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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Big East Wins, Loses: B.C.S. Themes

Fittingly, the two programs that left the Big East in the cold — that first left the Big East in the cold — were the conference’s lone losers on Saturday. In a weekend where the Big East fared well, notching two wins over B.C.S. conference competition, the primary development was the league’s impending destruction: Syracuse and Pittsburgh are gone, soon to be joined by at least one, perhaps two conference brethren, and the Orange and the Panthers followed up that disappointment with a pair of disappointing defeats. Thanks for nothing, says the Big East. Touching on that and other themes from Saturday’s B.C.S. conference action:

The Big East wins and loses The wins were nice. West Virginia stormed out to a big lead and held on to beat Maryland, 37-31. That victory looks nicer when considering that Miami (Fla.), who lost to Maryland earlier in the month, knocked off Ohio State later in the evening. Cincinnati took care of business against Akron, storming out to a 49-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 59-14 win. South Florida set a school record for total offense in beating Florida A&M; B.J. Daniels threw for 382 yards and 4 scores, and former Colorado transfer Darrell Scott rushed for 146 yards and 3 scores. Louisville topped rival Kentucky, 24-17, to move to 2-1.

It was revealed late on Friday evening — and made official yesterday — that Syracuse and Pittsburgh had applied for inclusion in the A.C.C., thereby getting ahead of the stream of departures due to cripple the Big East over the next few weeks. As a going-away present — or a soon-to-be-going-away present — Pittsburgh coughed up a 24-3 third quarter and lost, 31-27, at Iowa. Later on Saturday, Syracuse was completely outclassed in a 38-17 loss to the Trojans. Wins and losses: the Big East needed the wins, but the losses — the off-field losses — are what defined the weekend.

N.C.A.A. history College football was born four years after the end of the Civil War — that’s a long, long time ago. Georgia Tech rewrote the record books on Saturday, averaging an N.C.A.A.-record 12.1 yards per carry in its 66-24 win over Kansas. On a side note, remember that Kansas upset the Yellow Jackets in Lawrence last fall; what a difference a year makes. The previous record was 11.9 yards per carry, set by Alabama in a win over Virginia Tech in 1973.

N.C.A.A. history, part two More records, this time of the passing variety. Texas Tech’s Seth Doege completed 40 of 44 attempts in his team’s lopsided win over New Mexico. The completion percentage of 90.9 percent — that’s a good score on a math quiz, by the way — was a new N.C.A.A. record for a quarterback making at least 40 attempts in a game. I’m not surprised that a Texas Tech quarterback set the record; I’m just surprised it happened under Tommy Tuberville, not Mike Leach.

U.C.L.A.’s already looking forward Texas looked like Texas, finally. U.C.L.A. looked like U.C.L.A., again, which is not good news for Rick Neuheisel, Dan Guerrero and all those associated with a once-proud, now-lost football program. And according to The Los Angeles Times, the latest in a long line of embarrassing performances has U.C.L.A. boosters gossiping about coaches like Boise State’s Chris Petersen, which is a nice thought, though it’ll never happen. Here’s a word of advice for U.C.L.A.: firing Neuheisel will be a start, if the university heads in that direction, but Guerrero, the athletic director, must also be replaced. Changes need to be made, of course. Petersen is a nice idea for a replacement, but it’s a pipe dream. Mike Leach? I think the Bruins should at least place him under consideration, though I wonder if the university would take a chance on a coach who has been dragged through the mud over the last 20 months. Not fairly dragged through the mud, I should add.

Oklahoma’s a champion And so is Florida State, though the standings don’t reflect that fact. Oklahoma took a body blow: F.S.U. tied the game at 13-13, and the Doak Campbell crowd was as loud as its been in a generation — according to one media member in attendance, the noise called back to days when F.S.U. was running the country, during the 1990s, and one wouldn’t have blamed O.U. for folding up shop after back-to-back false starts penalties deep in its own territory in the fourth quarter.

