Dallas Colleges: San Diego State Aztecs
(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin
Both teams can score a lot of points, so this game could come down to which team defends better.
Against elite offenses, Baylor appears to have the more efficient defense: Baylor has allowed 105.1 points per 100 possessions in four games against teams ranked in the top 25 in defensive efficiency; Wisconsin has allowed 109.7 points per 100 possessions in eight games against those same teams.
Matchup to watch: Baylor plays zone on 57 percent of its defensive plays. Wisconsin has the most efficient zone offense in the country, averaging 1.20 points per play.
(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford
Dayton-Stanford is the second 10 vs 11-seed matchup ever. The other was in 2011 when 11-seed VCU beat 10-seed Florida State, 72-71.
Both of these teams dominated defensively against their first two opponents, allowing fewer than 60 points in each game.
The Flyers defensive strength has been on the perimeter, holding their opponents to a tournament-best 15 percent shooting outside the paint. Stanford, on the other hand, has shut down its opponents inside. Kansas shot just 38 percent around the basket in the Cardinal's upset win.
With its dominant defense down low, the key to beating Stanford is by making outside shots. Stanford is 5-9 this season when its opponents shoot at least 36 percent on 3-pointers. The Cardinal are 17-3 when their opponents shoot less than 36 percent on 3-pointers.
Dayton is shooting 40.3 percent on 3-pointers in its last seven games.
(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida
This should be a familiar matchup for fans of both teams. Florida is 3-0 all-time in tournament games against UCLA, with all three meetings occurring in the last eight seasons.
The matchup to watch in this game is UCLA’s transition offense vs Florida’s transition defense.
The Bruins score a Pac-12 best 19.7 points per game and shoot 57 percent in transition. Florida’s defense allows only 9.0 transition points per game, fewest in the SEC, and holds opponents to 43 percent shooting on the break.
(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona
Three times a charm, right? This is the third time that Arizona is a 1-seed in a regional in Anaheim. The Wildcats won their Sweet 16 game here in 1998 and 2003, but lost in the Elite 8 both years.
The first to 50 points might win this game. San Diego State and Arizona rank first and third, respectively, in fewest points per 100 possessions allowed in the nation.
San Diego State excels with its press defense. The Aztecs have the fourth-most efficient press defense of any team that presses on at least 10 plays per game. Arizona ranks 29th in the country in points per play against press defense.
Arizona has been at its been defending the interior, holding its first two opponents to a tournament-best 32 percent shooting around the basket. San Diego State has attempted a total of just eight shots around the basket in its first two games, the second-fewest of any team.
[Editor's note: Per usual, we encourage you to stay with the blog all day for on-site reports from our writers across the country and, later, our recaps of all the big-time Saturday night action, including Saint Mary's-Murray State and Ohio State-Michigan.]
Kansas State 57, No. 10 Baylor 56: I found myself defending Baylor quite a bit in recent days. Myron Medcalf and I have been pretty hard on the Bears at times this season, and for good reason -- this team should be much better than it is. Frankly, it should be dominant. But for all of the struggles and frustrations and close scrapes with obviously inferior teams, it was important to remember one thing: Two teams had beaten Baylor all season. One of them was Kansas. The other was Missouri. There's something to be said for that.
At least there was before Saturday. Kansas State went ahead and spoiled that line, toppling Baylor in Waco in an ugly, questionably officiated contest. Not that the Wildcats minded. For obvious reasons, this was the win of the season for Frank Martin's team. K-State has long been dogged in the bubble discussion by an inexplicably anemic RPI figure, one that threatened to derail a mediocre but otherwise tourney-worthy at-large résumé. The Wildcats needed a big win down the stretch to compensate for that RPI number. An escape from Baylor with a one-point margin, aesthetically displeasing though it may have been, is just what the doctor ordered.
As for the Bears, well, what's left to say? You know the drill by now: This team is as talented as any in the country. It is also every bit as suspect. For whatever reason -- growth, personality, sheepishness, your guess is as good as mine -- Perry Jones III continues to register games like this: 6 shots, 4 points, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls and zero (yes, zero) free throw attempts. In each of Baylor's past four losses, Jones posted single-digit scoring and rebounding efforts. We hate to be openly critical of a college kid, but for a player of Jones' talent, isn't that inexcusable? For a team as long and active as this one, why are the Bears so blasé on the boards, so mediocre on the defensive end? Why, after a 2010-11 season derailed by constant turnovers, haven't these guys learned to value the ball?
It's not like Baylor is having a bad season. (Though since starting 17-0 they are a disconcerting 5-5 in their past 10 games.) The standard defense in the first paragraph still, for all intents and purposes, makes sense. But it's impossible to watch this team and not know that the product on the floor is merely a fraction of what it could be. We only ever get hints. That's what's frustrating.
New Mexico 65, No. 11 UNLV 45: If you failed to notice what New Mexico did earlier this week (winning at San Diego State, moving to 7-2 and alone atop the Mountain West conference standings) and haven't seen just how good this team has been playing over the past three weeks (before Saturday, UNM had won six in a row and risen to No. 11 overall in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings) it's officially time to take note. The Lobos are rolling, kids -- and Saturday was no different.
The lopsided outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion from the opening tip, and UNLV was in solid shape in a typically frenzied Pit atmosphere for nearly 30 minutes. But with 12:15 remaining, the Lobos did what they do best: They locked down on the defensive end. At that point, the score was 36-36. Just four minutes later, after a handful of impressive plays by Tony Snell, Demetrius Walker and Drew Gordon, the Lobos led 48-36. UNLV scored just nine points the rest of the way.
