Josh Nunes

Sneak Peek: 2013 Rose Bowl


WHO: 11-2 Stanford (Pac-12) vs. 12-1  Michigan State (Big Ten)

WHAT: The Rose Bowl (100th year)

WHERE: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

WHEN: Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET

WHY: Two power teams face off in the 100th Grandaddy of the them all, a matchup that hearkens back to the great Pac-12/Big Ten battles of old. Except instead of names like Schembechler, Hayes and McKay, it’s (David) Shaw and (Mark) Dantonio taking center stage.

These teams start with defense. Michigan State leads the nation in total defense and is in the top five in every other meaningful category. Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard paces a stingy and hard hitting secondary while defensive end Shilique Calhoun leads the team with 7.5 sacks. However, the Spartans will be without third-leading tackler, linebacker Max  Bullough, who was suspended for the game.

The Spartan offense won’t be mistaken for a dynamic unit, but it has improved over the course of the season. Quarterback Connor Cook has quietly put together a fine year, throwing for 2,423 yards with 20 touchdown passes and just five picks. Running back Jeremy Langford has 1,338 yards and 17 touchdowns. This is a patient offense that doesn’t make many mistakes (just 13 turnovers on the season).

Stanford also has one of the best defenses in the country. While its statistics don’t quite match up with Michigan State’s, it also played in a conference with more dynamic offensive schemes. The Cardinal lead the nation in sacks and are led by All-American linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. There really are no weaknesses in this unit, which is dominated by seniors.

The one advantage Stanford’s offense has over Michigan State’s is that it has been in this scenario before. Kevin Hogan led the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl championship last season, so he knows what to expect. Hogan has a penchant for playing well against ranked teams and he finished the season with 2,492 yards, 20 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, along with 306 rushing yards. But Stanford depends on a punishing ground game that is not afraid to chip away patiently with three and four yard runs. Tailback Tyler Gaffney embodied that mentality to the tune of 1,626 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’ll likely get the ball 30-plus times against the Spartans.

The Cardinal are looking for back-to-back Rose Bowl wins for the first time since the Jim Plunkett days of 1970-1971. Michigan State is looking for its first Rose Bowl title since 1988. Whichever team scores last is probably going to win.

PREDICTION: Stanford 20, Michigan State 17

Leonard Fournette returns for LSU but late score helps Ole Miss tie things up at halftime

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers talks to head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels before a game at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Leonard Fournette has spent most of October resting up a litany of injuries that has kept him out of the lineup.

Based on the way he looked Saturday night in helping LSU tie things up 21-all against Ole Miss at halftime, it appears the tailback is finally healthy.

Fournette needed just six carries to cruise over the century mark on the ground and finished the half with 171 yards rushing and two scores — the first on a 59 yarder in which he ran over the Rebels defense, and the latter one a 76 yarder in which he raced away from nearly everybody on the field.

Quarterback Danny Etling didn’t need to do much with big No. 7 toting the rock so well but did manage to pass for 120 yards and a long 40 yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark.

The Tigers defense also stepped up in slowing the Rebels normally potent offense. Chad Kelly threw one ill-advised interception and nearly tossed a few more as the Ole Miss offense had problems finding much consistency. The team was bailed out by their defense recovering a fumble just before the end of the second quarter that set up their final score to close the gap otherwise Hugh Freeze would have gone into the locker room with a deficit.

LSU has certainly been rejuvenated under the tenure of interim head coach Ed Orgeron and that continued in the first half of their SEC West showdown with his old team. The only question left might be what Fournette can do for an encore after racking up some impressive numbers in the first half against Ole Miss.

Boise State, Western Michigan rejoice as Houston stumbles again

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars is sacked by Demerick Gary #10 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs and Mason Gentry #93 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the first half at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Houston’s rather significant loss could prove to be a sizable gain for a couple of fellow Group of Five programs.

Entering Saturday’s game against SMU ranked 13th in the country, the Cougars inexplicably fell behind 21-0 to a Mustangs team that came in at 2-4. Instead of mounting a comeback and righting what’s suddenly become a listing season, the Cougars could get no closer than 14 points (twice) the rest of the way in falling 38-16.

The loss is UH’s second in its last three games, a stumble that came after winning its first five games of the season and moving to as high as sixth in the Associated Press rankings. While Houston hasn’t seen its New Year’s Six bid completely go up in smoke, it’s seen it severely damaged.

Ready to pick up the G5 pieces are Boise State and Western Michigan.

Both of those Broncos exited Week 8 undefeated, the MAC version at 8-0 and the MWC’s 7-0. Boise, which was No. 14 following Week 7, will most certainly leapfrog Houston, while WMU, ranked 20th, should do so as well.

One other G5 team is currently ranked: No. 24 Navy, whose 4-1 record includes a win over Houston that doesn’t look quite as good as it did a couple of weeks ago.  Another of that group received more than one vote in the most recent poll, although those votes will likely evaporate Sunday as USF lost to Temple Friday night.

The first set of rankings that actually matter, the College Football Playoffs, will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Colorado’s reward for huge win over Stanford? In-N-Out Burger

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 07:  In this photo illustration a man eats a hamburger in a cafe on June 7, 2006 in Glasgow, Scotland. New figures are suggesting that a large proportion of the population is clinically obese.  (Photo Illustration by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Somewhere Mike Riley is smiling and nodding knowingly.

The current Nebraska head coach had somewhat of a tradition while at Oregon State in which he would take his football team to In-N-Out Burger following a particularly big win.  Picking up that burger mantle is Mike MacIntyre, who rewarded his Colorado team with a trip to the famous fast-food joint following their physical, grinding road win over Stanford earlier in the day.

The 10-5 win was deserving of such a reward on a couple of levels.

First, it moved the Buffaloes to 6-2, pushing the football program to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. Most importantly, however, it allowed CU to keep pace with Utah in the Pac-12 South, with both the Buffs and Utes sitting at 4-1 with four conference games remaining.

One-fourth of that remaining quartet? A clash between in the regular-season finale between those two squads — in Boulder — that’s looking more and more like it will determine the division’s representative in the conference championship game.

No. 5 Washington continues to roll through the Pac-12 North after throttling Oregon State

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 22:  Quarterback Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies passes against linebacker Caleb Saulo #35 of the Oregon State Beavers on October 22, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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It’s been 16 years since Washington has won a conference title but the Huskies took another step toward their goal of ending that streak on Saturday as they blasted Oregon State in a game that wasn’t even as  close as the 41-17 final score indicated.

While most of the college football world was undoubtedly focused away from the Pacific Northwest, quarterback Jake Browning did not hamper his budding Heisman Trophy campaign by throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns in just over three quarters worth of work (he also added a rushing score). Fellow sophomore Myles Gaskin didn’t need long to top the century mark on the ground, finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown before the fourth quarter began.

Receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis both had big games as well, with each going over 100 receiving yards and recording catches of over 40 yards. Pettis also found the end zone twice.

The Huskies defense also stepped up to turn in another nice outing, recording four sacks and two interceptions while holding the Beavers to just 4-of-13 on third down. It was a tough task for Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion (148 yards in the air) as the team’s third-stringer was making his first start of the year on the road in a difficult environment and facing one of the best defenses west of the Mississippi.

The win keeps Washington undefeated on the year and sets up a big showdown in Salt Lake City against fellow top 25 team Utah, which moved to 7-1 on the season with a nice win over UCLA earlier in the day. While it might be quite unexpected on both sides, it’s probably not a stretch to think that contest is the Pac-12 game of the year and a potential league title game preview given how both sides looked this weekend.