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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OK, here it is – the BCS National Title game is set and it is going to be No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama or Georgia and while there is this undercurrent of “Notre Dame is overrated and not worthy” let me say this – don’t be surprised if the Irish win it all.
This is a better team than they are getting credit for, they played a pretty good schedule (though not as good as we thought it would be at the start of the season), they have an outstanding defense and Brian Kelly is an excellent football coach.
I don’t care what anyone says - Notre Dame is better than Georgia and would beat the Bulldogs.
You want to tell me that Alabama is better than Notre Dame I may buy it – but look at Georgia’s schedule and it is a house of cards built on beating Florida.
So don’t be surprised if, a few months ago we are talking about Notre Dame as the national champion because this Irish team is clearly a worth champion and clearly worthy of being No. 1.
Like I wrote last week, it is not easy to go undefeated and the Irish pulled it off.
One other thing – Ohio State is 12-0 and what a nice season it has been but the Buckeyes should not be No. 1 in the AP poll even if Notre Dame loses to Alabama. For one thing the Buckeyes are the least impressive undefeated team since that one Terry Bowden-led Auburn team in the 1990s but for another, no team that is ineligible for the postseason should receive any recognition of a championship – even if it is a fictional “wire service” championship.
The Buckeyes did the crime, they are doing the time and going 12-0 should be the extent of the recognition they get for this season.
** That being said – here is why the BCS is a ridiculous system and I am glad it is going away.
Georgia is No. 3, Florida is No. 4. Georgia beat Florida and finished ahead of Florida in the SEC East and has earned a trip to the SEC title game.
However, say the Bulldogs, as expected, get hammered by Alabama or even just lose the game – they are almost assuredly going to fall from No. 3 to like No. 5 or 6 and Florida will move up to No. 3.
Now why is this significant?
Simple – The No. 3 team in the BCS rankings is guaranteed a spot in the BCS which means Florida will get a spot in the Orange Bowl or Fiesta Bowl or Sugar Bowl or whatever.
But since Alabama will be going to the BCS national championship game, well, the BCS can’t take Georgia, too, because a conference can only have two teams in the BCS.
So Georgia, in essence, will be penalized for beating Florida and getting the SEC title game because the Bulldogs will be relegated to the Chik Fil A bowl or something while the Gators go to the BCS.
It is ridiculous.
Georgia should be the second SEC team in the BCS regardless of what happens in the SEC title game.
** People make fun of the Big East for how bad its BCS representative has been and this year’s the conference will send either a team that got blown out by Kent State (Rutgers) or lost in back to back weeks to Syracuse and UConn (Louisville). And actually there is an outside chance of one of these four-way or three-way tie scenarios where Syracuse could actually win the BCS Berth (a longshot of course but possible) which would be ridiculous.
But as bad as this – consider the ACC, where Georgia Tech (6-6) is in the ACC title game and would be in the BCS with a win this weekend over Florida State. No question the Orange Bowl people are praying that Florida State does the very un-Florida State like thing and goes out and wins the game easily. FSU is wounded after losing to Florida but an 11-2 FSU team is a marquee draw. A 7-6 Georgia Tech team – matched against Rutgers or Louisville is a recipe for the Orange Bowl to go to bankruptcy court….
Not to be outdone, though, the Big Ten could send a 5-loss Wisconsin team to the BCS because the Badgers are in the “bad boys” division with Penn State and Ohio State --- neither are eligible for the postseason – so even though they finished third, they get to play Nebraska in the Big Ten title game.
A potential disaster for the BCS bowls if a few upsets happen this week, no doubt.
** And as if there isn’t enough Pepto Bismal and Rolaids being passed around to BCS bowl execs – how do you think they are taking this one: There is a very real possibility that Kent State will earn an at-large bid. Yep, THAT Kent State. How would like to be in the room when they start picking teams to play in the BCS and the guy with the last selection is trying to decide between a 10-win Oklahoma team or a 10-win Clemson team – and someone from the committee informs him he HAS to take Kent State. That could be fun.
Why is this happening?
Well it is another one of these clauses in the BCS rules – if a champion from a non automatic-qualifier conference finishes in the Top 16 AND ahead of a champion from an automatic qualifier BCS conference, it automatically earns an at-large spot. Kent is currently No. 17 and way ahead of either of the two potential Big East champions. If the Golden Flashes win this weekend in the MAC championship game, they will almost assuredly move up one spot and once they do, well they are in!!!
Ladies and Gentleman – introducing your 2012 Orange Bowl – Georgia Tech versus Kent State…..
Incidentally – if Georgia Tech loses to Florida State in the ACC title game, the Wreck will fall to 6-7 and that means they will need one of these silly waivers from the NCAA to play in a bowl game since they have a losing record. UCLA received one of these last year and I’m sure the Georgia Tech players will be rewarded with a bowl trip, you know for their stellar season in which they lost more games than they won and finished first only because other teams excused themselves from the postseason due to pending NCAA sanctions.
