March 27, 2017

Crimson in the Face and No Game To Play Today for Alabama

Well…Well…Well. The Crimson Tide became Crimson in the face. The prospect of a third consecutive national championship went away (we think) with just a second on the clock. Rivalry week is always a special week in college football and this year was no different. Auburn shocked the world or should I say Chris Davis shocked the world with his amazing return. As expected, the Leatherheads Top 16 has a slightly different look after weeks 13 and 14.

Florida State easily became our new #1 while Ohio State continues to sit in the #3 spot with Auburn grabbing the #2 spot, despite one first-place vote for Ohio State. No love for the Big Ten.

Championship week has now began and the poor Northern Illinois Huskies lost last night to the Bowling Green Falcons. No undefeated season, No MAC title, No BCS selection for the Huskies and Jordan Lynch’s Heisman hopes disappeared.

Florida State should easily take care of Duke in the ACC championship game and find themselves in the BCS National Championship Game. The games that will decide their opponent will of course come down to the SEC and Big Ten games with the potential opponents for FSU being Ohio State, Auburn, Missouri and perhaps Alabama. Yes I said Alabama. It is unlikely but if Michigan State beats Ohio State and Mizzou beats Auburn, anything can happen and history has been on Alabama’s side the last few years. It is unfortunate that Alabama lost to Auburn since the two best teams in college football are FSU and Alabama. I rather see that matchup more than any other this season but chances are that will never happen.

If Ohio State wins tonight, I would put them in the big game. I know the Big Ten is less talented than the SEC but undefeated for two seasons deserves some respect. Besides, I wouldn’t count an Urban Meyer team out in any game. When I think of the best coaches in college football today, the first name that comes to mind is Nick Saban but Urban Meyer is not too far behind.

So instead of reading my boorish comments on what might happen, get your living, man cave or bar area ready for a huge day of college football.

 

Here are the rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron after Week 13:

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (8)   11-0   128        1
   2 Florida State   11-0   119        2
   3 Ohio State   11-0   106        4
   4 Auburn   10-1     97        6
   5 Clemson   10-1     94        7
   6 Missouri   10-1     86        8
   7 Oklahoma State   10-1     81      10
   8 Michigan State   10-1     63      12
   9 Stanford     9-2     60      11
 10 Baylor     9-1     59        3
 11T Oregon     9-2     45        5
 11T South Carolina     9-2     45      13
 13 Fresno State   10-0     33      14
 14 Arizona State     9-2     27      NR
 15 Wisconsin     9-2     15      NR
 16 Northern Illinois   11-0     12      16


Others receiving votes
: LSU – 11, UCF – 4, Texas A&M – 2, Louisville 1.

Participating voters: David Boyce, Chris Garbarino, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, RUFANJerry,  Tex Noel, Bob Swick, Joe Williams.

 

Here are the rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron after Week 14:

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Florida State (9)   12-0   159        2
   2 Auburn   11-1   142        4
   3 Ohio State (1)   12-0   140        3
   4 Alabama   11-1   130        1
   5 Missouri   11-1   122        6
   6 Oklahoma State   10-1   104        7
   7 Stanford   10-2     96        9
   8T Baylor   10-1     83      10
   8T Michigan State   11-1     83        8
 10 South Carolina   10-2     82      11T
 11 Arizona State   10-2     54      14
 12 Oregon   10-2     49      11T
 13 Northern Illinois   12-0     37      16
 14 Clemson   10-2     35        5
 15 LSU     9-3     18      NR
 16 Oklahoma     9-2       9      NR


Others receiving votes
: Fresno State – 8, UCF – 6, Louisville – 2, Duke – 1.

Participating voters: David Boyce, Ronnie ForemanChris Garbarino, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Tex Noel, Bob Swick, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.

 

A Husky Heisman

 

lynch-jordan-11-23

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch is the best player in college football and deserves to win the Heisman Trophy.

Lynch ran through bitter cold and persistent snow for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-14 victory over Western Michigan in DeKalb on Tuesday night, breaking his own NCAA record for single game rushing yards for a QB.

Lynch now has 1,755 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns for the season and, with Tuesday’s victory, the Huskies completed a 12-0 regular season and will face either Bowling Green or Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference championship game on December 6.

