead a Team to a Bowl Victory?

Much was made of star Texas quarterback Colt McCoy being knocked out of the National Championship Game early on against Alabama. His replacement, Garrett Gilbert, an inexperienced freshman, came in to replace McCoy. Alabama won the 2009 title 37-21, giving the impression that a freshman could not get the job done in a big game.

Alabama Uses Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide Defense to Beat Texas and Win the National Title, 37-21

Twelve months is a long time to wait when you seek personal and team redemption, but it is also a short time to wait when the event yields a positive result and you can bask in that success for the rest of your life. For Alabama this year, the memories will be ever so sweet, and at least one legend will be created in the process. Find out who.

Down 14-Zip, Two 2009 Bowl Teams Win by 10 - Texas Tech Takes the "Distraction" Bowl (aka Alamo Bowl)

Despite being down 14-zip early on, two 2009 bowl teams—Utah and Middle Tennessee—won by 10, and Texas Tech managed to take the "Distraction" Bowl (aka Alamo Bowl) title from Michigan State University, 41-31. Find out which Distraction Bowl team had the biggest "thug" factor.

Six 2009 Bowl Teams Used Defense to Win, None More Convincingly Than Iowa

While Nebraska used its stifling defense to record the 2009 bowl season's only shutout (a 33-0 victory over Arizona), six other bowl winners used their defense to achieve victories--Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Boise State, Marshall and Connecticut.

Eight 2009 Bowl Teams Win by 3 Points or Less, None More Exciting than Idaho

Eight of the 34 bowl game winners—or approximately 25 percent—earned their victories by 3 or less points, and none won in more exciting fashion than Idaho—and that includes two double overtime winners (Wyoming and Central Michigan) and two single overtime winners (Arkansas and Auburn). Find out why Idaho's win was best.

Eight 2009 Bowl Teams Lose by 20 or More Points, None Worse Than Nevada

Eight of the 34 bowl game losers—or approximately 25 percent—lost by 20 or more points, none worse than Nevada's 45-10 drubbing at the hands of the rising Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the Hawaii Bowl. For SMU coach June Jones, it was homecoming all over again. Find out why.

Biggest Winners Among the Six 2009 Desperation Bowl Teams Were Florida State and Oklahoma

It was goodbye for legendary coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State, and welcome back Oklahoma as both the Seminoles and Sooners racked up the best victories among the six desperation bowl teams, so-called because of their disappointing regular season play and chance to redeem themselves in a bowl game.

Why Bowl Games Are Such a Big Deal: They Bring Prestige and $139+ Million

There will be 34 NCAA bowl games this year and the fuss in each one will be about prestige and money, big money, as in more than a collective $127 million for the participating teams and their respective conferences. Here is the complete lineup for the 2009 season (which stretches into 2010).

2009 Washington Husky Football

Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's Woeful Football Program

When the University of Washington Huskies went winless last year in 12 games and had some of the worst performance statistics among all NCAA teams, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of head coach Steve Sarkisian. Find out why "Sark" is a winner as a player and coach, and how he will surround himself with winners on his coaching staff.

Steve Sarkisian Puts the Washington Husky Football Program Back on Track to Succeed

In a scant 60 minutes, the University of Washington’s entire football program went from a lingering negative impact since the departure of legendary coach Don James in 1993, to a positive impact when the Huskies opened their 2009 season against No. 11-ranked Louisiana State University. Find out how it happened so quickly.

Has Washington Finally Come Alive? Yes, 5 TDs in Their 1st 5 Possessions

It's a funny thing about winners—you never have to announce them, they announce themselves. That is exactly what happened when the University of Washington coaches and players stepped into the sunlight for the first time in 22 months, beating Idaho 42-23 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. For the Husky faithful, it was reminiscent of Perry Como's singing again, "the bluest skies I ever saw were in Seattle." Learn the full story.

Dawgs Show Their Fangs, Washington Upsets 3rd-Ranked USC Trojans, 16-13

A month of Saturdays hit the calendar when the Southern California Trojans traveled north to Seattle recently to face last year's 0-12 Washington Huskies. In just three games under the new coaching staff that inherited the 0-12 team, Washington has snapped a 15-game losing streak, upset No. 3-ranked USC 16-13, and vaulted into the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 24. Discover what's going on among the Huskies in the Great Pacific Northwest.

A Season of 2 Games: One Becomes Abject Heartache, The Other Extreme Joy - Part 1

This is a story about the life of a college football team's season in only two games—one was an abject heartache, and the other an extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season, and the events that unfolded brought to mind Charles Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities". Find out what really happened, and when.

"The Immaculate Footception" Will Live Forever in Washington Husky Lore - Part 2

This is a story about the life of a college football team's season in only two games—one was an abject heartache, and the other an extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season, and against Arizona the Huskies witnessed "The Immaculate Footception". Find out how it happened and why.

Washington's Quick Turn Around Hits a Couple of Speed Bumps in the Road

An up and down year for the University of Washington Huskies has elevated the level of fan interest substantially at the Montlake Campus. Washington has logged some victories, some upsets and given away a couple of games. After a winless season last year, the excitement is back and building.

Jake Locker Returns - The Outlook for Washington Husky Football in 2010 Just Rose 1,000%

Whoever figured out that a great, experienced quarterback is almost a necessity for a championship team was a genius before his time. The two recent Super Bowl teams both had great quarterbacks—Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Now the University of Washington Huskies have Jake Locker back for another year to continue a tremendous re-building effort by new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

2009 Michigan State Spartan Football

Back-to-Back Winning Seasons and Bowl Appearances Say Michigan State Is Back

When Mark Dantonio became the new Michigan State University football coach two years ago, he came to the East Lansing Campus with a pedigree that shouted success is on the way. He has not disappointed the Spartan faithful. Back-to-back winning seasons and two straight bowl appearances say Michigan State is no longer a pushover. Find out why.

Michigan State Crushes Montana State, Both Sophomore Quarterbacks Look Good

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's job became harder after his Spartans polished off 1-AA Montana State, 44-3, but it also became sweeter. It became harder because 1-AA Montana State is a far cry from the opponents the Spartans will face as they work their way through Big Ten competition in the weeks ahead. It was sweeter because Dantonio's two sophomore quarterbacks—Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol—both looked good. Read the full story.

Michigan State Is Out-Coached, Out-Played and Upset 292-7 at Home by Central Michigan

Michigan State blew its chance to run the table this year by letting poor coaching and poor playing open the door for Central Michigan to upset the Spartans 29-27 on their home turf. The Spartans, a 14.5 point favorite over the Chippewas of the mid-level, Mid American Conference, will not go unbeaten this year despite getting both Michigan and Penn State and home, and not having to face Ohio State at all. Find out what went wrong.

Note to the Michigan State Spartans: Are You Starting to Slide Backwards?

Michigan State had a chance to run the table this year but blew it by losing at home 29-27 to Central Michigan. The Spartans then traveled to Notre Dame and, after trading touchdowns and field goals one too few times, lost 33-30. Now Michigan State faces Wisconsin in its Big Ten opener, and is in a whoop of trouble. Read what's not happening in Spartanland.

The Train Has Left the Station, and Michigan State Missed the Departure

When the train was ready to pull out of the station this year at East Lansing, the Michigan State University Spartans had a chance to enjoy every stop on their way to an unbeaten season. The Spartans had two of their three biggest hurdles—Michigan and Iowa—at home, and did not even have to face Ohio State. Instead of a glory ride this year, the Spartans are 4-5. Find out what happened.

The 2010 Michigan State Football Program Is in Critical Need of a Course Correction, with Some Serious Player Evaluation

When Mark Dantonio took over as head coach of the Michigan State University football program 3 years ago, no one was more excited and clapping louder than this former athlete and Michigan State graduate. It was easy to understand why. Now it is easy to understand why I am disappointed with the Spartans and their progress.

2009 College Football Feature Articles

Ed Bagley's Final Top 25 Poll for the 2009 Season

Another great college football season has come and gone. Here is my final poll for 2009, and why I rank them where I do. Die-hard fans should remember that next year's first kickoff is only 7 months away.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 14 - Guess Who's No. 1 Again

Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Oregon and Georgia all won major conference championships recently and earned key spots in 4 of the 5 upcoming, coveted BCS bowl games. Here is how their victories have changed my Top 25 Poll rankings for college football's 14th week.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 13 - 6 Upsets Scramble the Rankings

Six AP Top 25 teams can testify how dangerous road games are—all were upset during college football's 13th week of play, and 2 of the 6 will be facing off in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this week. The away losers included Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Mississippi and North Carolina. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 12 - 2 Favorites Win Big

There were 4 upsets of Top 25 teams this week but none of them mattered. What did matter were two favorites winning big with implications as Ohio State topped Michigan and Oregon outlasted Arizona. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 11 - All Unbeaten Teams Win Again

Stanford, North Carolina, Central Florida, California and Rutgers all recorded upset wins over ranked opponents in college football's 11th week of play, with the biggest upset going to 25th-ranked Stanford over 11th-ranked Southern California, 55-21. Ohio State and TCU won major victories over ranked opponents as well. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 10 - Oregon Is Moving Down Fast

Iowa, Oregon, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and California all lost ground in the AP Top 25 Poll this week. All of them also lost ground in my Top 25 Poll this week with the exception of Oklahoma—I kicked Oklahoma out of my Poll some time ago, and the Sooners will not find their way back into my Poll anytime soon. Here is how I see it this week:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 9 - Oregon Is Moving Up Fast

Oregon's 47-20 upset victory over Southern California was beyond huge this week, causing a significant shift in who is where in my Top 25 Poll for college football's 9th week of play. Here is how I see it:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 8 - It's Teetering at the Top

Alabama, Florida, Iowa, West Virginia and South Carolina all needed every ounce of effort to win games and hopefully retain their national rankings this week. Here is my Top 25 for college football's Week 8:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 7 - There Is a New No. 1

It was a good week to be Florida, Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Boise State, Iowa and TCU—all won, and all are the only unbeaten major teams left in the nation. Every one of them are beatable, the only monster thing about any of them are the college publicity departments that promote them. Here's my Top 25 for the 7th week:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 6 - Florida Remains Top Dog

Florida traveled to No. 4 LSU and its mighty defense and lukewarm offense and won 13-3. Now you know why the Gators are No. 1 and LSU will be sliding down in this poll. See the surprise newcomers in my poll.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 5 - Who Is Moving Up?

Only 13 teams remain undefeated after 5 weeks of play, and it is time to seriously think about elevating some of them into my Top 25 picks, even if they have played mostly weak competitors. Some such teams are already there—like Boise State. So here are Week 5's Top 25 picks:

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 4 - What an Upsetting Mess!

Seven upsets of Top 25 teams, and only 10 ranked teams left with unbeaten records. There are going to be a lot of changes. Here is my Top 25 list—with some thoughts—after the 4th week of the college football season. My poll is based on performance and merit—not on popularity with the teams or the media. Rankings are from the AP Poll except where noted.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 3 - Welcome, Washington!

This job is getting a little easier because the pretenders are starting to identify themselves. Here is my Top 25 list—with some thoughts—after the third week of the college football season. My poll is based on performance and merit—not popularity with the teams or the media. Find out why Washington could be a sleeper.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 2 - Let's Get This Right

This is torture. Texas, Penn State, Utah, Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech—none look as good as advertised in preseason polls by pickers who are supposed to know. That is why I started my own Top 25, to clear the air of charlatans and chameleons pretending to be something they are not.

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 1 - Well, Why Not?

Like any red-blooded, fanatical college football fan, I can be incensed when I see popular teams getting free passes in the AP Top 25 Poll, and even in the Coaches' Top 25 Poll. You know what I am talking about. Heck, I figure my opinion is just as valid as the experts because the polls are based on opinion, and not fact.

Mark Ingram Becomes the First Ever Heisman Trophy Winner for Alabama

Sophomore running back Mark Ingram has done something for the University of Alabama that no other player has ever done—bring home a Heisman Trophy for the Crimson Tide faithful. Ingram nudged out running back Toby Gerhart of Stanford in the closest vote of the award's 75-year history to become the first Alabama player to ever win the annual trophy as the best player in college football.

Last Season's Final Statistics Show How the Nation's Top Five Teams Can Be Beat

You may be interested to know that the best team in the nation statistically last year was not Florida, which won the National Championship by beating Oklahoma 24-14, but rather Southern Cal. That's right, USC. Maybe that is why Florida won; they were playing Oklahoma and not Southern Cal for the title. Get the full story.

Not Being Selected Among the Top 25 in the Preseason Coaches' Poll Is the Kiss of Death - You Have No BCS Title Shot

It is three weeks to the kick-off of the 2009 college football season, the preseason USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll is out, my favorite team is not among the top 25 teams, and has no chance to play in the national championship game. Say, what? Find out why if a team is not ranked in the top 25 poll, they will not play in the national championship game.

Exactly What Are the United States Laws in Regard to Remote Gambling Online? (Answer: Poison) - Information for Sports Buffs

Mike Nelson, an international tax attorney, is frequently asked whether a legal opinion is required by people in the European Union's 27 member states regarding their decision to participate in gambling online in the United States' market. According to Nelson, a legal opinion is highly advisable since the issue of gaming revolves around its legality within the United States, the individual 50 states, territories and possessions. Find out why.

College Football 2009 Regular Season Weekly Wrap-Up

September 8, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 1

Brigham Young, Boise State, Alabama and Oklahoma State Are Huge Week 1 Winners

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

(Ed's Note: All of the team rankings for this opening article are based on the Top 25 Preseason Coaches' Poll, and the Sagarin Ratings, Jeff Sagarin's factual, mathematical ratings among competition between all 245 Division 1 teams. There are 119 Division 1-A teams (also known as FBS - Football Bowl Subdivision - teams), and 126 Division 1-AA teams (also known as FCS – Football Championship Subdivision teams). Why the NCAA had to make referring to 1-A and 1-AA teams more complicated is beyond me; let's just say it was really unnecessary and leave it at that.)

Brigham Young, Boise State, Alabama and Oklahoma State were college football's biggest winners in the opening week of the NCAA season.

No. 20-ranked Brigham Young (BYU) used a late 4th quarter touchdown to upset No. 3-ranked Oklahoma, 14-13, and all but obliterated Oklahoma's hopes for a dream season. The Sooners, who lost to Florida 24-14 in last year's National Championship Game, returned the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner—quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford strained his throwing shoulder in the closing seconds of the first half on a hard, clean, highlight-reel hit by BYU linebacker Coleby Clawson; Bradford watched the second half from the sidelines. Bradford's backup, Landry Jones, could not get Oklahoma's offense moving enough to protect its 10-7 halftime lead.

BYU quarterback Max Hall was 26-of-38 for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns. Yes, Hall did give up 2 interceptions and he was sacked 4 times, but when it counted, he led the Cougars on a 16-play, 78-yard scoring drive that broke Oklahoma's back.

After converting on a 4th-and-4 play from the Sooners' 29 yard line, Hall completed a 7-yard TD pass to a wide-open McKay Jacobson in the back of the end zone with 3:03 remaining. BYU's victory was huge, not just because Oklahoma was ranked No. 3, but also because the Cougars won on the road.

There is no way on God's green Earth that Oklahoma should be ranked No. 3 in this week's poll, and Brigham Young should most certainly be ranked higher than No. 20.

Some fans may blame Sam Bradford for not generating enough offense in the first half because Oklahoma led the nation in scoring last year with 51+ points per game. However, Bradford did not give up BYU's go-ahead touchdown—the Oklahoma defense allowed the score, the same defense that ranked 58th in scoring defense last year.

There are reasons why Oklahoma lost the national championship to Florida last year, and the biggest reason was the Sooners' scoring defense—they were a whole lot better on offense than defense. Sooner fans do not want to accept this, but that is their problem.

BYU's victory would have gotten even bigger press if were not for No. 14-ranked Boise State's most excellent 19-8 victory at home over No. 16-ranked Oregon. The Broncos shut out Oregon in the first half, 13-0, and then made it stick in the second half.

Oregon won the sucker-punch contest thanks to the Ducks' out-of-control, 1,000-yard-plus senior running back LeGarrette Blount slugging Boise State's Byron Hout after Boise State's win, but the Broncos won the contest, and the bragging rights.

Blount was kicked off the Oregon team for the rest of the season. He has run his last handoff for the Ducks, and quite possibly blown away big bucks and an NFL career opportunity. After throwing his sucker punch, Blount apparently also slapped a teammate. Unfortunately, on his way up, Blount has apparently not figured out that mugging and thugging are street activities, and not part of college football.

Neither team played well, but the Broncos made an early-season statement about the state of the mid-level conferences.

Entering their games, both BYU from the Mountain West Conference, and Boise State from the Western Athletic Conference, are rarely mentioned in the same breath as teams from the 6 major conferences that get automatic bids to the 6 major bowl games, which includes the National Championship Game.

The 6 major conferences include the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big Ten, Pacific 10 (Pac-10), Big 12, Big East, and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Last year Utah from the Mountain West Conference ran the table with a perfect 13-0 record, and was not even considered as a worthy opponent for Florida in the National Championship Game.

Utah promptly trashed Alabama 31-17 in the BCS Sugar Bowl, and a one-loss Oklahoma got the face Florida. Oklahoma's 45-35 defeat came at the hands of another one-loss team, the Texas Longhorns, who were beaten by Texas Tech 39-33 on Michael Crabtree's great last-second TD catch. The Longhorns were upset that they were not selected to play Florida for the title.

After going 12-0, Alabama lost to Florida 31-20 in the SEC Championship Game, and then never got over it, losing badly to Utah. Had the Alabama Crimson Tide been given the chance to face Florida Gators, they would have done better; the Crimson Tide viewed Utah as half an opponent, that was Alabama's mistake.

Apparently No. 5-ranked Alabama has now recovered as the Crimson Tide rolled over the No. 7-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies 34-24 Saturday at home, scoring 18 points in the last quarter to seal the deal. The game was huge as it is rare when two Top 10 teams face off in a season opener.

The No. 9-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, who went 5-0 last year as a home favorite, picked up a great victory at home against the visiting Georgia Bulldogs, 24-10. Top ranked teams must beat other top ranked teams to climb in the polls, and Oklahoma State did just that, scoring touchdowns in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters as Georgia's offense sputtered, and its defense gave up too many points.

Now let's review some blowout victories by Top 25 and unranked teams over cupcake opponents just collecting a big paycheck for an expected defeat, and hoping they do not suffer a lot of injuries before going into league play:

No. 1 Florida by 59 points at home over 1-AA Charleston Southern, ranked 201 among 245 teams by Sagarin, 62-3.

Air Force (ranked 55) by 72 points at home over 1-AA Nicholls State, ranked 176, 72-0.

Arkansas State (ranked 119) by 61 points at home over 1-AA Mississippi Valley State, ranked 237 among 245 teams, 61-0.

Southern Mississippi (ranked 65) by 52 points at home over 1-AA Alcorn State, ranked 232 among 245 teams, 52-0.

Fresno State (ranked 71) by 51 points at home over 1-AA UC Davis (the University of California at Davis), ranked 146, 51-0.

Houston (ranked 66) by 48 points at home over 1-AA Northwestern State, ranked 178, 55-7.

Vanderbilt (ranked 54) by 45 points at home over 1-AA Western Carolina, ranked 182, 45-0.

I am personally ignoring any Top 25 or unranked team that played a 1-AA school and did not win by at least 45 points. Let some other media give them ink.

Here are some good wins by Top 25 and unranked teams:

No. 4 Southern California (USC) by 53 points at home over San Jose State, ranked 109, 56-3.

No. 12 California by 45 points at home over Maryland, ranked 45, 52-13,

No. 23 Notre Dame by 35 points at home over Nevada, ranked 77, 35-0.

No. 24 Nebraska by 46 points at home over Florida Atlantic, ranked 112, 49-3.

No. 25 Kansas by 46 points at home over Northern Colorado, ranked 198, 49-3.

Baylor (ranked 85) on the road over Wake Forest, ranked 30, 24-21. Phil Steele has Baylor as his No. 11 Most Improved Team for 2009. Phil Steele's College Football Preview has been the most accurate preseason magazine the last 10 years. The Baylor Bears were 4-8 last year. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons went 8-5 last season, and beat Navy 29-19 in the EagleBank Bowl.

Missouri (unranked by the AP and Coaches' Polls but ranked No. 18 by Sagarin) on the road over Illinois (ranked 63), 37-9. Phil Steele had Illinois as his No. 1 Most Improved Team for 2009.

Buffalo (ranked 115) on the road over Texas-El Paso (UTEP), ranked 101, 23-17. This game gets my first week attention for two reasons. One, UTEP was Phil Steele's No. 5 pick as the Most Improved Team for 2009. Two, Buffalo was a doormat for so many years, but no more. Last year the No. 12-ranked Ball State Cardinals were 12-0 when they played the Buffalo Bulls for the Mid-American Conference Championship, and were beaten by Buffalo 42-24, as the Bulls claimed their first ever conference title and earned a trip to the International Bowl.

Idaho (ranked 164), another perennial loser in recent years, on the road over New Mexico State (ranked 144), 21-6. The Idaho Vandals are getting better (they were 2-10 last year), and any Vandal victory should be cause for a huge party-down afterward.

South Carolina (ranked 31) on the road over North Carolina State, ranked 58, 7-3, in the lowest scoring game of the first weekend. South Carolina scored a TD in the 1st quarter, gave up a field goal in the 3rd quarter, and held on to win a very tough, non-conference away game. The Gamecocks victory was even sweeter because Phil Steele had the North Carolina Wolfpack as his No. 6 Most Improved Team for 2009.

So the scorecard on Phil Steele's Most Improved Team picks the first week was at least 1 on (Baylor) and 3 off (Illinois, North Carolina State and UTEP).

North Texas (ranked 165) on the road over Ball State, ranked 81, 20-10. North Texas has been another troubled program in recent years (the Mean Green have not been so mean, racking up a 1-11 record last year), so any victory should be cause for a big hoedown with a pig pickin'.

Southern Methodist University (ranked 135) at home over 1-AA Stephen F. Austin, ranked 189, 31-23. SMU gets ink here because the Mustangs have been one of the worst teams in the nation in recent years (1-11 last year), and any victory should be recognized because head coach June Jones had spectacular success at Hawaii before bolting to SMU for more of everything.

Here are some really unimpressive wins by Top 25 and unranked teams during the first week of play:

Topping the list is No. 19-ranked Utah's home victory over in-state rival Utah State, ranked 131, 35-17.The Utah Utes were 13-0 last year; the Utah State Aggies were 3-9.

No. 2 Texas at home over Louisiana-Monroe, ranked 127, 59-20. Dude, the Longhorns should have done better against last year's 4-8 Warhawk team.

No. 6 Ohio State at home over Navy, ranked 59, 31-27. The Buckeyes were outscored 13-11 in the 4th quarter by the Midshipmen, who went 8-5 last year and lost 29-19 to Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl. What is it about Ohio State Buckeyes that every year they are given a pass in the final rankings? The Buckeyes lost to Florida 41-14 in the 2006 National Championship Game, lost to LSU 38-24 in the 2007 National Championship Game, and lost to Texas 24-21 in the 2008 BCS Fiesta Bowl.

Face it, man, the Buckeyes are weak. Would you believe Ohio State was 6-6 against the spread last year, and a paltry 1-4 against the spread as a home favorite? No wonder they have fallen out of favor with the betting public.

No. 11 LSU on the road over Washington, ranked 80, 31-23. This game could have easily gotten away from the LSU Tigers. The Washington Huskies, winless last year at 0-12, are much, much better this year under new coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Take away an errant pass that led to a 29-yard touchdown by LSU's defensive unit, and a 45-yard Tiger TD pass and catch with a missed tackle that Husky free safety Greg Walker misplayed on a one-on-one, and Washington wins the game, 23-17.

Get this: Washington ran 83 plays to LSU's 48, out-gained the Tigers 478 yards to 321, and 11 Husky drives went beyond midfield and into Tiger territory. Washington hosts Idaho this Saturday; the Idaho Vandals had better be on top of their game.

No. 22 Iowa at home over 1-AA, in-state rival Northern Iowa, ranked 83, 17-16. The Iowa Hawkeyes were 9-4 last year with a 31-10 win over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The Northern Iowa Panthers were 12-3, nevertheless, the Hawkeye performance was weak.

September 15, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 2

Ohio State and Notre Dame Both Lose Big Time Games, So What Else Is New?

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

(Editor's Note: All of the team rankings are based on the Top 25 Coaches' Poll, and the Sagarin Ratings, Jeff Sagarin's factual, mathematical ratings among competition between all 245 Division 1 teams.)

Only 7 teams remained on top and on track at 2-0 during the second week of the college football season—Florida, USC, Alabama, California, Boise State, Brigham Young and Kansas.

No. 1 Florida crushed Troy 56-6 behind Tim Tebow's career-high 4 touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown.

No. 3 Southern Cal saved the best to last against No. 7 Ohio State to win, 18-15, on the road as freshman quarterback Matt Barkley led the Trojans on a 14-play, 95-yard drive to score with 1:05 remaining. The Buckeyes of Ohio State have now lost 7 straight games against top 5 teams, including two national title games and last season's 35-3 drubbing by USC in Los Angeles.

No. 4 Alabama took down Florida International 40-14 as QB Greg McElroy completed a school-record 14 straight passes. Remember that Alabama was the same school that Joe "Willie" Namath led to a National Championship in 1964, and Kenny "The Snake" Stabler led to another National Championship in 1965. Both Namath and Stabler played for the Crimson Tide's legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

No. 10 California routed Eastern Washington, 59-7, behind Jahvid Best's 144 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns, one rushing and another on a 22-yard reception.

No. 11 Boise State shut out Miami of Ohio, 48-0, as QB Kellen Moore went 16-for-26 for 307 yards and 4 touchdown passes.

No. 12 Brigham Young, following up on its 14-13 upset of Oklahoma a week earlier, kicked Tulane sideways on the road, 54-3, as QB Max Hall threw for 309 yards and 2 TDs and Bryan Kaiya scored twice.

No. 25 Kansas whipped UTEP, 34-7, on the road behind Jack Sharp's 104 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.

There were 4 genuine upsets as Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Michigan State all hit the turf hard.

No. 20 Notre Dame allowed Tate Focier to throw a 5-yard TD pass to Greg Matthews with 11 seconds to go to give unranked Michigan a 38-34 victory in the Big House at Ann Arbor. Focier, a freshman, went 23-for-33 for 240 yards, 2 TDs, one interception, and ran for 70 yards and a score. Notre Dame's star QB Jimmy Clausen, now a junior, went 25-for-42 for 336 yards and 3 TDs, but did miss some throws that proved costly.

You can argue about who was the better QB on this day, however, nothing counts but the final score, and Notre Dame again came up a loser in a big game.

After taking down Georgia last week, No. 6 Oklahoma State, a 15-point favorite, let it all slip away while losing to Houston 45-35 at home. The Cowboys need to learn how to ride again; they seem to always have more offense than defense.

UCLA quietly went to 2-0 by upsetting Tennessee on the road 19-15. The Volunteers, a 10-point favorite, are not making much of an impression in the SEC anymore.

The Michigan State Spartans, favored by 14.5, let Central Michigan totally embarrass them with a last-second 29-27 defeat on their home turf. The Spartans had an excellent schedule this year that offered them a chance to run the table (go undefeated) since they drew both Michigan and Penn State at home and did not have to play Ohio State.

Instead, Michigan State was out-coached, out-played and deserved to lose.

Five teams went 2-0 and scored good wins to cement their position as up and comers to watch:

No.18 Nebraska, favored by 21, beat Arkansas State 38-9. No. 23 Cincinnati beat 1-AA SE Missouri State 70-3. Unranked Pittsburgh, favored by 10.5, beat a good Buffalo team 54-27 on the road. Unranked Iowa beat in-state rival Iowa State 35-3 on the road.

Unranked and unbeaten Southern Methodist upset UAB 35-33, and they did it on the road. Now don't laugh at SMU, give the Mustangs and coach June Jones some credit; after all, if you are a fan of Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Rutgers or Georgia, your team is not 2-0, you are 1-1.

Another unranked team that went 0-12 last year finally won its first game in 16 tries as new head coach Steve Sarkisian and new defensive coordinator Nick Holt put together an impressive 42-23 victory over Idaho. Yes, Idaho is no big deal, but Washington is going to start winning and beating better teams than Idaho. You read it here first.

Here are 19 teams who have gone 2-0 to start the season, but their victories have been no big deal considering the competition they have been playing:

No. 2 Texas, favored by 32.5, beat Wyoming on the road 41-10, but could not cover the spread.

No. 5 Penn State, favored by 28.5, beat Syracuse 28-7, but could not cover the spread.

No. 9 LSU, favored by 14.5, beat Vanderbilt, 23-9, but could not cover the spread.

No. 17 Utah, favored by 14, beat San Jose State 24-14, but could cover the spread.

No. 19 North Carolina, favored by 4.5, needed 12 last quarter points to barely beat Connecticut 12-10, but could not cover the spread.

No. 24 Oregon State, favored by 7, beat UNLV 23-21, but could not cover the spread.

So seriously, why are Texas, Penn State, LSU, Utah, North Carolina and Oregon State rated so high? Answer: Do not ask anyone who bet on them to not only win, but cover the spread.

Here are the other 13 teams that are 2-0 in no particular order because frankly, it is too soon to tell if they are really good at all:

Missouri over Bowling Green 27-20, Tulsa over New Mexico 44-10, Hawaii over Washington State 38-20, Auburn over Mississippi State 49-24, South Florida over Western Kentucky 35-13, West Virginia over East Carolina 35-20, Texas Tech over Rice 55-10, Boston College over Kent State 34-7, Minnesota over Air Force 20-13, Southern Mississippi over the University of Central Florida (UCF) 26-19, and Northwestern over Eastern Michigan 27-24.

Also Arizona over 1-AA Northern Arizona 34-17, and Colorado State needed a 4th quarter touchdown to beat 1-AA Weber State 24-23.

Here are 5 teams that won their first game, but really need to play a good team and win to think they are doing anything worth talking about:

No. 14 Oklahoma beat 1-AA Idaho State 64-0, No. 16 TCU beat Virginia 30-14, No. 21 Georgia barely beat South Carolina 41-37, Virginia Tech beat Marshall 52-10, and Rutgers beat 1-AA Howard 45-7.

Every week in college football there are games and victories that cause you to do a double take when you read the score and check out the teams. Here are 3 from this week:

Toledo beat Colorado 54-38 at home, dropping the Buffaloes to 0-2. This caused me to wonder if there have been sinkholes developing in the State of Colorado. Much more and the Buffaloes will fall off the radar screen. Maryland needed an overtime to barely beat 1-AA James Madison 38-35. Louisiana Lafayette upset Kansas State 17-15.

Put a wrap on it Benny, and throw it in the archives; it 's time to get ready for college football's third week of competition.

September 23, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up - Week 3

Dream Season Ends for Southern Cal, Brigham Young, Utah and Georgia Tech

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and the ratings are from Jeff Sagarin. Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll is just as subjective as the AP Poll or the Coaches' Poll, but my poll is just so much more fun to read.)

The great difference why watching college football games is so much more enjoyable than watching pro football is not because it is exciting—heck, pro football can be exciting too—it's because college football is much more unpredictable. College football's third week of action is an excellent example.

The fortunes of four teams—Southern California, Brigham Young, Utah and Georgia Tech—changed dramatically after losing this week.

Third-ranked USC, which beat San Jose State 56-3 at home and Ohio State 18-15 away in its first two games, flew north to Seattle and lost 16-13 to a Washington Husky team that was 0-12 last season. The Trojans lost because Steve Sarkisian, Washington's energetic new head coach, and Nick Holt, Washington's excitable new defensive coordinator, played key roles for USC last season; Sarkisian was offensive coordinator for the Trojans and Holt was the defensive coordinator.

Washington started its season by playing hard and losing to 9th-ranked Louisiana State, 31-24, before knocking off Idaho 42-23 to record its first win in 16 games. The Huskies now believe they can win and, believe you me, USC now knows they can get embarrassed by a team that believes they can win.

Washington's Huskies were rewarded for their effort by jumping into the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 24. USC dropped from 3rd to 12th in the same AP Poll. Washington's Sagarin rating also jumped 39 places in 7 days—from 63 to 24.

Seventh-ranked Brigham Young started its season by upsetting Oklahoma 14-13, and then trashed Tulane, 54-3. Unfortunately, unranked Florida State, which managed to get beaten by Miami (FL) 38-34 in its opener at home, and then slip by lowly Jacksonville State 19-9 at home, traveled to BYU and stung the Cougars, 54-28. BYU dropped to 19th the AP Poll.

Eighteenth-ranked Utah, which was the only undefeated major college football team last year at 13-0, slipped by Utah State 35-17 and San Jose State 24-14 before traveling to unranked Oregon and getting upset, 31-24.

Fourteenth-ranked Georgia Tech opened its season by looking unimpressive with a win over lowly Jacksonville State 37-17, and barely getting past Clemson 30-27, but found the going much tougher against No. 20 Miami (FL), losing 33-17. The Yellow Jackets dropped right out of the AP Poll, and Miami rocketed up from 20th to 9th.

Unpredictable? You bet. The chances of USC, BYU, Utah or Georgia Tech playing in the National Championship Game this year are probably nil; all of them were undefeated last week.

Here are 11 ranked teams that won and are now 3-0 and moving on:

No. 1 Florida at home over SEC opponent Tennessee 23-13. No. 2 Texas at home over Texas Tech 34-24; Texas Tech was the only team to beat Texas last year. No. 4 Alabama at home over lowly, 124th-ranked North Texas, 53-7. No. 5 Penn State at home over lowly, 125th-ranked Temple, 31-6. No. 8 California on-the-road over Minnesota, 35-21. No. 9 LSU at home over in-state rival LA-Lafayette, 31-3. No. 10 Boise State on-the-road over Fresno State, 51-34.

No. 17 Cincinnati on-the-road over Oregon State, 28-18. No. 22 Kansas at home over Duke, 44-16. No. 24 North Carolina at home over in-state rival East Carolina, 31-17. No. 25 Michigan at home over in-state rival Eastern Michigan, 45-17.

Six other ranked teams won. No. 5 Mississippi (now 2-0 and tied with Penn State at No. 5) at home beat lowly, 167th-ranked, 1-AA Southeastern Louisiana, 52-6; and TCU (now 2-0) at home beat lowly, 137th-ranked, 1-AA Texas State San Marcos, 56-21. No. 11 Ohio State on-the-road over No. 105-ranked Toledo, 38-0.

No. 12 Oklahoma, after being upset by BYU 14-13 in its opener, is trying to win back votes with shutouts over #178th-ranked Idaho State 64-0, and now Tulsa, 45-0. No. 16 Oklahoma State (now 2-1) at home over winless, 155th-ranked Rice, 41-24. No. 23 Georgia (now 2-1) on-the-road over Arkansas in a really ugly win, 52-41.

The Georgia-Arkansas game was almost as bad as Notre Dame's home victory over Michigan State, 33-30. All four of these teams are not that good, and you can tell that by the scores—none of them have a defense worth talking about at the moment. They could all get better in future weeks, but right now none of them are nearly as good as advertised.

Nine other unranked teams quietly went to 3-0 this week, any or all of them could keep winning and move into the AP Top 25 Poll soon. They include:

Southern Mississippi at home barely over Virginia, 37-34. Colorado State at home over Nevada, 35-20. Pittsburgh at home over Navy, 27-14. Iowa at home over Arizona, 27-17. Auburn at home over West Virginia, 41-30. UCLA at home over Kansas State, 23-9. Wisconsin at home over 102nd-ranked, 1-AA Wofford, 44-14. Missouri at home over 120th-ranked, 1-AA Furman, 52-12. South Florida at home over lowly, 162nd-ranked, 1-AA Charleston Southern, 59-0.

Seven teams should not have been on the same field with their opponent this week because absolutely none of them had any real chance of winning. They included North Texas, Temple, Eastern Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas State San Marcos, Rice, and Charleston Southern.

The biggest winner of the week? It's the Washington Huskies, hands down. Their 16-13 victory over No. 3 USA ranks as the greatest upset by Washington's football program in school history. Washington just may become the biggest surprise of the season.

September 28, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 4

Seven Upsets Turn Top 25 Poll into a Scramble With Few Survivors

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and any ratings are from Jeff Sagarin. Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll is just as subjective as the AP Poll or the Coaches' Poll, but my poll is just so much more fun to read.)

No win in College Football's 4th week of action was any bigger than unranked Iowa's 21-10 upset victory on-the-road over 5th-ranked Penn State in Happy Valley. Iowa is now unbeaten at 4-0.

The Hawkeyes ruined the Nittany Lions perfect 9-0 season last year with a 24-23 victory at home, and proved it was no fluke this year on Penn State's turf. If there are any doubters left in Happy Valley this year, they have to be homers in blinders. The Penn State Nittany Lions are always overrated in the polls because they only play a couple of good teams a year, and Iowa happens to be one of them.

Not far behind for upset-game-of-the-week honors were the unranked South Florida Bulls, who took down 18th-ranked Florida State on-the-road, 17-7, pushing the Bulls' record to 4-0. The third best upset of the week was 11th-ranked Virginia Tech's home victory over 9th-ranked Hurricanes of Miami (FL), 31-7.

Two other not unexpected upsets came at the expense of the 4th-ranked Mississippi Rebels, who were beaten 16-10 at unranked South Carolina, and the 6th-ranked California Bears, who were beaten 42-3 at unranked Oregon. Please stop all of the pre-season hype about Mississippi this and California that; Mississippi remains not that good at the moment, and California always folds, the Bears just may be starting to fold early this year because 42-3, even in an away game, is some whipping.

The last 2 of 7 upsets of AP Top 25 teams this week came with unranked Georgia Tech's 24-7 home victory over 22nd-ranked North Carolina, and unranked Stanford's 34-14 home win over 24th-ranked Washington. The Huskies dropped right out of the Top 25 Poll and Stanford (3-1) never made it in.

So who else among unranked teams is acting like they belong in the Top 25? How about these three 4-0 teams: Missouri beat Nevada 31-21 on-the-road, Auburn beat Ball State 54-30 at home, and Wisconsin beat Michigan State 38-30 at home. Or perhaps the 3-0 Texas A&M Aggies, who beat UAB 56-19 at home.

Eight ranked teams kept moving right on, pushing their records to 4-0. They included 1st-ranked Florida on-the-road over Kentucky 41-7; 2nd-ranked Texas at home over UTEP 64-7; 3rd ranked Alabama at home over Arkansas 35-7; 7th-ranked LSU on-the-road over Mississippi State 30-26; 8th-ranked Boise State on-the-road over Bowling Green 49-14; 14th-ranked Cincinnati at home over Fresno State 28-20; 20th-ranked Kansas at home over Southern Mississippi 35-28; and 23rd-ranked Michigan at home over Indiana 36-33.

Two other ranked teams pushed their record to 3-0 as 15th-ranked TCU won at Clemson 14-10, and 17th-ranked Houston won at home over Texas Tech, 29-28.

Among the 10 ranked teams still with unbeaten records, 5 notched victories by a touchdown or less—Kansas by 7, LSU and TCU by 4, Michigan by 3 and Houston by 1. Compare that to the other 5 who won by 8 or more—Texas by 57, Boise State by 35, Florida by 34, Alabama by 28 and Cincinnati by 8. Now you know who is more focused and who is less focused when it comes to execution.

Five other ranked teams who have already been beaten once continued to stay noticed by winning again. They included 13th-ranked Ohio State at home giving Illinois a lesson in how to score a shutout 30-0; 19-ranked BYU at home over Colorado State, 42-23; 21st-ranked Georgia at home over Arizona State 20-17; 16th-ranked Oklahoma State at home over 1-AA Grambling State 56-6; and 12th-ranked Southern California at home over Washington State 27-6.

There were 5 notable wins that have nothing to do with ranked teams or upsets. They included Boston College at home over Wake Forest 27-24 in overtime; Tulsa on-the-road over 1-AA Houston State 56-3, a score the Golden Hurricane had after 3 quarters; Idaho on-the-road over Northern Illinois 34-31, even though Idaho was outscored 15-6 in the last quarter; Central Michigan at home over Akron 48-21 as the Chippewas scored at least a touchdown in every quarter; Utah at home over Louisville 30-14; and Notre Dame on-the-road over Purdue 24-21.

There was also one notable loss that had nothing to do with ranked teams or upsets—Pittsburgh lost on-the-road to North Carolina State, 38-31, as NC State outscored Pitt 14-0 in the last quarter. In other words, the Pitt defense collapsed and the Panthers lost for the first time this year.

That's it, that's all, Johnny, put a wrapper on it, we're going for a cold brewski.

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the validity of your comments. I welcome your comments.)

October 6, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 5

Only a Baker's Dozen of Teams Still Remain Undefeated After Five Weeks

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Only 13 among the 120 major teams remain undefeated after the 5th week of a 16-week college football season. They are Florida, Texas, Alabama, LSU, Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU, Iowa, Kansas, Auburn, South Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin.

On the flip side, only 7 teams have yet to win a game--Rice, New Mexico, Eastern Michigan, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky and Miami (OH). So, with tongue in cheek, 20 teams still have perfect records--13 are excellent and 7 are terrible.

Considering that most teams are now playing a 12-game season, we have passed the one-third mark to the finish. Many fans may have thought that Virginia Tech, USC, Ohio State, BYU, Oklahoma and even Mississippi might still be unbeaten. Not so.

The biggest upset of the week belonged to the 123rd-ranked University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Miners who outlasted and outplayed the 12th-ranked Houston Cougars, 58-41, in a barn-burner of competitive excitement. With the score tied at 17 in the first half, Houston quit too early as UTEP won the 2nd half 41-24.

Coach Mike Price's Miners could only muster 53 yards of total offense in losing 64-7 to 2nd-ranked Texas last week on-the-road, but arose from the humiliation to amass 581 yards of offense at home. Donald Buckram picked up 262 yards rushing and scored 4 TDs. UTEP really found its mojo in the second half, putting 20 points on the board in the 3rd quarter and 21 in the 4th.

Houston's high-powered offense—led by quarterback Case Keenum with 536 passing yards and 5 touchdowns—could not keep up with UTEP on the scoreboard. The loss was the Cougars' first after scoring 55, 45 and 29 points in their first 3 victories; unfortunately, this was bound to happen because Houston has 11 players on defense, they just don't play good defense, giving up an average of 32 points per game.

