Cavalcade of Whimsy
Nov. 13, 2012
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- Nov. 13, Part 1 - Really, why is Notre Dame No. 3?
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
With all of the focus on the race for the BCS championship, here are the ten under-the-radar cool things happening in college football that you should know about.
10. Minnesota is 6-4
It wasn't all that long ago that Minnesota was a regular on the bowl circuit, and yes, there was a time in the first half of the last century when the program was among college football's superpowers. The firing of Glen Mason and the follow up with the Tim Brewster experience led to two straight 3-9 seasons and little hope to improve things right away. Instead, in his second season, Jerry Kill has made the Gophers interesting with a 6-4 record and the chance to go bowling again. There's a decent win over Syracuse and a nice victory over Purdue, but really, they got to six wins by beating the weak and the sad. No matter – it's a step forward. The secondary has been excellent, Donnell Kirkwood and the running game have been solid, and things appear to be on the right track.
9. The Sun Belt is going bowling
The ACC, SEC, Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten aren't likely to fill in all of its bowl slots. Conference USA will struggle to get five teams bowl eligible, and there should be openings all across the board considering on how the final few weeks go. That means the Sun Belt should be one of the biggest beneficiaries with five teams – Arkansas State, Middle Tennessee, ULM, Louisiana-Lafayette and WKU – almost certain to get a bowl slot, and with Troy needing a win over ASU or Middle Tennessee to be eligible. And here's the nice part for the conference; all the bowl eligible teams are coming back. FIU and North Texas will be off to Conference USA without a post-season appearance this season.
8. The healthy return of Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene
Considering the gruesome leg injury Greene suffered in the bowl game last year, there didn't appear to be any way he'd be able to return in time to do anything of note. A hard-hitting safety before 2011, he made a seamless transition to linebacker, racking up a Big East-best 141 tackles, 14 stops for loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles before the devastating blow. However, he came back in a hurry and has been every bit as strong, cranking out 96 tackles so far including 22 last week against Army and a forced fumble. On the year he leads the nation with six forced fumbles, has picked off two passes, and has been every bit the disruptive force he was before the injury.
7. Kent State vs. Northern Illinois?
It's not exactly going to generate the excitement of Alabama vs. Georgia or Oregon vs. USC/UCLA, but the potential is there for the greatest MAC championship game ever. Kent State is 6-0 in conference play and 9-1 overall, overcoming an early loss to Kentucky to rip off eight straight wins. However, now comes the hard part. If the Golden Flashes can get past the nasty Bowling Green defense that's the best in the MAC, they'll win the East, but there's still a tough date against Ohio to finish. The offense is suspect and the defense isn't as good as it has been in years past, but the team is No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin.
Meanwhile, Northern Illinois is one play away from being unbeaten, giving up a late touchdown in the opener against Iowa to lose 18-17. The Huskies have cranked out nine straight wins and haven't even been challenged in MAC action winning all six games by double-digits. However, they have to win against Toledo or else the Rockets will take over the top spot in the West. If they can get by, they should be able to beat Eastern Michigan for an 11-1 regular season and a 13-win campaign on the table.
6. A real, live Mountain West race
It was supposed to be The Boise State Invitation as the program hung around for one more season before going off to the Big East. Instead, San Diego State shocked the league two weeks ago with a win on the blue turf, and now there's a fun fight for the league's top spot. Nevada was supposed to be a player, but it hasn't brought and defense, while Air Force has been way too inconsistent on both sides of the ball. However, those two form a solid midsection dividing the haves from the Wyomings and UNLVs.
Fresno State and RB Robbie Rouse rumbled all over the Wolf Pack last week, but now there's a three-way tie up top after the Bulldogs beat the Aztecs, the Aztecs beat the Broncos and the Broncos beat the Bulldogs. Boise State has to go to Nevada and has to beat Colorado State, but in the end there should a good finish and a likely tie among three great teams. Fresno State closes with Air Force and San Diego State goes to Wyoming.
It has been a tough time for Kansas football. Not only did the Jayhawks go into the tank during the Turner Gill fiasco, but Year One under Charlie Weis has been a disaster record-wise. KU beat South Dakota State to kick of the season, and since has gone on to lose nine straight games thanks to one of the worst passing attacks in college football. However, considering Weis's résumé of coaching quarterbacks, it might seem like nothing is working, right? Despite being outmanned and outgunned, KU has lost five games by a touchdown or less including last weekend's 41-34 overtime heartbreaker against Texas Tech. The key has been the running of junior David Sims, who overcame a three-game suspension to rip off seven straight 100-yard games after easing into the season with 91 and two scores against Northern Illinois. KU will probably go 1-11, but now there's hope.
4. The smart guys
It's one of the most common questions I'm asked; "who should I root for?" It's never a bad thing to cheer for the truest of student-athletes at the FBS level – the really, really smart guys.