This is where New Mexico really shines. For as good as UNLV and SDSU have been this season, the Lobos are the MWC's best defensive team. They rank No. 1 in the league (and No. 11 in the nation) in adjusted defensive efficiency, primarily thanks to really good first-shot defense. The Runnin' Rebels have been struggling lately -- this week's 101-97 loss at TCU was profoundly strange, and they're now just 5-6 on the road this season, with four of those coming to unranked teams. But they're still awfully talented, and their struggles today had as much to do with the Lobos' pressure as any self-inflicted cause.
In the game's final moments, as Walker poured in another bucket and Gordon topped off his beast-mode 27-point, 20-rebound performance (Gordon was just the eighth player in the past 10 seasons to drop a 20-20 game on a Top-25 team, and just the fifth to do so in regulation), CBS play-by-play man Tim Brando said the affair had "become a New Mexico coronation." He was absolutely right. For too long, the Lobos slipped slightly under the radar. Their gaudy efficiency numbers belied a team that, when you got right down to it, hadn't beaten a team better than Saint Louis all season. It was easy to cast doubt.
No more. In the past week, New Mexico has held Wyoming to 38 points, beaten San Diego State in Viejas Arena by 10, and coasted right by a very good UNLV team. Steve Alford has built a beast in Albuquerque. If you were sleeping on UNM before, it will be impossible to do so now.
Washington 79, Arizona 70:Both of these teams' at-large pictures remain in flux, and that didn't change much today. A win over Arizona won't put Washington in the tournament in any definite way; a loss to Washington won't drop Arizona off the bubble. This is life in the current Pac-12, a power-six league in name only. (PSINO? PINO? We'll work on it.) This league was 2-31 against the RPI top 50 in nonconference play and 0-15 against the top 25. Simply put, this conference offers zero opportunities for marquee wins. At this point, the best the at-large contenders can do is just keep winning.
On Senior Day, the Huskies did exactly that, dinging the defensively resurgent Wildcats in the process. Terrence Ross was fantastic, and his line -- 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 assist, 1 block -- was the stuff of fantasy basketball fever dreams. That's a pretty good example of why this Washington team has been so frustrating this season. With Ross and freshman guard Tony Wroten (not to mention Aziz N'Diaye and Abdul Gaddy and so on) this team has obvious Top-25 talent. But here it is, struggling to get in the field. The Huskies have been better in Pac-12 play and are 12-3 atop the standings, but as recently as last week were absolutely drubbed 82-57 at Oregon.
If this team makes a run in the NCAA tournament, I won't be the least bit surprised. A first-round loss wouldn't shock me, either. Everything is on the table here. But the Huskies have to get there first. With their final three games on the road, and opportunities for bad losses -- at Washington State, at USC, at UCLA -- any and all outcomes are on the table. Should be interesting.
No. 21 Florida State 76, NC State 62: This is not what NC State needed. OK, sure, Thursday night's loss at Duke -- wherein the Wolfpack coughed up a 20-point second-half lead -- was hard to swallow. I get that, and I empathize. But NC State still has much to accomplish in Mark Gottfried's first season, chief among it a possible NCAA tournament bid. And so Saturday's game could have gone two ways: Either NCSU would come out angry at Thursday's letdown and focused on fixing it, or the Wolfpack would be emotionally (and physically, on one day's rest) exhausted.
Turns out it was the latter. Gottfried's team committed 17 turnovers and it shot just 29 percent. (Some of that is FSU's lockdown defense, but still.) In doing so, the Pack saw a chance to get a quality résumé win slip away. Will NC State's tourney chances, already very much in doubt, do the same?
For the Seminoles, this win was their 10th in the ACC. In each of the past four years, Leonard Hamilton's team has won at least 10 league games. FSU has stamped its position as the third-best team in its conference as Hamilton has built a program with staying power at a school that has traditionally treated its basketball as an only occasionally worthwhile diversion from breathless updates about the next great football recruiting class. Really impressive.
Wichita State 91, Davidson 74: Davidson, with that December win over Kansas in its back pocket, desperately needed a win here if it wanted to hold on to any scant hope of an at-large look. Obviously, that's done now. Wichita State just keeps beating up on people. Forget the mid-major label -- there are few teams in the country, regardless of conference, playing as well as this team right now. How many? Five? Maybe six? If that?
Anyway, before we move on, let's pause and reflect on the insane performance Joe Ragland unleashed Saturday. He scored 30 points and grabbed seven boards at the guard position. Even better? His points came on 11-of-14 from the field. He shot 3-of-4 from 3 and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. He was about as close to offensive perfection as a college basketball player can ever get. Bravo, sir.
Other observations from the afternoon action:
- After the big win, I thought it was pretty much impossible (or unpossible!) for Steve Alford's day to get any better. And then it did: San Diego State fell to lowly Air Force on Saturday, 58-56, thanks to an 18-of-52 mark from the field and -- even worse for this perimeter-oriented team -- a 3-of-16 mark from behind the line. The Aztecs got to the line with relative ease. But they went 17-of-25, and when you're shooting that poorly on the road, and you leave eight points on the board, look out.