If Houston coach Kevin Sumlin ever decides to hire a good defensive coordinator and recruit some defensive players, Houston will become a much more important player against quality competition.

The second biggest upset saw 17th-ranked Miami (FL) get over last week's 31-7 away loss to 6th-ranked Virginia Tech by returning home to beat 8th-ranked Oklahoma 21-20. The Hurricanes led 21-17 after 3 quarters and managed to hold the Sooners to a field goal in the last quarter to win.

Unranked Michigan State, which has looked terrible with 3 losses in the last 3 weeks, defended its turf successfully by upending 22nd-ranked Michigan 26-20 in overtime. The loss was the first for the Wolverines, who were behind 10-6 at the half but managed to send the game into OT at 20-20. The Spartans' true freshman tailback Larry Caper scampered 23 yards, eluding at least 2 tacklers on the way, to score the winning touchdown for Michigan State.

Whoever said it's so hard to win victories on the road forgot to tell the majority of quality teams. Of the 12 ranked teams playing away games this week, only 3--Oklahoma, Houston and Michigan--lost while 9 won. The winners included:

Third-ranked Alabama beat Kentucky 38-20; 4th-ranked LSU needed two touchdowns in the last 2:53 of the game to nip 18th-ranked Georgia 20-13; and 6th-ranked Virginia Tech managed to get by a 97th-ranked Duke team 34-26, a very unimpressive victory despite being on-the-road. Giving up 26 points to Duke is like taking your sister to the senior prom. Seventh-ranked Southern California ripped apart the 24th-ranked California Bears, 30-3; the Bears seem to fold every season, and sometimes even this early.

Ninth-ranked Ohio State traveled to Indiana and won 33-14. Apparently they still play football at Indiana, but with the Hoosiers, it is sometimes hard to tell. Tenth-ranked Cincinnati got by 150th-ranked and winless (you read it right) Miami of OH, 37-13. Another less than impressive performance by a highly-ranked team. Fifteenth-ranked Penn State beat 85th-ranked Illinois 35-17; at least the Nittany Lions were not playing a 1-AA school this week.

Twenty-first-ranked Mississippi, the most-hyped new "good" team of the season, put down 77th-ranked Vanderbilt, 23-7; the score was 23-7 after the 3rd quarter, both teams decided to walk through the 4th quarter, saving some energy for party-time later. Twenty-fifth-ranked Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State 42-31, showing that Top 25 teams can give up way too many points to an opponent and still win with very little effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball.

Five other ranked teams scored home victories. They included 11th-ranked TCU over 117th-ranked SMU 39-14; 16th-ranked Oregon over inept, hapless 101st-ranked Washington State, 52-6—Oregon led 42-0 at the half, showered early and still won by 46; and 20th-ranked BYU had an unimpressive win over 119th-ranked Utah State 35-17.

Fifth-ranked Boise State notched a ridiculous 34-16 victory over 139th-ranked, 1-AA University of California at Davis (UC Davis), another part of the Broncos' cream puff (some say powder puff) schedule. The 13th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, who upset 5th-ranked Penn State 21-10 in an away game last week, had the feared letdown and just got by 125th-ranked Arkansas State, 24-21. The Hawkeye defense, apparently plumb tuckered out from their effort at Happy Valley, let Arkansas State score 14 points in the last quarter to make it too close. Without a 4th quarter field goal, Iowa would have gone into overtime.

Three unranked teams went 5-0 in their bid to get into the AP Top 25 Poll. They included Wisconsin on-the-road over Minnesota 31-28, South Florida on-the-road over 95th-ranked Syracuse 34-20, and Auburn over Tennessee 26-22.

Eight other 4-1 unranked teams continued to win. Notre Dame had to go to overtime at home to turn back Washington, 37-30, marking the 3rd consecutive game that the Fighting Irish have won in the last 60 seconds. They don't call the Irish lucky for nothing. Idaho, ranked 89th, beat visiting Colorado State, ranked 62nd, 31-29. Boston College beat Florida State 28-21 at home.

Pittsburgh traveled to Louisville and won 35-10; the Central Michigan Chippewas traveled to Buffalo and beat the 127th-ranked Bulls 20-13; South Carolina won at home over 158th-ranked, in-state rival 1-AA South Carolina State 38-14; and Tulsa traveled to Rice and beat the inept, hapless, winless Owls 27-10. Owls don't eat rice, they are just apparently called the Rice Owls; maybe they are smart birds who don't win a lot.

Stanford also beat visiting UCLA 24-16 to go 4-1.

Six Top 25 teams were idle this week—No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Texas, No. 12 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Kansas, No. 23 Missouri and No. 24 Nebraska.

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and any ratings are from Jeff Sagarin. Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll is just as subjective as the AP Poll or the Coaches' Poll, but my poll is just so much more fun to read.)

October 13, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 6

Florida Stays No. 1, Beats LSU 13-3, Four More Teams Suffer Their First Loss

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Florida started the season as the No. 1 pick in the AP Top 25 Poll and will remain No. 1 for the 7th straight week after beating the No. 4 Louisiana State Tigers in Baton Rouge, 13-3, in this season's biggest match-up featuring two Top 5 teams.

The Gators' swarming defense silenced the Tiger crowd to win their 15th consecutive game, the longest current win streak among major schools, and LSU had its 32-game winning streak in Saturday night games snapped. LSU, ranked last in the SEC in total offense coming into the game, never got untracked and could muster only 162 yards.

Tim Tebow, the heart of Florida's offense and former Heisman Trophy winner, returned after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Tebow's presence helped assure the Gators that they would remain on top with a top effort. LSU started the game with a perfect 5-0 mark and ended it with a 5-1 record. Florida remains unbeaten at an overall 5-0 and sits on top of the SEC's East Division.

Three other Top 25 teams lost their first game this week—Auburn, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Unranked Arkansas hosted and upset 17th-ranked Auburn, 44-23, as Michael Smith rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, and the Razorbacks raced to a 34-3 lead before sticking a fork in the Tigers. Now it can be confirmed that Auburn was a really suspect Top 25 choice since its first 5 victories came against teams with a combined 9-14 record.

Arkansas is now 3-2 and full of spit and vinegar; the Razorbacks other two wins have come against 149th-ranked, 1-AA Missouri State and 63rd-ranked Texas A&M. Big deal? I think not. Arkansas is not that good and neither is Auburn.

No. 21 Nebraska hit the road and took the measure of No. 24 Missouri, 27-12, handing the Tigers their first defeat. It was simply not a good week for Tiger teams as LSU, Auburn and Missouri all lost for the first time in College Football's Week 6. Missouri, which had a 12-0 shutout after 3 quarters, quit too early and celebrated as Nebraska won the 4th quarter 27-0, and the game.

Should Missouri have been in the Top 25? As the Hertz rental ad says, not exactly. The Tigers built their 4-0 record on teams with a combined 6-12 record, and that includes 1-AA Furman, that raging powerhouse from South Carolina.

No. 9 Ohio State hosted Wisconsin and cost the Badgers their first loss, 31-13, before sending them back to Wisconsin. The Badgers were at least unranked, even with a 5-0 record coming into the always screaming, always sold-out 101,000-plus-seat horseshoe stadium in Columbus.

A much more significant victory came from No. 3 Alabama as the Crimson Tide took its record to 6-0 with an away victory over 20th-ranked Mississippi, 22-3. The Tide led 19-zip after 3 quarters. Can we now stop all of the preseason publicity about Mississippi this and Mississippi that? The Rebels' hot shot quarterback—Jevan Snead—continued his mission to greatness by throwing 4 interceptions.

Ole Miss is now 3-2 and one croak away from sliding into a swamp. Should Mississippi even be in the Top 25? Nah, the Rebels have some real proving to do.

Other ranked teams with away victories this week included:

No. 10 TCU over Air Force 20-17. Without a 4th quarter field goal, TCU would have gone into overtime. No. 13 Oregon continued its momentum by beating UCLA 24-10. No. 15 Oklahoma State outlasted Texas A&M to win again with another lame performance, 36-31. If Oklahoma State keeps giving up 31 points a game, they are not going to keep winning for long.

No. 18 Brigham Young topped UNLV 59-21. No. 22 Georgia Tech just made it by Florida State 49-44 in a shootout. BYU is now 5-1 and Florida State 4-2; one could easily argue that Georgia Tech is better than BYU, and may well prove so before the season is over.

Ranked teams with home victories included:

No. 2 Texas over Colorado 30-28 after Colorado led 14-10 at the half. Colorado is now 1-5 with their only win over Wyoming. Texas has played no one so far this season. After Oklahoma next, the Longhorns play no one really significant through the end of the season. Texas should win a lot of games and there will be no evidence to show that they should play in the National Championship Game this year.

No. 5 Virginia Tech beat up Boston College 48-14. No. 11 Miami (FL) stomped 1-AA Florida State 48-16. Big whoop. No. 12 Iowa had an unimpressive 30-28 win over Michigan. Another big whoop; Iowa should have won by at least 2 touchdowns at home, nonetheless, Iowa's 5-0 mark is the Hawkeyes best start since 1985. No. 14 Penn State kicked around 152nd-ranked, 1-AA Eastern Illinois; boy, those tough Nittany Lions really know how to charm some cream puffs.

No. 16 Kansas took all afternoon to finally beat Iowa State 41-36. Kansas gave up 36 points to a team that is 3-3. You have to ask yourself, even at 5-0, why should they be ranked so high? The Jayhawks compiled their unbeaten record against teams with a combined 8-12 record, including the 187th-ranked, 1-AA Northern Colorado powerhouse (1-4) from the Rockies. Kansas may be unbeaten, but they are hardly good.

No. 19 Oklahoma beat Baylor 33-7. No. 25 South Carolina just nudged by Kentucky 28-26, a team that Florida beat 41-7; that's why Florida is No. 1 and South Carolina No. 25. At least the Gamecocks scored a touchdown in each quarter against Kentucky.

Three 5-1 teams that are still looking for recognition and respect won again. Central Michigan whipped Eastern Michigan 56-8; Central Michigan is the worst 1-A team in the nation, currently ranked 164th by Sagarin (there are only 120 teams in 1-A football). Idaho on-the-road (yes, Idaho, don't laugh) beat San Jose State 29-25.

Pittsburgh, behind 21-13 after 3 quarters at home, won the 4th quarter 11-0 to beat Connecticut, 24-21.

There were at least 3 other notable wins. After 3 straight losses to Central Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin by a combined 13 points, Michigan State evened its record at 3-3 by beating Illinois 24-14 on-the-road.

At 4-1, Stanford looked like the second best team in the Pac 10 behind USC, but Oregon State reminded them of why it is tough to beat the Beavers at home, upsetting The Cardinal 38-28. All bets in the Pac 10 race are now off as Oregon is 3-0, Stanford 3-1 and 3 teams are 2-1—Southern Cal, Oregon State and Washington (yes, the same Washington that was 0-12 last year).

Speaking of Huskies, Washington let Arizona into the red zone at least 8 times and was behind 33-21 at home with 4:22 left. Jake Locker engineered a drive with a 25-yard TD strike to Kavario Middleton with 2:55 left and then a miracle happened.

On the ensuing play after the kickoff, Arizona's Nick Foles threw another bubble screen pass to Delashaun Dean that was short and behind the receiver. The ball bounced off of his foot and into the air, was promptly intercepted by Husky linebacker Mason Foster and he turned around and rambled 37 yards into the end zone to put Washington ahead, 34-33 with 2:37 remaining.

Jake Locker then completed a 2-point conversion to Jermaine Kearse to make it 36-33. The Husky defense, which had given up 461 yards to Arizona, then suddenly got ugly. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim sacked Nick Foles for a 6-yard loss, and true freshman cornerback Desmond Trufant intercepted Foles' 4th down attempt to put the Wildcats away.

Washington, twice a dog at home against Southern Cal and Arizona, has shown it is all about playing hard for 60 minutes, finding a way to win, finishing off an opponent and having fun doing it.

Washington's miracle play brought back great memories of "The Immaculate Reception" during a 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Late in the game a Pittsburgh receiver was hit hard as he tried to make a catch, the ball was deflected and just before it hit the ground, it was caught by Franco Harris, who picked it out of the air and then ran it in for the touchdown that won the game for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh had struggled for 4 decades to win a playoff game, and The Immaculate Reception—called by NFL films as the greatest play of all time—led to the Steelers eventually winning 4 Super Bowls before the end of the decade.

Could something special be happening at the Montlake Campus of the University of Washington Huskies? Count on it, miracles do not happen often, especially on football fields. Washington, you will recall, upset then No. 3-ranked Southern Cal 16-13 earlier in the season.

Six bottom feeders remained winless by losing this week—Ball State, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, Rice, New Mexico and Western Kentucky. Florida International got the monkey off of its back by beating Western Kentucky 37-20—go Golden Panthers (that's the nickname of FIU, which few would know except those folks who live east of the Mississippi River).

Top 25 teams that were idle this week included No. 6 Boise State, No. 7 Southern Cal, No. 10 Cincinnati and No. 24 South Florida.

That's it, that's all, Smokey, put a wrap on it.

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and any ratings are from Jeff Sagarin. Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll is just as subjective as the AP Poll or the Coaches' Poll, but my poll is just so much more fun to read.)

October 21, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 7

Kansas, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Nebraska All Get Exposed as Frauds

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Just when you thought some sense of stability might have returned to college football during the halfway point of the season, any semblance belies the truth that at least four more teams have become frauds in the national title chase—Kansas, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Nebraska.

Kansas had raced to a perfect 5-0 start. Virginia Tech lost its opener, Ohio State lost its second game, and Nebraska lost its third game. All three had lost a game and won the rest to enter the sixth week with only a loss.

All four of these teams have now been drop-kicked out of the race for the national title, and the worst of the bunch is the Kansas Jayhawks who were not only drop-kicked but body slammed by an unranked, 1-4 Colorado team 34-30.

How could the Jayhawks, who were touted as one of the best offensive teams in the country, get beaten by Colorado when Kansas ranked 4th nationally in scoring offense?

The truth is that Kansas built its 5-0 record and statistics on a sand castle that got washed away on a trip to Boulder. The Jayhawks amassed their perfect mark with wins against 195th–ranked, 1-AA Northern Colorado (1-5), 116th-ranked UTEP (2-4), 64th-ranked Duke (3-3), 76th-ranked Southern Mississippi (3-3), and 80th-ranked Iowa State (3-3).

Kansas came into the game ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 Poll, but 29th by Sagarin and with a strength of schedule rated 129th among only 120 Division 1-A teams, meaning that Kansas' 5 victories came against teams that amounted to 1-AA competition. No wonder they were 5-0. Colorado came in with a strength of schedule (SOS) rating of 33rd among the 120 1-A teams.

Kansas plummeted to 24th in this week's AP Top 25 Poll and really should not be in any top 25 poll. After being exposed for what they are, the Jayhawks do not merit the honor. It would make about as much sense at putting Colorado in the top 25 for beating them. The message is: neither team is that good.

Second worst on this week's list of frauds is the 7th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, who seem to be over-rated and under-performed. The Buckeyes traveled to Purdue and lost 26-18 to a 2-5 Boilermaker team. Again, Purdue's SOS was 23rd and Ohio State's was 37th. No. 4-ranked Virginia Tech got beat by 19th-ranked Georgia Tech 28-23 on-the-road. These were two pretty good teams in a dogfight and the Yellow Jackets stung the Hoakies. Georgia Tech is now 6-1 and Virginia Tech 5-2.

No. 15 Nebraska got swamped at home by unranked Texas Tech 31-10. The Cornhuskers dropped to 4-2, and Red Raiders one-upped them by going to 5-2. If any of these four losers this week have not figured it out, here is a big clue—no national title game in your future. Concentrate on trying to win your conference championship because it is the only one you are going to see.

So if some teams are now dropping in the top 25, who is on the move upward? Here are five unranked winning teams that are possibilities:

Pittsburgh (6-1) on-the-road over Rutgers 24-7, Central Michigan (6-1) on-the-road over Western Michigan 34-23, West Virginia (5-1) at home over Marshall 24-7, Idaho (6-1) over Hawaii 35-23, and Michigan State (4-3) at home over Northwestern 24-14. No matter how crummy you think these five teams may be, if they keep winning, each will end up in the top 25 before the season is over—you can go to the bank on it.

In the meantime, eight ranked teams won away games this week; topping the list was Cincinnati.

No. 8 Cincinnati (6-0) handed No. 21 South Florida its first loss of the season, 34-17. Cincinnati scored in each quarter, leaving South Florida to wonder what was happening.

No. 6 Southern California powered up and powered over No. 25 Notre Dame 34-27. No. 24 Utah ripped UNLV 35-15, No. 9 Miami (FL) won against in-state rival Central Florida 27-7, and Brigham Young outlasted San Diego State, 38-28, in a game in which each team scored at least a touchdown in all four quarters. And, oh yah, No. 6 Boise State (6-0) won another lame victory, this time over Tulsa 28-21.

No. 11 Iowa (7-0) was tied 10-10 against Wisconsin after three quarters and then won 20-10. No. 23 Houston was back on the offensive. After leading hapless Tulane 9-6 at the half, the Cougars exploded for 35 points in the second half to win 44-16.

No. 10 LSU and No. 16 Oregon were idle this week.

Six ranked teams once again discovered why there is no place like home to win again.

No. 3 Texas (6-0) used a 4th quarter field goal to get by No. 20 Oklahoma 16-13, No. 1 Florida (6-0) used a last second field goal to dispense with Arkansas 23-20, No. 14 Penn State shut out Minnesota 20-zip, No. 12 TCU (6-0) trashed Colorado State 44-6, No. 16 Oklahoma State topped Missouri 33-17, and No. 2 Alabama (7-0) eased by No. 22 South Carolina 20-6.

It was a good week to be Florida, Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Boise State, Iowa and TCU—all won, and all are the only unbeaten major teams left in the nation.

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and any ratings are from Jeff Sagarin.)

October 26, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 8

Alabama and Florida Barely Win, 12 Others Put on Muscle Shirts and Strut Their Stuff

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

There was only one real upset in college football's 8th week of play as 12 of the 20 top-ranked teams put on their muscle shirts and showed what they have, a sure sign that teams have begun to stabilize for their last 4 games.

Only 21st-ranked Texas Tech was caught flat-footed at home by unranked Texas A&M, 52-30. The Red Raiders (now 5-3) were favored by 22 and lost by 22, a 44-point negative swing that sent Texas Tech reeling. The Texas A&M Aggies meant business, piling up a 38-22 lead after 3 quarters, and then outscoring the Red Raiders 14-8 in the 4th quarter.

Texas A&M was trounced 62-14 last week by Kansas State and decided to take it out on Texas Tech. The high score was no real surprise; both teams came in as scoring machines—Tech was ranked 2nd nationally at 41 ppg, and A&M was 19th at 33 ppg. A&M piled up 559 yards of offense and Tech 520; the contest was strictly offensive with a combined 1,079 yards of offense. Exciting, but not good football.

One other upset occurred when unranked Clemson hung in and hung on for a 40-37 overtime upset of 8th-ranked Miami (FL) on the Hurricanes' home field. Miami (now 5-2) was favored 5. Kyle Parker threw a 26-yard scoring strike to Jacoby Ford to win the game. It was big deal for Clemson because the Tigers have been toothless for some time. The win was Clemson's first in 9 tries over ranked teams, and its first win over a Top 10 foe in more than 8 years.

Here are the 7 of 12 teams that put on their muscle shirts looking for more BCS poll support by dominating their opponents in away games:

No. 3-ranked Texas (7-0) over Missouri 41-7, 6th-ranked Boise State (7-0) over Hawaii 54-9, 10th-ranked Texas Christian (7-0) over Brigham Young 38-7 (TCU was favored by 2.5 and won by 31), 11th-ranked Georgia Tech (7-1) over Virginia 34-9, 13th-ranked Penn State (7-1) over Michigan 35-10, 14th-ranked Oklahoma State (6-1) over Baylor 34-7, and 25th-ranked Oklahoma (4-3) over 24th-ranked Kansas 35-13 (this was not an upset as the Sooners were favored by 8 an won by 22).

Three other away game victories by ranked teams were less dominating.

No. 2-ranked Florida (7-0) led Mississippi State 16-13 after 3 quarters and then outscored the Bulldogs 13-6 in the final quarter to win 29-19. The victory was Florida's 17th straight, the nation's longest winning streak. Gator Tim Tebow threw two interceptions for touchdowns; Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks ran one back for 100 yards and another for 20 yards.

No. 7-ranked Iowa (8-0) used a last play 7-yard TD pass by Ricky Stanzi to Marvin McNutt to come-from-behind against Michigan State 15-13. The Spartans had successfully defended 3 downs and led 13-9 before the last play. Iowa has now won 12 straight dating back to last season, the second-longest streak in the nation.

The Hawkeyes are becoming a bigger deal nationally because they have won more close games than a pack of termites at a timber feast. Seven of their 8 victories have been by 11 or fewer points, including 1, 2 and 3-point victories over Northern Iowa, Michigan and Arkansas. Last year Iowa lost 4 games by a combined total of 12 points. The Hawkeye defense has 15 interceptions this year and 9 fumble recoveries.

No. 14-ranked Oregon (6-1) got a lot of help from Washington in its 43-19 victory, which might have appeared more dominate than it actually was. The Huskies managed to let a rusher go untouched on a punt attempt that was blocked and resulted in a loose ball in the end zone that Oregon recovered for a TD. While Washington was rushing to get into position for the extra point, the holder ran it in for a 2-point conversion.

Another Husky drive that should have been a touchdown became a field goal, and another Husky drive ended at 2nd-and-goal and Washington could not get it in as Jake Locker threw an interception on 4th down and the Huskies came away with nothing. Oregon would rush for 259 yards and Washington could not stop them.

Here are the 5 of 12 teams that put on their muscle shirts looking for more BCS poll support by dominating their opponents in home games:

No. 5-ranked Cincinnati (7-0) over Louisville 41-10, 9th-ranked Louisiana State (6-1) over Auburn 31-10, 17th-ranked Houston (6-1) over Southern Methodist 38-15 (Houston led 31-3 after 3 quarters), 18th-ranked Ohio State (6-2) over Minnesota 38-7, and 20th-ranked Pittsburgh (7-1) over South Florida 41-14.

Five other home game victories by ranked teams were less dominating.

Least impressive was 1st-ranked Alabama's block of a 44-yard field goal on the last play of the game by the Tide's 350-pound nose guard Terrence Cody to preserve a 12-10 lead and victory over the unranked 3-4 Tennessee Volunteers. The blocked field goal by Cody, now dubbed "Mount Cody", was his second of the game. The Crimson Tide (now 8-0)came into the game ranked No. 1 in total defense; Alabama's offense, which averaged 34 points a game coming in, got all of its points on 4 field goals by Leigh Tiffin, including a 49-yarder and a 50-yarder.

No. 4-ranked Southern California was lucky to get by the unranked 4-3 Oregon State Beavers. A 63-yard punt return by Damian Williams in the 4th quarter and a late drive that bailed out the USC defense saved the day as the Trojans outlasted the Beavers, 42-36. Southern Cal came in ranked 9th in the nation in total defense, but its scoring defense was ranked 41st (the Trojans were giving up 30 points a game). Now you know why USC is beyond lucky to be ranked No. 4 in the country. Think about it, the Trojans gave up 36 points to a 4-3 Oregon State team. The Beavers were the only team to beat USC last year, and they did it at home 27-21.

No. 19-ranked Utah (6-1) went lame in a 23-16 victory over a 4-4 Air Force team. This is not the same Utah team that went 13-0 last year as the only undefeated team in the nation, and then took down Alabama 31-17 in the BCS Sugar Bowl. Utah still must face major opponents in Texas Christian (7-0) and Brigham Young (6-2).

No. 22-ranked West Virginia (6-1) needed a 56-yard touchdown run by Noel Devine in the closing minutes to get by Connecticut, 28-24, and 23rd-ranked South Carolina (6-2) keep a weak 2-6 Vanderbilt team at bay long enough to win 14-10. The 15th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies were idle this week.

Here are two unranked teams still on the move and hoping to get ranked. Central Michigan (now 7-1 and getting more impressive every week) beat Bowling Green 24-10, and Navy (6-2) beat Wake Forest 13-10.

Nebraska, which I publicly identified as a fraud in last week's wrap-up, lost again, this time to Iowa State 9-7 in what sounded like a scrum match. The Idaho Vandals, who had been flying high at 6-1, got crushed by a 4-3 Nevada team, 70-45. Ouch, that was some crash landing; nonetheless, the Vandals are still 6-2 and bowl eligible.

Tell Rudy to crank up that typesetting machine, this wrap-up is finished (just for the record, you have to be at least 65 years old to use the noun typesetting in an article like this; we do it primarily to confuse younger people between downing shots of Jameson).

(Editor's Note: The rankings in this article are from the AP Top 25 Poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, and any ratings are from Jeff Sagarin.)

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the value of your comments. I do welcome your comments; don't let me scare you away, I am really a softy at heart.)

November 2, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 9

Oregon, Texas and Iowa Notch Critical Wins in the National Championship Qualifying Race

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Oregon, Texas and Iowa won huge, critical victories to remain in contention for the National Championship Game during college football's 9th week of play.

None of the three victories was more impressive or substantial than 10th-ranked Oregon's convincing, ultimately dominating 47-20 upset win at home over 4th-ranked Southern California. Oregon was a 3-point underdog in the game.

The USC Trojans had won at least 11 games a season and had 7 consecutive BSC bowl-game appearances for 7 straight years; now the streak has been broken as there is no way Southern Cal can win 11 games this season. With another loss, USC's 8th straight BCS bowl-game streak would also be in jeopardy.

The win pushed the Ducks to 7-1 and dropped the Trojans to 6-2 and, perhaps more important, left Oregon on top of the Pac 10 Conference race with an unbeaten 5-0 mark and pushed USC into a 3-way tie for 4th place at 3-2. The Trojan loss was its worst since 1997 when they were beaten by the Washington Huskies 27-0.

The Trojans came into the game ranked 16th nationally in both scoring defense and total defense, and flew home in defensive disarray.

How convincing was Oregon's upset? This convincing: Oregon double-threat Jeremiah Masoli threw for 222 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 164 more yards and another score. Redshirt freshman LaMichael James ran for 183 yards and a touchdown as the Ducks racked up 391 yards rushing on the 5th best rushing defense in the nation. USC's defense gave up a total of 613 yards to Oregon.

Tell me that USC does not miss Nick Holt, its defensive coordinator last year who is the new defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the University of Washington Huskies this year. The Trojan loss was the worst ever for head coach Pete Carroll during his 9 years at USC.

None of the three key victories was more important to a front-runner than the 3rd-ranked Texas Longhorns' 41-14 smash-mouth win on-the-road over 13th-ranked Oklahoma State. Texas led 41-7 after three quarters when Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy left the game for good.

The Cowboys (now 6-2) allowed McCoy to go 16-for-21 for 171 yards and a touchdown, and Longhorn defenders Curtis Brown and Earl Thomas each returned an interception for a TD. The win definitely keeps the Longhorns (8-0) in the running for the national title game, especially if either Florida or Alabama now loses down the stretch.

None of the three victories was more exciting than Iowa's 4th quarter, come-from-behind 42-24 win over a 4-5 Indiana team. The Hoosiers led 24-14 after three quarters and Iowa looked like burned toast, but the Hawkeyes exploded for 4 last quarter touchdowns to win the 4th quarter 28-0, and the game.

Iowa's Ricky Stanzi threw 5 interceptions before the explosion, which started with an interception and 86-yard TD return by Tyler Sash. The defensive score ignited the Hawkeyes as Stanzi then made up for his errant ways by connecting with Marvin McNutt on a 92-yard TD pass, and Darrell Johnson-Koulianos on a 66-yard TD pass. Brandon Wegher added 6 and 27-yard scoring runs to end the rapid comeback.

Iowa has made a career out of winning close games this season—7 of the 9 Hawkeye wins have been by 11 or fewer points. Last year Iowa lost 4 games by combined total of 12 points. The Hawkeyes perfect 9-0 record is the best start in school history.

There were 4 upsets of ranked teams this week by unranked teams that included North Carolina, South Florida, Tennessee and Auburn.

Unranked North Carolina (5-3) went calling on 14th-ranked Virginia Tech (now also 5-3) and upset the Hokies 20-17. Unranked South Florida (now 6-2) traveled to 20th-ranked West Virginia (now also 6-2) and upset the Mountaineers 30-19. Unranked Tennessee (4-4) upset 21st-ranked South Carolina 31-13 at home, dropping the Gamecocks to 6-3 on the year and showing which team has the better defense.

Unranked Auburn (now 6-3) upset 24th-ranked Mississippi 33-20 at home, dropping Ole Miss to 5-3. Can we now just shut up about how great the Rebel team is going to be this year? Mississippi was ranked 10th in the pre-season Coaches Top 25 Poll.

Four other ranked teams came home with away victories—Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Penn State and Miami (FL).

Unbeaten and 5th-ranked Cincinnati (8-0) beat 100th-ranked Syracuse 28-7, scoring a touchdown in each quarter to inflict a slow, painful death on the Orange.

No. 11-ranked Georgia Tech scored 28 second-half points to gun down 129th-ranked Vanderbilt 56-31. The Yellow Jackets' win was not impressive as they gave up 31 points to a lousy team, but at least their offense scored touchdowns in every quarter, and at least two TDs in 3 of the 4 quarters. Georgia Tech is now 8-1 on the season.

Penn State (8-1) beat the 98th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats 34-13. Northwestern (now 5-4) was 9-4 a year ago and lost a tough overtime game 30-23 to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl. Joe Pa and his 12th-ranked Nittany Lions still must beat Ohio State and Michigan State to have much to crow about since he selected and beat 4 cupcakes on his way to 8 wins so far. Penn State would play another team's scout unit for a victory if they could get away with it.

The 18th-ranked Miami Hurricanes (6-2) needed two 4th-quarter touchdowns to nip 65th-ranked Wake Forest 28-27. The Demon Deacons led 27-14 after three quarters, but folded when it counted in the 4th quarter, which must make Wake Forest a pretty good three-quarter team.

Nine other ranked teams won at home—Florida, Boise State, Texas Christian, LSU, Houston, Ohio State, Utah, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

No. 1 Florida went 8-0 by beating 35th-ranked Georgia, 41-17, as the Gators continue to roll on unbeaten toward another National Championship Game and a defense of their 2008 National Title last year.

No. 6 Boise State went 8-0 by ripping apart a terrible 1-6, 97th-ranked San Jose State team 45-7 in a cakewalk.

No. 8 Texas Christian shut out a 3-6, 113th-ranked UNLV team 41 to nothing, which pretty well describes the Rebel team this year. UNLV has not been to a bowl game since 2000; it's a good thing the Rebels chalked up a bowl appearance early in the century because they may not make it back to another one until 3000 at the rate they are going.

No. 9 LSU (7-1) shut out the 2-6, 145th-ranked Tulane Green Wave 42-0.

No. 15 Houston (7-1) had its hands full with the 73rd-ranked Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, barely winning in a genuine, old-fashioned gunfight, 50-43. Southern Miss was ranked 25th nationally in scoring defense coming into the game, so the Golden Eagles had a defense and could not stop Houston's 3rd-ranked scoring offense.

The Houston Cougars, who have no total defense (they were ranked 112th among 120 major college teams), did what they always do, they gave up a horrendous number of points. If Houston had no offense, the Cougars would probably lose every game 26-0.

No. 17 Ohio State (7-2) shut out a 3-6, 148th-ranked New Mexico State team 45-0. The Buckeyes led 45-zip after three quarters and decided to shower early in the 4th quarter.

No. 19 Utah came up with another unimpressive 22-10 victory, this time over the 107th-ranked Wyoming Cowboys. Despite their impressive 7-1 record, the Utes must beat Texas Christian and Brigham Young to be in any discussion about who is good at the national level.

No. 22 Oklahoma (5-3) won 42-30 in a lackluster performance over a 5-3 Kansas State team. Now you know why the Sooners are 5-3 and really going nowhere.

The No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-2) might have surprised themselves in finally becoming bowl eligible by crushing a woefully weak 1-7, 119th-ranked Washington State team, 40-14. Last year the Washington Huskies were a winless 0-12; this year the Washington State Cougars are just as bad.

Eight unranked teams became bowl eligible this week with their 6th win—Wisconsin, Rutgers, Boston College, Texas Tech, California, Temple, Troy and Ohio.

Wisconsin (6-2) shut out Purdue 37-0 in a Big Ten face-off. Two weeks ago Purdue had a huge 26-18 upset of visiting Ohio State, and this week the Boilermakers became a doormat for the Badgers; nothing could better describe the ups and downs of a college football team.

Rutgers (6-2) turned back Connecticut 28-24 after letting the Huskies score two 4th-quarter touchdowns to narrow the margin. You remember Rutgers, it's that New Jersey school on the East Coast, where sportswriters and sportscasters think all great football is played; they suffer from other delusions too.

Boston College (6-2) beat visiting Central Michigan 31-10. The Central Michigan Chippewas (now 7-2) are lucky that this loss was not to a Mid American Conference opponent.

Texas Tech (6-3) ripped Kansas 42-21, California (6-2) held off Arizona State 23-21, Troy (6-2) clobbered Louisiana Monroe 42-21, Ohio (6-3) just nudged by a pathetic, 163rd-ranked Ball State team 20-17, and Temple (6-2) used a 4th-quarter field goal to edge a 6-3 Navy team, 27-24. The Temple Owls have now won their 6th game in-a-row, their longest win streak since 1974.

Three other games involving unranked Idaho, Illinois and Southern Methodist deserve mention.

Idaho (now 7-2) scored two touchdowns in the last quarter to earn a 35-34 come-from-behind victory over 103rd-ranked Louisiana Tech. What Robb Akey has continued to do with the Idaho Vandals remains impressive—he is slowly beginning to create a winning culture in a program that was literally dead on its heels for years.

An inept 1-6 Illinois team rose up from disaster to garner its second victory by smacking visiting Michigan 38-13, keeping the Wolverines at only 5 wins. The losing Wolverines were reduced to drinking stale Louisiana pond water on their way home, wondering just where that elusive 6th win is going to come from; they still have to face Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Southern Methodist University (aka SMU) evened its record at 4-4 by beating Tulsa 27-13 on-the-road. Two things were unusual about the SMU win—it was an away game, and the offensive-minded Tulsa team had earlier lost to an unbeaten 8-0 Boise State team by only a touchdown (21-28).

It would have been laughable to think SMU could qualify for a bowl game for the last 20+ years, but here is former Hawaii coach June Jones building a Mustang team that is no longer a laughing stock in college football. JJ was 1-8 in his first re-building season and now is 4-4. Who knows?

Maybe SMU will get to a bowl game this year; it really is all about belief in many cases. There really is some talent on all college teams, the problem is more about attitude, hard work and believing you can win. SMU has not been to a bowl game since 1984 when the Mustangs were ranked No. 10 and beat 17th-ranked Notre Dame 27-20 in the Aloha Bowl.

Three teams were idle this week—No. 2 Alabama, No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 24 Arizona.

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the value of your comments. I do welcome your comments; don't let me scare you away, I am really a softy at heart.)

November 9, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 10

Upstart Northwestern Hands Iowa Its First Loss and 5 Other Top 25 Teams Are Upset

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Unbeaten Iowa suffered the biggest loss as one of six AP Top 25 teams to be upset during college football's 10th week of competition. The others were Oregon, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and California.

The 8th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes (now 9-1) had their 13-game winning streak—second longest in the nation—come to a crashing halt at home after losing their quarterback Ricky Stanzi to a second-quarter ankle injury as an upstart Northwestern team ground out a methodical 17-10 upset victory.

Iowa had been making a career out of launching comebacks and winning close games all season; it seemed only a matter of time before they would get found out. Who knew it would be Northwestern to get the job done? For the 6-4 Wildcats, the win over a Top-10 opponent was their first since knocking off No. 6 Ohio State 33-27 in overtime five years ago, and their victory over Iowa made them bowl eligible this season.

Northwestern led 14-10 at the half and added a 4th-quarter field goal as the Iowa offense never did get going after losing Stanzi. The Hawkeyes, who had climbed as high as 7th in the AP Top 25 Poll, slipped to 13th.

No. 7-ranked Oregon's 47-20 upset win over 4th-ranked Southern California last week that vaulted the Ducks (now 7-2) into the national title picture, was short lived as they were upset at home 51-42 by the Stanford Cardinal (6-3), who became bowl eligible in the Pac 10 contest. Despite the upset win, Stanford could not climb into the AP Top 25, and Oregon slipped to 16th.

Oregon lost because it ran into a runaway diesel locomotive named Toby Gerhart, Stanford's senior running back who rushed for a school-record 223 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. Gerhart is a battering ram about to happen; he can run through tacklers.

No. 11-ranked Penn State (8-2), a 5-point favorite at home, was upset 24-7 by 15-ranked Ohio State, putting the Buckeyes into a first-place tie with Iowa at 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference race.

No. 19 Notre Dame (6-3) was upset at home 23-21 by 41st-ranked Navy (7-3). Navy led 21-7 after 3 quarters, and two 4th quarter touchdowns by the Fighting Irish was not enough to overcome the loss against the Midshipmen.

No. 20 Oklahoma (5-4) suffered a humbling 10-3 upset loss at the hands of the 35th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-3), who became bowl eligible. The Sooners have had a tremendous fall from the top this year, losing also to Brigham Young, Miami (FL) and Texas. There is trouble in Soonerland.

No. 23 California (6-3) was favored at home but done in 31-14 by the Oregon State Beavers (6-3), who became bowl eligible in the process. California never fails to disappoint; the Bears, who are always predicted to be better than they are, continually lose at the wrong time, many times to the wrong team.

Eight other ranked teams continued to move on by winning games on-the-road.

No. 5 Boise State (9-0) remained unbeaten by winning 45-35 over 96th-ranked Louisiana Tech (3-6). No. 6 Texas Christian (9-0) also remained unbeaten by scoring at least two touchdowns in 3 of 4 quarters in a 55-12 drubbing of 95th-ranked San Diego State (4-5). No. 12-ranked Southern California (7-2) won 14-9 in a close contest with 53rd-ranked Arizona State (4-5).

No. 13-ranked Houston (8-1) managed to win a close 46-45 victory over 92nd-ranked Tulsa (4-5). The Houston Cougars have the 2nd best major college scoring offense in the country (41ppg), but have absolutely no defense, allowing opponents like Tulsa to run up big scores and make games close. No. 18-ranked Oklahoma State (7-2) won 34-8 over 73rd-ranked Iowa State (5-5).

No. 22-ranked Virginia Tech (6-3) won 16-3 over 67th-ranked East Carolina (5-4) to become bowl eligible. No. 24-ranked Wisconsin (7-2) won on a field goal 31-28 over 91st-ranked Indiana (4-6). No. 25-ranked Brigham Young (7-2) notched a 52-0 shut out over 108th-ranked Wyoming (4-5).

Nine other ranked teams kept moving on by winning home games. They included:

No. 1 Florida (9-0) remained unbeaten as the Gators took care of business with a 27-3 victory over 119th-ranked Vanderbilt (2-8). No. 2 Texas (9-0) also remained unbeaten with a dominating 35-3 victory over 83rd-ranked Central Florida (5-4).

No. 3 Alabama remained 1 of only 6 unbeaten teams with a 24-15 signature win over No. 9-ranked LSU (7-2). A 73-yard touchdown reception-and-run by sophomore receiver Julio Jones in the 4th quarter didn't hurt a lick. Alabama is now 9-0 for a second consecutive season, which hasn't happened since the glory teams of 1973 and 1974.

The victory for Alabama, which was favored by 7.5 points, was huge in that the Crimson Tide continues on a crash course with No. 1-ranked Florida (9-0) for the SEC Championship and a spot in the National Championship Game, probably against Texas (9-0) if the Longhorns remain unbeaten.

No. 4 Cincinnati (9-0) remained undefeated with a narrow 47-45 win over 52nd-ranked Connecticut (4-5). The Huskies scored 3 touchdowns in a 4th-quarter comeback try but it was not enough. No. 10 Georgia Tech (9-1) needed a 30-27 overtime victory to turn back 55th-ranked Wake Forest (4-6). No. 14 Pittsburgh (8-1) scored in every quarter to win 37-10 over 93rd-ranked Syracuse (3-6).

No. 16 Miami of Florida (7-2) scored at least two touchdowns in 3 of 4 quarters to win 52-17 over 65th-ranked Virginia (3-6). No 17 Utah (8-1) won 45-14 over 164th-ranked and winless New Mexico (0-9). No. 21 Arizona (6-2) became bowl eligible with its 48-7 stomping of 115th-ranked Washington State (1-8). The Wildcats led 34-zip at the half, and went though the motions in the second half rather than playing harder and winning even bigger.

Eight more unranked teams became bowl eligible this week. They included Mississippi, Clemson, Air Force, Fresno State, Northern Illinois, Kansas State, Middle Tennessee and North Carolina.

Mississippi (6-3) won 38-14 over 109th-ranked, 1-AA Northern Arizona (5-4). Clemson (6-3) won 40-24 over 39th-ranked Florida State (4-5), hastening an end to Bobby Bowden's storied career with the Seminoles. If Bowden doesn't bow out this year, they may kick him out. Air Force (6-4) put a 35-7 stomping on 144th-ranked Army (3-6). Fresno State (6-3) won 31-21 over Idaho (7-3). A 14-point surge in the last quarter was not enough for the Vandals to pull out another victory.

Northern Illinois (6-3) put a 50-6 beating on 179th-ranked and winless Eastern Michigan (0-9). Kansas State won 17-10 over in-state rival Kansas (5-4). Middle Tennessee (6-3) came up with a 48-21 win over 138th-ranked Florida International (2-7). North Carolina (6-3) won 19-6 over 69th-ranked Duke (5-4).

Four other teams were worth noting. Temple (7-2) won its 7th consecutive game 34-32 over Miami of Ohio (1-9). Troy (7-2) won 40-20 over 182nd-ranked and winless Western Kentucky (0-9). Western Kentucky is the worst major college team this year; the Hilltoppers (now Bottom Droppers) are so bad you can smell them in Idaho.

Auburn (7-3) scored a blowout 63-31 win over poor, 168th-ranked, 1-AA Furman (4-5) to climb into the AP Poll at No. 25. Southern Methodist (5-4 and ranked 80th) climbed over the .500 mark with a close 31-28 home victory over 165th-ranked and winless Rice (0-9).

