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This week's top 20:
C'mon, sing along with me
It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year
The holiday season?
The bowl season?
The let's-possibly-change-the-BCS-rules-again-because-we-still-can't-get-this-thing-right season?
Yes! It's a BCS tradition like no other.
|Chuck Neinas thinks the BCS could be a bit more inclusive in the future.|
One of the topics of Monday's BCS meetings in San Francisco was the possibility of doing away with automatic qualifying status after the 2013 regular season. That AQ status is why the Big East, which can't be found in the latest BCS standings with a pack of trained hound dogs, is guaranteed an appearance in a BCS bowl but No. 10 Boise State isn't.
The Big East, SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 receive AQ protection and thus, automatic entry to a big-money postseason payoff. The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conference have to fend for themselves and live off the land.
But last week, interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told CBSSports.com there was "growing sentiment" to do away with AQ status. At last, someone willing to stick up for the little non-AQ guys.
Turns out the growing sentiment has nothing to do with the inherent unfairness of a system that creates BCS haves and have-nots. No, Neinas was concerned about the cannibalization of conferences because of the quest to retain or strengthen AQ status.
Exhibit A: The Big East, which is scouring the country in search of football programs willing to join up with the gutted conference. One of the programs the Big East is romancing is Boise State, which belongs to the non-AQ MWC.
Do you see the irony here?
Of course, that AQ designation puts a lot of money in those six conferences' wallets. According to the BCS, the net share for the six AQ conferences will be at least a combined $127.2 million in BCS bowl revenue.
As an added perk, it's possible that an AQ conference can have as many as two teams play in BCS bowls -- one as an AQ team, one as an at-large invitee. It happened last season with the Pac-12 (Oregon and Stanford), the SEC (Auburn and Arkansas) and the Big Ten (Wisconsin and Ohio State). Using this year's BCS figures, that's another combined $18 million.
Anyway, Neinas isn't pushing a non-AQ world because he has a big heart; he's pushing it because he sees what's happening to the Big East. Plus, his own conference almost vanished because of conference realignment. As it is, the Big 12 might only have nine members next season.
I know I pick on the BCS. But it's hard not to when its annual media guide includes proclamations such as, The BCS IS FAIR (page 7).
Really? So how do you explain why the Big East, which doesn't have a team in the latest BCS top 25 standings, not a one, is guaranteed a precious BCS bowl spot?
Meanwhile, No. 10 Boise could play in the Dec. 22 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas?
And maybe it will hold up, maybe it won't, but the MWC and C-USA together have more teams (Boise, TCU, Houston and Southern Miss) in the BCS top 25 than the Big East and Pac-12 combined (Oregon and Stanford).
"He's such a nice guy out there, I was calling him, 'Little [Tim] Tebow.' I lay him out and he's like, 'Nice hit, 45.' I go, 'You ain't talking to me like that. I gotta be mean out here."
-- Oregon defensive end Terrell Turner on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins).
"Well, you know, we looked good in the dressing room before the game."
-- Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, after being beaten, 66-6, by Oklahoma State.
"The kick is good!!"
Boise State Stadium press box public address announcer, as he mistakenly called the last-second -- and failed -- 39-yard field goal attempt by Broncos kicker Dan Goodale (courtesy of Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Gil Lebreton).
-- Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, after the Broncos were eliminated from national title and BCS bowl consideration for a second consecutive year because of a missed field goal (courtesy of Idaho Statesman).
I'm secure enough to admit it: I've got a football thing for Kansas State junior quarterback Collin Klein.
|Collin Klein continues to bail Kansas State out of sticky situations.|
Or as Jerry Maguire might say, "You had me at 'Hut!'"
Hardly anybody outside of Manhattan, Kan., had heard of the guy before the season started. He entered fall practice as the solid favorite to win the starting QB job, but nobody figured him for the next Eric Crouch or -- am I allowed to utter his sacred name? -- Tim Tebow.
