This is it, gang. This is the last Semi-Ignorant Guide of the year. Thank you for joining me on this ride as I spouted half-truths and outright lies, took credit for lucky upset predictions, and generally learned nothing of value. This, in the end, is what being a sports fan is all about. Let's get right to the top 10 games (all times EST).
10. No. 16 UCLA at no. 8 Stanford (Friday, 8 p.m.)
I've told you before about my college football pool, in which 18 of us pick the 10 most prominent games each week against the spread. So far the leader has 68 points through 13 weeks, for an average just barely above .500. All but two people are at .500 or below. Some of us know football pretty well, others are clueless, but it doesn't matter. It's impossible to pick games against the spread. But over the course of the season, I've come to realize that Las Vegas knows everything. Every once in a while, there's a point spread that seems absolutely ridiculous. Last week, when Louisville (undefeated in the Big East) was an underdog against Pittsburgh (1-4 in the Big East, 4-6 overall), everyone in the pool thought it was a gimme. The result? Pittsburgh won, 27-6. Somehow, Vegas knows all.
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
O Meyer. O Saban. O Miles, you mysterious, grass-eating prophet
Sorry, you caught me in the middle of my daily prayer to the Southeastern Conference. Like a lot of college football fans, I consider the SEC my guiding light. Only by praising its six straight national titles can I justify my miserable existence as a Big 12 fan. But through three weeks of football — through bumps in the road against Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky — my faith in the SEC has begun to waver. If we college fans are expected to bow before our SEC overlords, we ought to clear up just who’s worth bowing to.
I’ve got three names: Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Urban Meyer. When we talk about the SEC, it’s tempting to imagine a southern behemoth that stretches from Columbia to College Station. The recent spasm of SEC greatness, though, is largely the work of three guys.
I don’t know what it is about Lane Kiffin, but I can admit that it’s something. Maybe it’s the evasiveness that comes off as smugness. Maybe it’s the smugness that comes off as smugness. Either way, there’s an element to the way Kiffin handles himself that irks, and his latest casting as the villain is no different.
The inevitable poaching of players from a sanction-riddled Penn State program was bound to give a glimpse into the heartlessness of college football. Left in the wake of the greatest scandal in the history of college sports is a collection of 20-year-olds forced to reconcile the sacrifices they made and the identities they built at the feet of a fallen idol. And on their heels are coaches from programs around the country, all of whom see opportunity, no matter how it came about.
Through three quarters, Denver quarterback Tim Tebow and his Broncos put in an ugly, scoreless performance against the previously hapless Miami Dolphins. Worse, Tebow, the fan favorite, had been outplayed by Miami's quarterback, former cast-off Matt Moore. It was not the kind of display that would silence Tebow’s doubters — at least not until the fourth quarter. That’s when Tebow (and the Broncos) rallied in the final minutes to tie the game, which they eventually won on a 52-yard field goal in overtime. It was an odd victory — but it was a victory, nonetheless.
Here’s how Tebow and the Broncos pulled off a two-point conversion to force overtime.
As soon as he hears Bill Snyder’s name, Barry Switzer cuts off the question. He’ll tell you about Bill Snyder. Switzer’s tenure at Oklahoma — a reign that included three national championships and 12 Big 8 titles — ended after the 1988 season, just before Snyder took over at Kansas State. The Wildcats had spent the previous two years punctuating their joke of football haplessness. They went two full campaigns — 27 games, actually — without a win. In a three-game stretch in 1987, K-State lost by a combined 151 points. Over the previous 40 seasons, they were last in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. By almost any objective measure, Kansas State was the worst program in college football history. By his fifth season in charge of the program, Snyder had his team in the Top 25. In his 10th, they were ranked no. 1 and were a play away from the national championship game. It was, without question, the biggest turnaround in the history of college football.
In the wake of an anticlimactic Red River Rivalry game, Ty Hildenbrandt and Dan Rubenstein review college football’s sixth week. They discuss another Honey Badger attack, the Urban Meyer-to-Penn State rumors, and Texas A&M’s generous defense.
Hildenbrandt and Rubenstein also rank the the top five teams in the ACC, take a stand against celebration penalties, and analyze Brady Hoke’s “QB Eagles” treatment of Denard Robinson. Plus, more listener voice messages.
When I was a kid, before I knew any better, I rooted for Notre Dame football. You can blame the influence of my stepfather or my Catholic roots or the musty old books I found in the school library, with their whitewashed tales of Knute Rockne. It certainly didn't hurt that starting in 1991, every Irish home game was on television. In any case, one of the greatest moments of my young life came in 1993, when Notre Dame beat Charlie Ward and no. 1 Florida State 31-24 in the second-to-last game of the season. All that remained was to knock off Boston College at home, and the Irish would have a shot at a national championship.
But things didn't go as planned. The Eagles jumped out fast and held their ground. It took a furious 22-point, fourth-quarter comeback for Notre Dame to reclaim a slim lead near the end, but David Gordon, BC's left-footed kicker, found himself lining up a 41-yard attempt with seconds left to pull off a stunner. The kick wobbled, and appeared to be heading right. I still remember the tiny swell of hope as I let my mind map out the ball's trajectory. It would veer wide, wouldn't it?
No. Gordon had done his worst.
A year or two later, I realized there was no good reason for me to support Notre Dame. In college football terms, I became a man without a country. That's continued to present day, and it's actually quite a nice break from the usual stress of affiliation. But the melodic strains of those two weeks in 1993 have persisted, reemerging from time to time in my personal sports landscape. Ward played 10 seasons for my New York Knicks, including the ill-fated 1999 trip to the NBA Finals. After his starring role in my personal sports tragedy, Boston College coach Tom Coughlin later balanced his karmic output in one of my greatest triumphs — a New York Giants Super Bowl win against the hated, undefeated Patriots. And 17 years to the day after his kick, David Gordon married my elderly Aunt Gloria.
Just kidding on that last one. Nevertheless, the connection lingers. That's the origin story, and this is Gordon's Left Foot.