- Following UConn's home loss to Marquette -- the Huskies' seventh loss in their past nine games -- guard Shabazz Napier, who has tried (and failed) all year to emerge as a bona fide leader of a UConn team that desperately needs just that, told reporters the following: "I hate to say it, but I have to question some of these guys' heart." Anyone who's seen Connecticut play this season has no choice but to agree. What a timid, lifeless bunch. That's the polar opposite of the Golden Eagles' scrappy style, and it showed all 40 minutes Saturday. (For colleague Andy Katz's dispatch from this game, click here)
- A win at Cleveland State doesn't quite look as great as it might have, say, three weeks ago, but no matter: Drexel's 20-point road victory was its 15th win in a row and 21st in its past 22 games. The committee may have a problem getting past the Dragons' cruddy performances in November (including the loss to Norfolk State), and those nonconference issues are part of the reason the CAA isn't getting much at-large love or even remotely passable RPI numbers for top teams like Drexel, VCU and George Mason. But 21-1 in 22 games? That's awfully hard to ignore.
- Speaking of mid-major teams with gaudy records that haven't earned much of a tourney look, how about Oral Roberts? The Golden Eagles held on to top Akron in their BracketBusters affair, moving to 25-5 overall in the process. ORU is 18-1 in the Summit League. If it wins out but loses in the conference tournament, can it get a bid? We'll see. Unlike those CAA squads, this team's RPI is certainly in the picture. The question is whether the committee can look past ORU's lack of quality wins (the victory at Xavier came just a few days after the Dec. 10 brawl against a skeletal, half-suspended Musketeers lineup) and ugly nonconference strength-of-schedule figure. ORU might want to play it safe and just go ahead and win the tournament. Why leave it to chance? Either way, this is an undeniably above-average team.
- Missouri is really good. Texas A&M is not. Our research group passed along two stats that rather tidily demonstrate as much: (1) This victory was Missouri's first win in College Station since 2001, and (2) Missouri's 56 percent shooting made the Tigers the first team to shoot better than 50 percent against A&M all season. Just a solid, workmanlike win from a really self-assured club. Fun to watch.
- DePaul is a little unlucky to be just 2-9 in Big East play after today's overtime loss to Louisville. It's not that the loss itself was particularly unlucky -- DePaul played well for 40 minutes, but the Cardinals were too much in OT -- it's just that this team's obvious improvements on the floor haven't quite shown up in its record. Such is life at a rebuilding project, I suppose.
- Nice win for Iona. The Gaels were probably a bit hard done by their BracketBusters matchup -- they needed a higher-profile game to really make a dent in the bubble picture -- but we can't fault the aesthetic quality of the end result. In other words, this was still a pretty awesome game. Iona won 90-84, and the replay is available on ESPN3. It's worth your while. Iona's offense was scorching hot: The Gaels went 33-of-53 from the field (62.3 percent) and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, and had five players score 13 points or more. Point guard Scott Machado had 15 assists, which is nothing new; Machado's 9.9 assists per game lead the nation (his assist rate of 44.3 percent is the nation's third-highest; word to Tim Frazier!) and his brilliance is emblematic of this team in general. With Machado, MoMo Jones and Michael Glover, Iona might the most talented mid-major squad in the country. The only problem? The Gaels don't really defend. But if that changes even marginally in the coming weeks, look out. Points in bunches, and all that.
- Kentucky and North Carolina both easily handled their middling conference foes, and both looked great doing so. The Wildcats' win was their 50th in a row at home. John Calipari doesn't lose at Rupp Arena. That's just the way it goes.
- And then there's Binghamton. The nation's last winless team had its best remaining opportunity to notch a victory on the road at 5-23 Radford. Unfortunately, the Bearcats lost 64-59, and so the sad story of their brutal season rolls on. Binghamton's next two opponents (Vermont, Albany) are both much better than lowly Radford (though the Bearcats do get both games at home, so that's good), and their season finale at New Hampshire isn't a totally insurmountable challenge (though Pomeroy's predictive model gives the Bearcats just a 7 percent chance of winning). Bottom line? This team could very well go the entire length of its season without a win. Poor Binghamton. Can you say Bottom 10?
Iona at Loyola (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET): Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos was peeved that his squad was left out of the TV BracketBusters games. Well, this one is on TV and it’s a shot for the Greyhounds to let the rest of the country know that the more publicized Gaels aren’t the only team in the MAAC. The teams are tied atop the league. This should be the MAAC tournament final, with one of the two earning the bid in Springfield, Mass., next month.
Louisville at West Virginia (ESPN, noon ET): The Cardinals are rolling while the Mountaineers haven’t been the same since losing to Syracuse and failing to get that goaltending call on Jan. 28. If West Virginia doesn’t stop Louisville in transition, the Mountaineers are in serious trouble. But you have to expect WVU will get this win at home.
Virginia at North Carolina (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Cavaliers can disrupt the Tar Heels and control the tempo. The key will be how the Heels respond to their disheartening loss Wednesday to Duke. UNC is the more talented team, but are the Tar Heels mentally tough enough to bounce back and beat a disciplined Cavs squad?
Miami at Florida State (ESPN3, 1 p.m. ET): The Seminoles had to take care of business against the bottom of the ACC. But they didn’t for the second time when they were stunned at Boston College on Wednesday. Miami comes in on a roll after following up its win Sunday over Duke with a victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday. This could be one of the most evenly matched ACC games -- not involving Duke or Carolina -- the rest of the conference season.
