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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updated: November 14, 1:10 PM ET
Cougars doing the right thing

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

This week's top 20:

20. Unrest on the Palouse

This past weekend in Tuscaloosa there was a reunion of about two dozen former Texas A&M players who survived coach Bear Bryant's brutal first training camp. They would become famous and celebrated. A book based on their 10-day ordeal in 1954, "The Junction Boys," would become a best-seller.

Mike Leach
Mike Leach is 2-8 in his first season at Washington State.

Meanwhile, at Washington State, where first-year coach Mike Leach is trying to establish his own football culture, a different kind of assessment of his methods is under way.

Rather than writing a book, the Pac-12 and the Washington State athletic department eventually will write a report based on their independent investigations of alleged player abuse by Leach and his coaching staff. The investigations were requested by Washington State president Elson Floyd after former star wide receiver Marquess Wilson was recently suspended indefinitely, quit the team and then released a statement accusing the Leach regime of "physical, emotional and verbal abuse."

There were no gray areas in his language.

"[WSU's coaches have] preferred to belittle, intimidate and humiliate us. … My teammates and I have endured this treatment all season long. It is not 'tough love.' It is abuse."

We stress alleged for all the obvious reasons. Wilson is the only WSU player to have made such public accusations. And depending on what account you read, Wilson's effort in practices and games had come under examination and resulted in his demotion from the starting lineup. So there certainly is some wiggle room to question the motives and timing of Wilson's statement.

19. Unrest on the Palouse, Part II

Wiggle room or not, Floyd was absolutely correct to ask for an investigation. You can't screw around with something like this. After all, this is 2012, not 1954.

Leach isn't the first coach -- and he won't be the last -- to come into a program and impose his will and standards. There are new rules. New, tougher offseason and in-season workouts. New football sensibilities.

I guarantee you it happened at Ohio State with Urban Meyer, at Texas A&M with Kevin Sumlin. It happened when Will Muschamp took over at Florida, when Brian Kelly took over Notre Dame. And I also guarantee you that some players quit or were "encouraged" to transfer to other programs.

Washington State needed a change. That's why it hired Leach, whose spread offense and throwing star-sharp honesty and sarcasm are legendary.

"I think this change is overdue," said WSU athletic director Bill Moos to the Los Angeles Times. "We got a real task. Mike doesn't waver. He is not wishy-washy."

Or as Leach told the newspaper: "We don't say, 'Hey, you 125 guys, how do you want to practice today?' This isn't a democracy."

No, it isn't. And it shouldn't be. Coaches coach. Players play. It's not NATO.

18. Unrest on the Palouse, Part III

But what Wilson is alleging goes beyond Leach's recent postgame comments, when he described his players as "empty corpses" and "zombies." Or when he suggested some of his players' efforts "bordered on cowardice."

Marquess Wilson
Marquess Wilson leads Washington State with 52 catches and 813 receiving yards.

Those words raised eyebrows, but players everywhere will tell you they've heard worse -- from all coaches -- in the privacy of a locker room. That's why Wilson's charges are so unsettling and why they deserve the attention Floyd is giving them.

Meanwhile, Moos' initial response to Wilson's departure and allegations was more distant and, in some ways, more disappointing. There was no concern or urgency in Moos' statement. Instead, he wished Wilson well and said Washington State had "procedures in place … to monitor student-athlete welfare."

Really? Because Wilson went public with a scathing statement alleging otherwise. And he did so against Moos' $11.25 million hire.

The Junction Boys would likely disagree with what Wilson did. They might question his resolve and his honor.

But in this case, Wilson's allegations deserve to be examined, just as Leach deserves the opportunity to clear his name.

Anyway, an investigation is so not 1954. And that's a good thing.

17. Perfection alert

The provider of the following information, College GameDay researcher Chris Fallica, is not a nerd. At least, not in the traditional, "Big Bang Theory" cast member sort of way.

He's a subtle nerd. He's a big guy (his nickname is "Bear") with a meaty voice and he can tell you who's running in the sixth race at any track in the country at any given time. It's scary.

But he takes this algorithm stuff seriously. And right now, Fallica's calculations predict this about the three remaining undefeated teams eligible for postseason play:

Kansas State has the best chance to enter the bowls with an unbeaten record (64.3 percent), followed by Notre Dame (52.2) and Oregon (42.8).

The chances of all three finishing unbeaten is 14.4 percent (up from 7.4 percent a week ago).

And remember, there are a combined seven games remaining to be played by those three teams. The biggest toss-up, according to Fallica, is the Nov. 24 Notre Dame at USC game (50-50).

