A proud day for daddy, yesterday. My kids are getting addicted to college basketball. All of them.
Co-Champs of the Mountain West
It’s hard to imagine that a team that started off so poorly could come back and win 9 games, capturing a share of the conference title. But that’s exactly what the Aztecs have done. Yesterday they went to Laramie, a place which is high altitude and butt cold, and got a big win.
Congrats to them. I can’t wait to see them in either the Las Vegas or Poinsettia Bowl in a few weeks.
Pinch Me, I’m Irish
Yesterday was a dream. My dad and Paul, 3 generations of McLane men, were at the biggest live game any of us had seen. #1 Notre Dame took on upset minded USC. The stadium was packed 45 minutes before the game… And they booed everything Notre Dame did.
And we ground out a win. What I love about this years tam is that they aren’t always dominant… But they are tough and find ways to win. USC fans kept reminding me that we should be blowing out the Trojans… And I kept reminding them that we only needed to win by one. Style points mean nothing.
It was a magical day in an amazing stadium. Seriously, the Coliseum is one of the best college venues I’ve ever been to. It was made more meaningful to me by sharing the day with my dad and son. Life is messy. There’s been times when I’ve disappointed my dad and times when I’ve completely failed as a father. But some days you get it right. I was one proud dad and son yesterday. Football brought us together and you could feel this simple tradition going from father to son to grandson.
I’m all misty about that. Thank you Notre Dame.
Oh yeah, everyone else
Elsewhere around college football there were few surprises. Ohio State beat Michigan for a championship-less undefeated season. Florida beat Florida State. Georgia beat Georgia Tech. Oklahoma snuck one out against the Cowboys. Oregon beat up Oregon State. Outside of the Big East… Everyone won who you’d expect as we head towards the championship pre-bowl games.
I never thought both of my teams would do so well in 2012. Its been quite a ride. Now, lets get Manti Te’o his Heisman!
Pinch me. That’s how I felt last night as a madly switched between ABC & ESPN as Oregon and Baylor folded.
Going into this season I never thought Notre Dame had a shot at a national title. I didn’t even let myself think they had a realistic shot at a BCS game, though I knew if they got 8 or more wins they were a lock for one.
Um, WOW. That about sums up my thoughts for week 10 of college football.
Let’s start off in two obvious places for me.
- Notre Dame beat Pitt to go to 9-0. If you watched this game you know how ridiculous it was to get an Irish victory. It had all the ingredients of an upset loss. Red zone turnovers, penalties, and Coach Kelly playing Russian Roulette with his QBs. The defense looked mesmerized by Pitt all game– as if this weren’t the team they’d seen on film that lost to lowly Youngstown State to open the season. (As an Irish fan, I know that it’s the NBC factor. For most mediocre teams the Notre Dame game is their only shot at national TV. It’s their de facto bowl game and crappy teams tend to play better.) I thought the game was over when Golson threw a pick in the endzone with 3 minutes to go. But the defense got a stop and 2 plays later Golson somehow tied it up. How far can the Irish go? At this point if they win 1 out of 3 games they are going to a BCS game. Win 2 out of 3 and they go to a BCS game. But win all 3? Mark my words… an undefeated Notre Dame team will not be denied a spot in the National Championship game. They are just too powerful from a fan base perspective. An undefeated Notre Dame team could bump out undefeated Oregon or Alabama. Money talks and everyone in football is poor compared to Notre Dame.
- San Diego State beat Boise State in Boise. For those outside of the West you need to know: No one beats Boise State in Boise. Going into the game they were 71-1 at home since 2001. Additionally, SDSU has not beaten a nationally ranked team on the road in the history of the program. (They were 0-31 in road games against ranked teams.) Quite literally, it was the biggest win in team history. Not only did it catapult them into a tie for the Mountain West lead, it also was huge from a recruiting perspective as they head into the Big East alongside Boise State. A lot of Boise State’s talent at the skills positions comes from Southern California, so showing those recruits we can go there and get a win means a ton. Credit for this victory goes to two departments. First, Rocky Long made some ballsy calls down the stretch to run out the clock, including going for it on 4th down with 2:03 to go. (Rocky’s go-for-it chart now has its own Twitter account.) Second, special teams won this game. We opened the game with a 102 yard kickoff return for a TD. And late in the game we blocked a punt to set up the victory.