Connecticut at Syracuse (1 p.m. ET): The Huskies need to show some pride and play well at Syracuse. Orange coach Jim Boeheim wasn’t at all pleased with his team’s effort Wednesday against Georgetown. UConn, meanwhile, is coming off a brutal performance Monday at Louisville. The Orange have more talent, depth and experience. UConn needs to create havoc on the defensive end to have a shot and Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi better play one of their best games to control the post.
Baylor at Missouri (ESPN3, 1:30 p.m. ET): The Bears got worked over by Kansas at home; Missouri is coming off a gritty victory at Oklahoma after beating Kansas in Columbia last Saturday. Separation has occurred in the Big 12, with Missouri and Kansas a game ahead of Baylor. The Bears had better find a way to defend. Missouri already proved it can win against a taller set. If Missouri wins, Baylor would not have beaten Mizzou or Kansas this season.
VCU at Old Dominion (2 p.m. ET): This should come as no surprise: VCU is on a roll and atop the CAA with Drexel and George Mason. ODU is a game behind after losing last week at Mason. If the Monarchs want a shot at the CAA title, they probably have to win this game. ODU gets one more shot at one of the leaders, hosting Drexel to end the season. All four are postseason teams, but only one might be in the NCAAs.
Wyoming at New Mexico (3:30 p.m. ET): The Lobos won where UNLV could not -- at Wyoming. New Mexico has quietly put together a potential MWC title season. UNM is tied with UNLV and a game behind San Diego State. This is another chance to stay in stride with the Rebels and Aztecs.
San Diego State at UNLV (4 p.m. ET): The Aztecs knocked off the Rebels in the final second Jan. 14 at Viejas Arena. Each has suffered a surprising road loss since, at Colorado State and Wyoming, respectively. Thomas & Mack will be rocking. The key will be if the Aztecs can again keep the Rebs off the backboards in key moments.
Wichita State at Creighton (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET): The Bluejays are reeling, by their Missouri Valley standards, after losing two straight. Wichita State lost at home to Creighton on Dec. 31, and if the Shockers want to win the Valley regular-season title, they need to win this game. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being game two of three between these two Valley favorites. A meeting in St. Louis seems inevitable.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET): The Wildcats have reached the toughest part of their road schedule -- at Vandy, at Mississippi State and at Florida before the end of the regular season. The Commodores certainly have the talent, experience and some beef to deal with Kentucky. But can they finish against UK, or any elite team? Vandy isn’t going to win the SEC. But this is a huge confidence game for the NCAAs.
Xavier at Temple (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET): The Musketeers have been erratic. Temple hasn’t always been healthy. The Owls appear to be the front-runners in the A-10 -- at least at this point -- but X can upstage Temple with a victory in Philadelphia. This could be a decisive win for the Owls in their quest to win the league outright.
But, neither of those outfits compare with the downhill rushing attack of the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers-- tied with TCU as the fourth-highest scoring offense in the land (43.3) -- will bring to the 97th Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. This will be Patterson's greatest challenge of his career.
The Wisconsin offensive line far outweighs TCU's excellent defensive line, and a trio of running backs -- James White, John Clay and Montee Ball -- have at least 800 yards each, combining for nearly 3,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.
"You know what they’re going to do and they do a great job of running the football; they do a great of play-action," Patterson said. "They’re not one of those teams that are going to try to fool you. They come after you and say, 'Are you better than us?' And, for us we’ve got to go out and get ready to play and we’re going to have to tackle and tackle some more and tackle some more, and get ready to go."
The TCU defense, statistically No. 1 in total defense for a record third consecutive season, has been particularly stingy against the run this season, ranking third in the nation, surrendering less than 90 yards a game. The Frogs haven't allowed a team to rush for 100 yards since Oct. 23 and only the option attack of Air Force (184 rushing yards) and SMU (190) have topped 100 yards on the ground all season.
However, No offense the Frogs have faced, not Oregon State with Jacquizz Rodgers, not Air Force and not San Diego State with Mountain West Conference leading rusher Ronnie Hillman can compare to what Patterson's defense will see from the big, bad Badgers, the nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense.
"I don't know if we've played anybody specifically just like Wisconsin where they just keep coming at you with the power running game and then they try to stretch you on the edge," Patterson said. "It will be a great challenge for us because you find out as a football team what is the highest level you can play at, and that's why you play in the Rose Bowl. "
There is interesting film for Patterson to study, which he said he started breaking down last week. In its three games against Top 25 opponents, all within Big Ten play -- wins over Ohio State (31-18) and Iowa (31-30), and a loss to Michigan State (34-24) -- Wisconsin has rushed for an average of 163.7 yards, well below its season average of 247.3 yards.
"Obviously they come downhill and they come at you all day long," Patterson said. "As a football team, the best way to keep them off is for us to do well on offense. That’s one of the ways that you stop them. We have to tackle well. It’s one of the reasons why two weeks ago once we got done with the season, we got back in the weight room. We got back to running, getting ourselves back into beginning-of-the-season shape and getting our shoulders and our legs stronger.
"Good tackling teams tackle because you’re healthy and we’re going to need to be a healthy football team going into that ballgame."
That's the home of the sprawling ESPN campus where Patterson will make it a full day of radio and television appearances to campaign for his team's BCS and national championship game worthiness. TCU put itself in a perilous situation with Saturday's 40-35 win over San Diego State.
The win wasn't big enough and No. 4 Boise State closed the gap. Now the Broncos are in position to leap the Frogs if they win their final three games. TCU has just one game left at woeful New Mexico after Thanksgiving, a game that will do little to improve their BCS standing.
