Wednesday, November 18, 2009

College Football Review 11/18: INT changes everything, again; bowls; you've been Harbaugh'd, again; mediocre supremacy; unrequited horn love

Carolina 14, #1 Florida 24: So close, yet so far
As the clock hit 0:00 to end the third quarter the Gamecocks had the ball at the Florida 22 yard line with a 3rd & 2 to go upcoming, but as the clock hit 0:00 at the end of the game the Gators emerged 24-14. What happened in that fourth quarter was one of the kind of times that shows that while Florida may not have a championship caliber offense, they still are a championship caliber team in their determination to win.
The first play of that fourth quarter was a Garcia pass thrown to Senior WR Moe Brown that he was unable to get a hold of that then bounced its way into the arms of Florida DE Trattou who took the ball and followed his blockers down to the Carolina 26 yard line (53 yards and a pivotal change of possession), eerily similar to Chris Tucker's game-changing interception return in the 2005 Carolina-Florida match-up. Florida took advantage of the turnover 5 plays later with a Tebow 1-yard touchdown sneak.
Carolina's offense the rest of the way: -20 yards.
Why this sudden change? Florida's defensive strategy adjusted following that interception. Up until crucial turnover the Florida defense primarily utilized corner-blitzes and other pressure from the outside, which Spurrier and Garcia were able to take advantage of due to that strategy sacrificing coverage. Time after time you saw Garcia hit a short-route receiver open, but if you look closer you'll see the man who was to cover that receiver was applying pressure. A quick review of the tape will show you this, but suddenly after the interception it all changes. From then on out the pressure of Florida came from the middle. This is surprising only in that it was not the strategy Florida employed from the outset. The Gamecock offensive line is a known weakness, but Florida didn't expose it until the final 15 minutes of the contest. It is unknown how much different the outcome would have been had Florida just used that scheme for four quarters, but one thing is for sure: it is also unknown if the same outcome would have resulted from Florida's first scheme being used for four quarters.
At the end of the day I can assess my Carolina Gamecocks thusly: We've got the quarterback, the receivers, the running backs, the defense, just not the offensive line. It is a painfully recurring theme.

Bowl Game Breakdown
To figure out the bowl game scenarios we need to figure out the conference breakdown. Here are the SEC teams with current records followed by remaining schedule:

Alabama (10-0): Tennessee-Chattanooga, @ Auburn, SEC Championship vs Florida
Florida (10-0): Florida International, Florida State, SEC Championship vs Alabama
LSU (8-2): @ Ole Miss, Arkansas
Ole Miss (7-3): LSU, @ Mississippi State
Auburn (7-4): Alabama
Arkansas (6-4): Mississippi St (Little Rock), @ LSU
Georgia (6-4): Kentucky, @ Georgia Tech
Kentucky (6-4): @ Georgia, Tennessee
South Carolina (6-5): Clemson
Tennessee (5-5): Vanderbilt, @ Kentucky
Mississippi St (4-6): @ Arkansas (Little Rock), Ole Miss
Vanderbilt (2-9): @ Tennessee

First let's agree that neither Vandy nor Mississippi St will go bowling. OK, that's settled.
Second here's the bowl games listed in order or selection:

BCS at-large, if applicable
Citrus ("CapitalOne")
Peach ("Chik-fil-a")
Music City
*- Outback and Cotton get first pick from East and West divisions respectively unless agreement otherwise, but neither is obligated to select by division

So here is the breakdown by bowl game:
BCS- Florida, Alabama: Winner of SECCG in National Title Game, Loser will be at-large
Citrus- LSU vs Ole Miss winner (assuming each win the other game on their schedule, should)
Outback- Tennessee (if they win out, likely), Georgia (if they win out somehow), or LSU/Auburn (if otherwise)
Cotton- LSU vs Ole Miss loser OR Auburn (if they beat Bama especially) OR Tennessee (if 1-1 rest of the way)
Peach- Ole Miss (if they fall this far) OR Georgia OR South Carolina (if W vs Clemson) OR Auburn
Music City- Georgia OR Kentucky OR South Carolina OR Arkansas OR Auburn
Liberty- Georgia OR Kentucky OR South Carolina OR Arkansas OR Auburn
Independence- Georgia OR Kentucky OR South Carolina OR Arkansas OR Auburn Georgia OR Kentucky OR South Carolina OR Arkansas OR Auburn

The end gets really muddled because after LSU's 8-2 the other records could vary between 9 wins or 6.
Here's what I think happens:
BCS- Florida, Alabama: not gonna pick the winner, but they will be in BCS
Citrus- LSU: Need to beat Ole Miss this weekend, which I think they will, to lock this one up
Outback- Tennessee: They should take care of VU and UK, and at 7-5 w/momentum they get this one
Cotton- Ole Miss: they're going here, change of venue would negate the return to same bowl game
Peach- Georgia: they should go 1-1, but even season-ending loss to Tech shouldn't keep them out of ATL
Music City- South Carolina: I think they beat Clemson, but even if they don't I think this is most likely
Liberty- Auburn: A win over Bama and/or an SC loss vaults Auburn big time
Independence- Arkansas: Best geographic fit for Shreveport and Arky should be happy to be back bowling Kentucky: I assume Cats lose last two to go 6-6, this game will get the left-over

It's important for me to add that one reason Carolina could end up in Nashville regardless is that since it is an SEC vs ACC game there is a distinct possibility of Carolina vs UNC match-up, which would be a great sell in terms of tickets and viewers. Also, I think it Tennessee splits their last two games to go 6-6 there is a strong possibility that the Vols will fall to either Shreveport or Birmingham, as bowl games want teams that will bring out-of-town fans to stay in their hotels and buy stuff. Last year the Music City Bowl was perhaps their worst nightmare with hometown Vandy vs perennial poor-traveling BC. This helps Carolina as the Vols figure to be up for most of the same bowl game slots either way. Also, I've eliminated anything higher than the Peach Bowl for the Gamecocks for a number of reasons. Beat Clemson and it's Peach or Music City, lose to Clemson and we'll be hoping we end up in Memphis. Just please don't end up in Shreveport, only thing there is casinos and apparently the occasional UFO.

