2011 Who's Hot & Not
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Who's Hot ... Championship Week
Who's Not ...
12. Middle Tennessee
It's one thing to lose to a 4-7 North Texas team. It's another thing entirely to get completely dressed down in Denton the way the Blue Raiders did this weekend. Losers of six in a row to close out a brutal 2011 campaign, the team was trounced, 59-7, in all phases of the game. Middle Tennessee was careless with the ball, allowed a blocked punt for six and yielded more than 300 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to Mean Green RB Lance Dunbar.
11. Colorado State
The Rams dropped the 103rd meeting of the Border War to Wyoming, 22-19. For the squad and embattled fourth-year head coach Steve Fairchild, the defeat was their eighth straight since getting off to a surprising 3-1 start. The program was never able to gain much traction on either side of the ball, needing a lot more than RB Chris Nowke and young defenders Nordly Capi, Mike Orakpo and Shaquil Barrett in order to stay competitive in the Mountain West Conference.
Winters in Upstate New York are always long. For the Orange football squad it's going to be unusually protracted. At 5-2, and coming off a huge upset of West Virginia, Syracuse appeared as if it was going to build on last year's long-awaited return to the postseason. And then the wheels came off the program. Doug Marrone's kids haven't won a game since, dropping five straight to fall one excruciating victory away from another bowl invitation. Actually, after witnessing the Orange cough it up a half-dozen times, this team did not earn a shot to play a bonus game later in the month.
9. South Florida (in crunch time)
The Bulls just never quite learned how to win the close ones in Skip Holtz's second season in Tampa. Thursday night's 30-27 heartbreaking loss to West Virginia on a walk-off field goal was a microcosm for South Florida's 2011 season. The program, which will miss the postseason for the first time since 2004, has played in five games decided by no more than a touchdown since beating Notre Dame in the opener … and lost every one of them.
8. Connecticut Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni
So what did Pasqualoni do in his return to the Big East? He inherited a conference champion, and guided it to a 5-7 mark. The Huskies looked poorly coached throughout the season, both on offense and defense. While the offensive troubles were understandable, Connecticut had way too much talent to be so darn mediocre on the defensive side of the ball. The team wrapped up the schedule with its fourth road defeat in five games, looking awfully chippy and undisciplined in a 35-27 loss to Cincinnati. There'll be a short leash going forward on Pasqualoni, who'll need to bounce back in a hurry in 2012.
7. UCLA's Bowl Destination
On Wednesday, the NCAA approved a waiver that would allow a sub-.500 Bruins team to participate in the postseason. On Friday, the Bruins made that decision relevant, bowing to Oregon, 49-31, in the Pac-12 Championship Game for their sixth road loss in seven 2011 attempts. If 6-7 UCLA winds up receiving an invitation from, say, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, it'll become the symbol of a bowl lineup that's become far too bloated over the years.
6. Virginia Tech (versus Clemson)
Besides Oklahoma, no one had a worse weekend than the Hokies, which seemed to be heading toward an ACC crown … until Clemson decided to reprise its role from two months ago. For the second time this season, Tech was outclassed by the Tigers in a crucial game, losing in North Carolina, 38-10. The Hokies were basically out coached on this night, failing to adjust to coordinator Kevin Steele assertive defensive scheme aimed at stopping all-star RB David Wilson. In two games against Clemson this fall, Virginia Tech has now been outscored 61-13 for its only defeats of the season.
5. Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis
No one wants to pile on a kid who's giving it all, but Lewis had no business running into Wisconsin P Brad Nortman in the final two minutes of the Big Ten Championship Game. Trailing by three, Michigan State had set up for a punt return, which Keshawn Martin took all the way back to the Badgers' two-yard line. Absolutely no worse than overtime, right? Uh-uh. The penalty not only negated a clutch return from Martin, but it also gave the ball back to Wisconsin, who promptly drained the remaining seconds from the clock.
4. The State of Football in Austin
These are unusually lean times for the Longhorns, which have split their previous 24 games over the last two seasons. If the trend cannot be turned around in 2012, changes are sure to come to the staff. Sixth place in a Big 12 that shrunk to ten teams this season? That's hard to fathom at a University that enjoys an instant edge in facilities and general resources compared to most of its opponents. Texas got abused by Baylor, 48-24, which has historically been a punching bag in this series. The ‘Horns wrapped up the regular season with three losses in four games, regressing from a promising September start.
3. Conference USA
Hasn't this poor conference already dealt with enough adversity this fall? Forced to become a sheep herder, regularly corralling potential defectors, Commissioner Britton Banowsky was forced to watch his torchbearer, Houston, squander an opportunity to qualify for a BCS bowl game. Not only would a Cougars' appearance in a marquee event be a public relations boon to the troubled conference, but it would have been a financial windfall for each of the dozen members as well. Had Houston held serve against Southern Miss, Conference USA would have been in a position to divvy up more than $10 million of postseason proceeds.
2. Georgia (in the Georgia Dome)
So much for the Bulldogs having a slight edge from playing so close to home. For the second time this season, Georgia got roughed up in the Georgia Dome, disappointing a large contingency of red-clad fans in a neutral site showdown. In the opener, the Dawgs feel meekly to Boise State, 35-21. On Saturday, they were unable to sustain a fast start versus the nation's top-ranked team, giving up 42 unanswered points to LSU in the SEC Championship Game. For the season, Mark Richt's squad is 10-1 outside of the Georgia Dome, and 0-2 inside the building.
The Sooners simply didn't show up in Stillwater, an indictment of everyone from the players to the staff. If the 44-10 loss to Oklahoma State wasn't the worst loss in the Bob Stoops era, it's certainly on the short list. Oklahoma has been one of the nation's biggest disappointments since the middle of the year, dropping three games, including one to a bad Texas Tech team to kick off the slide. This was supposed to be a prime contender for a national championship, right there with LSU and Alabama. Instead, the Sooners finished in a third-place tie in the Big 12, on the outside of the BCS bowl discussion.
Who's Hot ... Championship Week