BCS Championship Game Preview

Welcome back to The Campus Game.

The 2009 college football season ends tonight when the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide faces the number two Texas Longhorns in the BCS national championship game.

College Football Royalty

Webster’s defines “Royalty” as being of an elite class and the description aptly applies to these programs.

Football in Texas is part of the cultural fabric of the Lone Star state, from dusty small towns to college campus towns to the big cities. How many states have books written and television programs produced about high school football programs (Friday Night Lights and the Odessa-Permian Panthers)?

At the professional level, the Dallas Cowboys are perhaps the elite franchise in the NFL, boasting a huge new futuristic stadium. The Houston Texans are very popular, and the state is in the Super Bowl host rotation.

College football is so popular in Texas that the state hosts five bowl games, sent two teams to BCS games this season, and provided six bowl teams.

Of those college squads, the Longhorns are by far the most popular (their merchandise sales actually lead all of college football on an annual basis). Texas is widely recognized as having won four national titles (1963, 1969, 1970, 2005).

If there is a state to match Texas for football passion, it’s Alabama.

With no professional sports competing for attention, college football is a twelve-month topic in the heart of Dixie. Alabama-Auburn discussions stay heated all year from Muscle Shoals to Mobile Bay and Dothan to Decatur, but no school and football team is more closely identified with its state than the Crimson Tide.

The state’s most revered citizen of the twentieth century was a football coach (if I have to tell you who, you should probably stay out of the state).

Because of excellence dating back to before the Great Depression of the 1930s, and through the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, the Tide football program became a source of pride statewide and across the South generally.

The program claims twelve national titles, and while that figure is considered perhaps a bit inflated, you get the picture. This program – like that of Texas – belongs to college football’s elite.

The Politician and the General

Two of college football’s best coaches will lead their teams into the title game.

Mack Brown of Texas looks, talks, and acts like a politician. Watch him during interviews … always calling the interviewer by name, keeping his composure, smiling, sure to compliment his Longhorns and their opponent. It would seem natural if he were to start passing out campaign buttons.

At Alabama, Nick Saban is more general than politician. Saban is so intense, he seems to bristle all the time. He’s not likely to call an interviewer by name because he probably doesn’t know the person’s name (there is a hilarious video clip of Saban in the NFL calling a player “Frank” until a coach corrects him that the player’s name is “Cliff” … to which Saban replies “that’s what I called him!”).

Personalities aside, these are two of the best.

Brown won the 2005 national title with an epic victory over a USC team that featured two Heisman winners (Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush). Saban, widely regarded as the best defensive tactician in college football, also won a national title when his LSU team upset Oklahoma in 2003.

The History

These teams have a history against one another (Texas leads 7-0-1), but they’ve only met three times in the past forty-five years (1965 Orange Bowl, 1973 Cotton Bowl, 1982 Cotton Bowl). Each was a close, tough game with Texas coming out on top by 4, 4, and 2 points.

While the 1982 game was memorable mainly for being the last major bowl appearance for Bama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant (the Cotton was considered one of the four majors at the time), the most famous of the games was that ’65 Orange Bowl.

The game was the first big bowl game played at night, and fans were treated to a sensational game between the nation’s two best teams of the era. From 1961-64 Texas was 39-3-1 with a national title under Darrell Royal. During the same time frame, Alabama was 40-4 with two national crowns under the Bear.

In the Orange Bowl, Tide QB Joe Namath – injured much of the season – came off the bench to lead an Alabama comeback that fell short when Namath was stopped by Longhorn great Tommy Nobis (among others) on a quarterback sneak late in the game. Well, at least Longhorn fans (and the refs) think he was stopped. Had instant replay been around, Tide fans believe the verdict would have been overturned. The final was 21-17.

Georgia Boys

An interesting plot in the game tonight features the defensive coordinators.

Will Muschamp (Texas) and Kirby Smart (Alabama) are both former Georgia players of similar background. Muschamp was an undersized, rugged, over-achiever at linebacker for the Bulldogs, and Smart was a similar type defensive back.

Both men learned at the foot of defensive master Saban, and they present multiple fronts, coverages, and blitz schemes. Watching them match wits tonight will be fun.

Tonight’s Game

Alabama has been the nation’s best and most consistent team all season. If both teams play their best, Alabama wins. The Tide’s performance against Florida in the SEC title game was the most impressive of the year by any team.

