November 20, 2017

Alabama Repeats and Finishes #1 in the Leatherheads Top 16

Alabama took care of business and beat an undefeated team for the second year in a row to claim college football’s crystal ball. Bama came out of the starting gate at top speed and took control of the game, ultimately winning 42-14. The matchup was over by the second quarter and the Fighting Irish showed no fight. Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o missed more tackles in the game than he did all season, possibly hurting his bank account when the NFL Draft happens later this year. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Crimson Tide rolled as Eddie Lacy rushed for 140 yards and A.J. McCarron passed for 264 yards and four touchdowns, both showing that they may one day star at the next level. Lacy, a junior, stated yesterday that he will enter this year’s NFL Draft along with cornerback Dee Milliner and tackle D.J. Fluker.

It has been five days since the BCS National Championship Game so most Crimson Tide fans should be over their celebratory hang over by now and Notre Dame fans are coming to grips that it wasn’t meant to be but that the season was still a magical one. As Leatherhead Tex Noel said to me, “When Alabama and Notre Dame met, it was history vs. history and dynasty won.” I would have to agree with that statement. The two most successful schools in college football history met and Bama won, earning their third championship in four years. Alabama joins Nebraska, who won in 1994, 1995 and 1997, as the only schools to accomplish the feat. Alabama also won their tenth national championship, breaking a tie with Notre Dame at nine. Alabama also won championships in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009 and 2011.

Since Alabama was victorious, it is no surprise that the Crimson Tide finished #1 in the Leatherheads Top 16 for the second year in a row. Heading into the game we had them ranked #2 after Notre Dame who now sits at the #4 position. The Oregon Ducks finished #2 after beating Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl. Oops! I mean the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Wildcats fell in the poll from the sixth spot to the twelfth spot, the second biggest drop in the rankings. Topping Kansas State’s drop was Florida who lost 33-23 to the surprising Louisville Cardinals. The Gators fell from being tied for fourth with the idle Ohio State Buckeyes (now #3) to eleventh, down seven spots. Didn’t the UConn Huskies beat Louisville a few weeks back? The Cardinals moved back into the poll and finish the year at #13.

Johnny Football showed why he won the Heisman Trophy by leading the Texas A&M Aggies to a dominant 41-13 victory over Oklahoma. Johnny Manziel ran and passed for two touchdowns apiece to become the fourth player in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns each in a season, joining Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. You know I have to mention Tebow. Manziel also had a Cotton Bowl-record 516 total yards, 229 rushing and 287 passing. Crazy! A&M finished fifth in the Top 16, moving up four spots. Leatherhead Terry Keshner relayed to me his thoughts on the game: “Watching Johnny Football destroy Oklahoma was like watching Forrest Gump after six shots of Five-Hour Energy.” Oklahoma manged to stay in the Top 16 despite being crushed. They finished the season ranked #15.

Georgia and Stanford both won their bowl games to finish sixth and seventh in the poll, respectively. Stanford beat Wisconsin 20-14 in the Rose Bowl while Georgia beat Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl. South Carolina beat Michigan 33-28 in the Outback Bowl to finish #8. Rounding out the top ten is Orange Bowl winner Florida State at nine and Chick-fil-A BOWL victor Clemson at ten. In the battle of the Tigers, Clemson beat LSU who dropped from tenth to fourteenth.

Boise State, spending most of the season outside of the Top 16, beat Washington in the MAACO Bowl to complete our rankings at #16. Utah State (11-2) and Northwestern (10-3) received support but fell just short of being ranked. Utah State beat Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl by the score of 41-15. Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl to win their first bowl game since 1949. Nice!  Mississippi State at one time was 7-0 on the season but finished with just an 8-5 record. Ouch!

On behalf of Leatherheads of the Gridiron and all our pollsters, thanks for following us all season and we look forward to doing it all over again next season.

Rank Team Record Points Last Poll
   1 Alabama (11)   13-1    176        2
   2 Oregon   12-1    158        3
   3 Ohio State   12-0    151        4 (Tie)
   4 Notre Dame   12-1    136        1
   5 Texas A&M   11-2    130        9
   6 Georgia   12-2    128        7
   7 Stanford   12-2    108        8
   8 South Carolina   11-2      99      11
   9 Florida State   12-2      74      13
 10 Clemson   11-2      73      14
 11 Florida   11-2      70        4 (Tie)
 12 Kansas State   11-2      65        6
 13 Louisville   11-2      51      NR
 14 LSU   10-3      29      10
 15 Oklahoma   10-3      16      12
 16 Boise State   11-2      15      NR


Others receiving votes
: Utah State – 13, Northwestern – 4.

