Notre Dame Football

National championship should excite, but this year’s BCS lineup is a snoozer

32 Comments

As far as the BCS championship is concerned, viewers are going to get the game they want: Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

You couldn’t pack more hate or intrigue into a single game. In one corner, you have the Tide appearing in its third title game in four years. A win would instantly bring about the term “dynasty” and there simply is no other team that represents the face of SEC dominance in college football like Alabama right now. And the insufferable “S-E-C!” chants? You better believe they’ll be loud and clear if Alabama hoists another crystal football.

In the other corner, you have the Irish. What bass-ackwards, Twilight Zone do we live in where Notre Dame — you know, the irrelevant yet extremely relevant program with its own TV deal and privileged bowl agreement — can be the team to give the SEC its comeuppance?

You can understand why any college football site *ahem* would be giddy about such a match-up for the next four weeks (hint: page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and…).

Or, Jan. 7 will roll around and the game could be a total bust. Nobody in the right mind hopes that it is, but with the rest of the BCS slate looking rather ehhhhhh, the national title can have season-defining qualities.

Oh sure, there are other intriguing storylines. The Fiesta Bowl pits Kansas State and Oregon, two teams that could have met in a nonconference game that wasn’t and at one time last month looked to be on a collision course for the national title. But some other BCS games? Not as much.

Take the Rose Bowl for example. Wisconsin blew the doors off Nebraska in the Big Ten championship and made us all wonder where in the hell that was all season, but the Badgers are still a five-loss team. Even UConn didn’t have five losses when it went to the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago and got stomped by Oklahoma.

#EvenUConn

Speaking of the Sooners, they have to be all kinds of mad that they got bumped from the Sugar Bowl because Northern Illinois made it into the BCS top 16 (No. 15 in fact). Now, Florida will face Louisville in New Orleans and the Huskies will try to upset Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Compelling? Not overly unless you enjoy the possibility of major upsets. For some reason, that’s lost more on college football than it is in, say, college basketball. There were people who hated Boise State once the Broncos started winning consistently on the national stage.

But don’t be mad at NIU for altering the BCS lineup and start spouting off about how the Huskies don’t “deserve” to be in an upper-echelon game. Deserving went flying out the window and smashed into your car on the street years ago. Did Georgia Tech deserve a shot at the Orange Bowl this year after backing into the ACC title game? Did Michigan or Virginia Tech deserve bids to the Sugar Bowl this past year? Did Oklahoma deserve the right to get manhandled by USC while fellow undefeated Auburn sat back and watched following the 2004 season?

The answer is sort of; what ties those cases together is that each team took advantage of what the system provided them. Northern Illinois played it just like everybody else this year. When Vanderbilt coach James Franklin casts a coaches’ poll ballot — those are used in determining the BCS standings — where he ranks undefeated Notre Dame fourth and his own 8-4 Commodores 16th, there shouldn’t be a problem with NIU getting a little love.

The BCS is tragically comical, like a circus clown trying to jump through a hoop of fire on a tricycle with one busted wheel. You know that clown’s not going to make it, and it’s going to be awful when he doesn’t, but the thought of a flaming clown running around with dudes trying to extinguish him is too tempting.

In that spirit, we’ll all still watch the BCS games this year. I’ll watch because my job requires me to keep track of all kinds of football no matter how fugly it is. Remember the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” when Malcolm McDowell‘s character has his eyes pried open for the Ludovico technique? Yeah, like that was last year’s Orange Bowl for me. And you’ll watch because no matter how busted the system is, we’re all hoping that the BCS affords us some good games.

Even if it doesn’t look so good now.

Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett officially withdraws from school

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Blake Barnett #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws before the Advocare Classic against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Despite the wishes of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide depth chart officially became a little thinner on Thursday.

After nearly a day of speculation, Alabama announced that quarterback Blake Barnett is no longer a part of the Crimson Tide football team.

“We received word this afternoon that Blake Barnett has officially withdrawn from school and is no longer with our program,” Saban said in a statement. “The quarterback position is a very unique position where only one player can play. We are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama. We wish Blake the very best of luck in the future.”

Barnett started the opener against USC and has thrown for 219 yards and two touchdowns on the year. However the redshirt freshman lost the starting job to true freshman Jalen Hurts and has only played sparingly in the first month of the season.

Saban recently said he wanted Barnett to remain with the program but it seems pretty obvious that playing time would be limited as the team’s backup signal-caller and a transfer would be forthcoming. Now it appears the only question is where to for the former five-star recruit, who is a Southern California native and was recruited by nearly everybody coming out of high school.

Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants changes to Big Ten scheduling

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Acting head coach Barry Alvarez of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on from the bench before the start of the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on January 1, 2015 during  at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Wisconsin has been one of the pleasant surprises to begin the 2016 season but a lot of folks are not counting on the Badgers to remain in the top 10 of the polls after one of the most brutal schedules in the month of October you can find.

Having already played (and beat) defending conference champion Michigan State last week, Wisconsin travels to No. 4 Michigan, has a bye week, then hosts No. 2 Ohio State. They’re not done after that though, traveling to Iowa and then hosting No. 15 Nebraska in a stretch that should determine the West division champion before the month is up.

Longtime head coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez is well aware of what awaits his team and is no fan of such an unbalanced schedule.

“I remember when that schedule came out (in 2013) and I thought, ‘How the hell did you kick out something looking like that?” Alvarez told CBSSports.com. “I think you could take a look at the general strength of some programs and split them up. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State have been good for a long time. Penn State Nittany Lions normally is in that group. Just make sure someone doesn’t get all three year in a year. That’s hard to do. That’s something the ADs are going to have to talk about some day.”

The Big Ten recently moved to a nine game conference slate which means an additional crossover game between divisions. Wisconsin has been the beneficiary of some weaker schedules in the past (Rutgers/Maryland in 2014/15) but seem to be the poster child this year for drawing all of the major powers from the East division.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned against reading too much into the Badgers’ schedule in 2016 and wants to see how the current format works out — but didn’t rule out any future changes.

“If I was an AD, I would probably be saying the same thing (as Alvarez),” Delany said. “If I was a football coach, I know I would.”

The conference has released the league schedule through 2019 but you can bet the next set of Big Ten games will likely break up some of the more historically successful programs a little more when it comes to division crossover games. Until then though, ‘On Wisconsin’ will have to be more than the school motto in October for Alvarez and his Badgers.

Pick problems lead Bowling Green to make a change at QB

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 3:  James Knapke #3 of the Bowling Green Falcons is sacked by Nick Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on September 3, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Bowling Green 77-10. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In 118 pass attempts this season, James Knapke has tossed nine interceptions, the most of any FBS quarterback through Week 4.  Entering Week 5, Bowling Green isn’t planning on allowing the senior quarterback to add to that total.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, BGSU head coach Mike Jinks announced that redshirt freshman James Morgan will start at quarterback Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  Morgan replaced Knapke in the loss to Memphis last week after the starter tossed three interceptions.

Morgan himself hasn’t been averse to turnovers, however, as he has thrown three in 46 attempts.

After Matt Johnson went down with a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener, Knapke took over as the starter and threw for 3,173 yards, 15 and 12 interceptions.  A healthy Johnson (shut it, 12-year-olds) reclaimed his job in 2015, but Knapke took over again in 2016 as Johnson’s eligibility expired.

Not only are Knapke’s interceptions the most in the country, but his pass efficiency rating of 88.4 is the worst of the 121 FBS quarterbacks listed on the NCAA.com stats page.

Wisconsin loses kicker Rafael Gaglianone to season-ending surgery

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Rafael Gaglianone #27 of the Wisconsin Badgers makes a field goal during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As far as kickers go, this is a rather significant development.

Last week, Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone did not make the trip to East Lansing for the Michigan State game because of a back issue.  Not only will the placekicker miss this Saturday’s game against No. 4 Michigan, he will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2016 season after undergoing back surgery.

According to the school, Gaglianone’s condition improved Sunday but subsequently worsened.  It was then decided that the junior would undergo the medical procedure.

A similar back injury, the school said, led Gaglianone to miss spring practice last year.

“You’re disappointed for Rafael because of all the work he’s put in and how well he was playing,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. “From a football perspective, I’ve appreciated the way the other guys in that unit have responded this week.”

This season, Gaglianone has connected on seven of eight field goal attempts and all 10 extra points.  Included in that total was what turned out to be the game-winning field goal in the opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.

Including this season, Gaglianone, who will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, has been good on 44-57 field goals in his career and all but two of his 111 point afters.

With Gaglianone sidelined, the Badgers will turn to Andrew Endicott.  The senior, who hadn’t previously attempted a field goal or extra point at the collegiate level, made 1-1 of the former and 3-4 of the latter in replacing Gaglianone against MSU.