Still kind of pinching myself about those two games. Wow.
Notre Dame Opponents Making the Case for the Irish
ND’s schedule was a death sentence. No one… NO ONE predicted they’d be 9-0. But now that we are here we can thank our opponents for helping us with the BCS picture. (In basketball terms we’d call this the RPI) Navy has won 5 in a row. Michigan beat Minnesota in the first post-Robinson era game. Miami beat VaTech. Stanford is on a 3 game winning streak. And BYU went to Atlanta and kicked the crap out of Georgia Tech.
No Upsets in the Top 10
Boy, ESPN was sure hoping for a shake-up yesterday– right? They set it up all week for one of the undefeated teams to lose, but they didn’t. Alabama came back against LSU. Oregon went all video game on USC in the 4th quarter. Kansas State held on despite probably losing their QB. And Notre Dame stole victory from Pitt.
Even in the top 20 teams there wasn’t really a major upset. The day played out with only the SDSU/Boise State game surprising most people. Some ranked teams lost to lower ranked or unranked conference opponents… but that’s gonna happen this time of year.
Who is For Real?
Is Louisville (10-0) for real? Um, no one seems to think so. I think they are destined for the Orange Bowl to play whichever team loses among the 4 undefeated who isn’t Oregon. All of whom will hammer the Cardinals. While undefeated, they haven’t played any team of significance, which is why no one is giving them love.
Is Rutgers for real? No.
Is the state of Texas for real? Meh. I’ve not been impressed with any of the Texas teams this year. I love that TCU beat West Virginia yesterday. But all the Texas teams just seem to be chewing up one another in 2012 and none of them is emerging. I’ve been impressed with A&M… but I have a feeling they’ll get thrashed by Alabama next weekend. I think that we’ve finally learned what happens when all Texas teams can recruit… they all kind of lose something. (TCU, Texas, A&M, Tech, Baylor are all meh in 2012.)
Is Florida State for real? Yes. No one wants to play them in a BCS bowl game. While their schedule has sucked they have thrashed some teams. If they can get by Florida, expect them to be in a top tier bowl.
Is the Big 10 really this bad? Yes. Other than ineligible Ohio State, none of the Big 10 teams are playing very well. It looks like Nebraska could make it to the Rose Bowl. (If Oregon gets the national championship game we could see a 1 loss Notre Dame vs. Nebraska… which would be a GREAT game.) Don’t forget that the Big 10 was horrible in non-conference games this year.
Is the MAC for real? Yes, but it won’t matter. A 1 loss Ohio/Kent State/Toledo/NIU team will still be in the Motor City Bowl because the MAC is a lower tier mid-major.
Adam’s BCS Bowl Projections
National Championship Game – Notre Dame vs. Oregon
Fiesta Bowl – Florida vs. Kansas State
Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Florida State
Orange Bowl – Louisville vs. Clemson
Rose Bowl – Nebraska vs. Georgia
Oh baby! Week seven was full of drama as the top teams jockey for all-important position in the first BCS rankings this week. There were significant tumbles at the top as the rest of conference play begins the shuffling which will eventually result in bowl play.
Finally. The Irish proved they could slug it out in a messy, mistake-filled game. In some ways the Stanford game was legendary. Two highly defensive teams slugged it out in the mud until one team finally broke through. Fortunately, it was the Irish who prevailed.
Manti Te’o continued to show why he’s on Heisman watch lists as a linebacker. His impact on the game was much more than his game-high 11 tackles. He leads the team in every way. The Irish defense is legit. It’s now been 4 games since they’ve allowed an offensive touchdown. (They haven’t given up a rushing touchdown all season!) None of those were rollover teams. Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, and Stanford.
How far can Notre Dame go? Clearly, if they win out they are in the title game. But I don’t think it’s very likely that they will do that. I’m still preparing to see them stumble in a game… either BYU or Boston College. And I’m pleased if they beat either USC or Oklahoma on the road but I’m not expecting them to beat both. Does a 10-2 Notre Dame team get into a BCS bowl game? Easily.
