Saturday, November 30, 2002

This is what college fans wait for all year. Big games, all rivalries, all with some impact on conference titles, bowls, even the national championship. Needless to say, the biggest games are going on at the same time, and those without a satellite dish or access to a sports bar will miss either USC-Notre Dame or Florida-Florida St. This is the first really important game between the Trojans and the Irish since 1995, when undefeated USC got womped in South Bend, Lou Holtz' last win in the series. A huge effort tonight by Carson Palmer will make him this week's front-runner for the Heisman, and could put SC into a BCS game, regardless of how Wazzou does next week against UCLA. Florida State has not lost to the Gators in Tallahassee in a long time, and needs to win to avoid being the losingest BCS team ever.

Three other games have direct national title/BCS bowl implications. Number one Miami travels to Syracuse, where four years ago it suffered one of its most humiliating losses in the program's history. Oklahoma will attempt to avenge its devastating loss at the end of last season to cross-state rival Oklahoma State, and thereby keep its national title hopes alive. Georgia, which still has faint hopes for playing in Tempe, plays Georgia Tech in a tune-up for its SEC title game next week against Arkansas. I still stand by my earlier prediction that if Oklahoma loses either this week or next week against Colorado, Miami will go to the Fiesta Bowl if it only splits its final two games.

Friday, November 29, 2002

The rest of the long weekend's schedule, starting with the game between the Aggies and Longhorns. The A&M-Texas game is a perfect example of what I spoke about last week, that rivalries without the nicknames or ridiculous trophies tend to be the ones worth watching for the serious fan (the exception that the proves the rule, "The Iron Bowl", is better known to fans outside the state of Alabama as the Auburn-Bama game; I'd been following the sport for about 25 years before I even knew the reference). The other critical game today is the battle to decide the SEC East, Arkansas and LSU. The Razorbacks have drifted under the radar all year, but now find themselves two wins away from a BCS game (and likely match-up with Florida State; two schools with 8-10 losses between them splitting millions, while SC and Texas settle for the Holiday Bowl !!)

Thursday, November 28, 2002

For a holiday that has such strong traditional ties to the gridiron, Thanksgiving has become a rather dull happening for football fans in recent years. Pro fans, of course, get stuck seeing Detroit and Dallas, two of the bottom-feeders in the NFC (btw, both the Lions and Pats are wearing their home jerseys this morning, something that schools used to do all the time in college football; up to 1982, SC and UCLA still did so). The one college game this evening is the "Egg Bowl", between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, a rivalry that captivates absolutely no one outside the Magnolia State. ESPN used to pick up the A&M-Texas game, which always had some bowl ramifications, and even now has a sense of history. Unfortunately, that game got moved to the day after Thanksgiving about five years ago, presumably so ABC could televise it, so college fans are stuck with the Egg Bowl.

The only reason this year's game is interesting to people outside of the state is that Ole Miss needs to win to assure itself a bowl bid. If the Bulldogs win, the SEC would lose a bowl spot, and an at-large bid would open up, probably benefiting Oregon State or Minnesota. Exciting, huh?. The stories ESPN will probably hype tonight, that Eli Manning might turn pro, or that Jackie Sherrill may get canned, are again, only relevant to Mississipeons; outside of Oxford, who gives a rat's ass who Ole Miss' quarterback is. Nevertheless, I'm taping the game, just to see what the big deal is about "Ole Miss sorority girls"; if I don't think they're all that, I may just shut down this site rather than enabling you weirdos.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

In two and a half weeks, we'll know for sure, but the Heisman race has evolved into a battle between East Coast (Larry Johnson) and West Coast (Carson Palmer), neither of whom would have been considered a serious candidate a month ago, much less at the beginning of the season. My hunch is that if Palmer leads SC to a win this Saturday over the Irish, he gets it, sort of as a consolation prize for the Trojans not going to a BCS game.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Miami increases its lead over Ohio State in the BCS ratings, due largely to Washington State's (an early victim of the Buckeyes) fall in the rankings.

Last Saturday will be remembered as the day "football hooligan" became an established presence in the United States. A full-scale riot occurred in Columbus, OH after the Buckeyes earned the right to get punked in the Fiesta Bowl, and mini-riots in Raleigh, Berkeley, and Clemson marred game-ending celebrations. "Fans" in Pullman, WA went ballistic after their school's upset loss in overtime to arch-rival Washington, tossing empty bottles onto the field after a controversial call ended Wazzou's national title hopes. Lastly, fans, coaches and players brawled after Hawaii's come-from-behind victory in Honolulu over Cincinnati.

