The best of 2013 is yet to come
I'm happy to announce that I'll be returning for my senior season of BMOC.
I'm absolutely, positively sure these things will happen before the BCS Championship is played Jan. 6, 2014:
• Fresno State will run the table, but nobody will be outraged when the undefeated Bulldogs are left out of the BCS National Championship.
• Ditto for Louisville.
• Fresno quarterback Derek Carr will be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony. And if he doesn't, there should be outrage.
• Ohio State will beat Michigan for a perfect record and its 24th victory in a row … and still not play for the national title.
• USC will make a run at Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
• If Texas forces out Mack Brown, the Longhorns will make a run at UCLA's Jim Mora.
• Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will have a monster second half of the season.
• So will Georgia running back Todd Gurley.
• And Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk.
• And Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.
• Saturday's Florida State at Clemson game will be the game of the year until …
-- The UCLA at Oregon game on Oct. 26.
-- The Miami at Florida State game on Nov. 2.
-- The LSU at Alabama game on Nov. 9.
-- The Texas Tech at Baylor game on Nov. 16.
-- The Texas A&M at LSU game on Nov. 23.
-- On Nov. 30, the Clemson at South Carolina game. Ohio State at Michigan. And Alabama at Auburn.
-- On Dec. 7, the Texas at Baylor game. The SEC Championship. And the Pac-12 Championship.
• Heisman officials will have to invite at least six finalists, maybe more.
• There will be no undefeated teams in the Big 12.
• Or the ACC.
• Notre Dame will squeeze into a BCS bowl.
• Southern Mississippi will win a game this year, ending a losing streak that stretches back to Dec. 24, 2011.
• The College Football Playoff selection committee will remain at 13 members for now, but could increase as early as 2014.
• Georgia fans egged and TP'd his house a year ago, but Aaron Murray will get a well deserved standing O in his final home game on Nov. 23.
• There will be three massive upsets that we never saw coming.
• Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's indefinite suspension will end soon enough.
• Alabama and Penn State will never wear chrome helmets.
• For the 16th and final (thank you!) year, we'll be able to mock the BCS standings.
• Penn State will sweat out Bill O'Brien's coaching future at the school. Not because he doesn't love it there -- he does and isn't looking to leave -- but because you know some NFL owner is going to kick the tires about his availability.
• Oregon will play Alabama in the BCS National Championship.
• Long-shot pick: Clemson/FSU winner vs. Ohio State.
• I'm absolutely, positively sure all of the above will happen … unless they don't.
Player of the Half-Season
The candidates: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
There aren't enough coins to flip on this one. If you go by most valuable player to his team, there's zero debate: It's Manziel. Without him, A&M would need a parents' permission slip to talk with anyone in the top 25.
Petty has been a revelation, as has FSU's Winston.
Murray has carried the Bulldogs on his shoulder pads.
Bridgewater and Boyd are football royalty.
Carr is the best player you haven't seen.
McCarron is the best quarterback without big numbers.
Meanwhile, the unflappable Mariota continues to defy all the conventional wisdom when it comes to young quarterbacks.
Mariota simply never gets rattled. He rarely makes unforced errors. And don't even try to tell me he's a "system" quarterback who succeeds only because of Oregon's offensive schemes. If anything, it's the other way around.
Mariota is 9-0 in road/neutral site games (so is Manziel). He has thrown a touchdown pass in every game of his Oregon career. He owns the longest active streak in the country when it comes to Most Games With a Pass TD and Rush TD (in the past 10 seasons). He has an eight-game streak, which is tied for second all-time (Colin Kaepernick) and six behind the leader, Tim Tebow.
He's fast. He has a strong, accurate arm. And he's low maintenance.
And the winner is … Mariota.
Coach of the Half-Season
The candidates: UCLA's Jim Mora, Alabama's Nick Saban, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Georgia's Mark Richt, Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, Oregon's Mark Helfrich, Baylor's Art Briles, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Miami's Al Golden.
After last year's 7-6 record and then a season-opening 25-point loss to Alabama this year, Beamer was beginning to get those gently phrased legacy questions. You know, the ones that go like this: "Frank, you're the career active leader in victories. But have you given any thought to when you'll call it quits?" Of course, those questions have subsided now that the Hokies have won six in a row.
Helfrich makes the list because Oregon has made a seamless switch from the Chip Kelly era. You could argue this might be the best Ducks team in years.
