Category Archives: Football

Top Storylines from Week 4 of College Football

1) Florida State Is Back

Wind back the clock to the 1990’s. The Seminoles were the decade’s most dominant team – four national title game appearances, two championships, and consistent ten win seasons. What followed though was a decade plus of mediocrity. But on Saturday night, Florida State has finally started to reemerge into the national spotlight. On Saturday night in primetime, the No. 4 Seminoles crushed the then-No. 10 Clemson, validating their status as of the nation’s premier teams. Redshirt senior QB E.J. Manuel showed he’s capable of leading his team on the big stage. Florida State’s remaining schedule looks relatively easy aside from a showdown with No. 11 Florida. With all the hype on Alabama and Oregon, the Seminoles might be the dark horse team that wins it all.

2) Notre Dame Is For Real

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Will Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since 1997 when Michigan CB Charles Woodson won the award?

On Saturday, the Fighting Irish accomplished what they hadn’t done in a decade – start a season 4-0. Usually, a program known for it’s star quarterbacks, Notre Dame has won games behind its physical, hard-hitting defense. In total, then-No. 18 Michigan and then-No. 10 Michigan State scored nine points. If Notre Dame and its defense can continue their success, linebacker Manti Te’o should get serious Heisman consideration. Notre Dame has turned their early season quarterback controversy into a devastating two-quarterback system that has worked to perfection. Everett Golson has gained valuable experience while Tommy Rees has delivered late when his team has needed him.

3) Collin Klein Has Joined The Heisman Race

Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion when he engineered a 24-19 upset rout of the then-No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners at home. In the weekend’s biggest upset, Klein passed for 149 yards and ran for 79 yards. It’s not an outrageous stat line, or even a stellar stat line, but it is a winning stat line in one of college football’s toughest environments. On the season, Klein has 10 total touchdowns and is his team’s catalyst on offense. Kansas State (4-0) will go as far as Klein can take them, and if they can run the table, he just might win the Heisman.

4) What Is Happening To Matt Barkley?

USC QB Matt Barkley was once the Heisman frontrunner, but fallen far from that throne. Last week’s 2 INTs, 0 TD in a loss to Stanford was supposed to be an anomaly until the senior followed up with another bummer this week. In USC’s unimpressive 27-9 win against California, Barkley threw for just 192 yards and 2 INTs to go along with 2 TDs. With two future first round picks at wide receiver, Barkley’s performance has been nothing short of downright atrocious. Also, his inability to throw an accurate deep ball has been another question mark. Barkley may not just be losing the faith of Heisman believers, but also of NFL scouts.

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The Chase For Perfection Goes Awry

USC had perfection in the making – an undefeated season, the Heisman-winning quarterback, and a possible BCS national title. Then those dreams of perfection stumbled, and crashed, as the No. 2 Trojans did in a 21-14 loss to No. 21 Stanford

The team with all the hopes and aspirations, driven even higher by coming off their two-year bowl ban, looked flat in defeat.

With 11:19 left in the second quarter, running back Silas Reed scored a touchdown on a one-yard run to give USC a 14-7 lead.

From there though, the Trojans played as if they were on cruise control. The precision and focus USC relied on earlier seemed to evaporate. At the center of it all was quarterback Matt Barkley.

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“Guys wait, just listen. I’m telling you, I’m not all hype!”

Barkley missed easy short throws and failed to break the pocket early enough at times.

When the big moment did arise, he didn’t deliver. With the Cardinal riding the momentum after just having tied the score at 14-14, Barkley engineered the Trojans to a measly three-and-out on their next possession.

Stanford then scored another touchdown to take the lead, and the game, 21-14. The Trojans had one last possession to right the ship, but costly penalties and the inability to protect Matt Barkley did them in.

Maybe the most baffling part was what USC tight end Randall Telfer alluded to afterwards, when he said the Trojans were “not as mentally prepared as we should have been.”