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

 

Notre Dame and Ohio State Complete Undefeated Regular Seasons, But With Decidedly Different Outlooks

Notre Dame virtually assured they will remain the #1 team in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16 when the regular season comes to a close this weekend (well, not counting Army-Navy). Their fourth quarter goal-line stand versus the disappointing USC Trojans secured a 22-13 victory, their 12th against zero losses, and a spot in the BCS title game on January 7.

#2 Alabama had an easier time with their rivalry weekend matchup, shutting out longstanding rival Auburn 49-0 and setting up their SEC championship and BCS semi-final showdown with #4 Georgia. The Bulldogs had little difficulty knocking off their interstate “rival” Georgia Tech in a 42-10 victory.

#3 Ohio State finished their undefeated season by holding Michigan scoreless in the second half of a 26-21 win. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes likely have zero chance to win the national championship as they’ll sit out the Big Ten championship and bowl season due to their NCAA probation status.

#5 Oregon staked their too-little-too-late case for inclusion in the BCS title game by proving Oregon State an inferior rival in their 48-24 Civil War triumph. The loss drops Oregon State out of the Leatherheads Top 16, but the Beavers’ season remains one of the biggest surprises in major college football this year.

Speaking of “too little too late,” #6 Florida outscored then #8 Florida State 24-6 in the 4th quarter of their battle for Sunshine State supremacy. The 37-26 Gators win is their fourth this season versus teams in the Leatherheads Top 16, but their one loss–to #4 Georgia–remains their season-defining moment, costing them a shot at Alabama in the SEC championship and a chance to play in the BCS title game. At #13 following the loss, FSU ranks the worst of those four impressive victories.

In other action, Texas A&M climbs from #9 to #7 on the strength of a 59-29 win over Missouri; LSU jumps from #10 to #9 after a too-close-for-comfort 20-13 decision versus Arkansas; Stanford earns a spot in our top 10 and in the Pac-12 championship with an impressive 35-17 defeat of UCLA; South Carolina (up from #13 to #11) practically swaps places with Clemson (down from #11 to #15) with their 27-17 road victory over the Tigers; #12 Oklahoma pulled out a 51-48 overtime win over Oklahoma State; and #14 Nebraska advanced to the Big Ten title game–versus a Wisconsin team who finished 4-4 in the conference, but is the benefactor of Ohio State and Penn State being on probation–with a 13-7 squeaker over Iowa.

Last, but certainly not least, 11-1 Kent State joins the ranks of the Leatherheads Top 16, but will have to defeat Northern Illinois in Friday night’s Mid-American Conference championship, as the 11-1 Huskies sit poised to wrest that spot away from the Golden Flashes.

While most of college football’s eyes will be focused on Alabama-Georgia in the SEC championship in Atlanta, there’s still a lot of important action this weekend, heading into bowl season. Other games not previously mentioned that could affect the poll’s standings include Texas at #8 Kansas State, #12 Oklahoma at TCU, and #13 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech in the ACC championship.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Notre Dame (10)   12-0    175        1
   2 Alabama   11-1    160        2
   3 Ohio State (1)   12-0    148        3
   4 Georgia   11-1    142        4
   5 Oregon   11-1    131        5
   6 Florida   11-1    121        6
   7 Texas A&M   10-2    103        9
   8 Kansas State   10-1    102        7
   9 LSU   10-2      91      10
 10 Stanford   10-2      89      12
 11 South Carolina   10-2      64      13
 12 Oklahoma     9-2      49      14
 13 Florida State   10-2      41        8
 14 Nebraska   10-2      40      15
 15 Clemson   10-2      21      11
 16 Kent State   11-1        9      NR


Others receiving votes
: Northern Illinois – 3, Oregon State – 3, Boise State – 1, Michigan – 1, UCLA  – 1, Utah State  – 1.

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

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.

 

Bama Gets Manzieled as the Wildcats and Ducks Tie For #1

Earlier in the month, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier stated that Alabama could beat a few NFL teams.  Perhaps, that could be true or not (most likely NOT).  However, Texas A&M is not an NFL team and they beat the Crimson Tide on Saturday.  America was entertained by the Johnny Manziel Show.  I know I was, especially when he did a pirouette after fumbling the ball in the air only to recover it while spinning and then throwing a TD pass. 