All those who thought Ryan Gosling … I mean, Kingsbury, would be undefeated right now, raise your hands. Or as they say in Lubbock, guns up. Kingsbury is the first coach in Red Raiders history to win his first six games.
Baylor's Briles says the Bears are on only the second rung of a 10-rung accomplishments ladder. I'm glad Briles never graded any of my college term papers. Anyway, Baylor is higher on that ladder than Briles will admit -- and it's all because of his consistent and innovative leadership.
Missouri's Pinkel has quietly positioned the Tigers for all sorts of postseason possibilities. It will be much more difficult now that James Franklin is out.
Richt has dealt with the injury losses of key players -- and done so without making excuses. Somehow, Georgia kept winning or, at the very least, kept fighting.
Mora had to deal with the loss of popular walk-on wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who died in a traffic accident earlier in the season. UCLA remains undefeated, but Mora's most impressive accomplishment has been his sensitive, tone-perfect handling of a team tragedy.
I know what you're thinking: Why is Saban on this list? Isn't Bama supposed to win? And that is exactly why I have him as a finalist. Saban has held his team's hand as it deals with injuries, suspensions, controversy and ridiculous expectations.
Golden gets bonus points for a 5-0 start and the way he has handled the NCAA sanctions decision.
And the winner is … Mora.
Decision of the Half-Season
The candidates: USC fires Lane Kiffin five games into the season; Minnesota coach Jerry Kill takes an indefinite leave of absence because of repeated epileptic episodes; Condoleezza Rice reportedly to be named to the playoff selection committee; Kansas attempts a fake punt on fourth-and-13 from its own 16-yard line.
Scientists can study KU's failed fake punt attempt (punter Trevor Pardula was standing on the Jayhawks' goal line when he caught the long snap) against Texas Tech for years, even decades, and will never understand why it was an option in a tie game.
Kiffin's dismissal with a 3-2 record and two winnable games on the schedule horizon (home against Arizona, on the road against Notre Dame) was a shocker, especially given the debilitating constraints of NCAA scholarship sanctions. So were the particulars of the firings.
In the end, USC athletic director Pat Haden -- and prominent USC officials, alums and contributors who counseled or offered their opinions to Haden -- decided Kiffin's reign was finished.
Kill's departure from the team was the right choice at the right time for the right reasons.
There is no truth to the rumor that Henry Kissinger is mad that he wasn't asked to serve on the selection committee.
And the winner is … the USC/Kiffin divorce.
Surprise of the Half-Season
The candidates: The tenuous nature of Mack Brown's job security at Texas; Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton; FSU quarterback Jameis Winston; Utah's win over Stanford; Texas' win over Oklahoma; "College GameDay" reporter Tom Rinaldi wearing jorts on live television.
There are some things that will take years of therapy to overcome. Rinaldi wearing jorts, dark socks and brown shoes is one such thing.
We knew Winston would be good, but who knew the redshirt freshman would be this good this fast.
Brown won a national title in 2005, reached the BCS National Championship again in 2009, won nine games in 2012, has a 154-45 record at Texas … and he's fighting for his job in 2013? What happened to football equity? Anyway, welcome to Longhorns football and all that comes with it.
If you saw how tough Utah played UCLA at home, then you knew the Utes were capable of the same against Stanford at home.
Braxton Miller is the Heisman Trophy candidate, but Guiton might be the guy who saved Ohio State's season.
I know it's a rivalry game and that strange things happen in those kinds of games, but I never saw this one coming: Texas 36, Oklahoma 20. Neither did the Sooners.
And the winner is … Texas over OU.
Team of the Half-Season
The candidates: Oregon, Miami, Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, UCLA.
Miami, NIU and Fresno began the season unranked in both polls, but not anymore.
I'm sure Oregon has a weak spot. Right?
Bama deals with expectations, adversity and weirdness as well as any program.
Clemson has avoided its usual Clemson letdown.
The Buckeyes haven't lost a regular-season game since Nov. 26, 2011.
Nobody is in a hurry to play UCLA these days.
And the winner is … Oregon.
Disappointment of Half-Season
The candidates: That dumb penalty in which you can get flagged for targeting the head, get ejected, but then have the ejection overruled but the 15-yard penalty still stands; Ole Miss; Boise State; Notre Dame; Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry.
No more Michigan Men vs. the Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium anytime soon.
The dumb penalty ruling will get an overhaul in the offseason.