But Oklahoma responded, taking Florida State’s best shot and still coming out on top, 24-13, in a game with a national title feel. Oklahoma won, Oklahoma’s the winner, but I still appreciate the way the Seminoles played with the sort of mental toughness missing over the program’s last decade — the lost decade, one could say. E.J. Manuel was lost for the game with a shoulder injury; that he fought through that injury for a portion of the game speaks volumes about his toughness, by the way. More than anything, the game is about Oklahoma’s national title hopes, still alive and well. But I was very impressed with the way Florida State remained composed despite several obstacles. I stand strong with my statement over the summer: the Seminoles are going to win a national title very soon. Just not in 2011.

The dream continues Vanderbilt was the most impressive team in the SEC on Saturday. Well, maybe it was Florida: the Gators did win, topping Tennessee 33-23 at home, but take a look at Vanderbilt. Take a peek at Vanderbilt: Commodores 30, Mississippi 7 — and Vanderbilt is now 3-0. The last time it was 3-0? Well, that would be 2008. And 2005 before that. But the Commodores have been 3-0 only four times since 1984: that fall, 2005, 2008 and 2011. I kept hearing all these great things about James Franklin over the summer — he’s confident, he can coach, the players have bought in — but I didn’t really buy it, instead believing that his young, energetic mindset was leading the horse to be brought in ahead of the cart. Now, it’s only three games. Nevertheless, Vanderbilt has looked terrific. Three down, three to go: the Commodores need to go 3-6 the rest of the way — notching at least two wins in SEC play — to reach bowl play.

The Cougars finally lose Washington State dropped to 2-1, losing at San Diego State, but the Cougars didn’t fold up shop against a pretty good team. That was good to see. And the offense continued to put up points and yards without Jeff Tuel, undermining the belief that Washington State’s bowl hopes were put on hold without its all-conference caliber quarterback. His replacement, Marshall Loebbestael, threw a pair of interceptions — his first two of the year — in the second half, which really propelled S.D.S.U. to its 42-24 win. But Loebbestael been good, by and large. No one expected — or is expecting — the Cougars to win eight or more games, but based on how the program ended last season and have played thus far in September there’s no reason to think Paul Wulff can’t get W.S.U. to 6-6. Even without Tuel.

Keep an eye on the Illini Illinois is back on the national radar after taking out Arizona State, 17-14, behind a stout defensive effort. With Western Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana next on the schedule, Illinois should be 6-0 by the time it hosts Ohio State on Oct. 15 — and with Purdue and Penn State after that, the Illini could be 9-0 when its hosts Michigan on Nov. 12.

Conference power rankings Of the B.C.S. conferences, with average P.S.R. ranking, highest team ranking and number of teams in the top 25 in parentheses:

1. Big 12 (34.1, 2, 4)
2. SEC (35.6, 1, 6)
3. Big Ten (46.8, 6, 3)
4. A.C.C. (48.3, 9, 4)
5. Pac-12 (49.8, 5, 3)
6. Big East (56.0, 16, 2)

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Comments

  1. Lee says:

    Paul,

    Told you my gators were better than #30 but we need more production from the WR’s in SEC play if we want to win the East. IN their defense though, Weis is a practical coordinator that will run the same pass play to the HB until you stop it. I expect more opportunities for them against BAMA bc Saban will take away the hb swing pass if possible. I think that we will split between Bama and LSU. Once the Secondary gets Jeremy Brown back and the rest mature….scary defense. LSU is the best at the moment only because they have the edge in the secondary. UF’s defensive front 7 is as good if not slightly better than Lsu’s and Bama’s.

    BTW, I totally called the FSU running game/O-line not showing up against OU. I thought the defense definitely held up their end of the bargain though. FSU simply isn’t their offensively(against elite defenses) to be a top 5 team. Like I said…..#11-15 is more of a accurate spot at the moment just like UF.

    Love the articles btw. Great stuff.

  2. Gotham Gator says:

    Can’t wait to see what you write about this week’s game between Vandy and S. Carolina. Can the upstarts beat the pre-season favorite to win the SEC East?

    I remain pessimistic about SC. Despite their talent, they have too much inconsistency at QB. Plus, they seem poised to suffer the fall from glory that a lot of teams do the season after reaching a new level of success. Time will tell, of course, but the early returns should not comfort Gamecock fans. Three wins, yes, but SC has underperformed in each.

  3. Dave says:

    Paul,

    Are you going to give it to Pitt the way you gave it to Baylor last week? I realize the hypocrisy doesn’t quite rise to the same level, but still…

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