If Boise passes the Frogs, TCU would still be in contention for a BCS game, but could also be left out all together.
So, Patterson will join just about every show the ESPN family of channels has on the air.
His day will start at 8:45 a.m. in Bristol with the Mike and Mike Show, which can be heard locally on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, and seen on ESPN2. Then Patterson will make radio stops on the Colin Cowherd Show (airs noon-2 p.m. locally), the Scott Van Pelt Show and the Doug Gottlieb Show.
He'll also make TV appearances on First Take, SportsNation, College Football Live and SportsCenter.
Patterson's day will conclude at 5:30 p.m., and it just might prove to be more tiresome than a game-week work day.
The stakes are incredibly high as TCU (11-0, 7-0 Mountain West Conference) heads into a bye week with one regular-season game remaining at woeful New Mexico after Thanksgiving. Boise State on Friday throttled Idaho, 52-14, and if the Broncos only close the gap on TCU, they still have three games remaining (vs. Fresno State, at No. 21 Nevada, vs. Utah State) to thrust their high-powered offense and stingy defense upon the voters.
Remember back when TCU beat SMU by 17, but didn't show great and fell a spot in the AP Top 25 poll (which is not part of the BCS formula). Two weeks ago, riding a wave of impressive conference blowouts, the Frogs jumped Boise despite the Broncos routing their WAC opponents.
TCU widened the gap on Boise and were widely hailed as title-game worthy after their 47-7 road demolition of then-No. 5 Utah.
But, the Utes did the Frogs no favors Saturday, getting blasted at hapless Notre Dame and perhaps cementing the belief that Utah was overrated, as well as denting the MWC's credibility as a menacing conference.
What does it mean if TCU drops behind Boise? Everything. The highest-ranked non-automatic qualifier is first in line for an automatic BCS berth -- this year into the Rose Bowl -- and remains on the doorstep of a possible national championship game appearance if, seemingly, No. 1 Oregon, slim winners over California Saturday night, or controvery-ridden No. 2 Auburn, big winners earlier in the day over Georgia, lose in their final games.
If TCU were to fall behind Boise, there is little time now to make another move.
The second-highest ranked non-AQ might find itself out of the BCS mix entirely, needing an at-large bid to get in, but knowing that the major conference's non-champions could fill the three precious spots remaining.
Yes, it will be a nervous 24 hours for the Frogs, who will find out if they were truly victorious on Saturday.
"They have a lot to prove," Patterson said of the upstart Aztecs, "and we have a lot to hang on to."
That starts with remaining unbeaten, moving to 11-0 and one step closer to securing a second consecutive berth in the BCS, which would be a Rose Bowl appearance. Of course, the third-ranked Frogs still believe they're in play for the national championship game if either No. 1 Oregon or controversy-riddled No. 2 Auburn slip.
Here's what else this team has going for it entering Saturday's 3 p.m. kickoff:
*To commemorate the final game at the 80-year-old stadium before it undergoes a $105 million renovation, several hundred letterman who played at the old yard over the decades are expected to be on the field.
"It's probably going to be crazy, probably going to be folks crying -- not necessarily the team -- fans and family," senior nose tackle Cory Grant said. "For the guys that were here way before us and played in that stadium when it was first built and for people to come back it is going to be emotional for them...To come here and not really knowing much about TCU and to be part of a program that has gone above and beyond what people expected that makes it all the more emotional and something to remember. And so, palying in that stadium will be something special for one last time."
*The nation's No. 1-ranked defense can become the first in college football history to lead the nation in three consecutive seasons. Allowing just 8.5 points a game, the Frogs are on pace to for the NCAA's lowest-scoring defense since Auburn in 1988.
*The senior class (26 players) is 41-8 and needs two wins to become the school's all-time winningest class, a mark Patterson continually brings up.
*The Frogs expect to play in front of the fourth home crowd in excess of 40,000, an unfathomable mark not long ago. Including the crowd of 46,138 at Cowboys Stadium for the season-opener against Oregon State, three crowds have eclipsed the 46,000 mark. TCU is averaging more than 41,000 through five home dates at Amon Carter.
"Going from 17,000 people in the stands to where we have a chance to maybe average around 42,000 people this year for our six home games," Patterson said, "all of it coming together is what really has been cool for me because I've been part of the process the whole way."
Patterson, who prepared his team to play at Utah's noisy venue last week, has a message for Saturday's big home crowd in the rickety old stadium's final stand.
"What I want to do is I want somebody else this Saturday to have to worry about going silent count. That's how I want the crowd to be," Patterson said. "I want it to be so loud that they have to go silent count for the whole four quarters at Amon Carter Stadium, the last game that we'll ever play [there as currently constructed]. That would be a goal of mine, how the crowd can be involved, [that] they [San Diego State] have to take a timeout because they can't hear their signals."
Patterson continaully said he'll do his talking in another two weeks when and if the Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) end the season at 12-0 for a second consecutive year. He talked up Saturday's opponent in the home finale, the San Diego State Aztecs (7-2, 4-1), as though the Knute Rockne-era Fighting Irish were invading Amon G. Carter Stadium.
But, Patterson made his point. Coming off last week's pasting of then-No. 5 Utah, this is no time for a letdown.