Stanford, ranked and coming off three consecutive wins over USC, gave them no indication that this game was going to be a cakewalk.

If there were distractions, Coach Lane Kiffin’s antics were at the forefront of them.

Kiffin, who has a strict policy that bans media members from reporting injuries that occur at practice, felt a local reporter, Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News, had broken those rules when he reported of an injury to a Trojans kicker earlier in the week. Consequently, Kiffin banned him from two weeks of practice and the next home game. Wolf though received the news from outside sources, not from practice, and USC officials wisely overturned those punishments. Still the whole incident became a widespread fiasco.

Stanford has won four out the last five with USC, beginning in 2007 when the Cardinal, a 41-point underdog, shocked the No. 2 Trojans 24-23 in the Coliseum.

Another distraction may have been all the attention on one of the most heralded Heisman campaigns ever by USC for Matt Barkley.

Barkley though looked far from that Heisman-frontrunner on Saturday night.

With two future NFL first round wideouts at his disposal, the senior led the offense to an underachieving 14 points while throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns.

Luckily for USC the loss doesn’t eliminate them from the national championship picture even though they are now ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25.

Many of the teams ranked ahead of the Trojans are undefeated, but will play each other, including No. 1 Alabama/No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Florida State/No. 10 Clemson, and No. 6 Oklahoma/No. 12 Texas.

USC meanwhile will play No. 3 Oregon, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 19 UCLA, No. 22 Arizona and a possible rematch with Oregon/Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Trojans, with a strong schedule coupled with an early loss, rather than a late loss, could climb back into the top two if they win out.

If the Trojans can make that climb, Matt Barkley should return to the Heisman spotlight.

It may not be perfection for USC, but it can still be confetti.

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Notre Dame Moves to the ACC

On Wednesday, the ACC popped the question.

Surprisingly, Notre Dame responded with a “yes.”

It’s like that marriage, or at least in this case, engagement, that no one expected.

When the news spreads, people can’t seem to wrap their heads around it – Really she picked him? Why would she settle for that?

Well she, being Notre Dame football, was once the nation’s darling. The gorgeous woman with all eyes glued on her, but with eyes seemingly for no one else. Independent, but far from alone.

But people, and programs, change.

So Notre Dame has officially decided to move from the Big East to the ACC in all sports, except football where the school remains an independent. The Irish will play five games against ACC opponents annually, which almost half of their schedule.

Notre Dame, once an elite program, seems to have fallen into mediocrity but still remains one of college footballs most marketable programs.

Yes Notre Dame football didn’t join the ACC, but college football’s landmark independent school has finally become tied to a conference, which is a huge step in that direction.

The move though seems like the best one for Notre Dame.

The Irish switched conferences while maintaining their independent status and their lucrative television deal with NBC. Leaving the Big East was also a smart move, because as college football moves toward bigger “super” conferences, the deteriorating Big East seems to the odd man out.

But why the ACC and not the Big Ten?

It’s because Notre Dame is intent on promoting their brand. Since they are already located in Big Ten country, playing along the coast will give the program a bigger opportunity to spread their brand and consequently, attract more recruits from that region.

The Atlantic Coast Conference itself was another winner in this deal.

With an upcoming playoff and the end of the BCS, Notre Dame football, one of college football’s premier programs, may soon be forced to join a conference and would, in that situation, join the ACC.

That possibility, along with playing Notre Dame five times annually, will allow the ACC to renegotiate its television deals for more money. Thus, each conference member will now receive even more money each year.

Also the likelihood that Notre Dame would leave the ACC seems close to none, as the conference raised its exit fee from $20 million to a ridiculous $50 million.

But if there are “winners”, then there have to be “losers”. In this case, the Big East conference was a definite loser.

Had the Big East conference been able to recruit Notre Dame’s football program, it would have received a significant jolt in generating revenue, signing lucrative television deals, and garnering national attention.

