March 27, 2017

Losses, Upsets and the Rolling Tide

It is Saturday which means it is time again for college football. Last week’s action was full of upsets which shook up the Leatherheads Top 16. One constant did remain: Alabama sitting at the #1 spot. Until the Crimson Tide lose, I don’t think that will change.

The Tide easily took care of Arkansas 52-0. Both sophomore Kenyan Drake and freshman Derrick Henry ran for 100 yards, including Henry running 80 yards in the final minute to cap a dreadful day for the Razorbacks. The Tide are 7-0 and playing Tennessee later today.

The game of the week was supposed to be Florida State at Clemson. Well, Clemson didn’t show up and FSU took care of business on both sides of the ball. The defense created 4 turnovers while Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards, 3 scores and ran one into the end zone. Yet, another amazing day for the redshirt freshman. The kid shows great leadership ability and has all the talent in the world. He is fun to watch. With the win, FSU moved up to the third spot in the poll behind the Oregon Ducks who also keep winning and beat Washington State 62-38.

For Clemson, the Tigers dropped from third in the poll to #10. Today they travel to Maryland and try to redeem themselves. Maryland is 5-2.

While #4 Ohio State had to rally to beat Iowa 34-24, Baylor took care of business by beating Iowa State 71-7. The Bears are leading the nation in scoring with almost 65 points per game. The defense is not too shabby either, ranking seventh in points against at 16 points a game. Baylor was ranked 11th last week in the poll but find themselves in the #5 spot. Today they go against the 2-4 Charlie Weiss-led Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks gave up 54 points to Texas Tech on October 5th. The Bears might beat that number.

Sitting in the #6 spot is Missouri. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the Tigers would be 7-0 at this point in the season, especially with Georgia on their schedule? Today they should be tested by South Carolina who are looking to makeup for their loss last week to Tennessee. If they can get by the Gamecocks today as well as Tennessee next week, they could be undefeated going into their last regular-season game against Texas A&M on November 30th.

Have you noticed yet that Louisville is not ranked in the Top 16? All it took was one loss and they fell from #6 to nowhere. Central Florida scored with 23 seconds left to beat the formerly undefeated Cardinals. UCF will have their hands full today when they face the UConn Huskies (sarcasm).

The game of the week turned out to be Auburn at Texas A&M. Auburn beat up on Johnny Manziel, forcing him out of the game at one point with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Still, Manziel was Johnny Football and almost won the game. A feisty Auburn team kept pace and finally scored and then shut down Manziel with less than a minute to go. Manziel, with injury, still managed 454 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Mike Evans had a huge day himself, catching those 4 TD passes while receiving for 287 yards. Remember a month ago when Evans had 279 yards against Alabama? Can you say first-round draft pick?

Anyway, Auburn makes is debut in the Top 16 at #13 while the Aggies drop from #8 to #14.

While Miami, Texas Tech and Fresno State (yes, Fresno State) are all undefeated and ranked in the Top 16, LSU, UCLA, Georgia and Washington all took losses with only LSU and UCLA remained ranked.

Enough about last week. The games to watch this week include Tennessee at Alabama, UCLA at Oregon, Penn State at Ohio State, South Carolina at Missouri, Stanford at Oregon State and Texas Tech at Oklahoma.

If the Buckeyes are not careful, I can see Penn State stealing victory from them and ending their winning streak. A few undefeateds will fall today but one will not be Northern Illinois who will host Eastern Michigan.

Did you notice I mentioned the Volunteers five times if you count this sentence?

Here are the rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron after Week 8:

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (11)    7-0   176        1
   2 Oregon    7-0   164        2
   3 Florida State    6-0   152        5
   4 Ohio State    7-0   143        4
   5 Baylor    6-0   120      11
   6 Missouri    7-0   109      14
   7 Miami    6-0   103      10
   8 Stanford    6-1     88      13
   9 Texas Tech    7-0     80      15
 10 Clemson    6-1     74        3
 11 LSU    6-2     51        7
 12 UCLA    5-1     45        9
 13 Auburn    6-1     37      NR
 14 Texas A&M    5-2     34        8
 15 Fresno State    6-0     28      NR
 16 Virginia Tech    6-1     26      NR


Others receiving votes
: Oklahoma – 17, Louisville – 14, Florida – 8, Georgia – 6, Michigan – 5, Northern Illinois – 5, Notre Dame – 4, Texas – 3, Virginia – 2, Oklahoma State – 1, USC – 1.