College sports share many features with European soccer leagues, including hyper-intense local rivalries, a tradition of fans travelling to away games, and a core of young intoxicated fanatics. In England, officials put up with this sort of crap for years before taking effective preventive measures, such as ending bench seating, banning the sale of booze in the stands, as well as in the vicinity of the stadium, and blackballing particularly unsavory fans. If college towns don't want to spend millions of dollars in repairing local businesses and paying higher insurance premiums due to the antics of more than a few drunk students, they might like to start thinking about such measures.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

We're going to have one crappy Fiesta Bowl this year. Ohio State barely got by Michigan, 14-9, with one of the ugliest gameplans in recent memory. Maurice Clarett may well be the best player in the country, and it will be a shame if he gets overlooked in the Heisman balloting, but Miami will find a way to stop (or slow) him, and after Clarett, the Buckeyes got nada. We will be reminded from now til January 3 that The Ohio State University football team did not even play the next best team in its own conference, reminiscent of those SEC national champs of more than 20 years ago, when Bama and Georgia always somehow avoided playing each other. Still, the Big 10 will almost certainly be the one conference to get two schools in BCS bowls, with Iowa a lock for the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines will have to settle for the Capital One (ie. Citrus) Bowl, and a likely blow-out loss to Florida or LSU.

Of course, we're still assuming Miami gets to Tempe. The Hurricanes got by a Pittsburgh team, at home, on Thursday that looked like it would have a hard time winning the MAC Conference, and still have to play an improving Syracuse team at the CarrierDome next Saturday (btw, a correction: contrary to what I wrote on Thursday, Miami hasn't yet clinched the Big East title, since they still have two games to go). The national title will be decided in a game matching the two worst BCS conferences in the nation, and the calls for a national tournament will justifiably increase.

Two schools that would be favored in such a tournament, USC and Oklahoma, both won impressively Saturday. The Trojans recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, scored on its first offensive play, and routed their cross-town rivals, UCLA, 52-21. The ease with which the Trojans defeated a pretty decent Bruins team may finally get the Palmer for Heisman bandwagon moving, but it is unlikely to be sufficient to get SC another look as an at-large team for January 1; their only hope of playing in a BCS bowl rests with the Bruins, who need to beat Wazzou in two weeks to give the Trojans the Pac-10 title.

In Norman, the Sooners had no trouble pounding Texas Tech, 60-15, and are now the likely fallback team should Miami stumble in one of its remaining games (incidentally, should the Sooners lose either to Oklahoma State next week or in the Big-12 title game, Miami might have to lose twice for either Iowa or Georgia to pass them; we'll know more Monday, when the BCS rankings come out). As alluded to above, Washington State blew a ten point lead in the final five minutes to get shocked by UDub in the Apple Cup, 29-26, and now have to beat UCLA on December 7 to win the conference and assure itself a Rose Bowl berth. The Cougars may have to play without star QB Jason Gesser, who left Saturday night's game with a high ankle sprain (the injury looked a lot worse at the time). The late comeback by the Huskies was marred by a controversial call in the third overtime, in which what appeared to be a pass was ruled a lateral and a fumble recovery by Washington, and a nice little Euro-style soccer riot almost ensued in Pullman.

Florida State laid claim to the second official spot in the BCS, in spite of losing to NC State, 17-7, when Maryland was upset by Virginia; the 'Noles now have a chance to be the first five-loss team to play in the Sugar (or Orange) Bowl if they can find a way to lose at home to Florida next week. Harvard beat Yale, 20-13, in a game of little importance featuring two diploma mills that somehow gave college degrees to W. Lastly, after eight long years, Stanford is once again CAL's bitch, after the Bears' easy 30-7 romp in the Big Game.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Well, that sure didn't look like a national championship team. Beating Pitt by a touchdown clinches the Big East title for Miami, but does little to quell the demand for a playoff, especially with Ohio State struggling to win every week. I don't see Miami losing to either Syracuse or the Hokies, though, and the thing about the 'Canes is they always seem to find a way to win.

BTW, since this site seems to get at least one hit a day through Google for "Ole Miss Sorority Girls", I wonder why one of the gentlemen who is into that sort of fetish doesn't set up his own website. It's easy to do on Geocities, and I'm sure those of you who visit here must be very disappointed that this site focuses on a topic, big time college football, that has nothing whatsoever to do with either "Ole Miss" or "sorority girls".

We should have a pretty good idea this weekend who will play in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami plays its last difficult opponent of the season tonight against surprising Pitt (now that VaTech has gone in the proverbial toilet), while Ohio State and Michigan conclude their season in a rivalry that needs no nickname or cheesy trophy. One thing to note: if both schools lose this weekend, it not only shakes up the national title race, but it could mean that neither school will play in a BCS game, since both schools would lose their conferences.