"You better get ready to play," he said. "You’re judged only on Saturdays. In about three hours you’re judged and you’ve got to score one more point. If you don’t do that then none of you [the media] will be sitting here. If I get beat Saturday, you won’t be asking me any of these questions [about playing for a national championship[ and you won’t care that I’m playing New Mexico [on Nov. 27]."
Patterson is speaking from a position of wisdom.
"I've been here before. TCU in the last 10 years, I was here at 9-0 [actually 10-0] playing Southern Miss at Southern Miss," said Patterson of that 40-28 loss in 2003. "I was here in 2005 and we got beat by SMU. Gary Patterson has been here, so I’m not going to put my team at risk of going out there on the limb [talking about playing for a national championship] so that I can make myself sound good at the risk of my team losing a football game."
The Frogs' victory at Utah crossed their last major hurdle, not that Patterson will think that. The Utah game bit them in 2008 when, ranked No. 11 with only a September setback at Oklahoma blemishing their record, TCU lost to the Utes, 13-10, to end hopes of a first BCS berth.
"They [TCU players] understand that I think they can play," Patterson said. "But, they also understand that -- what, we were at Colorado State when we didn’t play very well, we were ahead 6-0 at halftime? So, we better come to play with our ‘A’ game this Saturday."
Austin Commercial, the general contractor in charge of the stadium renovation, will implode the high-rising West grandstand of the stadium at 8 a.m. on Dec. 5.
TCU will announce viewing locations for the implosion in the near future.
Work on the stadium is set to begin shortly after the nation's third-ranked Horned Frogs complete their home schedule on Saturday. TCU plays San Diego State at 3 p.m. The renovation is scheduled to be
complete by the beginning of the 2012 season.
"Followed up on various media reports regarding a potential Mountain West Conference-Conference USA merger, and confirmed that representatives of both leagues did indeed meet yesterday in Colorado Springs. Included were Commissioner Craig Thompson, Commissioner Britton Banowsky (who have a long-standing personal and professional relationship), and a couple MWC Athletics Directors. The informal gathering, which was previously scheduled, covered a wide range of topics, including concepts regarding television, scheduling and the BCS. Yet another example of the Mountain West's ongoing strategic thinking on a number of fronts, as the league continues to position itself in the national landscape."
So the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have apparently put their two brains together and are talking a one-game showdown -- champion vs. champion -- with the winner being granted an automatic BCS berth.
First question: On the surface, it seems ludicrous, so why would the BCS agree to give an automatic bid to a non-automatic-qualifying conference team every year?
Answer: They won't (in my opinion, but let's continue...). Conference USA hasn't sniffed a BCS berth since long-departed Louisville in 2004 and Tulane a dozen years ago. Last season, unranked East Carolina knocked off No. 18 Houston in the C-USA championship game. East Carolina went to the Liberty Bowl and lost to unranked Arkansas, 20-17, and finished with a 9-5 record. Houston came to Fort Worth and got shellacked by unranked Air Force, 47-20, in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 10-4. Since the 2006 season, no C-USA team has finished with fewer than three losses. In three of those four seasons, the league's best team had four losses. Can you imagine the national outrage had 9-4 East Carolina actually played its way into the BCS by upsetting TCU in a one-game bonanza?
That's reason enough to end this conversation right here, right now ... but, having said that, the one reason the BCS might bend and agree to such a scenario would be to avoid the embarrassment of last season when it had to deal with two BCS-busters and threw TCU and Boise State into the Fiesta Bowl to eat their own. A MWC vs. C-USA playoff would lump 23 teams (assuming today's count for the 2011 season of 11 teams in the MWC and 12 in C-USA -- things can change quickly, like, say Houston switching sides, but the numbers would stay the same) together and immediately lop off 22. No longer would the BCS have to worry about two teams messing things up.
Second question: This is a no-brainer for C-USA, which has never sent a team to a BCS game, but why would the superior MWC want any part of this?
Answer: Last year, TCU and Boise State both crashed the BCS, but two years ago, undefeated Boise State was left to play one-loss TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Would Boise have taken a one-game playoff against the C-USA champ for a shot to play on the big-money stage? Of course. What if TCU and Boise both go undefeated this season? One scenario: Boise gets the BCS bid and unbeaten TCU is invited to the Las Vegas Bowl. Gary Patterson has worked too hard to elevate TCU to a national platform to just give unproven C-USA a ticket to the BCS gates, but in the current system, Patterson might figure he has a better shot each year to win his conference and then win one more against the C-USA champ to ensure getting into the BCS rather than depend on BCS calculations to determine his team's fate.
Also, this would eliminate the undefeated-or-forget-it situation that now exists in the non-automatic-qualifer conferences, easing pressure on TCU and Boise State and the others to sweep their non-conference schedules, typically highlighted by two to three tough matchups against major-conference schools (TCU plays Oregon State and Baylor this season; Boise plays Virginia Tech and Oregon State). A loss in September wouldn't end all BCS hope as it does now.
The MWC and C-USA are also looking toward the future. Although the superconference model didn't come to fruition this summer, nobody is shortsighted enough to believe the Big 12 is stable and the Big Ten and SEC won't seek to expand. When and if superconferences emerge, schools in the MWC and C-USA won't hold their breath for an invite, and that includes TCU. Arranging this championship game would possibly ensure a spot in the BCS when the landscape again changes.
Third question: Would such a championship game generate more money for the two conferences?
Answer: How much is debatable. Surely, ESPN would pay for an elimination game, but it certainly wouldn't rank up there with, say, the attractiveness and popularity of the SEC championship game. And, revenue generated from a championship game would seemingly have to be split among the 23 teams, further watering down the profit margin.