Texas was more up and down, but they got to the title game. With all due respect to Heisman winner Mark Ingram of Alabama, Texas QB Colt McCoy is the most important offensive player on the field in this game. His ability to run could offset pressure the Tide might bring.

The SEC is undefeated in BCS championship games and conference teams will be seeking an unprecedented fourth straight title.

Alabama is unlikely to match the intensity of the SEC championship game over Florida (which featured the best two teams in the country), and Texas should play much better than the Horns did in the Big 12 championship.

Still (and with a personal seven-game correct prediction streak in BCS title games on the line) … I’ll go with Alabama.

Enjoy the game.

Professor’s Pick: Alabama

Advertisements

College Football Bowl Bonanza


Professor’s Picks

Happy Holidays and welcome back to The Campus Game.

Below is the lineup for all 2009-2010 college football bowl games (listing courtesy of the Rivals website). Each game has an active link … if you want more information about the game, simply click on the name of the bowl.

Professor’s Picks for all bowls except BCS bowls after Jan. 1 are now posted.

For those interested in taking part in a bowl prediction contest, let me recommend Phil Steele’s site … it’s great.

Enjoy!

* All times Eastern

NEW MEXICO BOWL
Fresno State vs. Wyoming
Dec. 19/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Albuquerque, N.M.
Professor’s Pick: Fresno State

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
Rutgers vs. UCF
When: Dec. 19/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Professor’s Pick: Rutgers

NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee
When: Dec. 20/8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: New Orleans
Professor’s Pick: Southern Miss

LAS VEGAS BOWL
BYU vs. Oregon State
When: Dec. 22/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Las Vegas
Professor’s Pick: Oregon State

POINSETTIA BOWL
Utah vs. California
When: Dec. 23/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Diego
Professor’s Pick: Utah

HAWAII BOWL
SMU vs. Nevada
When: Dec. 24/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Honolulu
Professor’s Pick: Nevada

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL
Marshall vs. Ohio University
When: Dec. 26, 1 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Detroit
Professor’s Pick: Ohio

MEINEKE CAR CARE
North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh
When: Dec. 26/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Charlotte
Professor’s Pick: Pitt

EMERALD BOWL
Boston College vs. USC
When: Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Francisco
Professor’s Pick: USC

MUSIC CITY BOWL
Clemson vs. Kentucky
When: Dec. 27/8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
Professor’s Pick: Clemson

INDEPENDENCE BOWL
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
When: Dec. 28/5 p.m.
TV: ESPN2
Where: Shreveport, La.
Professor’s Pick: Georgia

EAGLEBANK BOWL
Temple vs. UCLA
When: Dec. 29/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Washington, D.C.
Professor’s Pick: UCLA

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Miami vs. Wisconsin
When: Dec. 29/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Orlando, Fla.
Professor’s Pick: Miami

HUMANITARIAN BOWL
Idaho vs. Bowling Green
When: Dec. 30/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Boise, Idaho
Professor’s Pick: Idaho

HOLIDAY BOWL
Nebraska vs. Arizona
When: Dec. 30/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Diego
Professor’s Pick: Arizona

ARMED FORCES BOWL
Houston vs. Air Force
When: Dec. 31/noon
TV: ESPN
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Professor’s Pick: Air Force

SUN BOWL
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
When: Dec. 31/2 p.m.
TV: CBS
Where: El Paso, Texas
Professor’s Pick: Stanford

TEXAS BOWL
Navy vs. Missouri
When: Dec. 31/3:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Houston
Professor’s Pick: Missouri

INSIGHT BOWL
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
When: Dec. 31/6 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
Professor’s Pick: Iowa State

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
When: Dec. 31/7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Atlanta
Professor’s Pick: Virginia Tech

=================================

OUTBACK BOWL
Northwestern vs. Auburn
When: Jan. 1/11 a.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Tampa, Fla.

Professor’s Pick: Auburn

CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Penn State vs. LSU
When: Jan. 1/1 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Orlando, Fla.
Professor’s Pick: LSU

GATOR BOWL
Florida State vs. West Virginia
When: Jan. 1/1 p.m.
TV: CBS
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
Professor’s Pick: FSU

INTERNATIONAL BOWL
South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
When: Jan. 2/noon
TV: ESPN2
Where: Toronto
Professor’s Pick: South Florida

PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL
Connecticut vs. South Carolina
When: Jan. 2/2 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Birmingham, Ala.
Professor’s Pick: South Carolina

COTTON BOWL
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
When: Jan. 2/2 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Arlington, Texas
Professor’s Pick: OK State