Of course, this is what is known as Rivalry Week, where most of the illustrious match-ups in the sport take place. College powers (Michigan-Ohio St., Bama-Auburn, SC-UCLA) share the spotlight with perennial mediocrities (Stanford-CAL, Indiana-Purdue), bottom-feeders (Yale-Harvard, UL(Lafayette)-UL(Monroe)), and blow-outs (Illinois-Northwestern, Tennessee-Vandy). Note to the unwashed: if the rivalry has a nickname (ie., "The Game", "The Big Game", "The Egg Bowl", "The Civil War") or is primarily known for a totem of some kind ("The Old Oaken Bucket", "The Whisky Barrell", "The Apple Cup"), the game will be of interest only to alums.

ESPN has been all over the fact that this is the 20th Anniversary of "The Play", when six CAL players ran through a dozen Stanford special teams players and their entire marching band to win on the last play of The Big Game, 25-20. Speaking as an alum, the sweetest aspect of that game was who the losing QB was; during his stay at the farm, Elway was 1-3 in Big Games, and never led the Cardinal to a winning record or a bowl game. Of course, since 1982, CAL has beaten Stanford exactly four times, even though the schools have approximately the same overall record.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

As expected, the NCAA upheld the ban on post-season play for CAL, but set aside the scholarship limitations imposed on the program before the season. As an alum of the great school, the jewel in the nation's public university crown, I won't say that I will lose a minute of sleep over this, and frankly believe that the Bears could have easily been slapped harder than they were. One of the subjects I feel very strongly about is that the NCAA's priorities have always been warped when it comes to investigating schools: more focus is placed on malum prohibitum transgressions (ie., players getting money under the table) than malum per se violations (ie., academic fraud). While many college athletes receive an "education" in name only, directly or indirectly subsidized by the taxpayers, the NCAA remains obsessed with enforcing arcane regulations prohibiting the payment of athletes, rules that have absolutely no moral basis supporting them, and which therefore cause the athletes to cynically view the entire system as a racket. In effect, it is as if police detectives were to spend more time investigating traffic violations than violent felonies.

Moreover, since most athletes in big-time collegiate sports are African-American, while most of the coaches, administrators, boosters, and sportswriters who profit from the system are white, they get taught a very harsh lesson in power relations as well (btw, the fact that some student-athletes receive athletic scholarships has nothing to do with the issue of whether athletes should be paid, unless one believes that no other student who receives financial aid or a scholarship should be allowed to accept a paycheck). The media, now in an uproar about money CWeb received a decade ago at Michigan, speak of how the Wolverines have tainted the program, as if the payment of college athletes were some sort of unholy crime against humanity. In fact, that Webber may have perjured himself before a grand jury investigating criminal conduct by his sugar daddy seems less important than the fact that he drove a nice car while he was an "undergrad" at the school. While Sports Illustrated cheers the airbrushing of the Fab-5 out of the history book like they were Stalin-era thought criminals, the same magazine cheers the return of Bob Huggins to the sideline, the same coach who has led a team that has had less than a handful of its players graduate during his tenure.

Monday, November 18, 2002

As if it mattered, Miami passes Ohio State for the number one seeding in the BCS rankings this week. Neither the Canes nor number 3 Washington State played this weekend, but both ended up benefitting by less-than-impressive efforts by the Buckeyes (winning in OT over Illinois) and by Texas (losing to Tech).

The SEC East race has been settled, while the SEC West was thrown into NCAA-mandated chaos.

First off, Georgia rallied late to defeat Auburn 24-21. The Tigers led most of the game and had a 21-10 lead late in the third. But a David Greene fumble in the Auburn endzone was fallen on by OL Matt Stinchcomb for a TD, and with less than two minutes left Greene hit Michael Johnson in the back of the endzone on fourth-and-15 to take the lead. Auburn, thinking it had already won, fell apart, and Georgia was the SEC East Champion. Johnson had a huge game, 13 receptions for 141 yards. The Auburn offense was mostly the rushing game led by Ronnie Brown, who rushed for 124.

LSU had a chance to all but clinch the West against Alabama. Well, they didn't have a chance, because the Tide made them look like a Division II team, winning 31-0 in a game that really wasn't even that close. The Tigers held close for the first quarter, and actually had a field goal attempt (which was blocked) to take an early lead. But after that, it was all Alabama. The Tide led 6-0 when they went on the weirdest two-minute drive I've ever seen; seven runs, two passes (both spikes to stop the clock) without using a timeout. The runs were mostly simple draw plays to the halfbacks, but LSU couldn't do anything. Alabama wound up the game running for 300 yards while completely shutting LSU down, taking over the national lead in total defense along the way. Alabama also "clinched" the SEC West; they can't win thanks to the vengence of the NCAA, but they're clearly the best team.

