Before The Week 12 Games, 2
- Final Thoughts
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Final Thoughts, Week
By Matt Zemek
OKLAHOMA STATE-IOWA STATE: In week 12, the games are dogs with fleas, so - as a twist - I'll use this week's "Final Thoughts" to comment on teams more than games in some cases. First up, Oklahoma State. Did this team do anything special out of conference? Is the Big 12 anything more than a three-team league (OSU, Oklahoma, and Kansas State)? The Cowboys are really good, but once again, it is possible to pass through 12 games and yet be a less-than-fully-known, less-than-fully-proven entity. (Looking at you, Alabama, Boise State and Stanford.)
THE CITADEL-SOUTH CAROLINA: I admire Steve Spurrier and think he's one of the freshest, most original people (not necessarily characters, but people) American sports has had the pleasure of producing in the past quarter-century. With that said, this was not a successful SEC season for the Gamecocks. Spurrier's playcalling hasn't suffered, but his continued inability to develop a top-flight quarterback is what cost his team the Auburn game this year. Seeing Georgia eviscerate Auburn at home must have made Spurrier physically sick. With Marcus Lattimore in the backfield, the Gamecocks' passing game still couldn't do much of anything against Auburn in early October, and that's why Georgia is about to be crowned SEC East champion. Moreover, a 9-2 record - likely to be achieved against The Citadel - doesn't mean much when it's attained against the SEC East and Mississippi State plus a few extra cupcakes and one of Navy's less imposing teams in recent years. A win over Clemson is necessary (not optional) if South Carolina wants to view this season as a really, really good one.
KENTUCKY-GEORGIA: Georgia's soon-to-be 7-1 SEC record is a testament to the belief and perseverance of a team that could have lost faith at 0-2. The Bulldogs refuted me and many other columnists who felt that the South Carolina loss on Sept. 10 was a death-knell for coach Mark Richt, who not only saved his job, but reminded the SEC why he's been the best thing to hit the Hedges this side of Vince Dooley. Richt's fourth-and-five and fourth-and-six masterstrokes against Florida won that game for the Dawgs. That performance in Jacksonville will long remain one of the high points in Richt's
career, which is littered with top-shelf
demonstrations of coaching acumen.
It appeared that Richt's tenure had lost steam – and needed to be put to bed –when the Dawgs lost their first two games of 2011. It's true that Georgia, much like South Carolina, has posted a league record based on a soft schedule more than anything else. Yet, Georgia did more with its cushy slate than the Gamecocks did with theirs. That's how the Hedge clippings tumble, sports fans. Kudos to Richt, one of the gentlemen of college football’s coaching fraternity, for renewing his career precisely when the Weekly Affirmation thought his time in Athens had run out.
NEBRASKA-MICHIGAN: The winner of this game, if it goes 10-2 and sees Michigan State beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, will have a very realistic chance to make a BCS bowl. You know that Boise State would be favored against the Huskers or the Wolverines, and would very likely win. Yes, don't you just LOVE how fair and democratic college football is? Oh, about the game: It's such sweet irony that Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson, two players who inspired countless ecstatic utterances among commentators in the early weeks of October 2010 - with some of the most over-the-top Heisman coronation statements ever recorded - now meet in a high-stakes game.
Martinez and Robinson seem to be two fine fellows, yet, one must forthrightly note that the hosannas lavished upon them in 2010 had a Beano Cook-Ron Powlus quality to them. Martinez and Robinson remind us all that Heisman hype in early October is one of the great wastes of oxygen in all of college football. Simply stated, the quarterback that makes fewer eye-popping mistakes in either red zone is the quarterback most likely to win.
INDIANA-MICHIGAN STATE: Michigan State has certainly had its share of wobbly moments this season, but last week's thumping of Iowa at Kinnick Stadium moved the needle to "non-Spartylicious" in terms of the disappointment quotient this autumn in East Lansing. If Mark Dantonio's team goes 10-2 and wins the Legends Division outright, it's a successful year for Michigan State. If Sparty loses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, it can't be faulted for splitting two games against the Badgers. (If a team other than Wisconsin plays Michigan State in Indianapolis, MSU will then be expected to win. Stay tuned.)
MINNESOTA-NORTHWESTERN: Pat Fitzgerald is overrated. Yet, getting Northwestern to a bowl with a win against Minnesota would be one of the more satisfying turnarounds of his career. The feat, if attained, would give fresh momentum to the NU program.
WISCONSIN-ILLINOIS: If the Zooker can't pull off an upset here, what leg does he - should he? - have to stand on? Meanwhile, simply note that even though Wisconsin controls its fate in the Leaders Division, the Badgers have lost two games and played below their personal expectations. Want to know why Russell Wilson shouldn't be within 3,500 miles of New York on the second Saturday of December? It's because he played like his North Carolina State self for most of those two losses (against Michigan State and Ohio State). If you're a tennis fan, you'll immediately be able to identify with the following statement: Russell Wilson is the Andy Murray of college quarterbacks.