Put aside the chokes by a Northwestern team that should be on the way to the Big Ten title game instead of jockeying for bowl position. Considering the restrictions on recruiting and admissions, being 7-3 isn't bad. Duke is 6-4 and on its way to a bowl game for the first time since losing to Wisconsin in the 1994 Hall of Fame Bowl, and Vanderbilt became bowl eligible with a 6-4 record in a good year for the SEC East. Stanford is 8-2 and in a position to play for the Pac-12 title with a win over Oregon, while Academic Progress Report superstar Rutgers has a solid shot of wining the Big East title.
This is the promise and potential that was supposed to come under Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins played for the Pac-12 title last season because USC couldn't go, but this season they can jump in without any sort of an asterisk. Brett Hundley is one of the nation's hottest young quarterbacks, and Johnathan Franklin is coming up with a terrific season ranking sixth in the nation in rushing. The offense that last year at this time was a dismal 89th in scoring hadn't put up more than 34 points, but this season the O is averaging close to 38 points per game and only dipped below the mark three times. The defense had one of the nation's worst pass rushes, in 2011, but under new head coach Jim Mora Jr., UCLA is fourth in the nation in sacks. The turnaround might be great, but it will feel empty without a win over USC to win the South this weekend.
2. True freshman Kenneth Dixon, running back, Louisiana Tech.
A nice recruit for the program, he lit it up last year as a high school senior in Arkansas with a state-record 3,153 yards and 39 touchdowns on the way to a state title and the honor of being Mr. Football. He had the chance to go to the big SEC schools, but instead the slippery 6-0, 215-pounder has become the focal point of a Bulldog attack that leads the nation in total offense. With 1,052 yards, Dixon has turned in a nice first year yardage-wise, but he has become legendary with a record-setting 24 rushing touchdowns with one receiving score. A lot of the big stats might be coming against the Texas State's of the world – he ran for 144 yards and four touchdowns last week to go along with a scoring grab – but he also ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M.
In almost any other year, Clemson would be considered a terror with wins over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but those victories might not be quite as great as they seem, however, this has still be a great year. It might not be the national title campaign of 1981, and there won't be a second-straight ACC title without a minor miracle, but the Tigers should be on their way to a BCS appearance as an at-large team if they can at least split their final two games against NC State and South Carolina. If they can win them both, and pull off a victory in the BCS bowl, a top five finish is possible.
The problem is a loss on the road to Florida State that's gumming up the fun. However, this appears to be a stronger, mentally-tougher team than the 2011 version with its last eight wins all coming in double-digit blowout fashion. Seventh in the nation in total offense, sixth in scoring and fourth in passing efficiency, led by a huge season from Tajh Boyd, the Tigers are rolling through everyone over the last six weeks. With two more wins, this would be the first 11-victory season since that fabled 1981 run, and with three more wins, even without an ACC title, this could be the second greatest season in the program's history.
Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.
- Don't get hung up on the playoff talk for two years from now. A committee will choose the top four teams. Despite the best efforts of the BCS types, thanks to the playoff, the "access" bowls just won't mean as much as it did to get a BCS invite.
- It's a shame Louisville lost to Syracuse. I was just getting ready to make a big deal out of QB Teddy Bridgewater after the promotion the school sent out that included a piece of Bazooka Joe.
- Texas played around with it in honor of the late Darrell Royal, but the wishbone still works in today's day and age of college football. More spread teams should incorporate the formation here and there.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Tommy Tuberville's "unfortunate" incident … Underrated: Daimion Stafford's fight with Bo Pelini
2) Overrated: Derek Dooley on the hot seat … Underrated: Tennessee possibly finishing 6-6 with a bowl appearance
3) Overrated: Bobby Hebert ... Underrated: Zach Mettenberger
4) Overrated: Still thinking Alabama might be the best team ... Underrated: One Harris Poll voter ranking the Tide No. 1.
5) Overrated: Johnny Manziel ... Underrated: Collin Klein
"If it were me, I'd bet everything. But that's me. I'm an aggressive gambler. Mr. Vegas. Come on. Go for it. Go for it. Yes, yes, there we go. I'm in."
… Ahhhhhh, that's much better. 7-1 against the spread – thanks, Temple against Cincinnati – getting Texas A&M, Northwestern, Minnesota and Texas State right to push my record to 32-19 ATS.
- Purdue -7 over Illinois
- Maryland +31 over Florida State (a double-digit home dog)
- West Virginia +10.5 over Oklahoma (DDHD)
- UCLA +4 over USC
- Baylor +11.5 over Kansas State (DDHD)
- Stanford +21 over Oregon
- Washington -20 over Colorado
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … it was going well, and then USC let the air out of it.
- Nov. 13, Part 1 - Really, why is Notre Dame No. 3?