Florida was eliminated from the SEC East race, but thrashed South Carolina anyway, 28-7. Kentucky made Vandy look like, well, Vandy, 41-21. Tennessee let Mississippi State hang around for two and a half quarters before pulling away, 35-17. And Arkansas struggled but beat Louisiana-Lafayette 24-17.

Four of the five eligible teams can still win the SEC West, with Mississippi State a winless exception. LSU and Arkansas hold their destinies in their own hands; if they win out, they go to Atlanta. The Razorbacks and Tigers play Nov. 29. Auburn needs to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa (unlikely) and have each of the other teams lose at least once. The nightmare scenario has LSU lose to Arkansas and Ole Miss, Arkansas lose to MSU, Ole Miss beating MSU and Auburn losing to Alabama. That would produce a four-way tie between Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and Ole Miss at 4-4. I have no idea what the tiebreakers would be in that situation; I think Arkansas would still go to Atlanta but I'm not definite about that.

If Alabama played Ohio State, we'd beat the Buckeyes by forty points.

Friday, November 15, 2002

A better weekend ahead, with promises of great things to come in the next month. Ohio State leads the way, with a road game at improving Illinois spotlighted. Other games of note include Arizona State and USC in a battle of deserving-but-unrecognized Heisman candidates, Texas traveling to beautiful Lubbock for its annual butt-kicking vs.Texas Tech, Alabama venturing into the mosh pit known as Tiger Stadium to stop LSU's run at a second straight SEC title, and Iowa facing its last roadblock to the BCS bowls at the HumpDome in Minnesota. The rest of this week's schedule can be found here.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

SEC commissioner vows: Probation-free in 5 years

We're not a bad conference getting worse, we're a sick conference getting better!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

From the creator of this website, a to-be-determined blog devoted to college hoops. Details later, but any and all who are interested should contact me ASAP.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Sorry I've been away, but I haven't been able to log in to Blogger consistently, at least on Mondays. So let's give Tuesday a try. The big game in the SEC turned out to be Kentucky-LSU. I'm sure everyone's seen the ending of that game, where after Kentucky had rallied to lead with seconds remaining after trailing big most of the game, LSU hit on a miracle Hail Mary to win it. I've no doubt that Kentucky isn't as good of a team as LSU, but they are such a pain to play, and they just don't stop playing even when you think you have them beat. Turns out they will stop playing when they think you have them beat, though.

Alabama was slapped with a ton of penalties but beat Mississippi State anyway. The last couple of weeks Alabama has morphed into a passing team, but they're unpredictable. They play LSU this week and I'm sure both teams will have surprises in store... Tennessee was crushed by Miami, to no one's surprise. They just aren't a very good team. Though the Vols did manage to keep Miami out of the end zone most of the time, Miami marched up and down the field at will... Vandy was game but lost to Florida anyway, because they're Vandy.

The SEC race is settling down now. At this stage, there are essentially five teams involved, two eligible potential winners in each division and one ineligible team that will have a big say in the West. LSU leads Auburn by a half-game (in the loss column), but Auburn won the battle of the Tigers earlier this year so holds the tiebreak. LSU has three games left on their schedule, none of which is an automatic win. They should beat Ole Miss, but Alabama is, I think, a better team and it will be a fight this weekend in Baton Rouge. Auburn still has to host Georgia and go to Alabama; they'd be lucky to split. Arkansas hosts LSU to end the season and the Razorbacks are still vaguely in it, but need to win out and have Alabama sweep LSU and Auburn to tie, and Auburn to lose to Georgia as well to get the trip to the Championship Game. Alabama's ineligible, but probably the best team in the division and they really want to show it.

Meanwhile, the East is simple. Georgia is a game up on Florida but Florida won head-to-head, so the Dawgs need to finish ahead of the Gators to win. Each team has one game left in conference play, both this weekend: Georgia is at Auburn and Florida at South Carolina. If Georgia wins or Florida loses, Georgia takes the short trip to Atlanta. Both teams have out-of-conference but in-state games left to finish the schedule.

Note on bowls: If I understand the criteria properly, six wins, even in a twelve-game schedule, will do for bowl eligibility. Five SEC teams (Georgia, Florida, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas) are bowl-eligible to date. Vandy and MSU are out, and Alabama and Kentucky ineligible (but would qualify if they were). Tennessee, South Carolina, and Ole Miss all need one win to make it. UT has Vandy left, so they shouldn't have any problem, and USC has a weak Clemson team to finish the year. Ole Miss has winless MSU to finish the year, but weird things happen when those teams play. The SEC has agreements to get eight teams to bowls most years; last year they actually couldn't find a bowl for an eligible team. Won't happen this year.