But he reminds me of Tebow a little bit -- a right-handed version of TT who plays as though he's worried K-State coach Bill Snyder is going to revoke his scholarship if he doesn't gain the last possible inch on a run or leave a body part or two on the field.
One of the main reasons, if not the reason, the Wildcats are 8-2 is Klein. His passing game is a work in progress (88th in NCAA passing rankings: 1,504 yards, 10 TDs), but he makes his bones running the rock.
He has more rushing yards (1,009) than Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle, Clemson running back Andre Ellington or Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell. He has more rushing touchdowns than Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Auburn running back Michael Dyer or Alabama running back Trent Richardson. In fact, he has more rushing TDs than Oregon's LaMichael James and Virginia Tech's David Wilson combined.
All this from a former wide receiver/special-teams member who enjoys playing the piano, the violin and the mandolin.
Combine those numbers and you can make a case for Klein to be included in any Heisman Trophy chatter. Tebow had much better passing numbers when he won the statuette in 2007. But Nebraska's Crouch won a Heisman in 2001 with numbers comparable to or less than what Klein has with two regular-season games remaining.
Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:
|Trent Richardson is the BMOC's Heisman front-runner.|
Alabama RB Trent Richardson -- I hope he can run while looking over his shoulder because things are starting to bunch up in the final weeks of the season. Remember the kid in junior high who could grow a full beard while you were trying to comb out your peach fuzz in front of the lavatory mirror? That's Richardson -- man among SEC seventh-graders. He accounted for 40 percent of Bama's yardage in the win over Mississippi State, had a touchdown, and did it against a defense that had seen the LSU game film and realized Bama quarterback AJ McCarron isn't Aaron Rodgers. Richardson has seven 100-yard games this season.
Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden -- His team is 10-0 for the first time in school history; he's the all-time OSU leader in passing touchdowns; and, best of all, he doesn't need a fake ID to get into campus area bars. Weeden's passing numbers -- and the Cowboys -- are too good to ignore. Yes, I know -- he's 28. So? Show me on the Heisman ballot where there's an age limit. I can wait.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck -- His best wide receiver was out; his usually reliable tight ends were dropping passes as if the football were plutonium 239; his offensive line was having its issues with the pass rush; and the running game, though effective, wasn't overpowering. So what happens? Luck admittedly has his worst game of the season and Stanford loses to Oregon big. If I didn't have a soft spot for neckbeards and guys who stiff the NFL's millions for another year on The Farm, Luck might be off the short list. You have two games left (Cal, Notre Dame), big guy, to make a final impression.
Keep a coat and tie handy:
Houston QB Case Keenum -- It's not that he did anything wrong, but somebody had to get sent to Triple-A and that somebody is Keenum. Not to worry. He's going to get the full ESPN "College GameDay" spa day treatment this week, so publicity won't be an issue.
Boise State QB Kellen Moore -- I'm not quite sure what Boise and Moore were doing on the final drive against TCU, but it was weird-looking. That said, Moore put up nice numbers and would have generated more points had the Broncos not forgotten how to hold on to the ball (two fumbles) or a kick a field goal.Oregon RB LaMichael James -- He leads the nation in rushing per game and postgame clichés (yes, he did use the dreaded "We have to take it one game at a time" phrase after the Stanford win). That's OK. They don't give Heismans for best quotes.
Others: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, K-State QB Klein. (Did I forget anyone else from the Big 12?)
Long shot: Boston College LB Luke Kuechly. (He's averaging 16.80 tackles per game. I repeat: averaging. He had 18 tackles Saturday against North Carolina State. He has a 32-game streak of double-figure tackles.)
Thanks for stopping by the booth: No casualties this week.
LSU over Ole Miss, Oklahoma State over Iowa State, Stanford over Cal, Alabama over Georgia Southern, Boise State over San Diego State, Oregon over USC, Oklahoma over Baylor, Arkansas over Mississippi State, Clemson over North Carolina State, Virginia Tech over North Carolina, Houston over SMU, Ohio State over Penn State, Michigan State over Indiana, Georgia over Kentucky, South Carolina over The Citadel, Wisconsin over Illinois, Kansas State over Texas, Michigan over Nebraska, Southern Miss over Alabama-Birmingham, TCU over Colorado State, Notre Dame over Boston College, Florida State over Virginia.