San Diego State
Well, we’re 4-3 now. Ryan Katz has the offense rolling along and the defense looked OK as they sailed to an easy 38-14 win. In truth, this was a very boring game. All of the home games this year have been boring. I love going to the games and the Aztecs are clearly going the right direction. But I don’t think I’m alone in my excitement for basketball overpowering my desire to watch a s0-so team battle for an invite to the New Orleans Bowl.
Back to football, it is good to see progress on the defensive line. Those guys are starting to create the gaps needed for the linebackers to create chaos in the back field. But its tough to know if this was real progress or if it’s just a measurement of how bad Colorado State is without their starting QB.
National Title Race
With Notre Dame in the hunt I’m interested in today’s BCS rankings. I suspect to see them as BCS #3 because of their strength of schedule. (#5 in both polls) I think we’re on a collision course to see a very entertaining Alabama vs. Oregon game in the national championship. But, the Irish included, there are some outliers who have a legit chance of getting there which make the whole thing interesting. I don’t think Florida can get there with their remaining schedule and a potential SEC championship game vs. Alabama. K-State? They still have murderers row on their schedule with road games against West Virginia, Baylor, and TCU. Add a season ending home game vs. Texas and a Big 12 title game? There’s at least one loss in there for them. My outside show at it is Oregon State. The Beavers have a powder schedule leading up to a home game against their rival… the Oregon Ducks. In a rivalry game with everything on the line? Gosh, anything can happen.
The Big 10
Now that we’re in conference play its easy for Big 10 fans to think their league is legit. Yeah, right. Let’s not forget that they got ripped in non-conference games vs. ranked opponents. An ineligible Ohio State team does look good. But Michigan and Wisconsin, both allegedly the class of the conference, really aren’t any good. They are both so one-dimensional that they can’t play up and beat teams. I’m still seeing Northwestern as the Rose Bowl delegate to get the loser of the Oregon-Oregon State game.
My Current Top 10
(I don’t include ineligible teams. Sorry Buckeyes, at least your players got free tattoos and great deals on cars!)
- Alabama (6-0)
- Oregon (6-0)
- Notre Dame (6-0)
- Florida (6-0)
- K-State (6-0)
- LSU (6-1)
- Oregon State (5-0)
- South Carolina (6-1)
- Florida State (6-1)
- USC (5-1)
Where do we begin? League play took hold this week and we’re starting to see the legitimacy of the contenders. Just like in basketball, the non-conference games can give false positives for teams because they’re playing in weird places, staying in weird hotels, and playing teams they don’t normally play. But when you head into conference play you are playing teams you know, schemes you’ve seen before, etc.
Lack of Defense
In watching parts of a number of games yesterday the thing that stuck out to me is that the offenses are way ahead of the defenses right now. Obviously, the West Virginia game was entertaining… but a horrible offensively played game. While fun to watch (kind of) none of these teams are serious contenders as they will all eventually play teams with defense. Geno Smith’s 25,000 yard, 119 TD game was cool. We’ll see just how good he is on the road against Texas in a few weeks. Right now, he’s got Heisman hopes and the stats to back it up. He might be this year’s RG3.
That trend continued all day as there were lots and lots of high scoring, highly entertaining football games. I think the thing that was so shocking wasn’t just the numbers… but how open some of these receivers were. I think there is such emphasis on stunts and blitzes defensively right now, because that might cause turnovers… that offensive coordinators are just out-scheming these defenses. Find the open man caused by the blitz, toss it for 6 points.
There better be some panic on the Mesa today. Rocky Long, longtime labeled as defensive guru, saw his defense give up 655 yards last night, 484 last week, and 533 two weeks back. It’s like they aren’t even trying to stop the passing game. Big whoop, you stopped the run. The 3-3-5 depends on having a great inside linebacker which they don’t have. (Miles Burris graduated last year and is starting for the Oakland Raiders now) Time for Plan B defensively. So many times they gave up chunks of 25-30 yards to a completely unguarded receiver. That can’t happen.
Offensively, I love what I’m seeing from Adam Muema. That kid can play. And Ryan Katz (the QB) has moments when he’s great. But 5 turnovers last night ultimately put the defense in such a hole that they couldn’t possibly keep up. The first pick wasn’t Katz’s fault, but the other 2 totally were preventable.
