Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Santos' Curtain Call

Since the last posting on this blog, several things have changed in the college football landscape, both FBS and FCS. Boston College is now twice beaten, as is Oregon. Ohio State fell to Illinois, and all of a sudden the national championship game is likely to involve some combination of LSU, Kansas, West Virginia and Missouri. So as we enter the final games of the regular season, and then the conference championship games, we can reflect on what we've learned this year in the season of the upset.
First and foremost, both Kansas and Missouri are for real. Does this mean OU couldn't possibly win the Big XII Championship game 49-17? Nope, that is still a possibility. Of course, the Sooners aren't even guaranteed a spot in the game; but start to finish, even with debacles in Boulder and Lubbock, they've been the best team in the Big XII South. If they beat Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Bowl, they're in. If not, they'd need Texas to lose to A&M in College Station, and even then it's a 3-way tie with some whacky tie-breakers. I'm not going to even try to figure that one out.
Second is that the Big Ten is bad. I mean, it's really bad. So bad that Michigan, who lost to Appalachian State and Oregon while giving up 73 points in those two games, was still alive for a Rose Bowl birth. So bad that Northwestern, a team that went 3-5 in the conference, lost to Duke. Losing to Duke in football is considerably worse than losing to Appalachian State. And ASU wasn't the only FCS school to beat a Big Ten team: North Dakota State handed it to Minnesota in the Metrodome too (NDSU is a transitional school right now, but still technically in the FCS). What does all of this mean? That these bowls are entirely possible:
Rose Bowl: Arizona State 31 Ohio State 17
Citrus Bowl (Capital One... whatever): Florida 49 Michigan 7
Outback Bowl: Auburn 24 Wisconsin 10
Alamo Bowl: Missouri 46 Penn State 6
Champs Sports Bowl: Clemson 28 Iowa 0
Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan 24 Michigan State 16
Sun Bowl: Oregon State 35 Northwestern 13
The thing that sucks? Every single school in the Big Ten is bowl eligible except Minnesota! That's because the 10th place team in the Big Ten went 3-5 in the conference. I say the NCAA boycotts Big Ten schools in bowls. Do I hate Ohio State and Michigan that much? Apparently. Have a nice life, Lloyd Carr!
Moving on. Let's talk championship subdivision for a moment. Remember the whacky tie breakers that would be needed to figure out the Big XII North champ if the chips fall a certain way? Well, the CAA had that this year. Richmond and UMass both finished 9-2 overall, 5-1 against common opponents, 7-1 in the conference (they did not play one another), and 0-1 against FBS teams. I didn't understand how they figured this one out, but UMass got the automatic bid to the 1-AA Playoffs (for simplicity's sake). Richmond not only got a bid as an at-large, but a home game as well. Delaware will host Delaware State (more on that later), and James Madison and UNH are also in the party. That means that a total of five CAA schools are in the 16-team field, including a four-loss team in New Hampshire. When Ricky Santos and the Cats lost at UMass a couple weeks ago, I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who thought that was the final nail in the coffin. But bravo to the selection committee for giving them an invite. That's a team that could give Northern Iowa a scare. Anyway, without further ado, my games to watch this weekend (both divisions).
FBS:
#2 Kansas vs. #4 Missouri (at Kansas City)
Yep, this is the battle for the Big XII North. Who would've thunk it. I watched the Hawks drop 76 on Nebraska a couple weeks ago, which was incredibly impressive until I realized that 76 on Nebraska's D is like 30 on Oklahoma's. Nonetheless, both offenses are awesome. Todd Reesing vs. Chase Daniel, and the victor might be earning a trip to New York.
Kansas 38 Missouri 35

#8 Virginia Tech at #16 Virginia
The most meaningful Commonwealth Classic in a LONG time, and certainly the biggest since Tech joined the ACC. No team has more "what ifs" than UVA, whose two losses have come to Wyoming in the season opener, and NC State. Tech lost that early game to LSU in a rout, and the heartbreaker to Matt Ryan and Boston College. If the Hokies win, they'll get a rematch with BC in Jacksonville. If not, it'll be Hoos and Eagles for a trip to the BCS.
Virginia 20 Virginia Tech 17

Arkansas at #1 LSU
The Battle for the Golden Boot looks lopsided, but it isn't. The thing is, no one can run on LSU, but no one can stop Darren McFadden (or Felix Jones for that matter). Something's gotta give, and if you know Darren McFadden's game, you know better than to doubt him. A damn shame this game isn't in Fayetteville.
Arkansas 30 LSU 24

#6 Georgia at Georgia Tech
Good, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate has to be the best name of a rivalry game. This year, Reggie Ball isn't around to win it for the Dawgs (for those of you who forget, Ball was the GT quarterback who threw the ball away on fourth down in a loss to UGA). However, that won't make much of a difference. It's a shame Tashard Choice didn't have a team around him this year.
Georgia 37 Georgia Tech 10

Alabama at #25 Auburn
The only game that might be a bigger rivalry in major college football is Ohio State and Michigan. Unfortunately, neither of these teams is especially this good. I mean, Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe last week. I'm pretty sure Bobby Boucher left that school for South Central LSU, but I can't quite recall. Anyway, I'm excited about the possibility of Nick Saban not having a winning season.
Auburn 31 Alabama 17

FCS:
#16 UNH at #1 Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa was dominant this year. No one played better from start to finish than the Panthers. You know how the Cy-Hawk Trophy is played between Iowa and Iowa State to basically determine the college football championship of the state? Well, Iowa State won this year, but they weren't so fortunate against UNI, the actual champs of the Hawkeye State. The thing is, if any team can have a total explosion in a game, it's New Hampshire. Ricky Santos beat THREE bowl subdivision teams in his time at UNH (Rutgers in 2004, Northwestern in 2006, Marshall in 2007), so there's no question he can handle high profile opponents. It's not likely to happen, but if it does, a UMass UNH rematch is possible in two weeks. Also, remember that when UNH was the #1 seed in 2005, it was Northern Iowa who knocked them off in Durham. Let's see if the 'Cats can return the favor.
New Hampshire 35 Northern Iowa 30

#12 Fordham at #5 UMass
This game is totally uninteresting. Yes, Fordham has won six of seven, but if UMass doesn't win by two touchdowns or more I will be completely shocked.
Massachusetts 41 Fordham 10

#9 Delaware State at #8 Delaware
By far the most interesting game of the weekend. In 1891, Delaware established "The State College for Colored Students". In 1947, that school became Delaware State College, and finally Delaware State University in 1993. The school's football program has been around for decades, yet for some reason has never been able to get their fellow state university on their schedule. Not once have the two schools, the 1st and 2nd largest in the state, played one another. They are located less than an hour apart, and are the two main public institutions in the state. So why, when DSU has tried repeatedly to play the University of Delaware, has a game never been played between the two? To quote ESPN's Jeff Pearlman; "The University of Delaware's persistent refusal to face Delaware State University in football is cowardly, pig-headed, self-righteous and, worst of all, oozing with racism." Somehow, BC and UMass manage to play every few years. Forget that we aren't in the same conference, we're not even in the same division! Somehow Georgia and Georgia Tech get it done annually. Amazing, isn't it?
Well, DSU finally got the game, but it wasn't up to Delaware. Once again, a great job by the selection committee. I hope I'm not alone in cheering on the Hornets this weekend, and it won't have anything to do with UD's football players.
Delaware State 30 Delaware 28

Enjoy the games as well as the Turkey everyone.