LIBERTY BOWL
East Carolina vs. Arkansas
When: Jan. 2/5:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
Professor’s Pick: Arkansas

ALAMO BOWL
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
When: Jan. 2/9 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Antonio
Professor’s Pick: Texas Tech

GMAC BOWL
Troy vs. Central Michigan
When: Jan. 6/7 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Mobile, Ala.
Professor’s Pick: Troy

=================================

BCS MATCHUPS

ROSE BOWL
Ohio State vs. Oregon
When: Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
Professor’s Pick: Oregon

SUGAR BOWL
Florida vs. Cincinnati
When: Jan. 1/8:30 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: New Orleans
Professor’s Pick: Florida

FIESTA BOWL
Boise State vs. TCU
When: Jan. 4/8 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Professor’s Pick: TCU

ORANGE BOWL
Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
When: Jan. 5/8 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Miami
Professor’s Pick: Iowa

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Alabama vs. Texas
When: Jan. 7/8 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Pasadena, Calif.

College Football Bowls 2009-2010

Happy Holidays and welcome back to The Campus Game.

Below is the lineup for all 2009-2010 college football bowl games (listing courtesy of the Rivals website). Each game has an active link … if you want more information about the game, simply click on the name of the bowl.

Professor’s Picks for all bowls will be posted soon.

Enjoy!

* All times Eastern

NEW MEXICO BOWL
Fresno State vs. Wyoming
Dec. 19/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Albuquerque, N.M.

ST. PETERSBURG BOWL
Rutgers vs. UCF
When: Dec. 19/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: St. Petersburg, Fla.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee
When: Dec. 20/8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: New Orleans

LAS VEGAS BOWL
BYU vs. Oregon State
When: Dec. 22/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Las Vegas

POINSETTIA BOWL
Utah vs. California
When: Dec. 23/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Diego

HAWAII BOWL
SMU vs. Nevada
When: Dec. 24/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Honolulu

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL
Marshall vs. Ohio University
When: Dec. 26, 1 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Detroit

MEINEKE CAR CARE
North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh
When: Dec. 26/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Charlotte

EMERALD BOWL
Boston College vs. USC
When: Dec. 26, 8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Francisco

MUSIC CITY BOWL
Clemson vs. Kentucky
When: Dec. 27/8:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Nashville, Tenn.

INDEPENDENCE BOWL
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
When: Dec. 28/5 p.m.
TV: ESPN2
Where: Shreveport, La.

EAGLEBANK BOWL
Temple vs. UCLA or Army
Scenario: If Army beats Navy Dec. 12, Army plays Temple. If Army loses to Navy, UCLA plays Temple.
When: Dec. 29/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Washington, D.C.

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL
Miami vs. Wisconsin
When: Dec. 29/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Orlando, Fla.

HUMANITARIAN BOWL
Idaho vs. Bowling Green
When: Dec. 30/4:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Boise, Idaho

HOLIDAY BOWL
Nebraska vs. Arizona
When: Dec. 30/8 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Diego

ARMED FORCES BOWL
Houston vs. Air Force
When: Dec. 31/noon
TV: ESPN
Where: Fort Worth, Texas

SUN BOWL
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
When: Dec. 31/2 p.m.
TV: CBS
Where: El Paso, Texas

TEXAS BOWL
Navy vs. Missouri
When: Dec. 31/3:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Houston

INSIGHT BOWL
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
When: Dec. 31/6 p.m.
TV: NFL Network
Where: Tempe, Ariz.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
When: Dec. 31/7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Atlanta

OUTBACK BOWL
Northwestern vs. Auburn
When: Jan. 1/11 a.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Tampa, Fla.

CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Penn State vs. LSU
When: Jan. 1/1 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Orlando, Fla.

GATOR BOWL
Florida State vs. West Virginia
When: Jan. 1/1 p.m.
TV: CBS
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.

INTERNATIONAL BOWL
South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
When: Jan. 2/noon
TV: ESPN2
Where: Toronto

PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL
Connecticut vs. South Carolina
When: Jan. 2/2 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Birmingham, Ala.

COTTON BOWL
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
When: Jan. 2/2 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Arlington, Texas

LIBERTY BOWL
East Carolina vs. Arkansas
When: Jan. 2/5:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Memphis, Tenn.

ALAMO BOWL
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
When: Jan. 2/9 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: San Antonio

GMAC BOWL
Troy vs. Central Michigan
When: Jan. 6/7 p.m.
TV: ESPN
Where: Mobile, Ala.