Simply put, Alabama got Manzieled or when the number one team in the nation cannot contain the opposing team’s quarterback both on the ground or in the air as well as on the sidelines.  The cameras were loving “Johnny Football”.  Manziel lit up the Alabama defense for 253 yards passing with two TD passes along with 92 yards rushing.  His stats are not out of this world but he put his team in position to win–something no other player or team has done all season.  A.J. McCarron had a few opportunities to bring Bama back but turnovers sealed their fate and a loss dampens their chance to get back to the BCS National Championship Game. 

McCarron had not thrown an interception all season and had his streak of 291 pass attempts without one end.  He finished the game with two.  Also, McCarron may have lost his spot in the Heisman race to A&M’s freshman quarterback.  Manziel has led the Aggies to an 8-2 record with 2,780 yards passing and 1,012 yards on the ground.  The Crimson Tide drops to fourth in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16 after sitting on top all season while the Aggies rise to #11.

The number one spot is now crowded.  Both Kansas State and Oregon received 186 points from our pollsters while splitting the first place votes evenly with six apiece.  K-State kept up their winning ways by beating the TCU Horned Frogs 23-10.  TCU once held the longest winning streak in the nation but now have lost four of their last six games.  K-State is 10-0 and number one in the BCS standings.  On the other hand, Oregon put up 59 points against the now 3-8 California Golden Bears to also go 10-0.  The Ducks are ranked number one by the AP.  This Saturday the Wildcats play Baylor and the Ducks play Stanford.  Will they both be 11-0?

Notre Dame is also 10-0 after beating Boston College 21-6.  Hey BC, glad you left the Big East?  Nice 2-8 record.  The Fighting Irish are sitting #3 in the Top 16 and play a 5-5 Wake Forest team on Saturday.  Georgia slipped past idle Ohio State despite having one loss.  The Bulldogs handily beat Auburn 38-0 and will play an 8-2 Georgia Southern team next.  Ohio State plays Wisconsin.  Montee Ball was unstoppable last week against Indiana.  Will the Buckeyes be able to stop him?

Heading into last weekend, Louisville was 9-0 and looking at a possible undefeated season.  Syracuse would have no part of that and put a hurtin’ on the Cardinals by a score of 45-26.  Louisville is no longer in the Top 16.  Their game with Rutgers on November 29 will decide the Big East Conference championship.

Other games of interest this weekend include Texas A&M vs. Sam Houston State (8-2),  Oklahoma against a now 5-4 West Virginia team (Geno who?) and USC at UCLA.  The Bruins are poised to make the Top 16 with a victory after receiving four 16th-place votes this week from our pollsters.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 (Tie) Kansas State (6)   10-0    186        3
   1 (Tie) Oregon (6)   10-0    186        2
   3 Notre Dame   10-0    163        4
   4 Alabama     9-1    142        1
   5 Georgia     9-1    138        6
   6 Ohio State   10-0    117        5
   7 Florida State     9-1    109        8
   8 LSU     8-2    105        9
   9 Florida     9-1    102        7
 10 Clemson     9-1      93      10
 11 Texas A&M     8-2      92      15
 12 South Carolina     8-2      59      13
 13 (Tie) Oklahoma     7-2      40      14
 13 (Tie) Stanford     8-2      40      16
 15 Nebraska     8-2      19      NR
 16 Louisiana Tech     9-1      13      NR


Others receiving votes
: Texas – 12, Oregon State – 11, UCLA – 4, Rutgers 1.

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

 

McCarron Channels His Inner Eli To Lead Bama’s Comeback Against LSU

Wow!  Who was thinking Alabama was going down against LSU last Saturday?  I did.  The Crimson Tide could not do anything offensively in the second half.  Then all of a sudden, A.J. McCarron leads his team downfield to a score and a victory, while preserving the #1 ranking in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16!  As a New York Giants fan, I have seen many of these types of comebacks in recent years.  Thus, it seemed as if Eli Manning was behind the center.  Unfortunately, McCarron stole all of Eli’s mojo and the Giants lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So Alabama wins and holds on to our #1 ranking.  Our #2 team, the Oregon Ducks took care of USC but had to score 62 points.  Their defense gave up 51 to the Matt Barkley-led Trojans.  Kenjon Barner had 321 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing for the Ducks.  Looks like we have another name to throw into the Heisman race.  On the season so far, Barner has rushed for 1,295 yards and 19 TDs with 15 receptions and 184 yards.

