Ten Themes for Saturday: Week 14
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 3, 2011
Ten teams, themes, games and players to watch for Saturday. Pretty straightforward. Here we go:
Making a case for Houston During last week’s game between Arkansas and L.S.U., CBS Sports announcer Gary Danielson stated that if L.S.U. loses in the B.C.S. title game, the Tigers should still be named the national champion in The Associated Press poll. Danielson’s logic was simple: L.S.U. would have one loss and Alabama one loss, and each split the year’s two-game series. With a win, Alabama would be the B.C.S. national champion. L.S.U. would get the top spot in the A.P. poll as a sort of reward for a perfect regular season.
I can see where Danielson is coming from. But I’ll go one step further: if L.S.U. loses to Alabama on Jan. 9, I’d promote a 13-0 Houston team for the No. 1 spot in the A.P. poll. That would involve Houston beating Southern Mississippi today and getting past Michigan in the Sugar Bowl; most have pegged Michigan for that B.C.S. at-large bid. If L.S.U. loses and Houston wins out, wouldn’t the Cougars be deserving of being recognized by the A.P. voters?
Send ‘em all, minus two South Florida’s collapse is complete. After starting 4-0, beating Notre Dame along the way, the Bulls followed a strong September with seven losses in eight games, ending the program’s six-year bowl streak. But the Bulls could be the only one of only two Big East teams to stay home during bowl play. West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers have already reached bowl eligibility. Connecticut can follow suit by beating the Bearcats this afternoon. One of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, who meet today, will land a bowl berth with a win.
Sending roughly 75 percent of a league’s teams is fairly common for a B.C.S. conference. Nine of the A.C.C.’s 12 teams are bowl eligible, though 6-6 Miami (Fla.) has already decided to stay home as part of its self-imposed sanctions. Eight of the 10 Big 12 teams are bowl eligible; likewise with 10 of the Big Ten’s 12 teams and nine of the SEC’s 12 teams.
The Pac-12 is the exception, however. Four teams are simply not bowl eligible. A fifth, U.S.C., is banned from postseason play by the N.C.A.A. A sixth, 6-7 U.C.L.A., is only eligible because it received an N.C.A.A. waiver.
Snyder vs. Snyder In terms of one specific date, the best game Bill Snyder ever coached might have been the 2003 Big 12 title game, when his underdog Wildcats shocked then-undefeated Oklahoma. His best win with Kansas State, however, came in 1998: after years of getting taken behind the woodshed, the Wildcats finally beat Nebraska. And what has been Snyder’s best coaching job, season-long edition? The contenders include 1991, when Kansas State first broke though; 1993, the program’s first nine-win season since 1910; 1997, its first 11-win season; and any year from 1998-2000 and 2002-3.
I happily put 2011 in for consideration. The difference in talent level between Kansas State and the top tier of the Big 12 has been obvious, and not in Kansas State’s favor. The difference in coaching, however, has been firmly tilted in Kansas State’s direction all season. Simply put, there may not be a finer coach in America. There may not be a better coach in college football history, let alone coaching today.
Time and time again, Snyder coaxed a wonderful performance out of a team most, including me, pegged for a seven-win season. Seven wins may be kind; some had projected Kansas State to max out at five wins. There’s a reason you play the games. And there’s a reason Snyder is a legend: in the history of this game, no one has ever done more with less.
Griffin III makes his case So Andrew Luck won’t play again until January. His regular season, unfortunately, is over. The same goes for Trent Richardson, who ended his regular season by romping all over Auburn in last weekend’s Iron Bowl. One of the three Heisman leaders has one more bullet in his gun, however. Robert Griffin III has one more game with which to make his case, and fortunately for Griffin, it’s against Texas. Say what you will about the Longhorns, who have improved over 2010 but remain a work-in-progress: Texas is still Texas, and lighting up the Longhorns will still impress the masses.
So what does Griffin need to do tonight to leapfrog ahead of Luck and Richardson? That’s projecting that he’s running a close third in this year’s Heisman race. Most of all, Baylor needs to win. What about a win along with 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns? How about 400 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns but in a loss?
What about 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and 4 scores but no highlight reel moment? Would that be enough for Griffin? My take: a win combined with 400 yards of total offense may be enough. The most important number of all, should that occur, will be 9-3: that’s Baylor’s final record with a victory. That stands out.
The most popular guy in town If Arkansas State beats Troy this afternoon, giving the Red Wolves a 10-2 record, Hugh Freeze will have made $20,216 per win in 2011. In comparison, Mississippi will have paid Houston Nutt $1.4 million per win in 2011. Not surprisingly, Nutt won’t be returning to Oxford in 2012. Freeze is the lowest-paid coach in America, according to USA Today’s database of salaries, which does not contain contract details for those coaches working at private universities. So you can see why Freeze has become such a coaching commodity as Arkansas State wraps up its regular season; you can also see why Mississippi, where Freeze was once an assistant, is interested in his services.