Ole Miss started 3-0, with wins at Vandy and Texas, but has since lost at Bama, at Auburn and at home against Texas A&M in a late heartbreaker. The Rebels face LSU next. Still, an 8-4 season isn't out of the question.
Boise is trying to avoid its first three-loss regular season since 2005.
And the winner is … I think Ole Miss will turn it around, but for the moment, the Rebels are what their record says they are.
Story of the Half-Season
The candidates: Can anybody beat Oregon?; The Pac-12 vs. the SEC; Johnny Football and autographs; Georgia injuries; Pac-12 officials botch the end of Wisconsin-Arizona State game; Jadeveon Clowney -- phoning it in, or misunderstood?
Washington reconfigured its offense and parts of its defense to better compete against Oregon -- and still got beat for a 10th time in a row.
The SEC has a record eight teams in the AP poll this week. The Pac-12 has half that many, but two of them (Oregon and UCLA) are undefeated. By any measure, the gap between the two conferences has decreased. And it's only fair to mention that the ACC has three teams in the AP top 10 this week.
Manziel signed autographs. Lots of them. But the NCAA couldn't prove he signed them for money. So …
The Pac-12 reprimanded the officiating crew that bungled the Wisconsin-ASU game. Of course, it took the crew forever to understand what the Pac-12 was saying.
Injuries happen. But no team has lost more key players more often this season than Georgia.
I don't question if a guy is hurt. Clowney has been dealing with rib injuries and bone spurs, so you give him the benefit of the doubt. But it's impossible to defend how and when he told South Carolina team officials that he wasn't going to play against Kentucky.
And the winner is … SEC vs. Pac-12.
Best Prediction of the Half-Season
The candidate: Whoever put big money on Baylor to win the national championship.
And the winner is …
I'm not saying the Bears are going to win it all, but if they do, someone is going to cash a very large ticket.
In January, the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook made Baylor a 300-to-1 long shot to win the BCS Championship. The odds dropped to 200-to-1 at season's beginning, then to 75-to-1 (that's when someone put large money on the Bears), then to 6-to-1 as of last week.
The playoff selection committee is officially announced Wednesday.
The BMOC reads the committee the riot act. But in a good way.
The the link: click here.
In the next few weeks, the Heisman rankings will begin to shrink in number. Big games separate the contenders from the pretenders.
But for now …
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon. We've put out an APB on any weaknesses in his game. Still no response.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. You could hear the gasps all the way from College Station when he clutched his knee in pain. He returned to the game, which meant you could hear the groans from the Ole Miss crowd as Johnny Football did what Johnny Football does best: win on the road.
3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson. When the Tigers needed him when it mattered against Boston College, Boyd responded.
4. Jameis Winston, Florida State. This week's FSU at Clemson game will be Heisman Separation Saturday for Boyd and Winston. Winston faces a top-10 team. On the road. In what could amount to a national championship elimination game.
5. Bryce Petty, Baylor. Four combined TDs in road win against Kansas State.
6. Brett Hundley, UCLA. My man crush continues, especially after the big game (410 yards, 3 TDs) against Cal.
7. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Not the Teddy Ballgame kind of performance against Rutgers that everyone was expecting. But it's not like he stunk it up. Bridgewater remains on the short list.
8. AJ McCarron, Alabama. Tide followers shouldn't be alarmed that McCarron dropped a few spots from last week. He's perfectly positioned to zoom up the list as Bama's games become more important.
9. Derek Carr, Fresno State. Continues his frontal assault of just about every passing record in Fresno football history, including those records held by his brother David.
10. Aaron Murray, Georgia. It wasn't Murray's fault Georgia got beat by Mizzou. But his two interceptions didn't help.
(On the brink: Bishop Sankey, Washington; Sean Mannion, Oregon State; Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois; Stephen Morris, Miami; Jeremy Hill, LSU; Braxton Miller, Ohio State.)
From the home office in Wheaton, Ill., comes this week's version of a four-team BCS playoff format.
• No. 1 seed Oregon vs. No. 4 seed Ohio State. If it happened, Ohio State's Urban Meyer would have five-plus weeks to prepare for the Ducks. And I'm still not sure that's long enough.
• No. 2 seed Alabama vs. No. 3 seed Clemson. Uh, oh, is Bama beginning to figure it out on defense? Or is playing Kentucky these days the equivalent of finding a $100 bill on the ground?