Of course, don't bet the house on this stuff. Fallica is good, but things happen, such as Texas A&M over Bama. Last week, the Crimson Tide had the best chance to finish undefeated (67.4) and then they got Johnny Manziel-ed.

16. Tweets of the week

You can tell it's the offseason. MLB players are chirping about college football.

From Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) to Bama quarterback AJ McCarron: "You wanna cry? Oh we'll give you something to cry about." -- A&M to McCarron.

And this from the A's Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson49): "Better nickname: Johnny Football or Optimus Klein?" BMOC votes for Manziel's "Football," but only by the slimmest of margins.

15. Quote of the week

Michelle Manziel, Johnny's mom, on Johnny Football's playing days at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas.:

"When he first started playing at Tivy, you could tailgate along the fence line at the stadium. By his sophomore year, you couldn't do that anymore. By his junior year, you had press parking there and they were busing people in from the other schools because parking was a problem. And by his senior year, the stadium was sold out."

14. Quote of the week -- runners-up

Michelle Manziel on Manziel-mania:

"It's crazy. We laugh every day. He's like, 'Mom, this is crazy.' And I'm like, 'I know, son, it is.' Last year we could go to lunch, go to movies, just do stuff and no one recognized him. And this year I haven't been to lunch with him in last 2 months. … I think we're all just in awe over everything."

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury on whether Manziel deserves his very own nickname:

"He must be playing well, 'cause you don't get one if you're playing bad. But he doesn't see himself as 'Johnny Football.' He's Johnny Manziel and he's just trying to win ballgames."

13. Flop of the week

Roy Roundtree
Roy Roundtree's big catch set Michigan up to tie the game and eventually win in overtime.

-- Northwestern.

I didn't count, but the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein did. Northwestern had eight defenders back in coverage to cover four Michigan receivers -- and the Wolverines still completed a 53-yard pass with 8 seconds left to set up the game-tying field goal. And then Michigan won in overtime, marking the third time this season that Northwestern has blown a double-digit second-half lead.

-- Alabama.

Down 20-0 after the first quarter? Give up 20 points over its average? Watch A&M compile 418 total yards? Lose at home? Minus-5 in turnovers vs. LSU and A&M?

What happened to the Crimson Tide we once knew?

Whatever the reason -- a post-LSU letdown, a perfectly executed A&M game plan, a combo platter of Bama mistakes -- the Tide didn't play well enough to remain undefeated.

-- The unnamed USC student manager who was fired for deflating game balls against Oregon.

This one pretty much explains itself.

-- Louisville.

Hey, upsets happen. Just ask Bama. But what Syracuse did to the formerly unbeaten Cardinals was more than an upset. It was a 45-26 woodshed loss that sent Louisville tumbling down the rankings and out of the top 15 of the BCS standings.

And the flopper is … Louisville.

12. Coach of the week

The finalists:

-- Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin said all the right things leading up to the Bama game: A&M was trying to prove it belonged in the SEC … Bama was the football gold standard for the conference and the country … Playing on the road and in new venues, such as Bryant-Denny Stadium, actually energized his team. Blah, blah, blah. I don't doubt that Sumlin meant every word of it, but he did a masterful job of downplaying the Aggies' chances. In truth, A&M's players couldn't believe they were 14-point underdogs to a Bama team they thought they matched up well with at key positions. And Sumlin and his staff exploited those matchups at every opportunity.

-- Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

With the win against Baylor, Stoops is now No. 2 on OU's all-time victories list. He just passed the great Bud Wilkinson. That's no small thing. Stoops is now 146-36 at OU. He needs 12 more wins to surpass Barry Switzer.

-- Wisconsin's Bret Bielema.

Don't look now, but the Badgers are going to the Big Ten championship game, have a good chance at playing in the Rose Bowl and could finish with double-digit wins after a 3-2 start. Bielema kept the Badgers together and they seem to be peaking (Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14) at the perfect time.

-- Syracuse's Doug Marrone.

The beatdown of Louisville puts the Orange at 5-5, with two chances (at Missouri, at Temple) to become bowl eligible.

And the winner is … Sumlin.

It's not every day you beat the No. 1 team in the country.

11. Player of the week

Marcus Mariota
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota leads the nation in passing efficiency.

The finalists:

-- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The redshirt freshman shook off an early-game shoulder injury and finished with six touchdown passes, which tied an Oregon school record.

-- Texas A&M's Manziel.

