The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Guess who’s back… Back again…
Earlier this week on this lil’ ol’ website, the question was posed asking whether Florida State was back after years of keeping the national stage at arm’s length.  Consider that question answered in the affirmative.  And with (late-game) authority.  Early on, though, the Seminoles were staggering, with No. 10 Clemson holding a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter and seemingly having the No. 4 team in the country on the ropes.  Then, all offensive hell broke loose for the ‘Noles.  In a span of just under 17 minutes, FSU exploded for 35 points to send the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium into a frenzy and, ultimately, home ecstatic with a resounding 49-37 thumping.  The win puts the Seminoles in the ACC driver’s seat — FSU will be significant favorites every single conference game the remainder of the season — and, depending on how things shake out above them, could find themselves in the same seat when it comes to the chase for the BcS title chase.  Of course, there are still several obstacles to navigate, none more obvious than themselves and shooting their own foot.  For now, though, every sign points to the Seminoles very much being back.

A RB graveyard in Corvallis
Apparently, Oregon State is the place where top-flight running backs go to die.  In two games this season, OSU has limited Wisconsin’s Montee Ball — third in the country last season in rushing yards — to 61 yards on 15 carries and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin — the nation’s leading rusher entering this weekend’s game — to 45 yards on 12 carries.  Neither player scored a touchdown.  The Beavers turnaround in that phase of the game is nothing short of astounding.  Last season, OSU ranked 101st in the country, allowing 193.8 rushing yards per game in winning just three games; this season, OSU, 2-0 after their win over the No. 19 Bruins, is giving up just 53.5 yards per game.

Here he comes to Stave the day
The most notable change at the quarterback position this weekend came courtesy of Wisconsin, with the Badgers taking the reins of their offense out of the hands of Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien and handing them to Joel Stave.  And, at least for one game, the redshirt freshman made the UW coaching staff look like a bunch of Norman Einsteins.  In his first collegiate start, Stave threw for 147 yards — in the first half; the Badgers came into the game with UTEP averaging 156.3, a total “good” for 117th out of 124 FBS programs.  For the game, Stave threw for 210 yards — the return of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis certainly helped the first-time starter — as the Badgers held off the Miners 37-26.

Red-hot, dead sexy MACtion
MAC football: it’s not just for Wednesdays any more.  On Saturday, The Little Midwest Conference That Could finished the day with a 6-3 record in non-conference games.  It was the victories, however, that were the story of the day as four of those wins came against members of BcS conferences — Kansas, 30-23 losers to Northern Illinois; USF, 30-27 losers to Ball State; Iowa, 32-31 losers to Central Michigan; and UConn, 30-24 losers to Western Michigan.  Not only that, but Eastern Michigan hung with a ranked Michigan State team through three and a half quarters, as did Akron vs. Tennessee; in fact, the only blowout in MAC vs. BcS matchups Saturday was Virginia Tech’s 37-0 drubbing of Bowling Green.  Add in a 4-0 Ohio University team that should be ranked somewhere inside the Top 25, and it’s shaping up like the MAC could be the best football conference in that area of the country and yes I’m looking directly at you B1G.

AIRBHG on sabbatical?
You have no doubt heard of the curse of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, with the Hawkeyes losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 players at the position to on-field injuries and/or off-field “issues” the past several years.  The fullback position is another animal entirely, as Mark Weisman proved Saturday afternoon.  The former walk-on rushed for a career-high 217 yards — the Hawkeyes as a team rushed for 215 — and scored three of Iowa’s four touchdowns.  In the end, however, the AIRBHG had the last laugh as Central Michigan, after recovering an onside kick with less than a minute left, kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Chips a stunning 32-31 win over the Hawkeyes.

LOSERS

Mizzou’s rude welcome to SEC continues
Well, that’s no way to treat the new guy, is it?  After Georgia spoiled Missouri’s SEC coming-out party two weeks ago in a physical 21-point beatdown, South Carolina dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game, pushing and bullying its way to an easy 31-10 win.  That leaves Mizzou 0-2 in conference play, with games against old-man football teams such as Alabama and Florida among others remaining.  Granted, Mizzou has faced the two preseason favorites in the SEC East, but the Tigers had been hoping to send an early-season message to rest of the league.  They’ve actually done that, but it’s not the message they would’ve preferred: simply put, the Tigers aren’t nearly ready to compete with the best the East has to offer, let alone the best that the conference serves up annually.

