We’ve just got championship weekend left to the regular season, and then we’ll be going bowling! Week 13 was unlucky to the biggest little BCS Buster on the block, as Boise State headed to the Reno and fell to the Wolf Pack in overtime to end their undefeated dreams.
The door is now open for TCU to reach its second straight BCS berth without real contest, and wins will put Auburn and Oregon into the title game. Stanford was the other big beneficiary of losses by the Broncos as well as LSU, moving to #4 in the BCS standings and guaranteeing a second BCS berth for the Pac-10 in a year where their elite teams have been truly elite — but the bottom has dropped out on its middle class as its teams keep knocking one another out of bowl contention. Let’s clean up after Lucky 13, and get ready for the last weekend before the Tailgater crew begins its previews of bowl games here!
GAMES OF THE WEEK
by Matt Strobl
Best Win: Arkansas 31, LSU 23—A week ago I raked Les Miles over the coals when his Tigers barely survived an upset bid by Ole Miss within days of his statements about 1-loss SEC teams being BCS-worthy. While the core of what he said may be true, it certainly didn’t apply to this year’s LSU team. Of course, now we don’t have to worry about that—Arkansas welcomed Miles and company to Fayetteville and sent them home with their second defeat of the year. The win more or less guaranteed Arkansas a berth in the BCS; the Sugar Bowl has already made it known that the Razorbacks will be one of its two contestants. Meanwhile, LSU has been bounced from the BCS after its luck finally ran out. (Honorable Mention: South Florida 23, Miami 20)
Worst Win: Kansas State 49, North Texas 41—K-State may not be a threat to win the Big 12, but Bill Snyder has done a nice job in bringing the program around this season. So what was the deal with nearly losing to the Sun Belt’s second-to-last place team? The Mean Green gave KSU everything it could handle in a game that went down to the wire. The Wildcats’ defense was a sieve, allowing 459 total yards. Nearly 300 of those came on the ground. And UNT’s offensive explosion was achieved with a backup QB in the game; starter Riley Dodge was taken to the hospital with a neck injury. Snyder had better hope for a good bowl performance, because this sloppy win offers no momentum to build on.
Upset of the Week: Nevada 34, Boise State 31 (OT)—Those who enjoy deriding the non-AQ conferences had a field day when the Broncos fell in overtime. Somehow, this was “proof” that Boise State didn’t deserve the same consideration as the college football big boys. In reality, this game featured two very good teams; there’s a reason why Nevada is a Top 25 program, and it has less to do with the WAC schedule than with the quality of what Chris Ault has built. Boise State was undone by a second half comeback and a pair of missed field goals. Though kicker Kyle Brotzman will bear the brunt of the backlash over the next week or so, BSU fans can blame their defense if they want a true scapegoat.
Beatdown of the Week: Florida State 31, Florida 7—So beating 2010 Florida isn’t quite as glamorous as it might have been in other recent seasons. But with the lopsided victory, first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher swept his in-state rivals, won the Atlantic Division, and earned a shot at the ACC’s BCS berth. Could anyone have scripted a better regular season ending for the ‘Noles? This year was the first time since 1999 that a Florida State team beat Miami and Florida in the same season.
Dud of the Week: Oklahoma State secondary—In my life, I’ve watched hundreds upon hundreds of college football games. Probably even thousands. And yet, I can’t recall seeing a unit fail as miserably as the Cowboys’ secondary did on Saturday night. I’m sorry to rub salt in the wounds, but Mike Gundy’s defensive backs allowed the Sooners to get behind them not once, but twice in the game’s final crucial minutes. The results were touchdowns of 86 and 76 yards that iced OU’s 47-41 win. At that stage of the game you do anything you possibly can to keep the game in front of you, but somehow the OSU players and coaches forgot that.
BCS BUSTER POWER RANKINGS
by Zach Bigalke
All the Broncos can do now is weep their way back to Boise from the Biggest Little City in the World. Just like all their fellow preseason BCS Buster hopefuls, a loss has brought Chris Petersen’s team back to earth. We now know, with one weekend remaining in the regular season, that only TCU remains in the hunt for the lucrative non-AQ spot in the Rose Bowl. And should Oregon or Auburn falter in their final showdowns next weekend, in the Civil War and SEC Championship respectively, the Horned Frogs may well make their way not to Pasadena but a little closer to home for the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona.
It will now take a long shot for the Broncos (or their conquerors, the gutsy Nevada team that prevailed Friday night in overtime in Reno) to reach a BCS berth despite the fact that one or both could finish alongside TCU in the top twelve of the BCS standings. For in the landscape that currently prevails, a solitary loss is enough to fell even the mightiest of contenders from the “Little Sisters of the Poor” conferences.
But let’s think, before we give one final look at where the fallen BCS Buster hopefuls stand currently in the pecking order, about those words from Ohio State president Gordon Gee. Enough has been said about his absurd, damning and ultimately counterproductive statements. But let’s just focus on those five words for a moment. If teams like Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii in the WAC; TCU and Utah (for one last bowl game) and Air Force and San Diego State in the Mountain West; or even Central Florida or Northern Illinois out east… well, if they’re the Little Sisters of the Poor, it is solely because of the system put in place by Big Brother to keep them in their poverty-stricken lockstep in the college football pecking order.