(Last week: 13-6. BMOC regrets none of the picks except for the six I got wrong. Actually, kicking myself for not taking Mizzou over Texas. Should have known better than to trust the Longhorns. They're painfully just above average.)
I hadn't seen Oregon play in person for a while. It's one thing to watch the Ducks on the plasma, but a whole other thing when (cue Brent Musburger) you're looking live at those skill players create their own jet streams on the field.
|De'Anthony Thomas and the Ducks are even faster in person.|
Oregon scored seven touchdowns (six offensive, one defensive) in its overwhelming 53-30 victory at Stanford on Saturday. Three of those six TDs went 58, 41 and 59 yards to three different players -- James, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff.
I'm not saying the Ducks are the clear-cut third-best team in the country right now. But they are, with apologies to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Houston, the clear-cut scariest offense in the country. They gain more yards per play than the Cowboys (7.32 vs. 7.20), nearly a yard more per play than Bama and about 1½ yards more per play than LSU. That adds up.
I'm trying not to fall too hard for Oregon. I remember what happened when it faced the SEC's Auburn in the national title game and LSU in the season opener. Two losses.
But if Oklahoma State spins out against Oklahoma come Dec. 3 and we have to choose between the two best one-loss teams -- possibly Oregon, if it can handle fast-improving USC this week, or Bama, which has the Iron Bowl at Auburn -- then it's going to get very sticky.
It's a coin flip to me, but I saw a more complete team in Oregon on Saturday than I did a week earlier in Alabama. Then again, the Ducks weren't playing LSU, as Bama was. But it isn't like Stanford is one-win New Mexico, either.
"This team's got great potential," said Huff.
He's right. Oregon appears to be peaking at the exact right part of the season. But do the Ducks build on the stomp-a-thon of Stanford, or do they suffer a tiny letdown against the visiting Trojans?
I'm going with no letdown.
It wasn't a campaign speech -- that's not Oregon coach Chip Kelly's style. But he made no secret how he feels about LaMichael James and the junior running back's Heisman worthiness.
When I asked Kelly if James, despite missing two games because of a dislocated elbow, should be considered a serious Heisman candidate, the answer was quick and to the point.
"I would, but I don't have a vote," he said. "If injuries bar you from it, I don't know if that's a rule. But we're going to ride that kid as long as we can. And he gets better and better as the game goes along. Just the fact that he came back from that injury, I don't know how many guys would come back from that. The kid's awesome."
James rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford. And for what it's worth, he averages 30-plus rushing yards more per game than Bama's Richardson.
Tom Bradley, Penn State
There's no coaching manual or instructional DVD that tells you how to handle the week that was at Penn State. Your mentor and football icon is fired. A child sex-abuse scandal envelops your campus and program. Your players are suffering from emotional whiplash. Now go out there, Scraps, and beat Nebraska!
It would have been nice had Bradley and the Nittany Lions been able to pull off the win, but did the score really matter? They lost the game, but won the day with their class, dignity and effort.
Bradley and his staff, which included Joe Paterno's son, Jay, set the perfect tone and example during the days leading up to the game against the Cornhuskers. Bradley preached family, and he practiced it Saturday. It was impressive stuff from a guy who cared more about his players than the scoreboard.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Honored Penn State by making sure his team was focused and prepared.
Gary Patterson, TCU
Could have played for the tie and overtime against Boise, but instead he goes for the two-point conversion and the win late in the fourth quarter. TCU gets both when the Broncos self-destruct on failed final drive.
Now that was a game plan.
Boise detractors always like to say that the Broncos' program couldn't survive an SEC, Big Ten, etc., type of schedule. As it turns out, they couldn't survive a MWC schedule.
|Drew Wright and the Broncos fell short against TCU on Saturday.|
The reason why a walk-on running back was carrying the ball for the Broncos in the crucial, final minutes of their game against TCU?