Three final thoughts of the week
"Mr. Harbaugh, we've got a few calls on hold for you when you have a moment."
So the hottest name in college football right now looks like Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Just off hanging a double-nickel on the Trojans it seems the Cardinal are alive for the Pac-10 title, but more apparently it seems every big name job will be offered Harbaugh's way. Here's my two cents of advice for him: stay. It's that simple, just stay at Stanford. If you were at Northwestern or Vanderbilt I'd say just leave, but Stanford can be competitive. Stanford has facilities, their brand new stadium for one. More importantly, at Stanford you can build a winner and not be fired once a couple of down years come around due to the natural cycle of college football. More importantly, Stanford could really use some stability. Ty Willingham once gave up the gig and has to be regretting everything but the paychecks since.
Another quick point about Harbaugh needs to be made. Some have criticized him for going for two while leading 48-21, a blatent attempt to hang a half-hundred on Pete Carroll's defense. The problem is that against anyone else it would be a valid criticism, but we are talking about Pete Carroll and Southern Cal here. The same Southern Cal team and coach that many times over went for fourth downs and touchdowns while beating teams when they could. You pour it on when you can, because you want him to feel the kind of embarrassment he once dealt and will likely deal again. Harbaugh's got just the right testicular fortitude to handle it all.

Congratulations Clemson, you're above mediocre, too bad mediocre is so down this season
Make no mistake, CJ Spiller is being talked about nationally as a Heisman Trophy candidate and Clemson appears poised to pack their bags for the ACC Championship Game in Tampa. It's worth noting that Spiller didn't emerge until the Tigers won at Miami (FL) in overtime after the season's mid-point. Clemson started the season with a seemingly half-hearted attempt to hype Spiller for the hardware, but outward appearances were that this team could not win the kinds of games needed to showcase his talents. It should be noted that Spiller is a special kind of player, and should get some votes for ACC Player of the Year and make the All-ACC Team. The problem is that Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer has more yards (1203 to 836), more touchdowns (11 to 6), and a higher per-carry average (6.6 to 5.5) than Spiller. So I ask you this question, should the Heisman Trophy winner be the second best running back in their own conference? How about the being fourth in rushing yardage in conference? I submit that if the Heisman comes out of the ACC that Jonathan Dwyer should get the award. Yes Spiller leads the conference in all-purpose yardage, but Dwyer is in a triple-option offense that does not throw the ball very often and even then never to the running back.
As far as Clemson finally winning their division for an appearance in the ACC Championship Game? Read these standings and explain to me where to be impressed:

Team Conf Overall
* - Clemson5-27-3
* - Boston College4-27-3
Florida State3-45-5
x - Wake Forest2-54-7
x - North Carolina State1-54-6
x - Maryland1-52-8

You're seeing that correctly, it's perfectly possible that only Clemson and BC will go bowling unless FSU can beat Maryland this weekend, and those bottom four please careful as they can induce vomiting.

Horned Frogs Horned, Royally
The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, which as Lee Corso said are actually lizards, seem destined to finish 12-0 and win the Mountain West Conference. They will also likely play in a BCS bowl game, but not the BCS National Championship Game. Most years there are BCS conference teams that are dominant enough that it's not rational to call for a non-automatic qualifier to participate in the National Title chase. This year is different, this year there is no consensus stellar team. In the SEC we have Florida and Alabama, whose defenses are stellar, but their offenses seem like vintage 1923 without opposing a grinder every week on the other side. The Texas Longhorns scores show dominance, but the rest of their conference has greatly disappointed a lot of people off their strong 2008 campaign. Oregon and Ohio State have lost too many games to get either the Big Ten or Pac-10 into the title game. Cincinnati and Georgia Tech give the Big East and ACC respectively some cache, but for them the rest of the conference doesn't provide a good foundation for the argument. I'm not saying TCU belongs in the National Title Game, I'm just saying they belong in the conversation, which is the best we can do without a play-off.

Btw, here's what a play-off would look like by my plan:

First Round (Jan1)
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati/Big East Champ vs Georgia Tech/ACC Champ
Sugar Bowl: Alabama/SEC Champ vs Texas Christian/Non-automatic qualifier #1-Mountain West Champ
Fiesta Bowl: Texas/Big XII Champ vs Boise State/Non-automatic qualifier #2-WAC Champ
Rose Bow: Oregon/Pac-10 Champ vs Ohio State/Big Ten Champ
Semifinals (Jan 8)
Eastern Semifinal (Atlanta, GA) - Orange Bowl Champ vs Sugar Bowl Champ
Western Semifinal (San Diego, CA)- Fiesta Bowl Champ vs Rose Bowl Champ
Final (Jan 15)
National Championship Game (Indianapolis, IN)- Eastern Semifinal Winner vs Western Semifinal Winner

It's that easy!

Here's your moment of zen...

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