Participating voters: Jon Blayne, David Boyce, Ronnie Foreman, Chris Garbarino, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Tex Noel, Bob Swick, Brandon WilliamsJoe Williams, Tony Williams.

 

Seminoles Show Might As Favorites Win in Week 6

Week 6 in college football had many great matchups but every favored Top 16 team that played won their game, meaning no great shakeup in the rankings.

The one game that stood out for me was the Florida State-Maryland game in Tallahasse. Did the Seminoles make a statement by thrashing the Terrapins 63-0? Maryland was 4-0 coming into the game, a pretty good start to the season for the Randy Edsall-coached team. In his first two seasons as coach of Maryland, Edsall only won six games while losing eighteen after coming from UConn where he led the Huskies to five bowl games in his last sevens years in Storrs, Connecticut.

Jameis Winston showed why he is in play for the Heisman by passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns. On the year, he has 17 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. The kid can play.

With their lopsided victory, FSU moved up one spot for the #6 position in the poll after the steady top five teams who keep on winning. FSU did gain 22 points and is now within striking distance of challenging Stanford and Ohio State for the 4 and 5 spots in the poll. FSU has Week 7 off before they face Clemson in an ACC matchup. The winner of this game will stay in the top five while the loser will drift to the middle of the pack.

The other high scoring game of the week was Baylor and West Virginia in Waco, Texas. The Bears had 864 yards of total offense and beat the Mountaineers 73-42. Bryce Petty passed for 347 yards and two scores while Lache Seastrunk ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns and freshman Shock Linwood contributed 126 rushing yards and a touchdown. Baylor moved up two spots in the poll and sit at #14.

Last night Louisville beat Rutgers and now are 6-0. The top games for the weekend that may create changes in the Top 16 include Oregon at Washington, Missouri at Georgia and Florida at LSU.

Here are the rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron after Week 6:

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (11)    5-0   176        1
   2 Oregon    5-0   164        2
   3 Clemson    5-0   147        3
   4 Ohio State    6-0   138        4
   5 Stanford    5-0   136        5
   6 Florida State    5-0   120        7
   7 Georgia    4-1     98        6
   8 Louisville    5-0     95        8
   9 (Tied) LSU    5-1     68      11
   9 (Tied) Oklahoma    5-0     68      10
 11 Texas A&M    4-1     66        9
 12 UCLA    4-0     60      12
 13 Miami    5-0     37      13
 14 Baylor    4-0     26      16
 15 South Carolina    4-1     22      14
 16 Michigan    5-0     16      NR


Others receiving votes
: Texas Tech – 9, Virginia Tech – 9, Wisconsin – 8, Arizona State – 7, USC – 6, Washington – 6, Oregon State – 5, Northwestern – 4, Florida – 3, Fresno State – 2.

Participating voters: Jon Blayne, David Boyce, Ronnie Foreman, Chris Garbarino, RUFANJerry, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Tex Noel, Bob Swick, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.

 

Essay to the Old Southwest Conference; Reflections on the “New” SWC

In the 1999-2000 college athletics era, a small hue and cry raised its head again.

“Boy, I wish we could be back in the old Southwest Conference,” was heard on probably eight or nine campuses of the old membership as the new leagues arranged primarily for revenue and television purposes were working but just did not have the traditional rivalries and “oomph” of the defunct circuit.

Yes, the SWC did have its problems for the last 20-plus years of its existence. Squabbles over ending the traditional Humble/Esso/Enco Radio Network and allowing Mutual Network and later Host Communications to pick up the broadcasts left some ruffled feathers. Still, the format allowed broadcasters to “cut into” other games during an exciting time or scoring drives and then go back to studios for additional information.

