Indiana’s Wilson fires misguided shot at Big 12 and Notre Dame

22 Comments

There was a time the Big Ten had what seemed to be a competitive advantage in the BCS bowl picture by not playing a conference championship game when the ACC, Big 12 and SEC were. Now the tables have been turned and folks around the Big Ten are starting to fire shots at the Big 12, a conference without a championship game.

One of the big questions yet to be answered entering the new era of college football is what the impact of playing a conference championship game or not playing one will hold on the College Football Playoff selection committee’s line of thinking when it comes to choosing the four best teams in the country. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may not be ready to have a program worthy of sniffing that conversation any time soon, but he certainly feels the Big 12 and Notre Dame are getting an easier path to the postseason mix.

Wilson, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, suggested the Big 12 is avoiding a challenge that is embraced by the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC with a conference championship game. Not playing the game gives the Big 12 a competitive advantage. To drive his point home, Wilson made a golf reference that suggests Big 12 schools and Notre Dame are playing the equivalent of 17 holes while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC are playing the entire back nine.

That is probably an unfair statement, of course, especially in the case of the Big 12. Unlike in the Big Ten, every Big 12 school plays the entire conference using a nine-game schedule for the 10-team conference. Wilson’s Hoosiers will not have to play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern or Minnesota this season. A true champion can be crowned in the Big 12 by having every member play the entire conference. Wilson’s point, though, is the added challenge of playing a conference championship game has the advantage of padding a school’s strength of schedule, but also provides a giant risk by potentially missing out on a playoff spot or perhaps a spot in another lucrative bowl game with a loss. Of course, this argument is nothing new.

Notre Dame is a slightly different situation, as a football independent, but the Irish have established a track record of organizing competitive schedules. This season the Irish play Michigan, Stanford, North Carolina, Florida State, Arizona State and USC. All but Michigan appear in the preseason coaches poll. Indiana faces just two teams ranked in the same preseason poll this fall (Ohio State and Michigan State). Notre Dame has no started a new relationship with the ACC, guaranteeing multiple games each season against ACC competition, in addition to annual rivalry games against USC, Stanford an Navy. Notre Dame also takes their show on the road in the Shamrock Series against other power conference opponents on neutral sites.

Is Wilson out of line, or does he have a point worth discussing further? Feel free to share your opinions down in the comment section.

Jimbo Fisher the latest to try to snap Nick Saban’s unbeaten streak over his former assistants

Getty Images
Leave a comment

To say that this particular teacher gotten over on his former students would be a significant understatement.

Nick Saban‘s Alabama Crimson Tide will square off with Jimbo Fisher‘s Texas A&M Aggies Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Saban and Fisher, of course, are very familiar with each other as not only are they both natives of the state of West Virginia but the latter was the former’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU for five seasons from 2000-04.

The two have faced each other once as head coaches, with Alabama knocking off Florida State 24-7 in the 2017 season opener. That game marked the 11th time Saban had squared off against a former assistant; the College Football Playoff championship game win over Kirby Smart‘s Georgia Bulldogs was the 12th.

In those dozen games, Saban’s teams are a perfect 12-0.

Saban’s first win over one of his former assistants came in 2010 as Alabama dropped rival Tennessee and its head coach, Derek Dooley, by 31 points. Saban would go on to beat Dooley two more times, with each of those coming by 31-point margins as well.

Aside from Smart in the national championship game (26-23 in overtime), the closest a former assistant has come to beating Saban was in 2015 when Jim McElwain and Florida fell 29-15 in the SEC championship game. That was one of McElwain’s three losses to his former boss — two at Florida, one at Colorado State.

Saban is also 2-0 against Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and 2-0 against Will Muschamp (then at Florida).

All told, Saban’s teams have outscored his former assistant’s teams by a combined score of 479-157 in the 12 meetings. For those not so mathematically inclined, that’s an average score of 40-13.

If Fisher can’t end the streak in Week 4, one of Saban’s former defensive coordinators, Jeremy Pruitt, will get the opportunity do it as the first-year head coach at Tennessee will play host to Alabama in Week 8 in Knoxville.

Penn State scores 63 points in back-to-back games for first time since 1917

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For roughly 35 minutes, it appeared as though No. 10 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) was going to be in for a struggle until the final whistle in a Friday night Big Ten opener at Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten). But the final score showed just how explosive Penn State is capable of being at any given moment. Penn State pulled scored 42 unanswered points in a 63-24 victory over Illinois, improving to 4-0 overall and setting half of the stage of a big game next week in Happy Valley against Ohio State.

A week after putting up 63 points against Kent State, the Nittany Lions accomplished something the program has not done in over a century. For just the second time in school history, Penn State scored 63 points in consecutive games. The last time that happened was in 1917. The last time it happened, the Nittany Lions took advantage of a couple of non-major programs in the most lopsided of fashions.