Kansas State defeated Oklahoma State 44-30 and is now just one point below the Ducks for our #2 ranking.  The third-ranked Wildcats beat a Cowboys’ team that was on a three-game winning streak.  The Wildcats, however, lost their QB to an injury in the third quarter.  Losing Collin Klein for the season would be horrible.  With just three games to go, the Wildcats have a realistic chance of going undefeated.  They play TCU this weekend, followed by games with Baylor and Texas.  As of right now, it appears Klein will play against TCU, but how healthy is he?

Notre Dame remained our #4 team with a 29-26 victory over Pittsburgh.  It took 3 overtimes for the Fighting Irish to stay undefeated, but the bottom line is that they won again and are now 9-0.

Ohio State became 10-0 with their 52-22 shellacking of a now 2-7 Illinois team.  Only Wisconsin and Michigan stand in the way of a 12-0 season.  Did I type “Only”?

So our top five teams are undefeated.  The sixth undefeated team is not getting the same support as the others.  Louisville is 9-0 and is ranked in the 11th spot.  LSU is ahead of them with two losses.  Why no love for the Cardinals?  Is it the Big East?

Last week we had two teams tied in the 16th spot–Stanford and Texas A&M.  Guess what?  They are still in the Top 16 while Boise State disappears from the rankings.  The Broncos lost to San Diego State 21-19.  Meanwhile, both the Cardinal and the Aggies were victorious.  Stanford took care of Colorado 48-0 and Texas A&M beat a now 7-2 Mississippi State team by the score of 38-13.

The three games to watch that could shake-up the Top 16 this upcoming weekend are Alabama at home against Texas A&M, Mississippi State at LSU and Oregon State at Stanford.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (11)     9-0    176        1
   2 Oregon     9-0    160        2
   3 Kansas State     9-0    159        3
   4 Notre Dame     9-0    141        4
   5 Ohio State   10-0    112        5
   6 Georgia     8-1    110        7
   7 Florida     8-1    101        9
   8 Florida State     8-1      98        8
   9 LSU     7-2      84        6
 10 Clemson     8-1      81      10
 11 Louisville     9-0      74      11
 12 Oregon State     7-1      46      15
 13 South Carolina     7-2      39      12
 14 Oklahoma     6-2      36      13
 15 Texas A&M     7-2      32      16 (Tie)
 16 Stanford     7-2      24      16 (Tie)


Others receiving votes
: Rutgers – 6, West Virginia – 6, Nebraska – 4, USC – 4, Louisiana Tech – 2, Mississippi State – 1.

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

 

Alabama Still Ranked #1 Ahead of Big Game Against LSU

Before Sandy trashed the East Coast, there was college football played.  Alabama beat the previously undefeated Mississippi State Bulldogs by the score of 38-7.  Alabama is 8-0 and has received every first-place vote by our pollsters in every Leatherheads College Football Top 16 this season.  This Saturday, the Crimson Tide take on rival LSU at Tiger Stadium.  Last season, Alabama beat LSU in the BCS National Championship game 21-0 after previously losing to the Tigers 9-6 in OT in Tuscaloosa.  The game should be a good one!  BTW, Leatherhead Terry Keshner told me that Alabama’s defense makes every opponent look like the Detroit Tigers offense.  Sorry Tigers fans.

Georgia took care of Florida 17-9 in Jacksonville as the Bulldogs jumped from #13 to #7 in the Top 16.  The Gators dropped from #4 to #9.  Georgia’s defense, which has been solid all season except for their game with Tennessee when they gave up 44 points, shutdown Florida’s offense and forced six turnovers (2 interceptions and 4 fumbles).  Georgia plays at home against a 5-3 Ole Miss team this weekend.

Ohio State received more love from our pollsters this week, jumping from #8 to #5 in the Top 16.  The Buckeyes are 9-0 after beating Penn State 35-23.  Can the Buckeyes go undefeated in Urban Meyer’s first season as their coach?  Of all the undefeated teams left, Ohio State in my estimation is properly ranked behind the others and only losses by the top four teams will allow them to move up.