November 16, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 11

Southern Cal's 7-Year Record of Excellence Ends, Stanford Body Slams the Trojans, 55-21

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

It's over for Southern California. Coach Pete Carroll will be dining with some lesser light Hollywood celebrities in the near future.

Gone are the USC streaks of 7 straight BCS bowls, 7 straight 11-win seasons, and 7 straight top-4 AP poll finishes. Gone also is USC's 7-year stranglehold on the Pac-10 Conference title.

After 60 excruciating minutes of watching Stanford's Toby Gerhart—The Cardinal Battering Ram—run all over USC's home field for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns, Pete Carroll and his Trojans were handed their second major trouncing in two weeks. There was no stopping Gerhart as 25th-ranked Stanford (7-3) did a number on the 11th-ranked and soon dropping USC (7-3) Trojans, 55-21. Adding insult to injury, it was USC's 2009 homecoming game.

Just two weeks ago, USC was upset at Oregon 47-20. Saturday's loss to Stanford was the Trojans' worst since a 51-0 drubbing at home against Notre Dame in 1966, 43 years ago.

Pete Carroll had to be bummed out. He lost in November for the first time after 28 straight victories in the toughest month for every college football coach during the season. And for the second time in three weekends, Carroll endured the worst loss of his 9 seasons at USC. The perennial flower that bloomed at USC for 7 consecutive years has now faded.

After leading 28-21 after 3 quarters, Stanford piled it on with 4 touchdowns in the last quarter, just rubbing it in a little bit for past indiscretions by the Trojans. Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh's 2007 team also upset then 2nd-ranked USC 24-23 on the Trojans' same home field.

Harbaugh has made it quite clear that he is sick and tired of USC's past dominance in the Pac-10. Virtually everyone thought that the California Bears would be the team to bring the Trojans down a peg or two, but it was Harbaugh's Cardinal team that has gotten the job done.

Stanford's victory over USC was only 1 of 5 upsets among ranked teams this week. The other 4 were recorded by unranked teams:

North Carolina (7-3), unranked and smarting, won 33-24 at home over No. 12 Miami of Florida (also 7-3) as Coach Butch Davis notched his 3rd consecutive victory over his former program, and made North Carolina bowl eligible for the 2nd straight season.

Central Florida (6-4) handed No. 13 Houston (8-2) its second loss 37-32, closing the door on Cougar quarterback Case Keenum, who had a couple of last-minute rallies in Houston's last 5 wins. The Central Florida Knights rallied at home from a two-touchdown deficit to build a 17-point lead before Keenum threw two late TD passes to make the final score appear closer.

California (7-3) stuck a fork in No. 18 Arizona's (6-3) hopes for a better season as the Bears finally roared again at home, beating the Wildcats 24-16. Rutgers (7-2) was hardly impressed with No. 23 South Florida (6-3) as the Scarlet Knights took the South Florida Bulls to school by shutting them out 31-0. Rutgers forced 4 turnovers, blocked a punt and recorded 7 sacks, and freshman quarterback Tom Savage threw for two touchdowns.

Stanford's upset of Southern Cal was 1 of the 3 great games of the day. The other two involved No. 4 TCU and No. 10 Ohio State.

No. 4 TCU (10-0) remained unbeaten by really making 16th-ranked Utah (8-2) look bad in a 55-28 win. TCU leads the mid-level Mountain West Conference with a 6-0 record. Utah had been running around all season acting like the Utes were something special, and then they arrived at TCU and found out why they are not so special. As if to erase any doubt, TCU led 38-14 at the half.

No. 10 Ohio State (9-2) brought No. 15 Iowa (9-2) into its view as the Buckeyes welcomed the Hawkeyes into their 101,568-seat Horseshoe Stadium before taking the game into overtime and earning a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 13 years. Ohio State last visited the Rose Bowl in 1996 when the Buckeyes were ranked 2nd in the nation after beating Arizona State 20-17.

But back to Saturday's game, which will provide fodder for sports talk radio shows for months to come as neither Ohio State or Iowa would go for a last minute victory when they had the opportunity to do so. The game ended at 24-all after Marvin McNutt threw a 10-yard scoring pass to James Vandenberg.

The Buckeyes had blown a two-touchdown lead in the 4th quarter. The Hawkeyes had the ball at their 33 with 52 seconds and two timeouts left, but chose to run out the clock and send the game into overtime. Ohio State had the ball on its 18 with 2:37 left and multiple timeouts, and didn't try to win it.

Both coaches—Kirk Ferentz of Iowa and Jim Tressel of Ohio State—wanted overtime to get it settled because they did not trust their kickers; Iowa had missed a 22-yard field goal attempt earlier in the game, and Ohio State's kicker had missed from 47 yards out.

When push came to shove, Tressel basically took three runs up the middle for all of 2 yards before letting replacement kicker Devin Barclay come up with the winning 39-yard FG to put the Buckeyes on top, 27-24. The Hawkeyes were unbeaten this year until losing 17-10 at home to Northwestern last week.

Barclay, a 26-year-old former pro soccer player and first-year, walk-on kicker, was forced into duty as a replacement three weeks ago when starter Aaron Pettrey injured his knee.

And now for the expected happenings of week 11. Here are another 8 ranked teams that won home games:

No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0) remained unbeaten by using a field goal advantage to beat a 7-3 West Virginia team 24-21. No. 6 Boise State (10-0) remained unbeaten by easily handling a 7-4 Idaho team 63-25. No. 8 Pittsburgh (9-1) led Notre Dame (6-4) 20-3 after 3 quarters and almost let things get out-of-hand before putting away the Fighting Irish 27-22.

No. 9 LSU (8-2) notched an unspectacular win over Louisiana Tech 24-16. No. 14 Oregon (8-2) ripped Arizona State 44-21. No. 17 Oklahoma State (8-2) was behind 10-7 at the half but beat Texas Tech 24-17. No. 19 Penn State beat Indiana 31-20 despite having 4 first-half turnovers. No. 21 Wisconsin (8-2) took apart a struggling Michigan team 45-24.

Here are another 7 ranked teams that won away games, always tougher than home victories:

No. 1 Florida (10-0) remained unbeaten at the expense of South Carolina, 24-14, as the Gators completed their first perfect (8-0) SEC East title in 13 years. No. 2 Texas (10-0) remained unbeaten by easily kicking around Baylor, 47-14, as Colt McCoy tied the NCAA record for career victories by a starting quarterback with 42 (take just a moment and think about how special the accomplishment was by Colt McCoy).

No. 3 Alabama (10-0) remained unbeaten by dominating Mississippi State, 31-3, and continues to lead the SEC West with a 7-0 mark. No. 7 Georgia Tech (10-1) stomped Duke, 49-10, to clinch a spot in the ACC Conference championship game. No. 20 Virginia Tech (7-3) beat Maryland 36-9. No. 22 BYU (8-2) could only muster a 24-19 victory over a hapless, inept, winless 0-10 New Mexico team. No. 24 Clemson (7-3) whipped North Carolina State 43-23.

Three other games among unranked teams were noteworthy. Temple (8-2) won its 8th consecutive game 56-17 over Akron; Central Michigan (8-2) picked up its 8th win 56-28 over Toledo; Navy (8-3) earned its 8th win by downing Delaware 35-18; and Mississippi (7-3) found a way to penetrate Tennessee's (5-5) defense by scoring 42 points to win 42-17.

Four unranked teams finally became bowl eligible this week, the most surprising of which was the Southern Methodist (6-4) Mustangs, who outlasted UTEP 35-31.

June Jones was 1-11 in this first year coaching last year and now has a bowl-eligible team. People no longer laugh when you use SMU and football in the same sentence. Jones built a juggernaut at mid-level Hawaii using Mouse Davis' run-and-shoot offense, going 75-41 over 9 years, and winning 4 of 6 bowl games. The bottom line on the likeable June Jones—more dangerous than his name would indicate.

The three other teams joining SMU as bowl eligible were Oklahoma, Arkansas and Michigan State. Some people wondered if Oklahoma (6-4) was going to make it this year, but the Sooners finally got the job done by easily beating Texas A&M, 65-10. Arkansas (6-4) took care of a 7-3 Troy team, 56-20; and Michigan State (6-5) was 11 points down to Purdue but won 40-37 on Brett Swenson's 4th field goal with 1:51 left.

November 24, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 12

In a Topsy-Turvy Season, Ohio State and Oregon Earn Big Victories to Stay on Top

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

In a great example of too little too late, there were 4 upsets of AP Top 25 teams in college football's 12th week and none of them had any real impact. On the other hand, two favorites won big time road games with big implications as Ohio State buried Michigan 21-10, and Oregon held off a very pesky Arizona team, 44-41.

Last week the 9th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2) beat Iowa to earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 13 years. By beating Michigan (5-7 and not bowl eligible), Ohio State won the Big Ten title outright with a 7-1 mark, losing only at Purdue. The Buckeyes led Michigan 21-10 after three quarters and both teams played a scoreless 4th quarter.

The 11th-ranked Oregon Ducks (9-2) were in trouble mid-way through the last quarter when Arizona took a 31-24 lead on a 71-yard screen pass from Nick Foles to Juron Criner, and then the Wildcats had possession and could have won the game by running out the clock.

But a long pass into the end zone was intercepted by Oregon's Talmadge Jackson III (dude, it's a name), and that opened the door for Duck quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to tie it up at 31-apiece with an 8-yard pass to Ed Dickson with only 6 seconds remaining.

In the first overtime, Masoli hit Jeff Maehl for a 4-yard score, and Foles hit Juron Criner with a 3-yard strike to send the game into a second overtime. The Duck defense held and Arizona had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Alex Zendejas. Oregon then proved why it is the better team—Masoli found Dickson for a 22-yard completion and then three plays later, Masoli bulled it in from a yard out and Oregon won, 44-41.

The Ducks' Masoli accounted for 6 touchdowns in the game—3 passing and 3 running. He went 26-for-47 for 284 yards and picked up another 61 yards on 16 carries.

By winning, the Ducks set themselves up to earn a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth against Ohio State if—and it is a big if—they beat the visiting 20th-ranked Oregon State Beavers (8-3) in a winner-take-all Civil War showdown next Saturday in Eugene.

The Beavers, one of the dirtiest teams in college football (they like to legally hurt opposing players with little things like helmet-to-helmet hits), will invade Oregon's Autzen Stadium, home of some of the nation's most raucous, unkempt, nose-picking fans who like to throw unopened cans of pop at opposing players. The Ducks have also been known for throwing sucker punches at opposing players.

They call the annual Oregon-Oregon State rivalry the Civil War for a reason. Both of these teams like to punish each other, so expect it to be a very physical game, especially with a Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.

The four upsets this week that added little to the season included Mississippi (8-3) at home 25-23 over 10th-ranked LSU (8-3), Northwestern (8-4) at home 33-31 over 17th- ranked Wisconsin (8-3), Syracuse (4-7) at home 31-13 over 25th-ranked Rutgers (7-3), and California (8-3) on-the-road 34-28 over 14th-ranked Stanford (7-4).

Stanford did not lose because its battering ram Toby Gerhart did not perform. Gerhart did his part and more, picking up 136 yards on 20 carries (6.8 yards per carry), scoring 4 touchdowns, and carrying defenders on a 29-yard reception that set up Stanford at California's 13-yard-line with less than 2 minutes left. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Andrew Luck threw an interception to kill the drive that could have put Stanford ahead and won the game.

In truth, Stanford's defense simply could not contain the Bears' Shane Vereen, who rushed for a career-high 193 yards on 42 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and scored 3 touchdowns. It's tough to win a game when you give up 34 points.

Eleven top-25 teams won home games this week, and the three top-rated unbeaten teams—Florida, Alabama and Texas—all won with authority to keep their image and rep in order.

The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators (11-0) gave the in-state rival Florida International Golden Panthers a lesson they will not soon forget, 62-3. No. 2-ranked Alabama (11-0) shut out 1-AA Chattanooga 45-0. No. 3-ranked Texas (11-0) put a whipping on Kansas 51-20.

Other home victories included 12th-ranked Oklahoma State (9-2) over Colorado 31-28, 15th-ranked Iowa (10-2) shut out Minnesota 12-0, 16-ranked Virginia Tech (8-3) over North Carolina State 38-10, 18th-ranked Clemson (8-3) over Virginia 34-21, 19th-ranked Brigham Young (9-2) over Air Force 38-21, 21st-ranked Miami of Florida (8-3) over Duke 34-16, 23rd-ranked Utah (9-2) over San Diego State 38-7, and 24th-ranked Houston (9-2) over Memphis 55-14.

Four other top-25 teams scored away victories this week. No. 14-ranked Texas Christian (11-0) remained unbeaten by smacking Wyoming 45-10, 6th-ranked Boise State (11-0) kept its slate perfect with a 52-21 clubbing of Utah State, 13th-ranked Penn State (10-2) made it look easy against Michigan State 42-14, and 20th-ranked Oregon State (8-3) slammed Washington State 42-10.

Three top-25 teams were idle—5th-ranked Cincinnati, 7th-ranked Georgia Tech and 8th-ranked Pittsburgh.

Six teams won and became bowl eligible. They included Bowling Green (6-5) over Akron 36-20, Florida State (6-5) over Maryland 29-26, Texas A&M (6-5) over Baylor 38-3, UCLA (6-5) over Arizona State 23-13, Tennessee (6-5) over Vanderbilt 31-16, and Louisiana Lafayette (6-5) over in-state rival Louisiana Monroe 21-17.

Four other games were noteworthy. Temple (9-2) won its 9th straight game 47-13 over Kent State, Central Michigan (9-2) won its 9th game 35-3 over Ball State, hapless Notre Dame (6-5) was upset by Connecticut 33-30 in a second overtime period, and New Mexico (1-10) finally won a game this year by beating red-faced Colorado State 29-27.

December 1, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 13

Six Top 25 Teams Upset on the Road, Bloom Comes Off of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Six AP Top 25 teams can testify what a pain in the butt road games are—all were upset during college football's 13th week of play, and 2 of the 6 will be facing off in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this week.

The six teams with targets on their back included 7th-ranked Georgia Tech, 15th-ranked Clemson, 8th-ranked Pittsburgh, 11th-ranked Oklahoma State, 20th-ranked Mississippi and 23rd-ranked North Carolina. All but Pittsburgh were not just on-the-road, but also tackling an in-state rival.

Georgia (7-5) beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2), 30-24, as the Bulldogs' Washaun Ealey rushed 20 times for 183 yards (9.15 yards per carry) and Caleb King rushed 18 times for 166 yards (9.22 ypc)—349 yards between them. Ealey and King sound like a comedy team but the Georgia Tech players were too busy sucking Louisiana pond water to laugh.

Georgia and its coach Mark Richt have taken their lumps this year with losses to Oklahoma State, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky, but few can match Richt's 9-year record against in-state rival Georgia Tech. Richt is 8-1 against his prime rival, a fact that may save him his job since his 5 losses this year are the most he has had in any year at Georgia.

South Carolina (7-5) upset the Clemson Tigers (8-4), 34-17, as the Gamecocks' Stephen Garcia threw 3 touchdown passes. Clemson started well when C. J. Spiller opened the game with an 88-yard kickoff return for a TD, an NCAA record-setting 7th of his career, but that was about all the Tigers could bring to the table.

South Carolina's 24th ranked scoring defense held Clemson's 24th ranked scoring offense in check—defense again trumping offense in an equal face off.

The surprise losses by Georgia Tech and Clemson put a real damper on the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game the two will play this Saturday; the winner will covet a spot in a BCS game and earn a big payday.

West Virginia (8-3) handed Pittsburgh (9-2) its second loss of the season, 19-16, when Mountaineer redshirt freshman Tyler Bitancurt ended the annual Backyard Brawl by successfully kicking a 43-yard field goal as time expired. It was Bitancurt's 4th field goal of the night so he personally accounted for 63% of West Virginia's 19 points. West Virginia's defense stood tall, keeping the Panthers out of the end zone on 5 Pittsburgh drives inside the Mountaineers' 30-yard line.

Oklahoma (7-5) took time out from its pedestrian season to remind Oklahoma State (9-3) who really rules the Big 12 in Oklahoma by shutting out the Cowboys, 27-0. The Sooners' DeMarco Murray scored two TDs and Ryan Broyles returned a punt 88 yards for another score. The defeat was tough to swallow for Oklahoma State since the Cowboys were seeking their first ever BCS bowl appearance.

Mississippi State (now 5-7) not only upset Mississippi (8-4), but hammered Ole Miss, 41-27, in a shocker. A backup quarterback—Chris Relf—accounted for 3 touchdowns and Anthony Dixon rushed for 133 yards and another TD as the Mississippi Rebels looked on in disbelief. Known as the annual Egg Bowl, Mississippi surely laid one.

The 41 points scored by Mississippi State were the most by the Bulldogs in the 106-year series since a 41-14 victory in 1917, and the most Ole Miss has given up this season.

North Carolina State (5-7) upset North Carolina (8-4), 28-27, as the Wolfpack's Russell Wilson connected with Owen Spencer on a 38-yard, go-ahead TD pass two plays into the 4th quarter. Wilson threw 4 TD passes in the game and Alan-Michael Cash blocked a field goal attempt with about 5 minutes left to seal the Tar Heels attempted comback. The win was the Wolfpack's 3rd straight against the in-state rival North Carolina Tar Heels.

Four other Top 25 teams didn't miss a beat while beating in-state rivals in away games.

No. 2-ranked Alabama (12-0) remained unbeaten by sliding by Auburn (7-5), 26-21. No. 3-ranked Texas (12-0) remained unbeaten by outlasting Texas A&M (6-6), 49-39. No. 14-ranked Virginia Tech (9-3) slammed Virginia (3-9), 42-13; and No. 19th-ranked Miami Florida (9-3) put down South Florida (7-4), 31-10.

Eight other Top 25 teams won home games, and 4 of the 8 won against in-state rivals as well—Florida, Brigham Young, Southern California and Houston.

No. 1-ranked Florida (12-0) remained unbeaten by pounding Florida State (6-6), 37-10, as the Gators' Tim Tebow threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for 2 more. The victories by unbeaten Florida and Alabama sets up a clash for the SEC title game this Saturday, and the winner earns the right to play in the final season-ending game for the National Championship.

No. 18-ranked Brigham Young (10-2) turned back No. 22-ranked Utah (now 9-3), 26-23, as senior quarterback Max Hall found Andrew George with a 25-yard TD pass in overtime. The win by the Cougars was their 3rd in 4 years over the uppity Utah Utes, who intercepted Hall 5 times last year in a 48-24 blowout on their home field.

Max Hall sought revenge and redemption, and created enough smack talk after BYU's win to fill a bulletin board in Utah's Salt Lake City locker room. Here is Mad Max on the Utah Utes:

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything. It felt real good to send those guys home. I think the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don't respect them and they deserved to lose."

Well, thanks, Max, for letting us know how you feel.

No. 24-ranked Southern Cal (8-3) beat UCLA (6-6), 28-7; and No. 25-ranked Houston (10-2) just decimated Rice (2-10), 73-14, as Case Kellum passed for 323 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for another score. The Houston Cougars have the top-scoring offense in the nation, racking up an average of 45 points a game.

No. 4-ranked Texas Christian (12-0) remained unbeaten at home by whipping New Mexico (1-11), 51-10, as Andy Dalton matched a career-high 4 TD passes with two of them to Antoine Hicks in a 12-second span. The win wrapped up TCU's first undefeated regular season in 71 years—that is a long time between rains in the dusty Texas desert.

No. 5-ranked Cincinnati (11-0) remained unbeaten by outlasting a really crummy 3-8 Illinois team, 49-36. The win was a sad statement for the Bearcats. Cincinnati has the 19th best scoring defense in the nation, but the Bearcats apparently had too many tacos prior to this game.

No. 6-ranked Boise State (12-0) remained unbeaten in an offensive display by outlasting Nevada (8-4), 44-33, as Kellen Moore tied his career-high 5 touchdown passes. Nevada was a worthy opponent as the Wolf Pack had averaged 52 points per game while winning 8 straight. Boise State is 2nd nationally in scoring offense and Nevada is 5th.

No. 17-ranked LSU (9-3) had its hands full while beating Arkansas (7-5), 33-30, as Tiger Josh Jasper hit a 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to force an overtime, and then made a 36-yarder to score the win.

Two more unranked teams became bowl eligible. Wyoming (6-6) just slipped by Colorado State (3-9), 17-16, and Connecticut (6-6) easily beat Syracuse (4-8), 56-31.

There were two candidates for the no-defense game of the week. Stanford (8-4) nipped Notre Dame (6-6), 45-38. Stanford is 65th nationally in scoring defense and Notre Dame is 64th. Utah State (4-8) upset Idaho (7-5), 52-49. Utah State is ranked 107th nationally in scoring defense and Idaho 111th.

There is no telling how many more games the Idaho Vandals would have won with a decent defense, their offense had no problem putting up points as they ranked 23rd in scoring offense.

Central Michigan (10-2) won its 10th game of the season by beating Northern Illinois (7-5), 45-31. Ohio (9-3) handed Temple (9-3) its first loss after 9 straight victories, beating the Owls 35-17.

In the abbreviation game of the week, UCF (8-4) beat UAB (5-7) by a touchdown, 34-27. It reminded one of the old George Carlin comedic routine where as a sportscaster he says, "And now for some scores . . . 5-2, 6-5, 7-3, 2-1 and in a shutout, 1-0." If you are wondering, that was the University of Central Florida over the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Southern Methodist (7-5) continues to get better with a 26-21 against Tulane (3-9). SMU led 20-14 after 3 quarters and then did what many teams cannot do, close out the win without screwing it up.

Navy (now 8-4) traveled to Hawaii (6-6) and promptly made the Warriors bowl eligible by losing, 24-17. There is an unconfirmed rumor that the Samoan section of the Warriors, after a 17-17 tie at halftime, ate more coconuts during halftime, thus refueling to hold the Midshipmen scoreless in the second half.

One more game was worth noting. Washington (4-7) shut out in-state rival Washington State (1-11), 30-0, in the Apple Cup. The Huskies began the season by losing by 8 points to 11th-ranked LSU, then beat Idaho, upset 3rd-ranked Southern California, lost away games to Stanford and Notre Dame, upset Arizona, then suffered 4 more defeats before blanking the Washington State Cougars.

The game was significant for several reasons:

1) It was Washington's first shutout over Washington State in 45 years; the last one came during a 14-0 victory in 1964.

2) The Husky's defensive shutout was its first since a 27-0 win over Southern California in 1997, a span of 143 games.

3) Freshman Chris Polk rushed for 130 yards, pushing his season rushing total 1,019, breaking quarterback Jake Locker's freshman record of 986 rushing yards, making Polk the first freshman in school history to top 1,000 yards, and marking the 4th consecutive game that Polk has topped 100 yards rushing. And, yes, the Huskies are very excited about their freshman running back.

4) Washington State's 11 losses this season are the most in Cougar history.

5) Washington State's 22 losses in two seasons are the most ever by a team in Pac-10 history. The Cougars were 2-11 last season.

Six Top 25 teams were idle this week—9th-ranked Ohio State (10-2), 10th-ranked Oregon (9-2), 12th-ranked Penn State (10-2), 13th-ranked Iowa (10-2), 16th-ranked Oregon State (8-3), and 21st-ranked California (8-3). Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa have completed their season play.

December 14, 2009

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 14

Five Major Conference Teams Win Championships to Earn Coveted Spots in the BCS Bowl Games

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Five of the nation's best major conference teams won titles in college football's 14th week to earn coveted spots in BCS bowl games. The best of the best included Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Oregon and Georgia Tech.

In the nation's most important game prior to the bowl season, the Crimson Tide of Alabama (13-0) avenged their loss last year to the Florida Gators (12-1) by easily handling Florida, 32-13, winning the SEC Championship and the right to compete for the National Championship.

The Gators, who won last year's national title, had to have been embarrassed since they came into the showdown leading the nation in scoring defense (9.83 ppg) and total defense (233.08 ypg). Alabama, which had the nation's 2nd best scoring defense (10.83 ppg) and 3rd best total defense (233.92 ypg), proved superior.

Florida simply could not handle the Tide's star running back Mark Ingram, who rushed for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns. Alabama's Greg McElroy threw for 239 yards and a touchdown to earn the Most Valuable Player Award.

Alabama last won a national championship in 1992. Florida won national titles in 2006 and 2008 and was trying to win 3 titles in 4 years.

Texas (13-0) needed a 46-yard field goal from Hunter Lawrence as time expired to turn back a monster defensive effort by Nebraska (9-4) and win the Big 12 Championship, 13-12, and the right to play Alabama for the national title on Jan. 7.

The Cornhuskers' stout defense came up big in almost pulling off a huge upset. Few fans realized just how good the Husker defense was. Nebraska was 3rd in the nation in scoring defense (11.08 ppg) and 11th in total defense (291.42 ypg), and believe you me, Texas found out why.

Longhorn QB Colt McCoy darn near lost the game for Texas by rolling out for a pass in the final moments and holding the ball too long before throwing it away. Officials determined that the ball hit the ground out-of-bounds with 1 second left on the clock, allowing Lawrence to pull off his dramatic, game-winning field goal. Nebraska's defense sacked McCoy 9 times, which does not say a lot for the Longhorns' offensive line protection.

Texas was denied a shot at the national title game last year by Oklahoma, even though the Longhorns beat the Sooners in regular season play. Many fans thought Texas should have played Florida for the title last year; now they will.

The Cincinnati Bearcats (12-0), down 21 points, needed Tony Pike's 29-yard scoring pass to Armon Binns with 33 seconds left to complete their narrow 45-44 victory over Pittsburgh (9-3) to win the Big East Championship, and the right to face Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis rushed for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Panthers led Cincinnati 31-10 earlier in the game, but it was not enough to stop the nation's 5th best scoring offense. Cincinnati averaged 39+ points a game going into the contest, and coach Brian Kelly's quick-strike spread offense exposed Pittsburgh's lack of defense.

Kelly, who went 10-3 at Cincinnati his first year, went 11-3 last year and now is 12-0 heading into the Sugar Bowl. He was just hired away by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who canned Charlie Weis after 5 years and a 35-27 record.

In the biggest game in the history of Oregon football, Oregon (10-2) beat Oregon State (8-4), 37-33, when Duck running back LaMichael James ran 52 yards to give Oregon a 34-33 lead with 1:20 left in the 3rd quarter. James would finish with 166 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.

The stakes were immense since this year's Civil War was a winner-take-all battle with the Pac-10 Championship and right to face Ohio State (10-2) in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State had won the Big Ten Championship earlier by beating Iowa.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-2) needed Jonathan Dwyer's 15-yard scoring run with 1:20 remaining to turn back Clemson (8-5), 39-34, to win the Atlantic Coast Championship, and a spot in the Orange Bowl against Iowa (10-2).

Houston's luck ran out against East Carolina (9-4) as the Pirates beat the Cougars 38-32 to capture the mid-major Conference USA title. East Carolina's title was its second straight, and proved once again that defense, not offense, most often wins championships.

Houston has the nation's top scoring offense (44+ ppg) but its pig-slop defense is ranked 110th among 120 major college teams. East Carolina's scoring defense is ranked 31st (21+ ppg) and its total defense is ranked 68th; at least the Panthers had a defense, and used it to win another C-USA title.

The 5th BCS game—the Fiesta Bowl—will feature two unbeaten mid-major teams—Texas Christian (12-0), the Mountain West Conference Champion, and Boise State (13-0), the Western Athletic Conference Champion. The match-up marks the first time that two teams without automatic bids from the 6 major conferences have faced off in a coveted BCS game.

College Football 2009 Bowl Game Wrap-Up

February 13, 2010

College Football

Who Says That Freshmen Players Cannot Lead a Team to a Bowl Victory?

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Much was made of star Texas quarterback Colt McCoy being knocked out of the National Championship Game early on against Alabama. His replacement, Garrett Gilbert, an inexperienced freshman, came in to replace McCoy. Alabama won the 2009 title 37-21, giving the impression that a freshman could not get the job done in a big game.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, 13 freshmen led or helped lead their teams to victories this bowl season. They included:

Redshirt freshman QB Landry Jones went 30-of-51 for 418 yards and a TD pass to lead Oklahoma's 31-27 upset over Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

Freshman QB Kyle Padron went 32-of-41 for a school-record 460 yards and 2 touchdown passes to lead Southern Methodist to a 45-10 upset over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl. SMU stomped a mud hole in the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Freshman QB Matt Barkley went 27-of-37 for 350 yards and 2 touchdown passes and ran for another to lead Southern California over Boston College, 24-13, in the Emerald Bowl.

Freshman quarterback B. J. Daniels went 14-of-22 for 217 yards and 2 TDs to help the South Florida Bulldogs beat Northern Illinois, 27-3, in the International Bowl.

Freshman QB Austyn Carta-Samuels went 17-of-31 for 201 yards and 3 touchdown passes to lead Wyoming to a double overtime victory over Fresno State, 35-28, in the New Mexico Bowl. He was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year and also the MVP of the game.

Freshman QB Jordan Wynn went 26-of-36 for 338 yards and 3 TD passes to lead Utah over California, 37-27, in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Redshirt freshman quarterback E.J. Manual went 17-for-24 and 189 yards and scored on a 2-yard run to help lead Florida State's 33-21 upset over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

Freshman running back Trent Richardson gained 109 yards on 19 carries (5.74 ypc) and scored touchdowns on runs of 49 yards and 2 yards to help Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, in the National Championship Game.

Freshman running back Ryan Williams gained 117 yards on 25 carries (4.68 ypc) and scored 2 rushing TDs to lead Virginia Tech over Tennessee, 37-14, in the Chick-fil A Bowl. Williams became the Hoakies' single-season record holder with 1,655 yards; he also had 21 rushing TDs and 22 total TDs to set Atlantic Coast Conference records.

Freshman running back Dion Lewis rushed for 159 yards on 28 carries (4.68 ypc) and scored a touchdown to lead Pittsburgh over North Carolina, 19-17, in the Meineke Bowl. Lewis broke Tony Dorsett's 36-year-old Pitt freshman rushing record of 1,686 yards by gaining 1,799 yards during the season.

Freshman running back Brandon Wegher gained 113 yards on 16 carries (7.0 ypc) and scored a touchdown to lead Iowa over Georgia, 24-14, in the BCS Orange Bowl.

Freshman multi-threat receiver Mohamed Sanu scored twice from a wildcat formation and caught a TD pass to lead Rutgers over Central Florida, 45-24, in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Freshman QB Tom Savage, also from Rutgers, went 14-of-27 for a career-best 294 yards and a 2 touchdown passes in Rutgers' victory.

February 8, 2010

College Football

Alabama Uses Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide Defense to Beat Texas and Win the National Title, 37-21

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Twelve months is a long time to wait when you seek personal and team redemption, but it is also a short time to wait when the event yields a positive result and you can bask in that success for the rest of your life. For Alabama this year, the memories will be ever so sweet, and at least one legend will be created in the process.

From Kenny "The Snake" Stabler to "Joe Willie" Namath to Bart Star, all of whom won Super Bowls as NFL quarterbacks, now add "Mount Cody" to the list of Alabama legends.

Senior Terrence Cody was Alabama's 6-foot-5, 365-pount nose guard who, as much as anyone on Alabama's team, was responsible for getting the Crimson Tide to the championship game undefeated. Had it not been for his block of a field goal attempt by Tennessee on the last play of the game, Alabama would not have beaten the Volunteers, 12-10, to remain undefeated. It was Cody's second block of a field goal in the 4th quarter.

"I didn't really get off the ground," said Cody of his game-saving blocked kick. "I just reached my arm up. That's how I got it. I knocked (the blocker) back. He was on his back." That's Cody—he flattened the blocker on his way to the most crucial play of Alabama's unbeaten 14-0 season.

Take away the Crimson Tide's game against Tennessee—their closest of the year—and Alabama scored 400 points and gave up only 133 points prior to entering the national championship game, a 22-point-plus winning margin in 12 games.

The national championship game itself was not as dramatic as Mount Cody's blocked kick. In retrospect, the game some sportswriters made out to be close and in question, was really nothing of the such.

The reality was that Texas spent much of the game looking confused. The initial enthusiasm of the Longhorns evaporated quickly when, on their 5th offensive play, Alabama's Marcell Dareus hit Colt McCoy with such force he re-injured McCoy's shoulder and knocked him out of the game.

"I did lay it down pretty hard," said Dareus, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound sophomore defensive lineman. The entire Texas offense revolved around McCoy all year, and there is no way that the Longhorns would have been playing in the final game of the season without him. McCoy is the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, with 45 victories in 52 starts.

With McCoy out and the Crimson Tide defense smelling blood like sharks in deep water, they shut down the Longhorns as 'Bama scored 4 times in the 2nd quarter to take a 24-6 halftime lead.

Sophomore running back and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram scored on a 2-yard run. Freshman Trent Richardson scored on a 49-yard run. Senior placekicker Leigh Tiffin added a 26-yard field goal, and Marcell Dareus continued his damage by scoring on a 28-yard interception return after picking off a shovel pass from McCoy's replacement, Garrett Gilbert.

At this point in the game, Texas looked like dead meat.

Gilbert, an inexperienced freshman and Texas' quarterback of the future, would settle down and later throw 44-yard and 28-yard touchdown passes to Jordan Shipley, the Longhorns go-to receiver. The gap was closed to three, 24-21, with 3:02 left.

Then senior linebacker Eryk Anders stepped up with a blindside sack of Gilbert 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a fumble that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Alabama took over on the Texas 3-yard line and three plays later, Mark Ingram found paydirt, putting 'Bama up 31-21.

On their next possession, Gilbert was intercepted for the 3rd time in the game by senior defensive back Javier Arenas, and Alabama took over on Texas' 27-yard line. Trent Richardson then scored his 2nd touchdown by running 27 yards in three plays, putting 'Bama up 37-21. The game was then all but over with an exclamation point—one freshman (Richardson) beating another (Gilbert).

In a nutshell, the Crimson Tide did not need a great quarterback (Greg McElroy) to win—they had Mark Ingram and the Alabama defense to do the job when it counted. Ingram would finish with 116 yards on 22 carries (5.3 ypc) and 2 touchdowns. 'Bama outrushed Texas, 205 yards to 81.

While many thought Alabama was nuts to pay Nick Saban $32 million over 8 years ($4 million annually) to coach its team, here are the results: After going 7-6 his first year and winning the Independence Bowl, Saban's team last year was 12-2 and would have played in the national championship game had it beaten Florida in the SEC title game. This year Alabama was 14-0, won redemption and the SEC title by beating Florida 32-13, and won Alabama's 8th national championship.

Alabama's title was its first in 17 years, the Tide's last national championship was in 1992. And let's not forget Texas (13-1). It may not be very well known, but Alabama's victory over Texas for the 2009 national championship was its first victory in 9 contests against the Longhorns. Texas will bounce back, and Alabama will have its work cut out for it to remain on top next year.

Even more significant than this year's national championship for Alabama is the fact that Nick Saban, by winning the national title this year, becomes the first coach ever to win national championships with 2 different schools. He won the 2003 BCS title with LSU (Louisiana State University) by beating Oklahoma 21-14.

Alabama and Bear Bryant are synonymous. Paul "Bear" Bryant, ever familiar in his houndstooth hat roaming the Crimson Tide sideline, coached at Alabama, his alma matre, for 25 years. When he retired in 1982, he had won 323 games—the most ever at the time—won 13 SEC (Southeastern Conference) titles and 6 national championships. In 38 years of coaching, Bear Bryant had exactly one losing season.

Nick Saban is looking so great as a coach at the moment, but let me say it here and now: Nick Saban is no Bear Bryant. Saban must establish his own unique identity in football history, as Bear Bryant did. Saban also has another 200 games to win, more SEC titles and at least 4 more national titles, either at Alabama or elsewhere.

February 7, 2010

College Football

Down 14-Zip, Two 2009 Bowl Teams Win by 10 – Texas Tech Takes the "Distraction" Bowl (aka Alamo Bowl)

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Despite being down 14-zip early on, two 2009 bowl teams—Utah and Middle Tennessee—won by 10, and Texas Tech managed to take the "Distraction" Bowl (aka the Alamo Bowl) title from Michigan State University, 41-31.

Both Texas Tech and Michigan State came into the Distraction Bowl with troubled programs. TCU coach Mike Leach had enjoyed enormous success with the Red Raider program, but his approach to disciplining at least one player got him into trouble, and his self-importance and arrogance got him fired by the school president before the bowl game.

Texas Tech's defensive coordinator Ruffin "Ruff" McNeill filled in for Leach. After leading "his" team to victory during a very difficult week of media madness, the likeable McNeill may be a candidate for the head coaching job left vacant when Leach got canned.

The signage on the field in San Antonio was nothing short of nasty. Fans supporting Leach—arguably the most successful and popular coach in Red Raider history—and denouncing the player of interest and his family, were both in evidence. Essentially, the family challenged Leach's authority and discipline tactics, which included making the player, who was injured and suffered a concussion, stand in a dark equipment shed for hours to apparently teach him to be tough.

College football has a history of coaches who routinely cussed and berated their players, and sometimes physically abused them. Those days are over. Strong-arm tactics in today's coaching environment are not tolerated, and many times exposed, as Mike Leach discovered. Cell phones with video cameras have made the world a much more watchable place.

Michigan State's program did not look much better. No less than 14 players were suspended from the team pending investigation, and did not make the trip to the Distraction Bowl because of a dormitory brawl in November.

At kickoff, it was difficult to tell which team had more and bigger thugs—the Texas Tech coaching staff led by Leach, or a large section of the Michigan State team players. (Disclaimer: As an athlete at Michigan State I must admit that I may have fantasized about being in a dormitory brawl, but I could never quite work up the hatred and mob mentality to get the job done. I settled my scores during the competition.)

As you might guess, the Distraction Bowl was an afterthought. With all of the finger pointing, shouting and recriminations, it was a wonder they even kept score. Michigan State lost, of course, because the Spartans had been having such a crappy year—losing to Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and now Texas Tech.

State finished the year with a losing season at 6-7. Texas Tech was 9-4 and "thugtorious". Johnny Appleseed would have thrown the whole basket of Texas Tech and Michigan State away. Thank goodness that there will be a next year for each team.

No. 23-ranked Utah (10-3) spotted California (8-5) two touchdowns in 11 seconds during the 1st quarter, but refused to buckle or panic. The Utes would score the next 27 points in the game and go on to win by 10, 37-27, in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Utah's true freshman Jordan Wynn amassed 338 yards in the air and fired 3 touchdown passes to help the Utes notch their 9th straight bowl victory, currently the longest winning streak in major college football. Southern California won 9 straight from 1923 to 1945, and Florida State, under Bobby Bowden, won 11 straight from 1985 to 1996 to set the record.

Coach Kyle Whittingham's guys know how to win. Utah has become the BCS buster among mid-major schools. The Utes whipped Pittsburgh 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl in 2004, and took down Alabama 31-17 last year in the Sugar Bowl.

Utah 's defense was right there—shutting down Cal after its 14-0 take off, and then Utah's offense scored on its last 4 possessions of the 1st half.

Middle Tennessee (10-3) was also down 14-zip in its game against Southern Mississippi (7-6), but came roaring back to win by 10, 42-32, in the New Orleans Bowl.

Middle Tennessee's sophomore QB Dwight Dasher rushed for 201 yards, scored 2 TDs on the ground, and 2 more in the air to lead the Blue Raiders to victory. His 201 yards broke Vince Young's quarterback bowl rushing record of exactly 200 yards set against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl won by Texas. Dasher went 15-of-25 while passing for 162 yards.

He finished the season with 1,175 yards rushing as a quarterback.

Damion Fletcher, Southern Mississippi's star running back, gained 78 yards to finish the year with 1,015, becoming only the 9th player in major college football history to rush for 1,000 yards for 4 consecutive seasons. Fletcher's 5,302 rushing yards passed Herschel Walker's 5,259 and LaDainian Tomlinson's 5, 263 for 8th place on the NCAA's career list.

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill was beyond pleased with his players. The Blue Raiders were playing in only their second bowl game in school history—their first bowl win, winning their last 7 regular season games, and their 10 total wins marked their most since joining the big time Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 1999.

Both Mississippi (9-4) and Oklahoma State (9-4) littered the Cotton Bowl with turnovers, missed opportunities and sloppy play in a game that saw Ole Miss prevail, 21-7, as senior Dexter McCluster had a career-high 32 carries for 182 yards (5.69 ypc) and 2 TDs, including the go-ahead score on a direct snap with 4:03 remaining.

Mississippi had 5 turnovers in the game. Oklahoma State, not to be outdone, had 6 turnovers in the 4th quarter alone, and 7 overall. It all looked like practice recovery drills for game preparation. With a dozen fumbles in the game, every player appeared to need remedial training in protecting the ball.

Mississippi coach Houston Nutt had mixed feelings after the game—joy and sorrow. He was happy his team won, and sad to realize that Dexter McCluster would be graduating from his program. McCluster became the first SEC player ever to have 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in a single season.

Nutt has caught on as the Ole Miss coach. The season before he arrived, Mississippi had lost all 8 of its SEC games. Nutt has led the Rebels to consecutive 9-4 seasons and 2 consecutive Cotton Bowl victories. Last year Ole Miss dusted off Texas Tech, 47-34.

Another great individual performance by C.J. Spiller led Clemson (9-5) to a 21-13 victory over Kentucky (7-6) in the Music City Bowl. Spiller picked up 67 yards rushing, scored a TD, caught 3 passes for 58 yards, and had 47 yards on returns. His TD was the 51st of his career, setting a Clemson record.

Clemson's first-year coach Dabo Swinney was down with a bowl victory in his first full season as a head coach.

February 6, 2010

College Football

Six 2009 Bowl Teams Used Defense to Win, None More Convincingly Than Iowa

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

While Nebraska used its stifling defense to record the 2009 bowl season's only shutout (a 33-0 victory over Arizona), six other bowl winners used their defense to achieve victories--Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Boise State, Marshall and Connecticut.

We are defense, claimed coach Kirk Ferentz and his 10th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, and they proved it again by holding Georgia's high-powered, triple-option offense (2nd in the nation in rushing and 11th in scoring) to 12 yards passing and forcing a team-high 7 punts while beating the 9th-ranked Yellow Jackets, 24-14, in the BCS Orange Bowl.

