Welcome to the newest B1G Brother!
The History: Did you know the Russell Athletic Bowl was originally the Blockbuster Bowl and first played in Miami in 1990? In 2001, however, the game was moved to Orlando and renamed the Tangerine Bowl. In 2004, it became the Champs Sports Bowl and early in 2012, Russell Athletic signed an agreement with Florida Citrus Sports to become the game’s sponsor through 2015. The game features the top non-BCS selection from the Big East and the top non-BCS selection from the ACC.
Rutgers Scouting Report: Rutgers comes into this game with a 9-3 record including wins over Cincinnati & Syracuse and losses to Louisville & Pittsburgh. The key for the Scarlet Knights’ offense will be the play of quarterback Gary Nova and running back Jawan Jamison. In the team’s three losses, Nova threw nine interceptions. In their nine wins, he threw only six combined. As for Jamison, before suffering an ankle injury on November 10th agains Army, he was in contention for Big East Player of the Year. Before his injury, he averaged 105.7 yards per game, leading his team to an 8-1 record before going 1-2 in their last three games in which he averaged just 34.3 yards per game.
Buckeye Connection: The Buckeyes and the Scarlet Knights have never faced off on the football field. That will soon change when Rutgers makes its move to the Big Ten Conference in 2014. Read More
This week, there’s only one song that will suffice for Buckeye Nation. Enjoy!
The “reveal” was a part of the Beat Blue rally in the Student Union on Monday night, and saw former Ohio State running back Raymont Harris taking the catwalk at the party. The biggest question is about the Buckeye leafs awards on the helmet- the jersey will have seven of them to commemorate the seven national titles, but it’s unlikely that the awards the players have won this season will make the helmet. That being said, the official Nike blog has a Buckeye sticker on the helmet, so there may be something in the works.
My take: I like these the most of the ones we’ve seen, although I wish they’d stop screwing around with the gear for Mich1gAAn week. But, the students like them, as do all of the recruits who will be in attendance... and that’s the target demographic.
“You’re taught at a very young age who the enemy is, but you have a lot respect for the enemy.”
He spoke fondly about this year’s senior class, and how he’s been impressed that they stuck around once the bowl ban was announced. He talked about the need to be ready for both Denard and Devin at quarterback on Saturday, and that there was more than likely a chance for something “interesting” to happen. On his own quarterback, Coach Meyer talks to him daily and reminds him that the goal is to be a QB that can run rather than a running back who throws the ball. “It’s a big week in Columbus Ohio”
We’re going to do things just a little bit differently this week, given all of the amazing news and events that happened this past weekend. So, this will be part Silver Bullet Points, part Monday Morning Commentary, and the usual chunk of random observations from Saturday’s events in the world of college football. Here’s something to listen to while you’re fighting the urge to tl;dr- we’ve certainly got a lot to be Thankful for.
In this year’s edition of the Battle For Los Angeles, the upstart UCLA Bruins jumped out to a quick lead and held on to “upset” the Trojans by ten points on a gray day in Pasadena. While the Bruins obviously have been playing much better football this year, you’ve also got to wonder if the trajectories of the programs have now crossed, particularly given some of the issues that continue to swirl at Southern Cal.
As the team that was picked by many to contend for the national title, the frustration for many SC fans has been swirling since the loss to what we now know is a pretty good Stanford team. That game highlighted the Trojans’ issues with depth; injuries since then have continued to create problems and have certainly didn’t help in their back to back losses to Arizona and Oregon. The defeat by the Ducks made things even more problematic, since SC’s defense was a point of strength for them under current coordinator Monte Kiffin; their being gashed turned up the heat on the current coaching administration. And now, to lose to “little brother” has many wondering if it’s not time to make a change.
Coach Kiffin’s actions certainly haven’t helped this season- cutting media opportunities short, banning reporters outright… it certainly makes sense that he’d not want to leave the Rose Bowl via the obvious entrance on Saturday night. Other controversy swirls around Lane as well; while possibly not related, it’s definitely not helping matters at all. You may remember “inflation-gate” and the termination of a student manager following the revelation that game balls for kickers were under-inflated against Oregon. For those not infatuated with special teams- a “flatter” pigskin has a much larger “sweet spot”; as a great Buckeye Planet poster pointed out, the Trojan’s kicking game has not been anywhere near as efficient ever since they were penalized for this “mistake”.
In addition, earlier this week Tennessee was dinged for recruiting issues that occurred under Kiffin’s one year tenure in Knoxville- issues that involved Chip Kelly’s favorite videographer, Willie Lyles. Given the length of the investigation into Oregon’s program and this new decision at UT involving Lyles, you’ve got to think that there’s more than a few million good reasons for Kelly to take the Pete Carroll route and jump to the NFL ASAP.
