May 28, 2017

Bulldogs Beat Tigers and Reverse Positions in the Top 16

As Week 6 of the college football season is upon us, the top five teams in the Leatherheads Top 16 remain unchanged since last week’s poll. The number 6  team and the number 11 team from last week switched places after Georgia defeated LSU 44-41 in Athens.

The Bulldogs scored with less than two minutes to go to take the lead and ultimately beat the Tigers. Quarterback Aaron Murray threw 4 touchdown passes and became number 2 in total offense in SEC history behind everyone’s favorite unemployed QB from the University of Florida, Tim Tebow. Murray now trails Tebow by 573 and should eclipse the record in a few weeks, barring injury.

The Tigers will look to destroy Mississippi State this weekend and move back up in the Top 16. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs get to play a non-ranked team in the 3-2 Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

As for number 1 Alabama, they easily beat Ole Miss 25-0 as T.J. Yeldon ran for 121 yards and the Crimson Tide defense kept the Rebels ground game to just 46 yards. Basically, the game was no contest (duh?). Up next for Alabama is the 0-4 Georgia State Panthers. Does the game really need to be played? Will the Panthers get on the board? What will be the victory margin? Where will HaHa Clinton-Dix getting his disposable income?

The other big game of Week 5 was Oklahoma at Notre Dame. The Sooners got off to a quick 14-0 lead which made the difference in their 35-21 victory over the Fighting Irish. The Sooners moved up from number 12 to the number 10 spot and will play TCU this weekend and have a possible 5-0 start. The Irish are now 3-2 and dreams of a national championship are on hold for another season.

The 4-0 Washington Huskies beat Arizona and moved into the Top 16 in the number 15 spot while the idle Baylor Bears joined the ranks at number 16.

Falling from our rankings were the Oklahoma State Cowboys who lost to West Virginia and Michigan who had the week off to dwell on their near loss to the Paul Pasqualoni-led UConn Huskies. Don’t worry Wolverines fans, Paul has cleaned out his desk and you don’t have to play UConn again this season.

While UCLA already won against Utah in last night’s game, the games to watch this week include Ohio State at Northwestern, Washington at Stanford, Maryland at Florida State and Georgia Tech at Miami. Wow! Now we have some matchups.

Can Leatherhead Bob Swick’s sleeper team, Northwestern beat Leatherhead Ronnie Foreman’s favorite team in the Buckeyes? Leatherhead Brandon Williams thinks the one team that can match Alabama physically is Stanford. Lets see if they can get by the Huskies. They may be distracted, as Leatherhead-insider Terry Keshner told me they are laughing about Lane Kiffin but then again who isn’t? Well, maybe his dad Monte and Mr. Pasqualoni.

Here are the rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron after Week 5:

Rank Team   Record    Points  Last Week
1 Alabama (11)     4-0      176         1
2 Oregon     4-0      162         2
3 Clemson     4-0      146         3
4 Ohio State     5-0      145         4
5 Stanford     4-0      123         5
6 Georgia     3-1      107        11
7 Florida State     4-0        98         8
8 Louisville     4-0        96         7
9 Texas A&M     4-1        82         9
10 Oklahoma     4-0        71        12
11 LSU     4-1        56         6
12 UCLA     3-0        54        13
13 Miami     4-0        39        15
14 South Carolina     3-1        30        14
15 Washington     4-0        27        NR
16 Baylor     3-0        24        NR


Others receiving votes
: Northwestern – 12, Florida – 10, Oklahoma State – 8, Texas Tech – 8, Notre Dame – 7, Michigan – 6, Wisconsin – 4, Ole Miss – 3, Fresno State – 1, Nebraska – 1.

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

 

Here We Go Again! Alabama is #1 in the Leatherheads Top 16

After two straight national championships, the Alabama Crimson Tide are undefeated and again sitting at the top of the national rankings as the best college football team. The results of the first Leatherheads Top 16 poll are not a surprise with Alabama ranked #1.

Bama will play Ole Miss this weekend to try to hold on to the top ranking. The Rebels are 3-0 after beating Vanderbilt, Southeast Missouri State and Texas. The A.J. McCarron-led Crimson Tide are also 3-0 after beating Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and the Rams of Colorado State.