It was the same Iowa defense that had held 4 bowl-bound teams to 10 points or less during the regular season. Georgia had only 14 three-and-outs during the season, yet failed to pick up a first down in their first 4 possessions against the Hawkeye defensive assault.

Iowa did not need a lot of offense to get the job done. True freshman Brandon Wegher ran for 113 yards in 16 carries (7.0 ypc) and a touchdown, and Ricky Stanzi, returning from a sprained ankle injury, went 17-for-29 and 231 yards passing.

The win was the Hawkeyes first in BCS bowl play, matched the school record for season wins (11-2), and gave them their highest national ranking in a half-century. Georgia finished at 11-3.

Sophomore Terrelle Pryor threw for a career-high 266 yards, had 2 TD passes and rushed for 72 yards, but it was the Ohio State defense that held Oregon's explosive offense in check as the Buckeyes whipped the Ducks, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State was ranked 8th coming into the game and Oregon 7th.

The Buckeye defense held Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli and his no-huddle offense to only 81 yards passing, and held star running back LaMichael James to only 70 yards.

The victory was oh-so-sweet, not just for a struggling Terrelle Pryor trying to come of age, but also for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who won a national championship and then lost 3 straight BCS bowl games. The monkey is now off of Tressel's back.

Pryor made some early mistakes (already forgotten in winning), but when it counted in the 4th quarter, he came up big during a 13-play, 81-yard drive eating up 6+ minutes of time, and ending with a 17-yard TD strike to DeVier Posey to put the Buckeyes up 26-17, the final score with approximately 7 minutes to play.

Wisconsin, ranked 24th coming into the Champs Sports Bowl against 14th-ranked Miami, brought its big and slow Badger linemen to face the Hurricanes fast and speedy offense. Someone forget to tell the Badgers they were too slow to catch the Hurricanes. The result was a 20-14 upset victory that left Wisconsin 10-3 after the game and Miami 9-4.

The Badgers chased Miami's Jacory Harris around all afternoon, getting 5 sacks and holding the Hurricane runners to 61 yards on the ground. Meantime, John Clay rolled up 121 yards and scored 2 touchdowns in Wisconsin's victory. Clay was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.

Wisconsin was on offense for almost 40 minutes during the 60-minute game. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out if you got the ball longer than they do," said Badger coach Bret Bielema, "you have a better chance of scoring more points." Nicely said Bret, and thank your defense for keeping Miami off the field.

In the first ever BCS bowl game that pitted unbeaten mid-major teams against each other, 6th-ranked Boise State upset 3rd-ranked TCU (Texas Christian University), 17-10, in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State came in at 13-0 and left 14-0; TCU came in at 12-0 and left 12-1.

It looked like this game might end in a 10-all tie, but a gutsy call by Bronco coach Chris Petersen for a fake punt on a 4th-and-9 at the Bronco's 33-yard line resulted in a 30-yard completion by punter Kyle Brotzman to a wide-open Kyle Efaw. That keep a drive alive that resulted in the winning Boise State touchdown on a 2-yard run by Doug Martin. The TCU Horned Frogs (I'm not kidding, that's their nickname) were caught with their pants down.

The play was called the "Riddler", and TCU had no joker to solve it.

Last year TCU beat Boise State 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl. This year's BCS contest pitted two high-scoring offenses as Boise State led the nation with 44 points a game, and TCU was scoring 40 a game. However, both teams, thanks to defensive play, ended up punting 8 times.

TCU never seemed to recover after Boise State's successful fake punt play led to the touchdown that spelled the difference. The Broncos ended up one of only two unbeaten teams following bowl competition, finishing at 14-0. Alabama won the national title with the same 14-0 mark.

The victory was Boise State's second in BCS play, and gave them as many BCS wins as Michigan, Penn State and Alabama have combined.

Marshall's Andre Booker returned a punt 58 yards for one touchdown, and Mike Ward rushed for 72 yards on 9 carries (8.0 ypc) and scored two TDs to put the Thundering Herd up 21-zip as Marshall held off Ohio to beat the Bobcats, 21-17, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Marshall finished the year at 7-6, and Ohio was 9-5.

Marshall was led by interim coach Rick Minter after Mark Snyder resigned. Snyder will be replaced by John "Doc" Holliday, the West Virginia assistant coach who was an assistant to Urban Meyer when Florida won the national championship in 2006.

South Carolina (7-6) played its worst game of the year in the Papajohns.com Bowl as Connecticut (8-5) put the hurt on the Gamecocks, 20-7. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after the game, "I'm embarrassed. Blame me. It was a sad, sad effort, especially the offense."

Man, he was not kidding. The Gamecocks, playing in the heart of SEC country at Birmingham (AL), were sucking major Louisiana pond water. Connecticut held them to 76 yards rushing, 129 yards passing and forced them to punt 7 times. Stephen Garcia fumbled once and was intercepted once.

Connecticut led 20-0 and darn near got a shutout as South Carolina finally scored a TD with 3:24 left in the game. The Huskies' Andre Dixon picked up 126 yards on 33 carries and scored a touchdown. Connecticut players were motivated to win following the stabbing death of cornerback Jasper Howard, who was killed in a fight outside a school-sponsored dance in October.

February 5, 2010

College Football

Eight 2009 Bowl Teams Win by 3 Points or Less, None More Exciting Than Idaho

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Eight of the 34 bowl game winners—or approximately 25 percent—earned their victories by 3 or less points, and none won in more exciting fashion than Idaho—and that includes two double overtime winners (Wyoming and Central Michigan) and two single overtime winners (Arkansas and Auburn).

Coach Robb Akey of the Idaho Vandals will get the fans eternal nod of approval for choosing to go for a 2-point conversion and the win, rather than send the game into overtime with an extra point attempt and 4 seconds remaining on the clock. Junior quarterback Nathan Enderle found sophomore wide receiver Preston Davis in the back of the end zone to give Idaho the 43-42 dramatic victory over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Bowling Green thought it had the game in the bag. Trailing 28-14 midway through the 3rd quarter, the Falcons scored 28 points, including two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes, taking a 42-35 lead on a 51-pass from Tyler Sheehan to Freddie Barnes with 32 seconds left.

But the Vandals were not fazed as Enderle found Davis (the same winning 2-point conversion combination) on a 50-yard completion to Bowling Green's 16-yard line. With 8 seconds left, Enderle found senior wide receiver Max Komar, who caught a low throw sliding across the goal line to set up the winning conversion.

Here's the real kicker: Komar, the Vandals leading receiver, had been dropping balls like hot potatoes all game, and his catch to the put Idaho in a position to win was his first of the day.

On the other side of the ball, Falcon receiver Freddie Barnes was making NCAA history while hauling in 17 passes from Sheehan for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 17 catches gave Barnes 155 for the season, breaking the record for most receptions in a season—a record that was previously held by two famous names, Nate Burleson of Nevada (138 receptions in 2002) and Howard Twilley of Tulsa (134 receptions in 1965).

Idaho's Enderle went 15-of-28 for 240 yards and 4 touchdowns. Bowling Green's Sheehan went 33-of-47 for 387 yards and 4 touchdowns.

But the real story of Idaho's victory was coach Robb Akey, who labored 19 years as an assistant college football coach before taking over an Idaho program had was dead meat and had 3 coaches in 3 years before Akey arrived. He went 1-11 and 2-10 in his first two seasons, but it would be a misnomer to say Idaho was crazy to keep him on with only 3 victories in 2 years.

Akey was busy getting rid of the dead meat on the team that did not want to work, play serious football, and win. The result was this year's team. The Vandals were picked to be at the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference this season, but started the year at 6-1 and finished at 8-5 with their Humanitarian Bowl victory.

The news from Moscow (ID), if you have not already heard, is that the Vandals are no longer a doormat waiting to be walked on. Give Akey some well-deserved props; he created the environment and provided the leadership at the top to make it happen.

Perhaps the second most exciting, close game victory this bowl season belonged to the Wyoming Cowboys, who trailed by 11 points in the 4th quarter to storm back and beat Fresno State, 35-28 in double overtime at the New Mexico Bowl.

And Wyoming did it with a freshman quarterback and a superb, goal-line defensive stand against the leading rusher in the nation, Fresno State's Ryan Matthews. First-year coach Dave Christensen could not have been happier or more proud of his players.

Matthews averaged 151 yards per game and did not disappoint his fans, racking up 144 yards on 31 carries while scoring 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he fumbled midway in the final quarter when Cowboy lineman Mitch Unrien stripped the ball. Wyoming capitalized on the miscue when freshman QB Austyn Carta-Samuels engineered a 19-play drive that brought Wyoming within 3 points, 28-25.

A 37-yard field goal by Cowboy Ian Watts with 20 seconds left tied it at 28-all. Neither team scored in the first overtime, but Carta-Samuels found David Leonard on a 13-yard pass in the second OT to go up, 35-28.

Then the Wyoming defensive line staged a magnificent goal-line rally to stop Ryan Matthews, the nation's leading rusher, 3 times at the 1-yard line, and also stopped QB Ryan Colburn on a QB sneak at the 1 to shut the door on Fresno State. It was all in a day's work for the Cowboys, who have won 4 games this season with 4th-quarter rallies.

Wyoming's Austyn Carta-Samuels went 17-of-31 for 201 yards and 3 touchdown passes. He was chosen the game's MVP, and was also selected as the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year. The Cowboys, who were picked to finish last in their conference, ended the year at 7-6. Fresno State was 8-5.

Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour continued to make history in the GMAC Bowl as he led the Chippewas to a high-scoring 44-41 win over Troy in double overtime.

LeFevour completed 33 of 55 passes for 395 yards and scored on a 13-yard run. His 15,853 total career yards left him second only to Hawaii's Timmy Chang who holds the record with 16,910.

Lost in the shuffle of LeFevour's accomplishment was Central Michigan kicker Andrew Aguila, who nailed field goals from 28, 35, 44 and 42 yards before kicking the game-winning 37-yarder in double overtime. His 5 field goals set a GMAC Bowl record.

Antonio Brown was also a huge presence for the Chippewas, scoring on a 95-yard kickoff return and finishing with 403 all-purpose yards—178 receiving on 13 catches, 203 on kickoff returns and 22 yards rushing.

Troy ended the season at 9-4 and Central Michigan at 12-2. Chippewa coach Butch Jones, who won 2 Mid-American Conference titles in 3 years, has left the program to become the new coach at Cincinnati, replacing Brian Kelly who headed for Notre Dame. Dan Enos, the running backs coach at Michigan State, will take over at Central Michigan for Butch Jones.

For Arkansas' Alex Tejada, it was redemption day at the Liberty Bowl as his 37-yard field goal in overtime gave the Razorbacks a 20-17 victory East Carolina. Tejada had missed a crucial kick in a loss to Florida in October, and missed another kick against Louisiana State that prevented Arkansas from forcing a second overtime in a 33-30 loss.

But pass the pity on to East Carolina kicker Ben Hartman, he twice missed field goal attempts late in the game and missed again in the OT period. Hartman actually missed 4 attempts in the game from 45, 39, 39 again on the final play of the game, and 35 in OT. East Carolina (8-5) coach Skip Holtz felt Hartman's pain; Hartman is East Carolina's all-time leading scorer.

The Liberty Bowl was not picture perfect. Arkansas' (8-5) win was only its 3rd in 15 bowl-game appearances. The Razorbacks went 0-13 on third-down attempts, becoming only the second major college team this season to win a game without converting a third down. Colorado State went 0-for-9 on third down attempts while beating Weber State earlier in the season.

The Razorbacks, who averaged 37 points a game, were down 10-zip at the half, marking the first time Arkansas had been shut out in the first half since losing to Alabama 35-7 in September.

Naw, the Liberty Bowl was not pretty, but Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino had the right attitude, saying "I'm not sure who outplayed who, but we won the game."

Wes Byrum kicked a 21-yard field goal in overtime to give Auburn (8-5) a 38-35 victory over Northwestern (8-5) in the Outback Bowl, stopping a Wildcat rally that denied Northwestern its first bowl win in 61 years.

Some days it does not pay to tempt fate; for Northwestern, this was one of those days. Coach Pat Fitzgerald sent backup kicker Steve Flaherty onto the field to try and tie the game on the last play in the first OT. Flaherty was in because regular kicker Stefan Demos was injured earlier. What happened next was a disaster.

Wildcat receiver Zeke Markshausen took a handoff from the holder, circled around right end to win the game, and was stopped at the 2-yard line by Auburn's Neiko Thorpe. Game over.

Northwestern QB Mike Kafka was 47-of-78 (no typo here) for 532 yards (yes, 532 yards) and 4 touchdowns, but he also threw 5 interceptions, with 2 of the picks coming in the end zone and one being run back for a 100-yard touchdown. Yikes. First-year Auburn coach Gene Chizik could not have been happier with the win.

Playing in a driving rainstorm that turned the field into a mosh pit in Orlando (FL), the 11th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (11-2) turned back the 13th-ranked Louisiana State Tigers (9-4), 19-17, to win the Capital One Bowl, the most prestigious bowl game among the remaining 29 after the 5 BCS bowl games.

For Penn State coach Joe Paterno and his QB Daryll Clark, the win meant vindication.

Clark carried the rap of not being able to win the big games, and Paterno is often criticized for piling up victories while playing soft opponents; in fact, Penn State had not beaten a ranked team all year. I have been vitriolic about Penn State's cupcake opponents, that said, LSU is no cupcake, and now JoePa has beaten at least one ranked team.

LSU was behind by 13 but did take a 17-16 lead with 12:39 left. Clark led a late-game drive that allowed Collin Wagner's 21-yard field goal to provide the game-winner. For JoePa, it was his record 24th bowl victory, and LSU's Les Miles' first loss in 5 bowls as the coach.

Freshman Dion Lewis ran for 159 yards and a TD to lead 17th-ranked Pittsburgh (10-3) past North Carolina (8-5), 19-17 (same score as Penn State's win), in the Meineke Bowl. Dan Hutchins kicked a 33-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to seal the deal.

The 5-foot-8 Lewis, overlooked by many college scouts because of his size, broke Tony Dorsett's 36-year-old Pitt freshman rushing record of 1,686 yards with 1,799 yards on the season. Dorsett rushed for 2,150 yards in 1976, picking up the Heisman Trophy and helping Pitt win the national title. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt blocked for Dorsett on that championship team.

Lewis is the real deal. North Carolina came into the game with the nation's 6th best total defense and 9th best rushing defense, and could not stop Lewis who, barring injury, will break more records in the future.

Iowa State (7-6) scored twice in the 2nd quarter to edge Minnesota (6-7), 14-13, in the Insight Bowl. Two years ago, the Cyclones won only 2 games. Needless to say, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Roberts was pleased as punch.

Iowa State turned the ball over 4 times, gave up 434 yards and committed 8 penalties and still won. How many teams could claim victory in a bowl game by turning the ball over 4 times? Ask Minnesota, the Golden Gophers let them do it.

Minnesota had trailed in all 6 of its regular season wins, and rallied 4 times during the 4th quarter to win. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster can try again next year. For the Cyclones, it was their first winning season since 2005.

February 4, 2010

College Football

Eight 2009 Bowl Teams Lose by 20 or More Points, None Worse Than Nevada

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Eight of the 34 bowl game losers—or approximately 25 percent—lost by 20 or more points, none worse than Nevada's 45-10 drubbing at the hands of the rising Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the Hawaii Bowl. For SMU coach June Jones, it was homecoming all over again.

Jones coached the Hawaii Warriors for 9 years prior to becoming SMU's coach. At Hawaii, Jones inherited a team that had lost 18 straight games. He left Hawaii with a 76-41 season record, took the Warriors to 6 Bowl games and won 4, had three 9-win seasons, and one each 10-win, 11-win and 12-win season while competing in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference).

Jones inherited a dismal SMU program that was so bad that even this year 91% of football fans picked them to lose the Hawaii Bowl. Despite the fact that June Jones suffered through a tough 1-11 first season, his Mustangs finished this year at 8-5 and in a tie with Houston for 1st place in Conference USA's West Division title race.

Southern Methodist was so dominate in the Hawaii Bowl that the Mustangs led 31-0 at the half. SMU's freshman quarterback Kyle Padron racked up a school-record 460 yards, going 32-for-41 with 2 touchdowns. Mustang Emmanuel Sanders had 7 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Aldrick Robinson caught another 9 passes for 176 yards. Padron won the Hawaii Bowl's Most Valuable Player Award.

SMU's Shawnbrey McNeal gained 63 yards on 12 carries (5.25 yards per carry) and scored 3 times on the ground. Both teams ended the season with 8-5 records.

Jones was used to competing in bowl games while coaching at Hawaii, and his leadership took SMU to its first bowl game in 25 years. The Mustangs, a 12-point underdog going into the Hawaii Bowl, will not likely be rated so low next time around, and knowing June Jones, there will be a next time for SMU and the Mustangs.

No. 20-ranked Nebraska not only beat 22nd-ranked Arizona, but shutout the Wildcats 33-0 to record the first shutout in the 32-history of the Holiday Bowl. Coach Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers made history of their own as the shutout was the first for Nebraska in 46 bowl appearances.

Bo knows defense, and his defense has been led all season by tackle Ndamukong Suh, the AP College Football Player of the Year and a Heisman finalist. Nebraska was so dominate on defense that Arizona did not get into the Cornhuskers' side of the field until the 3rd quarter. Nebraska held the Wildcats to 6 first downs, 109 total yards of offense and 51 plays, forcing Arizona to punt 9 times.

No one should be surprised by Nebraska's superb defensive effort in this bowl game. The Cornhuskers ranked 7th in the nation in total defense (among 120 teams) and first in scoring defense, allowing only 10 points per game. Nebraska ended the year at 10-4, notching its first 10-win season since 2003. Arizona was 8-5.

Unlike Alabama a year ago, Florida knew how to overcome a devastating loss. A year ago, the Crimson Tide lost to Florida in the SEC Championship game, and Florida went on to win the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma, 24-14. Alabama then played Utah in the Sugar Bowl and got their butts kicked, 31-17.

This year Alabama beat Florida in the SEC Championship game, 32-13, and then went on to win the BCS National Championship game against Texas, 37-21. Florida met unbeaten Cincinnati (12-0) in the Sugar Bowl and upset the Bearcats, 51-24. There was no letdown for the Gators.

Tim Tebow, Florida's all around superstar and the best-known college football player in the nation, had arguably the best game of his career. Tebow passed for a career-high 482 yards and rushed for another 51 to compile 533 total yards of offense, breaking Vince Young's BCS record of 467 yards set against Southern California in the 2005 Rose Bowl. The awesome Florida offense finished the day with 659 yards of offense.

The Bearcats had forced Tebow to win the game by passing as they stacked the line of scrimmage—a tactic that Alabama had used to beat Florida in the SEC title game, but Cincinnati did not have the same caliber of defensive players as Alabama and the Bearcats failed miserably.

Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner, completed 31 of 35 passes and threw touchdown passes to Aaron Hernandez, Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper. He also ran for a touchdown. Florida's senior class players officially became the most successful senior class in SEC history, winning 2 national championships in 2006 and 2008, and compiling a 48-6 record during 4 seasons for a 89% winning percentage.

The win was the 13th of the year for Florida (13-1), making it the first major college team in history to win 13 games in consecutive seasons. The loss was the second straight for Cincinnati in BCS bowl game competition; the Bearcats lost to Virginia Tech 20-7 in last year's Orange Bow.

In fairness to the Cincinnati players, their coach Brian Kelly quit the team in early December to take the coaching job at Norte Dame. Kelly had called plays all season for the Bearcat offense and his absence was noted. Interim coach Jeff Quinn was left to prepare the team for its biggest game ever, and the loss meant Cincinnati's unbeaten season came to a screeching halt.

Houston blew into the Armed Forces Bowl with its quarterback Case Keenum, the nation's leading signal-caller with 5,671 passing yards, 44 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.

Houston had earned a right to swagger—the Cougars' led the nation in offensive production, averaging 563 yards a game, and also were tied with Boise State for the nation's top scoring offense, averaging 42 points a game.

Unfortunately, Houston was playing Air Force. Do you how quickly a fighter jet can destroy an offense on the ground? The Air Force Academy Falcons came into the game with the nation's 5th best passing defense.

And the result? Air Force dissected Houston, 47-20. The Air Force secondary held Houston and Keenum to 222 yards passing and intercepted 6 passes. Defensive back Chris Thomas ended up with a busted-up nose, but he also had two picks and 12 tackles. Teammate Anthony Wright had 3 picks. Keenum had only 6 picks in the first 12 games this year.

The Air Force running game was led by Jared Tew with 173 yards on 26 carries (6.65 ypc), and Asher Clark with 129 yards on 17 carries (7.59 ypc). Both Tew and Asher scored twice.

I was the least surprised guy on the face of the Earth that Houston took a beating. The Cougars are ranked 111th among 120 teams in total defense, and only 95th in scoring defense. A quote by Keenum after the defeat was hilarious: "We're going to take this into the off-season and we're going to use it as motivation."

Here is a better idea, Case. Tell your coach, Kevin Sumlin, to recruit some high school kids that can play defense.

Houston football is going nowhere at 1,000 miles an hour. Unless Kevin Sumlin figures out that he needs to play defense to win big time, he may win some games but his Cougars will not be a serious contender for anything worth talking about. Houston ended the season at 10-4; Sagarin had them ranked at 53rd in the country. Even Mississippi State with a 5-7 record was ranked higher at 45th.

Oregon State had its own problems. The Beavers never recovered from their Civil War showdown against Oregon, losing to the Ducks 37-33, and losing the right to play in the BCS Rose Bowl. They had to settle for the Las Vegas Bowl and getting clubbed by Brigham Young, 44-20.

This was a huge surprise, not the loss, but the loss by 24 points. The Beavers are one of the dirtiest teams in the country, and have been known to be downright vicious on the field. BYU's Max Hall had his way with them, going 19-of-30 for 192 yards and 3 TDs. BYU ended the year at 11-2; Oregon State was 8-5—I would not want to be the team that plays them in their opener next year.

South Florida's Mike Ford ran for 207 yards (10.4 ypc) and a touchdown, and freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels went 14-of-22 for 217 yards and 2 TD passes as the Bulldogs tore through Northern Illinois, 27-3, in the International Bowl at Toronto, Ontario, Canada's largest city.

The bowl win was the second straight for the Bulls, who beat Memphis 41-14 in last season's St. Petersburg Bowl. This year's game was tied 3-all at the half, but South Florida won the 2nd half, 24-0.

Freshman running back Ryan Williams ran for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns to lead 12th-ranked Virginia Tech past Tennessee, 37-14, in the Chick-fil A Bowl, boosting the Hokies to 10-3 and giving them their 6th straight 10-win season. Virginia Tech outrushed Tennessee (7-6) in the game, 229 to 5.

Williams became the Hokies' single-season record-holder with 1,655 yards, and also set Atlantic Coast Conference records with his 21 rushing TDs and 22 total TDs. Virginia Tech won the Orange Bowl last season, and now has back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in school history.

Tennessee was out to lunch in this game, and its first-year coach—Lane "Here Again, Gone Again" Kiffin—promptly dumped Tennessee for a better gig at Southern California. Peter Carroll left USC to take the coaching job with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. There is nothing like loyalty to build a little trust and confidence, or so they say in Tennessee.

Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers' freshman multi-threat receiver, scored twice from a wildcat formation and caught a touchdown pass to lead the Scarlet Knights over the University of Central Florida (UCF), 45-24, in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Tom Savage, another freshman, threw for a career-best 294 yards and 2 TDs.

Their coach, Greg Schiano, was effusive in the victory, "That's 4 straight bowl wins, 5 straight bowls," said Schiano, who has brought Rutgers from nothing back to contention during the last 9 years.

Sanu is the first Rutgers player in 17 years to run for a TD, pass for a TD and catch a pass for a TD in the same season. When you can run, pass and catch for touchdowns, you are a legitimate triple threat.

UCF coach George O'Leary said after the game that the Rutgers defense was better than his offense. The Scarlet Knights held Central Florida to 35 yards rushing and allowed only 4-of-15 third-down conversions, forcing Central Florida to punt 8 times.

February 3, 2010

College Football

Biggest Winners Among the Six 2009 Desperation Bowl Teams Were Florida State and Oklahoma

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

It was goodbye for legendary coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State, and welcome back Oklahoma as both the Seminoles and Sooners racked up the best victories among the six desperation bowl teams, so-called because of their disappointing regular season play and chance to redeem themselves in a bowl game.

For 80-year-old legendary coach Bobby Bowden, the day could not have gone better. A couple of youngsters saved Bowden's bacon. Sophomore Jermaine Thomas scored twice and ran for 121 yards, and redshirt freshman E.J. Manual piled up 189 yards through the air and scored on the ground as Florida State upset the 18th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers 33-21 in the Gator Bowl.

The Siminoles came into the game with a 6-6 record, were down by 11 points after the 1st quarter, and came back to give Bowden his 33rd consecutive winning season at 7-6. West Virginia finished the year at 9-4. Bowden, who was forced out after a 57-year coaching career, finished with a 389-129-4 record and a 75% winning percentage.

No one has had more NCAA Division I wins except Joe Patero of Penn State with 394, making Bowden the college football's second-winningest coach.

Jimbo Fisher now takes over the helm at Florida State, which finished the season at 7-6 for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. It seems as if Bowden has been coaching forever. More than 350 of Bowden's former players showed up to witness his last victory.

Even losing West Virginia coach Bill Stewart had a tie to Bowden. Stewart was a 177-pound walk-on in 1970 during Bowden's first year as the coach at West Virginia.

Oklahoma came into the Sun Bowl against Stanford with losses to Brigham Young, Miami (FL) and Texas by a combined 5 points, to Nebraska by 7, and a jaw-dropper to Texas Tech by 28. No matter. In the end, Oklahoma upset 19th-ranked Stanford, 31-27. Both teams finished the season at 8-5.

The Sooner defense could not stop Stanford's battering ram Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Gerhart led the nation in rushing with 1,736 yards. Oklahoma's redshirt freshman quarterback Landry Jones was 30-of-51 for 418 yards and a TD, and sophomore wide receiver Ryan Broyles had 13 receptions for 156 yards and 3 TD catches.

Broyles 3 TD catches were a Sun Bowl record, and his 13 receptions were a single-game Oklahoma record.

Navy's junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and threw for another, as the Midshipmen ran over Missouri 35-13 in the Texas Bowl. Navy's triple-option offense racked up 385 yards against Missouri's 12th-ranked run defense.

While the Missouri Tigers were bigger and faster than the Midshipmen, Navy's undersized defense played with heart, holding the Tigers to only 65 rushing yards. The Midshipmen finished at 10-4, marking only their 3rd 10-win campaign in school history. Missouri ended the season at 8-5.

UCLA alumni and second-year coach Rick Neuheisel led his Bruins to a 7-6 winning season with a 30-21 come-from-behind win over the Temple Owls (9-4) in the EagleBank Bowl. Temple won the 1st half 21-10, and UCLA won the 2nd half 20-0.

A 2-yard interception return by Akeem Ayers in the 4th quarter provided the go-ahead touchdown. The Bruins, who held Temple scoreless in the 2nd half, allowed the Owls to complete only 1 pass in the entire 2nd half. UCLA's bowl victory gave it a winning record for the first time since 2006.

Temple was playing its first bowl game in 30 years. Despite losing, Temple coach Al Golden inherited a winless program that went 0-11 in 2005 and has capped a 4-year turnaround with the Owls' bowl appearance. Temple's No. 1 fan is Owl graduate and comedian Bill Cosby.

The weather conditions for the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, DC were 32 degrees at kickoff and a wind chill factor of 19. Many pundits thought the sun and surf boys from UCLA would fold, but they were wrong. Neuheisel called the field "an ice rink".

Georgia had a disappointing season by losing 5 games before arriving for the Independence Bowl to play Texas A&M. The Bulldogs used losses to Oklahoma State, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky (yes, Kentucky) by a combined 78 points as motivation to rip through Texas A&M 44-20.

An 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter by Georgia's Brandon Boykin sparked a special teams effort that subsequently led to 24 Bulldog points. Georgia blocked 2 kicks, picked up a 59-yard interception return, and Joe Cox threw his first TD pass when a bad snap by the Aggies sailed over their punter's head in the 3rd quarter.

Take out the poor special teams play by Texas A&M and they might have won the game. Georgia finished the year at 8-5 and A&M was 6-7. The Aggies' loss was their 4th straight in bowl competition. Georgia coach Mark Richt improved his bowl record to 7-2 with the win over Texas A&M.

Southern California endured losses to Washington, Oregon (by 27 points), Stanford (by 34) and Arizona before arriving at the Emerald Bowl to face Boston College. Even though the Trojans would beat the Eagles, 24-13, USC's 9-4 season record was the worst showing for Trojan coach Pete Carroll since his first season in 2001.

The Trojans lost 3 of their last 5 regular season games, and are clearly not the team they have been during the last 7 years when they won 7 consecutive Pac 10 titles, played in 7 consecutive BCS bowl games, and won at least 10 games a season for 7 consecutive years.

The bowl-game loss by the Boston College Eagles was their second straight after winning 8 consecutive bowl games in post-season play. Boston College ended the year at 8-5.

USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley threw two TD passes to Stanley Havili and ran for another TD. Barkley was 27-of-37 for 350 yards. USC's Damian Williams caught 12 passes for 189 yards. The Trojans played without their leading rusher Joe McKnight, who became the Trojans first 1,000-yard runner since 2005. McKnight ran 1,014 yards for 6.2 yards per carry and scored 8 touchdowns, but was suspended for a possible team violation.

December 13, 2009

College Football

Why Bowl Games Are Such a Big Deal: They Bring Prestige and $139+ Million

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

If you are not a college football fan and could care less if you never see a bowl game in your life, you might wonder what all of the fuss is about. If you have a red-blooded male in your life, just ask him.

There will be 34 NCAA bowl games this year and the fuss in each one will be about prestige and money, big money, as in more than a collective $139 million for the participating teams and their respective conferences.

The actual bowl payouts reflected below add up to $127+ million, but the actual $139+ million figure arises because of some additional payouts for participating teams beyond the automatic qualifiers from the 6 major BCS conferences—the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern.

A team must win 6 games to be bowl-eligible, according to NCAA standards. Some of the qualifying teams automatically receive bowl bids, and others are asked to participate in the less significant bowl games.

Just about every news organization that publishes the bowl-game lineups does so by the date of the contest, the first (on December 19th) to the last (the Bowl Championship Series title game on January 7th).

I choose to do it this year by the importance of the bowl based on its payout first, and then the prominence of the game based on its participants. The first 5 bowl games listed comprise the prestigious BCS super-contests with the biggest payouts.

Here is the complete lineup for the 2009 season (which stretches into 2010).

1) $17 million – The BCS National Championship Game between Alabama (13-0) and Texas (13-0) on Jan. 7.

2) $17 million – Sugar Bowl with Florida (12-1) and Cincinnati (12-0) on Jan. 1.

3) $17 million – Fiesta Bowl with Texas Christian (12-0) and Boise State (13-0) on Jan. 4.

4) $17 million – Rose Bowl with Oregon (10-2) and Ohio State (10-2) on Jan. 1.

5) $17 million – Orange Bowl with Georgia Tech (11-2) and Iowa (10-2) on Jan. 5.

6) $4.25 million – Capital One Bowl with Penn State (10-2) and Louisiana State (9-3) on Jan. 1.

7) $3.3 million – Outback Bowl with Northwestern (8-4) and Auburn (7-5) on Jan. 1.

8) $3.005 million – Chick-fil-A Bowl with Virginia Tech (9-3) and Tennessee (7-5) on Dec. 31.

9) $3 million – Cotton Bowl with Oklahoma State (9-3) and Mississippi (8-4) on Jan. 2.

10) $2.5 million – Gator Bowl with West Virginia (9-3) and Florida State (6-6) on Jan. 1.

11) $2.35 million – Holiday Bowl with Nebraska (9-4) and Arizona (8-4) on Dec. 30.

12) $2.25 million – Champs Sports Bowl with Miami, FL (9-3) and Wisconsin (9-3) on Dec. 29.

13) $2.25 million – Alamo Bowl with Texas Tech (8-4) and Michigan State (6-6) on Jan. 2.

14) $1.9 million – Sun Bowl with Stanford (8-4) and Oklahoma (7-5) on Dec. 31.

15) $1.7 million – Liberty Bowl with East Carolina (9-4) and Arkansas (7-5) on Jan. 2.

16) $1.6 million – Music City Bowl with Clemson (8-5) and Kentucky (7-5) on Dec. 27.

17) $1.35 million – Insight Bowl with Iowa State (6-6) and Minnesota (6-6) on Dec.31.

18) $1.1 million – Independence Bowl with Georgia (7-5) and Texas A&M (6-6) on Dec. 28.

19) $1 million – Las Vegas Bowl with Brigham Young (10-2) and Oregon State (8-4) on Dec. 22.

20) $1 million – Meineke Car Care Bowl with Pittsburgh (9-3) and North Carolina (8-4) on Dec. 26.

21) $1 million – St. Petersburg Bowl with Rutgers (8-4) and Central Florida (8-4) on Dec. 19.

22) $1 million – EagleBank Bowl with Temple (9-3) and UCLA (6-6) on Dec. 29.

23) $850,000 – Emerald Bowl with Southern California (8-4) and Boston College (8-4) on Dec. 26.

24) $750,000 – GMAC Bowl with Central Michigan (11-2) and Troy (9-3) on Jan. 6.

25) $750,000 – Poinsettia Bowl with Utah (9-3) and California (8-4) on Dec. 23.

26) $750,000 – Little Caesars Pizza Bowl with Ohio (9-4) and Marshall (6-6) on Dec. 26.

27) $750,000 – New Mexico Bowl with Fresno State (8-4) and Wyoming (6-6) on Dec. 19.

28) $750,000 – Humanitarian Bowl with Idaho (7-5) and Bowling Green (7-5) on Dec. 30.

29) $750,000 – International Bowl with South Florida (7-5) and Northern Illinois (7-5) on Jan. 2.

30) $700,000 – Texas Bowl with Missouri (8-4) and Navy (8-4) on Dec. 31.

31) $600,000 – Armed Forces Bowl with Houston (10-3) and Air Force (7-5) on Dec. 31.

32) $398,000 – Hawaii Bowl with Nevada (8-4) and Southern Methodist (7-5) on Dec. 24.

33) $325,000 – New Orleans Bowl with Middle Tennessee (9-3) an Southern Mississippi (7-5) on Dec. 20.

34) $300,000 – Papjohns.com Bowl with South Carolina (7-5) and Connecticut (7-5) on Jan. 2.

2009 Washington Husky Football

August 22, 2009

College Football:

Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's Woeful Football Program

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Just as thinking heads argue about whether leaders are born or made, so do college football fanatics argue about whether the coach or the players make the team.

Let's settle the latter argument once and for all—coaches make the team, not the players. If it were not so, then players would recruit the players, whereas it is the coaches who recruit the players that—with great coaching up of players—make the team successful as the program progresses.

Yes, it is true that even great coaches cannot do a lot with duds for players—that is why they immediately recruit better players and coach them up to speed.

My turf is Western Washington, the state, not the Beltway to DC. Let me share with you not what I think, but what I know about coaches and players on any team.

When the Seattle Mariners were going nowhere at 1,000 miles an hour, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of head coach Lou Piniella. Piniella came in and announced that the Mariners were going to start winning but, unfortunately, three-quarters of the players on the roster would not be there to enjoy the success. Within two years, 5 players were left from his original roster, and the Mariners winning streak starting in 1995 is a happy history for Seattle fans.

When the Seattle Seahawks were sloshing around doing nothing but taking up space, acting like a football team but not playing like one, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of head coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren was much bigger than a lot of his players, and he was not interested in excuses; you were accountable, and you performed or you were gone. The Seahawks started winning right away and dominated their division.

When the University of Washington Huskies went winless last year in 12 games and had some of the worst performance statistics among all NCAA teams, I immediately predicted success with the hiring of new head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Nicknamed "Sark", Sarkisian is half-Armenian, half-Irish and all winner. Sarkisian and his hand-picked staff, including defensive coordinator Nick Holt, will get the Huskies back on the winning track, and he will not make a career out of it. It will happen. You will witness a giant step forward in his first year.

Sarkisian takes over a team that rung up these crummy national ratings last year—rushing offense (106th among 119 teams), passing offense (101st), total offense (116th), scoring offense (118th), rushing defense (117th), passing defense (62nd), total defense (110th) and scoring defense (116th). Washington scored 13 points a game and gave up an average of 38 points a game.

There is no way you can win games with these lame numbers. Was Washington's coaching staff last year the worst in the nation? You better believe it; that's why they have vacated the premises.

This is not a pretty picture for Sarkisian to inherit. However, you have to remember that Sark is a winner from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes. He spent 7 of his last 8 years at Southern California, first as a quarterbacks coach, then as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

During his tenure with head coach Pete Carroll, USC was in a BCS game EVERY year for the past 7 years, unmatched by any team in college football. USC also has the best winning percentage among BCS teams—85% (6-1). Sarkisian's record as the offensive coordinator for 2 years was 22-3, and he called the offensive plays on the sideline.

Sark also coached up two Heisman Trophy winners—Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in 2004. He has also mentored additional NFL-draft picks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez.

Washington's newest head coach was also a standout quarterback at Brigham Young University. As a senior, he led the nation in passing efficiency as the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion Cougars went 14-1 and won the 1997 Cotton Bowl.

Sark has been an outstanding winner as a player and coach. He knows how to win. He is not going to surround himself with a bunch of losers at the University of Washington.

Virtually all players want to win, but far fewer have the will to prepare to win. Sark will quickly find out who will pay the price to improve and have fun in the process. Those who cannot cut the mustard will be watching a lot of football games instead of playing in them.

At 35, Steve Sarkisian is one of the youngest head coaches of a major college football program. No matter. Just because a head coach has 15 years of experience does not make him good. Competency, direction, judgment, focus and enthusiasm all count for more.

The Pac 10 Conference media types recently came out with their preseason poll, picking Washington to finish 9th, just ahead of 10th-place Washington State.

The more I hear about head coach Steve Sarkisian and assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, the better I like Washington's chances to exceed expectations with a better than 9th-place finish.

The latest word from the practice field is that the Husky offensive players are going to legally cut block, a very important element in zone-blocking schemes. Holt is going to find out who can knock players down and who can't. Those that can't will be spending less time on the field.

Cut-blocking is legal when the blocker goes below a defender's knees with the helmet out in front of the defender. It is illegal when the blocker comes at the defender from the side or back, or when the defender is blocking another offensive player.

Doug Nussmeier will be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Huskies. Washington opens its season at home Saturday, Sept. 5, against Louisiana State (LSU), 1 of 6 preseason top 25 teams the Huskies will face this season (the others are USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State and California). Yikes!

Washington fans and boosters are fired up for improvement; they are sick and tired of getting slapped around by teams the Huskies used to dominate, especially when Don James was at the helm. The Dawgfather's career mark at Washington was 153-57-2 (72%) from 1975 to 1992, and the team went to 15 bowl games, winning 10. They also went to bowl games 9 consecutive years.

September 10, 2009

College Football

Steve Sarkisian Puts the Washington Husky Football Program Back on Track to Succeed

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

In a scant 60 minutes, the University of Washington’s entire football program went from a lingering negative impact since the departure of legendary coach Don James in 1993, to a positive impact when the Huskies opened their 2009 season against No. 11-ranked Louisiana State University.

Don James is affectionately known as the "Dawgfather" on the U-Dub campus. He is the role model for successful coaches at the University of Washington. James won 22 consecutive games from 1990 to 1992, a national championship, and took the Huskies to 6 Rose Bowls (4-2) and 15 bowl games (10-5) in 18 years.

His 153-57-2 record (a 72% winning percentage) is the standard by which all others are measured. When the Dawgfather speaks, even 16 years after being an active coach, hundreds of people line up to listen intently, and well they should. Fans greet him the reverence and respect he has earned.

Sixteen years of not performing up to Husky football standards had gone beyond tarnishing the image of Washington as an every-year Pac-10 contender and premiere national program to a dismal, inexcusable 0-12 team last year. Clearly, change was not only in order, it had become a "life and death issue" that was not going away.

Enter University of Washington’s President Mark Emmert and new Director of Athletics Scott Woodward and "BAM!"—like Emeril Lagasse putting spice into a recipe—the Huskies had a new head coach, Steve Sarkisian, and a new defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Nick Holt. Both came from University of Southern California’s program, where Sarkisian was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, and Holt was the defensive coordinator.

USC has been the most consistently successful football program in the country during the past 7 years. The Trojans have won at least 10 games a season for the past 7 years, and have been in 7 consecutive BCS (Bowl Championship Series) games—winning 6 of 7 BCS games, including the National Championship against Oklahoma in 2004. Their only BCS loss was to Texas in the 2005 National Championship Game.

Both the consecutive 10-win seasons and the number of BCS appearances are records. Along with head coach Pete Carroll, Sarkisian and Holt were an integral part of USC’s success, and now they are patrolling the field and sidelines at Husky Stadium.

The doors which barred key boosters, parents, fans and supporters from attending Husky practice and participating in Husky nation under the old regime were thrown open again. No more silence and no more exclusion as the old brain trust systematically screwed up the program almost beyond repair.

In through the open doors flew new enthusiasm, a new start, a new system, and a new chance for the great unwashed and undisciplined to come back into the fold. Now former players and coaches are once again welcomed and encouraged to participate in the Huskies' drive to success.

The Huskies, who have had to endure 14 straight losses, endured another one in their opener at home against LSU. But there was a clear difference: the Huskies won the battle of ball movement but lost the war, 31-23, while something very important happened.

The LSU Tigers and their coaching staff said and did all of the right things leading up to the kickoff, but inside they were really full of themselves in spite of themselves, all smart and snotty and ready to stomp the Huskies silly. But, as Mark Twain once declared, "the news of his death has been greatly exaggerated."

The Tigers left Husky Stadium realizing they had to do everything humanly possible to come out with a victory. There would be no crowing on the flight back to Baton Rouge. Amen. Husky football is back with a roar, young talent, intensity and a newfound hope for excellent execution on every play.

Forget a play-by-play description of what happened when the No. 11-ranked LSU Tigers came to Seattle. Here is all you need to know to realize the Huskies are back:

1)  Washington received the opening kickoff and promptly moved down the field in a 10-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown pass to James Johnson. Johnson, who is 6-0 and 193, is a true freshman. He had 6 catches for 63 yards in his first college game.

