Week One Winners & Losers

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OK, we’re gonna try this.  Let’s attempt to take a warp(ed)speed look at the weekend that was in college football.

As always, your winners/losers mileage may vary,

WINNERS

College football fansWho else could lead off the list of winners from this weekend than the ones who have waited patiently since early January for real football to return?  Sure, there were the requisite blowouts featuring ranked programs feasting on a variety of cupcakes, but that matters not right now.  College football is back, and the world is once again right.

Mark HerzlichActually, this probably should’ve led off the list of winners.  The Boston College linebacker who was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 missed the entire 2009 season while battling a rare form of bone cancer, and then missed most of summer camp leading up to the 2010 season opener with a broken foot.  Saturday, Herzlich was back in uniform and back on the field in BC’s 38-20 win over Weber State.  Any other storyline fails miserably in comparison to this one this weekend.

Rich Rodriguez & Denard RobinsonBased on the first game of the 2010 season, Rodriguez has hitched his future as Michigan’s head coach to Robinson.  Based on the results of the first game, Rodriguez has hitched said future to the right quarterbacking horse. In front of 113,090 fans packed into the renovated Big(ger) House, Robinson was a spread-offense virtuoso in leading Michigan to a 30-10 win over UConn.  Robinson set a school record for quarterbacks with 197 yards rushing, while also going an efficient 19-of-22 for 187 yards.  Again, it’s one game, but that corner may be in sight.

Robert Bolden & Aaron MurrayPlenty of games lay ahead for the Penn State and Georgia quarterbacks, but, after Game One of their starting careers, Bolden and Murray gave at least a hint of hope at the position.  For more on those two young guns, as well as the not-so-stellar debut of another hyped rookie Swamp starter, click HERE.

College football fans, the sequelThe TCU-Oregon State game is exactly why college football fans loathe the eight months between the end of one season and the start of another.  That was college football at it’s finest.  And the Horned Frogs ultimately gave non-BcS fans a reason to squeal in delight with their 30-21 win.

Mark ManginoHe may have been a big ol’ meanie to his players, but the former Kansas head coach never, ever lost to a school like North Dakota State.  By the count of 6-3, no less.  Again, the Div. 1-A Jayhawks scored a lone field goal against a Div. 1-AA school.  At home.  Here’s a prediction: the ego of soon-to-be-former KU athletic director Lew Perkins will continue to haunt and set the KU football program back for years to come. 

MACrifice my…The Red Hawks of Miami didn’t play too well in their 34-12 loss to No. 4 Florida. They piled up 4 turnovers (one being a pick-six) and committed 9 penalties. But the valuable experience playing one of the nation’s best teams can only give Miami some insane confidence they won’t get from playing any MAC foe. The Red Hawks won just a single game last year, and three over the past two years. Let’s look for a better year from them now that they have a good game in their pocket.

Michigan State’s ground gameThe Spartans rolled up 297 yards rushing in their 38-14 win over one of the directional Michigan schools.  Last season, MSU eclipsed the 200-yard mark just twice, with their season-high of 219 yards coming against, you guessed it, their opponent Saturday, Western Michigan.  It was a historic day for MSU as well; Le’Veon Bell became the first freshman in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in his first game.

Jimbo FisherReplacing a legend is never easy.  Replacing a beloved legend and struggling with the dessert tray on the field in the opener?  Fortunately, the new Florida State head coach doesn’t have to play the what-if game as his Seminoles easily dispatched his alma mater Samford 59-6.  Quarterback Christian Ponder eased into his Heisman campaign with 167 yards and four touchdowns in his only half of work.

That K-State RB. ya know, Ol’ What’s His NameThe name would be Daniel Thomas, and the hidden Big 12 running back gem just continues to produce whenever he’s given the ball.  28 carries, 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-22 win over UCLA?  Yeah, one of these days his plain name will become a household one.

College football fans, the threequelWe still have Boise State-Virginia Tech on Monday night.  As the esteemed Zac Brown Band opined, life is good today.  Life is good today.