The Aggies are ranked #9 and are the highest ranked team with a lost, joining Georgia and South Carolina as the three teams with losses in the Top 16. Of course, A&M lost to Bama in that classic game on September 14 as the Tide escaped getting Manzieled for the second year in a row. Texas A&M play Arkansas this week. The Razorbacks are coming off a loss to Rutgers. Johnny Football is having another great year. Leatherhead Terry Keshner calls him the James Franco of college football and Leatherhead Tony Williams calls A&M an offensive-MACHINE – so true!

In the #2 spot we have the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks are 3-0 and will be playing a 1-2 California Golden Bears team. Although the Ducks have tough matchups coming up with games against Washington, Washington State and UCLA, the big match will be against Stanford on November 7. The Cardinal play at Washington State on Saturday.

There is a tight race for the #3 spot with just seven points separating Clemson, Ohio State and Stanford with two 4-0 teams slightly behind in LSU and Louisville. Clemson currently holds that #3 spot but like Leatherhead Dave Boyce said to me: “If NC State makes you look beatable, you are beatable.”

LSU plays at Georgia in Week 5. If the Bulldogs lose, it is likely they will drop out of the Top 16 but could run the table the rest of the way with only one AP-ranked team left to play this year in Florida. LSU on the other hand has yet to play Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and the Aggies.

Michigan sits at the bottom of the poll after barely beating a UConn team that looked pitiful the first two games of the season. A late pick led to a score and allowed the Wolverines to win the game and stay undefeated.

A game to watch this weekend is Oklahoma at Notre Dame. Can the Irish find last year’s regular season magic and top a very good Sooners team? The Irish are 3-1 with their loss coming against Michigan on September 7. Meanwhile, linebacker Manti Te’o will be making his NFL debut for the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

An interesting team on the verge of joining the Top 16 is the Northwestern Wildcats. The 4-0 Wildcats have the week off but play Ohio State in Week 6. Leatherhead Bob Swick thinks they are the sleeper team of this season while Keshner told me “If the Wildcats can beat Ohio State, they’ll be that much closer of realizing their dream of getting embarrassed in January.”

Here are the first rankings by Leatherheads of the Gridiron for the 2013 season:

Rank Team Record Points
   1 Alabama (11)    3-0   176
   2 Oregon    3-0   162
   3 Clemson    3-0   141
   4 Ohio State    4-0   139
   5 Stanford    3-0   134
   6 LSU    4-0   122
   7 Louisville    4-0   116
   8 Florida State    3-0     89
   9 Texas A&M    3-1     73
 10 Oklahoma State    3-0     72
 11 Georgia    2-1     70
 12 Oklahoma    3-0     47
 13 UCLA    3-0     41
 14 South Carolina    2-1     28
 15 Miami    3-0     21
 16 Michigan    4-0     15


Others receiving votes
: Baylor – 13, Northwestern – 13, Washington – 11, Ole Miss – 5, Florida – 4, Texas Tech – 2, Michigan State – 2, Notre Dame – 1.

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

 

Poll StatResearch—Notes from the 2012 Leatherheads Top 16 #3

Last week, the Alabama Crimson Tide once again secured the top spot in the weekly 2012 Leatherheads College Football Top 16–for the third consecutive week, giving the SEC school five #1 rankings over the past two seasons.

A quick glance at every weekly #1 team in the Leatherheads Top 16:

Team        FPV    Poll Points  Date        Poll #
LSU          7        170       9/25/2011       1
LSU          8        171       10/2/2011       2
LSU          7        199       10/9/2011       3
LSU          8        200       10/16/2011      4
LSU          9        204       10/23/2011      5
Alabama      5        170       10/30/2011      6
LSU         12        192       11/6/2011       7
LSU         13        208       11/13/2011      8
LSU         12        192       11/20/2011      9
LSU         11        176       11/27/2011     10
LSU         10        160       12/4/2011      11
Alabama      9        158       1/9/20012      12 (2011 Final Poll)
Alabama     12        192       9/16/2012       1
Alabama     12        192       9/23/2012       2
Alabama     13        208       9/30/2012       3

 

There were few position changes in the Top 16 last week.  In fact, the top seven teams remained the same and eight of the top ten finished in the same spot—with the only difference being the poll points.  The last poll had 13 voters with the two previous weeks having 12 voters.