Injuries and a lack of depth at the position.
And for a program that prides itself in finding recruiting gems, Boise had to depend on a little-used, walk-on kicker for its season-defining field goal attempt as time expired.
It's unfair to say backup running back Drew Wright cost Boise the game when he fumbled the ball away with less than 3 minutes left on the clock. Without those injuries, he would have never been in the game.
And you don't think redshirt freshman kicker Dan Goodale's heart wasn't about to burst through the breastplate of his shoulder pads as he lined up for the 39-yarder? Not much was at stake -- only an outside shot at a national title game, a chance at an undefeated season and a BCS bowl game with all that BCS money.
But Goodale had only attempted four field goals all season (he made three, none longer than 32 yards). He had missed six extra points. It's silly to even think about blaming him for the 36-35 defeat.
Instead, question the Boise defense (especially the injury-riddled secondary), or the odd play calls made on the final Broncos' drive, or the forced throws by Kellen Moore, or the botched scoring chances earlier in the game.
Or better yet, give TCU credit for taking advantage of those Boise mistakes.
You write, BMOC reads.
On the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal, the PSU Board of Trustees' decision to fire coach Joe Paterno, and the criticism directed toward Paterno (including, by this columnist) for not doing more when informed of an alleged incident involving former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky and a young boy at the PSU football facility in 2002:
"I feel like I stumbled across a supermarket tabloid by mistake.
"By the way, I would have handled the situation exactly the way Joe Paterno handled it, and I am not senile."
-- Michael Rothenberg
"If Paterno really was a man of honor, he would have gone to the students protesting that night and put a stop to it himself. Instead, he indulged it."
-- Shad Nichols
"You, like many at ESPN, are skewering Joe Paterno before a trial even reveals all of the facts, because that's what the public wants and that will make money.
You've cowed to what the public wants to hear. I thought you were better than that."
-- Cotton Mayer
"The following quote comes to mind: 'The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.' (Dante 1265-1321.)
"I wonder what Joe Paterno would say to Dante."
-- Ron Lieberman
On which one-loss team deserves to play LSU (if Oklahoma State doesn't finish with an undefeated record):
"Reading your ESPN article on a rematch between LSU and Alabama was like reading a pharmaceutical new drug trial written by the manufacturer. No clinical evidence, just biased opinion. You cannot sit there and tell America that these two teams are STILL not the best two teams in college football.
"Let's face it, this year LSU is the Darth Vader to Alabama's Luke Skywalker. We need to see a 'Return of the Jedi' for the title game." -- Ben Ward
"I find it absolutely incredible (if indeed it happens) that LSU could become the first three-time BCS winner and win their third national championship in eight years -- all in the same stadium!"
-- Blake Hendrix
If there were a 1,000-item list of things that matter in the Penn State scandal, the question of Paterno's name on the Big Ten championship trophy would be No. 1,001.
But that said, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany made the right decision -- the only decision -- he could have made relative to the trophy engraving.
Amos Alonzo Stagg's name will now fly solo on the Big Ten trophy, which will be awarded to the winner of the conference's Dec. 3 championship game. Instead of the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, just take an eraser to JoePa's name.
"The trophy and its namesake are intended to be celebratory and aspirational, not controversial," said Delany in a league-issued statement.
The Big Ten isn't the only one distancing itself from the Paterno legacy. According to the Washington Post's account of Saturday's game against Nebraska, almost all visual references to Paterno were absent at Beaver Stadium. And Paterno-related merchandise was no longer being sold in the PSU store.
Sad, weird times.
More than $22,000 was raised at Beaver Stadium for charities devoted to abuse prevention.
This is BCS spin doctor Bill Hancock's favorite part of the column.