Very interesting...the team ranked third in the BCS ratings, and the one most likely to leap into the Fiesta Bowl should either Miami or Ohio State lose, is Washington State. I had assumed earlier that Oklahoma would remain the fallback selection, but according to the numbers now out, Wazzou appears to have the position solidly in control. Imagine the controversy if Ohio State goes through its annual choke vs. Michigan--the Cougars, who lost pretty easily to the Buckeyes, would probably get selected for the Fiesta Bowl. Texas is now in fifth, but realistically only have a chance to go to any BCS bowl if Oklahoma loses again, and the Longhorns back in to the Big-12 championship.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Well, at least this week there will be no BCS controversy. Miami and Ohio State are the only two undefeated teams left, and both will be 1-2 when the next ratings come out later today. If nothing changes between now and December 7, the Fiesta Bowl will be a no-brainer, and we will be deprived of the traditional rant about how the BCS sucks and how what will solve all the problems of the world is a month-long championship tournament. Both the Buckeyes and Canes have one away game left, and both end their season at home against their toughest opponent of the season, but both should keep their perfect records in tact.

At this point, the only dispute is which other schools will get BCS invites. Ohio State and Iowa are in a dogfight for the Big 10 championship; assuming the Buckeyes can win at Illinois and home against Michigan, they win out based on their over-all record (Iowa having lost to erstwhile-Heisman candidate Seneca Wallace and Iowa State). Michigan is still alive, but will need the Hawkeyes to lose twice. Wazzou is in command of the Pac-10 race, and will clinch a Rose Bowl berth with a win against either UDub or UCLA. USC and UCLA still have a shot, and the surprising Bruins can sneak through should they beat SC and Wazzou at home, and the Cougars lose at home to Washington.

The Big-12 title game will almost certainly be a rematch of Oklahoma and Colorado; the Sooners will probably get the Fiesta Bowl pick if they win and either OSU or Miami loses. The Big East title will go to the winner of the Miami-Pitt game at the Orange Bowl; I wonder who's going to win. Florida State may be having a disappointing season, but the 'Noles will clinch the ACC title with a win next week over North Carolina. I'll let Mr. Thomason handle the muddled SEC race, but I would venture a guess that the play-in game will likely feature LSU and Georgia. The other two spots will go to Notre Dame (ugh) and Texas (if both remain unbeaten the rest of the way), with USC and Iowa possibilities if they fail.

Friday, November 08, 2002

This weekend's schedule: it's crap. Only two games involve match-ups of Top 25 teams. One is the hallowed revival of the Iowa State-K.State rivalry; the other one features Wazzou and Oregon in Eugene. Should the Cougars win, their Rose Bowl berth would be all but assured; a loss, and we probably won't know the Pac-10 champion until after their game with UCLA on December 7. Games that looked good at the beginning of the season, but suck now, include No.2 Miami trying to reclaim its spot in the BCS Title hunt in Knoxville against Tennessee, and Oklahoma playing perhaps its last losable game at Texas A&M. And, of course, this is the weekend that Notre Dame plays Navy.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Well, it finally happened: Miami got bounced from the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings. However, the lucky school wasn't Notre Dame, which hubristically wore their green jerseys at home for the first time since 1985, and lost 14-7, but Ohio State, a convincing 35-3 winner Saturday over surprising Minnesota. The final straw for the pollsters was probably the Hurricanes pathetic performance through three quarters over Rutgers; even with four unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter, it cannot be considered a good sign that Miami has a hard time beating the only school to lose to Cal last season.

In any event, there are several less undefeated schools this week. Besides the South Bend debacle, Va Tech was beaten by Pitt, NC State lost to Georgia Tech, and Florida beat Georgia for what has to be the tenth straight time. BTW, ESPN Classic replayed the 1980 Georgia-Florida game, and I forgot what a genuinely crummy national champion the Bulldogs were that year. With about five minutes to go in that game, Al Michaels (who was doing play by play) listed the teams that were battling for a Sugar Bowl berth that year: besides Georgia and Florida, Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State were also in the hunt. And of those schools, guess which ones Georgia avoided that year. Try Bama, LSU and MIssissippi State. Their conference schedule consisted of Florida, and the five worst teams in the SEC. BOOO !!! At least Robbie Bosco and BYU played Air Force and Utah in 1984.

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