The Crimson Tide extended its poll margin to 18 points over second place Oregon, 208-190.  The Ducks’ total of 190 is the most poll points for the #2 team in a 2012 Top 16.

Counting this past weekend’s voter participation and three times in 2011, it marks four times that 13 members have participated in a weekly poll—equally the number of times that 12 voters (in 2011 and 2012)—have participated.

Each weekly poll of the 2012 season, the Tide held a pair of 12 first place votes to zero and increased it to 13 this past week—for the highest margin between first and second place teams.

Alabama also held the highest difference during the 2011 season of 9-1 in the final poll of 2011.

Oklahoma’s 15 poll points in this week’s poll was only three-points shy of entering the Top 16—the smallest margin for a team knocking on the door to enter the Top 16.

Oregon State, after finishing right out of the poll a week ago, made its Top 16 debut at #14, while Clemson returned to the poll after being ranked ninth in the first poll of the 2012 season.

TCU advanced two spots, 13th to 15th, while traditional powers Florida and Ohio State were ranked 11 and 12—up from 12 and 13, respectively, from the previous week.

 

Tex Noel is the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association and compiler of the votes for the Leatherheads College Football Top 16.

 

Alabama Leaves No Doubt

Going into last night’s BCS championship game between LSU and Alabama, it was possible to envision a scenario where the Crimson Tide didn’t win convincingly enough for some voters, opening up the possibility some would rank Oklahoma State, or even leave LSU, at the top of the poll. [Read more…]

Alabama 21, LSU 0

When the two most prominent players in a football game are a punter and a kicker you know you should have spent the night watching hockey.

All credit should go to Alabama, a team that plays defense tighter than a North Korean nanny and all the blame goes to LSU, a team that plays offense like the French play defense, but did we really wait a month for this?  And what did “Coach of the Year” Les Miles spend the last month doing?  Figuring out different ways not to run, pass or appear even remotely threatening?

Hang on, LSU just had another three-and-out. (Don’t worry, it never takes long)

LSU compiled 92 yards of total offense.  Boise State can fart 92 yards of offense.  LSU’s time of possession was 24:34, which was even shorter than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.

Has Les Miles ever heard of an end-around, flea-flicker, halfback pass, forward pass or backup quarterback?  Is Nick Saban so good a coach that when having a talented team, a month to prepare, and a kicker who connects on 80% of his attempts he can beat the top-ranked team in the country?  Apparently so.

Alabama is so good it won the BCS Championship Game with a top scorer named Shelley and a top receiver named Smelley.

The Honey Badger looked more like the Useless Beaver.

The SEC has now won six straight national championships.  Every other conference is the 99% and not even an “Occupy Dixie” movement will give the Big Tens, Pac 12s, Notre Dames and St. Louis Rams of the world a chance at sharing the football wealth.

The BCS bigwigs are scheduled to meet on Tuesday (probably at Les’ house) to discuss ideas for improving the way the national championship is decided.  Before Monday night’s game in New Orleans, LSU could have planned to walk into that meeting saying it’s unfair that the Tigers were in position to finish the season with more wins than Alabama and a 1-1 record against the Crimson Tide yet not be voted the national champs.  But after Monday night’s malaise, LSU’s only argument is that the next time it plays Alabama the TV cameras should not be allowed to show Jordan Jefferson from the waist up.

The only change that needs to be made to the BCS is that the system currently actually considers giving teams from blue states serious consideration.

The BCS says “everything imaginable will be discussed” regarding improving college football’s postseason which means we’re certainly moving closer to either some type of playoff or annexation of the AFC West.