Boise State makes its season debut in the Top 16.  The Broncos are now 7-1.  After losing some key starters after last season, including QB Kellen Moore, some experts saw a decline at Boise State.  Here we are after eight games and the Broncos are still the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference.  San Diego will make their case as the MWC’s top team when they travel to The Blue on Saturday.  The Aztecs are 6-3 with a 4-1 record in conference play, the same as Fresno State.  The Broncos are 4-0 in the conference.

Louisville outlasted all the other Big East teams to stay undefeated as Rutgers lost to the Kent State Golden Flashes–I love that name!  Rutgers still sits atop the Big East Conference standings at 4-0 while Louisville is only 3-0 in conference games.  I have a feeling that their matchup on November 29 will decide who is the conference champion.

You will notice below that 17 teams made the Top 16.  Stanford and Texas A&M are sharing the 16th position this week.  Both teams are 6-2.  Stanford defeated Washington State by a touchdown, winning 24-17.  The Aggies beat up on a now 1-7 Auburn team.  Cam Newton help!!!  On yeah, he is having his own troubles in Carolina.  The Cardinal have three games left after their matchup with Colorado this weekend.  They play Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA.  How many will they win?  The Aggies play Mississippi State this weekend and then play the Crimson Tide.  They finish up the season against Sam Houston State and Missouri.

Well, before you check out the poll standings, here are some other interesting matchups for this weekend that could shake-up next week’s Top 16:  Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Oregon at USC, and Arizona State at Oregon State.  Also checkout Texas at Texas Tech, Nebraska at Michigan State and (of course) UConn at South Florida.  Go Huskies!!!!

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (13)     8-0    208        1
   2 Oregon     8-0    189        2
   3 Kansas State     8-0    185        3
   4 Notre Dame     8-0    170        5
   5 Ohio State     9-0    137        8
   6 LSU     7-1    133        6
   7 Georgia     7-1    127      13
   8 Florida State     8-1    114      11
   9 Florida     7-1    112        4
 10 Clemson     7-1      91      16
 11 Louisville     8-0      79      15
 12 South Carolina     7-2      39      NR
 13 Oklahoma     5-2      38        9
 14 Boise State     7-1      33      NR
 15 Oregon State     6-1      29        7
 16 (Tie) Stanford     6-2      25      NR
 16 (Tie) Texas A&M     6-2      25      NR


Others receiving votes
: Mississippi State – 18, USC – 6, Louisiana Tech – 5, Nebraska – 3, Tulsa – 2.

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

 

Wildcats Pounce and Gators Roll, Knocking WVU and SC Out of Top 16

While Alabama continues to win big over their opponents (last weekend a 44-13 victory over Tennessee), Kansas State and Florida continued their winning ways with decisive victories over West Virginia and South Carolina, respectively.  Oregon beat Arizona State on Thursday night by the score of 43-21.  Notre Dame also won, but barely, by defeating Brigham Young University, 17-14.  With these victories, the top five teams in the Leatherheads College Football Top 16 remained unchanged.

Alabama will face some tougher competition over the next few weeks, including an undefeated Mississippi State, rival LSU and a tough Texas A&M team.  Mississippi State has not played any top teams this season and expect that it will show against the Crimson Tide this Saturday.

The Oregon Ducks play a 1-6 Colorado Buffaloes team this weekend.  It  is hard to believe that Colorado once won a national championship.  Perhaps Eric Bieniemy can put down the clipboard and get into the game this weekend?  If the Crimson Tide get upset by the Bulldogs, the Ducks could be sitting atop the Top 16 next week.

The Kansas State Wildcats continue to impress.  Their 55-14 pouncing of West Virginia and former leading Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith silenced any remaining critics that do not think KSU is for real.  I mentioned Geno Smith as the former leading candidate for the Heisman and that is because KSU QB Collin Klein appears to be the new front-runner.  If the Wildcats can defeat the Texas Tech Red Raiders this weekend, an undefeated regular season is a real possibility.  Texas Tech should be a tougher opponent than West Virgina, who the Red Raiders beat two weeks ago.  With their second consecutive loss, the Mountaineers fell out of the Top 16.