BCS MATCHUPS

ROSE BOWL
Ohio State vs. Oregon
When: Jan. 1, 4:30 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Pasadena, Calif.

SUGAR BOWL
Florida vs. Cincinnati
When: Jan. 1/8:30 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: New Orleans

FIESTA BOWL
Boise State vs. TCU
When: Jan. 4/8 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Glendale, Ariz.

ORANGE BOWL
Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
When: Jan. 5/8 p.m.
TV: Fox
Where: Miami

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Alabama vs. Texas
When: Jan. 7/8 p.m.
TV: ABC
Where: Pasadena, Calif.

College Football 2009 Week 15


Ruminations on the Passing Scene

December brings mixed feelings for college football fans.

The Christmas holidays mark the end of the regular season and those wonderful weekly Saturday football bonanzas of games from morning to night. No more College Gameday, no more tailgating, fewer trips to campus.

We are not Scrooged however!

Like a little boy looking forward to Santa bringing a sleigh full of gifts, college football fans now get ready for a month’s worth of bowl games.

Welcome back to The Campus Game … where every college football bowl game – from the New Mexico on December 19th to the title game on January 7th – is like opening a great gift on Christmas morning. To those who think there are too many bowls – bah humbug! No such thing.

Christmas Comes Early to T-Town …

Alabama fans got an early Christmas gift from St. Nick (Saban) when the Tide rolled over Florida in the SEC title game and earned a date with Texas to settle the national championship.

The game was sweet redemption for the Tide.

A year after losing to Florida with similar stakes on the line, Alabama out-prepared, out-hit, and out-played the Gators from start to finish. Bama is now a victory away from earning a first national crown since 1992.

The game with Texas pairs two of the nation’s premier and storied programs.

Not So Fast My Friend

That signature comment from ESPN’s Lee Corso should apply to all those who believe Alabama will easily handle Texas in the BCS title tilt.

Since the BCS format started after the 1998 season, at least half the games have been won by teams given little chance at victory.

Here is a brief recap with upsets in bold:

1999 Tennessee 23 FSU 16 … Odd as it may seem more than a decade later, the SEC champs were considered not much of a match for the powerful Seminoles.

2000 FSU 46 Virginia Tech 29 … This game held to form as the Noles whipped the Hokies despite a scintillating performance from Tech’s Michael Vick.

2001 Oklahoma 13 FSU 2 … The Sooners were considered an upstart under 2nd year coach Bob Stoops. If you think FSU benefitted from playing weak conference competition during the 1990s – you’d be right.

2002 Miami 37 Nebraska 14 … Canes lived up to billing and easily beat Huskers (who didn’t even win conference).

2003 Ohio State 31 Miami 24 … perhaps the most well-known of the upsets, the Buckeyes prevailed in OT.

2004 LSU 21 Oklahoma 14 … few gave Bengal Tigers (and coach Nick Saban) a chance against mighty Oklahoma but SEC champs shut down Sooners (many experts thought USC should have been there instead of LSU).

2005 USC 55 Oklahoma 19 … this one held to form as the great Trojan team with Leinart and Bush crashed the Sooner Schooner.

2006 Texas 41 USC 38 … Longhorns and Vince Young staged yet another upset against what some were calling the greatest team ever.

2007 Florida 41 Ohio State 14 … remember when many pundits (most notably Kirk Herbstreit – who’s apparently only for a rematch when the Big Ten and Bucks are involved) called for a Michigan do-over against OSU. The underdog Gators quieted such talk quickly and thoroughly.

2008 LSU 38 Ohio State 24 … Once more, an upset. LSU lost its last game but pulled out the SEC championship and got the BCS bid. The underdogs from the bayou outclassed Ohio State.

2009 Florida 24 Oklahoma 14 (this was a tossup) … Oklahoma boasted one of the great offenses in college football history averaging over 50 points (and more than 60 down the stretch), but Florida shut them down and won a tight game.

More on this topic in another column … but don’t bet the house just yet Tide fans.

Notre Dame Coaching Carousel

Hire Brian Kelly.

Perhaps by the time you read the Irish will have wised up enough to go ahead and hire the best guy for the job. The man is young enough, driven enough, and successful enough to handle all the attention and pressure.

SEC Announcers

Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson announce the CBS SEC game of the week and while they are likeable enough, the league could do better.

Lundquist is at heart a Southwest Conference/Dallas Cowboys guy with (at least in my opinion) a somewhat limited knowledge of the SEC and its heritage (although he has a wonderful overall grasp of college football history).