The forward pass in South Bend
This all you need to know about the aerial circus, replete with clowns and a bearded lady, that reared its ugly head in South Bend Saturday: the last five passes Michigan attempted in the first half were all intercepted by Notre Dame — four by Denard Robinson, one by Vincent Smith.  All told, seven were intercepted between the two teams; the two by the Irish were courtesy of starter Everett Golson, who was promptly yanked in favor of Tommy Rees.  Fortunately for the Wolverines, that was the last of the picks, although Robinson was kind enough to lose a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter.  Unfortunately, the combination of the turnovers and the Irish defense was too much to overcome as the Wolverines fell to 2-2 with the 13-6 loss.

Ramblin’ Wrecked
For the second time in four weeks, Georgia Tech has lost an ACC heartbreaker, with this one likely costing the Yellow Jackets any slim hopes they’d entertained of making a trip to the conference championship game.  In today’s loss to Miami, Tech fell behind 19-0… only to score the next 36 points… only to see The U score the final 23 points, including a touchdown in overtime that gave Miami a 42-36 win.  That game-winning touchdown came after Tech, with the initial possession of the extra session and eschewing a chippie field goal attempt, failed to convert a fourth-and-one from the two-yard line.  Combine that with a three-point overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener, and the Miami game was the back-end of a fatal one-two conference sucker punch to Tech’s gut.

No Moore equals much less for Boise
With the losses of Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a whole host of other veteran starters, it was widely assumed that Boise State would struggle, especially on offense and early on in the season.  The struggles on that side of the ball, however, have been of a magnitude that no one could’ve reasonably predicted.  During the last three years with Moore under center, the Broncos never finished fifth in scoring and didn’t average less than 42 points a season.  Prior to the ugly win over BYU, BSU was 83rd in the country averaging 26 points per game, totals that will no doubt drop following their seven-point output against the Cougars.  Chris Petersen‘s track record says he will right the Broncos’ listing offensive ship; how soon that happens will determine whether the Broncos can once again crash the BcS postseason party.

Straight up the Wazzu
The highly-anticipated Mike Leach era at Washington State has been one long and  resounding thud.  A 24-point loss to BYU to open the season, then wins over FCS-level Eastern Washington and winless UNLV by a combined total of 12 points.  And then the biggest thud of all: a home loss to Colorado, a “football team” with an under-fire head coach and had just the week before given up 55 points and over 500 yards of total offense in the first half to Fresno State.  And had lost to Colorado State and FCS-level Sacramento State.  For Wazzu to lose a game against a team like that after leading by 17 in the fourth quarter is inexcusable and unacceptable, as explained by CFT correspondent Max Cady:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm81LSKJC2k&feature=player_detailpage]

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 2 LSU 12, Auburn 10: Facing a road game against an opponent whose lone 2012 win came against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, the Tigers escaped with win over Auburn.  It wasn’t pretty, but in the big conference picture, a win is a win is a win.  I wouldn’t think the Tigers would drop more than a spot in the polls, but you can never really tell which way the shifting voter winds will blow.

— No. 8 West Virginia 31, Maryland 21: I was on the fence about including this one, but the woeful state of Terrapin football proved to be the tipping point.  The Terps were actually tied with the Mountaineers in Morgantown midway through the second quarter and had outgained the explosive WVU offense by 70 yards.  WVU, as expected, pulled away for a double-digit win, but the fact that the Terps hung around for so long was eyebrow raising to say the least.

— No. 16 Ohio State 29, UAB 15: Trailing 9-0 late in the first half, and leading just 21-16 late in the fourth, Braxton Miller‘s second touchdown of the game — he now has 16 scores (seven passing, nine rushing) in four games — put the game away for the Buckeyes.  A perfect 4-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer, OSU will face its first real test of the season as they travel to East Lansing to face No. 21 Michigan State.

— No. 20 Louisville 28, FIU 20: The Cardinals trailed for the first time this season — 14-7 in the middle of the second quarter — before pulling away with 21 unanswered points in its fourth win to start the season.