The redshirt freshman (at one point, he and Mariota were both Oregon recruiting commits) flummoxed Bama's defense with 92 yards of rushing and 253 yards of passing (for 2 TDs and no interceptions). He was a gas to watch.

-- Kansas State defensive end Meshak Williams.

Seven tackles (three for losses), two sacks, a pass breakup and a key factor in K-State holding TCU to only 10 points -- the lowest home point total during the Gary Patterson era at TCU.

-- Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene.

All he did was record 22 tackles in the win against Army.

-- Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron.

He's at 419 pass attempts (and counting) without an interception, dating back to last season. In the latest win, a 62-55 victory against Texas State, he completed 31 of 45 passes for 337 yards and 3 TDs.

-- Florida's special teams.

A blocked punt, recovery and return for touchdown with 2 seconds remaining saved the day for the Gators against Louisiana-Lafayette.

-- Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.

Scored three times and rushed for 198 yards against Indiana.

And the winner is … Johnny Football.

10. Five reasons why Bama fans should reconsider committing seppuku

-- The Crimson Tide can still backdoor its way into the BCS championship.

-- Bama can still finish 12-1, win the SEC and go to a BCS bowl. Had you given Tide fans that option at season's beginning, I'm guessing they would have taken it.

-- Another top-5 recruiting class is on the way and it will be coached up by one of the best staffs in the country.

-- There are only nine scholarship seniors on the Bama roster.

-- You're going to want to stick around to watch the development of true freshman outside linebacker Denzel Devall.

9. Heisman Trophy race

Collin Klein
Collin Klein is still the leader of the Heisman pack despite a so-so performance -- by his standards -- in his last outing.

Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:

• Kansas State's Klein -- Optimus might want to pick it up a little bit. He had 195 total yards and two touchdowns in the win at TCU. Love the gritty win a week after suffering a concussion, but it was his lowest yardage total since November 2011.

• Oregon's Kenjon Barner -- A non-factor in the Ducks' win at Cal. He got dinged on the hand, so we'll give him a pass.

• Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller -- A complete no-show this week. Oh, wait -- the Buckeyes had a bye week. Saturday's game at Wisconsin could help determine if he gets an invite to New York.

• Texas A&M's Manziel -- I don't care if he's a redshirt freshman, he deserves to be on the Heisman short list.

• Oregon's Mariota -- See above.

• USC wide receiver Marqise Lee -- He even volunteered to play defensive back last week. A star and ultimate team player.

Keep a coat and tie handy:

• Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o -- He picked off another pass against Boston College, giving him six for the season (a school record for a linebacker).

• USC quarterback Matt Barkley -- Three more interceptions is troubling, but I still think he can make some serious national noise against UCLA and Notre Dame.

• Wisconsin's Ball -- He'll get a huge Heisman tailwind if he puts up big numbers against Ohio State this week and breaks the NCAA scoring record.

Thanks for stopping by the booth:

• Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron -- An upset loss at home … an interception in the end zone in the waning minutes. Not a good Heisman combination.

• Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- The gum-chewing Bridgewater can maybe work his way back on the short list. After all, he isn't the reason Louisville lost to Syracuse. But Bridgewater's Heisman margin of error is smaller than others. Not his fault, just the reality of the situation.

8. The picks

I'm mad at myself for not taking Syracuse over Louisville last week. I've been semi-sweet on the Cuse ever since I saw them against USC at MetLife Stadium earlier this season. But I got burned by an Orange pick a few weeks ago (Syracuse over Cincinnati) and held a grudge.

So what happens? Syracuse blows out Louisville at the Carrier Dome.

My Tennessee-over-Mizzou pick took it in the shorts (the Vols lost in OT), as did Iowa over Purdue (Hello? Do you still play football in Iowa City?) and Bama over A&M (actually considered the upset, but chickened out).

This week's choices:

Northern Illinois over Toledo, Tennessee over Vandy, Rutgers over Cincinnati, Northwestern over Michigan State, Arkansas over Mississippi State, Miami over South Florida, USC over UCLA, Notre Dame over Wake Forest, LSU over Ole Miss, Clemson over NC State, Nebraska over Minnesota, Georgia Tech over Duke, Louisiana Tech over Utah State, Oklahoma over West Virginia, K-State over Baylor, Oregon over Stanford, Oregon State over Cal.

(Last week's record: 12-4. Overall: 137-44)

7. Why Vegas sends a limo for me

I went for it on fourth and 40 … and got sacked.

Indiana over Wisconsin? Ha! The Hoosiers lost by 48.