2) Chris Polk picked up 90 yards on 21 carries for a 4.2 average per carry, including a breakaway run of 33 yards, and other runs for 12, 12, 9 and 9 yards. Polk, who is 5-11 and 210, is a redshirt freshman.

3) Jake Locker went 25-for-45 for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns—the 17-yarder to James Johnson and a 9-yarder to Kavario Middleton. Locker, who is 6-3 and 226, is a junior who is learning to be an NFL pocket passer under Sarkisian’s new system. Locker is a running threat with speed, and picked up 51 yards in 12 carries, including runs to convert first downs and keep drives alive.

Locker was responsible for giving up points in Washington's second drive of the night. He threw into coverage on a sideline pattern and Tiger linebacker Jacob Cutrera intercepted the ball and returned it untouched for 29 yards and a defensive TD. All things considered, Locker did well in his first attempt under a new system as an NFL pocket passer.

4) In addition to completing passes to James Johnson (6 catches for 63 yards) and Kavrio Middleton (5 for 45), Locker also completed passes to 7 other receivers—Devin Aguilar (4 catches for 76 yards), Johri Fogerson (2 for 58), Chris Polk (2 for 34), D'Andre Goodwin (2 for 19), Jermaine Kearse (2 for 12), Jordan Polk (1 for 12), and Paul Homer (1 for 2). Locker was going through his reads.

5) Homer is a senior fullback and Goodwin a junior wide receiver, but 5 others are sophomores—wide receivers Aguilar, Kearse and Chris Polk, tailback Fogerson, and tight end Middleton—while Jordan Polk is a redshirt freshman tailback, and Johnson is a true freshman. Ah, youth and talent.

6) Sarkisian's new look offense outgained LSU by 157 yards, 428 to 321, and the Huskies ran 83 plays to LSU's 48.

7) Sarkisian's offense went beyond midfield and into Tiger territory on 9 of 11 drives. The Huskies were moving the ball. Forgerson did let a ball drop in the end zone that should have been a Husky TD, and Chris Polk did fumble on the Tiger 5-yard line on another drive. The Huskies are still young, still inexperienced and did make mistakes, but they also put on a show that spelled P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S is on the way.

8) Five times the Huskies were in the red zone and had to settle for field goals and endure a turnover. The LSU Tigers had to be shaking in the cleats, wondering if they could hold the fort from a varied attack.

The message is now clear—Washington Husky football is back. Steve Sarkisian is going to spread the field, he is going to get a lot of players involved on the field, and he is not afraid to play young, talented position players immediately.

September 18, 2009

College Football:

Has Washington Finally Come Alive? Yes, 5 TDs in Their 1st 5 Possessions

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

It's a funny thing about winners—you never have to announce them, they announce themselves. That is exactly what happened when the University of Washington coaches and players stepped into the sunlight for the first time in 22 months, beating Idaho 42-23 at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

For the Husky faithful, it was reminiscent of Perry Como's singing again, "the bluest skies I ever saw were in Seattle."

Rising from the ashes of an 0-12 nightmare season, Washington played the 7th-ranked LSU Tigers tough in their season opener, only to lose 31-23. The 136th-rated Idaho Vandals from Moscow (Idaho, not Russia) caught the wrath of Washington's final exit from nothingness.

With new coaches, a new system and newly rejuvenated players, the Huskies scored touchdowns on their first 5 possessions—minus a fumble on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half.

Junior quarterback Jake Locker, Washington's most talented and versatile player, scored first on a 3-yard run the opening drive. That set the offensive tone for the afternoon as Locker then completed a 24-yard TD pass to talented sophomore tailback Johri Fogerson, a 31-yard TD to freshman sensation wide receiver James Johnson, and a 2-yard TD to sophomore tight end Chris Izbicki.

Washington also scored on a 1-yard run by redshirt freshman and speedy sensation Chris Polk, and another score by Johri Fogerson on a 2-yard run. Yes, the Huskies have some great young talent. The Huskies went 11-for-14 on third down plays.

Locker, who is getting used to being a pocket passer in head coach Steve Sarkisian's offense, went 17-for-25 for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns. Locker completed passes to 9 different receivers. You tell me if Locker is getting the hang of being a future NFL pocket passer.

The ever so sweet victory for the Huskies ended a 15-game losing streak dating to a November victory over California in 2007.

Unfortunately, defensive coordinator Nick Holt almost went hoarse yelling at his defenders to toe the line. Idaho, which is not that good of a team, moved the ball at will against Washington, piling up 412 offensive yards to the Huskies' 374. The Vandals also scored 2 touchdowns, and 3 field goals on stopped drives. If the 3 field goals had been TDs, Washington would have been in serious trouble. It was clear, however, that Washington could score a touchdown for every Idaho score.

Eventually, Sarkisian felt safe enough to put in some reserves, and the Vandals did add their second TD with 13 seconds left. Now that Washington has won again, and appears ready to win again this season, Sarkisian needs to note that his Huskies did win, but did not cover—trust me when I say that boosters notice the failure to cover.

Had "Sark" let his top guys score once more before pulling them, the Husky reserves could have given up the last Vandal TD and Washington—a 21-point favorite—still could have covered.

One defensive gem should not go unnoticed—junior linebacker Mason Foster's interception and 56-yard return that set up Chris Polk's 1-yard scoring plunge to give Washington a 28-9 lead. Senior linebacker E. J. Savannah is leading the team with 19 tackles in 2 games; senior linebacker Donald Butler has 14 tackles.

Steve Sarkisian's world comes full circle Saturday when 3rd-ranked Southern California invades Husky Stadium with their own freshman sensation, QB Matt Barkley, who engineered a last-minute, 14-play, 86-yard TD drive on the road to beat 11th-ranked Ohio State 18-15.

As an official Ohio State critic, it was good to see the Buckeyes drop their 6th straight game to a Top 5 team, including two national championship games as well as a 35-3 romp to USC last year in Los Angeles. You gotta love the Buckeyes—they have risen dropping big games to an art form.

Sarkisian left USC last year as its assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. When he left Southern Cal, he took defensive coordinator Nick Holt with him. USC coach Pete Carroll, Sarkisian's mentor, apparently harbors no ill will.

One thing is for sure—Idaho is no USC, and the Trojans could easily score 7 times against the Husky defense. What might make it interesting is that Sarkisian's offense just might score 7 in return. Let the dawg fight begin. They don't call these new Huskies dawgs for nothing.

(Ed's Note: Any team rankings or ratings in this article are taken from the most recent Coaches' Top 25 Poll and the Sagarin Ratings.)

Read more of my football coverage, including:

"Michigan State Is Out-Coached, Out-Played and Upset 29-27 at Home by Central Michigan"

"College Football Wrap-Up – Week 2 – Ohio State and Notre Dame Both Lose Big Time Games, So What Else Is New?"

Check Out "Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll" and Compare It To the AP and Coaches' Top 25 Polls

"College Football Wrap-Up – Week 1 – Brigham Young, Boise State, Alabama and Oklahoma State Are Huge Week 1 Winners"<br>

"College Football – Last Season's Final Statistics Show How the Nation's Top Five Teams Can Be Beat"

"Look for Steve Sarkisian to Turn Around Washington's Woeful Football Program"

"Not Being Selected Among the Top 25 in the Preseason Coaches' Poll Is the Kiss of Death – You Have No BCS Title Shot"

Find Out Which Division 1 School Had the Worst Football Team in 2008.

Find Out Which Division 1 School Had the Worst Coaching Staff in 2008.

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the validity of your comments. I welcome your comments.)

September 25, 2009

College Football:

Note to the Michigan State Spartans: Are You Starting to Slide Backwards?

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Michigan State had a chance to run the table this year, but blew it by losing at home 29-27 to Central Michigan. You heard me right—Central Michigan from the Mid American Conference (MAC). A not so hot offensive strategy, and a porous defense led to the Spartan's defeat.

After ruining their chance to go undefeated by losing to Central Michigan, the Spartans traveled to Notre Dame and fell off of their training chair, trading touchdowns and field goals one too few times, and losing to the Fighting Irish, 33-30. Sure, the game involved a lot of action and was great for the fans, but it mirrored the lack of defense on each side of the ball.

After beating up Montana State 44-3 in their home opener, the Spartans proved they can beat up a 1-AA team, currently ranked 143rd by the Sagarin Ratings, but have proved nothing about their ability to beat a 1-A team, even a Central Michigan team.

The bad news is that coach Mark Dantonio's super two-year turnaround at Michigan State may now be going in the wrong direction. Two years ago, the Spartans went 7-6 and lost to Boston College 24-21 in the Champs (not chumps) Sports Bowl.

Last year the Spartans players got over their penchant for folding late in the season, and logged an overall 9-4 record, and lost to Georgia 24-12 in the Capital One Bowl, a much more prestigious bowl with a much better payout.

At least Michigan State was winning more games than it was losing, and competing in bowl games if not winning them.

The Spartans were clearly on the road to a better place. They had not yet captured national attention as a team really on the move because they could not put away Penn State on-the-road in their last game; they lost to the Nittany Lions in a blow out, 49-18. The national consensus was not ready for prime time, not ready for a BCS game.

The good news about this year's slow—really slow, troubling start—is that none of their first three games were Big Ten Conference games. The Spartans could still go undefeated and win the Big Ten title. But will they?

Now all of their progress is in doubt. The Spartans need to pick themselves up off of the floor, climb back up to the training table, and get it right by whipping Wisconsin on-the-road this Saturday. A loss to the Badgers means MSU would start this season at 1-3, and struggling to gain any credibility whatsoever.

There are no statistics worth talking about in Michigan State's 33-30 loss to Notre Dame. The only statistic that matters is the Spartans lost.

In any transaction in life, there can be only two outcomes—results (a win) or excuses (a loss). Forget all of the excuses. Fans and boosters do not watch Michigan State football games to see the Spartans lose to Central Michigan and Notre Dame. They do not like but can accept a loss to Ohio State or Penn State.

Michigan State's next opponent after Wisconsin is Michigan.

If MSU loses to Wisconsin and Michigan and ends up with a 1-4 mark, their season will become a qualified disaster. Even if the Spartans were to win their next 7 straight, their season mark would be 8-4.

If Michigan loses to Wisconsin and Michigan, I would not give two cents for their chances of winning their next 7 games. Winning breeds confidence, losing breeds failure.

November 4, 2009

College Football:

The Train Has Left the Station, and Michigan State Missed the Departure

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

When the train was ready to pull out of the station this year at East Lansing, the Michigan State University Spartans had a chance to enjoy every stop on their way to an unbeaten season.

They could have run the table at the pool hall. They could have had a scenic and exciting journey, rising right up to become one of the elite teams in the country. In addition to the usual stops on the journey, the Spartans had two of their three biggest hurdles—Michigan and Iowa—at home, and did not even have to face Ohio State because of the Big Ten scheduling rotation.

So much for perfect journeys.

When the train pulled out of the station this year, Michigan State missed the departure for the second stop. After blowing away a Division 1-AA Montana State team 44-3 in their opener at home, there must have been a lot of chest pounding because the Spartans laid an egg against their next opponent at home—Central Michigan.

The 1-A Chippewas from the mid-level Mid American Conference, apparently only slightly less accomplished than teams from the mighty Big Ten, came to East Lansing to win. The Spartans showed up, but did not convince anyone that they were ready for the season they should have had. A lack of focus, attitude and execution did them in, 29-27.

Starting the season at 1-1, they did little to straighten themselves out as they lost away games at Notre Dame 33-30 and Wisconsin 38-30 to slip to 1-3.

After beating Michigan at home 26-20 in overtime, they took care of Illinois 24-14 and Northwestern 24-14, bringing their record to 4-3.

When the now 9-0 Iowa Hawkeyes came to town, the Spartans could have won but lost 15-13, and they compounded their problems by giving up 42 points to Minnesota on the road and losing by 8, 42-34. So the Michigan State Spartans now sit at a humble 4-5, probably wondering what hit them.

Next up is Western Michigan at home. The Broncos are another powerhouse team from Michigan with a 4-5 mark.

The Broncos are most certainly to be feared since they have beaten such illustrious teams as 151st-ranked, 1-AA Hofstra, 145th-ranked Miami of Ohio, 125th-ranked Toledo, and 110th-ranked Buffalo. The Broncos are ranked 112th among 120 major college programs.

Despite the tremendous odds against themselves, the Spartans just might be able to beat the Broncos and even their record to 5-5. Should they do so, they just might have a shot at becoming bowl eligible at Purdue, or at home against an 8-1 Penn State team that plans on using them for fodder.

So what really went wrong at Michigan State this year? Well, one thing is that coach Mark Dantonio wanted two good quarterbacks and got them in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol, who are both sophomores. Unfortunately, Dantonio could not make up his mind who was better quarterback so he rotated them—generally a bad mistake.

Dantonio did not put his total confidence in either player and thus denied one of them the opportunity to become the leader on offense. Think of Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators, or Jake Locker of the Washington Huskies.

When a team rotates quarterbacks and the team wins every game, it is still not the best situation, but it can work. The minute a team starts losing, something Michigan State has done a lot of this year, it does not work.

Name me one top team nationally that rotates quarterbacks. Name me one national championship team, any one, that has rotated quarterbacks.

The problem is the players, not actually meaning to, begin to polarize their loyalty. They begin to point fingers and lay blame. When a team loses, all players can be criticized for their play, so they manufacture excuses for not performing up to their potential.

Here is my message to Dantonio and Michigan State: Pick one of the two, back him, put your confidence in him, play him only until he succeeds or fails after several games. Do not dump him too soon or neither quarterback will get the experience they need to develop their leadership talent.

In the meantime, would it be such a bad thing if you crushed Western Michigan and Purdue and became bowl eligible? Maybe there is not a bowl game that would want the Spartans this year, but let's find out.

(Disclaimer: Ed Bagley is a 1966 graduate of Michigan State University who was there when the Spartans had their back-to-back National Championship teams under Duffy Daugherty in 1965 and 1966.)

September 24, 2009

College Football:

Dawgs Show Their Fangs, Washington Upsets 3rd-Ranked USC Trojans, 16-13

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

A month of Saturdays hit the calendar when the Southern California Trojans traveled north to Seattle recently to face last year's 0-12 Washington Huskies.

Yes, Southern Cal was currently ranked No. 3 in the nation in the AP Top 25 Poll. Even the Coaches' Top 25 Poll had them ranked No. 3. And yes, the Trojans had beaten No. 8-ranked Ohio State 18-15 a week earlier on a last minute drive by their new, wunderkind freshman quarterback Matt Barkley.

Southern Cal was headed for another typical USC season—at least 11 wins and BCS bowl game appearances for 7 consecutive years, the most successful football program in the country during the current streak. A huge part of the USC success story was Steve Sarkisian, their offensive coordinator, and Nick Holt, their defensive coordinator.

But that was the last 7 years. This year both Sarkisian and Holt are not only missing at USC, but were the opponents as the Trojans flew north. When last year's success was said and done, Sarkisian accepted the head coaching job at Washington and brought along Holt. And the coaching changes alone have made all of the difference in the world for the Huskies.

Washington was a team that had forgotten what it was like to win—only the week prior had the Huskies beaten Idaho, 42-23, to break a 15-game losing steak that was tied for the longest in Pac 10 Conference history. And now they were being asked to believe the impossible—that they could not only decipher, but beat the mighty USC juggernaut.

Never underestimate the difference coaching can make. Some sports pundits would have you believe that the players are more important than the coaches. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the coaches who recruit the train the players; not the other way around. Never, ever, forget that.

Sarkisian and Holt could decipher the USC juggernaut; they, as much as anyone, had built it along with head coach Pete Carroll. Part of Carroll's genius is in hiring good people like Sarkisian and Holt. Now University of Washington President Mark Emmert and Director of Athletics Scott Woodward had done the same.

The results have been nothing short of staggering. In three games under the new coaching staff that inherited an 0-12 team, Washington has snapped a 15-game losing streak, upset No. 3-ranked USC 16-13, and vaulted into the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 24. The ranking was the Huskies first return to the Top 25 since September 2003.

The game itself did not look good for Washington at the outset. USC promptly ran up a 10-0 advantage in its first two drives and made it look as easy as playing a high school team. The Trojans opened holes that a Mack Truck could drive through, and USC backs sped to runs of 38, 25 and 27 yards to set up a touchdown and field goal.

It looked like Washington might get beat 50-0.

Then junior quarterback Jake Locker, Washington's most versatile player, completed passes of 12, 16, 14 and 18 yards to 4 different receivers before taking it in from 4 yards out to make it a game at 10-7. Two drives later, sophomore Erik Folk would add a 28-yard field goal to tie it up at 10.

Once it was clear the Husky offense could score, their defense—led by linebackers Donald Butler and Mason Foster—used their new-found belief to dig in, stop the Trojan advance, and let their fellow Huskies on offense go to work. Butler had a game-high 12 tackles (2 for losses), forced a fumble and intercepted a pass. Foster forced another fumble on a 4th-and-1 run play, and deflected 3 passes, 2 of which were on 3rd down plays.

USC, nearly a 3-touchdown favorite, had 3 drives inside the Husky 30-yard line end in turnovers, committed 8 penalties, and had an 0-for-10 conversion rate on 3rd-down plays.

Neither team scored in the 3rd quarter, Erik Folk then added a 46-yard field goal to put Washington up 13-10. USC responded with a 25-yard FG of its own to tie the game a second time at 13 with 4:07 left to play.

Jake Locker, who is quickly becoming an NFL pocket passer for the first time in his playing career, then engineered a 10-play, 63-yard drive that consumed 4 minutes and 4 seconds, leaving just 3 seconds left in the end game when Erik Folk converted a 22-yard FG to win the game, 16-13.

It is called clock management by Steve Sarkisian, and the Huskies have not had such a good game-day coach on the field since the lengendary "Dawgfather" Don James.

During the final, critical drive, Locker was at his best, completing a 21-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse on a 3rd-and-15, rushing for 4 yards on a critical 3rd-and-2 play, completing a 9-yard pass to James Johnson, and completing a 19-yard pass to Kearse.

Locker went 21-for-35 (60%) for 237 yards on the day.

After their stunning upset victory, the Washington Husky football program was once again on the national radar, as evidenced by their moving into the AP Top 25 Poll.

So just what is going on with these Huskies? Many of them played on the same team last year that went 0-12. The difference is clearly the leadership and enthusiasm of the coaching staff led by Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt.

The players now believe in the coaches, believe in the new system, believe in themselves, and understand their improvement is really about work, work and more work, and constant, unrelenting, hard effort.

An excellent example that the players get it came after Washington's first victory of the year against Idaho, when sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had this to say:

"The whole philosophy is, if you make plays, and play hard, you get more playing time. I tried to do everything right this week, and I was rewarded." Amen, Jermaine, Amen. Work hard and play hard. Pay attention. Then work harder and play harder. And did I mention to have fun? Fun? Yes, all of this hard work is just that.

It appears that Sarkisian has two rules for success. The first is: Work Hard, Play Hard, Have Fun and Win. And the second rule? That would be never forget the first rule.

Steve Sarkisian, who has an Armenian-Irish heritage, is already one of the most popular people in Seattle. He has opened up the Husky practice field to one and all, reached out to boosters and fans, and welcomed back Husky heroes from yesteryear.

People are already comfortable referring to him as "Sark". I hereby give Sark another moniker—the "Armenian Hammer". He is the coach with the velvet touch in one hand, and the hammer in the other.

October 16, 2009

College Football:

A Season of 2 Games : One Becomes Abject Heartache, The Other Extreme Joy – Part 1

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

This is a story about the life of a college football team's season in only two games—one was an abject heartache, and the other an extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season.

Charles Dickens penned this famous line in his novel "A Tale of Two Cities"—"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .," and the Husky football players experienced these two events in reverse order.

The Huskies ended their 2008 season with a winless 0-12 record. They opened their 2009 season at home against the then 11th-ranked Louisiana State University Tigers. Having lost 14 straight games over two seasons, the Husky faithful could be forgiven for expecting the worst.

Washington surprised everyone, and especially LSU, be taking the opening kick-off and marching down the field to score a touchdown. The Huskies were fired up under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, who would quickly become known as "Sark" and gain celebrity status among Western Washington's sporting community.

At the end of the LSU opener, the Huskies won the statistical battle of ball movement but lost the war, 31-23.

In their next game at home against the Idaho Vandals, the Washington Huskies essentially scored on their first 5 possessions to win going away, 42-23, and break their 15-game losing streak.

In their third game of the season, again on their home turf, something just short of a miracle happened—Washington upset then 3rd-ranked Southern California 16-13 on a 22-yard field goal by Erik Folk with just 3 seconds left in the game.

A 2-1 start made the Huskies the talk of Seattle and even the nation because of Southern Cal's enormous success (at least 11 wins and BCS bowl appearances for 7 consecutive years) and high ranking in the polls.

The Huskies then hit the road for their first away game of the year and ran smack into a rejuvenated Stanford Cardinal team and its bruising 6-foot-1, 237-pound senior running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 200 yards and exposed the Huskies' inept tackling skills.

Washington's young, talented but inexperienced players could not stop Gerhart, a battering ram who simply ran through and over the Huskies.

Stanford was a huge letdown for the Huskies following their upset win over Southern Cal, and looming ahead was another road trip to South Bend, Indiana to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. It is here that our story of a season of two games really begins.

There is no college program in football more storied than Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have won 11 national championships, have 12 undefeated seasons and 10 other seasons with at most one loss or tie, have produced more All-Americans than any other school, have produced 7 Heisman Trophy winners, and have the coach with the best record in history—Knute Rockne had 105 wins, 12 losses and 5 ties in 13 years while guiding the Fighting Irish to 6 national championships.

Washington players who Googled "Notre Dame" could quickly become intimidated at its legend, lore and tradition. When lining up at middle linebacker on game day, one could easily imagine seeing ghosts coming out of the backfield in search of another conquest.

But this year's version of the Washington Huskies stayed grounded in reality. As bad as Washington's tackling was on defense, Notre Dame's did not appear much better, and a see-saw battle of wills ensued.

With less than a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Notre Dame summoned up its legendary tradition to stop Jake Locker from scoring on two quarterback sneak attempts from the 1-yard line; the Huskies had to give up the ball with the score Washington 24 and Notre Dame 19. Had the Huskies scored, they would have gone up 31-19 and perhaps broken Notre Dame's back.

It was a bitter pill for Jake Locker—Washington's most talented and versatile player (Husky coaches have said that Locker could play 7 different positions on the field)—to swallow. He had carried a lousy Washington team virtually on his back for two years, and now his offensive line could not move the Irish even 6 inches back.

Then Chris Polk, the Husky's surprise redshirt freshman running back, appeared to give the Huskies a 30-22 lead with a 6-yard TD run with 7:07 left, but after a review he was ruled down on the half-yard line. This was a travesty as Polk had scored, but someone forgot to give the replay official a better set of eyes; perhaps he was a closet Notre Dame fan.

On 1st down from the Notre Dame 1-yard line, Polk lost a yard as the Fighting Irish line held. On 2nd down, Locker passed incomplete. On 3rd down and 2, Locker rushed and the Irish line held again. On 4th down, Notre Dame held again but was penalized 1 yard, and Washington had a new set of downs.

On 1st down, Polk rushed again and the Irish held again. On 2nd down, Washington was penalized 5 yards. On the repeat 2nd down, Locker passed for 5 yards to fullback Paul Homer and the Huskies were again 1 yard from scoring. On 3rd down Locker rushed again and again the Irish line held. On 4th down Washington was penalized 5 yards, and on the repeat 4th down, Washington would settle for a field goal, making it 27-22 Huskies.

Incredibly, the Huskies had 6 opportunities to score on the Irish from 2 yards out or less, and the Irish defense, which had not played well all day, held the line. Polk, who was stopped short on two of the attempts, would end the day with 136 yards rushing, a career best for the redshirt freshman.

Notre Dame immediately responded with a touchdown and 2-point conversion to go up 30-27.

With 1:20 left in the game, Locker—the greatest quarterback to put on a jersey at the University of Washington since Marques Tuiasosopo in 2000—calmly marched his Huskies down the field and Erik Folk made a 37-yard field goal to tie the game at 30 and send it into overtime.

Tuiasosopo is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Manu Tuiasosopo, and the older brother of NFL fullback Zach Tuiasosopo and Seattle Mariners' 3rd baseman Matt Tuiasosopo. Jake Locker is in good company.

Notre Dame quickly scored first in the overtime to go up 37-30, and then the Washington offensive line, which had been 6 plays late in getting it done, allowed Locker to be sacked for 10 yards, and Locker threw three incomplete passes. His last pass, a 33-yarder to the 1-yard line, was pulled in by D'Andre Goodwin, who suffered a concussion when receiving two vicious hits by Notre Dame defenders at the goal line.

The inglorious ending left Locker, Goodwin, the entire team and coaching staff with one big case of an abject heartache. After calmly fighting like the warrior he is, Locker was so crushed and emotional that he could not appear at the post-game press conference.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Series.)

October 17, 2009

College Football:

"The Immaculate Footception" Will Live Forever in Washington Husky Lore – Part 2

(Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a story about the life of a college football team's season in only two games—one was an abject heartache, and the other an extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season, and the events that unfolded brought to mind Charles Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities". Here is what really happened, and when.)

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

As disheartening as Washington's loss was to Notre Dame, what was about to happen was more than the Huskies could ever have expected or imagined. It will live forever in the annuals of Washington Husky football lore.

With their season record now at 2-3, Washington's Huskies would return to their home turf and await the arrival of the Arizona Wildcat's glossy 3-1 record with victories over Central Michigan and Northern Arizona at home and over Oregon State on-the-road. Their only loss was by 10 points to the 12th-rated Iowa Hawkeyes in another away game.

Arizona coach Mike Stoops (brother of coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners) had compiled an 8-5 mark last year capped by a victory over Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats were finally getting some national notice, and not anxious to take a step backwards.

Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian had quarterbacked for Brigham Young in 1995, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 regular season mark, beating Kansas State 19-15 in the Cotton Bowl, and becoming the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. His BYU team became the first in NCAA history to win 14 games in a season. Sarkisian's 162.0 career passing efficiency rating is 3rd all-time in the NCAA.

"Sark" needed to convince his players to keep playing hard and believing that Notre Dame was just a blip on the screen in their forward march to success.

At game time, the Huskies appeared willing but not always able. Arizona moved the ball at will, piling up 461 yards of offense and successfully throwing enough "bubble" passes to start a bubblegum manufacturing company.

Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles made a career out of taking the ball under center, stepping back and sending rockets to the wideouts at the line of scrimmage. The Arizona receivers responded by churning for short yardage before the defenders could come up and tackle, stopping a long gain.

Arizona had exposed a Husky weakness and was exploiting it like a trader with an insider stock tip. Washington simply does not have the talent right now to play receivers one-on-one, so they must play off the line of scrimmage to avoid getting beat deep and giving up a long-yardage play.

Foles would go 39-of-53 for 384 yards and a touchdown before the night was over, leaving Arizona with a grand total of only 77yards rushing on 30 carries.

The Wildcats had built a 33-21 lead with less than 3 minutes to play and it looked like Washington was floating dead in the water. But, then again, this was not last year's 0-12 Husky team.

Washington's offensive 11 was still playing hard and believing when a scrambling Jake Locker found tight end Kavario Middleton in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD strike to bring the Huskies to within 5 at 33-28 with 2:55 left.

Sark then did what many coaches would not do, he elected to kick off to the Wildcats rather than go for an onside kick and possible immediate possession of the ball. That is called belief in your defensive coordinator—Nick "The Wild Man" Holt—and his bend but don't break diehards.

All night the Huskies had been beaten again and again and again on the quick wideout bubble pass. You could hardly blame the Arizona coaching staff for not calling the play again; conventional wisdom says you call a play that is working until the defense can stop you.

So once again Nick Foles rifled a pass to wideout Delashaun Dean but Foles' pass was low and behind the receiver, who fell to the turf trying to catch the pigskin. Linebacker Mason Foster had overrun the play on the defensive side on purpose, and words are a very poor substitute for what happened next.

Foster's aggressiveness had pushed Foles to the limit and his pass bounced off of the receiver's foot and up into the air where Foster juggled it momentarily, and then turned around and ran untouched for a 37-yard interception and return touchdown, putting the Huskies up 34-33 with 2:37 left to play.

The Washington faithful, who had come to life when the Huskies scored earlier in the game, now went berserk with frenzied excitement. And the players? Well, let's just say the reaction was extreme joy. And the coaches? Perhaps frenzied, joyful and over the top unstoppable in their belief that the Huskies can and will win by playing hard, playing right and having fun.

There were no priests noticeable at that moment, and the mythical "touchdown Jesus" picture visible from Notre Dame Stadium had not been transported from Notre Dame to Husky Stadium for the game, but before our very eyes, a miracle of the football gods had happened. They had had enough of Arizona's bubble passes and it was time for redemption.

Call it luck, call it the bounce of the ball, or call it what I do—"The Immaculate Footception", a little clumsy in expression but quite accurate. Whatever you call it, it will forever remain in Washington football history in the years to come. Should the Huskies go on to qualify and win a bowl game this year, the happy happening and Mason Foster will be cemented in legend.

Sark went for the 2-point conversion and Jake Locker hooked up with sophomore wide receiver (and budding star) Jermaine Kearse to make it happen, putting Washington up 36-33.

Mason Foster had an awesome night with 11 tackles, a pair of key stops on Arizona's last drive, and an interception and moment of glory that will take at least a lifetime to forget and take a million years to duplicate exactly.

Washington's miracle play brought back great memories of "The Immaculate Reception" during a 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Late in the game a Pittsburgh receiver was hit hard as he tried to make a catch, the ball was deflected and just before it hit the ground, it was caught by Franco Harris, who picked it out of the air and then ran it in for the touchdown that won the game for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh had struggled for 4 decades to win a playoff game, and The Immaculate Reception—called by NFL films as the greatest play of all time—led to the Steelers eventually winning 4 Super Bowls before the end of the decade.

The frosting on the cake came when Arizona had one last chance to pull out the victory that should have been theirs.

The Husky defensive line, which had not done a whole lot all night, came to life as its best pass rusher, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, got in touch with his Samoan roots and sacked Nick Foles on a critical play. On the next play, true freshman cornerback (and future NFL player) Desmond Trufant intercepted a Foles pass with 36 seconds left to seal the Dawgs' improbable 36-33 win.

Trust me when I say that University of Washington football and Husky madness is on the rise. Look for a lot of lost Dawgs to make their way back to Husky Stadium in the next few home games.

Husky fans in the great Pacific Northwest are not drinking the Kool-Aid as the expression goes, they are enjoying the sweet taste of success. Even the football gods are so pleased that they have decided to order cable hook-up with high-def.

(Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a 2-Part Series.)

October 30, 2009

College Football:

Washington's Quick Turn Around Hits a Couple of Speed Bumps in the Road

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

A stunning interception return for a winning touchdown late in the game against Arizona gave the Washington Huskies an upset victory. A 50-yard scoring pass in the last 5 seconds against Arizona State cost them a possible victory on a blown coverage play when the score was tied at 17-all and headed for overtime.

Earlier in the season, Husky Erik Folk nailed a 22-yard field goal with just 3 seconds left to upset 3rd-ranked Southern California, 16-13, setting the Trojans back on their heels and sending the national sports media rushing for exclusive coverage.

Then the Huskies endured a marathon at Notre Dame, wasting 6 opportunities to score from 2 yards or less, settled for a field goal to take a 27-22 lead only to see it evaporate immediately as the Irish scored and another Washington field goal sent the game into overtime. Once there, Notre Dame marched down the field with authority, scored and then held on to beat the Huskies 37-30.

After going winless last season in 12 games, Washington was experiencing a feast or famine, up or down, high or low season that would begin to get worse.

The 12th-ranked and Pac 10-leading Oregon Ducks invaded Seattle and put on a show worth seeing only if you were an Oregon fan as the Ducks turned a 15-6 halftime lead into a 43-19 rout.

Oregon would score on its first three drives of the second half to build a 36-6 lead and, for all intents and purposes, the game was over. The Huskies, which had evened their record at 3-3, now stood at 3-5 with little hope of winning 3 of their last 4 games to become bowl eligible with 6 wins.

After 8 games Washington had been in 6 games until the closing moments, winning 3 and losing 3. The Huskies had used talent, heart and enthusiasm to overcome their youth and inexperience. Only Stanford and Oregon had crushed their hopes of better outcomes.

No one should doubt that Washington's top two turn around architects—head coach Steve "Sark" Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick "The Wild Man" Holt—had done the impossible by immediately changing the face and competitive performance of Husky football. But after 8 games in 8 weeks before this week's bye, injuries began to take their toll, and Oregon's offense exposed the Huskies two main weaknesses:

1) Inexperienced and inconsistent defensive play which resulted in the Ducks rolling up 416 yards of offense, and

2) The overall lack of team depth, especially in special teams play, which allowed the Ducks to score a touchdown on a blocked punt, and then add a 2-point run conversion on a fake point-after kick attempt.

Being forced to play some veterans more than they should has worn out junior QB Jake Locker, senior linebackers Donald Butler and E. J. Savannah, junior linebacker Mason Foster, junior free safety Nate Williams and redshirt freshman tailback Chris Polk.

The need to play youngsters has also showcased the talent of true freshman wide receiver James Johnson and cornerback Desmond Trufant, sophomore wide receivers Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar and Jordan Polk, tight end Karvario Middleton, and defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu among others.

The Washington Huskies have a boatload of talent to develop and more top high school standouts are on the way thanks to aggressive recruiting of top-flight players.

Besides having too much youth and a lack of depth everywhere, the Huskies have one more need that only time can change—patience.

February 11, 2010

College Football

Jake Locker Returns – The Outlook for Washington Husky Football in 2010 Just Rose 1,000%

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Whoever figured out that a great, experienced quarterback is almost a necessity for a championship team was a genius before his time. The recent Super Bowl confrontation between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints both had great quarterbacks—Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Now the University of Washington Huskies have Jake Locker back for another year to continue a tremendous re-building effort by new head coach Steve "Sark" Sarkisian.

Locker, who struggled through two futile years with the coach from nowhere whose name I refuse to even mention, finally found his proper mentor in Sark—a very successful single-caller in his own right at Brigham Young University.

Sark also coached two Heisman Trophy winners—Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in 2004, and mentored additional NFL-draft picks John David Booty and Mark Sanchez. All are quarterbacks.

In 2008, Locker and his teammates endured an excruciating, winless season (0-12). In 2009, with the arrival of Sarkisian, former Southern California offensive coordinator, and Nick Holt, USC's former defensive coordinator, as the new defensive coordinator for the Huskies, Locker began "schooling" as an NFL drop-back quarterback. An interested, coachable student, Locker made amazing progress and the Huskies began to improve.

Washington played LSU tough in its opener but lost, 31-23, before beating Idaho 42-23 and then upsetting Southern Cal 16-13 in a game that became national news. The Huskies lost their first road game at Stanford 34-14, and lost again at Notre Dame 37-30 after taking the Irish into overtime.

After upsetting Arizona 36-33, they stood at 3-3, and then promptly lost to Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State, making some fans wonder if the upbeat beginning was in for a longer season end.

Thankfully, Washington absolutely decimated its cross-state rival, humbling Washington State by shutting out the Cougars 30-zip, and then upsetting a very good California team 42-10 to end the season on a triumphant note. The Huskies' 5-7 record did not reflect how far they had come from a winless season, or how much they had progressed.

On the precipice of taking a giant leap forward in 2010, NFL scouts began drooling over Washington's centerpiece of re-birth—Jake Locker. A junior quarterback with 4.3 speed and good enough to be a starting running back, Locker was an absolute must draft because almost any coach worth his salt knew the talented Husky had enough moxie and muscle to play about 7 different positions on the football field.

Sarkisian never thought twice about moving Locker from his QB station. Sark just wanted to make him into an NFL drop-back QB, and Locker went on a steep learning curve in a hurry.

If there was ever any doubt that Locker would become a legend after his playing days at Washington, that all vanished in a heartbeat when, upon consideration, he decided to turn down millions in now money to perfect his training as a drop-back QB.

When Locker announced his decision to return to U-Dub and finish the business he started, whispered prayers of thanks could be heard floating across the Montlake Campus.

By deciding not to sell out his school, his fans, his supporters, and not to keep them waiting for months on end about his intentions, and then calling a big press conference to announce his decision, Locker has become a living legend before his final season even starts.

Locker did not even bother with the NFL application process. He walked in on Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and said "Coach, I'm staying." That's Jake Locker—an immensely talented, humble, matter-of-fact kind of guy you wish was dating your daughter.

Locker is far from your normal, money-grubbing, self-centered, all-world athlete in today's sports environment. Raised right in a home that puts God ahead of everything else, it makes eminent sense that Locker would make his decision with right thinking and right motives. There are no hidden agendas with Locker, no need to push everyone out of the way so the light shines on him. With Locker, the light comes from within.

With his return to the Montlake Campus and the field of battle, Locker will make everyone around him better. Receivers will catch more balls, rushers will make more yards because of his presence, and his linemen just might be blocking for a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Even the Husky defense will benefit because he will extend the offensive team's time on the field, or lead his team into the end zone so quickly and often that it will not matter.

So just how huge is Locker's return? Well, astronomers are not naming stars in the sky of Western Washington for football players, but they might start thinking about it, especially if they are U-Dub graduates.

2009 Michigan State Spartan Football

August 21, 2009

College Football:

Back-to-Back Winning Seasons and Bowl Appearances Say Michigan State Is Back

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

When Mark Dantonio became the new Michigan State University football coach two years ago, he came to the East Lansing Campus with a pedigree that shouted success is on the way. He has not disappointed the Spartan faithful.

Michigan State had not done diddly-squat since its 1999 team went 10-2, whipped Florida in the Citrus Bowl, led the Big Ten in total defense, and ranked 7th in the final polls. Times have changed in East Lansing. If diddly-squat shows up since Dantonio has arrived, he is in for a fight.

Here is what Dantonio has accomplished since his debut 55-18 victory against UAB (the University of Alabama at Birmingham):

Turn a losing program into a winning one by going 7-5 in his first regular season, and getting Michigan State its first bowl appearance in 4 years. Despite being a 5-point underdog to No. 14-ranked Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl, the Spartans only lost by a field goal, 24-21.

Their final 7-6 record included a 4-3 mark against bowl-bound teams, and the Spartans lost the 6 games by a total of 31 points, including two in overtime. All 6 games were decided by 7 points or less. It is called defense.

With their 31-14 victory over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame on the road in 2007, the Spartans became the first visiting team to win 6-straight games in the 77-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.

Last year the progress continued as the Spartans went 9-3 in the regular season, beating Michigan and Notre Dame. They lost at California in their opener 38-31, took it on the chin 45-7 against No. 12-ranked Ohio State at home, and let No. 7-ranked Penn State take it to them 49-18 on the road at Happy Valley.

Had they beaten Penn State, they would have had a share of the Big Ten title. Michigan State's 6-2 Big Ten record was its best since the 1999 season, and its 9 wins represented only the 3rd time since 1966 (the year I graduated from Michigan State) that it had won 9 games in a season.

Last season's second step forward led to the No. 19-ranked Spartans facing off against the No. 16-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Bowl; State lost 24-12. Nevertheless, they ended the year with their second straight winning season (7-6 and 9-4)—their first back-to-back winning seasons in 19 years—and their second straight bowl appearance—their first back-to-back bowl appearances in 12 years.

That is what is calling "getting after it".

Dantonio really became prominent as the defensive coordinator for Ohio State, where his defensive unit helped the Buckeyes to a 32-6 record in 3 years, and the 2002 National Championship. In the championship year, Ohio State was 2nd nationally in scoring defense (13 points a game) and 3rd in rushing defense (77 yards per game).

Coming into this season, Michigan States loses two All Big Ten seniors—tailback Javon Ringer and safety Otis Wiley, and returns All Big Ten junior linebacker Greg Jones.

To say Ringer left a hole in the running game would be a gross understatement. He rushed for 1,637 yards (accounting for 97% of Michigan State's rushing offense) and scored a school-record 22 touchdowns. Ringer, a consensus All American, was drafted by the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

Ringer's starting spot will be a competitive battle that just may be won by either of two outstanding freshmen—Edwin Baker out of Oak Park High School in Highland Park, or Larry Caper out of Battle Creek Central in Battle Creek. Baker is 5-9 and 200, and Caper is 5-11 and 215. Both are potentially explosive runners with some speed.

Replacing senior quarterback Brian Hoyer, an inconsistent 2-year starter, is also an issue. Sophomore Kirk Cousins and redshirt sophomore Keith Nichol have limited experience, appearing in only a combined 8 games.

All Big Ten junior Greg Jones had 127 tackles last year, and is arguably the best linebacker in the Big Ten. He must remain tough and healthy for Michigan State to again compete for the Big Ten title.

The Spartan offense will also rely heavily on kicker Brett Swenson (22 field goals last year, including one last-minute, game-winner on a weak offense); wide receivers Blair White, Mark Dell and BJ Cunningham; tight end Charlie Gantt; guard Joel Foreman and center Joel Nitchman.

Dantonio's two recruiting classes must produce more new faces on the field this year. New faces better than the players they will replace. In its two biggest games of the year last season—Ohio State and Penn State—Michigan State did not show well and paid for it when the Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll found them absent.

Major coaches generally applauded the fact that the Spartans did not take a dive late last season, they won many games they have lost in prior years, but when push came to shove, it was still Ohio State and Penn State on top of the heap.

What many boosters may have missed is the fact that Michigan State took one huge step forward in bowl participation. Two years ago they had to settle for the Champs Sports Bowl and a $2.25 million payout. Last year they moved up to the Capital One Bowl and a $4.25 million payout. After the 5 BCS bowl games, the Capital One Bowl is the highest paying and most prestigious of the remaining 34 bowl games played last season.

Michigan State's schedule is favorable this year. The Spartans get both Michigan and Penn State at home, and do not play Ohio State. They also play 1-AA Montana State, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. If they cannot beat the latter three teams and Michigan, they have no business going to a bowl game.

On a more positive note, while virtually everyone West of the Mississippi River thinks Michigan State could not possibly run the table, there is at least one Spartan in Washington State who thinks otherwise. Never underestimate what Mark Dantonio can accomplish.

