Post-Gazette sports reporter Paul Zeise blogs about the world of sports, and Pittsburgh sports in particular, with an assist from Seth Rorabaugh and his Morning Links. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulZeise and Seth @emptynetters.
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And then there was one – one undefeated team that is in Notre Dame and given that the Irish face a wounded USC team this week (quarterback Matt Barkley is out) they have a very good chance of finishing 12-0 and being the first team to clinch a berth in the BCS National title game.
I know that there are some people who think this would be a travesty because Notre Dame’s schedule is not nearly as tough now looking at it as it appeared to be in August but here is a something that I wish people would get through their brains – it is hard to go undefeated.
It is not easy to win every game no matter who you play and I wish we valued being undefeated more than we do. Louisville, Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State all fell in the last week or two – and to teams they should theoretically beat. Rutgers has one loss – to Kent State. Florida State has one loss – to N.C State.
It really is not easy to win them all so if Notre Dame completes it on Saturday and beats USC, the Irish deserve all the credit in the world because they figured it out when nobody else could. And the whole “if Alabama played Notre Dame’s schedule, they would be undefeated” stuff is nonsense as well – you don’t know who is going to win and who is going to lose.
So let’s take a look at the national title game picture now:
Notre Dame (11-0) – The Irish have the simple route – win and they are in. They thing is they have to go to USC, which is a place that they haven’t fared well in recent years but Brian Kelly has figured out how to win them all before and my sense is he will win this one.
Alabama (10-1) – Once again, the Tide are in the driver’s seat. They need to beat Auburn and Georgia and they are in the title game.
Georgia (10-1) – The Bulldogs are the only other team that controls their own destiny – if they win out they will be in the title game as they play Georgia Tech this week then play Alabama in the SEC Title game.
Florida (10-1) – I suppose if Florida wins out and both Georgia and Alabama lose the Gators could crawl into the national title game – or perhaps if Notre Dame loses they could as well –but there is something that doesn’t sit right about a team not even winning its own division playing for the national title.
Oregon (10-1) – Chip Kelly has to be sick after that loss to Stanford. The Ducks had it all set up for them and are still no doubt a BCS team – but if Stanford beats UCLA this week, the Ducks won’t even be the champs of their own division, much less conference, much less national title. The best way for the Ducks to get in would be this – FSU beats Florida, Georgia Tech beats Georgia, Georgia beats Alabama. It seems like a longshot but it could happen.
Kansas State (10-1) – I can’t see how this team climbs back into it – that’s a bad loss to a bad team. But stranger things have happened.
Really the only other team who has an outside chance is Florida State (10-1) but it would require some very strange things to happen. Basically – the Noles would have to beat Florida by a good number this weekend then destroy Georgia Tech in the ACC title game. But they would also need Clemson to pound South Carolina and Georgia Tech to beat Georgia, then have Georgia beat Alabama and USC beat Notre Dame. If all of that happens, I think FSU would leap over K-State and Oregon and get into the title game.
Of course, that’s pipe dream stuff but it could happen…..
** Speaking of FSU, is there any team getting less respect than the Noles? I realize the ACC hasn’t been great but what if the three ACC teams this weekend go out and beat their SEC counterparts in the end of the year rivalry games (FSU-Fla., Ga Tech-Ga., Clemson-USC)? I mean all year we’ve heard about the SEC and mostly because they beat each other up – but what happens if they come up short in these three games? Will this enable FSU to jump? Remember, the Noles loss was a one-point heartbreaker on the road on a fourth-down play as time expired. Alabama and Oregon both lost at home, K-State got pounded in their loss as did Georgia and Clemson’s lone loss is to FSU. So why aren’t the Noles getting more love? It shows you how biased these things really are and how the move to a four-team playoff will not solve the issue as it brings in a committee to decide who plays in the playoff and that means the SEC lovefest is no doubt going to continue.
** Of course, FSU may be a part of the SEC lovefest sometime soon as the conference shuffling has begun again with the announcement of Maryland jumping from the ACC to the Big Ten and Rutgers leaving the Big East for the Big Ten as well. This means two things – 1.) UConn and/or Louisville is about to get an invite to the ACC and 2.) Big East football is officially dead. Finished. Kaput.
First, the ACC, is losing Maryland but that’s not a great loss. Don’t get me wrong, Maryland is a good program but the Terps aren’t essential to what the ACC is doing and frankly if the ACC grabs UConn or Louisville it will be a wash. Virginia and Virginia Tech will still bring the D.C. market and both Connecticut and Louisville bring similar programs in both football and basketball to the table and both add a little to the footprint in terms of markets. So like I said – it isn’t a great deal UNLESS it leads to Florida State, Clemson and Miami bolting for the SEC or Big 12.
That doesn’t seem like it is going to happen but you never know, with the Terps testing the waters and getting out despite the $50 million exit fee, one or all three of those programs may be ready to bolt to more lucrative waters in one of the power conferences, especially if they believe the ACC’s future is threatened.
So that is what is significant about the news of expansion from the ACC’s perspective –not that Maryland is leaving and thus you should keep an eye on the South as Clemson, FSU and/or Miami hold the key to the ACC future. As long as those three are still around, the conference is stable and viable as a power football conference. If they leave, well, then it becomes the Big East South….
