December 14, 2017

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.

 

Taking A Knee

The 0-4 Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams have several options.  They can either play out the string while trying to grasp a modicum of dignity and hint of respectability, they can ask for admission into the Pac 10, or pro football’s quartet of bottom feeders might want to steal from the playbook of Morrill High School.

The Morrill Lions, from western Nebraska, have cancelled their season – and no one can blame Curtis Painter.

The Lions mercifully pulled the plug on Tuesday when its 18-member team was reduced to 12, and that 12th guy doesn’t even like football.

As reported by the “Associated Press,” Morrill’s starting quarterback broke a hand and another player fractured an ankle in last week’s game and parents were concerned that a friendly football season could quickly devolve into something immoral, if not illegal.  And so the cheerleaders (did they have more than one?), players and fans packed it in and will wait until next year.

No doubt the Morrill Lions gave it their best in going 0-5 and getting outscored 243-32.  One is reminded of T.C. Boyle’s gritty short story, “56-0,” about an overmatched college football team finishing the season in a cold, muddy and desperate scramble for pride.  But, like W.C Fields once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

Part of Morrill’s problem was that the school was out of its league, almost literally.  Morrill played in the smallest division in Nebraska that plays 11-man football and school officials say next year they’ll probably move down to Eight-Man football which has got to be more fun anyway.  Morrill’s coaches told the “A.P.” they were saddened that more of the school’s 50 boys didn’t go out for the team but who knows? Maybe Morrill just has more fun things for a young lad to do on his weekends than get his head bashed in on every play.

Maybe Morrill just needs a little updating.  The school’s website still wishes everyone “a good summer” and the lunch menu is from last May.  But at least the Lions dined well that spring: Taco Salad, Pigs-in-a-blanket and Biscuits & Gravy are some of the offerings on the cafeteria menu. Unappetizingly, though, in the middle of the month the culinary choices are narrowed down to just one – “Cook’s Choice.”  Do you get the impression that “Cook’s Choice” consists of whatever tacos, biscuits and pigs can fit in a blender or on a slice of toast?

Morrill may feel forlorn but it isn’t alone.  In Amarillo, Texas, Arbor Christian Academy has also punted away the 2011 season after going 0-6 including last week’s 58-0 assault against Memphis.  Like Morrill, Arbor Christian now has downsizing on its mind as the school will switch to Six-Man in 2012.

The Vikings, Dolphins, Rams and Colts have looked like they’re playing with just six or eight guys this year so maybe they can jump leagues as well.  Maybe the NFL can implement a policy similar to that of European soccer leagues (“football associations”).  Imagine if promotion and relegation existed in all American sports – the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Cubs and Golden State Warriors would probably be on Morrill or Arbor Christian’s schedule by now and the New England Patriots and New York Yankees would only play each other, perhaps in a golden palace owned by Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman.

Or, maybe Morrill and Arbor Christian can get some special exemption and combine forces and play 14-man football while the other team only plays 11 but gets all the biscuits and gravy it can handle.

We can’t help wonder if those in Minnesota, Miami, St. Louis and Indianapolis almost envy these high school kids.  Between the four NFL teams they’re already 0-16 and, shudder to think, since none of these fumbling four play each other this season, each of them could actually finish 0-16 themselves.  Fans in Morrill and Amarillo will be watching.  But how will they be rooting?

 

Fielding “Hurry-Up” Yost and Tom Osborne: The Only Two

Throughout the history of college football, many coaches have left their mark on the game. Of all that have patrolled a sideline, only two major college coaches were on the job for at least 25 seasons and also compiled a winning percentage of eighty percent or greater.

Fielding “Hurry-Up” Yost and Tom Osborne are the field generals who accomplished this feat. They were leaders of schools that make up college football lore. And in fact, both coached at the same school—75 years apart.

Fielding Harris Yost’s coaching rein lasted from 1897 through the 1926 season. According to football legend, he was nicknamed “Hurry-Up” for trying to motivate his players by yelling “hurry up” at them. By looking at his record, I suppose it worked.

His time as a head coach would take a round-a-bout way to stardom. His legendary coaching career of 29 years began at Ohio Wesleyan in 1897. This would be Yost’s first stop of five different schools in five seasons.