Nice to have a week off and move up in the rankings. Thank you Stanford.
Let’s hope the only news items coming out of next week’s Miami game are…
Michigan State losing to Ohio State was bad news for the Big 10 on a day full of bad news. I felt bad for ESPN yesterday. How did they get stuck with Iowa/Minnesota and Illinois/Penn State? Gosh, Illinois is bad.
Nebraska beating Wisconsin put Nebraska on the board and puts Wisconsin on the pathway to the 5th place bowl. No idea where that league is headed… it’s looking like Northwestern is still in the drivers seat.
Oregon State is legit. It’s really fun to watch them play… too bad the Pac 12 network makes it so that no one really gets to see them. Oregon is the real deal. The question won’t be if they are good enough to get into the title game, the question will be if their defense is legit enough to not get run over by Alabama in the title game.
Big 12 vs SEC Challenge
Have you seen the top 15 rankings? 9 of the 15 are from either the SEC or Big 12. Obviously, there will be winners and losers now that they have to play one another. But its pretty clear that those 2 conferences are this years “top tier” and the other AQ conferences + Notre Dame (minus the Big Easy aka Big East) are second tier.
Who’s “The best of the rest?” Who do you think has a shot at the title that I’m not giving love to?
This season is beginning to take shape. Some teams are exactly who you thought they were while other teams are emerging for breakout years. Here’s a quick rundown of what I saw and what I think headed into mid-season.
For the second week, the SDSU home game start time prevented me from watching the game. But I followed along pretty closely nonetheless and watched highlights later. What is happening is Brian Kelly’s investment in the defense is starting to pay off in spades. As reported on ESPN, Denard Robinson now has the same Heisman hopes as his left tackle. The Michigan QB, who looked like Mike Vick against the Irish for the past 3 seasons, called his play “the worst game of my career.” There was a stretch in the second quarter where I’m sure Mitt Romney looked at the TV and thought, “Wow, they are having a horrible week, I feel so much better about myself.”
Also impressive was the noise factor at Notre Dame stadium. It was loud and buzzing and starting to act like a college stadium instead of a church. They retrained their ushers and did some PSAs… you won’t hear “Down in front” or “Sit down” anymore.
With a bye week ahead and a gaudy 4-0 record, they’ll be in the top 10 this week. And since they don’t play they’ll have the chance to move up again before playing Miami on 10/6. I expect them to be #9 today and #7 by 10/6. Trust me, NBC wan’t ND vs. Stanford to be as high a ranking as possible on 10/13.
All of a sudden Notre Dame looks like they could got 10-2 or 9-3. Either of those is good enough for a BCS bowl bid.
San Diego State
Offensively, we did pretty good in scoring 34 points. Unfortunately, the defense continues to suck. So while we enjoyed going to the game and it was entertaining… we won’t win many games giving up so many points.
Worse than the defense is the special teams play. Just kick the ball out of bounds and give it to them at the 40. Or go for an onside kick. Special teams play lost this game for the Aztecs and exhibited the lack of depth for the team.
The really bad news is that San Diego fans won’t come watch a .500 team. If it weren’t for the 10/6 Sky Show I’d expect 15,000 fans for the Hawaii game. If we lost a couple more we’ll be in the 10,000 range again very soon. And that’s unfortunate.
The Big 10 Isn’t
Central Michigan beat Iowa? Wisconsin struggled with UTEP. Ohio State and Penn State‘s games don’t count. Michigan literally handed– make that tossed — the game to Notre Dame. And only Michigan State and Northwestern handled their business. Those two teams are in the drivers seat. Which will be in the Rose Bowl and will anyone care?
The Pac 12
I thought Arizona would play Oregon tough… but I think they are the only team who can give Alabama a run for their money. (Only if its outside of the south, though.) The only team that is impressing me in the Pac 12 (besides Oregon) is Oregon State. Again, with Oregon headed for the national championship game will anyone really care to watch a Northwestern vs. Oregon State Rose Bowl? At least they will have a cool parade.
The Big East is a turd this year. The MAC looks like the best mid-major. The Mountain West is somewhere between awful and terrible. And the Big 12 should get an award for not playing a decent non-conference game among all member teams. Seriously, what’s that about?