Alternate solution: Merge. Let's say the Mountain West bids farewell to New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State (WAC, anyone?) and moves forward with eight -- TCU, BYU, Boise, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and UNLV -- and invites four from C-USA -- Houston, Memphis, Tulsa and maybe Southern Miss for a 12-team conference with a championship game. That's not bad football to take to ESPN and other networks to hammer out a more lucrative TV deal than either conference has now. It's also a stonger product than either can currently take to the BCS for eventual automatic inclusion.
The source said that even though it appears 95 percent certain that an exodus to the Pac-10 is just days away, an internal debate at Texas continues regarding the merits of sticking with a 10-team Big 12.
The Big 12 has been told that a new TV deal, while it wouldn't be as lucrative as if Nebraska remained, would still be considerable, enough to pay out substantially more than the current deal in part because there would be 10 teams instead of 12 to divide revenue. Also, by staying in the Big 12, Texas would remain as the ultimate power broker and could continue with a plan to create its own TV network, something it won't pursue as a member of the Pac-10, which figures to establish a conference network like the Big Ten.
This outcome is obviously favored by the Big 12 North schools and Baylor.
But, if Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State break away, the source said the remaining five schools -- Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor -- could attempt to reconstitute the Big 12 by adding the top teams from the Mountain West -- TCU, BYU, Utah, Air Force and perhaps newly acquired Boise State --plus schools from Conference-USA and even a school such as Louisville out of the Big East, a conference that could soon be facing an uncertain future of its own.
The source said "several teams" have already initiated contact with the Big 12 about such a scenario if the league splits as expected.
The idea behind a rebuilt Big 12 assumes that the league would retain its status as a BCS conference, which grants an automatic bid to lucrative BCS bowl games. That would be an enticing scenario for the Mountain West teams. The MWC is in position to become a BCS conference, but not for another two years once a four-year evaluation period expires.
In the ever-changing college landscape and with the potential for four super-conferences on the horizon, schools are looking out for their best interests. For those four MWC schools, aligning with Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor presents a stronger long-term viability than the current MWC makeup with Wyoming, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State. It could also be possible that the Big 12 simply absorbs the entire MWC.
The Kansas City Star reported Saturday night that the five remaining Big 12 schools communicated via teleconference earlier in the day to discuss their situation, and Big 12 expansion was among the topics.
Of course, as fluid as the situation is, things can change quickly. If the Pac-10 does expand to 16, the Big Ten and SEC could respond by also growing to 16. In that case, Missouri could land in the Big Ten.
The Big East and the ACC could be in store for major changes as both conferences would figure to be raided in the expansion process.
One potential road block for a Big 12/MWC merger is a perceived dislike and distrust between TCU and Baylor dating back to the breakup of the SWC and the creation of the Big 12. Of course, Baylor was granted membership while TCU was left to fend for itself. However, TCU athletic Chris Del Conte Saturday night said TCU and Baylor "absolutely" could co-exist as conference members. The two schools continue a series in football this season at TCU.
Del Conte contradicted a report on Saturday that TCU would seek to block Baylor's inclusion into the MWC, if the MWC sought to expand by adding the remaining Big 12 teams. Del Conte said he spoke to Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw on Saturday.
"That did not come from myself or the chancellor or anyone associated with TCU," Del Conte said of the report.
As realignment continues to swirl, it might not be Baylor looking to join TCU, but rather TCU -- and friends --moving into the Big 12.
However, there are certainly no guarantees.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self saw this coming, the day when Jayhawks hoops, one of the three premiere college basketball programs in America, would compete for conference championships with Utah, BYU, TCU Air Force and San Diego State.
As coach Self knows all too well, basketball is great, but football pays the bills and cold, hard cash (as in fat football TV contracts) is at the heart of impending conference realignment.
If a Pac-10/Big 12 (South) merger were to go down, Kansas (along with Kansas State and Iowa State) would be left out of the major-conference realignment. Kansas could find itself with little choice but to join the Mountain West Conference.
On Feb. 15, as the Big 12 was headed down the stretch run of what was arguably the legaue's most competitive season from top to bottom, and rivaled the Big East for national supremacy, Self was asked about the rumors of realignment, which at that point were being spearheaded by the Big Ten's stated desire to expand.
"I don't understand all the ins and outs. I would think the Big Ten, with the Big Ten Network and the media markets that they have, naturally would be more of a money-generating league [than the Big 12] from the television aspect of it. But, there's more to it than just the money.
"Having to start new rivalries with people, that would take 40 or 50 years to build and I'm sure it wouldn't be a favorite of the fan base and so many things that go along with it that I don't think it would be positive. But, if the Big Ten were to come after us -- I'm not saying they are, the Pac-10 or any league, because they're not, I don't know anything about it -- that would be something I'd strongly try to fight. There's some things that are inbred with fans and throughout your teams over time that it makes it so special to play certain games and to eliminate those games are in very, very poor taste for so many.
"I do think there is a lot of flirting going on and you certainly understand why people listen, but at the end of the day, I think our league is rock solid."
Self is correct on two of four counts. First, Kansas fans would not be happy dropping its roots rivalries from the Big Eight and newer ones with Texas and Baylor and Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the Big 12 for Colorado State and Wyoming and UNLV and New Mexico in the MWC.
Second, Self is correct, surely to his chagrin, that neither the Big Ten nor the Pac-10 is coming after Kansas.