On the bubble:
5. Florida State: The Seminoles are either going to crack the Final Four or drop down in the poll after Saturday's game at Clemson.
6. UCLA: Make or break time for the Bruins. At Stanford this week. At Oregon the following week.
7. LSU: Uh, oh, is LSU beginning to figure it out on defense? Because Florida is no Kentucky.
8. Texas A&M: The Aggies have all sorts of flaws, but playing with heart isn't one of them. The fourth-quarter comeback in Oxford counts for something.
9. Baylor: Underdog Kansas State was ready for Baylor. The Wildcats held a fourth-quarter lead, but the Bears figured out a way to win on the road (their first away game of the season).
10. Miami: Thursday night's road game at North Carolina shouldn't be a huge problem for the Canes. By the way, happy 25th anniversary of The Convicts vs. The Catholics game.
Close, but not quite there: Louisville, South Carolina, Missouri, Stanford, Georgia.
Happy 25th anniversary to the game that gave us one of the great T-shirts of all time, one of the great football controversies of all time, and one of the great endings of all time.
Oct. 15, 1988, was the day that No. 4 Notre Dame upset No. 1 Miami at South Bend, ending the Hurricanes' 36-game regular season win streak and, as it turned out, ending UM's chances of back-to-back national championships.
Not much happened that week.
Miami coach Jimmy Johnson and Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz were peppered with prank phone calls and hate-filled letters from opposing fans.
Holtz, who had muzzled his own players when it came to pregame trash talk, had an out-of-body experience at the Friday night pep rally and instructed the Notre Dame faithful to tell Johnson that the Hurricanes were going to lose.
You couldn't swing Touchdown Jesus without hitting someone wearing a "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirt.
And just for fun, there was a near brawl between the two teams during warm-ups.
Anyway, it is the game that keeps giving.
"It's bizarre," said Steve Walsh, in a phone interview from West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday morning. "I've done three interviews for books about Notre Dame."
Walsh was Miami's starting quarterback. He had never lost as a UM starter and hadn't been sacked in 1988. He was also Catholic, a Midwesterner from St. Paul, Minn. (Holtz, who coached at Minnesota before taking the Notre Dame job, didn't recruit Walsh out of high school). The QB had always dreamed of playing a game at Notre Dame Stadium. One of his best friends was the captain of the Notre Dame hockey team, which explains why he showed up at a UM press conference earlier in the week wearing Fighting Irish hockey shorts.
"We were both undefeated going into that game," said Walsh, who spent 11 years in the NFL. "But I don't think people knew how good Notre Dame was at the time."
They knew that Saturday. They also knew that Notre Dame could hold a grudge. Miami had beaten the Irish 20-0 in 1983, 31-13 in 1984, poured it on in a 58-7 rout in Gerry Faust's final game as Notre Dame coach in 1985, and then won 24-0 against Holtz in 1987.
So imagine the collective giddiness of the Notre Dame crowd when the Irish took a 21-7 lead against a Jimmy Johnson team that featured the likes of Butch Davis and Dave Wannstedt on his staff and future NFL coach Rob Chudzinski at tight end. But then Walsh threw two touchdown passes in the final two minutes of the first half to tie the game, and you knew this was a game with historic possibilities.
Notre Dame won 31-30. It won because it pressured Walsh. It won because it forced turnovers (four Miami fumbles, three interceptions). It won because ND option quarterback Tony Rice actually completed passes. And it won because Johnson went for the game-winning, two-point conversion near the end of the game -- and failed.
Miami followers will insist to this day that Notre Dame also won because the officials blew a fourth-quarter call that cost the Hurricanes possibly a touchdown and most definitely the football. You can YouTube it, but the short version is this: UM running back Cleveland Gary said he reached across the goal line for a score and then the ball came out after he hit the ground. The officials said he fumbled the ball at the 1 and it was recovered by Notre Dame -- but not before one official apparently told Gary that he was down before the fumble.
It was a mess, and if you want to get a rise out of Johnson, just mention the play to him 25 years later. Walsh is less militant about the whole thing, but…
"We were robbed," Walsh said, half-jokingly -- I think. "We were cheated."
Walsh is a successful head coach at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach (hello, major college programs -- shouldn't this guy be on your staff?). The president of the school is a Notre Dame alum who still has some sort of figurine of a ND leprechaun choking UM's Sebastian the Ibis.
Ah, the good old days.
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