Penn State over Nebraska? The Nittany Lions had a three-point lead going into the fourth and lost by nine.

Oregon State over Stanford? The Beavs also took a lead into the fourth quarter and lost. Sigh.

This week I thought hard about:

San Jose State over BYU (just so you know, SJSU is 8-2, the game is at home and the Spartans are the same team that lost to Stanford only by 3).

Ohio State over Wisconsin (yes, the three-loss Badgers are faves in the game against the unbeaten Buckeyes).

Texas Tech over Oklahoma State (the Red Raiders are 11-point dogs, but, hey, all I have to lose is my pride).

Went with: Going for the triple play again.

(Last week's record: 0-3. Overall: 3-10.)

6. In

Oregon and K-State ... Manziel (hello, New York?) ... BCS politicking ... A playoff selection committee ... Oregon respect (the Ducks are 21½-point favorites against Stanford, which just happens to be the 13th-best team in the country, according to the BCS standings) ... Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes (think of this as a farewell tour: Utah State this week, at San Jose State the following week, a December bowl game and then a new job at a high-profile, BCS conference program) ... Honest disagreement (45 AP poll voters chose Oregon No. 1, 14 chose K-State and one chose Notre Dame) ... Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner ... Cool wishbone tributes to Darrell Royal (well done, Mack Brown) ... Texas A&M on the road (6-0 this season).

5. Out

Notre Dame ... Weekly mocking of the Big Ten (Nebraska is No. 14 and Michigan No. 21 in BCS standings, Ohio State is undefeated, Northwestern and Wisconsin are 7-3, Penn State has hung in there) ... the Alabama aura of invincibility ... Week 12 big-game matchups (Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest, Georgia vs. Georgia Southern, Alabama vs. Western Carolina, Florida vs. Jacksonville State, Texas A&M vs. Sam Houston State, South Carolina vs. Wofford) ... All that gushing about Indiana ... Logic (one voting member of the often amusing Harris Poll has Alabama No. 1 on his ballot -- even though the Crimson Tide just lost. If Bama loses another game, the voter will demand that the Tide be given an automatic berth in the BCS championship) ... Northwestern holding on to double-digit second-half leads (all three of its losses have come after blowing second-half leads of 11 points, 12 points and 10 points) ... Rogue student managers ... Louisville's first-ever 10-0 start ... Wisconsin's Ball (he plays his last game at Camp Randall this Saturday).

4. I love L.A.

USC's Lane Kiffin finally caught a couple of breaks last week: The Trojans beat Arizona State and the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown after a 1-4 start.

Lane Kiffin
Will all the little things eventually add up against Lane Kiffin?

Brown's dismissal -- and the subsequent Zen Master (Phil Jackson) chatter -- created enough countermeasure chaff to distract the L.A. media from the latest silliness at USC: DeflateGate.

The Pac-12 fined USC $25,000 and reprimanded the program after it was discovered that a since-fired student manager let air out of footballs used by the Trojans in the Nov. 3 game against Oregon. A slightly deflated ball is easier to throw and catch.

USC threw and caught its way to 51 points against the Ducks. Problem is, Oregon scored 62 points -- and didn't have to cheat to do it.

Anyway, the air is leaking out of the Kiffin regime and the goodwill he created after last season's 10-2 record. In fact, it's a good thing that Kiffin doesn't work for the Jerry Buss family or he might be the former coach of the Trojans.

Kiffin denied knowing anything about the ex-student manager's knucklehead actions. Strangely enough, I believe him.

But I don't blame those who think Kiffin ordered the balls to be deflated, or think he gave a wink-wink endorsement to the student manager, or wonder how many times this might have happened in the past during Kiffin's watch. When you have a history of saying or doing dumb things -- and Kiffin has had his moments -- you forfeit all benefit of the doubt.

3. I love L.A., Part II

Kiffin said and did some well-chronicled dumb things at Tennessee. And this year he has been in the middle of self-created controversies involving the media (he banned a reporter from practice, he walked out of a news conference in a huff), jersey-changing sneakiness and instituted a policy that prevents opposing teams from having walk-throughs at the Coliseum the day before a game.

On top of that, there were back-to-back losses to Arizona and Oregon where it looked like the USC defense was on spring break in Cancun, mind-boggling penalty problems and now DeflateGate.

"Saturday can't come fast enough," Kiffin told reporters last week.

It came and went, and USC beat Arizona State 38-17. The Trojans' defense actually played well and USC's offense, using non-doctored footballs, gained 447 total yards.

All was right in the USC world.

Or is it?