— No. 21 Michigan State 16, Eastern Michigan 7: Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans were trailing a lesser opponent in the first half, with MSU actually trailing the Eagles late into the third quarter.  Based on this game and the overall start to the season, if MSU is the best the Big Ten has to offer then the conference is in for a very long, extremely embarrassing 2012 bowl season.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The Tide has outscored its opponents 168-21 in four games and likely won’t be tested for the first time this season — hello, Michigan!!! — until Oct. 27 against No. 23 Mississippi State.  Or the following weekend at No. 2 LSU. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Ole Miss

2. Florida State — An emphatic statement win indeed, one that’s been a long-time coming for the storied football program. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at USF

3. Oregon — Take a Top-25 team to the woodshed?  Stay right where you are, courtesy of FSU’s own woodshedding of a ranked foe. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at Washington State

4. LSU — Win by two points over an unranked team, regardless of whether it’s on the road against a conference foe?  Take two steps back, please. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Towson

5. Kansas State —  Go on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country?  Go ahead and leapfrog numerous teams and right into this lil’ Top Five. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Kansas

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

— Arkansas’ John L. Smith: The past three weeks, Smith’s Razorbacks have lost to the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Monroe; were woodshedded by Alabama in a shutout loss; and, Saturday, lost to Rutgers.  All of those losses came at home.  For all intents and purposes, Smith was a one-year rental to bridge the gap between the dismissed Bobby Petrino and a permanent replacement.  Based on the past three games, Smith has all but assured that will indeed be the case.  And will likely burn the bridge down in the process.

— Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: An ugly loss to Florida — which included Phillips sticking with in-over-his-head quarterback Morgan Newton, he of the three first-half interceptions — dropped the Wildcats to 1-3 on the season.  Phillips will be lucky to survive the entire season, let alone making it to 2013 on the Wildcats sideline.

— Auburn’s Gene Chizik: For the first time since 1998, the Tigers have started a season 1-3.  For the first time since 1980, AU’s started SEC play 0-2.  We’ll reiterate a stat that says it all about Chizik’s tenure at AU.  With Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik is 14-0; without Newton, Chizik is 17-13 overall and 7-11 in SEC play.  In his career, Chizik is 22-30 as a head coach when he’s Cam-less.  If there is such a thing, a two-point setback to the No. 2 team in the country would qualify as a good loss.  For a program like AU and in a conference like the SEC, claiming moral victories is a sure sign you’re headed in the wrong direction.

HE SAID IT
“I don’t need any questions today.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, channeling his inner Lane Kiffin, after giving his opening statement and promptly walking out of his postgame press conference.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
Tennessee has always had beautiful athletes.” — Akron head coach Terry Bowden, following the Zips loss to the Vols.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— After missing on his first throw of the day, Connor Shaw completed the final 20 passes he attempted in South Carolina’s taming of Missouri.  The FBS single-game record, incidentally, is 26 in a row set by East Carolina’s Dominique Davis in 2011.  Shaw can break Davis’ record of 36 straight completions over two games next week against Kentucky.

EJ Manuel and Chris Thompson combined to account for 585 of Florida State’s 667 yards of total offense — 380 yards passing for Manuel; 103 yards rushing for Thompson; and 102 yards rushing for Manuel.

— Oregon State’s Sean Mannion set a career-high in passing with 379 yards in the Beavers upset of UCLA.

— Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 253 yards in the win over Eastern Michigan.

— West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, second in the country in receptions per game entering today’s tilt with Maryland, caught 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 31-21 win over the Terps.

— A first-quarter fumble in the game against UTEP was the first fumble Montee Ball had lost during his career at Wisconsin.  The fumble came on his 655th carry as a Badger.  Ball ultimately left the game with a head injury in the first half and did not return.

Dustin Harris set a Texas A&M and SEC record with 246 yards worth of punt returns in the Aggies’ 70-14 win over South Carolina State.  He averaged nearly 31 yards on his eight returns, which included a 96-yarder for a touchdown.

— A first-half reception gave Syracuse’s Alec Lemon 140 for his career, breaking the school record of 139 previously held by Scott Schwedes (1983-86) and Shelby Hill (1990-93).

— Arizona took six trips into the red zone in its loss to Oregon, and failed to come away with any points on any of those visits.

— It took a little over 182 minutes of play this season for Iowa to record its first touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss from James Vandenberg to Kevonte Martin-Manley.  Army and UConn also threw their first touchdown passes of the season, leaving Air Force as the lone FBS team with no scoring plays through the air.

— Wake Forest’s run defense has given up a staggering 814 yards rushing the past two weeks — 385 in a loss to Florida State last weekend, 429 in a win over Army this weekend.  Last season, Alabama gave up just 938 yards in 13 games.  Speaking of which…

— An FAU touchdown with 2:46 left in the game was the first points No. 1 Alabama’s defense had given up since the third quarter of the season-opening win over Michigan, a span of 192:28.  This season, the Tide has outscored its four opponents 168-21.