Teams from coast to coast from the BCS conferences are all too happy to schedule the “Little Sisters of the Poor” for their own non-conference games. What do you think it really is other than a blatant easy win grab when, say, 1-11 San Jose State is scheduled by Wisconsin and Alabama, or 4-7 Utah State gets scheduled by Oklahoma, or 3-9 Wyoming plays Texas, or 1-11 New Mexico gets waxed by Oregon and Texas Tech — and all except the last on the BCS team’s home turf?! The problem with Gee’s argument is simply that the BCS conference teams can complain about the teams that get to undefeated records with fluff in their schedules yet turn around and schedule that fluff with a wave of a few dollars and without recrimination in their own ranking…. READ MORE HERE
THE HOT SEAT WATCH
We are going with a different format this week for the Hot Seat watch this week. I think it will work a little better and give me the ability to talk about a coach or two that was let go during the week.
Also, I’ll talk about the coaches that are still firmly in the hot seat along with coaches that have seen their seats cool thanks to some strong performances by their respective teams.
- Randy Shannon (Miami) – After four seasons as the Miami head football coach, Randy Shannon was fired following Miami’s disappointing loss to South Florida on Saturday. Shannon should be commended for his efforts to clean up the Hurricanes program off the field, but he didn’t have the best success on the field, and it was time for a change. Under Shannon’s guidance, Miami only had one player arrested. But, ultimately, you are judged by what you do on the field. In his first three seasons with Miami, the Canes showed improvement. They went from 5 to 7 to 9 wins and it appeared that The U was back. That was until this season when Miami regressed back to seven wins and ended the year with a loss to South Florida. Shannon finished 28-22 in four seasons as the Miami head coach. The question now becomes, who will succeed Shannon as the Miami head coach? The early candidates include Kevin Sumlin, Brent Venables, Dan Mullen, and Mario Cristobal.
- Dennis Erickson (Arizona State) – I’ve said it for the last few weeks. In order for Dennis Erickson to be the Sun Devils head coach once again next season, Arizona State has to make a bowl game. Arizona State is 5-6 after their 55-34 win over UCLA on Friday. The last game of the season for Erickson’s squad comes against rival Arizona in Tucson on Thursday night. Obviously, Arizona will be favored in this game, but you never know in rivalry games and anything can happen. For Erickson’s sake, Arizona State has to beat Arizona and get bowl eligible, or this will likely be his last season as the Sun Devils head football coach.
- Rich Rodriguez (Michigan) – Even though Michigan is bowl eligible, the majority of Michigan fans are still unhappy with the direction of the program under Rich Rodriguez. Yeah, Michigan finished the season 7-5, but it wasn’t an impressive season whatsoever. In all five of Michigan’s losses, the Wolverines lost by 10 or more points. They were defeated by their bitter rival Ohio State in The Game 37-7 at the Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon. I believe Rodriguez has done enough to earn one more year as the Michigan head coach and it was thought that seven wins was what was needed for him to save his job. But, I think next year will have him fighting for his job with loftier expectations than a bowl game.
- Mark Richt (Georgia) – I really like Mark Richt, but it doesn’t appear the Georgia football program is headed anywhere good right now. The Bulldogs have a boatload of talent, but they continue to struggle. If Georgia had lost to Georgia Tech, it was very likely that Richt would have been let go. But, the Bulldogs rallied around their coach and earned bowl eligibility with a 42-34 win over the Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium. I think Richt will be alright for one more year, but I definitely believe that he will be fighting for his job next season and he will need a good bit more than six wins to remain in Athens unless he decides to take a job elsewhere this offseason.
- Paul Wulff (Washington State) – I’ve had Paul Wulff on top of the hot seat for quite some time, but he got a much deserved vote of confidence from his athletic director after a couple of strong weeks in Pullman. Paul Wulff is trying to rebuild a train wreck in Pullman and it’s not going to be a quick fix for the Cougars. Wulff earned a signature win with Washington State’s 31-14 win over Oregon State in Corvallis two weeks ago. Wulff seems to have Washington State moving in the right direction and I would be highly surprised to see him lose his job after this season, regardless of what happens against Washington next Saturday.
AND THE GAME BALLS GO TO…
Mario Cristobal (HC/FIU) – Usually, I give my game ball to a player, but this week is a bit different. I would like to commend Florida International coach Mario Cristobal for the amazing job he has done with the Golden Panthers. He took over a program in shambles in 2007. FIU was coming off of an 0-12 season and went just 1-11 in his first season. They improved to 5-7 in his second season, but regressed to 3-9 last season. But, this year, Cristobal took one of the bottom feeders in the FBS and led them to the Sun Belt Championship. Nobody is going to mistake the Sun Belt for a great conference, but Troy and Middle Tennessee State have dominated the conference the last couple of years and nobody saw this coming from FIU. They played tough against their four out of conference opponents albeit in loss and are 6-1 in the Sun Belt with their clinching win coming against Arkansas State on Saturday. Congrats, coach.
Cyrus Gray (RB/Texas A&M) – So the Aggies didn’t win the battle in the BCS standings to make their way to the Big XII title game out of the South, but they did nab a win in the Lone Star Showdown to keep the rival Longhorns out of a bowl game altogether for the first time since 1997. Gray was the spark for Mike Sherman’s team winning over Texas, gaining 227 total yards on 27 carries and one reception and earning two long touchdowns runs of 84 and 48 yards. Sure, running all over the Longhorns doesn’t mean as much this year as it did in years past — just ask UCLA how much that really meant for them — but Gray’s outburst proved a career high, his sixth straight game in triple digits rushing and it put him over 1000 yards for the season.
Knile Davis (RB/Arkansas) –Going up against what had been a very stingy LSU defense, Davis propelled the Razorbacks to a berth in the Sugar Bowl by carrying 30 times for 152 yards. Yes, you read that right– 30 carries. To call him a workhorse would be an understatement; Davis did everything that Arkansas needed him to do and then some. By establishing a ground game, the Hogs were able to control the clock and wear down the LSU defense in what was Arkansas’ biggest win of the year.