LOSERS

Ole MissI’ll let THIS and the following CFT tweet encapsulate what happened in Oxford Saturday: “Ole Miss just got Nutt’d by 1-AA Jacksonville State. Karma, she’s a nasty, nasty wench.

Les MilesMy Elyria homeboy embarrassed himself tonight.  His LSU team came within five yards of losing to a North Carolina squad that was down nine starters.  Nine.  Starters.  You play a team that’s dipping that far into the depth chart and only come out with a 30-24 win?  As much as I’m embarrassed for him, Miles should take that and pound the performance exponentially.

Florida’s offense: At the half, the Gat
ors had scored more points (
21) than they had total yards (12, 13 or 14, depending on which account you saw).  Anything that happened after that against a vastly inferior MAC opponent could not mask the stench still lingering from the first two quarters of play.  Yes, it was only one game, but it was so horrendously bad and disjointed and lackadaisical and sloppy that it has to at least raise a flag that’s off-red in color.  Following the game, head coach Urban Meyer said he thought coming in that this unit would struggle, but “I didn’t imagine the offense incompetence that we experienced today.” We think the coach may have gone a little easy on his offense after what it wrought.

Mike Pouncey and his attempts at shotgun snaps.  To use a golf analogy, the Florida center very closely resembled a 38-handicap attempting a Phil Mickelson flop off hard pan.  It was worm burners and skulls and shanks as far as the eye could see.  You could count on both hands the number of horrendous snaps by Pouncey, and would then need your feet or another’s hand(s) to finish tabulating.  No excuse from a veteran who just days ago called out the Gator freshmen to just play.

Oregon’s scoreboard operatorOregon scored 59 points and rolled up 429 yards of total offense on New Mexico in the first half.  The mercy rule was apparently in effect in the second half as the Ducks scored a meager 13 points, although they did finish with a staggering school-record total of 720 yards of total offense in the 72-0 win.

Tate ForcierThe sophomore was Michigan’s starting quarterback in 2009.  One year later, Forcier is buried behind a fellow sophomore (starter Denard Robinson) and a true freshman (Devin Gardner).  Expect those transfer rumors that have been floating around out there in recent weeks to pick up volume if the current pecking order remains the same.

Ron ZookStaked to a 13-3 halftime lead, the Illinois head coach executed a perfect play-to-lose strategy in the second half as the Illini allowed 20 unanswered Missouri points to come out with a 23-13 loss.  Take heart, Illini fans; the end of the Ron Zook Era is over in three months.  Or less.

Chris Fowler on ESPN‘s College Game Day In doing their analysis of the Oregon State-TCU clash, Fowler stated that the Beavers have “dribbled down their leg” of late in big games.  Given the 15 seconds of fame Rick Pitino achieved in an extortion case over the summer, “down the leg” might not have been the best choice of words.  Still too soon, we think.

Fowler, again  This time, the venerable Game Day host stated live on air that Jeremiah Masoli had not been cleared to play for Ole Miss and will not be eligible until 2011.  One commercial break and (probably) several really bad words later, Fowler corrected the gaffe.  In fairness to Fowler, it’s not like the Masoli situation was big news or anything.

Eye rollsI sprained that ability with the Masoli-Fowler thing.

John TaylorWhat kind of a jackass would pick Florida No. 1 in the nation?  The former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver/Duran Duran bassist, that’s who.  I don’t know what goes through some people’s heads sometimes.

Report: Art Briles to interview for Houston job

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Art Briles of the Houston Cougars looks on during the game with the Marshall Thundering Herd at Robertson Stadium November 17, 2007 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 35-28. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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At some point, scandal-stained Art Briles will be back at the FBS level as a head coach. It could happen, though, sooner than most everyone expected.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Briles is one of at least five candidates to fill the vacancy at Houston.  Briles’ first job as an FBS head coach came at UH in 2003.  In five seasons, Briles guided the Cougars to a 34-28 record during the time, a job that paved the way for him to take over at Baylor in 2008 and put that program on the national map.