The loss of possibly adding Notre Dame football, and the loss of Notre Dame altogether, deal another blow to the reeling conference. In the last year alone, Syracuse, Pittsburg and West Virginia have all left the Big East. It remains to be seen how long the Big East will continue to be a premier conference, assuming it still is.

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HELP…GET ME(AC) OUT OF HERE!!!

Savannah State University’s mission statement paints the portrait of an historic school complete with “the vim and vigor of quality collegiate life.”  Above all, the number of amenities available to students creates a “nurturing environment.”

While these statements embody the essence of Georgia’s oldest public historically black college, the same can’t be said of the school’s football program over the last two weeks.

The sports world’s most cliché saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but it’s doubtful this will prove to be the case for the Tigers.

In an attempt to gain a little extra money for the school’s athletic program, Savannah State scheduled games against No. 19 Oklahoma State and No. 6 Florida State, both on the road in hostile college football environments.

Davenport was touched by how graciously Mike Gundy acted in the blowout win.

Two weeks into the season, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s (MEAC) newest member finds itself 0-2 with a -139 scoring differential and only 167 yards of total offense—hardly “nurturing” statistics.

The Tigers were dropped 84-0 by Oklahoma State in a brutal opener from which they received a $385,000 payday.  Still, the incessant pounding proved to be hardly worth it.

Complaints of the Cowboys running up the score were silenced by the fact that they had their foot off the gas pedal for much of the game, with 9 of 12 touchdowns being scored on the ground and over 90 different players seeing field time.

This past Saturday in Tallahassee, Savannah State actually beat an eye-popping 70.5-point spread, but only because the game was mercifully called due to inclement weather with 8:59 to play in the 3rd quarter and Florida State leading 55-0.

It’s easy to call these games early-season blowouts and move on to more important analyses but one has to wonder if they ever should have been scheduled in the first place.

Other Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) or “Division I” schools have beaten Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools in the past.  In 2007, a fast Appalachian State squad stunned Michigan in Ann Arbor and in 2010, Jacksonville State beat Ole Miss on the road.

FCS wins are becoming more and more commonplace, but can only happen when the matchups are fair and the underdog has at least a slim hope of playing competitively.

Since joining the MEAC in 2010, the Tigers have been awful by MEAC standards—let alone the Big 12 or Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last year, Savannah state was tied for a conference worst 1-7 record and a 1-10 record overall, the team’s only win coming over 2-9 North Carolina Central.

One can only hope the Tigers emerge from these last two weeks with something positive, but realistically there’s only so much character building these young players can take.

FSU quarterback EJ Manuel only played one quarter in a storm-shortened rout of Savannah State.

“I have to think they are good,” Savannah State coach Steve Davenport said following the loss to Oklahoma State, “Because if not, we are really bad.”

Truth be told, these are two very talented football teams with a level of competitiveness Savannah State will probably never find in the MEAC, but there comes a time when athletic department officials have to start worrying about the safety—and dignity—of players.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a sucker for triumphant underdog stories.  I still tear up when Jimmy Chipwood sinks the game-winning jumper or when Mike Winchell gets stopped a foot from the goal line in the Texas State Championship game.  But 84-0 is hardly a Hollywood-worthy score.

Regardless, schools need to think seriously about the potential embarrassment they are putting players through before they look at the monetary benefit to an underfunded athletic program.

Ultimately, it’s accountability and time to grow—not annihilation at the hands of college football giants and a few extra bucks—that will make football programs like Savannah State successful in their own right.

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What to Take Away From Week One of College Football

Some teams shined, while others withered.

A few players put themselves on the map, while others got off to a shaky start.

Still, it’s only week one of the college football season. Here are a few important points though to take away from the opening week.

Alabama looks scary good

Last year, A.J. McCarron was a game-manager. This year he could be a game-changer…

Even though Alabama lost many key starters, the Crimson Tide showed they haven’t lost much in their dominating 41-14 win over No. 8 Michigan. Their defense, supposedly a “weak point” this year, manhandled Heisman candidate Denard Robinson as the team jumped out to a 31-0 lead, and cruised from there.