There is no way the NCAA will allow a diminution of the 35 bowl games played this season even if half of those games were played in half-empty stadiums.  College football is a cash cow for schools, coaches and ESPN (but God forbid a player hock a ring for a tattoo) and any tweaks to the system will start with maintaining a paradigm in which 6-6 Illinois and 6-7 UCLA get to meet in the Kraft Hunger Bowl.

So, that means in the future we’ll probably see the current bowl season followed by some type of mini-playoff in which the top four or eight teams in the nation, based in part on bowl game performance, will square off to decide the champion.

That mini-playoff will bear a striking resemblance to the SEC regular season.

Want to make college football’s championship chase more exciting and equitable?  Make all SEC teams play without facemasks.  Play the title game not under a dome but at Lambeau Field.  Demand that the games be broadcast in a format so that TV viewers can still hear the stadium noise yet can turn off the announcers, or at least Brent Musburger.

To dream, to dream.

Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide and a pat on the back to LSU.  They were the two best teams in the country and deserved their night in the spotlight and ‘Bama deserves once again to be called the greatest team in the land and likely the best program in the history of college football.  It was a bad game but sometimes even excellence looks a little ugly.  And in Alabama, a state still recovering from deadly tornadoes last spring, and in Louisiana, which is still in the struggling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, excellence, joy and passion are likely welcome in any form.  Football can’t make real life less painful, but it can make people forget about it for a while.

 

 

Will Tigers Take the Tide Twice?

Since the morning of November 6, 2011, college football fans have been making their voices heard: no rematch!

The previous evening’s so-called “Game of the Century” had resulted in a single-digit outcome for both participants: LSU 9, Alabama 6 – in overtime!

Before I read the comment twice I was on the defensive. The purpose of the BCS is to pit the top two collegiate football teams against each other in the season’s final contest for the national championship.  If LSU and Alabama are the best two teams in the postseason, they should contend for the Crystal Ball.

I, for one, am not enamored of the BCS, but whether the current system is flawed is debatable. The outcome of its complicated formula is bound to result in disagreement, regardless of the outcome. Put me down in favor of the Plus-One plan.

Returning to reality, the system has seen fit this season to give the honors of playing for the title to the same two teams who did battle that November Saturday. On that occasion, LSU and Bama were vying for the top spot in the SEC west. This time it is for all the proverbial marbles.

They are the two best defenses in the NCAA. They are the two best teams in the NCAA. They are deserving contenders for the championship, and the winner deserves all the accolades. The SEC wins again because, until another conference proves otherwise, it has the best teams on the planet.

My assessment of the game is all over the map. I have changed my pick three times. Alabama’s defense is ranked first in the country and has surrendered and average of just 191 yards and 8.8 points per game to its opponents this season. LSU’s defense is number two and given up fractionally more yards and points, while forcing more than two turnovers per game.

LSU has three All-Americans this season in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Brad Wing. Alabama has four: Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Barrett Jones and Trent Richardson.

Richardson has averaged 198 yards against Top 25 opponents this year and has fumbled once in 614 career touches. LSU has scored 40 points or more nine times this season.

Les Miles is 75-17 (.815) at LSU. Nick Saban is 49-12 (.803) at Alabama. Need I go on?

If there are any clear advantages, it would be LSU’s prowess on special teams, but Bama missed four field goals (12 points) in November and still held LSU to just nine points in total.

So how will one team prevail?

Look for the coaches to set aside the conservative approach of the last game in hopes of gaining an early advantage. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to play catch-up against either of these defensive units.

The Alabama players have to feel they have something to prove in this game. I’ll go with the Tide, 17-13.

They’re Pistols

Thirty-two years after his final game and more than two decades after his death, Pete Maravich remains a unique and divisive figure in the history of American sports.  Maravich was perhaps the most entertaining basketball player of his time and certainly the most watchable college basketball player of all time.  In three seasons at LSU (1968-1970), Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game and, with his colorful socks and mop of hair, looked like the lovechild of Pete Seeger and Elgin Baylor.

Maravich was born in Pennsylvania but his blood was Cajun as he played college ball in Louisiana and then, after spending his first four NBA seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, moved to the New Orleans Jazz for whom he would play five seasons including his most spectacular.  Maravich was flashy, brilliant, confounding, frustrating and, deservedly, a Hall of Famer and it’s painful and supremely unjust that he died so young, of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, in 1988 at the age of 40.