What if the Spartans beat Notre Dame, Michigan and the rest, and face Penn State at home with an 11-0 mark? That is why college football is so great. It could happen. The odds say it will not happen, but rest assured that if Michigan State plays in a BCS bowl game this season, it will be another giant step forward for Mark Dantonio and his Spartans.

September 9, 2009

College Football

Michigan State Crushes Montana State, Both Sophomore Quarterbacks Look Good

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's job became harder Saturday after his Spartans polished off 1-AA Montana State, 44-3, but it also became sweeter.

It became harder because 1-AA Montana State is a far cry from the opponents the Spartans will face as they work their way through Big Ten competition in the weeks ahead. Playing a 1-AA team was a big deal for the Spartans because it was the first time in school history they had faced such an unevenly matched team.

Dantonio's job became sweeter because his two sophomore quarterbacks—Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol—both looked good in their bid to become the starting QB to replace Brian Hoyer, now a backup QB for the NFL's New England Patriots. When watching Hoyer play last year, he was inconsistent, but he was also apparently good enough to try competing at the next level.

Michigan State had a huge question mark in who would replace Hoyer. Both Cousins, who goes 6-3 and 202, and Nichol, who goes 6-2 and 215, split time under center and looked good.

Cousins went 10-for-17 for 183 yards, and had 3 touchdown passes—a 29-yarder to sophomore B. J. Cunningham, a 15-yarder to senior Blair White, and another 24-yarder to White.

Nichol went 9-for-18 for 135 yards, and had 2 touchdown passes—a 26-yarder to freshman tight end Dion Sims, and a 3-yarder to sophomore tight end Brian Linthicum. Sims goes 6-5 and 268; Linthicum goes 6-5 and 245.

Michigan State's passing game looks both young and effective at the moment. The question now is: can they do it against much better competition in the heat of Big Ten play?

Another big question mark is who would replace Spartan All-American running back Javon Ringer. Ringer, who was drafted by the NFL's Tennessee Titans, ran 390 times as a senior, gaining 1,637 yards and scoring 22 rushing touchdowns. He led the nation in carries, touchdowns and scoring, and was 4th in rushing yards. Ringer accounted for 97% of Michigan State's rushing yardage last year.

Against Montana State, redshirt freshman Caulton Ray had 12 carries for 71 yards (5.9 yards per carry), freshman Larry Caper added 34 yards on 7 carries (4.8 ypc), and freshman Edwin Baker added another 27 yards on 8 carries (3.3 ypc).

Senior Blair White had impressive numbers with 9 receptions for 162 yards and 2 TDs.

The Spartans led 28-0 at the half, and rolled up 493 offensive yards to 160 for Montana State. Michigan State's star linebacker, junior Greg Jones, had 14 tackles; he is arguably he best linebacker in the Big Ten.

The game was Michigan State's home opener. Montana State will receive at least $650,000 for traveling to East Lansing for an almost certain first-game loss, but the payday will be enough to pay nearly a third of Montana State's annual football budget. The Spartans host Central Michigan at home Saturday.

September 17, 2009

College Football:

Michigan State Is Out-Coached, Out-Played and Upset 29-27 at Home by Central Michigan

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Michigan State blew its chance to run the table this year by letting poor coaching and poor playing open the door for Central Michigan to upset the Spartans 29-27 on their home turf.

The Spartans, a 14.5 point favorite over the Chippewas of the mid-level, Mid American Conference, will not go unbeaten this year despite getting both Michigan and Penn State and home, and not having to face Ohio State at all.

Michigan State's schedule was a gift from football heaven, but the Spartan coaches and players embarrassed themselves, the university and their followers by proving the old adage that "Everything that belongs to me will come to me when I create the capacity to receive it."

Heck, it wasn't a matter of Michigan State not being ready for prime time, the Spartans were not even ready for regular time.

After playing like no one knew what the outcome would be for 52 of 60 minutes, Kirk Cousins connected with B. J. Cunningham on a 7-yard scoring pass to put Michigan State up 27-20 with 7:33 remaining. You can win games scoring only 27 points. The offense did not lose this game, MSU's defense did.

With 32 seconds left, Chippewa QB Dan LaFevour threw an 11-yard TD strike to Paris Cotton to draw within a point of tying the game, 27-26. But Central Michigan was playing to win and successfully completed a 2-point pass conversion; however, it was caught outside the end zone. By all accounts, MSU had a hard fought, undeserved victory at this point.

There was just one little problem. Central Michigan, still playing to win, got a perfect onside kick from Andrew Aguila, recovered, and would ultimately try a 47-yard field goal to win the game. Aguila's attempt failed, but an over-anxious offsides penalty brought the ball 5 yards closer and his second, 42-yard attempt did not miss with 3 seconds left. Game over.

So what really happened in this game?

First, the Spartans were not mentally prepared to play and win the game. Second, Central Michigan coach Butch Jones successfully used his spread offense to exploit the Spartans' weak defensive secondary, the same secondary that played poorly last season and is still not repaired, and neutralize future pro linebacker Greg Jones.

Butch Jones had his quarterback completing passes underneath all game as the Spartan defenders played way too loose, and missed tackles like clockwork. Central Michigan picked up 418 offensive yards on 76 plays, MSU had 316 offensive yards on 56 plays; talk about ball control.

Third, the Spartan coaches, who could have exploited Central Michigan's weak secondary, decided to run for a miserable 101 yards on 30 attempts (a paltry 3.3 yards per carry) rather than letting Kirk Cousins play pass and catch with his capable receiver corps. End of story.

When Central Michigan went ahead 13-10, Michigan State regained the lead with its passing game, not its running game. This approach was not good enough for State, the coaches wanted to run the ball; all that proved was how they could lose the game.

At the outset of the game, senior wide receiver Blair White ran past the Chippewa cover backs like they were standing still, and hauled in a 39-yard pass to set up a 1-yard TD run by Caulton Ray, and State was up 7-zip. White continued to run past Chippewa defenders, and ended the day with 7 catches for 105 yards. White could have caught twice as many passes because the defenders could not keep up with him.

Cousins would end the day completing 13 of 18 for 164 yards and the 7-yard TD pass to Cunningham. Keith Nichol also played QB, ending the day at 3 for 8 for 51 yards and a 16-yard TD pass to Charlie Gantt. Name me one Top 25 team that is rotating two quarterbacks in and out like musical chairs?

Unless Cousins is calling the plays (and he is not), he should have been allowed to carry on with the passing game when it was clear that Michigan State was not ready to defend and in for a dog fight. State could have outscored Central Michigan, even if the Spartan defense was giving up too many points.

Why didn't coach Mark Dantonio and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell use the strength of their passing game more? Maybe because they are stubborn, and concerned about having to placate too many hot shot running backs. Dantonio is a defensive, not offensive-minded, coach.

Dantonio needs to remember than establishing a running game and controlling the clock only works if you can stop the other team's offense. Playing conservatively never really wins football games, it only preserves them, and even then, you had better dominate and build up a big lead to protect.

This week the Spartans travel to South Bend, Indiana to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, not exactly a national championship caliber team (they were upset by a rebuilding Michigan team last week)) whose players are not thriving so much on past glory as faded past glory.

One thing is for sure—the would-be Spartans had better beat the Irish on their home turf or Michigan State's stock will take a major hit for the worse.

February 12, 2010

College Football

The 2010 Michigan State Football Program Is in Critical Need of a Course Correction, with Some Serious Player Evaluation

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

When Mark Dantonio took over as head coach of the Michigan State University football program 3 years ago, no one was more excited and clapping louder than this former athlete and Michigan State graduate. It was easy to understand why.

In my last two seasons of watching the Spartans as a student-athlete, Michigan State players and their coach Duffy Daugherty won both Big Ten and National Championships in 1965 and 1966. After graduating in 1966, it would be 21 long years before George Perles would lead MSU back to some kind of prominence when the Spartans went 9-2-1 and won the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl in 1987.

The arrival of Mark Dantonio, after years of losing to our arch-rival Michigan as well as Ohio State, signaled hope for a struggling program. Dantonio was the defensive coordinator for Ohio State's 2002 National Championship team, and had built a reputation as a winner to be reckoned with.

In his first season, Dantonio went 7-5 and took Michigan State to a bowl game for the first time in 4 years—and all 5 of his losses were by 7 points or less. Last year he continued the march to prominence by improving to 9-4, and going to a second consecutive bowl game.

This year turned into a nightmare before it barely started. In their second game of the season against Central Michigan at home, the Spartans really worked at finding a way to lose, 29-27. The fact that Central Michigan was a mid-major school and would eventually finish the season at 12-2 was irrelevant—it was the way that Michigan State responded to the challenge that was troubling.

MSU then went on the road and lost a close game to another arch-rival Notre Dame, 33-30, and followed that up with another road loss to Wisconsin, 38-30.

The Spartans managed to host and beat arch-rival Michigan 26-20 in overtime, and also beat Illinois and Northwestern to sit at 4-3. Not happy with any success, they immediately lost at home to Iowa and on-the-road at Minnesota and dropped back to 4-5. Mercifully, they then beat Western Michigan and Purdue before being blown out by Penn State, 42-14, and ending up barely bowl eligible at 6-6.

What happened next signaled the trouble ahead for the Michigan State Spartans. A total of 14 Spartan players were suspended from the team pending investigation of a dormitory brawl in November. The players in question did not make it to the Alamo Bowl to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Dubbed the "Distraction Bowl" by the media because of the firing of belligerent coach Mike Leach prior to the game, the Red Raiders nonetheless won, 41-31, leaving Michigan State with a losing record for the season at 6-7.

To say that Michigan State's 3rd season under Dantonio was a disappointment is not an exaggeration. There is a huge difference between 9-4 in 2008 and 6-7 in 2009. It is not just about the wins and losses—as bad as it is—it is also about the apparent lack of team chemistry, apparent disinterest of some players, and the apparent non-performance of some "hot shot" recruits.

The problem was, as the great college football coach Lou Holtz says, "When all is said and done, more was said than done."

If anyone wondered what happened to the Michigan State Spartans this year, the telltale signs are evident—14 players suspended for apparently participating in a dormitory brawl. When did Michigan State gain the reputation of being a school that recruits players interested in "thugging" and "mugging" to settle perceived scores?

The story is all too familiar today. Connecticut players won the Papajohns.com Bowl without cornerback Jasper Howard, who was stabbed to death in a fight outside of a school-sponsored dance in October.

Dozens of college football players have been suspended or kicked off their team for violent or criminal behavior this year. Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount sucker-punched a Boise State player at mid-field after the Broncos upset the Ducks 19-8 in the opening game for both teams this year. Other players on other teams are facing charges ranging from robbery to rape.

You have to ask yourself, "What is up with these talented, privileged athletes?" Some of them are gone after their first season because they are too lazy, too undisciplined or too stupid to get passing grades in their classes. Some run around like they are God's gift to football, "talking smack" and acting like an illiterate person—in some cases they cannot write a complete sentence, and would have trouble communicating with anyone not from where they surfaced. Many times they bring nothing of substance to the area they occupy.

Life is not that complicated to anyone paying attention. By the time athletes even reach the college campus, they should know right from wrong, they should have some basic manners and respect for everyone they come in contact with, and they should have enough restraint to not rob their roommate, rape a girl, or engage in gangland violence.

Yoga taught me "impulse control", the ability to feel an urge and delay acting on it.

Violent and criminal behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstances. We all are faced with challenges in life. Every one of us suffers failure, rejection and ridicule growing up. Life is not a resting place; it is a testing place. We all face challenges every day of our lives. We either learn how to deal with these challenges or we become victims of them.

What is it with young people today that causes them to solve their problems by going home, getting a gun, and coming back and killing someone because their feelings are hurt, or they faced rejection, or ridicule. Learning to deal with your problems is part of growing up. People who indiscriminately kill other people do not value their own life, and consequently do not value the lives of those they would kill.

The values of respect, tolerance, acceptance, compromise and love among others have to be taught and learned. If there is no one around, then you must observe and learn these values on your own.

The excuse that you are too lazy or too stupid to learn these values on your own is not acceptable if you plan on living on this planet with other people. If you cannot learn how to behave in a civilized society, then we take you out of circulation by locking you up, that is, if you do not get killed by someone else first.

The 14 suspended players at Michigan State—if found guilty as suspected—are immature, lack good judgment, lack character and lack integrity. No one does something as stupid as they apparently did without being more self-centered than other-centered.

Let there be no doubt about the value of having character and integrity. I do not believe you can build a championship team without a substantial dose of both.

And let there be no doubt about how character is developed. Just as we can learn from our mistakes, we can gain character from our disappointments. Also understand that adversity does not build character, it only reveals it. In case of the suspended athletes, the perceived adversity revealed their lack of character.

Integrity is what you do in the dark when no one is looking, and this is especially so if you can enjoy personal gain from what you are doing. Integrity is making decisions with right thinking and right motives. You cannot have integrity and be self-centered, full of yourself, greedy, dishonest, jealous, stupid, arcane and bovine like some stupid cow wandering around a field following other stupid cows.

All of which is to say that Mark Dantonio needs to do some serious housecleaning. Dantonio needs to determine who is really willing to work to succeed. Who not just wants to play football but loves the game and needs to play football. Who is a winner willing to meet and conquer challenges head on. And who appreciates the opportunity to wear a Michigan State Spartan uniform.

You cannot win with losers, and there are apparently some losers on the MSU football team that should not to be on the team. If the players that are left cannot help Michigan State take the next step forward, then Dantonio needs to find some players of character who can, and convince them of the value of being a true Spartan.

2009 College Football Feature Articles

September 10, 2009 - Second Article

Well, Why Not?

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 1

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Like any red-blooded, fanatical college football fan, I can be incensed when I see popular teams getting free passes in the AP Top 25 Poll, and even in the Coaches' Top 25 Poll.

You know what I am talking about. A highly-ranked team loses to an unranked team and everyone acts as if nothing happened. Like the team that was supposed to be really good is still good even though their players are not performing. Heck, I figure my opinion is just as valid as the experts because the polls are based on opinion, and not fact.

So I shall give it a whirl this week, with no promise there will be a second week. Who knows, I might receive some death threats from marking down someone's favorite team. Anyway, here is my top 25 list after the first week, with some thoughts:

1) Florida – Yes, they beat up a 1-AA team 62-3, but as Ric Flair would say, "To be the champ, you have to beat the champ."

2) Southern California – They beat up a weak 1-A team 56-3, and are always rated behind Texas for no good reason.

3) Alabama – It takes some pretty big grapefruits to take on a Top 10 team in your opener; the Crimson Tide did and won over Virginia Tech.

4) Oklahoma State – The Cowboys took on Georgia and won 24-10.

5) Brigham Young – Upset No. 3 Oklahoma on the Sooners' home turf.

6) Boise State – Broncos did not exactly sucker-punch the No. 16 Oregon Ducks, but they did beat them 19-8.

7) California – Won by 45 over Maryland. Could the Bears have beaten Oklahoma on Sooner turf with a healthy Sam Bradford? Doubt it.

Not really impressed with anyone from here on.

8) Texas – Won by 39 points over Louisiana Monroe, but gave up 20.

9) Notre Dame – Shut out Nevada 35-zip. The heat is on for the Irish, they must keep winning big or slide quickly.

10) Nebraska – Burned Florida Atlantic by 46. These guys used to win big all of the time.

11) Kansas – Beat Northern Colorado by 46. Doubtful that Kansas is really good.

12) Mississippi – Led Memphis 17-7 after 3 quarters but won 45-14. How good are they? Show me more against a better opponent.

13) Cincinnati – Led Rutgers 45-7 after 3 and won 47-15. Show me more against a better opponent.

14) Missouri – Unranked but upset Illinois 37-9 on the road.

Pick any lame performance by a rated team from here on, it doesn't really matter.

15) Ohio State – Always overrated in my book. Could only beat Navy by 4 points at home.

16) LSU – What Tigers? Could only beat last year's 0-12 Washington Huskies by 8 points.

17) Penn State – Managed to beat the Akron Zips 31-7.

18) Utah – Good grief. Beat Utah State 35-17.

19) Iowa – Double good grief. Barely beat 1-AA Northern Iowa 17-16.

20) Oklahoma – So your Hiesman QB got injured. All teams have injuries; some actually suck it up and win anyway. Play your way back up.

21) Virginia Tech – Play your way back up.

22) Georgia – Ditto, if you have what it takes.

23) Oregon State – They only beat Portland State 34-7. Could be worse. Could have Oregon No. 23. Oh, I forgot. The sucker-punch contest is over.

24) Pittsburgh – Beat 1-AA Youngstown State 38-3. No, I was kidding. The Panthers need to show more to make this top 25 poll. Put in your own favorite team. I will put my favorite team in No. 25.

25) Michigan State – Not that big of a deal, but did put a 44-3 whipping on 1-AA Montana State.

If I forgot someone (like Georgia Tech, TCU, North Carolina or Miami-FL), they just didn't "bring it enough" to get my attention.

September 15, 2009 - Second Article

Let's Get This Right

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 2

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

This is torture. Texas, Penn State, Utah, Notre Dame, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech—none look as good as advertised in preseason polls by pickers who are supposed to know. That is why I started my own Top 25, to clear the air of charlatans and chameleons pretending to be something they are not.

Here is my Top 25 list—with some thoughts—after the second week of the college football season. My poll is based on performance and merit—not popularity with the teams, the media or you readers.

1) Florida – Yes, they beat up another flunky 56-6, but I will put up with an impressive margin of victory. As Ric Flair would say, "Whether you like it, or you don't like it, to be the champ, you have to beat the champ."

2) Southern California – They beat Ohio State again in a marquee match-up. You remember the Buckeyes, rated No. 7 in the Coaches' Poll and No. 15 in my poll last week. Heck, Ohio State has only lost 7 straight times to top 5 teams. Ohio State will be lucky if they are in my poll next week; they are always overrated.

3) Alabama – Beat up Florida International, a big nothing, 40-14, but Oklahoma beat up a 1-AA team, and Texas could not even cover against Wyoming.

4) Brigham Young – Moves up a notch after kicking Tulane to the turf, 54-3.

5) Boise State – Shut out Miami of Ohio, 48-0. Takes winning seriously.

6) California – Won by 52 over Eastern Washington.

7) Nebraska – Knows how to win and cover, favored by 21, beats Arkansas State 38-9.

8) Kansas – Slammed UTEP on the road, 34-7. They drop down when they lose.

9) Cincinnati – Beat 1-AA SE Missouri State 70-3. Yes, it's a lame opponent, but I am tired of media darlings barely beating mediocre teams and not covering.

10) Pittsburgh – Won an impressive victory over Buffalo 54-27 on the road, and covered.

Not really impressed with anyone from here on. There is probably not a nickel's worth of difference between No. 11 and No. 25; some of these teams will keep winning, others will fall off the track in the coming weeks.

11) Texas – Beat Wyoming 41-10, but could not cover on the road. Second lame victory in a row for the Longhorns.

12) Penn State – Beat Syracuse, but could not cover.

13) Utah – Beat San Jose State 24-14, but could not cover. Last week Southern Cal beat San Jose State 56-3. Now you know why USC is No. 2 and Utah No. 13, and trust me, No. 13 is a gift because no other team seems to be able to get off the dime.

14) Oregon State – Beat UNLV 23-21 and could not cover, but at least they won on the road.

15) Mississippi – Had bye week.

16) Missouri – Won a lame victory over Bowling Green after a great road win against Illinois last week.

17) Notre Dame – Lost in the Big House to Michigan. If they lose again, they may drop right out of this poll. The Irish need better coaching and home field advantage to advance.

18) Ohio State – Lost to USC on their home turf. Good thing for Ohio State that the Big Ten games are starting.

19) Iowa – Beat in-state rival Iowa State 35-3 on the road.

20) LSU – Beat Vanderbilt 23-9, but could not cover. Just not that good, but no one seems to be any better at the moment.

21) Texas Tech – Burned Rice 55-10 after win over a weak North Dakota team last week. They travel to Texas this week. Play time is over, even though Texas can be beat.

22) Oklahoma – Shut out 1-AA Idaho State 64-0. Maybe ready to move up. Take on Tulsa this week.

23) Boston College – May be a risky pick but did pound Kent State 34-7 and whipped 1-AA Northeastern 54-0 in their opener.

24) Georgia Tech – Barely beat Clemson 30-27 after beating 1-AA Jacksonville State 37-17. Major polls have Georgia Tech at No. 13 and No. 14, and I keep thinking, are you serious, Mate?

25) I am exhausted by this early-season, no-talent, lame-talent showing by major teams in prestigious conferences. Put in whoever you like for No. 25, it doesn't make a whit of difference who is selected.

September 23, 2009 - 2nd Article

Hello, Washington

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 3

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

This job is getting a little easier because the pretenders are starting to identify themselves. Here is my Top 25 list—with some thoughts—after the third week of the college football season. My poll is based on performance and merit—not popularity with the teams or the media.

1) Florida – Stays No. 1 until someone plays to No. 1. Urban Meyer, apparently a Roman Catholic, could be on a canonical mission; he takes winning football games as serious as his religion. His lifetime coaching record is currently 86-17 (83.5%) and he is 5-1 in bowl games (83%).

2) Alabama – The Crimson Tide will play someone eventually, and we will find out if they really are No. 2. Nick Saban, the master of self-promotion, will continue to pump up Alabama's fortunes at all costs.

3) Boise State – Good win over Oregon; Ducks took down BYU.

4) California – Travels to Oregon this week; let's see if they win.

5) Cincinnati – 3-0 last time I checked; beat Oregon State on-the-road, not too shabby.

6) Iowa – Takes 3-0 record to Penn State this week, we'll find out as much about the Hawkeyes as we will the Nittany Lions. Penn State—plays a bunch of nobodies and has the bloody nerve to schedule 1-AA opponents after league play starts; this year it's 1-AA Eastern Illinois.

7) LSU – 3-0; coming soon—Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi. Let's see if they go 8-0 with this schedule.

8) Miami (FL) – 2-0 and hurricane brewing; travels to Virginia Tech. Fasten your seat belt.

9) Texas – Got even with Texas Tech; faces easy UTEP team next.

Not all that impressed with the rest, except for Washington; the Huskies just may be the surprise team of the year when all is said and done. Then again, as Lou Holtz used to say, "When all is said and done, more is said than done." Washington just might be the exception.

10) Kansas – 3-0; how long can this last?

11) Michigan – 3-0; no one is laughing anymore, even Wolverine brass must take notice. Rich Rodriguez is no slouch and people in the Big Ten are going to find out.

12) Penn State – 3-0 against nobody; Jo Pa only plays about 2 teams a year.

13) Mississippi – 2-0 and played nobody; must now travel to South Carolina.

14) North Carolina – 3-0; how long can this last?

15) TCU – 2-0; are they that good?

16) Southern Cal – I pity Washington State this week.

17) Ohio State – Buckeyes put me to sleep, but some folks get all fussed up about them. Watching their offense is like trying to get friendly with an ashtray.

18) Oklahoma – Loss to BYU hurt, just burned next two opponents 109-0. They face Texas in mid-October.

19) Auburn – 3-0; should swamp Ball State this week. There are 120 teams in 1-A football and Ball State is ranked 171st. If Auburn loses, they should quit football and take up basket weaving.

20) UCLA – Don't laugh, they are 3-0. Don't bet on Slick Rick, but don't bet against him either; Neuheisel takes threats seriously.

21) Washington – Only 2-1 but huge upset of USC breeds confidence. Any team that can beat USC gets consideration here.

22) Missouri – 3-0; and has been good before. We hope Gary Pinkel is not getting bored at Missouri.

23) Pittsburgh – 3-0; how long can this last? For people to take Dave Wannstedt seriously, Pitt must practically go 12-0.

24) Wisconsin – 3-0; did I say Wisconsin? I can't stand Wisconsin. Badgers host Michigan State next. My alma mater could be in trouble.

25) I remain exhausted by this early-season, no-talent, lame-talent showing by major teams in prestigious conferences. Put in whoever you like for No. 25, it doesn't make a whit of difference who is selected. Most of the teams in this poll need more competition to be taken seriously.

September 28, 2009 – 2nd Article

What an Upsetting Mess!

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 4

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Seven upsets of Top 25 teams, and only 10 ranked teams left with unbeaten records. There are going to be a lot of changes. Here is my Top 25 list—with some thoughts—after the 4th week of the college football season. My poll is based on performance and merit—not on popularity with the teams or the media. Rankings are from the AP Poll except where noted.

1) Florida – Urban Meyer wanted to beat Tennessee 65-0, but his players settled for a 24-13 win at home. Meyer may have underestimated Monte Kiffin's defensive strategy with less talented players. Tennessee's good fortune is Kentucky's misfortune. Meyer, hopping mad, took the Gators to Kentucky and crushed the Wildcats 41-7. Florida may start piling up some impressive double-digit margins of victory. Next stop is an angry LSU team. Let's get ready to rumble. Now we're talking—some decent competition.

2) Alabama – No reason to downgrade the Crimson Tide, they took care of Arkansas 35-7.

3) Iowa – Hawkeyes upset 5th-ranked Penn State in Happy Valley. Could Boise State have beaten Penn State 21-10 in Happy Valley? I have my doubts.

4) Texas – Longhorns are undefeated and keep rolling up big numbers, but have not played anyone worth mentioning; they also gave up 24 points to Texas Tech. Their first big test is Oklahoma on October 17.

5) Boise State – Still undefeated and still have a signature win over Oregon in season opener.

6) Virginia Tech – Lost to Alabama but there is no other 4-0 team with as good a win as the Hokies' 31-7 upset win over 9th-ranked Miami (FL).

7) Oregon – Ate some humble pie during season opener at Boise State, but has rebounded with victories over Purdue and Utah and now has upset 6th-ranked California 42-3. Was Virginia Tech's win over Miami (FL) better than Oregon's over California? Yeah, the Bears fold all the time, they just usually do it later in the season.

Let me say that there are some unbeaten teams left but from 8th on this list is littered with teams that have either played nobody or not faced tough road opponents, so it is tough to tell who is really good. I just know that a lot of them are not going to be undefeated in a few weeks.

8) Ohio State – Lost signature game to USC but just how good are the Trojans? Since then the Buckeyes have beaten Toledo and Illinois by a combined score of 68-0.

9) Cincinnati – Of the ranked unbeatens, the Bearcats have a weaker schedule and could rack up more victories.

10) South Carolina – Seriously, who has shown more among the rest? Yes, the Gamecocks and their cocky coach Steve Spurrier lost by 4 points to Georgia in an away game, but after two easy wins, the unranked Gamecocks knocked off 4th-ranked Mississippi 16-10. My poll (not the AP or Coaches' Polls) had Mississippi at 13th last week. I guess we found out which poll had set Mississippi on notice to prove itself; the Rebels did not.

11) Auburn – Not sure they deserve it but still unbeaten at 4-0 even though they have played a JV schedule up till now. The Tigers have Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama up ahead. Good luck, the Tigers will need it. Auburn has given up 97 points in 4 games.

12) Wisconsin – Still 4-0 and whipped an apparently not-so-good Michigan State team 38-30. The Badgers have given up 95 points in 4 games, and that includes Wofford. Is Michigan State that bad? Well, yes.

13) Kansas – Still 4-0 but barely got by Southern Mississippi 35-28. Outscored first 3 opponents 127 to 26 against Howdy Doody and a couple of other cartoon characters.

14) Michigan – Still 4-0 but just got by Indiana 36-33. Jeez Louise. Picked up a win over Notre Dame but who knows what that is worth down the road. Will soon have to deal with Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State—only Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State may put up a real fight.

15) Houston – Now 3-0 and scores points like crazy. Put up 129 points in 3 games.

16) TCU – Now 3-0 after playing Hootie and the Blowfish and a couple of other lightweight bands. Has a ridiculously easy schedule with only BYU and Utah ahead, should be taken out and flogged if they do not go 10-2.

17) LSU – Some pundits think the Tigers are a big deal. I don't know. What I do know is that they just got by Washington and Mississippi State and added wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette. Now it gets far more serious with Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi ahead.

18) USC – Southern Cal is now 3-1. The Trojans stomped San Jose State, picked up a signature win over Ohio State, were upset by Steve Sarkisian-led Washington and now have beaten a horrific, visiting Washington State team 27-6. The Cougars are bad and Cal can only best them by 3 touchdowns. Last year USC beat the Cougars in Washington 69-0. Is this year's USC team the same team we have seen the past 7 years? Not exactly, to say it nicely. For 7 years USC has won at least 11 games a season and been in a BCS game every year. I thought this might finally be California's year to beat Southern Cal, but the Bears are not looking so hot either.

19) Georgia – This pick is by default because everyone else just isn't that good either. The Bulldogs are looking more and more like a Taco Bell chawawa (American slang for "chihuahua" in Spanish). They beat Oklahoma State, they gave up 37 points to South Carolina (not a good offensive team) before winning by 4, gave up 41 points to Arkansas before winning by 11, and now can hardly get by Arizona State 20-17. Were is the defense?

20) Brigham Young – Opens season with big upset of Oklahoma, stomps Tulane, promptly loses to Florida State 54-28 at home, and now eases past Colorado State 42-23. Just a tad topsy-turvy. Did I just say inconsistent? Yes mam, I did.

Do I really have to pick 5 more? I am getting ill.

21) South Florida –Now 4-0 after upset win over 18th-ranked Florida State. Played 3 stiffs before arriving at Florida State field.

22) Georgia Tech – Now 3-1 after upset win over 22nd-ranked North Carolina 24-7. I had North Carolina at 14th in my poll last week and asked the question—how long can this last? Answer: Not very long.

23) Missouri – Still unbeaten at 4-0 but has played diddly-squat.

24) Texas A&M – Now 3-0 after beating UAB 56-19, which isn't saying much. Also has wins against some big-time opponents like Virginia and Texas State. Yeah, you get the picture. Eventually they will deal with Oklahoma and Texas, and will need to be ready, very ready.

25) Central Michigan – Going out on a flyer here. Could have easily picked Stanford, Oklahoma State, Boston College, Tulsa, Utah, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame or UCLA here. It's not that Central Michigan is any big deal. The Chippewas lost their opener 19-6 to Arizona on-the-road and have since upset Michigan State 29-27 (the season's biggest disappointment so far) in an away game, shut out Alcorn State 48-0, and now picked off Akron 48-21, scoring TDs in every quarter. Won their last 3 games 125-48, like the momentum.

Additional note: Mississippi, California, Penn State, Miami (FL) and Pittsburgh need to play their way back in. Have I missed someone? If so, let them do something and they will become more noticeable. In 55 years of watching football games, I have grown tired of pretenders. They need to stop talking to themselves in such glowing terms and show up ready to play.

October 6, 2009 – 2nd Article

Who Is Moving Up?

Ed Bagley's Top 25 – Week 5

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Only 13 teams remain undefeated after 5 weeks of play, and it is time to seriously think about elevating some of them into my Top 25 picks, even if they have played mostly weak competitors. Some such teams are already there—like Boise State. So here are Week 5's Top 25 picks:

1) Florida – Was idle this week and stays on top of the heap. Let's see what happens when the No. 1 Gators travel to No. 4 LSU this week and tangle with the Tigers. LSU is 4th in the AP Poll this week and 13th in my poll this week.

2) Alabama – Beat Kentucky on-the-road. I kicked Mississippi out of my poll after they lost to South Carolina, and put the Gamecocks into the Top 25. I'm still good with that. Alabama travels to Mississippi this week. If the Rebels upset the Crimson Tide, they get back in my poll. If Mississippi loses, they stay out. Should Alabama get upset—no excuses--they lose position in my poll.

3) Texas – Was idle this week but I am moving them up from 4 to 3 because Iowa was so lame in its 24-21 win over 125th-ranked Arkansas State.

4) Virginia Tech – Beat Duke (no big deal) but is still 5-0 and no one else is really doing diddly-squat.

5) Boise State – Still undefeated and still has a signature win over Oregon in season opener. Travels to 4-1 Tulsa this week. If they do not win, they drop like a brick off of a 10-story building.

6) Oregon – Led a hapless Washington State team 42-0 at the half and won 52-6. Now travels to UCLA and faces Slick Rick and his troops.

7) Ohio State – Hate to upgrade the Buckeyes because I hate Ohio State; it's an inbred thing because I am a Michigan State University graduate. Buckeyes host Wisconsin this week, the toughest opponent they have seen since losing to Southern Cal.

8) Iowa – Hawkeyes host Michigan this week. They need to win against the Wolverines—Michigan State did.

9) Cincinnati – Now 5-0 after beating a winless Miami of Ohio team. If teams like Cincinnati played in the SEC, the Bearcats would lose 4 or 5 games a year.

10) South Carolina – People may crab about the Gamecocks, after all, their last win was over 1-AA South Carolina State. I don't care, South Carolina is 4-1, they beat Mississippi, and even the AP Poll finally brought them into the fold at No. 25. Hosts Kentucky next.

11) Auburn – Not sure they deserve it but still undefeated at 5-0 and beat Tennessee. Go to Arkansas next.

12) Wisconsin – Still 5-0 and got by Minnesota on-the-road. Teams that win away games in league play impress.

13) LSU – Managed to beat Georgia 20-13, and is 5-0. Hosts No. 1 Florida next. AP has them at No. 4; I remain unconvinced.

14) Kansas – Still 4-0, hosts Iowa State this week. Have no idea how good the Jayhawks are, but they are 1 of 13 teams that are still undefeated.

15) TCU – Beat up SMU to go 4-0. Travels to Air Force next, not exactly a big challenge.

16) USC – Southern Cal is now 4-1. The Trojans went to California and killed the Bears 30-3.

17) South Florida –Now 5-0 after beating Syracuse.

18) Missouri – Now 4-0, one of 13 undefeated teams left. Hosts Nebraska this week, that should tell us a lot about Missouri and Nebraska.

19) Georgia Tech – Now 4-1 after beating Mississippi State. Travels to Florida State this week; not sure which Seminole team will be defending their home turf.

20) Miami (FL) – Now 4-1 after upsetting No. 8 Oklahoma 21-20. I kicked Oklahoma out of my poll last week. Now you know why.

21) Nebraska – Now 3-1, did lose to Virginia Tech 16-15 on-the-road. Travels to Missouri next; bring it on.

22) Stanford – Now 4-1 after beating UCLA. Also beat Washington. Probably is the second best team in the Pac 10 behind USC.

23) Pittsburgh – Now 4-1 after dusting Louisville.

24) Notre Dame – Now 4-1. Had to go to overtime to beat Washington. Has won last 3 games in the last 60 seconds of each game. Has given up an average of 30 points a game in its last 4 games.

25) Central Michigan – Now 4-1 after beating Buffalo on-the-road.

I know, you are saying where is Penn State, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Utah, Mississippi, Brigham Young, Michigan, Houston, Georgia and Florida State. Well, they need to stop talking and start performing against really good teams. It's bad enough that I have Boise State in my Top 25; one of these at a time is enough.

October 13, 2009 - 2nd Article

Florida Remains Top Dog

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 6

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

1) Florida – Traveled to No. 4 LSU and its mighty defense and lukewarm offense and won 13-3. Now you know why the Gators are No. 1 and LSU will be sliding in this poll.

2) Alabama – Traveled to No. 20 Mississippi to meet "the golden arm" Jevan Snead, who threw 4 interceptions as the Crimson Tide won 22-3. Here again, gone again. I am kicking Ole Miss out of my poll.

3) Virginia Tech – I thought Iowa was lame and now Texas is worse. The Hokies look more serious than Iowa and Texas put together.

4) Oregon – Lost its season opener and then got religion. Beat Utah, beat California 42-3, beat Washington State 52-6 and now ripped UCLA on-the-road 24-10.

5) Ohio State – Beat undefeated Wisconsin 31-13. Have limited their last 4 opponents to 27 points combined.

Things get really murky from here on in the poll. So many of the following teams have such weak victories over weak teams it is too difficult to see who else is a contender or a pretender.

6) Texas – Probably has more talent than Boise State, but could only beat a 1-5 Colorado team by 2 points while giving away 28 points. How can Texas be really good? Can't rank the Longhorns higher than 6th, and that is a gift they should earn.

7) Boise State – Idle this week, travel to Tulsa next.

8) Southern California – Idle this week, travel to Notre Dame next.

9) Cincinnati – Idle this week, travel to South Florida next.

10) Iowa – Got by Michigan but not by much. Travel to Wisconsin next.

11) LSU – Have a week to recover before facing Auburn.

12) South Florida – Unbeaten and just as deserving as TCU or Kansas. Host Cincinnati next, a big deal for the Bulls and coach Jim Leavitt.

13) Nebraska – Starting to act like a better team than TCU or Kansas.

14) TCU – Another lame win, this time over Air Force by 3.

15) Kansas – Another insanely lame win over by 5 over Iowa State while giving up 36 points. How long can Kansas stay undefeated? My guess? Not long. They face a pathetic Colorado team next and then get Oklahoma.

16) Miami (FL) – Beat a 1-AA team. Schedule gets easier than pie.

17) Oklahoma State – Won by 5 over Texas A&M while giving up 31 points.

18) Brigham Young – Goes to 5-1 by crushing UNLV 59-21.

19) Georgia Tech – Goes to 5-1 by outlasting Florida State 49-44. Hosts Virginia Tech next, good luck and God speed.

20) Pittsburgh – Now 5-1 after beating Connecticut 24-21. Hardly a big deal but there are some pretty unimpressive teams in anybody's Top 25 these days.

21) Notre Dame – Idle this week. Host Southern Cal next.

22) South Carolina – Goes to 5-1 by slipping past Kentucky 28-26. Travels to Alabama next. Yikes! Could easily arrive back home at 5-2.

23) Central Michigan – Now 5-1 after ripping the worse major team in the nation—Eastern Michigan—56-8. You tell me a better 5-1 team in the country. Nah, not Penn State; I am not sure they can beat Central Michigan. Penn State likes to play really pansy teams.

24) Idaho – Now 5-1 by playing the 62nd toughest schedule in the nation. The Vandals are no longer a doormat with coach Robb Akey. Idaho was 2-10 last year and has been traditionally one of the weakest teams in the nation. They don't really play a decent team until Boise State down the road, but at least I reward genuine effort and progress.

25) Penn State – My disdain for the Nittany Lions knows no bounds. Jo Pa would have them playing their opponents' grandmothers if they could get away with it. Paterno would play college JV teams at home just to pile up another "big" victory for Happy Valley.

Who have I left out? Whoever it is, let them do something so I can notice. It doesn't take any talent to blow smoke, and it doesn't take any talent to lose. Win and win big and I will put your team in my poll, until then, let the AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll reward lame teams in a popularity contest, I just call some teams for what they are—lame in victory, filled with excuses in defeat.

October 21, 2009 - 2nd Article

There Is a New No. 1

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 7

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

It was a good week to be Florida, Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Boise State, Iowa and TCU—all won, and all are the only unbeaten major teams left in the nation. Every one of them are beatable, the only monster thing about any of them are the college publicity departments that promote them. Here's my Top 25 for the 7th week:

1) Alabama (7-0) – Hosted and beat a really game 5-1 South Carolina team 20-6, and is on track for a head-on collision with Florida for the SEC championship and a shot at the national title. Guess who has the best total defense in the nation? Answer: Alabama.

2) Florida (6-0) – Needed a 27-yard field goal at home with 9 seconds left to beat a 3-2 Arkansas team, 23-20, and keep the Razorbacks from pulling off the biggest upset of the year. Florida can be beat. Gators are still the defending national champions. Alabama beat Arkansas 35-7 at home. Guess who has the second best total defense in the nation? Answer: Florida.

3) Oregon (5-1) – Caught napping and lost its season opener on-the-road to Boise State 19-8, but has since ripped off 5 straight wins and made it clear that the Ducks (such a weak nickname for a football team) will be dealt with. Travels to hated rival Washington next. The Huskies have last-second upset victories over USC (16-13) and Arizona (36-33). It seems obvious, but who is tougher, Huskies or Ducks? This is why we will watch the game.

4) Cincinnati (6-0) – Tough to know who is better, Cincinnati or Southern California. What I do know is that Cincy is unbeaten and could achieve a perfect 12-0 record if they really are a No. 4 team since West Virginia (5-1) and Pittsburgh (6-1) are their only big challenges in the last 6 games.

5) Southern California (5-1) – Will not soon forget the 16-13 loss on-the-road to Washington, but has won at least 11 games a year for the last 7 years. Having said that, USC is beatable and has victories that were too close over Ohio State (18-15) and Notre Dame (34-27), both came on the road. USC has a daunting schedule left with road trips to Oregon and Arizona State, and home game against Stanford, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State (the Trojans only loss last year was 27-21 on-the-road to the Beavers).

6) Texas (6-0) – I have a lot of misgivings about the Longhorns. Yes, they managed to beat a 3-3 Oklahoma team 16-13 at home, but needed a last-minute field goal to do it. Texas knocked out Sooner QB Sam Bradford in the 1st quarter, yet the Oklahoma defense dominated the 1st half and the Sooners led 6-3 at halftime. Keep in mind that Oklahoma lost to Brigham Young and Miami (FL) before facing Texas, and Texas ran up a 5-0 mark playing no one worth mentioning before Oklahoma. Now the Longhorns get Central Florida, Baylor, Kansas and Texas A&M in their last 4 games; this does not sound to me like Texas should play in the national championship game even if the Longhorns end up at 12-0, which is likely.

7) Texas Christian (6-0) – TCU has feasted on such powerhouses as Virginia, 1-AA Texas State, Clemson, Southern Methodist, Air Force and Colorado State (note the sarcasm). Is TCU suspect? You better believe it. Kansas looked good while playing cupcakes too. Let's see if BYU or Utah slows TCU down. If not, then perhaps I shall think a little better of the Horned Frogs.

8) Iowa (7-0) – Hawkeyes have won three games by 3 points or less, but have put Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin behind their taillights. Only Michigan State and Ohio State stand in their way of running up the best Hawkeye record probably ever.

9) Boise State (6-0) – If you think TCU might be a little lame at 6-0, try Boise State. The Broncos just beat Tulsa 28-21 on-the-road. To listen to coach Chris Petersen talk his way out of another weak victory, you would think he just played Alabama in 'Bama and beat the Crimson Tide 28-21. So here is Boise State 6-0, and who do you think the next 6 "explosive playmakers" are that the Broncos will play? Try this awesome lineup: 112th-ranked Hawaii (2-4), 93rd-ranked San Jose State (1-5), 95th-ranked Louisiana Tech (3-3), 51st ranked Idaho (6-1), 128th-ranked Utah State (1-5), 87th-ranked Nevada (3-3) and 152nd-ranked New Mexico State (3-4). They have a combined team record of 19-25 and an average ranking of 120. Did I mention that the entire 1-A Division is made up of only 120 teams? Yup, that's Boise State—the higher they are ranked and the tougher they are, the better the Broncos like it. No longer wonder why major conference champions get opt-ins to BCS games—at least they earn the recognition. Only Idaho has anything going for it in Boise State's last 6 games.