Number 6 also threw one TD pass against the Broncos, giving him 22 for the year against just five interceptions and he has passed for more than 2,200 yards.  Lynch is now just the fifth FBS quarterback with at least 4,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards passing for his college career.

NIU never lost a home game with Lynch at quarterback, has never lost to a MAC opponent and he is 24-2 overall as a starter.

Jordan Lynch is tough as a bull, nimble as a deer and humble as a Buddhist.  His teammates love him and he makes everyone better.

No team in the nation relies on one player more than Northern Illinois leans on Jordan Lynch; therefore he’s the most valuable player in college football.  Or does that just reflect the thinking that NIU is in a lower-tier conference and if Lynch played in the SEC he would be a second-string fullback?

Lynch is six-feet tall, 216 pounds and routinely outruns defensive backs.  They are MAC defensive backs but he’s more than the MAC Daddy.  There are 71 MAC players on NFL rosters this year including last spring’s top overall pick, Eric Fisher.  The MAC is a good conference and Lynch is a transcendent player.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron has a better team than Lynch, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has more press, (good and bad) so does Florida State signal caller Jameis Winston.  They are great players, as are many others.  But Lynch has outplayed all of them.

The Heisman Trust says the Heisman Memorial Trophy “annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.  Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work.”

In other words: Jordan Lynch.

 

Leatherheads Heisman Poll for 2012

Tonight, the 78th Heisman Trophy winner will be announced on ESPN with three finalists waiting in the audience.  The three finalists are Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quaterback Johnny Manziel and Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o.

In anticipation of tonight’s announcement, Leatherheads of the Gridiron polled 18 of its contributors to see who we think will be the next name added to the elite list of college football greats who can say they are a Heisman Trophy recipient.  Our voters followed the same format as the Heisman voters: 3 points for our number one choice, 2 for our second choice and 3 for our third choice.  Last season, Leatherheads had a tie for the award with both Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Alabama’s Trent Richardson finishing first, although RG3 had more first place votes.  RG3 ended up winning the trophy while Stanford’s Andrew Luck was second and Richardson finishing in third place.  Click here for results.

We had 18 voters allocate their votes to ten different players.  A few names missing that have been mentioned as possible winners at the beginning of the season and along the way include USC QB Matt Barkley, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor, Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas and Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.  Also missing is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu who finished fifth in the voting last year and was dismissed from the team before the season for his drug use.  A sad story.  Hopefully, he can turn his life around and make it in the NFL in some capacity.

Our candidates in alphabetical order are as follows:

Montee Ball
Ball is a running back for the 8-5, Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin Badgers.  The senior is ranked third in rushing with 1,730 yards and is tied for eighth with 21 touchdowns.  Last year he finished fourth in the Heisman voting.  Over the last two seasons, he has rushed for 3,653 yards and scored an amazing 60 touchdowns.

Kenjon Barner
Barner is a running back for Oregon.  The Ducks are 11-1 and heading to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Barner ranks seventh in rushing with 1,624 yards and is tied for fourth with 22 touchdowns.  The senior rushed for 321 yards and five TDs on November 3 against the USC Trojans.

Jarvis Jones
Jones is a linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs are 11-2 and will be playing in the Capital One Bowl.   The junior is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-American.  His 12.5 sacks are tied for fourth in the nation.

Collin Klein
Klein is the quarterback for the 11-1 Kansas State Wildcats and will be playing against Barner and his Ducks teammates in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  Klein, a senior, led the Wildcats to 10-straight victories before losing to Baylor on November 17.  He has scored 22 touchdowns, tied for fourth in the nation.  Over the last two seasons, the former wide receiver has passed for 4,408 yards and 28 TDs with 13 INTs while rushing for 2,031 yards and 49 TDs.

Marqise Lee
Lee is a wide receiver for the USC Trojans.  The sophomore leads the nation with 112 receptions, is second with 1,680 yards, and ranks third in TD catches with 14.  He has also returned 28 kickoffs for 802 yards and a score.  In two seasons, Lee has 185 catches for 2,823 yards and 25 scores.

Jordan Lynch
Lynch is a junior quarterback for Northern Illionois.  He has led the 12-1 Huskies to the Orange Bowl.  He leads the nation in rushing with 1,771 yards, a record for FBS quarterbacks.  He has thrown for 2,942 yards with 24 TDs and just 5 INTs.  He also has 19 rushing touchdowns.

