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Zemek: 2011's Hidden Storylines
Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey
Western Kentucky RB Bobby Rainey
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2011


Zemek Thought: The hidden storylines behind some of the biggest achievements


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- Fiutak: Who Really Deserves The Heisman?
- Cirminiello: Welcome Back, USC
- Harrison: The Bright Future Of Michigan vs. Ohio State  
- Zemek: 2011's Hidden Storylines
- Sallee: South Carolina's Special Season
- Johnson: Virginia's Huge Step Forward
 
By Matt Zemek

At this late point in the college football season – with only one skeletal Saturday left (plus Army-Navy on Dec. 10) – long arguments are hard to make. Ears are weary of extended dissertations. The tumult and the shouting of 13 Saturdays have left emotions raw while hardening different fan bases into entrenched realms of opinion.

The national championship game, the Heisman Trophy, the BCS bowl picture – everyone has an opinion on these contests and probably won’t be swayed. In light of this landscape, it’s worth offering facts more than opinions, plain realities instead of analytical remarks that can be spun. Do you want to begin to make sense of the 2011 college football season? You’re not going to have an easy time of it.

Consider the following:

South Carolina beat Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson en route to a 10-2 season… and did not defend its SEC East title. The Gamecocks beat Tennessee, Florida and Clemson without Marcus Lattimore (and Stephen Garcia)… and are not playing LSU this Saturday. Why? Because Georgia went 10-0 after its 0-2 start… and because South Carolina couldn’t beat Auburn at home.

Southern Mississippi went 10-2 and reached the Conference USA title game for the first time since 2006… and it lost to Marshall and UAB to miss out on a BCS bowl.

Louisville lost at home to Florida International and Marshall… and – with a West Virginia win over South Florida on Thursday – would earn a legitimate share of the Big East championship. (The Cardinals already own a technical share of the league title, but a possible head-to-head tie with Cincinnati would give the Bearcats the rightful top spot in the conference.)

Wisconsin went 10-2 through 12 games… going 2-2 in true road games and trailing Illinois 14-0 in one of those two road wins.

Michigan went 10-2… and didn’t beat a single ranked team on the road.

Stanford went 11-1… and won one game against a team with more than eight victories.

Houston didn’t beat a single ranked team en route to a 12-0 record.

The team with the best record in the Pac-12 South won’t play for the league championship… and the Pac-12 South champion might very well not make a bowl game. Moreover, if UCLA loses to Oregon this Friday and the NCAA denies the Bruins a waiver for a bowl game, Utah will be the only bowl-eligible Pac-12 South team with a winning record.

Western Kentucky went 0-4 out of conference… and crafted a winning season after winning a combined total of just two games in 2009 and 2010.

Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech won conference championships, with Arkansas State having a chance to sew up the outright Sun Belt crown this weekend.

Florida International wound up winning two more regular-season games this year (eight) than last year (six)… and didn’t sniff the Sun Belt title.

Eastern Michigan won more games this season than in the last three seasons COMBINED… and did not gain bowl eligibility.

None of the three Big East teams involved in the league’s potential three-way tie have a non-conference win over a ranked team.

BYU is 8-3… and has one win over a team with a winning record: 6-5 Utah State (what if the Aggies lose to New Mexico State this weekend?).

Notre Dame went 8-4… and won one game against a ranked team (Michigan State). The Irish didn’t win one road game against an opponent with a winning record.

Baylor will finish ahead of Texas A&M, Missouri, and Texas Tech (and possibly Texas if it beats the Longhorns this weekend)… and not end up in the top three of the Big 12.

Utah State, for all its blown leads, could clinch second place in the WAC with a win in week 14.

Great records can be backed up by soft schedules, and achievements that might seem phenomenal in one year can become decidedly modest when surrounded by other circumstances and details. This is never an easy sport to make sense of, and that’s part of why college football inspires such heated passions each year. More will be said about the 2011 season, but for now, just realize that appearances can be – and often are – deceiving.
 
- Fiutak: Who Really Deserves The Heisman?
- Cirminiello: Welcome Back, USC
- Harrison: The Bright Future Of Michigan vs. Ohio State  
- Zemek: 2011's Hidden Storylines
- Sallee: South Carolina's Special Season
- Johnson: Virginia's Huge Step Forward