Dallas Colleges: what we learned 111112

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
Here's what I learned after a big week in Big 12 country as it relates to the BCS race:

Kansas State is right on track to crack the BCS National Championship Game. Down goes Bama! The champ is cut! The champ is cut! Kansas State's players were blocking out the biggest news in the college football world Saturday. Alabama lost right after K-State and TCU kicked off, leaving the Wildcats and Oregon as the two teams most likely to control their fate in the BCS race. Notre Dame is also undefeated, but a handful of close calls might leave the Irish on the outside looking in, despite feasting on not a single cupcake. Either way, Kansas State has rolled its way to 10-0, and now doesn't have to worry about scoreboard-watching, barring something amazing in the polls. Beat Baylor and Texas, and K-State is doing something it has never done before: Playing for a national championship.

Texas Tech is hanging by a thread. The Red Raiders were red-hot and in the title hunt less than a month ago, but lost consecutive games to Texas and Kansas State, and narrowly beat Kansas, the Big 12's worst team, Saturday at home. The sideline incident involving coach Tommy Tuberville and a graduate assistant will only add more noise around the Texas Tech program this week. Texas Tech has seven wins, two more than it did a year ago. It's better and it sent the seniors out the right way, but this season was a play or two away Saturday from feeling a little disastrous.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Brett Davis/US PresswireDavid Ash threw for 364 yards and two TDs in leading Texas to its fourth consecutive victory.
Kansas is enduring a cruel, cruel season. Good grief, this just will not end for the Jayhawks. The Big 12 losing streak moves to 19 games. The road losing streak advances to 18 games. Kansas has somehow found a way to fall back from a two-win season to 1-9 and legitimately be a better team. Kansas blew a lead to lose on a last-second field goal against Rice. The road streak continued when Northern Illinois erased a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Texas strung together an improbable game-winning drive with a crazy fourth-down conversion. Saturday, Charlie Weis' squad rallied to tie the score but lost in double overtime on a ... jump pass? Ugh. Kansas is knocking on the door and will get a chance against Iowa State and West Virginia to close the season, but you have to feel some pity for these Jayhawks at this point.

Other than K-State, Texas is the Big 12's hottest team. Don't look now, but the Longhorns are racking up some decent wins. Beating Iowa State by 26 isn't easy, and Texas has already equaled last year's win total. There's not a truly impressive victory in the four-game streak, but simply winning four consecutive games in the Big 12 is a lot harder than it sounds. Texas is sitting pretty at 8-2 and hosts TCU on Thanksgiving. It'll be favored in that game, and if the Horns spring a huge upset against K-State to close the season Dec. 1, they'll be on the way to the BCS.

West Virginia's free fall refuses to end. This really is cringe-worthy. West Virginia's got all the skill-position talent you could want, but has struggled on special teams (excluding the return game) and the defense didn't carry over the growth it showed a week ago against TCU. The Mountaineers raced to 5-0 and a top-five ranking, but have lost four since and still don't look as though they've hit rock bottom yet. Geno Smith is a great personality and a better quarterback, but these losses are taking a toll. He's trying and Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are doing what they can, too. Still, this uber-talented team just can't do enough to win. It's tough to see. I enjoyed my time around that crew during its early-season run, but it's entirely possible that WVU needs a win over Kansas in the season finale just to reach bowl eligibility.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
After a wild Saturday in the SEC, here’s a look at what we learned in Week 11:

1. SEC’s streak in jeopardy: The SEC’s national championship streak is in serious jeopardy. Texas A&M’s 29-24 victory over Alabama means the league’s going to need some help to even make it to the Discover BCS National Championship Game this season. With everybody in the SEC now saddled with at least one loss, the only way for Alabama to climb back into one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings is for two of the three unbeaten teams (Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon) to lose. It will be interesting to see how far Alabama falls in the polls and whether Georgia passes the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s loss Saturday didn’t help the Bulldogs’ chances of playing their way into the BCS National Championship Game, either. Georgia, with an ugly 35-7 loss to South Carolina earlier this season, needed to have Alabama unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the SEC championship game, and then a win over the Tide would have carried more weight with the voters. The other ironic thing to consider is that the SEC’s chances of making it seven straight national championships could now rest in the hands of Lane Kiffin, who made a few enemies in the SEC during 14 turbulent months at Tennessee before bolting to USC. Kiffin’s Trojans face Notre Dame in the regular-season finale and could also get a second shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Kevin Sumlin
John David Mercer/US PRESSWIREKevin Sumlin has had an impressive first year at Texas A&M, which is in its first year in the SEC.
2. Props to the Aggies: There’s sure to be a lot of people around the country trumpeting how overrated Alabama was in the aftermath of the Crimson Tide’s home loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. And no, Alabama’s not ready to line up and beat any NFL teams anytime soon, as Steve Spurrier suggested a few weeks ago. But the real story here is Texas A&M and what a fabulous job Kevin Sumlin has done in his first season as coach and the Aggies’ first season in the SEC. Everybody wondered how they would hold up in the SEC. It’s safe to say that they’re going to hold up just fine, and a better question might be: Once Sumlin gets a few more recruiting classes under his belt, especially in that talent-laden state, how is the rest of the SEC going to hold up against the Aggies? Johnny Manziel is absolutely worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration, and he’s playing behind an offensive line that made a pretty convincing statement Saturday that it’s in a league of its own. And finally, that same Texas A&M defense that was shredded last month in a 59-57 win against Louisiana Tech made one key stop after another Saturday and has improved by leaps and bounds.

3. Muddled bowl picture: Good luck in figuring out the SEC bowl picture. It’s a given that the SEC will still get two teams into BCS bowls even if the league is shut out of the Discover BCS National Championship Game. The intrigue will revolve around which two teams. As many as six SEC teams could stake a claim. If nobody makes it into the national title game, the winner of the SEC championship game would go to the Sugar Bowl. So right now, that looks like it will be the Alabama-Georgia winner. The loser of that game would still be in play, but so would an 11-1 Florida team as well as LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M if they all win out and finish 10-2. Florida still has to go to Florida State in the regular-season finale, while South Carolina plays at Clemson to close the regular season. Both the Gators and Gamecocks could help their cases with wins over top-10 teams. The AT&T Cotton Bowl would love to get its hands on the Aggies, but they could also get snatched up by a BCS bowl, especially with Manziel putting up Heisman Trophy numbers.

4. Don’t sleep on the Dawgs: Granted, Auburn is terrible. But it looks like Georgia is starting to play its best football at just the right time. The Bulldogs are closing in on the eighth 10-win season in Mark Richt’s 12 years at the school and clinched their second consecutive trip to the SEC championship game with their 38-0 rout of the Tigers. Richt has had his share of critics, and he’ll continue to have them. But he’s done an excellent job each of the past two seasons of keeping his team focused despite bad early-season losses. The schedule has been a factor, no question. But Richt didn’t make it out, nor did any of his players. Florida had its shot against Georgia and lost, and the Bulldogs have proved that they don’t roll over and play dead just because they lose a game early.

5. Dooley’s days are numbered: It’s not a matter of “if,” but rather “when” for Tennessee coach Derek Dooley. The Vols’ 51-48 loss to Missouri in four overtimes Saturday was almost certainly the knockout blow for Dooley, who’s now lost 13 of his past 14 SEC games. The Vols blew a 14-point lead in the third quarter at home, and Dooley made some questionable decisions down the stretch. But over and above what happened in Saturday’s game, it’s a Tennessee program that is hemorrhaging on several different fronts. If fan apathy hadn’t already set in, it has now, and there’s just not a lot of hope on Rocky Top that Dooley will ever be able to stop the bleeding. He walked into a mess in 2010 when he took the job and has done an admirable job of strengthening the roster. But Tennessee has gone from a top-tier program that had obviously dipped toward the end of Phillip Fulmer’s tenure to a program now that’s totally irrelevant. There really is no decision now for Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. The only question is if he’ll announce that he’s making a coaching change this week or the next.