Johnny Manziel
Manziel is a freshman quarterback for the 10-2, Cotton Bowl-bound Texas A&M Aggies.  Johnny Football, as he is called, gained national promience when he led his team to a 29-24 victory over #1 ranked Alabama.  Manziel has passed for 3,419 yards, 24 TDs with 8 INTs while running for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.

Braxton Miller
Miller is the quarterback for the 12-0 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Big Ten Player of the Year. The Buckeyes were not eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game this season while on probation for past NCAA violations. The sophomore rushed for 1,271 yards with 13 TDs while passing for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs.

Geno Smith
Smith is the quarterback for West Virginia.  The senior is ranked first with 40 passes for touchdowns, fourth with 4,004 passing yards, and sixth with a 164.6 QB rating.  On September 29 against Baylor, he threw for 656 yards and 8 TDs.  Over the last two seasons, he has thrown for 8,389 yards with 71 TDs and just 13 INTs.  The 7-5 Mountaineers will play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Manti Te’o
Te’o is the middle linebacker for the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The senior is tied for second in the nation with 7 interceptions and has made 101 tackles this season.  He has already won several awards this season, including the Maxwell Award.  He will play in the BCS National Championship Game, hoping to lead his team to a 13-0 record and a national championship.

Rank Player First Second Third Total
   1 Johnny Manziel 27 (9)   6 (3)   5 (5)   38
   2 Manti Te’o 21 (7) 12 (6) 3.5 (3.5)   36.5
   3 Collin Klein   6 (2) 10 (5)   5 (5)   21
   4 Braxton Miller   0 (0)   4 (2)   0 (0)     4
   5 (Tie) Montee Ball   0 (0)   2 (1)   0 (0)     2
   5 (Tie) Jordan Lynch   0 (0)   0 (0)   2 (2)     2
   5 (Tie) Geno Smith   0 (0)   2 (1)   0 (0)     2
   8 (Tie) Kenjon Barner   0 (0)   0 (0)   1 (1)     1
   8 (Tie) Marqise Lee   0 (0)   0 (0)   1 (1)     1
 10 Jarvis Jones   0 (0)   0 (0)   .5 (.5)      .5

 

So the winner of our poll is Johnny Football, the freshman.  A few of our voters could not vote for him in the number one spot just because he is a freshman.  One Leatherhead stated, “Sorry I do not feel Manziel is worthy of the trophy being only a freshman, let us see what he can do next year.”  I disagree with that thinking since the play is based on this season.  I personally picked Manziel number one, largely for his play in the SEC which is clearly, in my mind and many others, the top conference in college football.

Another Leatherhead would disagree with me making Manziel my top choice, “If raw statistics alone is your game, he’s your winner.  But if you actually take a closer look….he piled up great numbers against some terrible defensive teams. How did he do in the big games?  He completely failed to drive the offense in the second half of A&M’s loss to Florida, and threw 3 interceptions and was held to 27 yards rushing in the loss to LSU.  So that leaves the Alabama game – you’re voting a freshman the Heisman on the basis of one game.  Which means, in his college career, he has as many arrests as big-game victories.”  Ouch!

The arrest refers to an incident last summer when he got in a fight and produced fake identification to a police officer.  Should this count against his chance of winning the Heisman?  I personally do not since it has nothing to do with play on the field.  But it might.  Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans did for that reason.  He stated, “I don’t consider players with pending criminal charges.”

Enough about Manziel.  Leatherhead Tex Noel stated about Klein, “He’s an exciting player to watch. He thinks well on his feet as he eludes the defender or diving into the end zone. His passes are straight and on the mark. Without a doubt, Kansas State would not be the same without him.”

Tex has some good words for Te’o fans as well, “One of the best players the Irish have had in some time. He’s fearless as he makes plays sideline-to-sideline. You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him–maybe with a brick wall.”

So the top three finalists are the Leatherheads’ top three.  Early in the season I thought it would be Geno Smith, hands down.  Then the Mountaineers couldn’t stop losing.