Briles was fired earlier this year in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked both the football program and university.  UH regents chair Tim Fertitta confirmed this past week that the door hasn’t been shut on a Briles return, even as some “clarity” when it comes to his controversial ouster in Waco is needed.

“There’s a lot of administrator and ex-administrators and board of regents from Baylor that say that Art Briles was a scapegoat at Baylor,” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve had calls from ex-chairman of the board of regents there, current big booster there, lawyers that represent Baylor. I have not had one negative call about Art Briles. But there still seems to be a clarity issue. …

“I would love for Art Briles to be on our super-short list. But until, or if, or when we can ever get full clarity, I can’t see us going there.”

For the record, UH’s president is Renu Khator, the second woman to ever hold that title at the university.  She also holds the dual title of UH System chancellor, the first woman to do so.

It had previously been reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will interview for the UH job as well.  Per McMurphy, that interview will take place Sunday, after the SEC championship game this afternoon.

Additionally, former LSU head coach Les Miles and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are candidates and will interview.  On Miles, Fertitta publicly stated that the coach “has some interest in us” and confirmed that the interest was being reciprocated.

Passenger jet flyover prior to Bedlam will honor ex-Sooner killed in airport shooting

CHICAGO - APRIL 05:  A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 passenger jet prepares to land at Midway Airport on April 5, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Southwest Airlines said it finished inspecting its grounded 737-300 series planes and of the nearly 80 planes five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin. The inspections come after Southwest Flight 812 had to make an emergency landing when a piece of its fuselage skin was torn while on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. The discovery prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to require emergency inspections on a portion of the 737 fleet manufactured during the 1980s and 1990s for the same fatigue cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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I’ve always loved flyovers prior to football games or NASCAR races. The plans for Bedlam Saturday, though, will be felt in the heart of those in attendance as much as it will in their ears.

In mid-November, Mike Winchester, a former Oklahoma punter on the Sooners’ 1985 national championship team and an employee at Southwest Airlines, was shot and killed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Winchester’s son, James Winchester, was a longsnapper for the Sooners and currently plays for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The elder Winchester also had two daughters who were Sooner student-athletes.

Prior to Saturday’s rivalry game with Oklahoma State, both OU on the ground and Winchester’s employer in the air will honor the memory of the one-time Sooner.

From OU’s press release:

The University of Oklahoma Athletics Department and Southwest Airlines have announced that, weather conditions permitting, a special commercial airliner flyover will take place before Saturday’s Bedlam game in Norman to honor a former OU football player whose life was cut short two weeks ago.

Winchester, whose son James also played football at OU (lettered 2009-11) and is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, and whose daughters Carolyn (2006-09) and Rebecca (2010-13) competed on the OU women’s basketball and rowing teams, respectively, is also survived by his wife Julie, daughters Emilyne and Kate, and son John. Emilyne will graduate from OU later this month. They will be joined by 13 additional family members on the field for a pregame moment of silence, the national anthem and flyover by a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet.

Very well done by all involved. You should all be proud.

Surprise! Big Ten commish OK with teams that aren’t league champs making playoffs

Jim Delany
Associated Press
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I don’t have a lot of regard for that team.

That was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in May of 2012 when asked about a non-division winner, let alone a team that didn’t win its conference, qualifying for what at the time was a hypothetical college football playoff.  That comment also came five months after Alabama, a non-division winner, won the second-to-last BCS title ever handed out.

Four years later, Delany’s tune has changed, in part because Ohio State is sitting in the orchestra pit as the No. 2 seed with a virtual lock on one of the four playoff berths — and are also sitting at home Championship Weekend while Penn State represents their division in the conference championship.  To his credit, Delany says the team he didn’t “have a lot of regard for” four years should make the playoff even with a loss to Florida in the SEC title game this afternoon as well.