He is also slipping just a bit … as only one example, during the SEC title game did you catch the mistake during a discussion of teams that have won three national titles in four years (only Minnesota in the late 1930s and Notre Dame in the late 40s have done so). Verne mentioned those old Irish teams with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis! If you don’t know that’s a mistake leave this site immediately! … just kidding, but those two Heisman Trophy winners actually played at Army during the WWII years.

Danielson didn’t even correct him (hopefully from politeness rather than not knowing).

Here’s a suggestion for CBS/SEC … Ron Franklin on play-by-play, Tommy Tuberville as analyst, and how about sports talk radio’s Paul Finebaum as sideline host or special commentator? All southern, all knowledgeable about the SEC, all professional and very candid.

Bowl Season

Check back soon for the bowl schedule and Professor’s Picks for all the bowl games!

SEC Championship Game 2009


Championship greetings from snowy north Georgia.

That’s right, it’s snowing in Dixie this morning. And while weather poses no threat to the SEC Championship Game, tucked snugly into Atlanta’s climate-controlled Georgia Dome an hour south of the current snow line, the falling flakes provide a perfect storm for a perfect conference championship between Alabama and Florida.

Both teams are perfect record wise.

Alabama and Florida arrive in Atlanta ranked as the top two teams in national polls with matching 12-0 regular season records. Each prevailed in one truly tough game (a win at LSU for Florida and a win at Auburn for Alabama). Each team also got a bit lucky and survived a fluke challenge in games that should not have been so close (Bama vs. Tennessee and Florida vs. Arkansas). Since the first week of the season, most college football fans expected these two to go undefeated and they met expectations.

Both teams have perfect pedigrees.

Alabama boasts the South’s grandest football history. The Crimson Tide owns 25 SEC titles, far more than any conference rival. Bama backers claim 12 national titles and while the figure might be a bit inflated due to the “mythical” nature of college football championships nobody can claim more. We all know about the man in the houndstooth hat.

Florida floundered for decades before winning a conference championship. That changed when the guy in the visor showed up. Steve Spurrier started winning in 1990; since then the Gators have been the league’s glamor guys for nearly two decades. Should this team win a national title, it’d be the Gators’ third in four years and fourth since 1996.

Both teams have great coaches.

For my money, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are the two best coaches in the country. More similar than not, even though one is known more for defensive toughness (Saban) the other for offensive imagination (Meyer), rarely do these two leaders allow their teams to be outflanked from a strategy standpoint.

Both teams have great players.

Some college football fans suffered Tim Tebow fatigue as early as three seasons ago, but the Gator quarterback is the face of college football – and the sport could not ask for a better representative. The guy punishes opponents on the field and does missionary work off it. He runs and passes. He preaches and teaches. He’s the best college football player in the country. Period. Sprinkling the Florida roster are Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Riley Cooper, the Pouncey twins, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden … these guys only seem to have been there a decade.

Alabama brings its own campus-full of talent. Mark Ingram is no worse than the second-best running back in America, Rolando McClain may be the best linebacker, Terrence Cody the most dominant defensive lineman, and Julio Jones the most physically imposing receiver. Toss in two of the nation’s best special teams players in returner Javier Arenas and kicker Leigh Tiffin and we are playing a de facto all-conference all-star game at the Dome today.

Both teams have great fans.

The Georgia Dome RV lots were already nearly full yesterday, school flags on full display, crimson colors clashing proudly with bright blue and orange hues. Alabama supporters slightly outnumbered Gator backers yesterday morning, but it is a shorter drive east to Atlanta than north from the Sunshine State. The dome will be evenly split this afternoon.

So … great records, great pedigrees, great coaches, players, and fans.

Now, who will win?

Trends for most of the season favored Alabama.

The Crimson Tide seemed more dominant than Florida, just as solid on defense as the Gators, but more varied and effective on offense. Florida rarely seemed to find an offensive stride, dinking and dunking and riding Tebow, the big bull Gator, on punishing drives instead of unleashing the lightning quick attack we’re used to.

Trends this week favor the Tide.

Bama got an extra day of rest and preparation after playing the Iron Bowl on Friday, while Florida played a late Saturday afternoon game. Then, star Florida defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap ran afoul the law this week and will miss the championshp game due to suspension, a big blow to the Gator pass rush and psyche.

The revenge factor also favors Alabama.