As for the Big East, let’s just say it is over. It is finished. This is going to put in motion the final nail in the coffin of the football conference so to speak. Rutgers is a big loss to that conference given all that Rutgers brings in terms of market and name branding. But it won’t just stop with Rutgers – Connecticut is almost a lock to be in the ACC and with the Big Ten expanding, you know the Big 12 is going to follow and one of their first targets will be Louisville.
So the Big East would be smart to do what it should have done two years ago – cut its losses and become a basketball conference because this pipe dream of playing big time football with a rag tag collection of Conference USA schools is officially on life support.
This is especially true considering BYU, Boise and San Diego State are all now talking about returning to the Mountain West, which means Houston and Memphis can’t be far from jumping out of the sinking ship soon as well.
Stay tuned as this will be a fun development to watch, for the, oh, I don’t know, sixth time in the past 15 years….
Game of the Week: Stanford 17, Oregon 14, OT - - Given all that was at stake, this was one for the ages and one the Ducks are going to think about for a long, long time. They had the game won several times and blew it and then failed to capitalize on some opportunities to blow the game open. As a result, they aren’t likely to play in the BCS national title game – again – and may not even get to play in the Rose Bowl as Stanford now controls the Division. Honorable mention goes to Oklahoma 50, WVU 49, but since not much was at stake in that one and we’ve seen a thousand of these Playstation-like games this year, let’s give the nod to a defensive game.
Team of the Week: UCLA Bruins They finally slayed that huge dragon from across town with a 38-28 win over USC. And frankly, given that Lane Kiffin seems likely to melt down and flame out – the Bruins may be the toast of that town for some time to come. UCLA has won the South Division, has one game left against Stanford and then will attempt to win the Pac 12 title game a week from Saturday. Not bad considering where the Bruins were when Jim Mora took over.
Upset of the Week: I don’t care what anyone says – nobody saw Baylor 52, Kansas State 24 coming. Oh there may have been some who thought the Bears could win the game but nobody saw this one being this much of a blowout. Baylor really took it to the Wildcats, who had no answers for Baylor’s offense and really just looked shocked once they fell behind. It is a great win for a much-maligned Bears defense and now, Baylor can think about bowling again.
Ugly Game of the Week: How about SEC vs. nonsensical directional schools in Week 11. I mean, c’mon why in the world is Alabama playing Western Carolina, Florida playing Jacksonville State, Georgia playing a railroad, South Carolina playing Wofford and Texas A&M playing a lager this late in the year? All of these games were, predictably, dogs and should not be played ever, much less this late in the season. Give me a break.
Player of the Week: They have only lost once, yet nobody talks about the Clemson Tigers and I can’t quite figure out why. But more importantly, few seem to realize that the Tigers feature one of the best players in the country – quarterback Tajh Boyd. All he did this weekend in the Tigers destruction of N.C. State is throw for 426 yards, rush for 105, set a school record with 531 total yards and, oh year, account for eight touchdowns (five throwing, three rushing). Clemson has ten regular season wins for the first time since 1981 and I actually agree with Tigers fans who say that if they get to 11-1 with a win over South Carolina, they should be an at-large team. This is an excellent football team and boy is that offense – which put up 754 yards against the Wolfpack -- fun to watch.
Ok, finally, here is my Top Ten:
1. Notre Dame (11-0) – Again, you go undefeated, you deserve credit no matter who you play.
2. Alabama (10-1) – The Tide are probably going to win the national title.
3. Florida State (10-1) – The Noles impress me more than the other one-loss teams and mostly because they play great defense.
4. Oregon (10-1) – I know they lost, but they still have an impressive resume and still, to me, are perhaps the second or third best team in the country.
5. Georgia (10-1) - The resume is thin but if they beat Alabama in two weeks they deserve to be in the title game, no question. A big if.
6. Clemson (10-1) – I love Boyd and that offense and the defense has been relatively good in many games as well. I will be interested to see how the offense performs against one of those great SEC defenses this week.
7. Florida (10-1) – I know the Gators keep winning but something seems to be missing, especially on offense. This is a good team, I’m not sure the Gators are a great team.
8. Ohio State (11-0) – They aren’t eligible for anything but 11-0 is still 11-0 and deserves to have some recognition.
9. LSU (9-2) – Say whatever you want about Les Miles, but this guy’s team just knows how to win games.
10. Stanford (9-2) – The Cardinal are really a physically tough team and they have played in some hostile places and found a way to win.
Five more to Watch:
Kansas State (10-1) – They fall to the back of the pack of the one-loss teams because they have the worst loss, by far. Just an awful performance.
Rutgers (9-1) - The Scarlet Knights have no impressive wins but boy do they play defense and they are very disciplined and fundamentally sound at what they do.
Texas A&M (9-2) – Two words – Johnny Football. ‘Nuff said.
Nebraska (9-2) – Don’t look now but the Huskers may be the class of the Big Ten and are slowly but surely grinding towards a Big Ten title. This is a tough team that is finally playing smart, sound football.
UCLA (9-2) – Jim Mora is not likeable and is easy to root against, but the man can coach and the Bruins are suddenly the talk of the Pac 12. And if they win this week against Stanford then go on to beat Oregon in the Pac 12 title game, he will have statues built to him by the UCLA faithful who are tired of playing second fiddle to USC.
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