From the Buckeye State, he would, like many of America’s early pioneers, “Go West, young man!” He followed this motto, popularized by nineteenth century newspaper editor Horace Greeley, and headed to Lincoln, Nebraska for the 1898 season; as it was 75 years before Tom Osborne would take over the reins of the Cornhuskers. After the 1898 season, he hit the trail again; ending up in Kansas as the 1800’s would come to an end.

He had hoped for a new start with the beginning of a new century. He began the 1900’s as the coach of Stanford; but it would be like the previous stops — one season and gone!

While at Stanford, he was the fifth of seven coaches that served just a single-season on “The Farm.” Stanford implemented a rule that all coaches had to be an alumnus. Yost had graduated from West Virginia in 1896.

It was reported that this new guideline didn’t sit too well with him! One could only think that this was in the back of his mind when he would lead Michigan westward to play in the very first Rose Bowl; as Michigan shellacked Stanford 49-0 following the 1901 season. But before his career in Ann Arbor would start, he had some unfinished business in California.

Further research has uncovered two additional wins not noted with his NCAA-official record. A researcher, combing through the Cornhuskers’ scores, discovered that a game was initially listed as a loss; when in reality it should have been recorded as victory.

Playing in Kansas City, Missouri, the Bugeaters’ (an early name that Nebraska was known by from 1890-1900) game was originally recorded as a 24-0 loss to William Jewell; while the research revealed the score against the Cardinals as a 38-0 triumph!

Even though it was two seasons later—in terms of when the games were played—his next additional victory has never been credited to his career record.

During the 1900 season, in addition to coaching at Stanford, he also served as interim head coach at San Jose State Normal School. Checking the 2009 San Jose State Media Guide, three coaches are listed for the 1900 season with two credited with records for the seven games that the school played:

• 1900 James E. Addicott 2 3 1  .417
• 1900 Fielding Yost     1 0 0 1.000

No reason was given why Addicott left after the sixth game. Yost is listed as the coach in the finale, played on December 8th. San Jose State Normal School was victorious over Chico State Normal School (Chico State’s name from 1897-1921) 12-0.

After the 1900 season, he headed to Michigan.  In his first five seasons with the Wolverines, his record was 55-1-1. Yost won his 100th career game on November 7, 1908 against Kentucky, as the Wolverines were victorious 62-0. This was the only shutout win by Michigan in 1908 (5-2-1) who also played Michigan Agriculture to a scoreless tie and would lose to an 11-1-0 Pennsylvania, 62-0.

U of M would also drop its season finale 28-4 to Syracuse—as this would be the first time a Yost-coached Wolverine eleven ended the season with back-to-back setbacks. Despite these late season losses, Yost had finally found a home…as he stayed in Ann Arbor for the remainder of his career, compiling a 165-29-10 record. His career record, counting the two previous victories discussed above, was 198-35-12 for a .833 winning percentage.

Tom Osborne took over the Cornhuskers from the retiring Bob Devaney (in a 16-year career from 1957 through 1972, Devaney compiled a 136-30-7 record and .806 winning percentage) after the 1972 season, continuing the winning tradition at the University of Nebraska. Osborne’s career mark would ultimately end up as 250-49-3 with a .836 winning percentage!

Osborne in his 25 years on the Cornhuskers’ sideline turned in some impressive statistics: 25 winning seasons, an equal number of bowl appearances (12-13-0) and his teams were ranked in the final polls every season.

He won his 100th career game in 1983, a 41-10 win over visiting UCLA (7-3-1).

In 1983, the Cornhuskers were 12-1-0; scoring 654 points; while the famed “Black-Shirt Defense” would hold the opposition to just 217 points. A heart-breaking 31-30 loss in the Orange Bowl, when a two-point conversion pass was tipped away, prevented Dr. Tom from winning his first National Championship. However, in his final four seasons as Nebraska’s coach, Osborne compiled a 49-2-0 mark and was No. 1 in three of those seasons: 1994, 1995 and 1997.

Both Yost and Osborne were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and 1999, respectively.

 

Tex Noel is the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.