Monday, December 5, 2011
College Football Recap: Ten Things of Note
By Shane Ryan
I believe the premise has been sufficiently introduced by the title, so I shall tarry no further.
1.There Will Be a Rematch
This is depressing enough to me that I can barely muster the energy to dispute it. Like most reasonable people, I do believe that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in the country. But I don't care. They played, the Crimson Tide lost. That was their national title shot. Everyone knew the winner of that game would likely make the BCS title game; it's not like the stakes were a secret. And as long as there's a legitimate one-loss team somewhere out there, preferably one who finished the season on a high note (sorry, Houston), that team should get a crack. Obviously, that team exists in Oklahoma State. With a 44-10 win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys stated their case emphatically.
My argument, as you see, is purely anti-rematch. In a system without a playoff, it makes no sense to pit two teams against one another in a winner-takes-all championship. Because what happens if Alabama wins by three? How are the Tide champions over LSU? Forgetting all that for a second, it's worth reading Michael Weinreb's piece from last week making the case that both Boise State and Oklahoma State actually have better resumes than Alabama.
Instead, Oklahoma State plays Stanford, and the BCS will pray for the Cardinal to win. They'll pray for LSU too, in order to have an undisputed champion. But whatever happens, we can rest assured, for yet another year, that the BCS is the dumbest, most illogical, and faultiest championship system in major sports.
2. Holy God, The Honey Badger
LSU's new thing seems to be trailing early in a game and getting upset lovers excited before cruising to an easy victory. The Tigers did it against Arkansas, and they did it in their 42-10 SEC championship win over Georgia. But let's not forget that near the end of the first half, with the offense stalling and the defense looking a bit less invincible than normal, the undefeated Tigers trailed 10-0. If Georgia could make it to the half with a double-digit lead, there's an argument to be made (a tenuous one, but still) that the complexion of the game may have been very different. But they didn't preserve the lead, and here's why.
He does nothing but make huge plays. That return was impressive (even if he dropped the ball before the end zone), but this one was even better.
Don't kick to the honey badger. Don't kick to him. Avoid the honey badger at all costs.
3. The Hail Mary Rematch
Could the result of Wisconsin-Michigan State II end on anything but a bizarre play? After a back-and-forth game, the Badgers (non-honey variety) were punting with two minutes remaining, leading 42-39. Watch for yourself.
I'm not sure what to think. By the rules, I suppose it was a penalty. But Lewis certainly took a dive (and good for him), and I think in an ideal world the ref would've kept the flag in his pocket. But it's tough to argue if you take a textbook interpretation of things. Regardless, Wisconsin used the flag to run out the clock and win a game they would have lost otherwise.
Well, there goes the Houston fairytale. With a 49-28 loss to no. 24 Southern Miss, the Cougars lost all prayer of a BCS berth. Gone too is Case Keenum's remote hope for a Heisman. Credit to the Southern Miss defense, who managed two picks against Keenum (he had three the whole season coming into the game) and held him to 5.6 yards per attempt (he'd averaged more than 10 previously).
6. The At-Large Bids
Each year, the BCS has four at-large bids to hand out after the six conference champions have been decided. Alabama and Stanford nabbed two this year, to which I say fair enough, but the other two went to Michigan and Virginia Tech.
You may be wondering why those schools were chosen, or you may already know. For the unenlightened, it's because the fanbases at Michigan and Virginia Tech travel. The BCS knows that when these schools play in the Sugar Bowl, they won't have to worry about selling tickets or landing decent television ratings. And that must be the only reason, because there's no other justification for excluding the following superior teams: Boise State, Kansas State, South Carolina, and Arkansas. I don't think anyone would even try to argue that point. The BCS certainly doesn't; those teams are all ranked ahead of Virginia Tech and Michigan.
But, as usual, it's a fool who looks for logic in the dark heart of the BCS. All we know for sure is that the Sugar Bowl is going to be terrible.
7. Speaking of Terrible ...
The Orange Bowl may not be much better. Clemson routed Virginia Tech for the second time this season to capture the ACC crown, and West Virginia emerged as the Big East champion after squeaking by South Florida and winning a three-way conference tiebreaker. The two teams will meet in the second-least desirable bowl, but I'm actually grateful. By forcing all four mediocre BCS bowl teams into two games, it makes the other three pretty great. You've got the national title game, of course, along with a fun Oklahoma State-Stanford Fiesta Bowl and a wonderful Oregon-Wisconsin Rose Bowl. Plus, the poor at-large choices by the BCS set us up with the best Cotton Bowl in recent memory, pitting Arkansas against Kansas State. I'm just going to count that as the fifth BCS. Any objections?
8. This Year's Award for Funniest Bowl Game Name Goes To ...
The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
You have to love when the combination of the sponsor name and the bowl name actually says the opposite of what the sponsor intends. Let's all take an education holiday! (Also, aren't football players on a permanent education holiday?)
9. What's the Second Funniest Sponsor-Bowl Combination?
The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
If there's one thing Franklin American Mortgage dudes love, it's rocking out to some tunes in the Music City!
10. What About that Heisman Race?
Keenum's gone. Here are my top five.
5. LaMichael James, Oregon: He's averaged 7.4 yards per run. If he hadn't missed 2.5 games with injury, he'd lead the country in rushing.
4. Montee Ball, Wisconsin: His 38 touchdowns this year (32 on the ground, six in the air) fell just one shy of Barry Sanders' all-time record. He has the most rushing yards in the country now, which is a bit deceiving since he had an extra game to work with, but he was still near the top. And he averaged an impressive 6.4 yards per carry.
3. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: Without a doubt, the second-best quarterback in the country. His QB rating and yards per attempt trailed only Robert Griffin III, he led everyone in touchdown-to-interception ratio (31:3), and he's fourth in completion percentage. Plus, he recovered from two dispiriting losses to lead Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl.
2. The Honey Badger, LSU: 'Nuff said.
1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor: The only thing keeping him from the top spot was the lack of a signature victory, and now he's got two. Last weekend he took care of Oklahoma, and this week it was Texas. He accounted for 362 total yards and four touchdowns against the Longhorns. That left him as the top-ranked quarterback in the country. He's also first in yards per attempt (10.8), second in total offense, and fifth in completion percentage. He finished the year with 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions, and two yards shy of 4,000 passing. Add on 644 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, and there can be no debate.