10) LSU (5-1) – Took Florida to the mat before the Gators escaped 13-3. Other than Oregon and USC, could be the best 5-1 team in the country. Must now beat 5-2 Auburn at home or risk losing top 10 status. Life does not get any easier, just more interesting.

You have perhaps figured out by now that there are not 10 great football teams at work this season. I put my next 14 picks in a Halloween basket, shook it vigorously, and pulled them out one at a time to fill the next 14 slots because I do not believe there is that much difference between them. Some play much tougher opponents but none of them have much to crow about at the moment. I saved the team I personally hate the worst for the 25th spot—they do not know how lucky they are to even make my top 25.

11) Brigham Young (6-1) – Runs into TCU next.

12) West Virginia (5-1) – Has victories over 1-AA Liberty, East Carolina, Colorado, Syracuse and Marshall. No wonder they are not getting much notice. Their good fortune to be picked 2nd out of the pumpkin.

13) Ohio State (5-2) – Went to Purdue and got their Buckeye butts handed to them by a 1-5 Boilermaker team, 26-18. I hope you appreciate why Ohio State can be so disappointing.

14) Oklahoma State (5-1) – On their best day, the Cowboys may be better than their rival Oklahoma Sooners, whom they play in their last game.

15) South Florida (5-1) – Travel to Pittsburgh and had better be ready.

16) Miami, FL (5-1) – Have beaten Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma, that's more than Boise State, TCU and Texas can say given their first-half schedules.

17) South Carolina (5-2) – I like the Gamecocks and their coach Steve Spurrier. Coaching at South Carolina is no easy task; the Gamecocks are not very high on the pecking order when recruiting against Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Hard to build a consistent winner with the leftovers.

18) Notre Dame (4-2) – A lot of history, luck, smoke and mirrors have netted them 3 victories by a total of 13 points; that is living pretty close to the edge, especially when you are giving up 29 points a game to your last 5 opponents.

19) Idaho (6-1) – Give coach Robb Akey and his Vandals some props; Idaho has been in the pits for years and is now on the rise, meaning there really is no "Achy Breaky Heart" in Moscow (Idaho, not Russia).

20) Central Michigan (6-1) – On target to win the Mid American title.

21) Georgia Tech (6-1) – A very warm summer brought out the Yellow Jackets.

22) Houston (5-1) – Ranks 3rd in the nation in scoring offense (40 ppg), and 88th in scoring defense (28 ppg). If you want to see a shootout, skip the ranch and go directly to a Houston game.

23) Pittsburgh (6-1) – The Panthers are Dave Wannstedt's magnum opus. There will never be another Pittsburgh for Wannstedt, and he will not go to his grave until his Panthers return to the glory days of when he was blocking for future Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. If Wannstedt was not on the football field, he would be deep into a coal mine.

24) Virginia Tech (5-2) – Did a number on Miami (FL) and Boston College, then lost to a 6-1 Georgia Tech team in an away game.

Gosh, putting those last 14 team names in a pumpkin and pulling them out was fun! It actually caused me to re-consider some of my future choices.

25) Penn State (6-1) – Has compiled signature wins over Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Illinois, 1-AA Eastern Iilinois and Minnesota (a combined record of 17-21), and then ran into a lousy 7-0 Iowa team and promptly lost at home 21-10.

Don't ya just love college football? The reason the pros are less likeable is that they are exciting but too predictable.

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the value of your comments. I do welcome your comments; don't let me scare you away, I am really a softy at heart.)

October 26, 2009 - 2nd Article

It's Teetering at the Top

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 8

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Alabama, Florida, Iowa, West Virginia and South Carolina all needed every ounce of effort to win games and hopefully retain their national rankings this week. Here is my Top 25 for college football's Week 8:

1) Alabama (8-0) – The Crimson Tide needed a blocked field goal attempt on the last play of the game to preserve a 12-10 victory over Tennessee. Teams seem to forget who is the defensive coordinator for the Volunteers; he is Monte Kiffin, one of the greatest defensive coordinators in modern football history and the father of Lane Kiffin, the Volunteers' head coach. Yes, Florida's victory was weak too; the Crimson Tide stay on top for at least another week.

2) Florida (7-0) – Extended the nation's longest winning steak to 17 with an unimpressive 29-19 win over Mississippi State. The Gators' offense seems to be imploding, raising questions about can they hang on. Even though Florida looks beatable, I bet Georgia is not excited about traveling to the Gators his week.

3) Oregon (6-1) – Picked up a bone-jarring 43-19 win against a game but youthful Washington Husky team. Next up for the Ducks will be Southern California coming from Los Angeles. This should be an excellent game; would not surprise me if Oregon wins.

4) Cincinnati (7-0) – Stomped Louisville 41-10 and not much interested in slowing down. Schedule is weak but 3rd-year coach Brian Kelly had 10 wins his first year and 11 wins last year. This dude is serious about winning.

5) Southern California (5-1) – Beat Oregon State 42-36 but gave up 36 points to a 4-3 Beaver team. Pivotal week for USC as they get Oregon on-the-road. Either Southern Cal beats Oregon or the Trojans drop in my poll. Either Oregon knocks USC down a notch or the Ducks drop in my poll.

6) Texas (7-0) – Uses Missouri for road kill, 41-7, but now has tougher prey at Oklahoma State. Texas was much better last year and should have been in the national championship game against Florida instead of Oklahoma. Maybe it will be Florida and Texas this year, and then again, maybe neither will make it.

7) Texas Christian (7-0) – Slapped around BYU 38-7 and had fun doing it. Who is going to catch a Horned Frog?

8) Iowa (8-0) – Needed last play of the game to get past Michigan State 15-13. Hawkeyes have some defense and little offense; 7 of their 8 wins have been by 11 or fewer points. The Spartans' have lost 4 games by a combined 15 points, and they are not that good, which makes you wonder when Iowa's magic show stops.

9) Boise State (7-0) – Beat Hawaii silly, 54-9, trying to impress voters. No wonder, Hawaii is 2-5 and throwing pineapples rather than footballs.

10) LSU (6-1) – Ran past Auburn 31-10 and just waiting for top tier teams to lose again or lose for the first time this year, Tigers stalk their prey.

11) Georgia Tech (7-1) – Tore up Virginia 34-9 and now travels to Vanderbilt. The Commodores are in trouble again.

12) Penn State (7-1) – Can't stand Penn State and Jo Pa but can respect a 35-10 win over Michigan on-the-road. Will have to beat Northwestern by 3 touchdowns to keep me impressed.

13) Oklahoma State (6-1) – Leveled Baylor 34-7. I think Baylor is an afterthought of a football team somewhere in Texas. Hosts Texas this week; Longhorns should provide more competition.

14) Houston (6-1) – Back scoring again, took out Southern Methodist 38-15 after leading 31-3 going into the 4th quarter. Houston has an offense and no defense. Don't know who is better—Houston or Ohio State. Nod goes to Houston with 1 less loss.

15) Ohio State (6-2) – Buckeyes blast Minnesota 38-7, now host 148th-ranked New Mexico State. Should beat the Aggies about 56-zip; New Mexico State is beyond terrible; watching the Aggies is like getting electrical shocks until you fall over.

16) Pittsburgh (7-1) – Panthers handled South Florida 41-14. I am elevating Pittsburgh because the Panthers have 7 wins and everyone else looks too lame to take seriously.

17) Utah (6-1) – Not classy in beating Air Force 23-16, but a lot of teams have looked crappy at certain times this season.

18) West Virginia (6-1) – Did not look good in getting by Connecticut 28-24, but ditto above.

19) South Carolina (6-2) – Horrible win over a 2-6 Vanderbilt team at home. Travels to Tennessee this week and could return with a headache and a 6-3 record. I will be very impressed if they beat Tennessee.

(20) Mississippi (5-2) – Beat a stubborn Arkansas team 30-17 at home. May be finally ready to move up and on. Gets Auburn next on-the-road. LSU choke-slammed Auburn 31-10; let's see what Ole Miss can do.

21) Central Michigan (7-1) – Just keeps winning when other better teams lose. Wins count for something.

22) Notre Dame (5-2) – Beat Boston College 20-16 in a very Catholic game. Hosts a 1-6 Washington State cupcake this week; the Cougars are one of the worst teams in the Western Hemisphere and not getting much better by the week. Latest word is they have found a quarterback; when they find 10 more players they may be ready to do something.

23) Idaho (6-2) – Yes, the Vandals got run over on-the-road in Nevada, 70-45, but what other major college team has 6 wins besides those I have already listed? This is a character test for the Vandals; either they win against Louisiana Tech this week or we put them out on the street with a bunch of other 3-loss teams.

24) Navy (6-2) – Hey, there's another 6-win team, just beat Wake Forest 13-10 on the way to the chow hall.

25) Brigham Young (6-2) – OK, Brigham Young, but it pains me after the Cougars were trashed by TCU 38-7 and exposed for what they are, not ready for prime time. To save face, BYU needs to take down Utah in its last regular season game before the Cougars go bowling.

Get passionate about college football, there is no better game in town.

November 2, 2009 - 2nd Article

Oregon Is Moving Up Fast

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 9

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Oregon's 47-20 upset victory over Southern California was beyond huge this week, causing a significant shift in who is where in my Top 25 Poll for college football's 9th week of play. Here is how I see it:

1) Alabama (8-0) – The Crimson Tide was idle this week, and it was probably for the best as Florida won big, but I am not moving the Gators back to No. 1 yet. Let's see how Alabama does when LSU comes to town next week.

2) Florida (8-0) – Did a number on Georgia, 41-17, while extending the nation's longest winning streak to 18 games, and remains on track to meet unbeaten Alabama for the SEC title and chance to defend its 2008 national title in this year's National Championship Game.

3) Oregon (7-1) – Upset favored Southern California in a dominating 47-20 performance worthy of real consideration for a national title shot if Alabama, Florida or Texas falters. Picked apart the USC defense for 613 total yards, not to be taken lightly. Oregon is as good as any team in the country right now.

4) Texas (8-0) – Longhorns move up after impressive 41-14 win on-the-road over 13th-ranked Oklahoma State. Texas led 41-7 after three quarters, and the Longhorn defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

5) Cincinnati (8-0) – Beats Syracuse 28-7 on-the-road, not that it is that big of a deal, except Cincy and coach Brian Kelly just keep on winning. Cincy had 10 wins two years ago and 11 wins last year.

6) Texas Christian (8-0) – Shut out UNLV, a nothing, 41 to nothing. Only 6 other teams remain unbeaten—Florida, Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Iowa and Boise State. Not too shabby company. Why shouldn't TCU be No. 7?

7) Iowa (9-0) – First team in the country to go 9-0. Darn near lost again to a nothing team—Indiana—but rebounded with 4 fourth quarter touchdowns to finally win, 42-24.

8) Boise State (8-0) – Won easily again, ripping San Jose State 45-7 in a cakewalk.

9) LSU (7-1) – Shut out Tulane 42-zip, headed for fierce showdown at Alabama. Beat the Washington Huskies 31-23 while Southern California was upset by the Washington Huskies 16-13. USC will drop lower after being exposed at Oregon for their porous defense.

10) Georgia Tech (8-1) – Scored 28 points in second half to sting Vanderbilt 56-31. Gets Wake Forest next and should win. Has one less loss than USC.

11) Penn State (8-1) – Can't stand Penn State and Joe Pa but Nittany Lions did beat Northwestern 34-13 on-the-road, that's more than Southern Cal can say after its trip to Oregon.

12) Southern California (6-2) – Lost to Oregon. Nuff said. USC drops from 5th to 12th in my poll and would be lower if so many other teams were not so poor on the defensive side of the ball. Let's all stop acting like the Southern California Trojans are a big deal this year, and put them where they deserve to be.

13) Houston (7-1) – Barely outlasted the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, 50-43. The Houston Cougars could not defend against a stout bunch of angry grandmothers, but do provide excitement to the college football scene with their instant-scoring offense.

14) Ohio State (7-2) – Shut out an extremely weak New Mexico State team 45-zip. Travels to Penn State this week and either the Buckeyes or the Nittany Lions are going to look bad. What appears to be a huge defensive battle might well morph into a scoring contest if Penn State's defense falters.

15) Pittsburgh (7-1) – Idle this week, faces Syracuse next and should win easily if they have even a shred of substance.

16) Utah (7-1) – Managed to beat a weak Wyoming team 22-10. Utes record is much more impressive than their wins over opponents. All of this dinking around will stop when they face TCU and BYU.

This poll can go no farther than No. 16 and keep a straight face. The rest of the teams are like running in clowns during a circus act—the performers are not what they appear to be, winning big, losing big and remaining inconsistent and virtually unpredictable. There is not a nickel's worth of difference between them. I am personally sick and tired of tracking the ups and downs of six 3-loss teams—Texas Tech, South Carolina, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Mississippi and Ohio—so they are now out of my poll.

There are at least 12 other teams with only 2 losses, and 8 of them can fill out the last 9 spots. Who is to say that one is better than another when none of them really stand out? So, here, in no particular order, are the last seven:

17) Wisconsin (6-2) – Shut out Purdue 37-0 after the Boilermakers upset Ohio State 26-18. Faces a not-so-hot Indiana team next.

18) California (6-2) – Beat Arizona State 23-21. Gets Southern Cal next. Wonder if the Bears can increase USC's fall?

19) Arizona (5-2) – Has an offense and defense and could be a sleeper. Was idle this week, should easily beat Washington State next and build its stats.

20) Notre Dame (6-2) – Very popular nationally and did beat another 6-2 team—Boston College—20-16. Gets a 6-3 Navy team next.

21) Temple (6-2) – Lost its first two games and then has run off 6 straight wins. Could beat its last four opponents and end the year at 10-2. That would be amazing for Temple. Let's reward success by making them No. 22, at least for the moment.

22) Rutgers (6-2) – Only two losses were to 8-0 Cincinnati and 7-1 Pittsburgh. Let's see if they can beat 6-2 South Florida next.

23) Fill in your own favorite team—I'm tired, I need a break from this exhausting task.

24) Central Michigan (7-2) – Lost to Boston College 31-10 on-the-road, but other than the 7 unbeaten teams in major college football and teams that are already ranked in this poll, who else has 7 wins now? Only one other team—Idaho.

25) Idaho (7-2) – Just beat a really bad Louisiana Tech team 35-34, but who else has 7 wins?

(You can voice your opinion on any of my articles, including this one, by emailing me at <edbagley@comcast.net>. Your name, city and state is required. You notice that I put my name on my comments. And yes, I am likely to post your comment on my web site as long as you can dispense with cussing. I don't cuss, and you shouldn't either; in case no one in life has informed you, cussing is the sign of a low self-image. I will let other readers enjoy your observations, and decide the value of your comments. I do welcome your comments; don't let me scare you away, I am really a softy at heart.)

November 10, 2009 – 2nd Article

Oregon Is Moving Down Fast

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 10

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Iowa, Oregon, Penn State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and California all lost ground in the AP Top 25 Poll this week. All of them also lost ground in my Top 25 Poll this week with the exception of Oklahoma—I kicked Oklahoma out of my Poll some time ago, and the Sooners will not find their way back into my Poll anytime soon. Here is how I see it this week:

1) Alabama (9-0) – The Crimson Tide won a 24-15 signature victory over the 9th-ranked Louisiana State (LSU) Tigers this week. No team had a bigger win against a better opponent. With the pressure to perform on, Alabama came through to remain unbeaten. The Tide travels to Mississippi State this week.

2) Florida (9-0) – The Gators beat a very weak, 119th-ranked, 2-8 Vanderbilt team this week, 27-3. They remain behind Alabama because this was not a killer performance. Florida remains on track to meet unbeaten Alabama for the SEC title and a chance to defend its 2008 national title in this year's National Championship Game. The Gators travel to South Carolina next.

3) Texas (9-0) – The Longhorns remained unbeaten with a dominating 35-3 win over 83rd-ranked Central Florida; this is one reason why Texas will not be No. 1 or No. 2 in my Poll. Simply put, Texas has not played a really good team all season. Yes, they beat an extremely disappointing 5-4 Oklahoma team, and beat Oklahoma State 41-14 on-the-road, but the Longhorns' strength of schedule is ranked 52nd by Sagarin whereas Florida is ranked 40th and Alabama 25th. Plus the Big 12 is nowhere near the SEC in competitiveness. Texas gets Baylor next, what a laugher.

4) Texas Christian (9-0) – Moves ahead of Cincinnati because the Horned Frogs put a 55-12 drubbing on San Diego State. This is exactly what an unbeaten team should be doing this time of year. The Horned Frogs have one of the two worst nicknames in major college football, but they are playing great football this season. Next up is 14th-ranked Utah, a little stiffer competition. Go Frogs!

5) Cincinnati (9-0) – Remained undefeated by recording a really lame 47-45 squeaker over 52nd-ranked Connecticut. Gets 7-2, 23rd-ranked West Virginia at home this week.

6) Boise State (8-0) – Won another 45-35 lame victory, this time over 96th-ranked Louisiana Tech (3-6), another nobody on the Broncos' schedule. Has played no one all year except Oregon, who is now 7-2 and looking less impressive, but still—not surprisingly—remains undefeated with the easiest schedule of anyone near the top of the heap. The Broncos' strength of schedule is a whopping 79th.

7) Georgia Tech (9-1) – Needed overtime to notch a 30-27 victory over 55th-ranked Wake Forest. Gets Duke team next, and must face in-state rival Georgia in their last game.

8) Pittsburgh (8-1) – Scored in every quarter to win 37-10 over 93rd-ranked Syracuse. Gets nod for 8th position because the Panthers have an offense (15th best in nation) and Iowa doesn't (74th best). Hosts Notre Dame this week. Pittsburgh has a better scoring defense and should win. Moment of truth comes when the Panthers face Cincinnati in their last game.

9) Iowa (9-1) – Had 13-game win streak broken on their home field by Northwestern 17-10 in a game the Hawkeyes should have never lost. The miracle comebacks and close wins have now ended as reality sets in. Iowa's troubles are just starting—they travel to Ohio State this week and could get crushed by the Buckeyes.

10) LSU (7-2) – Lost to Alabama 24-15 on-the-road. Alabama is the best team in the country at the moment. Not many teams can claim that their 2nd loss of the season was to the best team in the country. LSU will be heard from again. Next up is the Tigers' homecoming game against Louisiana Tech; this could be very bad news for the general health of Louisiana Tech (now 3-6).

11) Ohio State (8-2) – Upset 11th-ranked Penn State 24-7 on the Nittany Lions' home field in Happy Valley, or shall we say Not-So-Happy-Valley. Nation's top scoring defense was caught sucking some Louisiana Tech pond water between offensive possessions. Buckeye mojo is returning at just the right time. Ohio State gets Iowa at home this week, and the Buckeyes are seeing potential road kill. Should Ohio State be ranked 9th rather than 11th? I will let you know in my next Top 25 Poll.

From No. 12 on, this Poll is hard put to rank any team with a straight face. All of the contenders have been up and down like an unsteady clown on a pogo stick—great one week and lousy the next (prime example is Oregon).

12) Penn State (8-2) – Can't stand Penn State and they were upset at home by Ohio State, however, their only two losses are against Iowa and Ohio State. Southern Cal's only two losses came against a 3-6 Washington team and Oregon, both away games. Penn State will handle Indiana and in all likelihood Michigan State and finish at 10-2.

13) Southern California (7-2) – Picked up tough 14-9 road win at Arizona State and finishes year against Stanford, UCLA and Arizona, another tough road to hoe to end the year at 10-2.

14) Oregon (7-2) – Could not stand the success of upsetting 4th-ranked Southern Cal 47-20 last week. Showboating players got their butts kicked this week not by Stanford but by Stanford's battering ram Toby Gerhart, who rushed for a school-record 223 yards and scored 3 touchdowns as the quack-quack Ducks were hammered at home 51-42 by The Cardinal. Stanford's nickname is the worst in major college football—it refers to the color of its jersey, not the bird by the same name. Life for the Ducks gets tougher as their last 3 opponents are Arizona State, Arizona and Oregon State. Good luck, quack quacks.

15) Utah (8-1) – Hard to ignore Utah's 8-1 record, but the Utes' last victory was 45-14 over 164th-ranked and winless New Mexico (0-9). This is the sort of competition Utah faces most weeks during the season; in other words, no competition. The Utes travel to TCU this week to face the 9-0 Horned Frogs. It's put up or shut up time for Utah this week. Should Utah get squashed by TCU, the Utes will drop in my Poll like a 100-pound sack of tomatoes thrown off a hundred-story building. Utah's strength of schedule? Don't even ask, it's 95th and on the other side of Mars.

16) Houston (8-1) – Hard to ignore Houston's glossy 8-1 mark, but jeepers, their latest victory is a close 46-45 run-and-shoot with a 4-5 Tulsa team. The Cougars have the 2nd best scoring offense in the country, the 86th worst scoring defense, and 114th worst total defense among 120 major college teams. The rest of Houston's schedule includes 5-4 Central Florida, 2-7 Memphis and 0-9 Rice. The Cougars could end up with an 11-1 mark and be one of the worst 11-1 teams in college football history.

17) Wisconsin (7-2) – Took a field goal to get a 31-28 road win over a weak Indiana team last week. Badgers get Michigan next at home, travel to Northwestern and then finish their season with a trip to Hawaii, all of which is to say they could end up 9-3 or 10-2 if they are really on their game.

18) Arizona (6-2) – Last seen beating up a pathetic 1-8 Washington State team 48-7 while becoming bowl eligible. Wildcats could be the best 6-2 team in the country, but do have some proving to do, and they have the chance to do it when they next face California, Oregon, Arizona State and Southern Cal in that order. Let's see how deep down Arizona's 22 best can dig on their way to better recognition.

19) Navy (7-3) – Time for a fresh face. The Midshipmen upset 19th-ranked Notre Dame 23-21 on the home turf of the Fighting Irish, dropping Notre Dame to 6-3. Navy could be skating from here on in—they face 1-AA Delaware (6-3), Hawaii (3-6) and Army (3-6). If Navy wants any props at all, the Midshipmen must end the year at 10-3.

20) Oregon State (6-3) – The Beavers are one of the dirtiest teams in the country and consider football games an excuse to legally hurt people. The Beavers were last seen upsetting California 31-14 on-the-road to become bowl eligible. The California Bears? They have made a career out of folding at the wrong time. Oregon State faces Washington (3-6) and Washington State (1-8) before ending their season at Oregon (7-2). Oregon State could be 8-4 or 9-3 when all is said and done.

21) Oklahoma State (7-2) – Trashed a very average Iowa State team 34-7 last week, and finish the year against Texas Tech, Colorado and Oklahoma. Let's see how many of these last 3 the Cowboys can win.

22) Temple (7-2) – Lost its first two games and now has run off 7 straight victories after sneaking by Miami of Ohio 34-32. As Al Davis says, "Just win, baby, just win." Temple finishes the year against Akron (2-7), Kent State (5-5) and Ohio (6-3). Temple could end the year at 9-3 or 10-2.

23) Rutgers (6-2) – Only two losses were to 8-0 Cincinnati and 7-1 Pittsburgh. Let's see if they can beat 6-2 South Florida next.

24) Central Michigan (7-2) – Suffered its second loss on-the-road at Boston College 31-10. Ends year with Toledo (4-5), Ball State (1-8) and Northern Illinois (6-3). Could easily end up at 9-3 and even 10-2.

25) Brigham Young (7-2) – Shut out a weak Wyoming team 52-zip. Cougars end their year with New Mexico (0-9), Air Force (6-4) and Utah (8-1). BYU will end the year at least 8-4 if not 9-3.

Bonus pick for readers who did not find their favorite team ranked in Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll.

26) For 25th, take your choice between any of these 7-win teams—Miami of Florida, Auburn, Idaho or Troy. Or any of these 6-win teams—Notre Dame, Nebraska, California, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, Clemson, Fresno State, Northern Illinois or North Carolina. Record-wise, there is not a nickel's worth of difference between them.

12) Penn State (8-2) – Can't stand Penn State and they were upset at home by Ohio State, however, their only two losses are against Iowa and Ohio State. Southern Cal's only two losses came against a 3-6 Washington team and Oregon, both away games. Penn State will handle Indiana and in all likelihood Michigan State and finish at 10-2.

13) Southern California (7-2) – Picked up tough 14-9 road win at Arizona State and finishes year against Stanford, UCLA and Arizona, another tough road to hoe to end the year at 10-2.

14) Oregon (7-2) – Could not stand the success of upsetting 4th-ranked Southern Cal 47-20 last week. Showboating players got their butts kicked this week not by Stanford but by Stanford's battering ram Toby Gerhart, who rushed for a school-record 223 yards and scored 3 touchdowns as the quack-quack Ducks were hammered at home 51-42 by The Cardinal. Stanford's nickname is the worst in major college football—it refers to the color of its jersey, not the bird by the same name. Life for the Ducks gets tougher as their last 3 opponents are Arizona State, Arizona and Oregon State. Good luck, quack quacks.

15) Utah (8-1) – Hard to ignore Utah's 8-1 record, but the Utes' last victory was 45-14 over 164th-ranked and winless New Mexico (0-9). This is the sort of competition Utah faces most weeks during the season; in other words, no competition. The Utes travel to TCU this week to face the 9-0 Horned Frogs. It's put up or shut up time for Utah this week. Should Utah get squashed by TCU, the Utes will drop in my Poll like a 100-pound sack of tomatoes thrown off a hundred-story building. Utah's strength of schedule? Don't even ask, it's 95th and on the other side of Mars.

16) Houston (8-1) – Hard to ignore Houston's glossy 8-1 mark, but jeepers, their latest victory is a close 46-45 run-and-shoot with a 4-5 Tulsa team. The Cougars have the 2nd best scoring offense in the country, the 86th worst scoring defense, and 114th worst total defense among 120 major college teams. The rest of Houston's schedule includes 5-4 Central Florida, 2-7 Memphis and 0-9 Rice. The Cougars could end up with an 11-1 mark and be one of the worst 11-1 teams in college football history.

17) Wisconsin (7-2) – Took a field goal to get a 31-28 road win over a weak Indiana team last week. Badgers get Michigan next at home, travel to Northwestern and then finish their season with a trip to Hawaii, all of which is to say they could end up 9-3 or 10-2 if they are really on their game.

18) Arizona (6-2) – Last seen beating up a pathetic 1-8 Washington State team 48-7 while becoming bowl eligible. Wildcats could be the best 6-2 team in the country, but do have some proving to do, and they have the chance to do it when they next face California, Oregon, Arizona State and Southern Cal in that order. Let's see how deep down Arizona's 22 best can dig on their way to better recognition.

19) Navy (7-3) – Time for a fresh face. The Midshipmen upset 19th-ranked Notre Dame 23-21 on the home turf of the Fighting Irish, dropping Notre Dame to 6-3. Navy could be skating from here on in—they face 1-AA Delaware (6-3), Hawaii (3-6) and Army (3-6). If Navy wants any props at all, the Midshipmen must end the year at 10-3.

20) Oregon State (6-3) – The Beavers are one of the dirtiest teams in the country and consider football games an excuse to legally hurt people. The Beavers were last seen upsetting California 31-14 on-the-road to become bowl eligible. The California Bears? They have made a career out of folding at the wrong time. Oregon State faces Washington (3-6) and Washington State (1-8) before ending their season at Oregon (7-2). Oregon State could be 8-4 or 9-3 when all is said and done.

21) Oklahoma State (7-2) – Trashed a very average Iowa State team 34-7 last week, and finish the year against Texas Tech, Colorado and Oklahoma. Let's see how many of these last 3 the Cowboys can win.

22) Temple (7-2) – Lost its first two games and now has run off 7 straight victories after sneaking by Miami of Ohio 34-32. As Al Davis says, "Just win, baby, just win." Temple finishes the year against Akron (2-7), Kent State (5-5) and Ohio (6-3). Temple could end the year at 9-3 or 10-2.

23) Rutgers (6-2) – Only two losses were to 8-0 Cincinnati and 7-1 Pittsburgh. Let's see if they can beat 6-2 South Florida next.

24) Central Michigan (7-2) – Suffered its second loss on-the-road at Boston College 31-10. Ends year with Toledo (4-5), Ball State (1-8) and Northern Illinois (6-3). Could easily end up at 9-3 and even 10-2.

25) Brigham Young (7-2) – Shut out a weak Wyoming team 52-zip. Cougars end their year with New Mexico (0-9), Air Force (6-4) and Utah (8-1). BYU will end the year at least 8-4 if not 9-3.

Bonus pick for readers who did not find their favorite team ranked in Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll.

26) For 26th, take your choice between any of these 7-win teams—Miami of Florida, Auburn, Idaho or Troy. Or any of these 6-win teams—Notre Dame, Nebraska, California, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, Clemson, Fresno State, Northern Illinois or North Carolina. Record-wise, there is not a nickel's worth of difference between them.

November 17, 2009 – 2nd Article

All Unbeaten Teams Win Again

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 11

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Stanford, North Carolina, Central Florida, California and Rutgers all recorded upset wins over ranked opponents in college football's 11th week of play, with the biggest upset going to 25th-ranked Stanford over 11th-ranked Southern California, 55-21. Ohio State and TCU won major victories over ranked opponents as well. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

1) Alabama (10-0) – The Crimson Tide followed up their signature victory over Louisiana State last week and continued to remain 1 of 6 unbeaten teams with a dominating 31-3 win at Mississippi State. The Tide hosts 163rd-ranked Chattanooga (6-4) this week. Chattanooga is a 1-AA team; if the Crimson Tide want to keep their national image intact, they had better kick Chattanooga back home as a big loser. A potential national championship team SHOULD NOT be playing a 1-AA team this late in the season, if at all.

2) Florida (10-0) – Acting very much like a national championship team, the Gators remained unbeaten by traveling to South Carolina and beating the Gamecocks, 24-14, completing their first perfect (8-0) SEC East title in 13 years. Florida hosts in-state rival Florida International this week, a 135th-ranked team with a 3-7 record. The Gators need a huge win to keep their mojo and rep in order.

3) Texas (10-0) – The Longhorns remained unbeaten by kicking around Baylor 47-14. Texas is like a snake—quietly, patiently slithering around, waiting to strike. Since Alabama and Florida are on course to clash in the SEC championship game, one will finish the season with at least one loss, and the other will likely face the Longhorns in the National Championship Game, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. Texas should have played Florida for the national title last year, but poll voters gifted the honor to Oklahoma, and we all know the result of that move. Texas hosts Kansas next.

4) Texas Christian (10-0) – The Horned Frogs put to rest the myth that Utah (8-2) was the better team as they hosted and ran over the Utes, 55-28. You remember Utah, the Utes beat TCU 13-10 in their face-off last year, and were talking smack right up to the kickoff this year, complaining about being a 21-point underdog to TCU. Let's see now, 28 and 21 equals 49, so it turned out that TCU should have been more than a 21-point favorite. Utah, it's not your year, get over it. TCU travels to 104th-ranked Wyoming (5-5) next. Message to TCU: Do not screw up your perfect year by losing on the road to a nothing team.

5) Cincinnati (10-0) – Remained undefeated by beating West Virginia 24-21. The Bearcats are hardly looking awesome at the moment, but they have done something that only 5 other teams have done all season—win every bloody game. Cincinnati now hosts Illinois at home. Message to Cincinnati: Ditto the above.

6) Boise State (10-0) – In bounced the 7-win Idaho Vandals and out bounced the Vandals with their 4th loss, 63-25. The message: Idaho, not ready for prime time; Boise State, yes, our schedule has been lame, but if you want some, come get some. It is a good thing that Boise State has an easier schedule than other unbeaten teams; the Broncos have only 3 seniors among the 44 players on their two-deep roster. They travel to 107th-ranked Utah State (3-7) this week. Message to Boise State: Ditto the above.

7) Georgia Tech (10-1) – Stomped Duke 49-10 to clinch a spot in the ACC championship game. The Yellow Jackets do not play this week, and get a week of rest and strategy building before meeting in-state rival Georgia in their last game of the season two weeks from now. Message to Georgia Tech: Do not let Georgia mar your season.

8) Pittsburgh (9-1) – Hosted and beat Notre Dame (6-4), 27-22, after leading 20-3 at the start of the 4th quarter. The Panthers closed the game out and won, that is all that matters. Pittsburgh gets the week off before traveling to West Virginia a week from Friday (Nov. 27).

9) Ohio State (9-2) – Buckeyes showed up in prime time, beating Iowa 27-24 in overtime. No matter that neither Ohio State or Iowa chose to win the game in regulation time; the Buckeyes prevailed in their strategy and that is what winning teams do when it matters. Ohio State moves up in my poll because by winning, the Buckeyes earn at least a share of their 5th consecutive Big 10 title, get the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid, and will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 13 years. Ohio State ends its season this week at Michigan.

From No. 10 on, this Poll is hard put to rank any team with a straight face. Having said that, here goes nothing:

10) Penn State (9-2) – My dislike for Penn State is well documented, and they beat Indiana 31-20 despite 4 first-half turnovers. I put them 10th because they are consistent in the sense that they lose to teams they could lose to—Iowa (9-2) and Ohio State (9-2)—rather than losing to a bunch of nobodies because they are not mentally prepared to do battle. Other teams may have 9 wins but they have lost to far weaker teams. Travels to Michigan State this week.

11) Wisconsin (8-2) – Took apart Michigan 45-24. I put them 11th because they are consistent in the sense that they lose to teams they could lose to—Iowa (9-2) and Ohio State (9-2)—rather than losing to a bunch of nobodies because they are not mentally prepared to do battle. Other teams may have as many wins as Wisconsin but they have lost to weaker teams. The Badgers travel to Northwestern this week. Message to Wisconsin: Northwestern (7-4) is better than its record indicates.

12) LSU (8-2) – Just beat in-state rival Louisiana Tech 24-16, a 3-7 team ranked 88th. Hardly impressive. That said, the Tigers' only two losses have been to Florida and Alabama, not many teams can make that claim; again, losing to teams that could and should beat them. LSU can make any team in the country play their butts off to win. Travels to Mississippi this week; should be an excellent chess game.

13) Stanford (7-3) – Has only 7 wins, but the Cardinal gets my vote for being the team to stop Southern Cal's streaks of 7 straight BCS bowls, 7 straight 11-win seasons, 7 straight top-4 AP poll finishes, and a 7-year stranglehold on the Pac-10 Conference title. Stanford body slammed USC, 55-21, to finally end Southern Cal's unchallenged dominance. Way to go, Stanford. Just about everyone thought the Cal Bears would be the team to do it, but Stanford DID it; give Jim Harbaugh's boys some props. Hosts California next.

14) Rutgers (7-2) – Shut out 23rd-ranked South Florida (6-3), 31-0. That was impressive. The Scarlet Knights forced 4 turnovers, blocked a punt and had 7 sacks. Rutgers only two losses were to Cincinnati (10-0) and Pittsburgh (9-1). Again, getting beat by the right teams. Are we beginning to separate the men from the boys here? I think so. Many teams have as good records but lost to weaker teams. Gets this week off, then travels to Syracuse.

15) Oklahoma State (8-2) – Beat Texas Tech 24-17. Only two losses were to Texas (10-0) and Houston (8-2). Cowboys host Colorado next.

16) Navy (8-3) – Picked up 8th win by beating 1-AA Delaware, 35-18. That's not impressive at all, but the Midshipmen's only losses have been to Pittsburgh (9-1), Ohio State (9-2) and Temple (8-2). When your losses come against teams with a combined 26-5 record, that's not too shabby in my book. Navy gets shore leave this week and then travels to Hawaii, and yes, the Midshipmen will be traveling by aircraft.

17) Temple (8-2) – Speaking of Temple, why not rank them 17th? The Owls were caught sleeping in their first two outings against Villanova and Penn State, but then woke up and have won 8th straight. Who else, besides the 6 unbeaten major teams, has won 8 straight? I think the answer is nobody. Let me know if your radar screen shows something different; do not talk to me about 1-AA teams that have won 8 straight. Temple's 8th victory came over Akron, 56-17; that just might be a statement. Hosts Kent State next.

18) Central Michigan (8-2) – Beat Toledo 56-28. Two losses came against Arizona (6-3) and Boston College (7-3). Travels to Ball State next.

19) Iowa (9-2) – Lost to Ohio State 27-24. Needed to win badly following last week's first loss of the season to Northwestern, 17-10. Getting less impressive as the season wears on; should be peaking and instead is dropping fast. Ends season hosting Minnesota this week.

20) Houston (8-2) – Lost to Central Florida 37-32; yes, that Central Florida, the one ranked 83rd with a 5-4 record going into the game. Houston has a great offense, well, not great enough to beat 83rd-ranked Central Florida, and no defense whatsoever. Houston has been vastly overrated all year, and I have said so over and over. Now you know why. Hosts Memphis next, and the Memphis offense is no better than Central Florida, but may be good enough to give Houston its 3rd loss of the season.

21) Brigham Young (8-2) – This 21st ranking is a gift following the Cougars ultra-lame 24-19 victory over a hapless, inept, winless 0-10 New Mexico team. Good grief, BYU should be in prayer and supplication after that effort. If they are caught sleeping on the field again, they should be forced to walk back to Provo. That had to be one of the sorriest performances all season by a ranked team. No wonder people rake on the Mountain West Conference; in many cases the criticism is so deserved.

22) Utah (8-2) – Took a major butt kicking by TCU 55-28, but at least the Utes were not playing New Mexico. Hosts San Diego State next.

23) California (7-3) – Upset 18th-ranked Arizona 24-16. I have been real hard on the Bears because they are so disappointing given their talent. Their only three losses were to Oregon, Oregon State and USC, three normally tough opponents. Bears travel to Stanford next. Let's see how much gas is left in their tank.

24) Oregon (8-2) – Ripped Arizona State 44-21. The Ducks have only lost to Boise State, and then Stanford by 9 points, 51-42. Oregon travels to Arizona next; this could be a war.

25) Oregon State (7-3) – Beat Washington 48-21. Only losses are to Cincinnati (10-0), USC (7-3) and Arizona (6-3), teams with a combined 23-6 record.

Time out for some Jameson Irish whisky.

November 24, 2009 – 2nd Article

2 Favorites Win Big

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll – Week 12

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

There were 4 upsets of Top 25 teams this week but none of them mattered. What did matter were two favorites winning big with implications as Ohio State topped Michigan and Oregon outlasted Arizona. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

1) Alabama (11-0) – The Crimson Tide shut out 1-AA Chattanooga 45-0 to remain unbeaten and on target to face Florida for the SEC title, and a shot at the national championship in a game against Texas. Alabama ends its season this week with a trip to Auburn. I do not see Auburn winning this game.

2) Florida (11-0) – The Gators ripped apart Florida International 62-3 to remain unbeaten. Only visiting Florida State this week remains between the Gators and Alabama playing for a shot to be in the national championship game against Texas.

3) Texas (11-0) – The Longhorns whipped Kansas 51-20 to remain unbeaten and on course to play in the national championship game against either Alabama or the defending national champion Florida Gators. In beating Kansas, Colt McCoy extended his NCAA career record for victories by a quarterback to 43 in 4 years. Texas travels to Texas A&M for its final game of the season.

4) Texas Christian (10-0) – The Horned Frogs remained unbeaten by leveling Wyoming 45-10, and becoming the first TCU team with an 11-0 overall record since 1938. TCU hopes that Texas A&M upsets Texas this week so that the Horned Frogs can move into the national championship game against either Alabama or Florida. News flash to TCU—good luck and God speed. TCU ends its year hosting an absolutely pathetic, 1-10 New Mexico team.

5) Cincinnati (10-0) – Idle this week. Hosts a weak Illinois team this week, and then gets a final game showdown on-the-road at Pittsburgh (9-1). The Panthers are licking their chops.

6) Boise State (11-0) – The Broncos remained unbeaten by clubbing Utah State 52-21. Gets Nevada (8-3) at home this week, and the Broncos had better be ready. Nevada's offense scored 6 touchdowns in the first half last week, and boasts the nation's 4th best scoring offense (41 ppg). Boise State has the nation's best scoring offense (44 ppg).

7) Oregon (9-2) – The Ducks beat a really good 6-4 Arizona team 44-41 in the second overtime to set themselves up to earn a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth against Ohio State (10-2) if they beat the visiting Oregon State Beavers (8-3) in a winner-take-all Civil War showdown next Saturday in Eugene. This is the most important game of the college football season until Alabama and Florida clash in the SEC showdown (both teams must win this week to set up the showdown). The up again-down again Oregon Ducks have only lost two away games—to 11-0 Boise State and 7-4 Stanford, and they have played the 3rd toughest schedule in the country among 245 Division I teams. Georgia Tech (12th toughest schedule), Pittsburgh (58th), Ohio State (54th), Penn State (79th) and Oklahoma State (67th) have all played easier schedules.

8) Oregon State (8-3) – Mugged Washington State 42-10. Beavers have only lost to Cincinnati (10-0), USC (7-3) and Arizona (6-4), and have played the 24th toughest schedule in the country.

9) Georgia Tech (10-1) – Idle this week. Hosts Georgia in its final game. Georgia will try to get nasty on them.

10) Pittsburgh (9-1) – Idle this week. Travels to West Virginia this week and then hosts unbeaten Cincinnati in its final game. The Panthers can hardly wait, but had better beat West Virginia to make it count for something.

11) Ohio State (10-2) – Buckeye defense put the hurt on Michigan 21-10 to win the Big Ten title outright in their final game. Next stop for Ohio State is the Rose Bowl against either Oregon or Oregon State.

From No. 12 on, this Poll is hard put to rank any team with a straight face. Having said that, here goes nothing:

12) Penn State (10-2) – Ended season by kicking the snot out of Michigan State 42-14 on the Spartans' home turf. The stout (wink, wink) Michigan State defense let the Nittany Lions' Daryll Clark pass for 310 yards and 4 touchdowns. With a name like Daryll they should have sacked the guy a dozen times. Coach Mark Dantonio needs to recruit some bigger, tougher, faster beef in the Midwest or MSU will be going backwards in a hurry. (Disclaimer: I am a Michigan State graduate who is not happy with the lack of progress in this year's team. If the Spartans get much worse, they will be going backwards faster than the Michigan Wolverines. I am sick and tired of hearing about Michigan State's great new recruits. My question is, where the hell are they? They sure are not on the field.