— Nebraska scored 45 points and rolled up 362 yards of total offense in the first half alone of its blowout win over FCS-level Idaho State.  That number represented the most the Cornhuskers have scored in two quarters since scoring 52 points against Baylor in the first half in October of 2000.

— In Georgia’s 48-3 win over Vanderbilt, the 2012 Bulldogs became the first team in the program’s history to score 40-plus points in consecutive games.

— Ohio State’s win over UAB was the 400th for the Buckeyes in the history of Ohio Stadium.

— Florida’s win over Kentucky was the school’s 26th straight over the Mildcats.  In other streak news, Penn State has now won 30 consecutive games it’s played against Temple.

— On the strength of its 17-10 win over Syracuse, Minnesota has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008.  And, if you want to talk about the state of the Big Ten, digest this little nugget: the Gophers and Northwestern are the conference’s only unbeaten teams that are eligible for the 2012 postseason.  Ouch.  The good news for the Big Ten?  Conference play begins next weekend, so the league is guaranteed to win half its games nearly every weekend.

— With a 31-19 win over Colorado State, Utah State has started a season 3-1 for the first time since 1978.  Senior running back Kerwynn Williams rushed for a career-high 205 yards and scored two touchdowns in the victory.

— North Carolina’s seven sacks in a win over East Carolina was the most for a Tar Heels team since 2000.

— Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke (no relation) threw for 730 yards and accounted for 791 yards of total offense in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire.  Those totals are the most ever in a single game at the Div. 1 level — FBS and FCS — and the third-most at any level.

— Derrick Henry, the No. 1 “athlete” in the Class of 2012, set a state of Florida record with 502 yards rushing in his high school football game Friday night.  Henry, who decommitted from Georgia earlier this year and is now believed to be leaning toward Alabama, broke the record of 501 yards set by Shawn Smith of Tampa Bay Tech back in 1985.

In interview with Howard Stern, Tom Brady talks about almost transferring from Michigan to Cal

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While a lot of the attention surrounding his Howard Stern interview focused on his relationship with the current POTUS, there was a college football angle to all of the Tom Brady talk.

Coming out of high school in California, Brady chose a scholarship offer from Michigan over one from Cal. His first season at U-M, Brady sat behind Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese and Jason Carr, the son of head coach Lloyd Carr and took a redshirt. His second season, with Carr out of eligibility, Brady was still behind Dreisbach and Griese.

In his book “Belichick and Brady,” Michael Holley explained that Brady very nearly transferred from Michigan to Cal because of his positioning on the depth chart. During the course of his SiriusXM interview with the King of All Media Wednesday, Brady acknowledged the transfer talk.

The guy who was playing above me, Scott Dreisbach, he was very much their guy,” Brady told Stern during the show. “I thought we had got off to kind of a good start, he had got off to a good start in his career, and I was looking up at all these guys on the depth chart that were ahead of me, and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get a chance here.’ I remember talking to the people at Cal, because that was my second choice, to go to Berkeley, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should go there, because I’ll get more of an opportunity to play.’

“I went in and talked to Lloyd Carr. I said, ‘I don’t really think I’m going to get my chance here. I think I should leave,’ and he said, ‘Tom, I want you to stay, and I believe in you, and I think you could be a good player, but you’ve got to start worrying about the things you can control.’ When he said that he wanted me there, I went to bed that night, I woke up the next day, and I figured, you know what, if I’m going to be — and I still feel this way today — in a team sport, you’ve got to sacrifice what you want individually for what’s best for the team. So if you’re not the best guy, it’s a disservice for the team if you’re forced to somehow play. My feeling was, if I’m going to be the best, I’ve got to beat out the best, and if the best competition’s at Michigan, I’ve got to beat those guys out if I’m going to play. I ended up committing to be the best.

Obviously, Brady opted to remain with the Wolverines. He served as Griese’s backup in 1997, then beat out Dreisbach for the starting job the following season. After two years as U-M’s started, Brady was infamously selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Suffice to say, Brady did fairly well for himself during his 20 seasons in New England.

Minnesota projecting potential $75 million loss due to COVID-19

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The worst case for Minnesota when it comes to COVID-19 is a hefty bottom line hit.

The school’s board of regents met on Tuesday and detailed some of the initial modeling they are projecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking just of the athletic department, that could result in nearly $75 million in lost revenue alone for the Gophers.