That was the precursor of many of ESPN’s and CBS Sports’ techniques of “throwing back” various broadcasts at NCAA basketball and baseball tourney times as well as college doubleheaders or “split” national/regional telecasts in recent years. It also made the SWC Radio Network’s Saturday broadcasts some of the longest-running (from 1934-95, 62 seasons) in radio history other than the immortal Texaco Metropolitan Opera programs from New York City.

SWC schools had differences of opinion about game gate guarantees and which teams would receive the most television coverage (even providing a hardship stipend for teams which had there or more games televised). Professional teams were cutting into attendance at both the high school and college levels throughout Texas and Arkansas, and the private school members – Baylor, Rice, SMU, and TCU – were feeling the effects.

A Rice ticket office employee once summed up the meat of the issue when he spoke of summer season ticket sales.

“We rotated football players, especially the starters and youngsters who were well known, coming into the office and making calls to previous and prospective ticket holders,” he related. “By the late 1980s, the fan base was shrinking so much that we were calling the older season ticket holders first before they became too ill to attend the games.”

SWC marketing people were tearing out their hair trying to offset fan indifference, competitive issues, fighting highly-funded pro franchises, and a number of obstacles.

Then in 1991 Arkansas became the first team to withdraw from the loop since Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) in 1925 and joined South Carolina to give the Southeastern Conference 12 teams and the chance to have a divisional playoff and championship game annually starting in 1992.

Initially, panic sank in but SWC directors of athletics later removed one financial onus (a game guaranteed fee for all SWC contests for each team regardless of attendance) and allowed the home schools’ to keep all game receipts starting with 1992 football. Though Arkansas felt betrayed and as the Razorbacks suffered in SEC football competition for several seasons after being dominant from 1957 through the 1980s in the SWC, the new financial policies literally forced most of the private schools such to step up to the plate and increase season ticket and gate receipts.

The results have been apparent in recent years after a bit of a hiatus. Baylor produced its first Heisman Trophy winner in 2011 in Robert Griffin III (RG3) and won its most games since the 1986 season under National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame head coach Grant Teaff. SMU has gone to bowl games a school-record three consecutive years under coaching genius June Jones. Rice played its first bowl game since 1961 in the 2006 New Orleans Bowl and later the ’08 Texas Bowl (thrashing Western Michigan 38-14 for the Owls’ first postseason triumph since downing Alabama 28-6 in the famed Dick Maegle Bench Tackle Game – by Tommy Lewis – in the 1954 Cotton Bowl). TCU has enjoyed its best 11-year run in school annals with a 108-30 composite record under head coach Gary Patterson since 2001 and 11 bowl games in 12 seasons.

Even a public school Houston program which had major ebbs and flows in the 1970s and ‘80s stabilized with a 36-16 record since 2008, six bowl appearances from 2005-11 (capped by a 30-14 win over powerful Penn State in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl). In 2009 six of the SWC teams from the 1980s, and there have been years in the 2000s where as many as 7-8 of the old members, had winning marks in football.

SWC baseball thrived throughout the 1915-96 existence with annual national contenders in Arkansas, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, and later in the period Texas Tech. Basketball rivalries thrived with Phi Slama Jama at Houston in the 1980s, Arkansas under coach Eddie Sutton and Texas under coaches Tom Penders and Rick Barnes. SWC individuals excelled in the Olympic sports with hundreds of individual titles and over 200 Olympians since the 1920 games and several qualifiers from old SWC schools for the 2012 Games. The SWC also produced 64 national championships in 17 sports over its 82-year history and 350-plus first team All-America choices.

Events such as The Great Shootout – Texas’ 15-14 win over Arkansas to pave the way for UT’s second national football title in 1969 after a 21-17 Cotton Bowl Classic victory over Notre Dame Jan. 1, 1970 – Texas A&M’s first-ever Associated Press national grid crown in 1939, and the shared college football crown between SMU and TCU in 1935 set the stage for a long and colorful football history.