These are happy times in Gator country.  Florida rolled over South Carolina 44-11 to go to 7-0 on the season.  The Gators even received a first-place vote in this week’s AP poll.  Sadly for the Gamecocks, two tough opponents back-to-back that led to losses in consecutive weeks, earning South Carolina a place outside of the Top 16.  For the Gators,  they face the Georgia Bulldogs this Saturday.  Georgia lost to South Carolina on October 6 for their only loss of the season.  The Bulldogs will most likely get loss #2 this weekend.  But in college football, you never know!

Notre Dame squeaked by another team this last weekend, but a victory is a victory.  The Fighting Irish better have some more fight in them against a hot Oklahoma Sooners team who has won three straight over Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas.  Pick up your remote Saturday night and turn on ABC.  This should be an excellent matchup.

So the top five won and are all 7-0.  Undefeateds Oregon State and Ohio State continue to win and could crack the top five with victories and any slip-ups among the top teams.  The Beavers play Washington and the Buckeyes play Penn State.  LSU has a loss but continues to creep back up towards the top and is ranked #6 this week.  They get a week off before the big showdown with Alabama.

A few other interesting matchups this weekend are Cincinnati at Louisville and Kent State at Rutgers.  Louisville and Rutgers remain undefeated and are battling for the Big East Conference crown.  Cincinnati was 5-0 until they lost to Toledo last week.  Can the Bearcats upset the Cardinals?  Will Rutgers be able to beat the 6-1 Golden Flashes?

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (12)    7-0   192        1
   2 Oregon    7-0   176        2
   3 Kansas State    7-0   164        3
   4 Florida    7-0   160        4
   5 Notre Dame    7-0   142        5
   6 LSU    7-1   123        8
   7 Oregon State    6-0   113        7
   8 Ohio State    8-0   102        6
   9 Oklahoma    5-1     88      11
 10 USC    6-1     83      10
 11 Florida State    7-1     67      12
 12 Mississippi State    7-0     64      13
 13 Georgia    6-1     40      16
 14 Rutgers    7-0     31      NR
 15 Louisville    7-0     29      14
 16 Clemson    6-1     26      NR


Others receiving votes
: Texas Tech – 17, South Carolina – 7, West Virginia – 5, Boise State – 3.

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

 

The Red Raiders Climb All Over the Mountaineers as WVU Drops in Top 16

In last week’s Leatherheads College Football Top 16, three of our top five teams lost to shake-up the poll.  In this week’s poll, two of the top five lost.  The big surprise was West Virginia’s loss to Texas Tech.  It was not just a loss but a blowout!  The Red Raiders improved to 5-1 by beating the Mountaineers by the score of 49-14.  One QB passed for 499 yards and 6 TDs in the game and that QB’s name was not Geno.  Seth Doege played outstanding while Geno Smith’s Heisman run hit a speed bump.  In my estimation, Smith is still by far the Heisman choice to this point, but West Virgina will need to return to their winning ways.  Next up is Kansas State who is our #3 ranked team after Alabama and Oregon.  West Virginia dropped from #5 to #15 this week.

The other team in our top five to lose was South Carolina.  The Gamecocks lost a close one against LSU, 23-21.  LSU found some offensive against what is usually a tough South Carolina defense.  Jeremy Hill led the way with 124 yards rushing with two touchdowns.  South Carolina dropped from #3 to #9 as LSU slightly rose in the poll from tied for ninth to eighth.

Notre Dame rose one spot to #5 with their narrow victory over Stanford.  The Fighting Irish stopped the Cardinal on the goal line to end the game in overtime, staying undefeated at 6-0.  Stanford fell out of the Top 16 a few weeks back and only received one 16th place vote this week.

One team that caught my attention that I have been neglecting to cast a vote for in recent weeks is the Oklahoma Sooners.  They took apart Texas 63-21.  Texas was a team that I thought more highly of earlier in the season.  After back-to-back losses, the Longhorns are now out of the poll and didn’t receive a single vote from our pollsters.  The Sooners, on the other hand, have started to creep back up in the poll.  They rose three spots to #11.  In our first poll of the season, Oklahoma was ranked #5 but their loss to Kansas State sank them in the polls which included one week out of our rankings.  The week prior to beating Texas, the Sooners defeated Texas Tech 41-20.  Next up is Kansas and then a matchup with Notre Dame.