Where could he land in 2012? If he goes to any major school, I’d put the Rebels as a heavy favorite. But don’t rule out the potential for Freeze to make a slight jump up the coaching ladder by moving to Southern Mississippi, should Larry Fedora be hired by a Kansas or Arizona State. That would be painful for Arkansas State, but the Southern Mississippi job would represent a step up for Freeze. Should he win in Hattiesburg, Freeze might become even more popular than he is today. Though that hardly seems possible.
Mercifully, it’s over Fresno State has been the most disappointing non-B.C.S. conference team in the country. That Boise State lost one game isn’t a disappointment; it’s upsetting, but to call the Broncos a disappointment would ignore the fact that you, if you’re like most fans, were rooting for the Broncos to lose all season. Fresno State’s disappointing season will mercifully come to a close tonight, when the Bulldogs travel to San Diego State to cap a 13-game regular season. The added game might give Fresno nine losses, something the program hasn’t done since 1973. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The Bulldogs opened September with two fairly competitive losses to California and Nebraska. That was followed by two wins and another loss to Mississippi; that loss wasn’t good, but it did come against a B.C.S. conference opponent. Fresno showed its true colors in a 57-7 loss to Boise State on Oct. 7: quite simply, the Bulldogs quit.
This was a team most had pegged as a leading contender for a depleted WAC. If Fresno was ever going to win it, thought most, it would be now. Since Fresno is Mountain West-bound in 2012, that elusive WAC crown, something the Bulldogs haven’t taken home since 1999, is never going to happen.
Not a pretty 8-3 B.Y.U. is 8-3, but it’s not like the Cougars are running through the SEC. Well, the Cougars did get past one SEC team, Mississippi, but only by a single point. Nothing to write home about, in other words. But in all, only one of B.Y.U.’s wins, Utah State, has come against a team with more than four wins. The Cougars have as many wins against bowl eligible teams as F.C.S. teams. It hasn’t really been the year the program may have planned in its first season as an F.B.S. Independent.
What did the Cougars expect? What did I expect? I thought B.Y.U. would go 10-2; 9-3, with a win over Hawaii tonight, isn’t that much worse, but the Cougars have lost to the only three teams of consequence on the schedule. Texas sneaked past by a single point. Utah blew their doors off. T.C.U. had more than enough in the tank for a 38-28 win.
The wins have come over the Rebels, the Aggies, U.C.F., San Jose State, Oregon State, Idaho State, Idaho and New Mexico State. But there have been positive signs. The offense took a giant step forward once Riley Nelson replaced Jake Heaps at quarterback. That Heaps played well in Nelson’s stead while the latter deals with an injury is a great sign for his still-promising future. The defense has improved significantly over the last two months. But yes, the improvement does coincide with the easing up of the schedule.
Another shot at Clemson Virginia Tech’s David Wilson took the Clemson loss hard. “The team got in there and just like a rage came over me and I was screaming at my team telling them we shouldn’t have lost that game,” he said, as reported by Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times. “‘They’re not better than us.’ And I told them we weren’t going to lose any more games. And I told them I mean it.” Wilson was good to his word: since losing to Clemson on Oct. 1, Virginia Tech has rolled off seven straight wins in A.C.C. play. The Hokies are hot.
Clemson is not. The Tigers, once 8-0, ended the regular season with three losses in four games, none more painful than a 34-13 loss to South Carolina last weekend. Oct. 1 seems more than just two months ago for Clemson, which must attempt to rally the troops with an Orange Bowl berth on the line.
Saturday’s top five passers A fairly easy list: no counting last night’s games, projecting the top five passers from today’s action. I think we can all agree on the first name:
1. Case Keenum. Projection: 467 yards.
2. Brandon Weeden. Projection: 413 yards.
3. Landry Jones. Projection: 376 yards.
4. Austin Davis. Projection: 344 yards.
5. Robert Griffin III. Projection: 328 yards.
P.S.R. top five, before and after The top five entering the weekend and the top five on Sunday, to my best estimation:
4. Oklahoma State.
5. Virginia Tech.
2. Oklahoma State.
5. Virginia Tech.
Suffice to say, I think Oklahoma State should meet L.S.U. on Jan. 9 if it takes care of business against Oklahoma. And I don’t really think it would take a huge, one-sided win. I think the Cowboys merely need to get by, showing just a bit of style in the process, to be considered the best one-loss team in the country. But that’s just me; most think otherwise.
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Tags: Arkansas State, B.Y.U., Baylor, Big East, Bill Snyder, Clemson, Fresno State, Houston, Hugh Freeze, Kansas State, Mississippi, Robert Griffin III, South Florida, The Heisman Trophy, Virginia Tech, WAC
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