Much of what makes Maravich such a debate starter is his style of play and philosophy toward basketball.  He scored a lot, yes, but wasn’t so keen on trying to stop the other guy from scoring.  Maravich said he never understood his defensive detractors noting that when he would look at the box score at the end of the game and he had scored 40 points and the guy who was guarding him had scored only 20 “isn’t that defense?”

Maravich’s blood, hubris and plan of attack is alive and well in the state of Louisiana and has long since captured the hearts and minds of the New Orleans Saints.  The Saints are football’s merry band of Pistol Petes adorned not with sloppy socks but a regal fleur-de-lis.  And while Sean Payton’s apostles don’t shoot jump shots they do run a fast break offense that scoffs at ball control and clock management and lives by the belief that footballs were created for the one and only purpose of being moved past the goal line.

The Saints unapologetically pistol-whipped the Detroit Lions, 45-28, on Saturday night in New Orleans in their NFC wild card game, rolling up an NFL playoff record 626 yards of offense.  Quarterback Drew Brees, as always, was the point guard of this pigskin blitzkrieg completing 33 of 43 passes for a Maravichian 466 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a whole lotta funk and fun.

The Saints are to offense what Picasso was to nudity.  They make the practice of moving the football a transcendent, Avant-guard affair in which shock is common, yardage is sacred and points are more valuable than time.  Whether it’s through the air or on the ground, New Orleans never concedes that another touchdown cannot be compiled and only turns off the guns when the game is safely in hand as it was tonight when the Saints, graciously, took a knee at the end rather than punk those Lions with a 52-spot.

It seems as if nothing can stop the Saints as long as…they’re playing inside.  Especially on their home carpet.  The Saints are now 9-0 at home this season, averaging 41.5 points per game and, in their last three home games, including the playoff victory over Detroit, have scored exactly 45, 45 and 45.  But on the road the Saints turn from Pete Maravich into merely George Gervin, putting up 27.2 points per game.  It seems the only thing that might be able to slow down Brees, Payton, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Robert Meachem and the rest of the French Quarter is an act of God.  The Saints are sinfully offensive but can they score in the cold?  The rain?  The wind?  San Francisco?

New Orleans now has a date in San Francisco with the 49ers who sport the NFC’s top defense, allowing just 308 yards per game which is what Drew Brees can usually rack up with a sneeze.  The weather forecast for San Francisco next Saturday is sunny and 60 degrees so maybe the indoor Saints won’t turn blasphemous in such conditions.  If the weather holds, the Saints will roll and will almost certainly find themselves in Green Bay a week later for an NFC Championship game tussle with the Packers which will be a rematch of the NFL’s opening night thriller.  The Packers won that one, 42-34 at Lambeau Field on a warm September night.  The average high temperature in Green Bay is 24 degrees in January which is a field goal below New Orleans’ road game points average.

Pete Maravich was unstoppable but he never had to play at Lambeau in January.  If the Saints can get past the Niners then brave the elements and beat the Packers (assuming, of course, Green Bay makes it that far) it will be a religious experience and a remarkable triumph.  It can happen so long as the Saints think warm thoughts and keep on chuckin’.

…As the Saints continue their playoff march they are accompanied in their home state by the quest of Pistol Pete’s alma mater to claim college football’s national title.  LSU hosts Alabama at the home of the Saints, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in the BCS Championship game on Monday night.  With a victory, the Tigers will claim their third national championship since 2003 and Louisiana will be to football success what California is to fake body parts.

Is there something in the water?  In Walker Percy’s 1987 novel The Thanatos Syndrome, a heavy supply of sodium is added to the drinking water and LSU’s football team goes unbeaten for three years.  No mention was made of the Saints, though.  Back in the 1980s, the Saints had a good defense but were nothing like the offensive juggernaut they are today.  Back then, a team averaging 41 points per Sunday in New Orleans was something that not even science fiction dared to play with.

The truth has turned out to be more fantastic than fiction.