What does this mean for Kiffin? At this time, it’s difficult to say, but losing Matt Barkley for the matchup against Notre Dame this weekend, combined with the continuing scholarship losses for the next couple of years would certainly be reason to wonder how warm his office chair will be getting this winter.
Interestingly enough, the other two programs involved in “affair du Lyles” also had difficult weekends. Derek Dooley’s Volunteers lost to cross-state foe Vanderbilt, and it wasn’t even close. The win ensures that UT will have a losing season for the third time in as many years, and was only the second victory for the Commodores in 35 years. Following the game, the inevitable happened… Dooley was fired, effective immediately. If you’re an Ohio State fan, you’ve got to wonder if this might have an impact on current recruits looking at both programs… Vonn Bell is the name that pops up, but there may be others in the 2014 class. This year’s season ending clash between the Vols and ‘Kats will feature both coaches in either interim or lame duck status… it’s going to be a fun coaching carousel for the SEC this season.
Lyle’s third “partner” in all of this felt the sting of their first loss on Saturday, at home, to a Stanford team that should be in the conversation about the top programs in the nation. Remember, they’re a botched call from extending overtime in South Bend and possibly ending the Irish Nightmare that we are currently facing. I was most impressed with The Cardinal’s defense on Saturday- disciplined, aggressive, and never seemed to give up the big play to an offense that most often looks like throwing kerosene on a bonfire… one blink, and it’s over. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. Ahem.
The loss can easily be attributed to a lot of things- Oregon being too confident, and this being the Duck’s annual brain fart game; Questionable officiating, A “trap” game, with the resurgent Beavers looming Thanksgiving week… But all of these would not do a service to the great work that the coaches at Stanford, starting with Jim Harbaugh, have done in building a program that can certainly play with anyone in the country. It’s also why I think that Alabama, if given the usual bowl prep to face Oregon, would beat them- I believe that the Tide’s defense is more athletic and much more disruptive than Stanford’s… and the template we’ve seen in the Ducks’ losses over the past four years is now pretty well known. You just need to have the horses to pull it off; Stanford did on Saturday, and now control their PAC12 destiny. They’ll need to beat UCLA twice in two weeks to do so, but doing so may have the Oregon Ducks on the outside of the BCS championship game AND the automatic Rose Bowl berth… along with USC. It’s been that kind of year.
Oh, and on Saturday Northwestern, Stanford, and Vanderbilt all won. Nerds, y’all.
Commentary: Polls and Playoffs Read More
In spite of the huge win in Happy Valley on Saturday, I’m feeling a bit of the blues are in order for this week’s recap. So, enjoy some Collins, Cray, and Copeland.
It’d be easy to say that this week was “spook-tacular”, and “scary” for a lot of top teams, but that would be way to easy. So, let’s just admit that Saturday once again proved that we’re fans of the greatest sport in the world; because anything can happen once the ball is kicked.
As a promise to a “friend” that’s a Notre Dame fan who I’ve been justifiably ripping for the last ten years, we’re leading off this week with the Irish’s huge win in Norman over the Sooners. Like most of America who pays attention to the sport, I imagined that Oklahoma would stomp a mud hole into Brian Kelley’s team- Stoop’s defense, high powered offense… not exactly playing Air Force here. So, because the Irish emerged victorious, undefeated, and “relevant” enough to bump up to the third ranking spot in the BCS, I tip my journalistic cap to them- particularly their defense, which is playing lights out this season. Although they gave up their first* (non-official assisted) rushing touchdown to Oklahoma, they were able to keep Sooner QB Landry Jones guessing all night long. That’s not to say that we’re not without some controversy, as the “luck of the Irish” continued when Heisman Candidate Manti Te’o intercepted the Sooners late in the game to seal away the victory. Your perspective of the play will depend on your hopes prior to the game- Irish fans were elated, others thought that the initial play was a case of pass interference resulting in a ball that clearly touched the ground. At any rate, complaining about the officiating is better left to other fan bases; the Irish are undefeated, and have overcome all but one of the games that had people pointing to theirs as the toughest schedule in college football. Congrats indeed.
Although… How much of this gets pinned on Bob Stoops? “Big Game Bob”, as we’ve discussed before, has built a reputation on an early BCS championship and his ability to beat his rival. However, given the state of his rival over the past few years, is it really fair to continue to give him a pass for his team’s coming up short in these types of games? The loss to Notre Dame is the second at home this year… although, to be fair, both teams are undefeated currently. So, Sooner fans- enjoy that BCS win over Connecticut a few years back, and hope that things can get turned around in the B12 for your squadron in the near future.