** Notre Dame’s Manti Te’O is a very good player. He is an excellent linebacker and has a future in the NFL. But anybody who votes for him to win the Heisman is buying into ESPN-created hype and should have their vote revoked. Yes, he deserves to be in the discussion somewhere as a candidate to some degree – but the guy should not win the Heisman trophy. He is not one of the Nation’s top 25 tacklers. He is not one of the Nation’s top 25 players in sacks or tackles for loss. I know, I know he is not an outside linebacker so he shouldn’t be judged by sacks and tackles for loss – that’s a cop out for one, but for two – OK, then how about total tackles? The Heisman should go to the best player and this year it is one of two quarterbacks, Johnny Manziel from A&M or Collin Klein from Kansas State.
Unlike Te’O both Manziel and Klein have stats to go with the hype they are receiving – especially Manziel, who has better numbers than both Cam Newton and Tim Tebow from their Heisman years.
I like Te’O, think he is a great player, but let’s not lose our minds here.
** All you need to know about the high stakes being played in college football these days and just how much is on the line can be found in the number of coaches fired at the end of each season and this one is no exception…
California, Colorado, Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Tennessee, Kentucky, N.C. State and Purdue all fired coaches and are out looking for new coaches. And many of these schools are paying big bucks to the outgoing guy (Gene Chizik is getting like $50K a week for like the next three years) and will no doubt pay big bucks to get another guy.
It is easy, in most of these cases, to see why these guys were fired but then again – in most cases I could have told you they weren’t going to work out and I’m just a hack who is constantly told things like “you don’t know what you are talking about….” By the so-called geniuses who run these programs.
But let’s look:
N.C. State – They hired away Tom O’Brien from BC, one of the most bland, unexciting, personality-less people they could find, a guy who exemplifies “barely above mediocrity” but who makes sure he has discipline and his kids graduate. He is clearly not a guy who is ever going to generate excitement and his teams are always the same – toeing the line between mediocre and good. He is OK, but not great. And at N.C. State, he was, well, OK but not great and they fired him for it. As my colleague Craig Meyer said – Tom O’Brien was fired for being Tom O’Brien.
Purdue – This is a tough job to win at and expectations should be for a guy to come in and win six to eight games and get to mid-level bowl games and anything else is gravy. Of course, they think they should be doing what Ohio State is doing so they will be firing whoever they hire in about four years.
Colorado – See Purdue, only this school COULD be good if they actually invested money in the program and cared enough to give a coach a chance to succeed. That being said, I thought Jon Embree was way in over his head when he was hired and nothing he did in two years suggested he was up to the job. Colorado needs to commit to this program and give the next coach a chance.
Boston College – I said this job was doomed the day they went to the ACC and we are starting to see it come to fruition. This is a difficult job and lower expectations need to be held by fans and alumn and the administration. This is probably about the 12th or 13th best job in the ACC, and that is being nice. This is always going to be a stepping stone job which means they need to get a young, hungry up and comer.
California – Jeff Tedford was always more sizzle than steak and was guy who talked a lot more than he actually accomplished. Stanford and UCLA have figured it out and I am sure Cal will or at least, could, too provided they hire the right guy.
Tennessee – When Tennessee hired Derek Dooley I said the school would be looking for a new coach in four years because he was in way over his head and will get eaten alive by this job. OK, I was wrong – it only took him three years to flame out. And he certainly went down in flames. Tennessee is a tough state to recruit, there aren’t many players – if Tennessee wants to be great again, it needs to find a big-name coach who is known as a bulldog recruiter. Honestly, the best fit here would be that Evil Knievel –wannabe Bobby Petrino. Bad guy, great coach. He’d turn things around quickly.
Auburn – Gene Chizik was a disaster as the Iowa State coach. So he gets a big boy job. I gave him three years to flame out, it took him four and the only reason he lasted that long was a fella named Gus Malzahn and another named Cam Newton. This job is bad right now – I’ll be shocked if they get the home run hire they desire as there are NCAA Sanctions likely on the way and with a guy named Saban up the road, this could be a second-city program for quite some time.
Arkansas – I understand why they turned to John L. Smith, but, um, I said it was pretty clear that was disaster waiting to happen and it did. Smith is gone and this, along with Tennessee, is one of the best jobs available and if Jeff Long does his due diligence, the school could rebound quickly and hire a big name coach.
Kentucky – When I saw Kentucky play against Pitt in the BBBBAABBDDBBSUBCSS SSSSVVAA Bowl a few years ago I was extremely unimpressed with the Wildcats preparation and game plan. That’s when I said this Joker Phillips guy wasn’t going to cut it. This is a near impossible job but expectations are low enough that if someone could come in and just do what Paul Rhoads has done at Iowa State – make the program somewhat relevant and get to bowl games every year while going 6-6 or 7-5, they will build statues to him.