  • October 6, 1917: Penn State 80, Gettysburg 0
  • October 13, 1917: Penn State 99, St. Bonaventure 0

According to College Football Reference, Penn State lost the next game, 7-0, at Washington & Jefferson. Guess they should have saved some of those points, huh?

Adding to the somewhat historical start Penn State is on, this marks the first time in program history the Nittany Lions have scored at least 50 points in three consecutive games.

Trace McSorley completed 12 of 19 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the Penn State win. The quarterback also rushed for 92 yards. Running back Miles Sanders was the star of the game with 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Penn State out-scored Illinois 35-0 in the fourth quarter.

Next week, Penn State hosts Ohio State in primetime. As Friday night showed, Penn State will have to tighten up the run defense against the Buckeyes if they are going to avoid their first loss of the year.

Report: Notre Dame going with Ian Book over Brandon Wimbush at QB in Week 4 vs. Wake Forest

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Back in late August, when Brian Kelly reaffirmed that Brandon Wimbush would be Notre Dame’s season-opening starter under center, we opined that it remained to be seen how long of a leash the incumbent would have. As it turns out, it could be just three games long.

According to a report from 247Sports.com, Ian Book (pictured) will start at quarterback for Notre Dame in Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. If the report comes to fruition, it would mark the second start of Book’s collegiate career, with both of those coming on the road.

As speculation churned regarding the status of the position throughout the week, Brian Kelly had steadfastly refused to tip his hand as to a Week 4 starter.

“They’re both going to play,” the head coach said Thursday. “I’ve said that all year. They’re both prepared. They’re both ready. We’re going to need both of them.”

Wimbush started all but one game for the Fighting Irish last season, throwing for 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. One of the biggest knocks on Wimbush, who has four interceptions in three games in 2018, is his accuracy, as evidenced by a 49.5-percent completion percentage on 275 attempts last season; that number has improved to 55.3 percent this season as the Fighting Irish have gotten off to a 3-0 start.

However, their passing offense is tied for 89th in the country (200.7 yards per game) while their scoring offense is even worse — tied for 104th (out of 130 FBS teams) in points per game at 23.3.

The only game Wimbush didn’t start last season, Book did. In the 33-10 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill last October, Book completed 17-of-31 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Book also replaced Wimbush in the Citrus Bowl versus LSU, connecting on 14 of his 19 pass attempts for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The last of those scores was a 55-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in the Irish’s 21-17 come-from-behind win over the Tigers.

This season, Book has completed all three of his passes for 13 yards and a touchdown.

McKenzie Milton’s six-touchdown night powers No. 16 UCF past FAU

Getty Images
2 Comments

The longest active winning streak in FBS was extended to 16 straight games by No. 16 UCF (3-0) Friday night in Orlando. McKenzie Milton accounted for six touchdowns as UCF topped FAU, 56-36, in a battle of the defending AAC and Conference USA champions.

UCF started off on a quick foot with two touchdowns on their first two offensive series in the game, building a 14-0 lead before FAU could find any offense to work with. After the Owls strung together 17-straight points, Milton drive UCF down the field in the final 90 seconds for a go-ahead touchdown and UCF never really had to look back from there. UCF scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 42-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

Milton had himself another big game. Milton passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. UCF piled up 546 yards of offense and converted seven of 11 third down plays for a first down.

FAU got a productive night from their offensive star, Devin Singletary. The running back rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and was a difference-maker that provided a much-needed spark in the first half. But UCF was too much for FAU to handle over four quarters. FAU turned the football over twice, including on the game’s opening possession when Chris Robison was picked off. A second interception late in the third quarter stalled a promising looking drive as well.

Having played three games, UCF continues to look like the best Group of Five team in the race for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup. No Group of Five school has made back-to-back trips to the New Years Six under the College Football Playoff format, but UCF has shown no reason to suggest they are incapable of becoming the first. With Boise State losing last week and the AAC piling up some good wins as a conference (helping to out-weigh a few bad losses), the AAC looks to be putting itself in solid position to send its champion to a big bowl game at the end of the year. UCF’s biggest competition will come in conference games later on, including matchups with schools like Memphis and South Florida, but having a head-to-head win against a possible Group of Five conference champion is nice to have in the pocket later on.

FAU’s search for a win against a top 25 team will continue to drag on. With the loss, the Owls fell to 0-20 all-time against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

UCF will stay home next week for its first and only game against a power conference opponent this season. The Knights will host the Pitt Panthers. UCF had a game against North Carolina canceled due to Hurricane Florence last week and had a game against Georgia Tech wiped out last season so the opportunity to finally play an ACC opponent will be welcomed by the Knights.

FAU will begin the quest to defend their Conference USA championship from last year next week by opening conference play on the road against Middle Tennessee State. Middle Tennessee is off this week after losing at Georgia last week. A bye week before a home game against the Owls is favorable, although FAU is still likely to be the favorite next week and in Conference USA.