I most note that one voter could not pick between Te’o and Jones with their third-place vote.  He declared it a tie and I let it go since no harm was done.  He stated, “I know, it’s a cop-out to do a tie but I can’t separate the two. Te’o is on a higher profile team and rightfully deserves his accolades, but Jones is every bit as special and actually runs sideline to sideline better.”

This is the word from Leatherheads of the Gridiron.  Johnny Football will add his name to the elite list of Heisman Trophy winners.  Will that actually happen?  We will all find out shortly.  Either way, all three finalists had a special season.

 

Participating voters: David Boyce, Bo Carter, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob LazzariJim Lefebvre, Chris Mascaro, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Michelle Nolan, Pete Sonski, Bob Stevenson, Bob Swick, Dan Totten, Brandon Williams, Joe Williams, Tony Williams.

 

SEC Champion Alabama Will Play Undefeated Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game and for the #1 Spot in the Top 16

The SEC Championship Game last Saturday was great one.  Alabama barely beat a Georgia team that had a chance to win in the closing moments.  Georgia sophomore Chris Conley caught a ball and fell on the 5-yard line to end the game.  Instincts are to catch what is thrown to you but in this case he should have just knocked it to the ground to give the Bulldogs another chance to throw it into the end zone.  Instead the clock ran out.  Oh well.  College football fans will be watching the correct matchup in the BCS National Championship Game when Alabama plays Notre Dame.  According to Leatherhead and college football historian Tex Noel, both the Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish each have nine “official” national championships.  The winner of this matchup will gain their tenth and sit atop the college football world for this season and all-time.  Alabama were champions in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009 and 2011.  Notre Dame were the kings of college football in 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1977 and 1988.  Bama is also trying to become the second team to win three national championships in four years, joining Nebraska who won in 1994, 1995 and 1997.

To get back to the Alabama victory, the main reason they won the game was the running of junior Eddie Lacy (181 yards) and freshman T.J. Yeldon (153 yards) plus a few big plays by A.J. McCarron, especially the 45-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper with just 3:15 left in the contest.  Lacy and Yeldon both finished the game with over 1,000 rushing yards.  Lacy with 1,182 and Yeldon with an even 1,000.  Georgia was outstanding in their efforts as well but came up just short.  Freshman Todd Gurley had 122 yards rushing with two scores while senior WR Tavarres King caught five balls for 142 yards.  Leatherhead Dan McCloskey, who has not been a huge Bulldog supporter all year stated, “I’d like to say yesterday’s game proved Georgia has been overrated by the pollsters, but I can’t.”  Georgia, now ranked #7 in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16, will play Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.  Not a fan of the name Capital One Bowl.  I prefer the old name, the Tangerine Bowl!  Georgia is 4-1 in this juicy classic, winning in 1984, 1993, 2004 and 2009 while losing in 1974 to Miami (Ohio).  BTW, Miami (Ohio) won three straight Tangerine Bowls from 1973-1975, beating Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  Unless Big Ben and Milt Stegall are playing, the RedHawks couldn’t beat those teams today.  As for the Cornhuskers, they are 0-2 in this particular bowl, including a 30-13 lost to South Carolina last season. I think Gurley will be the man in this upcoming matchup.

So Nebraska is going to the Sunshine State.  I think they need a vacation after getting walloped by the Wisconsin Badgers 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday.  Both Melvin Gordon (216) and Montee Ball (202) rushed for over 200 yards.  Ball had three TDs to become the Football Bowl Subdivision’s career record-holder for rushing touchdowns with 76 and increased the record for most TDs with 82.  The one bright spot for the Cornhuskers was QB Taylor Martinez’s spectacular 76-yard run in the first quarter.   Martinez has 973 rushing yards on the season, including a 92-yarder against UCLA on September 8.  Nebraska dropped out of the Top 16 after being #14 last week.  I was tempted to vote for Wisconsin this week with a 16th place vote after their dehusking of Nebraska.  However, I couldn’t cast a vote for a team with an 8-5 record.  If Wisconsin can beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, then I most likely will cast a vote for them in the final Top 16 poll of the season.