Only NCAA investigations, which began in the 1970s and culminated with SMU’s death penalty from 1986-88 and seven schools being scrutinized or placed on probation from 1971-90, marred the landscape a bit. And not to minimize the seriousness of the situations, but the SWC teams virtually fought over the same giant talent pool in all sports from the state of Texas and bordering areas for decades. The temptation and proximity proved to be too much in many cases with recruits in all sports.

But, lo and behold, now look at the Big 12 (minus two at this point) membership as of July 1, 2012.

There are now six former Southwest Conference members: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech. TCU starts in 2012-13 along with former Big East and Southern Conference contender West Virginia, coming off a 70-34 Discover Orange Bowl BCS triumph over Clemson in January 2012.

Texas A&M, a 82-year SWC member before joining the Big 12, left the second league to join the SEC for the 2012-13 seasons. Same with initial Big 12 member Missouri, a 87-year member of the Missouri Valley and later Big Eight Conference. Nebraska bolted from the Big 12 to join the Big Ten in 2011-12 while Colorado opted out for the Pac-12 Conference, which played a football championship tussle for the first time in 2011.

Is there a temptation to bring Houston and Rice back to the Big 12 in future years and almost “re-form” the SWC? Probably not… The two Bayou City schools have thrived as members of the Western Athletic Conference (Rice) and later together in Irving-based Conference USA. SMU will leave Conference USA in 2013-14 to join the Big East Conference after being in the WAC and CUSA from 1996-2013.

Yes, those old SWC traditions – first conference ever to sign a tie-in with a bowl game starting with the 1942 Cotton Bowl Classic, which hosted SWC champs from 1942 until 1995 – died hard, but they are being relived in many minds as many yearn for the old days of Kern Tipps or Frank Fallon on radio, Doak Walker singlehandedly leading SMU to a major national upset, Keith Moreland blasting a baseball into the alley, Michael Johnson setting another world record in the 400 meters, or even Kamie Ethridge leading Texas women’s basketball to a 34-0 record and 1985-86 NCAA championship.

Some of those happy days are here again in Austin, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Norman, Stillwater, and Waco on any number of 22 sports’ playing fields or hardcourts.

 

Brief SWC History and Membership:
The first organizational meeting of the conference was held in May 1914 at the Oriental Hotel in Dallas (later the corporate headquarters site for AT&T). It was chaired by L. Theo Bellmont, who came up with the idea of the SWC and was director of athletics at Texas. Originally, LSU and Ole Miss were invited to join the league and decided to remain independent while later becoming part of the Southern Conference and the SEC.

The conference formally came into being on December 8, 1914, at the Oriental Hotel in Houston and began competition for the 1915-16 season. The conference closed its doors at 1300 Mockingbird Lane in Dallas on June 30, 1996.

 

Membership:
Arkansas (1915–1991); Baylor (1915–1996); Houston (1971–1996, began competition in September 1976); Oklahoma (1915–1919); Oklahoma A&M, later Oklahoma State (1915–1925); Phillips (1920); Rice (1918–1996); SMU (1918–1996); Southwestern – Georgetown, Texas, restarting its football program in 2013 (1915–1916); Texas (1915–1996); Texas A&M (1915–1996); TCU (1923–1996); Texas Tech (1956–1996).

Teams Leaving (Year, Conference): Arkansas (1991, SEC); Baylor (1996, Big 12); Houston (1996, Conference USA); Oklahoma (1919, MVC); Oklahoma A&M/Oklahoma State (1925, MVC); Phillips, Enid, Oklahoma (1920, Sooner Athletic Conference); Rice (1996, WAC); SMU (1996, WAC); Southwestern (1916, Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference); Texas (1996, Big 12); Texas A&M (1996, Big 12); TCU (1996, WAC); Texas Tech (1996, Big 12).

For a detailed newsletter/history of the SWC or for information about the SWC at the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech in Lubbock, please go to http://swco.ttu.edu/exhibits/pdfs/Newsletter_Spring_2004.pdf.

 

Bo Carter is college football historian and a college administrator with over 40 years of experience.

A version of this article was originally published in the July 2012 issue of The College Football Historian, the official newsletter of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.