Ten Themes for Saturday: Week 11
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 12, 2011
Ten teams, themes, games and players to watch for Saturday. Pretty straightforward. Here we go:
Let everyone go How many Big East teams could become bowl eligible in 2011? The conference has eight teams, and yes, all eight could get to six wins. Three are already there: Cincinnati is 7-1 and Rutgers and West Virginia are both 6-3. Louisville, 5-4, needs to beat one of Pittsburgh — a noon start this afternoon — Connecticut and South Florida, though the latter pair come on the road. Syracuse, 5-5 after last night’s loss to the Bulls, needs to beat either Cincinnati on the road or Pittsburgh at home. U.S.F., 5-4 after beating the Orange, gets Miami, Louisville and West Virginia. The Panthers and Connecticut have some work to do: both are 4-5, meaning there’s little room for error. And what would happen if all eight Big East teams were bowl eligible?
There’s a problem. The conference only has six bowl tie-ins, and one, the Champs Sports Bowl, has the option of selecting Notre Dame. When given the option of taking a Big East team or the Fighting Irish, a bowl selection committee will always take the Irish. So to get all eight into a bowl game, the Big East would need other conferences to not meet their own bowl tie-ins. One league that could help is Conference USA, which has seven bowl tie-ins but may send as few as five teams to bowl play.
Texas Tech goes for two The Red Raiders’ 2011 season ran off the rails in the blink of an eye. I mean, things really got out of hand, didn’t they? It was only four weeks ago that Texas Tech shocked Oklahoma, 41-38 — it just seems like years ago, not less than a month. In the span of 60 minutes, Texas Tech went from pretender to potential B.C.S. contender, should it continue its high level of play against the meat of its schedule in November. Just one problem: Tech forgot about Iowa State. One 41-7 loss later, the Red Raiders’ win over Oklahoma went from a promising sign of things to come to a painful reminder of how good this team could be when on its game.
The Red Raiders have a chance to reclaim its lost momentum with this afternoon’s date with Oklahoma State, the second undefeated team from the Sooner State on the schedule. Would it be ironic if a Tommy Tuberville-coached team knocked off the Cowboys, opening up Alabama’s path to the B.C.S. title game?
A painful look at the numbers Kansas allowed only 13 points last Saturday. Celebrate, right? Well, sort of. Unfortunately, the offense scored only 10 points. Another loss for the Jayhawks, knocking them to 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the Big 12. Even after that nice defensive performance against Iowa State, K.U. remains at or near the bottom of the F.B.S. in total defense (allowing 541.3 yards per game), pass defense (284.0), rush defense (257.3) and scoring defense (45.4 points per game). In comparison, Kansas is allowing more than six times more points per game than Alabama, which features the nation’s stingiest defense. You think about these things when Baylor and Robert Griffin III prepare to take the field in Lawrence.
It comes down to this Western Kentucky remains in the race: 5-1 in Sun Belt play, the Hilltoppers own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Louisiana-Lafayette but lost to Arkansas State, 26-22, in October. With some help, W.K.U. can clinch an improbable conference championship. More than likely, however, the Sun Belt crown will come down to today’s date between Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, two programs piloted by young, up-and-coming coaches who have, in their first seasons, lifted their respective schools to the top of the conference heap. Louisiana has already won eight games under Mark Hudspeth, a program-high on the F.B.S. level, while Hugh Freeze’s Red Wolves are 7-2 overall, 5-0 in conference play. The winner takes control of the Sun Belt; this is especially true of Arkansas State, which has, as noted, the head-to-head edge over Western Kentucky.
Could they have played in 2010? Boise State is still playing football at an extremely high level. Don’t believe what you hear: Boise may have been leading U.N.L.V. by seven points at halftime last Saturday, but the Broncos have had little trouble distancing themselves from all comers over the span of 60 minutes — including Georgia, if you recall. T.C.U. has taken a step back from its 2010 level, however, which was only to be suspected after the Horned Frogs lost so much talent on both sides of the ball. The two meet on the blue turf today with much less on the line than in the recent past: Mountain West supremacy, perhaps, but not a potential national title.