Stanford earned their Rose Bowl bid by defeating UCLA in the PAC-12 Championship Game, their second consecutive win over the Bruins in as many weeks.  See Andrew McKillop’s list on Football Geography.com entitled Major College Football Teams That Played Each Other in Back-to-Back Games.  The Cardinal have exceeded my expectations this season, considering the Andrew Luck era had ended.  Last season, Stanford with Luck was also 11-2 but did not make the PAC-12 Championship Game and lost in OT in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State 41-38.  I don’t mind Tostitos in the name of this bowl because eating Tostitos with lots of salsa is a fiesta.  I fiesta everyday!  Anyway, the Cardinal had gone 11-2 this season with two different starting quarterbacks, Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan.  Stephan Taylor has had an excellent senior season with 1,442 yards rushing and 38 receptions.  In his four years at Stanford, Taylor has accumulated 4,973 yards from the line of scrimmage with 44 touchdowns.  The defense has been solid all season as well, just giving up slightly more than 16 points per game.  I don’t see the Badgers scoring 70 points against them.  The Cardinal are on a 7-game winning streak.

Earlier I stated that I almost gave the Badgers my 16th place vote this week.  Instead, that vote went to Northern Illinois.  Who?  The Huskies defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game 44-37 in two overtimes.  This was a battle of two 11-1 teams.  The Golden Flashes were ranked #16 last week in the Top 16.  Oops!  We voted for the wrong MAC team, but barely.  It took two OTs to determine the winner.  Junior QB Jordan Lynch ran it in from the two in the second overtime that sealed the victory.  During the game, Lynch broke the FBS record for rushing yards by a QB in a season with 1,771 yards.  Michigan’s Denard Robinson previously held the record of 1,702 in 2010.  The victory for the Huskies gained them a BCS-bowl bid and a matchup with Florida State in the Orange Bowl.  Something tells me that if Kent State won, they would not be in the Orange Bowl.  Lynch was the deciding factor and he will get his chance to shine in front of all college football fans in prime time after the Rose Bowl.  For the Golden Flashes, they earned a trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl and a chance to give Danica Patrick a “how do you do?”  They will play Arkansas State, the Sun Belt champs, who lost to Northern Illinois in the bowl game last year.

Florida State defeated a now 6-7 Georgia Tech team, but just barely by the score of 21-15 to become the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.  It was the Seminoles’ first ACC championship since 2005.  Who would have thunk a decade ago that they would go on such a dry stretch?  The Yellow Jackets scored the final 12 points in the game to give Seminole fans a scare.  Will FSU be able to stop Lynch in the Orange Bowl?  The Seminoles remained ranked #13 in the Top 16.

Other games last week that made a difference in the Top 16 include Oklahoma’s 24-17 victory over TCU, Oregon State’s pouncing of Nicholls State 77-3 and Kansas State’s victory over Texas 42-24.  The Sooners remained in the #12 spot, the Wildcats moved up two positions to #6 and the Beavers jumped back into the poll after being knocked out of the Top 16 in the previous poll.  The Beavers’ 77 points are a school record.  Oklahoma will play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on January 4.  The Beavers play Texas in the Alamo Bowl on December 29.  The Wildcats play the Ducks in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 3.

Don’t forget there is football today.  The Army-Navy game is on at 3:00 EST.  I think I will have a fiesta!

Here is the last poll until after the BCS National Championship Game.  Enjoy the holidays!

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Notre Dame (11)   12-0    191        1
   2 Alabama   12-1    177        2
   3 Oregon   11-1    141        5
   4 (Tie) Ohio State (1)   12-0    138        3
   4 (Tie) Florida   11-1    138        6
   6 Kansas State   11-1    135        8
   7 Georgia   11-2    133        4
   8 Stanford   11-2    111      10
   9 Texas A&M   10-2      99        7
 10 LSU   10-2      97        9
 11 South Carolina   10-2      70      11
 12 Oklahoma   10-2      62      12
 13 Florida State   11-2      58      13
 14 Clemson   10-2      32      15
 15 Oregon State     9-3      22      NR
 16 Northern Illinois   12-1      14      NR


Others receiving votes
: Boise State – 6, Utah State – 3, Louisville – 2, UCLA – 2, Nebraska – 1.

Participating voters: David Boyce, Ronnie Foreman, Terry Keshner, Bob Lazzari, Dan McCloskey, Andrew McKillop, Tex Noel, Pete Sonski, Bob Swick, Brandon WilliamsJoe Williams, Tony Williams.