Kiffin can recruit. And Kiffin can coach. But can Kiffin stay out of his own way? And at what point does all this silliness add up to something substantial?

Everything Kiffin does is magnified. His transgressions, however small, get overanalyzed. His losses are dissected like a biology lab frog. And guess what? It's partly his own fault.

Kiffin has a chance to put some serious distance between himself and the DeflateGate noise if the No. 18 Trojans beat crosstown rival and No. 17 UCLA this week in the Rose Bowl and then No. 3-ranked Notre Dame in the Coliseum on Nov. 24. Lose those games and Kiffin will hear more than the gentle hissing of air leaving a football.

He'll hear calls for his job.

2. If there were a playoff

(And there will be in two more years …)

Shoulder Pad Bracket:

Oregon vs. Ohio State.

In the BMOC universe, all things are possible, such as the Buckeyes being eligible for postseason play this season.

Chin Strap Bracket:

Kansas State vs. Notre Dame.

History alert! History alert! K-State and Notre Dame have never played each other.

1. The BMOC Top 10

No. 10: Clemson (9-1)
Next: North Carolina State.
The Oregon of the South? Clemson has scored 37 or more points in nine consecutive games. And when I popped off recently about USC and Tennessee having the best sets of wide receivers, a reader gently and politely reminded me of Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Thank you for the heads-up.

No. 9: Florida State (9-1)
Next: at Maryland.
Cut it a little close in Blacksburg, wouldn't you say? Just when you think the Seminoles are on the verge of elite status, they give up five sacks and rush for minus-15 yards against VT.

No. 8: LSU (8-2)
Next: Ole Miss.
Please don't ask why LSU is ranked below Texas A&M, even though the Tigers beat the Aggies in College Station. All I can tell you is that A&M beat late, great Bama on the road, and LSU lost to Bama in Baton Rouge. Anyway, the Hatter's team is rounding into shape nicely for the final two games and bowl season. It helps when Zach Mettenberger has improved his per game passing numbers by more than 100 yards in the past two games.

No. 7: Texas A&M (8-2)
Next: Sam Houston State.
Did you know that Reveille VIII, the A&M mascot, traveled to Bama in a private jet and was taken to the stadium in a limo? Did you know that if Reveille jumps up on the bed of an A&M cadet and settles in for an extended nap, that the cadet has to sleep on the floor? Did you know that Reveille asked for Manziel's autograph?

Nick Saban
Nick Saban's squad fell to the sixth spot in the BMOC Top 10 after falling to Texas A&M.

No. 6: Alabama (9-1)
Next: Western Carolina.
Of all the things I wouldn't want to be this week, I wouldn't want to be the Bama players at practice, or Western Carolina on Saturday.

No. 5: Georgia (9-1)
Next: Georgia Southern.
Georgia Southern … Georgia Pacific … Georgia Power -- it doesn't matter. The Bulldogs can beat anybody these days. I probably have them a spot too low. Anyway, they have a scrimmage Saturday, then play Georgia Tech the following week, then play in the SEC championship on Dec. 1.

No. 4: Ohio State (10-0)
Next: at Wisconsin.
The BCS doesn't recognize the Buckeyes this season because of postseason sanctions, but I do. They'll have had two weeks to prepare for Bucky Badger and his good friend Ball this Saturday at Madtown.

No. 3: Notre Dame (10-0)
Next: Wake Forest.
The Irish, 10-0 for the first time since 1993, are huge Baylor, Texas, Stanford, Oregon State and USC/UCLA fans these days. They're also huge fans of their redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson, who has eight consecutive wins to start his ND career (third best in school history).

No. 2: Kansas State (10-0)
Next: at Baylor.
A perfectly timed Thanksgiving bye week awaits after the WildBills win at Waco. Yes, I'm projecting a red state school will lose to a purple state program. Baylor scores lots of points, but it's awful on defense. The Bears can't stop Bill Snyder's longtime secretary, Joan Friederich, from scoring a touchdown on a wheel route. What do you think Klein is going to do to them?

No. 1: Oregon (10-0)
Next: Stanford.
Nothing seems to bother these guys. Injuries (I saw Hawkeye Pierce and Dr. McDreamy helping the overworked Oregon trainers Saturday night). Rumors (Chip Kelly will be wooed by the NFL). A road game at Cal (the Golden Bears trailed only 24-17 with 10:07 left in the third quarter; they lost 59-17). Now they get Stanford at Autzen, a team the Ducks have scored a combined 105 points against in the past two wins.

(Five on the fringe: Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Stanford, Oregon State.)