This week’s poll also includes two undefeated teams making their debut in the Top 16, Mississippi State and Louisville.  Both teams are 6-0 and have received support the last three weeks from some of our pollsters.  In two weeks, the Bulldogs play at Alabama.  If they don’t lose to Middle Tennessee this weekend, the chances are the Bulldogs will no longer be undefeated after their battle with the Crimson Tide.  If they manage to upset our current #1 team, they will then play Texas A&M and LSU.  The Louisville Cardinals have some tough games ahead of them in the Big East, but an undefeated season is not out of the question.  However, two other Big East teams and upcoming opponents are also undefeated at this time.  Cincinnati is 5-0 and Rutgers is 6-0.  Next up for Louisville is South Florida.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (12)    6-0   192        1
   2 Oregon    6-0   180        2
   3 Kansas State    6-0   159        4
   4 Florida    6-0   151        7
   5 Notre Dame    6-0   146        6
   6 Ohio State    7-0   113        8
   7 Oregon State    5-0   112        9 (Tie)
   8 LSU    6-1   110        9 (Tie)
   9 South Carolina    6-1    88        3
 10 USC    5-1    71      11
 11 Oklahoma    4-1    70      14
 12 Florida State    6-1    68      12
 13 Mississippi State    6-0    39      NR
 14 Louisville    6-0    32      NR
 15 West Virginia    5-1    31        5
 16 Georgia    5-1    26      15


Others receiving votes
: Rutgers – 22, Clemson – 11, Texas A&M – 5, Cincinnati – 4, Northwestern – 1, Stanford – 1.

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

 

Big Shakeup in Leatherheads Poll as Three of Top Five Teams Fall

As Leatherheads pollster Andrew McKillop insightfully points out, this weekend was the first time since 2002 that the AP’s no. 3, 4 and 5 teams all lost on the same day, and that misfortune applies to the teams occupying those spots in the Leatherheads’ rankings as well.

#3 Florida State drops to #12 following their second-half letdown versus North Carolina State, who erased a 16-0 halftime deficit and scored a game-winning touchdown with 0:16 left for a 17-16 upset victory at home.

The offensively-challenged #4 LSU fell to #9 as they couldn’t get the job done in the second half against Florida, who used their 14-6 victory to vault from #11 to #7 in our poll.

#5 Georgia nearly plummets out of the top 16 after a 35-7 thrashing at the hands of now #3 South Carolina, leaving the Bulldogs at #15. The Gamecocks’ impressive victory leads us to wonder if they belong in the discussion with the two teams who have established themselves as clearly the class of college football, #1 Alabama and #2 Oregon.

Joining South Carolina as new members of the Leatherheads top five are #4 Kansas State, 56-16 winners over Kansas, and #5 West Virginia, 48-45 road victors at Texas, who slipped from #10 to #13 in the process.

The Brandon Williams quote of the week addresses the issue of the team that perhaps is the biggest surprise of this young season: “Three words the Pac-12 should heed. Fear. The. Beavers.” Tied with LSU for #9 in our poll, Oregon State is one of three teams from that conference in the top 11 following their 19-6 win against Washington State. That doesn’t quite match the SEC’s four, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

I may have spoken too soon when I referred to Oregon State as the most surprising team in college football this year, because Notre Dame may have something to say about that. The sixth-ranked Fighting Irish manhandled Miami 41-3, and they have an important date with Stanford coming up next weekend. As Brandon Williams says, “(Are) the Irish for real? Talk to me next Saturday night.”

Another of this past weekend’s most impressive wins came from #8 Ohio State, who may very well be the Big Ten’s only really competitive team according to David Boyce. The Buckeyes took down a pretty good Nebraska team with ease, 63-38.

Rank Team Record Points Last Week
   1 Alabama (12)    5-0    192        1
   2 Oregon    6-0    180        2
   3 South Carolina    6-0    164        6
   4 Kansas State    5-0    147        7 (Tie)
   5 West Virginia    5-0    144        7 (Tie)
   6 Notre Dame    5-0    128        9
   7 Florida    5-0    124      11
   8 Ohio State    6-0    105      12
   9 (Tie) LSU    5-1      72        4
   9 (Tie) Oregon State    4-0      72      14
 11 USC    4-1      63      15
 12 Florida State    5-1      60        3
 13 Texas    4-1      34      10
 14 Oklahoma    3-1      31      NR
 15 Georgia    5-1      29        5
 16 Clemson    5-1      22      16


Others receiving votes
: Mississippi State – 21, Stanford – 18, Louisville – 15, Rutgers – 7, Northwestern – 3, Iowa State – 1.

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