For one team, at least. Boise needs a big win to fend off the one-loss teams, like Alabama and Oregon, who could make a significant push up the B.C.S. ladders if Boise stumbles. Sadly, this will be the lone Mountain West meeting between the Broncos and the Horned Frogs: T.C.U. is Big East-bound in 2012. Of course, the two may one day meet as Big East rivals.
Mississippi looks ahead The Rebels aren’t exactly moving on, seeing that Houston Nutt will coach out the string before being replaced as Mississippi’s head coach at season’s end. In that sense, the program is treading water. But the program is certainly looking forward to the winter, when it will be one of several B.C.S. conference schools looking to reel in a coach capable of winning under somewhat adverse circumstances. It’s not easy to win in Oxford: Ole Miss plays in the SEC, remember, and more specifically, the SEC West. So the Rebels need a winner, pure and simple, and the search should take the university to current F.B.S. head coaches, like Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora, and coaches currently sitting on the sidelines, like Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez. The latter has already shown some interest, but Ole Miss should take note: in his last game at Michigan, the Wolverines lost to Mississippi State, 52-14.
Keeping pace in Conference USA Houston’s run towards perfection encountered nary a hiccup in Thursday’s 73-14 win over Tulane, which pushed the Cougars to 10-0. Houston’s offense, led by Case Keenum, has scored 321 points over the last five games. That’s quite a bit. The Cougars’ perfect season has put Southern Mississippi in the background in Conference USA. But the Golden Eagles, 8-1 heading into tonight’s game at U.C.F., are making a strong claim to being the third-best non-B.C.S. conference team in the country. The Eagles could very well finish the regular season 11-1: U.C.F. comes tonight, followed by U.A.B. and Memphis. There’s a very good chance that the Cougars are 12-0 and the Eagles 11-1 when they meet for the Conference USA championship in December.
Oregon’s case It starts with a win over Stanford. If Oregon wins tonight, the Ducks will end the regular season at 11-1 and earn a berth in the Pac-12 title game; here’s guessing U.C.L.A., should the Bruins win the Pac-12 South, don’t get within 21 points of the Ducks. Here’s where things get interesting: Alabama would be 11-1 and Oregon would be 12-1, and each — should Oklahoma State and Boise State not be in the conversation — would have a case to make for a rematch with L.S.U. for the national championship. Alabama can say it lost to the Tigers by only three points. Oregon can admit it lost by 13 points, but say it can in a L.S.U.-friendly neutral site. And the Ducks can add that their loss to L.S.U. came in the season opener, not November. And if Oklahoma is 11-1 with a win over Oklahoma State, could the Sooners make a better case than either Oregon or Alabama?
Five picks to use as you will Some teams are being overlooked after a bad loss. Other teams are underdogs, for some reason or another. Here are five lines I’d consider if I was into this sort of thing:
Nebraska at Penn State (+3.5)
Baylor (-20.5) at Kansas
Arizona (-10) at Colorado
Auburn (+12) at Georgia
Arizona State (-11.5) at Washington State
P.S.R. top five, before and after The top five entering the weekend and the top five on Saturday, to my best estimation:
3. Boise State.
4. Oklahoma State.
3. Boise State.
4. Oklahoma State.
I think the top five stand pat. But there is the potential for an enormous shakeup come Sunday. T.C.U. could knock off Boise State. Oklahoma State could suffer a slipup against Texas Tech. Stanford could lose to Oregon. If that scenario goes down, you’re going to see a ridiculous level of B.C.S. madness.
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Tags: Arkansas State, Baylor, Big East, Boise State, Houston Nutt, Hugh Freeze, Kansas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Mark Hudspeth, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, T.C.U., Texas Tech, Western Kentucky
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