Shoulder Pad Bracket:
LSU vs. Houston
Bama vs. Arkansas
Chin Strap Bracket:
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Klein is about as smooth as a gravel road, but he's going to leave K-State after next season as one of the all-time favorites there. All he did in another comeback -- this one a four-overtime victory against Texas A&M -- was throw for a touchdown and a career-high 281 yards, and rush for 103 yards and five touchdowns.
Faulkner quarterback Josh Hollingsworth
I don't care if it was an NAIA game. I wouldn't care if it were an AARP game. The guy threw seven touchdowns and for a record 637 yards. Even Case Keenum was jealous.
TCU quarterback Casey Pachall
Pachall was money on the game-winning drive, completing five of seven passes. For the game, he had 473 yards (second all-time in TCU history) and five TD passes (tied for the school record).
By the time Boise finishes its Dec. 3 game against New Mexico, Moore will likely have an amazing 49-3 record as a starter. And here's what the all-time winningest quarterback will have to show for it: just one BCS bowl appearance (a 2010 win against TCU in the Fiesta). One last Moore stat: for the first time in his starting career, his team trailed a game at halftime. Incredible. Cal beat Oregon State, 23-6, to become bowl eligible. It also became Knucklehead Hall of Fame eligible with three touchdowns nullified because of penalties. Washington's Nick Montana threw his first career touchdown pass in the loss to USC. He's the one with the famous dad -- the one who did the shoe commercials, right? Georgia's Aaron Murray has thrown nine touchdowns in the last two games. Or the same amount as Keenum threw in one game. Boise's loss makes it easy for the Fiesta Bowl to root for a Stanford vs. Oklahoma matchup. Had the Broncos won, it still wouldn't have been a shocker to see the Fiesta, which has had Boise twice in the last five years, pass on BSU. Oklahoma State's Weeden has a big Heisman advantage on Dec. 3. He'll be playing on national television (against OU), but, in all likelihood, Bama's Richardson and Stanford's Luck won't. So far there are 53 bowl eligible teams for 70 spots. Twenty-one teams are trying to reach bowl eligibility this Saturday. One of those teams still trying to reach six wins is Florida. So is Texas A&M, which has been trying since Oct. 29. Illinois is bowl eligible, but do you want the Illini these days? They started out 6-0 and are 0-5 since, with Wisconsin next up on the schedule. Notice who is -- sorry, was -- the chair of the BCS presidential oversight committee? None other than now-former Penn State president Graham Spanier. Call it the Buster Olney Bowl: Olney's Vandy team, which needs one more victory to become eligible for its second bowl appearance since 1983, against BMOC's Tennessee, which is 0-6 in the SEC for the first time since 1962. If the Vols win, Olney has to wear an orange tie the next time he does a live stand-up.
The Fightin' Lane Kiffins squirm their way into the BMOC rankings. But will they stay? Trojans travel to the University of Phil Knight this Saturday.
Needed field goal on final play to beat Wake. North Carolina State won't make Tigers work so hard.
|Case Keenum and the Cougars are vying for a BCS bowl bid.|
Cougars were 5-7 in 2010. Have already doubled win total in 2011.
Sorry, suddenly the 114th Big Game against Cal doesn't seem so big anymore.
At last, no major injuries to report for Sooners. Then again, they didn't play last week. Spent off week wondering how they lost to Texas Tech.
Mississippi State this week, then at LSU on Nov. 25. But remember: Razorbacks needed OT to beat Bulldogs a year ago.
Defense is state of the art, holding Mississippi State to 131 total yards. Offense is Trent Richardson.
There's the Mad Hatter -- LSU's Les Miles -- and now the Mad Visor: U of O's Kelly. Two-point conversions in the first quarter tight ends throwing to snappers. fourth-down passes. Faces a tougher team than Stanford this week: USC.
2. Oklahoma State
The Oregon of the Southwest. Lots of uni combos, lots of points scored.
What's the difference between a bye week and playing Ole Miss these days? Nothing. Tigers subs will get lots of quality time against a Rebels program that now considers the Ed Orgeron Era "the good ol' days."
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.