13) Oklahoma State (9-2) – Barely beat a poor Colorado team 31-28, but at least the Cowboys won, even if they were riding sidesaddle. That is more than Wisconsin, LSU, Rutgers and Stanford can say this week; they were all upset by supposedly lesser lights. Oklahoma State travels to Oklahoma to end its season this week.

14) Iowa (10-2) – Shut out Minnesota 12-0 with an outstanding defensive effort on-the-road. The Hawkeyes rank 11th nationally in scoring defense and 87th in scoring offense. Season is now over. Iowa is waiting in prayer and supplication for a BCS bowl bid, which they may not get.

15) Houston (9-2) – Beat Memphis 55-14. Have no real use for Houston; I guess that's because I am kind of traditional in thinking that defense should be part of the game. The Cougars are the opposite of the Iowa Hawkeyes—they are all offense and no defense, and when I say no defense, I am not kidding. Houston ranks 3rd in the nation in scoring offense and 91st in scoring defense among 120 major college teams. Houston ends the season hosting a 2-9 Rice team that will lose, giving Houston its 10th win.

16) California (8-3) – Upset 18th-ranked Arizona 24-16 last week and upset 14th-ranked Stanford (7-4) on-the-road 34-28 this week. Bears won when they had to against a really tough team. California has played the 14th toughest schedule in the country. The Bears end their season December 5 at Washington.

17) Stanford (7-4) – Finally beating Southern Cal was too much for the Cardinal to handle as they lost to California 34-28 on their home turf. Stanford has played the 13th toughest schedule in the country. Stanford hosts Notre Dame to end its season this week.

18) LSU (8-3) – Was upset by Mississippi (8-3) on-the-road 25-23. The Ole Miss Rebels, after a slow start to the season, felt like they were stepping in high cotton. LSU has played the 22nd toughest schedule in the country. The Tigers end their season hosting Arkansas this week.

19) Clemson (8-3) – Beat Virginia 34-21. Travels to South Carolina (6-5) to end its season. The Tigers have played the 33rd toughest schedule.

20) Mississippi (8-3) – Upset LSU 25-23. Predicted to be a top team in the preseason polls, Ole Miss is finally coming of age. Mississippi travels to in-state rival Mississippi State to end its season this week. The Ole Miss Rebels have played the 55th toughest schedule this season.

21) Wisconsin (8-3) – Was upset by Northwestern (8-4) on-the-road 33-31. Only other losses were to Ohio State and Iowa. The Badgers have played the 62nd toughest schedule. Wisconsin ends its season December 5 at Hawaii.

22) Oklahoma State (9-2) – Slipped by Colorado 31-28. Simply not relevant this year with 11-0 Texas in the same Big 12 South Division. The Cowboys hit the road to end their season at Oklahoma (6-5) this week. They face one of the year's biggest disappointments—the Sooners. Oklahoma State has played the 67th toughest schedule.

23) Navy (8-3) – Idle this week. Travels to Hawaii next. The Midshipmen have played the 72nd toughest schedule.

24) Brigham Young (9-2) – Beat Air Force 38-21 but must stand in line behind the first 23 picks because the Cougars have played the 80th toughest schedule. Has big season-ending showdown with in-state rival Utah (9-2) next. Somebody is going to be unhappy, the Cougars hope it will not be them since they are playing host to the Utes.

24) Utah (9-2) – Beat San Diego State 38-7 but must stand in line behind the first 24 picks because the Utes have played the 82nd toughest schedule. Travel to BYU (9-2) for end of year showdown.

"Hey Laddie, bring me a double shot of Jameson."

December 1, 2009 - 2nd Article

6 Upsets Scramble the Rankings

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll - Week 13

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Six AP Top 25 teams can testify how dangerous road games are—all were upset during college football's 13th week of play, and 2 of the 6 will be facing off in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this week. The away losers included Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Mississippi and North Carolina. These events caused changes in my Top 25 Poll. Here is how I see it this week:

1) Alabama (12-0) – Give the Crimson Tide credit. They went 8-0 to win the SEC West Division, and went 12-0 on the season after beating in-state rival Auburn on the road, 26-21. Alabama will now face SEC East Division winner Florida for the SEC title, and a shot at the national championship in a game probably against Texas. The Crimson Tide must now get done what they could not get done last year, beat Florida. Their unbeaten string last year was snapped by Florida, and the Tide never recovered mentally or emotionally, losing to Utah 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.

2) Florida (12-0) – Give the Gators credit. They went 8-0 to win the SEC East Division and went 12-0 on the season after sending in-state rival Florida State back home with a 37-10 loss. Florida will now face SEC West Division winner Alabama for the SEC title, and another shot at the national championship in a game probably against Texas. The Florida Gators are the defending national champions, having defeated Oklahoma 24-14 for the title last year.

3) Texas (12-0) – Give the Longhorns credit. They went 8-0 to win the Big 12 South Division and went 12-0 on the season by outlasting in-state rival Texas A&M, 49-39. Just win baby, just win, and the Longhorns did. Texas will now face Big 12 North Division winner Nebraska (6-2 in conference and 9-3 overall) for the Big 12 title, and a shot at the national championship game against either Alabama or Florida. No one expects Nebraska to upset Texas, and if the Cornhuskers do, TCU would likely replace Texas in the national championship game.

4) Texas Christian (12-0) – Give the Horned Frogs credit. They went 8-0 to win the Mountain West Conference title, and 12-0 on the season by opening a can of whup-um on New Mexico, 51-10, to wrap up TCU's first undefeated regular season in 71 years. The Horned Frogs are now hoping that Nebraska does the impossible so their stock will rise. They will play in a BCS game, if not for all the marbles.

5) Cincinnati (11-0) – Still unbeaten after beating up Illinois 49-36 in a poor showing, and still must face a pretty good Pittsburgh team this week. The Panthers (9-2) catch Cincinnati at home and cannot wait to hand the Bearcats their first loss of the year. Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly led the Bearcats to 10 wins in his first year, and 11 wins last year. He already has 11 more wins this year. Let's see, how does that counting go: 10, 11 and then 12. Be ready, Panthers, Bearcats are pretty scrappy too.

6) Boise State (12-0) – Still unbeaten after outscoring Nevada 44-33 in a poor showing, and now gets a cupcake pass against New Mexico State at home this week. Yikes, it is not a good week to be a 3-9 New Mexico State team. The Aggies have no, repeat no, chance to beat Boise State on their turf; a loss to the Aggies might send several Broncos to the hospital, not at the hands of the Aggies but rather Boise State's fans and boosters.

Note: There may never be another time in the next 50 years when 6 major college teams are still unbeaten at this point in the season.

7) Oregon (9-2) – Idle this week. The Ducks set themselves up to earn a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl berth against Ohio State (10-2) if they beat the visiting Oregon State Beavers (8-3) in a winner-take-all Civil War showdown in Eugene. The up again-down again Oregon Ducks have only lost two away games—to 11-0 Boise State and 7-4 Stanford, and they have played the 5th toughest schedule in the country among 245 Division I teams.

8) Oregon State (8-3) – Idle this week. The Beavers have only lost to Cincinnati (10-0), USC (7-3) and Arizona (6-4), and have played the 28th toughest schedule in the country. The Oregon Ducks view the Oregon State Beavers as road kill. The Beavers, one of the dirtiest playing teams in college football, are hardly impressed; they plan to legally hurt a lot of Ducks while hunting for a Pac-10 title share and trip to the Rose Bowl to face Ohio State. Despite the Beavers' dirty play , the advantage is to the Ducks.

9) Ohio State (10-2) – Won the Big Ten title outright. Next stop for the Buckeyes is the Rose Bowl against either Oregon or Oregon State.

10) Pittsburgh (9-2) – Managed to lose on-the-road to an 8-3 West Virginia team, 19-16, on a Mountaineer field goal as time ran out. Give West Virginia's defense some credit, they kept the Panthers out of the end zone on 5 Pittsburgh drives inside the Mountaineers' 30-yard line.

11) Penn State (10-2) – Idle this week. Just waiting to see if they get a bid to a BCS game. It is not a lock that the Nittany Lions will as they have played the second weakest schedule (85th) among Jeff Sagarin's top 35 teams. Only Boise State from the so-weak-my-grandmother-wails Western Athletic Conference (WAC) has played a weaker schedule (91st). This is why Cincinnati, if the Bearcats beat Pittsburgh, should get a BCS shot in front of unbeaten Boise State. Penn State's only two losses were to Ohio State and Iowa.

12) Iowa (10-2) – Idle this week. The Hawkeyes are waiting in prayer and supplication for a BCS bowl bid, which they may not get. Iowa's only two losses were to Ohio State and Northwestern; Iowa beat Penn State.

13) Brigham Young (10-2) – Beat a 9-3 Utah team 26-23 in overtime, became the runner-up to TCU in the Mountain West Conference race.

14) Houston (10-2) – Stomped a mud hole in in-state rival Rice, 73-14, to tie Southern Methodist (SMU) for the Conference USA West Division title at 6-2, and notch the Cougars' 10th win for the season. Since Houston beat SMU 38-15, they should face off against East Carolina (7-1 in conference and 8-4 overall) for the Conference USA championship. Houston has the nation's best scoring offense (45 ppg) and the 83rd best scoring defense among 120 major college teams.

15) LSU (9-3) – Beat Arkansas 33-30 in overtime. Waiting for a bowl bid. Finishes as runner-up to Alabama in the SEC West Division.

16) California (8-3) – Idle this week. Travels to Washington this week. The Bears, who have only lost to Oregon, Oregon State and Southern Cal, have played the 19th toughest schedule this year.

17) Georgia Tech (10-2) – Lost on-the-road to Georgia 30-24. Won the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division with a 7-1 mark, and will face Clemson, the ACC's Atlantic Division winner, for the ACC title. Played 17th toughest schedule.

18) Clemson (8-4) – Lost on-the-road to South Carolina 34-17 to end the year. Won the AAC's Atlantic Division with a 6-2 mark and will face Georgia Tech for the ACC title. Lost to Georgia Tech 30-27 in an away game during the regular season. The Tigers have played the 29th toughest schedule.

19) Utah (9-3) – Lost to Brigham Young (10-2), 26-23, in overtime. Finishes 3rd to TCU and BYU in the Mountain West Conference.

20) Virginia Tech (9-3) – Slammed in-state rival Virginia 42-13. Finishes as runner-up to Georgia Tech in the ACC's Coastal Division.

21) Miami Florida (9-3) – Pounded in-state rival Florida State and Bobby Bowden, 37-10.

22) Stanford (8-4) – Nipped Notre Dame 45-38. Could be the best 8-4 team in the country. Played the 16th toughest schedule in its climb back to national recognition. Recorded signature wins over Oregon (51-42) and Southern California (55-21).

23) Southern California (8-3) – Beat in-state rival UCLA 28-7. Ends season by hosting Arizona. Only losses were to Oregon, Stanford and Washington.

24) Central Michigan (10-2) – Turned back Northern Illinois, 45-31, to win the Mid American Conference West Division with an 8-0 mark and finish the season at 10-2. The Chippewas made some noise this year, and will face Ohio, the Mid American's East Division champion (7-1 in conference and 9-3 overall), for the Mid American Conference championship. Central Michigan played a far easier schedule than other teams in this Top 25 Poll, but did win 10 games; just like Boise State played an easier schedule than the other 5 unbeaten teams, but did remain undefeated in regular season play.

25) Fill in your own favorite team. Doing my own Top 25 this season has been fun, but it has also been a lot of work. After pretty much staying out of trouble thus far, I noticed that last week I ranked Oklahoma State both 13th and 22nd; this is only one reason why drinking Jameson Irish whisky is a necessity after all of my hard work. Mistakes can happen. In my defense, Oklahoma State promptly went out and was upset by in-state rival Oklahoma, 27-0. Clearly, my 22nd ranking for Oklahoma State was the more correct one.

December 14, 2009 – 2nd Article

Guess Who's No. 1 Again

Ed Bagley's Top 25 Poll – Week 14

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, Oregon and Georgia all won major conference championships recently and earned key spots in 4 of the 5 upcoming, coveted BCS bowl games. Here is how their victories have changed my Top 25 Poll rankings for college football's 14th week.

1) Alabama (13-0) – Beat Florida, last year's national champion, 32-13, to win the SEC Conference Championship and the right to play Texas in the National Championship Game. There is a reason why I have had Alabama ranked No. 1 for the last 7 consecutive weeks. Now you know why; the Crimson Tide players are better than the Gator players this year.

2) Texas (13-0) – Almost got upset by a tenacious Nebraska defense, but used 1 second left on the clock to kick a 46-yard field goal and win the Big 12 Championship, 13-12, and the right to play Alabama in the National Championship Game.

3) Cincinnati (12-0) – Came from 21 points down to outlast Pittsburgh 45-44 and win the Big East Championship, and will face Florida in the Sugar Bowl. I like Cincinnati's high-powered, spread offense, and its unbeaten record, but not its defense. Then again, Florida's outstanding defense gave up 32 points to Alabama.

4) Texas Christian (12-0) – Won the Mountain West Conference title, and will now face fellow unbeaten Boise State (13-0) in the BCS Fiesta Bowl. Marks the first ever BCS game with two mid-major teams.

5) Boise State (13-0) – Won the Western Athletic Conference title, and will now face unbeaten Texas Christian in the Fiesta Bowl.

6) Florida (12-1) – Lost SEC title game to Alabama 32-13, and lost the right to defend its national title. Will face unbeaten Cincinnati in the BCS Sugar Bowl. Florida fans, please shut up. There is a difference between wanting to win, playing to win, thinking you are going to win, and winning. Nuff said.

7) Oregon (10-2) – Won slugfest against Oregon State 37-33 to win the Pac-10 Conference title, and a trip to the BCS Rose Bowl to face Ohio State. Played much tougher competition than Atlantic Coast Conference and even Big Ten teams.

8) Ohio State (10-2) – Won the Big Ten title outright, and will face Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Played much tougher competition than Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

9) Georgia Tech (11-2) – Beat Clemson 39-34 to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title, and will play Iowa in the BCS Orange Bowl.

10) Iowa (10-2) – Runner-up in the Big Ten with Penn State, but beat the Nittany Lions head-on, and the Hawkeyes take their better defense to the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.

11) Penn State (10-2) – Runner-up in the Big Ten with Iowa. Will meet Louisiana State in the Capital One Bowl, the next most prestigious bowl game after the 5 BCS bowl games.

12) LSU (9-3) – Finished as runner-up to Alabama in the SEC West Division. Will face Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.

13) Pittsburgh (9-3) – Gave Cincinnati all it wanted and more before it lost to the Bearcats 45-44 in the Big East title game. Will face North Carolina (8-4) in the Meineke Car Care Bowl game. Pitt should have merited a better bowl game.

14) Nebraska (9-4) – Got little notice as the Cornhuskers struggled earlier in the year to find an offense that could win games. Darn near upset Texas for the Big 12 Conference title. Will meet Arizona (8-4) in the Holiday Bowl. This should be an excellent bowl game because these are two very worthy teams with much better than average defenses—Nebraska ranks 11th nationally in total defense, and Arizona 22nd among 120 major college teams.

15) Oregon State (8-4) – Gave Oregon all it could handle in the Pac-10 title game before losing, 37-33. The Beavers are one dirty, mean team headed to the Las Vegas Bowl to face Brigham Young (10-2). It tells you something when a 10-2 team faces an 8-4 team in a bowl game. The Cougars had better make sure they bring their helmets to this one, otherwise, the Beavers might knock them silly.

16) East Carolina (9-4) – Whipped Houston (10-3) for the mid-major Conference USA Championship, 38-32, and earned a trip to the Liberty Bowl to face Arkansas (7-5), the team absolutely nobody wanted to play in the SEC. Arkansas took Georgia to the max,

beat Texas A&M, Auburn and South Carolina, and lost 3 away games to Florida, LSU and Mississippi, all by a single field goal. Yikes. This should be really interesting for East Carolina; there is no question it will be interesting for Arkansas.

17) Stanford (8-4) - Could be the second best 8-4 team in the country. Played the 19th toughest schedule in its climb back to national recognition. Will face Oklahoma (7-5) in the Sun Bowl. Oklahoma might be the best 7-5 team in the country.

18) Brigham Young (10-2) – Was runner-up to TCU in the Mountain West Conference. Will face Oregon State (8-4) in the Las Vegas Bowl.

19) A mystery team that no one knows about.

20) Utah (9-3) – Finished 3rd to TCU and BYU in the Mountain West Conference. Will face California (8-4) in the Poinsettia Bowl.

21) California (8-4) – Season's best candidate for the yo-yo award—had wins against UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and Stanford, and huge losses against Oregon, Southern California, Oregon State and Washington. Will face Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl; two teams that deserve each other.

22) Houston (10-3) – Lost to East Carolina (9-4) in the Conference USA championship game, 38-32, despite having the nation's most explosive scoring offense. The fact that the Cougars are relegated to playing Air Force (7-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl shows you what the people who really count think about Houston.

23) Southern California (8-4) – The season's most surprising fall from power, losing to Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. The Trojans had at least 11 wins and BCS bowl game appearances for 7 consecutive years—the most successful football program in the country during the streak that was broken this year. Will face Boston College (8-4) in the Emerald Bowl. If USC does not beat Boston College, its image will take another major hit.

24) Central Michigan (11-2) – Beat Ohio (9-4), 20-10, for the Mid American Conference Championship, and will face Troy ((9-3), the Sun Belt Conference Champion, in the GMAC Bowl.

25) No other teams impress me enough to even merit my 25th spot. Fill in your own favorite because it doesn't make a nickel's worth of difference to me.

This is not my last Top 25 Poll for this season. The next and final one will be posted after the National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas on Jan. 7. Until then, enjoy the 34 bowl games.

February 8, 2010 – 2nd Article

College Football

Ed Bagley's Final Top 25 Poll for the 2009 Season

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

Another great college football season has come and gone. Here is my final poll for 2009, and why I rank them where I do. Die-hard fans should remember that next year's first kickoff is only 7 months away.

1) Alabama (14-0) – Can there be any doubt left? I think not. There is a reason why I have had Alabama ranked No. 1 for the last 7 consecutive weeks of the season. Now you know why. The Crimson Tide beat Florida, last year's national champion, 32-13, to win the SEC Conference Championship, and then took down Texas, 37-21, to win Alabama's 8th national championship.

2) Boise State (14-0) – Both the AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll liked Texas No. 2 and Florida No. 3, but not me. They both lost. I think that really good teams that win bowl games should be rewarded, so I like the Boise State Broncos at No. 2, ahead of Texas and Florida. Boise State (13-0) and TCU (12-0) faced off in the first-ever prestigious BCS game as mid-major teams, and were also teams with unbeaten records. Boise State was ranked 6th going in and TCU 3rd; the Broncos won 17-10. Isn't it about time that we started treating mid-major teams as serious contenders, rather than weak sisters?

3) Ohio State (11-2) – Why not? Let's reward top bowl teams who win. I have been on the Buckeyes case for 3 years for playing and losing their last 3 BCS games. The 8th–ranked Buckeyes upset the 7th-ranked Oregon Ducks, 26-17.

4) Florida (13-1) – Florida lost to Alabama 32-13 in the SEC title game, and believe you me, it was not pretty. That said, the Gators stomped an absolute mud hole in 12-0 and unbeaten Cincinnati, 51-24.

5) Texas (13-1) – Fifth seems about right to me. I don't care that Colt McCoy got knocked out of their national championship game. That is Texas' problem, not mine. If they were so dependent upon one player to win, maybe they are not that good of a team.

6) Iowa (11-2) – Came in ranked 10th and upset a high-scoring, 9th-ranked Georgia Tech (11-3) team, 24-14, by playing great defense.

7) Penn State (11-2) – Came in ranked 11th and beat a very good LSU team, 19-17, when the Nittany Lions should have folded like a cheap, K-Mart deck chair. I can't stand Penn State and JoePa because they keep playing cupcake schedules to roll up victories, but I also cannot ignore a quality win, even if it was the first ranked team that Penn State has beaten all year. Penn State held LSU to 9 first downs, forced 3 turnovers, and caused LSU to commit 10 penalties. Again, Penn State won, a host of other teams may be better, but they lost.

8) Nebraska (10-4) – Might be 10-4 but the Cornhuskers were the last team anyone wanted to play at the end of the year. Bo Pelini's boys beat a good Arizona team, 33-zip, to record the only shutout of the 34-game bowl season. My best guess is that Nebraska is going to start kicking the snot out of some players and teams.

9) TCU (12-1) – Loss to Boise State was the Horned Frogs' first loss of the season.

10) Cincinnati (12-1) – Loss to Florida, as bad as it was, was the Bearcats first loss of the season.

11) Oregon (10-3) – Only lost to Boise State and Stanford during the regular season, and beat Oregon State in The Civil War to go to the Rose Bowl and face Ohio State. Had a terrible game against Ohio State, thanks to the Buckeye defense.

12) Virginia Tech (10-3) – Lost to Alabama, Georgia Tech and North Carolina in the regular season, but put a 37-14 whipping on Tennessee in their bowl game. There was not a lot of love for the Volunteers because of their dippy, turncoat coach.

13) Brigham Young (11-2) – Only lost to Florida State and TCU and, more important, ripped apart Oregon State 44-20 in their bowl game. Beating Oregon State by 24 points in a bowl game is no mean feat, no matter what Oregon State's record is.

14) LSU (9-4) – Louisiana State University is the toughest 9-win team in the country. Lost to Florida by 10, at Alabama by 9, at Mississippi by 2, and in their bowl game to Penn State by 2. How many other teams could lose to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Penn State by a combined 23 points? Answer: None.

Every rating of mine after No. 14 has no real basis in logical argument, which is exactly why I created my own poll, so I could create and cater to my own biased opinion rather than listen to someone else's biased opinion. Besides, I have big grapefruits—the prostate glands of all men grow larger as they get older.

15) Central Michigan (12-2) – I know the Chippewas play in the MAC and went to the GMAC Bowl. They also beat Ohio for the MAC title, beat Troy in the GMAC Bowl, and won 12 games. They joined only 6 other teams to win 12 or more games this season—Alabama (14-0), Boise State (14-0), Texas (13-1), Florida (13-1), TCU (12-1) and Cincinnati (12-1). The Chippewas could be in a lot worse company. I liked Central Michigan's gutsy season.

16) Idaho (8-5) – I don't care if the Vandals are 8-5 and compete in the Western Athletic Conference. Coach Robb Akey won 3 games his first 2 years and was 8-5 this year while winning the Humanitarian Bowl against Bowling Green, 43-42. So what is so special about Idaho that I should rate them as the 16th best team in the nation? Heck, nothing. It is not about the team, it is about the coach, Robb Akey, who chose to risk losing the Humanitarian Bowl by going for the victory on the last play of the game rather than settle for a tie and playing an overtime period. Man, Akey is my kind of guy. Let's shoot for the stars and, if we miss, we might hit the lighting rod on top of the barn. But if we shoot for the lighting rod on top of the barn, we might hit something on the floor of the barn we don't want. After being a doormat for years and years and years, Akey has put Idaho football back on the map. That feat alone deserves high recognition.

17) SMU (8-5) – I am impressed with Southern Methodist University and coach June Jones even more so. Like Idaho, SMU has been a doormat for years. Currently in Conference USA, SMU has gone from 1-11 last year to 8-5 this year and a 45-10 bowl victory over Nevada. SMU is on the rise. June Jones spent 9 years at Hawaii where he went 76-41 with 5 seasons of 9 or more wins, and won 4 of 6 bowl games. SMU got something special when they hired June Jones; now Mustang fans are finding out why.

I have no more picks from 18 through 25. You pick them as you see them. I am all done for the year. I just am not impressed with any of the rest of the teams. Thanks for your continued, loyal readership. I even appreciate the criticism and hate mail because I know you care as much as I do—we just disagree on some things. Be good, and strive to be happy—sports isn't everything in life, it is just one of the important things in life.

October 9, 2009

Information for Sports Buffs

Exactly What Are the United States Laws in Regard to Remote Gambling Online? (Answer: Poison)

Mike Nelson, an international tax attorney, is frequently asked whether a legal opinion is required by people in the European Union's 27 member states regarding their decision to participate in gambling online in the United States' market.

According to Nelson, a legal opinion is highly advisable since the issue of gaming revolves around its legality within the United States, the individual 50 states, territories and possessions.

Nelson says in his legal experience, once an agency of the United States government becomes interested in you as a "person of interest" or your activities, then the cost of a legal opinion is insignificant. Here are some the past U.S. legislated acts that the person may face:


The Wire Wager Act prohibiting the use of a wire communications facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers; punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to two years.

The Travel Act provides, in relevant part that whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent to distribute proceeds of any unlawful activity or promote, manage, establish, carry on or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on of an unlawful activity shall be subject to criminal penalties that include imprisonment of up to 20 years and fines of the greater of $250,000 for individuals ($500,000 for companies) or twice the gross gain derived from the offense.

The Wagering Paraphernalia Act provides that whoever knowingly carries or sends in interstate or foreign commerce any record, paraphernalia, ticket, certificate, bills slip, token, paper, writing or other device, or to be used, or adapted, devised, designed for use in (a) book making; or (b) wagering pools with respect to a sporting event; or (c) in a numbers, policy, bolita, or similar game shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.

There are the Organized Crime Control Act, Racketeering Influenced Corrupted Organizations Act ("RICO") and most recently several paramount legislative Acts that are more severe and still open to interpretation that will possibly apply to your client. You should also keep in mind your clients' options such as Treaty Extraditions that many countries are re-negotiating with the United States.

Jeez, there is enough legal mumbo-jumbo to choke a horse. Sounds whole lot like the U. S. government does not want you to even think about gambling online, much less do so.

Nelson says that U.S. prosecutors and regulators have taken a variety of steps in recent years to deter Internet gambling operators and payment systems from processing U.S. bets, including seeking the forfeiture of billions of U.S. dollars in proceeds and even Internet domain names.

At the same time, the European Union is seeking to eliminate barriers in the internal and external markets to the provision of Internet gambling services, with some member states opting to regulate and tax Internet gambling services instead of prohibiting or restricting them.

Recently, under this conflict of laws situation, the European Union was approached by the London-based Remote Gambling Association. In March of this year, the EU announced its findings that U.S. laws on remote gambling and their enforcement against E.U. companies constitutes a barrier to market access and adverse effects on the E.U. economy.

The report also addresses this situation as against WTO and GATS; specifically commitments on services and international market access.

This report fell short by not making any recommendation for WTO action and merely noted that the U.S. Administration should visit this matter. The report did address a real dilemma with the U.S. continuing to impose its laws on past acts of E.U. persons or entities.

If the U.S. laws were to change in favor of E.U. remote gaming, apparently the U.S. is not willing to retroactively apply new legislation to past remote gaming acts. This does, however, allow the E.U. to use this discrimination to present its case to the WTO. Whether the WTO will consider such a case and, if so, will the U.S. make immediate remedies to the Conflict-Of-Laws situation is a very salient concern.

The following factors are presented by Nelson for your information as you decide on the U.S. as a potential market and sales market, but encourages the use of legal guidance as you begin any efforts to market and sell to the U.S. customer:

1. All online gambling is illegal in the U.S.
2. The Department of Justice disagrees with the case holding In Re Mastercard International.
3. Advertising online gambling is equivalent to aiding and abetting illegal gambling.
4. No Federal law specifically prohibits online gambling advertising.
5. Marketing entities are included in conspiracy indictments.
6. No convictions have occurred from "pure" advertising.
7. Foreign citizens are subject to U.S. prosecution if "minimum contacts" exist.

There are a host of laws too numerous to mention here that apply to persons or entities outside of the U. S. That's why it is a good idea to see an expert like Mike Nelson when in doubt. Here is Mike Nelson' s conclusion:

"The U.S., State and local authorities will continue to find new approaches to significantly reduce the amount of online gambling activities; knowing that the most vulnerable element is the required industry flow of money.

"As more and more of the world business in based on the Internet, there will be an equal effort by internet gambling industry members to rely on international relationships such as banking, hosting and billing industries.

"However, with the global economic downturn affecting business and governments worldwide, there may be an easing of legalization and enforcement by the U.S. It is critical that any efforts made at this time to capture a part of the U.S. market be made by an informed decision with a solid legal analysis or opinion as a pivotal part of your strategy."

(Ed's Note: Michael Nelson is an international tax attorney licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court in Washington, DC as well as before the U.S. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. You can email Michael Nelson at >info@trustmakers.com< or call (888) 916-7070 and (212) 845-9810 for international callers.)

December 17, 2009

College Football:

Mark Ingram Becomes the First Ever Heisman Trophy Winner for Alabama

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

Sophomore running back Mark Ingram has done something for the University of Alabama that legendary quarterbacks Joe "Willie" Namath and Kenny Stabler and every other football player at Alabama could not do--bring home a Heisman Trophy for the Crimson Tide faithful.

Ingram nudged out running back Toby Gerhart of Stanford in the closest vote of the award's 75-year history to become the first Alabama player to ever win the annual trophy as the best player in college football.

Only a 28-point difference separated Ingram's 1,304 votes from Gerhart's 1,276. Ingram received 227 first-place votes to Gerhart's 222. Finishing 3rd in the balloting was Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, 4th was Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, and 5th was Florida QB Tim Tebow. Tebow won the Heisman as a sophomore two years ago.

Colt McCoy was in the running last year when Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the Heisman Award. While McCoy did not win the Heisman this year (many thought he would because of his overall performance the last 3 years), he won several other awards.

McCoy won the Maxwell Award honoring the nation's best all-around player, the Walter Camp Football Foundation's Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive season, and the Davey O'Brien Award for being the nation's best quarterback.

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's Best Defensive Player, the Outland Trophy as the nation's Best Interior Lineman, the Lombardi Award as the nation's Top Lineman, and the Bronco Nagurski Trophy as the nation's Best Defensive Player.

Stanford's Toby Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's Best Running Back. Tennessee's Eric Berry accepted the Jim Thorpe Award honoring the Best Defensive Back. Notre Dame's Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's Best Receiver.

UCLA's Kai Forbath took home the Lou Groza Award as the nation's Best Kicker, and Georgia's Drew Butler won the Ray Guy Award honoring the nation's Best Punter.

Cincinnati's Brian Kelly won the Coach of the Year Award on the same day he told his team he had accepted an offer to coach the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Kelly, an Irish Catholic, called the Notre Dame gig his dream job.

The 10 prior winners of the Heisman Trophy included 10 quarterbacks and 2 running backs. The two running backs included Reggie Bush of Southern California in 2005 and Ron Dayne of Wisconsin in 1999.

The 8 quarterbacks included Chris Weinke of Florida State in 2000, Eric Crouch of Nebraska in 2001, Carson Palmer of Southern California in 2002, Jason White of Oklahoma in 2003, Matt Leinart of Southern California in 2004, Troy Smith of Ohio State in 2006, Tim Tebow of Florida in 2007 and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2008.

August 28, 2009

College Football:

Last Season's Final Statistics Show How the Nation's Top Five Teams Can Be Beat

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

It is not often when the coaches and the media agree on their opinion of who should be in the preseason Top 25 college football polls, but this year at least their Top 5 picks are mirror images—Florida (1), Texas (2), Oklahoma (3), Southern California (4) and Alabama (5).

Of a possible 60 first-place votes in the media's AP Top 25 Poll, Florida collected 58 votes and Texas 2, setting a record (96+%) for the most first-place votes since the poll was first started in 1950, long before there were ever Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games.

Florida is such an overwhelming favorite that one might think there is no need to play the games this year, since the Gators will probably run the table (go unbeaten). This, of course, is sheer nonsense.

Florida won the National Championship for the 2006 and 2008 seasons and, if it repeats during 2009, the Gators would become only the second team to do so since Nebraska won the National Championship 3 out of 4 years, winning the title outright in 1994 and 1995, and splitting the title in 1997.

However, going unbeaten to do so is entirely another matter. It is tough to go undefeated in a major conference, and then win the national title.

For openers, only one team (Utah at 13-0) went undefeated last season, and that happened because Utah does not play in a major conference. It the Utes played in the SEC, Pacific 10, Big 12 or Big Ten Conferences, there is no way they would be undefeated.

Florida, Southern Cal and Texas all lost a game last season. Oklahoma and Alabama were beaten twice.

You may be interested to know that the best team in the nation statistically last year was not Florida, which won the National Championship by beating Oklahoma 24-14, but rather Southern Cal. That's right, USC. Maybe that is why Florida won; they were playing Oklahoma and not Southern Cal for the title.

Oklahoma had a great offensive team—ranking 1st nationally in scoring (51+ points), 3rd in passing offense (349+ yards per game) and 3rd in total offense (547+), but the Sooner defense was nothing to get excited about. They were 99th in pass defense, 68th in total defense and 58th scoring defense. There are only 119 BCS (Division 1-A) teams.

Florida's pass defense was ranked 20th, and the Gators held Oklahoma to only 14 points, despite Oklahoma having the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. Shoot, the Sooners scored 51 points a game but gave up 24 a game, exactly what Florida scored to win the title. The Gators were ranked 4th in scoring defense, giving up only 13 (12.93) points a game. That shows you how accurate averaged statistics can be over the course of a season.

Texas was horrific in passing defense, ranking 104th of 119 teams. You may recall that Texas Tech beat Texas last year 39-33 on a pass play by NFL first-round pick Michael Crabtree. Texas A&M got swamped by Texas last year 49-9, in part because Texas A&M's passing defense was ranked 95th, only slightly better than Texas, which had the 7th best passing offense.

Alabama was 7th in scoring offense last year, but its passing offense was 97th (yikes) and its total offense was only 63rd. The Crimson Tide defense won most of their games, ranking 2nd in rushing defense, 3rd in total defense and 7th in scoring defense. Sounds a whole lot like their coach Nick Seban.

So what is the big deal with Southern Cal? Well, its offense was pretty balanced, ranking 22nd in rushing, passing and scoring. The defense was the best in the nation, ranking 1st in passing defense and 1st in scoring defense, 2nd in total defense, and 5th in rushing defense.

Think about it, leading the nation in 2 defensive categories and being among the top 5 in rushing and passing defense, total defense and scoring defense. USC's one loss came on the road at Oregon State, 27-21.

Was USC unfairly penalized by the pollsters when selecting the BCS title game participants? I think so. Heck, Alabama lost 31-20 to Florida on the road, so the Gators deserved a shot.

But Oklahoma? Get real. The Sooners lost to Texas at home, 45-35. Just the score of the game itself makes you shiver, 80 points between them, as opposed to 48 points between USC and Oregon State, and USC was on the road. If Oklahoma thinks Oregon State (9-4 last year) was a pushover, they should play the Beavers at home, where they were 5-1, losing only to Oregon.

So what does it all mean? Well, Oklahoma was the best offensive team in the country last year, and Southern Cal was the best defensive team; there is no argument when you look at the statistics.

Despite being the best offensive team in the country, Oklahoma could not beat Florida, losing 24-14. Southern Cal, which dispatched No. 6 Penn State 31-16, in the BCS Rose Bowl Game, might well have held Florida to fewer than 24 points. We will never know.

What we do know is that Southern Cal had a better passing offense, a more balanced offense, and a much better passing defense than Florida.

There is a reason why the Sagarin College Football Ratings show Southern Cal, not Florida, as the top team in its 2009 preseason poll. That reason is because the ratings are based on last year's actual statistics and results, not opinion.

As I see it, Florida was fortunate that it faced Oklahoma, which has lost 4 of its last 5 BCS games. In other words, lame like Ohio State, which has lost two straight BCS National Championship Games to Florida and LSU in 2006 and 2007, and then lost again to Texas in its BCS game last year.

Let's just say it—the East Coast bias among coaches and media is really bad. Two factors drive its inequity. One is population as 58% of the people (approximately 175 of 300 million) live on the East Coast. The second is the time difference as the West Coast is 3 hours behind the East Coast.

When media types get done watching football games Saturday around 10:30 p.m. EST, key games are just beginning on the West Coast and are never seen by poll voters. They are overwhelmed with watching East Coast football, and remain a servant slave to it.

If the powers to be had any size grapefruits at all, when Florida got rid of Oklahoma, their next assignment for the national title should have been Southern Cal, and then we would have seen the rubber hit the road.

August 16, 2009

You Have No BCS Title Shot

Not Being Selected Among the Top 25 in the Preseason Coaches' Poll Is the Kiss of Death

Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley

It is three weeks to the kick-off of the 2009 college football season, the preseason USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll is out, my favorite team is not among the top 25 teams, and has no chance to play in the national championship game. Say, what?

"No way, dude," as Garth (Dana Carvey) would say to Wayne (Mike Myers) in Saturday Night Live episodes and in the movie Wayne's World.

"Way," Wayne would reply, meaning, in this case, that any team that is not ranked in the preseason Coaches' Poll could play in the national championship game at the end of the season if it played a perfect season.

The only problem is, no team ever has. Alabama almost became the first team to do it last year, being unranked and winning its first 12 games to climb to the top of the BCS standings for 5 weeks before losing to Florida 31-20 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship game.

The Crimson Tide did not handle their first loss of the season well, losing again to Utah 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama's experience demonstrates just how difficult it is to get the national championship when you begin the season unranked in the preseason Coaches' Poll. It is way more than difficult, it is darn near impossible as no team that was not in the top 10 in the preseason has reached the title game during the last 5 seasons.

In fact, in the entire 11-year Bowl Championship Series history, no team has begun a season unranked by the coaches and played in the national championship game.

Here is one big reason why: When you are ranked in the preseason poll, the assumption is that you are among the nation's very best teams, even if you are not. So if you are in the top 25 and lose to another top 25 team, it is no big deal. You literally have to lose to an unranked team to lose credibility early on.

An example would be if this year's No. 1 (Florida), No. 2 (Texas) or No. 3 (Oklahoma) teams were upset early in the year by another top 25 team, they would still be an odds-on favorite to play in the BCS title game if it is their only loss.

A second reason is that the Coaches' Poll is more accurate than you think it would be. Even the Harris Poll that is taken after 5 weeks of play had the EXACT same teams among its top 25. Heck, 20 of the teams had the same ranking or were within one place of where they were in the Coaches' Poll.

I am a graduate of Michigan State University, and imagine my consternation when my Spartans were ranked 27th, missing the preseason poll by two spots. So even if Michigan State went 12-0, the odds say that a higher-ranked team with one loss would get the nod for the title game.

Utah was unranked in last year's preseason poll, was undefeated on the season (13-0), and beat Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl when the Utes were shut out of the title game by Florida (13-1) and Oklahoma (12-2). Such is life.

The fact that Florida is ranked No. 1 in this year's poll is not unreasonable. The Gators won the National Championship in 2006 and 2008. Quarterback Tim Tebow (the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner as a sophomore) returns, 7 starters are back on their offense and their entire defensive team (two deep no less) returns.

No. 2 Texas returns 16 starters and QB Colt McCoy. No. 3 Oklahoma returns QB Sam Bradford (last year's Heisman winner), TE Jermaine Gresham and DT Gerald McCoy (all three will probably be NFL first-round picks).

After some research of this year's top 25 preseason favorites, I was upset to learn that two of the picks—No. 16 Boise State and No. 23 Notre Dame—will play only 1 other top 25 pick during the season.

I personally like the Fighting Irish. I rooted for them growing up in Michigan. I also recognize that they are an independent team not attached to a league, and would not win nearly as many games as they have over the years if they played in the SEC, Big Ten or Pac 10. They also draw a national audience due to their legacy and are a favorite of the networks because of their pull, meaning they go to bowl games and bigger bowl games when other teams are more deserving.

Seven others play only two other top 25 picks—No. 2 Texas, No. 8 Penn State, No. 10 Mississippi, No. 17 TCU, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 21 Iowa and No. 22 Nebraska.

Eleven others play three other top 25 picks—No. 1 Florida, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 12 California, No. 13 Georgia, No. 15 Georgia Tech, No. 18 Utah, No. 19 Florida State, and No. 25 Oregon State.

And who is playing really tough schedules to stay alive in the drive to the national championship game? Only 3 teams—No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 9 LSU and No. 24 BYU play 4 other top 25 teams.

Does anyone play 5 other top 25 teams? Well, yes—No. 4 USC and No. 14 Oregon, both from the Pac 10 Conference on the West Coast, and a long way from the SEC teams in the Southeast.

USC plays No. 6 Ohio State away, No. 12 California away, No. 14 Oregon away, No. 23 Notre Dame away and No. 25 Oregon State at home. Oregon gets to face No. 4 USC, No. 12 California, No. 18 Utah and No. 25 Oregon State at home, and No. 16 Boise State away.

But who REALLY plays the toughest schedule against top 25 teams? Try LSU. The Tigers host No. 1 Florida at home, but then must travel to No. 5 Alabama, No. 10 Mississippi and No. 13 Georgia.

So what is my gripe about leaving Michigan State out of the top 25? Just this: The Spartans host No. 8 Penn State and No. 21 Iowa, and travel to No. 23 Notre Dame. They play 3 top 25 teams.

Heck, in my book, Michigan State has just as much business in the top 25 as Boise State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina, TCU, Mississippi, Penn State and Texas, all of whom play only 2 top 25 opponents this season.

Remember this: Even as big a deal as Oklahoma is, the Sooners have lost their last 5 BCS games.

College football is so much more interesting than pro football because the talent level is so much less than at the pro level. That means big-time teams can get upset any Saturday, and teams forecast to do nothing this year can rise to the top of the heap, as Alabama did for 12 straight weeks last year.

So let the games begin. Let us settle this on the field of play. We will see at the end of the season who deserves to be in the top 25, and who does not. I expect to see the Michigan State Spartans among the top 25 teams by the end of the season.

Main Index

2010 College Football

2009 College Football

2008 College Football

2007 College Football

College Basketball

Track and Field

Cross-Country and Distance Running

All Other Sports

Movie Reviews - A to H

Movie Reviews - I to Z

Family

Faith

Humor

Health

Finances

Business

Marketing

Politics

Society

Famous Quotes - The First 1,500

Famous Quotes - The Second 1,500

Contact Me

Home

 

 

 

Count