A.J. McCarron played like an improved quarterback, and Alabama’s offensive line, possibly the best in the country, opened up massive holes for the running game that had 232 yards.

This Alabama team might even be better than last year’s team that won the National Championship.

Forget Alabama – LSU, it’s Oregon – USC this year

Last year, the so-called “Game of the Century” between then-No. 1 LSU vs. then-No. 2 Alabama turned into a 9-6 snoozefest.

This year’s can’t-miss regular season matchup figures to be much different because it pits two of the nations best offenses (not defenses…) against each other.

It’ll be No. 1 USC vs. No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 3rd at the Coliseum.

Everybody knew USC was going to be really good this year, but nobody thought Oregon would be just as good, if not better.

Oregon was supposed to have issues at quarterback this year with the loss of last year’s star quarterback Darren Thomas. So much for that. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota started his first collegiate game for the Ducks on Saturday night, and smashed those doubts. Mariota was 18-22 for 200 yds and 3 TD’s, as Oregon jumped out to a 50-3 lead on Arkansas State in the second quarter and never looked back.

The Heisman race might come down to De’Anthony Thomas and Matt Barkley.

Oregon also might have the most electric player in the country in RB De’Anthony Thomas. He had 125 yards and 3 TD’s on only eight rushes.

How about USC? USC has the Heisman frontrunner in QB Matt Barkley, and two possible NFL first round draft picks at wide receiver. They should have no problem putting up big offensive numbers and points.

Forget 9-6 from last year…This should be more of a 42-37 shootout

It’s only going to get worse for Penn State 

For Penn State, this offseason had to be rock bottom for the program. Now the attention returns to the football field, but fans won’t have much to hang their hats on.

The team began their new era with a 24-14 home loss to Ohio. Looking at their schedule and the current situation, the Nittany Lions won’t win more than three or four games this season.

A subpar season, coupled with a loss of scholarships and a 4-year bowl ban, isn’t going to be a good selling point for many recruits in the upcoming offseason. Penn State will most likely win even less games next year, and probably less the year after.

Sure Penn State didn’t receive the “Death Penalty”, but the program won’t be the same for the next decade, at the very least.

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2012 College Football Season Offers Chance for Redemption

As college football kicks off its season, the next few months could bring something that hasn’t been seen in quite some time: positive headlines for USC, Ohio State and Penn State.

Each school is recovering from its own scandals and hardships. For USC, a two-year bowl ban for lack of institutional control has kept them from the postseason but their problems have extended further than that, after a disappointing 2009 season left them out of the top- 4 for the first time in seven years. With senior quarterback Matt Barkley returning for his senior year, joined with arguably the nation’s most potent wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, USC could be ready for a perfect storm of a season putting forth the best team they’ve had in years just as their bowl ban is lifted. After finishing last year ranked sixth, USC will open the season atop the AP Poll, primed to rid themselves of the sour taste they’ve had in their mouth since 2009.

Barkley is looking up at his team’s high hopes.

Like USC, Ohio State was one of the powerhouse programs of the 2000’s, but a scandal of their own lost them their coach, Jim Tressel, and sent the team into a rough 6-6 season a year ago. The Buckeyes’ fall from grace began in 2010 when several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended for five games of the 2011 season for receiving improper benefits from a tattoo parlor. Tressel also received a suspension for not telling the university about the benefits. His suspension turned into a resignation after more NCAA accusations against Tressel were made. Without their star quarterback and head coach, the Buckeyes limped through a disappointing 6 win season.

With the Buckeyes now coached by Urban Meyer, the former Florida coach who led the Gators to two national titles,  Ohio State has new life and will start the season at No. 18 in the AP Poll. With the high expectations back, the Buckeyes are in familiar territory and will hope to quickly rebuild the program to its past dominance. A solid season this year will be the first step of that process, and will help put the scandals and last year’s poor season behind them.

