Dallas Colleges: ACC
You know: The conference that can count!
But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.
Joy to the world.
So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.
Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!
Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.
David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.
But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.
I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.
These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.
As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.
But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.
The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.
The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?
David Ubben: Nope. Not really.
Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.
The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?
How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?
Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.
How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.
The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.
Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.
Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.
David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.
As for Texas' struggles?
The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.
The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.
They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.
It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?
Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.
Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.
Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?
Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.
I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?
David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...
Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.
Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.
Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.
|TCU coach Gary Patterson shares his thoughts on the Horned Frogs' 2-1 start, his program's future in the Big East, Casey Pachall and more. |
TCU coach Gary Patterson on Tuesday said this seemingly unending and unnerving game of musical conference chairs -- one that again has the gypsy-like Horned Frogs fretting after less than a year of relative security awaiting entrance into the now crumbling Big East Conference -- is sending very poor messages.
"We’re trying to teach every day, we’re trying to teach kids to do the right things and make good decisions and do things for the right reasons; don’t do them because of financial [gain], and then everything they read we do it opposite," Patterson said, whose 'we' references all those schools bolting and contemplating bolting. "So, we’ll see how it all goes."
TCU, of course, is poised to bolt the Mountain West Conference for what it believes to be all the right reasons -- finally an AQ-status conference for Patterson's football team to easier access the coveted BCS bowl games. Now, who knows? By the end of the week the Big East might be swirling the big drain.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte is in New York for a Tuesday night meeting with officials from the six remaining Big East football-playing schools. It is possible, but not confirmed, that TCU president Victor Boschini will also be present. Del Conte has not returned a phone message. Boschini's location was not divulged by a TCU official, only to say he will not be available for the duration of Tuesday.
"I think we’re going to end up well," Patterson said. "Before this is all said and done, I think we’re going to be in a good position and all you got to do is understand where you’re at and how you do things. I don’t see us being any less of a commodity than we were last year when we were taken the first time. I think we’ll just keep doing what we do."
The first time, though, the Big East placed heavy value on TCU's addition. The formidable basketball league was a football laughingstock among the six BCS conferences. The Frogs were viewed as the heavy to improve the league's image and competitiveness.
Now, if we are headed to superconferences -- and Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to the Pac-16 (again, they are good counters out west) would set in a motion a race for the SEC, Big Ten and ACC to fill out their 16-team rosters -- would TCU be attractive to any of the Almighty Four?
If the Big 12 dissolves, the Big East and Big 12 have talked of a merger of survivors. But would a reconfigured Big East or Big 12 -- whichever name it chooses really doesn't matter -- be granted AQ status after their BCS contract expires in 2014? This is the great unknown. Perhaps worse, what if the Big 12 survives yet again and superconferences are again off the table? Then what of a shrunken Big East and TCU's options?
Patterson said he is no fan of 16-team conferences, having been a part of one in the over-expanded WAC during TCU's early wanderings after the demise of the Southwest Conference.
"To be honest with you," Patterson said of that WAC, "I didn’t really like it very much."
Well, this time Patterson might not have to worry about a 16-team conference, although I'm guessing he'd sure rather have that problem than the one that appears to be coming.
It's all enough to make your head spin and why Patterson likely preferred to talk about Saturday's home opponent, Portland State. To start his weekly media session Patterson reminded that there is a football season going on in the midst of realignment season.
"Right now, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to take care of, so that’s my job," he said. "If I don’t win then I won’t get a chance to worry about what conference TCU’s in."
TCU is reportedly high on the Big East's expansion wish list. The Frogs, who played in their first BCS game last season, would have interest in joining the Big East because the conference currently holds the golden key to BCS inclusion as an automatic qualifier.
The MWC is a non-automatic qualifer, meaning the conference's champion does not automatically receive a bid to the far more lucrative BCS bowl games. Non-AQ conference teams must meet guidelines just to make them eligible for inclusion and do not reap the same financial windfall as AQs.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte on Tuesday acknowledged that Big East school presidents were meeting and setting the parameters for expansion, although he had little to say to advance the subject. There appears to be some trepidation at TCU that the Big East can keep its current eight football-playing schools -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut-- together, and that subsequent replacement expansion would further water-down the league, eventually causing it to lose its AQ status.
One such school is Rutgers. Some believe the New Jersey school remains a high-priority target of the Big Ten, which will consist of 12 teams beginning in 2011-12. There are also fears that the ACC could again invade the Big East as it did earlier in the decade when Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami switched allegiances.
TCU coach Gary Patterson is solely focused on Saturday's showdown in Salt Lake City. The Frogs (9-0, 5-0 MWC) moved up to No. 3 in the lastest BCS poll with the Utes at No. 5 (8-0, 5-0 MWC). No. 4 Boise State (7-0) in the WAC gives the non-AQs three teams in the top five of the BCS rankings.
For all three, the dream of playing for a national championship is alive heading into the final month of the regular season.
If TCU beats Utah and then closes out its remaining two games unblemised, and either No. 1 Oregon (8-0) or No. 2 Auburn (9-0) lose one of their remaining games, the Frogs could move into the top two. A top-two ranking in the final BCS poll in early December would land TCU in the national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
"[Two years ago], basically Utah was playing TCU for a BCS spot, not playing for a national championship," Patterson said. "Then last year, both Boise and us end up getting to that place [BCS game], but we didn't get a chance to [play for the national championship]. Now we're talking about, because we all started higher [in the poll], now we're all sitting in a situation where that's [the national championship game] a conversation."
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