January 21, 2018

The Fighting Irish Are #1, But Luck Is On Alabama’s Side Too

Today is Thanksgiving.  On this day, we are usually thankful for all that life has given us.  For most of us, we are thankful for our family, friends and the other blessings we have received along the way.  For the fans, players, coaches, students, administrators and communities of both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide, they should be thankful for two additional items: a 52-24 Kansas State loss to the now 5-5 Baylor Bears and a 17-14 Oregon loss to the Stanford Cardinal.  Without losses by K-State and Oregon, Notre Dame and Alabama would not be in the position they are in–the top two spots for the chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game and of course the top two spots in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16.  Leatherhead Andrew McKillop pointed out, “It’s only the fifth time in the last 25 years that the AP’s top two teams lost on the same day and it’s the second time it’s ever happened on November 17 – the other time was in 1984.  Visit Andrew’s site, FootballGeography.com, for the complete list.

Last week, both K-State and Oregon sat #1 in the Top 16, each receiving six first-place votes and 186 points.  With their losses, the Ducks make their home in the number five position and the Wildcats are ranked seventh.  So what happened?  The Wildcats got behind early against the Bears and could not catch up.  Kansas State QB Collin Klein got picked off three times after only be intercepted three other times all season.  The Bears couldn’t be stopped offensively,  especially on the ground.  Sophomore RB Lache Seastrunk ran for 185 yards on just 19 carries and got in the end zone on one occasion while Junior RB Glasco Martin had 113 yards rushing and three scores.  In the case of the Ducks, they lost a close one to the now 9-2 Cardinal in OT on a Jordan Williamson 37-yard field goal.  The key to the game was Stanford’s ability to contain Kenjon Barner to just 66 yards rushing.  Just two weeks ago, Barner ran for 321 against USC.

Notre Dame and Alabama were both lucky with the losses by the Ducks and Wildcats, but they both had to win to be in their current situations.  The Fighting Irish beat the now 5-6 Wake Forest Demon Deacons by the score of 38-0.  Notre Dame QB Everett Golson threw for a season-high 346 yards and three touchdowns while Senior RB Cierre Wood ran for a season-best 150 yards and a score.  Earlier on Saturday, the Crimson Tide won 49-0 over the now 1-10 Western Carolina Catamounts.  The Catamounts started out 1-0 with a 42-14 victory over the Mars Hill Lions.  Enough said.  This game had no chance of being competitive.  I’m surprised Alabama gave up 14 points to the worst team in the Southern Conference.  As Leatherhead Dan McCloskey stated in referring to the Crimson Tide, “They are f*&%ing lucky!”

Now that Notre Dame and Alabama are in position to meet for the crown of college football, they must finish out the season with wins.  It is simple for Notre Dame.  They must beat USC this weekend.  Victory gets them into the BCS Championship Game.  USC was the number one ranked team at the beginning of the season, but their 21-14 loss to Stanford on September 15 ended their reign at the top and are entering the game against Notre Dame with a 7-4 record.  Here is USC’s chance to grab some of the spotlight and salvage a disappointing season.  However, this will be no easy task, especially without their stud QB Matt Barkely.  Freshman QB Max Wittek makes his first start for the Trojans.  How will the Wittek era at USC begin?  Will the Irish be heading to the big game?  Tune in Saturday night at 8:00 EST on ABC.

For Alabama, the road is not so simple.  The Crimson Tide play a 3-8 Auburn team on Saturday.  It should be an easy victory.  I say “should be” for a reason.  Didn’t a disappointing Baylor team upset K-State last week?  I don’t expect the Tigers to win but have to make this matchup seem interesting.  If Bama beats Auburn, they still have to play in the SEC Championship Game on December 1 against our #4 ranked Georgia Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  Now that is a game to watch!

As for the rest of the Top 16, just 15 teams received votes for the remaining 14 openings.  Oregon State received one more point than UCLA to grab the 16th spot.  Ohio State is ranked #3 in the Top 16, their highest ranking of the season, with their 11-0 record.  I don’t see them moving up in the poll.  The Buckeyes are not eligible for a bowl game or the Big Ten Championship, and the Big Ten has been weak this season, although Nebraska is 9-2 and now ranked 15th in the Top 16.  It would take several upsets for the Buckeyes to move up, even with an undefeated record.  They finish out their season on Saturday against Michigan.  If Ohio State wins, it will be the second time Urban Meyer led his team to an undefeated season.  In 2004, he took the Utah Utes to a 12-0 record and a victory in the Fiesta Bowl.  In his career, he has a record of 115-23 for an outstanding winning percentage of 83%.  I think he is my favorite Urban after only Urban “Red” Faber.

Besides Alabama, there are six other teams with a 10-1 record–Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State and Oregon.  It will be interesting to see what happens to each of them this weekend.  It is Rivalry Week in college football so Florida plays Florida State.  One of these teams will get their second loss and officially see their BCS National Championship dreams disappear.  Georgia plays Georgia Tech, which is 6-5 on the season.  Oregon plays Oregon State.  The Beavers would love to hand the Ducks a second-straight loss.  Clemson plays South Carolina.  Clemson has been outstanding all season and is not getting the love the other 10-1 teams are getting in the Top 16.  They are #11, with two teams with two losses ranked ahead of them.  Their only loss of the season came against Florida State on September 22 in Tallahassee.  The Wildcats get to stay home and lick their wounds.  They play Texas on December 1.

Other big games this weekend include Nebraska at Iowa, LSU at Arkansas, Stanford at UCLA, Missouri at Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State at Oklahoma.  I love Rivalry Week!

Before I go, I thought I would share some thoughts by Leatherhead Terry Keshner on some of the teams in the Top 16:

On Notre Dame: “The Irish are number one for the first time since 1993 when Clinton was President, Jennifer Aniston was “fat” and “Twitter” was something you did after drinking too much lemonade.”

On Alabama: “The Crimson Tide couldn’t score 50 on Western Carolina.  Something’s wrong.”

On Ohio State: “The Buckeyes named Lance Armstrong an honorary captain.”

On Oregon: “Ducks don’t cry.”

On Kansas State: “Baylor did things to the Wildcats that are normally only seen in church revivals and Rob Zombie movies.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Notre Dame (10)   11-0    175        3
   2 Alabama   10-1    158        4
   3 Ohio State (1)   11-0    147        6
   4 Georgia   10-1    138        5
   5 Oregon   10-1    126        1 (Tie)
   6 Florida   10-1    106        9
   7 Kansas State   10-1    100        1 (Tie)
   8 Florida State   10-1      95        7
   9 Texas A&M     9-2      93      11
 10 LSU     9-2      91        8
 11 Clemson   10-1      79      10
 12 Stanford     9-2      67      13 (Tie)
 13 South Carolina     9-2      48      12
 14 Oklahoma     8-2      33      13 (Tie)
 15 Nebraska     9-2      19      15
 16 Oregon State     8-2      11      NR

Others receiving votes
: UCLA – 10.

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