Ohio State should be stronger under coach Urban Meyer.

Penn State’s redemption is of a slightly different strain, in that they are still in the midst of their punishment. After nearly a year of constant negativity surrounding the university due to the Jerry Sandusky case and coach Joe Paterno’s connections to it, the Nittany Lions are more than ready to put the headlines behind them and make some of their own on the football field. While their four-year bowl ban will keep them out of the postseason, they will still be looking to prove that the mistakes of their university and their coaches won’t stop the team from fighting and playing their hardest. The season will be a good distraction, for players and media alike, from the past year of bad news for Penn State.

Coming off their recent scandals, these three teams are hoping the 2012 season renews their glory of old.

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Winning at a Cost

Herm Edwards was pissed.  It was week 8 of the 2002 season and his New York Jets were limping along at 2-5.

Fresh off a loss to the Cleveland Browns, a frustrated Edwards took a deep breath, walked up to the podium in the pressroom and prepared to answer questions from the historically brutal New York media.

When asked a question by one reporter about his team’s inability to win during the first half of the season, Edwards delivered what has become one of the most infamous statements in football history.

“You play to win the game!  Hello?  You play to win the game!”

Sure, we as American sports fans poke fun at this speech, immortalizing it in countdowns and Coors Light commercials.  But what we never do is look deeper into the point that the frustrated head coach, who proceeded to drive home, forget about the loss, and lead a newly motivated team to a 7-2 finish, was trying to make.

The important thing to note is that he calls football exactly what it is—a game.

This is something that sports figures—in particular a once revered football mind in late Penn State coach Joe Paterno—seem to have forgotten.

In the case of Paterno, who led his Nittany Lions to 409 victories over 62 seasons as the team’s head coach, the point was more than to just prepare and call plays to win the game.  He lived to win.

And he was damn good at it, too.  His team’s successes on the field have earned him the right to stand alone as college football’s winningest coach and for a time as the most beloved figure in Penn State’s 157-year history.

Former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was recently sentenced to 442 years in prison for his crimes.

It is only recently that we’ve come to discover the costs of these once celebrated achievements.  Nearly twenty young men, victims of Jerry Sandusky’s, had to wait two or more decades for justice, mainly so that the storied Nittany Lions football program wouldn’t have to confront any black eyes along the way to more bowl victories and strong recruiting classes.

Now the football program is in shambles and the NCAA, never expecting a turn of events quite as horrific as this, still doesn’t know quite what to do.

Impose fines?  Give the school’s football program the death penalty?  Take away scholarships?  There’s no point now—the damage has already been done.

Possible recruits wouldn’t dare let themselves be courted by what is now a fire sale rather than a program, where everything—and everyone—must go.  The fate of a statue outside of Beaver Stadium that once celebrated Paterno’s successes and contributions to the academic vitality of the school could be decided as early as Monday morning.

Penn State president Rodney Erickson could have a decision on Paterno’s statue as early as Monday and may simply decide to move it in front of the school’s library.

Whatever decision is made will be upsetting to many and thus it does not matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.  Besides, it’s not even the statue that should earn the most shame, but rather an engraving surrounding it that reads: “Joseph Vincent Paterno: Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.”

Somewhere along the way to 24 bowl victories, the latter was lost by the wayside.  Hoisted trophies and notches in the win column became more important than accountability and the well being of others.

What Edwards said on that ordinary night in 2002 was a perfect truism; it reminded his Jets team and others who heard it about the importance of embracing competition and trying to reach new heights on the field of battle.

At the time, it served its purpose as a rally cry, and that’s great.

Those who take it or have taken it for a life philosophy, however, have sadly narrowed their worldviews.

Hopefully these last few months have given the sports world a better understanding of priority; that compassion for those in need and awareness of our surroundings are more important than we might think.

Something tells me a more candid Edwards that night would have said something like, “You play to win the game!  You live for much more than that.”

 

 

 

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