Game of the Week: This annual rivalry game is called “Bedlam” and games like Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48, OT exemplify why that is a fitting name. Both teams played extremely well in this game even though the Cowboys led the entire way in regulation. But Landry Jones made some big-time plays and led the Sooners on an impressive game-tying drive at the end. The two teams combined for 1,100 yards of offense and 67 first downs. This one was lots of fun to watch.
Team of the Week: Pitt. Yep, that Pitt. What a tremendous game for the Panthers – they really played perhaps their best overall game of the year. They dominated Rutgers from start to finish, they exemplified the toughness Paul Chryst wants to instill in this program. Nobody saw this one coming but anyone who is surprised by the Panthers effort hasn’t been paying attention as they always play extremely hard for Chryst. I think special consideration in this category could also go to Penn State, which nipped Wisconsin, 24-21, in overtime and finished an improbable 8-4 season. What a tremendous story that is going on there in that program.
Upset of the Week: I know he is a quirky, strange guy who may even had abused a player or two (and not in a creepy Sandusky kind of way but rather in a bullying Bob Knight kind of way) but Washington State coach Mike Leach is still one of my favorites. And he and his Washington State Cougars have had a miserable season but as is always the case those miserable years can be softened with a win over a bitter rival. Friday the Cougars got that win with a stunning, 31-28, win over Washington. The Cougars were down by 18 in the fourth quarter but came from behind, tied it then won in overtime. Obviously with three wins, Leach has a lot of work to do but this was a good way to go into the offseason.
Ugly Game of the Week: How do you put the final nail in your coaching coffin? Well, how about getting scull dragged by your most fierce rival to close out a miserable 3-win season? Yeah, that works, just ask Gene Chizik who watched his Auburn team get spanked 49-0 by Alabama. I watched this game and the one thing I learned from it is that contrary to popular belief, Nick Saban does have a heart as he could have won this thing 149-0 if he really wanted to. All you need to know is this – Auburn completed only 5 passes for 71 yards yet had 8 penalties for 77 yards. Yep, ugly.
Player of the Week: Hey, they don’t call him “Johnny Football” for nothing – Johnny Manziel threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more and led Texas A&M to a 59-29 destruction of Missouri. The Aggies are a 10-2 team and frankly have an outside shot of being considered for a BCS bowl. Texas A&M hit a home run when they hired Kevin Sumlin and Manziel has thrived in Sumlin’s spread offense.
And finally, here is my Top Ten for the week:
1. Notre Dame (12-0) - They have earned it, they deserve it.
2. Ohio State (12-0) – Undefeated is undefeated
3. Alabama (11-1) – Might very well be the best team in the country, time will tell
4. Georgia (11-1) – I think Georgia is somewhat underwhelming but they are rolling right now.
5. Florida (11-1) – If you look at resume – other than the fact that they didn’t win their own division of the SEC – the Gators are probably the most worthy of the one-loss teams.
6. Kansas State (10-1) – The Wildcats are one win away from the BCS – if they beat Texas Saturday they will win the Big 12 and go to the Fiesta Bowl, perhaps against Oregon. Now that would be a great game.
7. Oregon (11-1) – Finished strong on Saturday but didn’t get any help from UCLA so the Ducks will have to settle for an at-large BCS berth and try to finish 12-1 as they can’t win the National Title and can’t win the Pac 12, either.
8. LSU (10-2) – Every week I say the Tigers are not as good as advertised and are a candidate to get upset yet they keep finding ways to win games. And while their wins are not exactly pretty, they are, well wins.
9. Stanford (10-2) – Think about this – if Stanford got a few more inches and scored in overtime against Notre Dame on that 4th-down play and went on to win that game, we may be talking about the Cardinal facing the SEC champ in the national title game.
10. Texas A&M (10-2) – The Aggies have two losses – to LSU and to Florida – by a combined eight points. They are so close to being undefeated it has to hurt. With three more years of Manziel at the helm, this is a program one the rise.
Five more to Watch:
Florida State (10-2) – Had a chance to make a statement Saturday with a win over Florida and had a fourth-quarter lead but blew it. Still can finish with 12 wins and an ACC title which is another step in the right direction for the program under Jimbo Fisher.
Clemson (10-2) – Like FSU, had a chance to make a statement against an SEC team – South Carolina – and blew it. Still, the Tigers are impressive and headed in the right direction.
Oklahoma (9-2) – The Sooners in recent years have left us with the “should be better” feeling but the reality is this is likely going to be a BCS team, assuming the Kent State thing doesn’t come to fruition.
Nebraska (10-2) – The Huskers need to win Saturday to win the Big Ten for the first time then need to go to the Rose Bowl and beat Stanford to prove they are indeed headed back to join the nation’s elite.
South Carolina (10-2) – I have never been sold on the Gamecocks but 10-2 is 10-2 and they did beat Clemson this weekend so they deserve credit.
OK, thanks for reading,h we will do this again next week.
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