The Athletic’s Eric Vegoe detailed one of the slides from the meeting, which shows an overall $200 million hit to the university at large in a worst case — or “severe” — scenario:

Obviously the severe scenario that shows COVID-19 lasting into the fall is projecting a serious loss of revenue as the result of no (or reduced) college football. The sport makes up the vast majority of Minnesota’s revenues and has untold impact on other items such as donations as well.

USA Today’s database of athletic department revenues show the Gophers had nearly $125 million in revenue through the 2017-18 school year. While that figure has undoubtedly climbed higher as Big Ten media rights distributions have escalated, the number provided to the regents is still a huge chunk of that amount.

Even the moderate estimate of things lasting through the summer could result in a 20% shave on the department’s income.

It goes without saying that finances across the board in every industry will be impacted by the global pandemic but slides like the one above are a good reminder that even in the tiny world of football or college athletics, the cuts will probably have to run quite deep. And if a school like Minnesota is potentially forced to cut back, just imagine what other Group of Five programs will have to go through.

At some point college football will return to our lives but the ramifications of this current battle against the coronavirus figure will certainly have a far-reaching impact well beyond the gridiron. Sadly, no amount of ‘Rowing the Boat’ will be able to change that fact.

Bay Area official does not expect sports to return “until at least Thanksgiving”

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So much of the intersection of the coronavirus and college football has centered on when the game might return this fall.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy wants players back as soon as May. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is confident that Death Valley will be packed come September. Virginia Tech’s athletic director has floated moving the calendar back just to get a full slate in.

In short, nobody knows.

That unknown has weighed heavily on most as they are asked to discuss the topic in recent days. What is left unsaid however, is that no coach or administrator will truly be in charge of determining the date CFB returns. That will be left to health officials at the local level.

One such official broached that topic this week. Speaking to the Santa Clara County (in the California Bay Area) Board of Supervisors, Dr. Jeffrey Smith believes sports in general may be looking more toward winter than fall whenever it returns.

Per the Los Angeles Times:

Smith on Tuesday told that county’s Board of Supervisors that he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do.”

Santa Clara County is home to both Stanford and San Jose State. It’s also located in the region of the United States that was at the forefront of shutting down as a response to COVID-19 last month.

If those in charge don’t see a return to the football field until turkey time, those optimistic projections of getting the season done on time can probably be thrown to the wind.

Let’s hope that won’t turn out to be the case and the world can get a medical miracle it desperately needs. But until that happens, it’s probably best to be more pessimistic when it comes to the 2020 season than optimistic.

Survey of ADs shows momentum for expanded College Football Playoff

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At some point normalcy will return to college football. When that will be is anybody’s guess but it will come at some point.

When it does, much of the focus in the sport will return to matters like… College Football Playoff expansion. Yes, everybody’s favorite subject isn’t being forgot even if the attention is elsewhere nowadays due to the coronavirus.

Stadium recently conducted a wide-ranging survey of FBS athletic directors and one of the big questions asked was not surprisingly about the future of the CFP. To nobody’s surprise, the move toward eight or more teams in the annual postseason tournament is gathering plenty of momentum.

Per Brett McMurphy:

A whopping 88 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletic directors want an expanded College Football Playoff when the current playoff contract ends after the 2025 regular season, according to a survey conducted by Stadium.

Of those athletic directors who favor an expanded playoff, 72 percent believe eight teams should qualify. Also, 66 percent of the ADs said the highest-ranked non-Power Five team should receive an automatic bid to an expanded playoff.

Since its inception as a four team event, the idea of expansion for the College Football Playoff has been a pretty constant talking point. Some have made their feelings known publicly at all levels.

“More and more fans are only concerned with the playoffs,” a Power Five AD told Stadium. “That’s sad, but true, so we should expand the playoffs when possible. Even if that impacts the bowl system. We have to figure out a way.”

So mostly it’s been a question of when and not if. The focus on the latter has typically centered around the expiration of the CFP television contract with ESPN after the 2025-26 season. Executive director Bill Hancock has remarked a few times that there is no “look-in” with the deal to formally renegotiate the contract. Still, there would need to be some groundwork laid and a decision made well before 2025 in order to make the necessary changes to things like semifinal dates and stadium sites.

Given the potential revenue shortfalls due to the on-going COVID-19 situation, perhaps things will be accelerated over the course of the summer but we’re entering a window where the talk about moving to eight teams or beyond is going to start turning into some action.

It sounds as though the ADs are on board with formally expanding the chase for the national championship and this latest survey only confirms as much.