“I myself think Alabama has done enough whether they have a conference champion behind their resume or not. I think Ohio State has done enough. I think the committee has suggested that in their earlier years,” Delany said, by way of al.com, on ESPN‘s College GameDay show. “So what we have right now, I think, is two spots, and three, four, five teams fighting for those spots. Conference champion is relevant, but also, who you played, who you beat, who you played in the non-conference.”

Of course, Delany stumping for Ohio State is far from a surprise.  The fact that he’s seemingly dismissing Penn State and Wisconsin, the two teams that will play for his conference’s championship on the field tonight in Indianapolis, likely won’t sit well with those particular fan bases regardless of his reasons.

That said, Delany likely sees the reality that, thanks in large part to Washington’s win Friday night, his league has only one shot at a playoff berth for the third straight year, and that shot is sitting on its collective couches in Columbus this weekend.

There’s a new reality when it comes to college football’s postseason, and Delany seemingly understands that he has no choice but to embrace it — even as he was so strident against his current stance just a few years ago.

I lost that election four years ago. I argued for the four best conference champions. That was not the decision. We lost that election. That election was four years ago. We have to understand that elections happen, certain ideas are adopted and we’re at a different place now. It’s four best teams. And conference championships are there to help sort that cluster out, as well as head-to-head as well as strength of schedule.

“I was the campaign manager four years ago, for the four best conference champions. We lost that election. What we decided on was the four best teams, which I’m fine with. Obviously, this year is unique in some respects. We have the two divisional champions here today playing for the [Big Ten] conference championship, and they should be respected for that. The committee has another role, and that’s to pick the four best teams in the country.

Ouch, Nittany Lions.  That’ll leave a mark, Badgers.

In the end, though, he’s right.  Ohio State and Alabama are two of the four best teams in the country, regardless of whether they have “conference champions” attached to their names.  And that’s the job of the committee — find the four best teams in college football and put them in the playoffs.

Provisional plans in place in case Navy, ahem, wreaks bowl havoc

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 14: Sean Reaver #99 of the Navy Midshipmen and teammates run onto the field holding U.S. flags before playing against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland. The Navy Midshipmen won, 55-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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As un-American as it is, there are numerous individuals associated with the bowl process, including bowl officials and affected schools, who will be rooting for Navy to lose later on today.

Why? Because if the service academy beats Temple in the AAC championship game, it was initially thought, a portion of the bowl process could be paralyzed as Navy would be in line for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid but still has its annual rivalry game with Army to play next weekend. A handful of bids would likely be delayed for another seven days, potentially putting some teams in a predicament where they would have as little as a 72-hour turnaround from learning where they will play in the postseason to actually playing in the game.

However, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, a provisional plan has been hatched that would allow 37 of the 40 bowl bids to be announced Sunday as planned regardless of what happens in the AAC title game this afternoon. The plan is based on four teams in particular winning this weekend, with one of the four, Washington, taking care of business Friday night by beating Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game.

The other teams that need to win? No. 3 Clemson (in ACC title game vs. Virginia Tech), 5-6 Louisiana-Lafayette (at 4-7 Louisiana-Monroe) and 5-6 South Alabama (vs. 3-8 New Mexico State). If those three teams win, McMurphy reports, this is what would transpire when it comes to the remaining three bowl games that wouldn’t be able to offer bids this weekend:

Navy is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Navy goes to the Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Army plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Western Michigan is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Western Michigan goes to the Cotton Bowl, Army plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Navy plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

That said, it’s still possible this tentative plan could be blown to smithereens and the postseason hurled into temporary chaos.

However, bowl officials stressed that those scenarios get blown up if more than three 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowls or there are major upsets in the Power 5 championship games.

“If so,” a source said, “then we’ll have to reshuffle the cards again.

The Group of Six bid, the Cotton Bowl, will come down to either No. 19 Navy or No. 17 Western Michigan, which remained unbeaten with a win in the MAC championship game Friday night.