Since we alluded to them, let’s talk Texas, shall we? It took some late game heroics by a McCoy (no, not that one) to keep from being beaten by Kansas. You read that correctly… the Jayhawks and their “Coach by weight” strategy were within seconds of beating the Longhorns and turning the heat even higher up on coach Mack Brown. I’m not one to jump on a dead bandwagon- check out the great “post a picture of our defense” thread on Shaggy Bevo- but I still can’t figure out how the flagship school in one of the most talent rich states in the nation continues to struggle on the field. Granted, it may be the competition in the conference and adjacent conferences, but you’ve got to think they’d be able to be successful whether or not there’s a prodigy at quarterback.
Also in the B12, Kansas State, the new #3 in the BCS continues to roll, playing even with Texas Tech for a half and then making the adjustment necessary to blow out the Raiders in Lubbock. Read More
The weak that was and I pulled an 0′fer and am 3 and 12 on the season! Atleast Im doing a little better in the Pick ‘em pool!!! Anyone want to replace me as the the picker for these contest games? Here are the results of my worst weak week ever!!!
Safe Bet. VTU over PITT 31 to 6; Role reversal and WRONG! PITT 35 to 17 (Some other time Fat Urkel)
Points Plus. Mizzou over Arizona St. 43 to 39; wrong on points Mizzou 24 to 20
Defensive Struggle. Navy over Penn St. 9 to 7; WRONG AGAIN!! PSU 34 to 7
Best Match-up. USC over Stanford 34 to 28; Glad I was WRONG Stanford 21 to 14
Best B1G Game. MSU over Notre Lame 24 to 17; Sparty WRONGED me! ND 20 to 3
Ok… here’s what you’ve got for this week:
Safe Bet. Maryland @ WVU. I’ll take WVU and the points here. Now that the Heisman front runner Geno Smith and his streaks in shoes Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are firing on all cylinders in that high powered offense, they’ll take care of business quickly. Edsell’s Terp’s are still learning the ropes and have little chance of competing in this game. I was wron about my safe bet last week, but not this week. WVU 47 to 13
Points Plus. Fresno St. @ Tulsa. The Bulldogs hung 69 points last week on Colorado and the Golden Hurricanes blew through Nicholls St. for the tune of 66 points. The last time these two teams met in 2005 they combined for 55 points. I’d say the over in this match up is close to double that. Basketball on turf for sure. Fresno St. 54 to 49
Defensive Struggle. Rutgers @ Arkansas. I honestly am not too sure there is much left of John L. Smith and the Razorbacks after the Tide dismantled and blanked them last week. There isn’t help on the way in the form of the Scarlet Knights thoughas they are undefeated on the season and atop the Big Least standings. I’m not sure any of that means anything. Going with the gut feeling here. Arkansas 16 to 10
Best Match-up. Clemson @ Florida St. In my ACC preview I pretty much said it would come down to the man that beat the man that beat the . . , and here we go. If the home team holds pat, which I don’t believe they will, then FSU will become a front runner to possibly play the winner of the SEC championship for the national title. That being said, the ACC has a habit of beating up on each other in these types of games and ruining each others seasons. Its a tough place to play for sure but I still like Clemson to play for it in the end. Clemson 21 to 17
Best B1G Game. TTUN @ Notre Lame. It’s killing me that I have had to use these guys three weeks in a row and it’s even worse now that I have to chose between them and TTUN. Now that Notre Lame is finally leaving the B1G . . , oh wait . . , the Big Least . . , no . . , whatever, they’re headed to the ACC and good riddens! Two things I will never do, pick a TTUN team to win anything, nor will I ever root for them. Notre Lame 24 to 23
Good luck with this week’s picks and Go Bucks!
Finally my turn to get into the action, with writing a bowl preview. Always fun to watch football games in baseball stadiums.
The Basics: Friday, December 30th from Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY at 3:30 PM EST. The game will be televised on ESPN pitting Iowa St (6-6) vs. Rutgers (8-4).
History: Last year saw the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee stadium, which has tie ins to the Big East and Big 12. The Inaugural game last year saw Syracuse defeat KSU in a thriller.