LOUISVILLE-CONNECTICUT: If the Big East didn't exist, pundits' prediction records would look so much better. The pick here: Louisville. Yes, go celebrate, you Husky fans out there.
CINCINNATI-RUTGERS: Prediction: Rutgers. That sound you heard was the city of Cincinnati shouting for joy.
MISSISSIPPI STATE-ARKANSAS: Speaking of teams we still don't know much about, consider Arkansas. The one elite team to play the Hogs, Alabama, pulled plenty of Pork in a 24-point rout. We're waiting for LSU, Razorbacks.
SMU-HOUSTON: Kudos to College GameDay for paying a visit to Conference USA. In future seasons, GameDay needs to go to the MAC and the Sun Belt when a Saturday slate is as exciting as plain oatmeal. Moreover, it's the tilt with Tulsa on Nov. 25 which will likely represent the biggest threat to Houston's highest aspirations.
COLORADO STATE-TCU: Just when you thought the Horned Frogs would have to settle for a thoroughly unspectacular season free of big accomplishments, they did the job in Boise, Idaho. Gary Patterson's program - for the fourth straight year - can say that it has achieved something of significance. That's not easy to do for any program.
PENN STATE-OHIO STATE: If you said the final score was going to be 17-13 either way, how many people would disagree with you?
NAVY-SAN JOSE STATE: Northwestern was 2-5 and could go to a bowl. Navy, once 2-6, should move to 5-6 on Saturday and put itself in position to play for a bowl bid in the Army-Navy Game on Dec. 10. If Navy does make a bowl this season, the Midshipmen would notch their ninth straight bowl appearance. Chew on that for a bit.
UTAH-WASHINGTON STATE: This game has Pac-12 South Division championship implications. There's nothing else one can say.
VANDERBILT-TENNESSEE: If Vanderbilt wins, the balance of power in this rivalry really and truly could change. There's nothing else one can say.
VIRGINIA-FLORIDA STATE: Mike London has quietly done the best coaching job this side of Bill Snyder in 2011.
USC-OREGON: If USC can force overtime, Lane Kiffin had better go for two and the win. Good luck getting that far against the Ducks, though.
OKLAHOMA-BAYLOR: Oklahoma wasn't nearly as good last year as it is this year... and OU thrashed Baylor by a 53-24 score last year in Waco. 'Nuff said.
BOISE STATE-SAN DIEGO STATE: This was SUPPOSED to be Boise's last test on the path to 12-0. At any rate, if BSU finishes 11-1 and dominoes fall in certain directions, some BCS bowl committees should (not WILL, mind you, but SHOULD) discuss their at-large selections with care and discernment.
KANSAS STATE-TEXAS: When I wondered a few weeks ago how Texas Tech could POSSIBLY be an 11-point dog at Texas, I was quickly shown the answer: Texas Tech stopped playing after its upset of Oklahoma. Now, I'm wondering how Kansas State could POSSIBLY be a nine-point dog at Texas. I don't think I'll find an answer to this riddle.
ARIZONA-ARIZONA STATE: It would be so Arizona State of Arizona State to lose against one of the most dysfunctional Arizona teams of all time.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
- Despite the lack of decent competition, it’s clear that Georgia’s defense is legit. Jarvis Jones transferred to UGA after injuring his neck while at USC in 2009, and has made a huge difference for the Bulldogs. That defense is playing like the crew that occupied Athens during the Brian VanGorder years. Georgia isn’t good enough to contend with Alabama’s and LSU’s yet, but its good enough to do it once. If that once is in the Georgia Dome the first week of December, that’s all that matters.
- SMU at Houston? Really, Gameday?
- Again, it’s Penn State the institution that’s the problem. When the team goes on the road this weekend to Ohio State, remember that the players didn’t do anything wrong. This talk of Penn State forgoing a bowl game is ridiculous. Bowls are for the players, and shouldn’t be taken away.
- Vanderbilt a road favorite over Tennessee? Raise your hand if you saw that coming in July. With that said, Vandy has earned that reputation. James Franklin is doing some great things in Nashville, and one of these days, that signature win is going to happen - as in this Saturday.
- Derek Dooley isn’t really on the hot seat yet, but ask again on Sunday.
- I get that Kansas State is still viewed as a bit of a mystery and possibly even overrated. But why in the world is Texas a nine-point favorite over the Wildcats? Has anyone in Vegas actually watched Texas play this season?
- But then again, the boys in Vegas live in big houses and drive fancy cars for a reason.
- I get that we are all worried about a BCS doomsday scenario; but this time last month, we were all freaking out about 12 undefeated teams. These thing typically work themselves out, and they probably will again this year. LSU vs. Oklahoma State for the crystal football would be wildly intriguing.
- When conference expansion actually takes hold, I hope one of the results is a better slate of games the weekend before rivalry week.
- Did another popular video game come out this week? No? Good, so everybody’s focused...including Louisville.
Final Thoughts, Week