Now, the two counts Self got wrong? For one, clearly the Big 12 is not rock solid. And, obviously, there's not more to it than just the money.
Well, 7-1 is not a bad week. Kudos to the SMU Mustangs, who proved me wrong and beat Tulsa on the road. That was a big win that puts them just two victories away from a bowl game, their first since 1984.
Shoutout to Ponyup53, who did have SMU winning. Also, GMoose816 and iruletheskool questioned how I could predict three TDs for Baylor. Well, I just decided to take a chance and thought maybe special teams would play a part in that one. I was wrong. They scored 10 points, as GMoose816 predicted. Nice job there. Oh, and yes, bradlane6, I did get on the field as a member of the marching band. That's nothing to be ashamed about
Onto this week's picks:
Central Florida at Texas: After moving the Texas Tech game to earlier in the year, this comes at a great time for the Longhorns. They are through that tough four-game stretch and remain in position to play for the national title. All they have to do is win. That shouldn't be a problem against George O'Leary's Central Florida team. I can't see Texas looking past this game. Prediction: Texas 48, UCF 6
Texas A&M at Colorado: After losing by the stunning score of 62-14 to Kansas State, Texas A&M has managed to turn things around. They crushed Texas Tech in Lubbock and beat Iowa State. They head to Colorado with plenty of momentum and are improving on both sides of the ball. I think Jerrod Johnson has a big day and the Aggies get to six wins. They remain the biggest hurdle left on Texas' schedule between now and the national championship game. Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Colorado 24
Baylor at Missouri: Baylor played better in the second half of last week's 20-10 loss to Nebraska and the Bears talked this week about putting two halves together and playing better from the start. That's not easy to do on the road. I do think the Bears hang in here, but Missouri will have enough at home to get the job done. Prediction: Missouri 21, Baylor 13
Oklahoma State at Iowa State: The Cowboys made plenty of mistakes and couldn't figure out the Texas defense. But the Longhorns defense has done that to a lot of folks this season. I expect a big bounce-back from OSU on Saturday. Mike Gundy will have his team ready and I imagine we'll see a better performance from Zac Robinson, who must forget about last week. Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Iowa State 14
Oklahoma at Nebraska: This should be a fun matchup of good defenses. And it's always fun to watch Nebraka's Ndamukong Suh. But I still think Oklahoma will pull away enough to win this game by 10 or more. I know that they had a big lead and watched Kansas State close that gap considerably last week. I think this one stays close and then the Sooners get a few big plays late. Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Nebraska 13
Rice at SMU: The Mustangs are heavy favorites and they should be. Rice is 0-8 and has been outscored by 245. SMU has a bunch riding on these last four games. If the Mustangs win two of them, they are going bowling. They'll be fired up and should take care of business. I'll be blogging from that game on Saturday, by the way, to see if SMU can get within one win of bowl eligibility. Prediction: SMU 45, Rice 17
Louisiana-Monroe at North Texas: The Mean Green managed to pull out a high-scoring affair with Western Kentucky (we mean really high, as in 68-49) last week and are looking for a third win this season. Louisiana-Monroe is good against the run, sitting at No. 16 in the country. So it will be interesting to see if UNT can gain yards on the ground with Lance Dunbar. La.-Monroe is not as good at defending the pass, so the Mean Green may have to get this done in the air. This is a tough one to pick, but I'll go with the home team. Barely. Prediction: North Texas 27, Louisiana-Monroe 24
TCU at San Diego State: The Frogs better not look past the Aztecs toward next week's home game with Utah. San Diego State is 4-4, but they hung around with BYU before losing by 10 and have won two straight, including a victory at Colorado State. TCU has struggled on the road against the Aztecs the last two trips to San Diego (won by 3 in 2005 and needed to rally from 17 down in the first quarter in 2007). But as has been the case with this TCU team this season, they manage to not get ahead of themselves. I think they get this done, but it won't be any kind of UNLV score from last week. Look for TCU to have success running the ball. That includes plenty of Andy Dalton zone reads too. Prediction: TCU 28, San Diego State 13
FORT WORTH TCU has led the nation in total defense three times in the last nine years, including last season at 217.8 yards per game.
The Frogs are now back in the top spot again with four games remaining on the schedule. TCU is allowing 235.75 yards per game, just a yard fewer than what Florida's defense is allowing per game. Texas is No. 3 at 240.75 yards.
"We challenge our kids to see if we can hold that spot," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "You're No. 1, but can you stay there?"
Patterson said his defense hasn't blitzed as much as they have in the past. That's because the Frogs' base defense has given teams enough fits. He said TCU blitzed BYU more last season based on the personnel both teams had. That wasn't the case in the game against the Cougars a few weeks ago.
That TCU defense will take on a San Diego State team that is No. 85 in the nation in total offense.
FORT WORTH -- TCU coach Gary Patterson always finds something he can use to motivate his team each week. The Frogs play San Diego State (4-4) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Patterson will probably gently remind his team of what happened the last two times TCU (8-0, No. 6 in BCS) played at San Diego State. The Frogs were tied at 13 going into the fourth quarter in 2005 and slipped out of California with a 23-20 win. In 2007, TCU was down 17-0 in the first quarter before making a big rally for a 45-33 victory.
"It's a tough place to play," Patterson said. "They need two wins to get to a bowl game and have something to play for. The only game they lost at home was BYU. We have to keep our noses down and fight."