Iowa St: The Cyclones are led by freshmen standout signal caller Jared Barnett. He put opponents on their heels both through the air and on the ground. Don’t let their record fool you as Barnett didn’t take over the job till October, when he led them to 3 straight victories. Obviously this team will be remembered for their huge upset win over then #2 Okie State and held them out of the National Championship game. While Barnett had a huge game against the Pokes, he was highly inaccurate thorughout the year only completing 50% of his passes, so he may struggle against a very good Rutgers defense.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights will lean heavily on their defense in this one. Their tough D allowed only 18.75 points per game which was good for 12th in the country and 314 yds of total offense, which put them 14 nationally. Their D is led by Big East defense POY Khaseem Greene who was tops in the Big East in tackles with 127. Rutgers offense will also be led by a freshmen signal caller Gary Nova. He took over midway through the season and started the last 5 games leading the team in 1533 yds and 11 td passes. Nova will have a big time target to throw the ball to in WR Mohamed Sanu who set a Big East single season record with 109 catches. That landed him fifth in the nation. They will have to lean heavily on Nova and Sanu , as they had a very anemic running game averaging under a 100 yds/game. Iowa State’s putrid defense may allow for Rutgers to get on track on the ground tho. Rutgers will be playing in a bowl game for the 6th time in the last 7 years. Look for Rutgers to come out strong in this one as they will essentially be playing in their own back yard.
Fun Fact: In only the bowl games 2nd year this year there aren’t alot of facts about the bowl game, but Yankee stadium has been the host to some great moments in football history. Did you know that the what is considered” the greatest football game ever played” was played at Yankee statdium. The NFL championship game Dec 23, 1958 between the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts.
Who we got?
However, we like to keep it upbeat here at TWTW, so this week’s post was written with this R&B classic in mind.
In many ways, this was a weekend to forget, as eight members of the top twenty lost, several to unranked opponents. As disheartening as that might be, it’s crucial to remember the important truth of the matter, to keep things in perspective.
One team that no one should be overlooking at this point is the Clemson Tigers- In consecutive weeks, they’ve beaten a Florida State team who took Oklahoma to the wire and yesterday made an undefeated Virginia Tech look sloppy. While you can argue that the ACC as a conference is not the strongest in the country, something has gotten into Dabo Sweeny and his team is playing accordingly. Currently, they’re sitting at #8 in both polls, but with some head to head matchups between the teams above them and only a game against South Carolina during the rest of the season, don’t be surprised if the Tigers aren’t in the national title conversation.
Well, after a loss there really is only one choice for this week’s soundtrack… Just be thankful I didn’t go all Broadway on you. I know that there were exciting things on the field to talk about, but the big story brings us to…
This week in EXPAND-A-PALOOZA: Well, well, well- Saturday awoke to the ACC getting their big boy pants on, and Sunday it became official- Pitt and Syracuse would be joining the conference in all sports. This was a surprising move, since the ACC has been relatively quiet throughout this process, although last week the powers that be agreed to raise the conference buyout to $20 million (from $12-$14 mil). While it looks proactive in many ways, it’s got to be influenced by rumors that the SEC was looking to poach several schools (FSU/Clemson) from the conference. The addition of Pitt and Syracuse also effectively block the B1G; these programs were always in the minds of those who believed that B1G Commish Jim Delaney was looking to connect with the NY media market- that ship may have now sailed. As a reminder, the B1G is constrained, in a good way from my perspective, by the belief that the conference’s affiliations should transcend television dollars or “great matchups”, and include schools that are parts of the CIC or AAU to share research revenue opportunities.
Other rumors today are that TBPU, OU, UT, and TTU would head to the PAC-16 and be in a western division with Utah, Colorado, and the two Arizona schools. To solve the problem of “not playing in California” for recruiting purposes, the conference would move to a “pod” system that would have teams playing three other schools every year, and then two schools from the other two pods on a rotating basis. Yeah, it’s that complicated. Be aware, though, that UT folks were just in LA for the UCLA game (more later), and that UT and OU have board of regents meetings called for Monday, with Texas having “Conference Alignment” on the agenda.
Elsewheres, UConn has also been rumored to head to the ACC (holy cow, is that going to be a basketball powerhouse conference), while WVa is rumored to have submitted it’s petition to be the SEC’s #14. Where does that leave the B1G? Notre Dame/Rutgers/Mizzou are supposedly the next targets… although the CIC/AAU thing is still a strong draw for some who are connected to Longhorn Nation.
Oh, and if the insiders at a certain Northwestern message board are to be believed, ESPN is at the heart of this. Anyone else curious how media conglomerates became involved in the actions of institutions of higher education? And you thought the “coverage” of B1G sports by the four letter network had an agenda now… what do you think will happen when three of the four super-conferences have deals with Bristol’s network. Now THAT’s something congress should look into, if you ask me- particularly given the fact that the organization that was created to monitor and guide these matters is pretty much powerless on top of other issues.