The Gators spoiled an undefeated Tide team is this game last season and don’t think Nick Saban has forgotten. He’s probably been scheming since December, awaiting a chance to atone for the loss and play for a national title.

So, the Tide would seem to be the pick.

I’m going with the Gators.

Here are three reasons:

1. Mental Toughness … Florida under Urban Meyer always rises to the occasion. This particular team has played under enormous pressure since they were virtually anointed as this year’s champs after last season’s national title. The road has not been smooth, but they have shown the mental toughness to navigate it well. When bad things happen in this game – as they will for both squads – Florida appears more apt to handle them.

2. Playmakers … this is a close call, but Florida just seems to have a few more playmakers, especially on defense generally (although the loss of Dunlap is significant) and in the secondary specifically. I would not be surprised to see a Gator DB turn in a game-changing play.

3. You knew this was coming … Tim Tebow. How can you go against the face of college football? The Gator quarterback is simply the sport’s greatest winner and with the game on the line, with an undefeated season on the line, with a potential third national championship on the line … expect Tebow to win.

Professor’s Pick: Florida

Professor’s Picks – Championship Week

2009 Record

Final Regular Season Record: 144-55
Last Week’s Record: 12-5

Comment: Rivalry week predictions garnered about a B, which is probably the season long grade as well. Not Dean’s List material, but solid passing marks.

Best Pick: The Egg Bowl is a prof’s favorite and Miss State came through with the upset win over Ole Miss.

Worst Pick: Rarely is being wrong on a pick more enjoyable than when the alma mater (Georgia) knocks off the arch rival (Georgia Tech).

Championship Game Picks

Since the professor truly is in final exams right now, this is a Cliff’s Notes version of Prof’s Picks for championship week. Headed to the SEC title game on Friday and Saturday and perhaps will have a special game preview posted before kickoff.

Enjoy the games!

ACC Championship (Saturday at 8:00 ET – ESPN) … Georgia Tech and Clemson face off in Tampa with the winner earning an Orange Bowl berth. Tigers outplayed Jackets in second-half of a loss earlier this season, and that familiarity with the option should help again. Professor’s Pick: Clemson

Big 12 Championship (Saturday at 8:00 ET – ABC) … Nebraska plays Texas at Cowboys Stadium and the Cornhuskers will try to deny the Longhorns a trip to the BCS title game. Colt McCoy of UT might lock up a Heisman Trophy with a big performance. Professor’s Pick: Texas

Big East Championship (Saturday at 12 Noon ET – ABC) … While not a formal league title game, unbeaten Cincinnati travels to Heinz Field for a game with Pitt that decides the Big East winner and the league’s BCS bowl bid. Will this be Brian Kelly’s last game leading the Bearcats before heading to South Bend? (Yes). Professor’s Pick: Cincinnati

Conference USA Championship (Saturday at 12 Noon ET – ESPN2) … High-scoring Houston meets solid East Carolina on the Pirates home field in Greenville (NC) where ECU tries to earn a second straight conference crown and trip to the Liberty Bowl. Tough call and good game. Professor’s Pick: Houston

Mid-American Conference Championship (Friday at 8:00 PM ET – EPSN2) … The mighty MAC determines its champion with a Friday night fight between Central Michigan and Ohio at Ford Field in Detroit. The MAC champ earns a return trip to Motown for the Little Caesar’s Bowl (formerly the Motor City). Professor’s Pick: Central Michigan

PAC-10 Championship (Thursday at 9:00 PM ET – ESPN) … Yet another informal league championship game, the Civil War between Oregon State and Oregon takes on more urgency than usual as a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl awaits the victor. The game is Thursday night at Oregon. Professor’s Pick: Oregon

SEC Championship (Saturday at 4:00 ET – CBS) … For the second straight year Alabama and Florida meet at the Georgia Dome to settle the conference championship and send a team to compete for the national championship. Check back later in the week for the title game preview!

See you at kickoff!

College Football 2009 Week 14


Best and Briefest

Is it over already?

Seems like just yesterday that the August sun blazed, everybody’s team was undefeated, and toe met leather to kick off the 2009 college football season.

Now, it’s a gray and gloomy forty-five degrees here in north Georgia, empty tree branches rustle as the final leaves of fall blow away, and a steady rain pours.

Seems even Mother Nature realizes the end of sport’s best and briefest regular season is upon us and has given us weather suitable for the occasion.

Welcome back to The Campus Game where you can always brighten your mood by visiting for some college football news and notes.

Championship Week

The end of the regular season brings us to championship week and several conference crowns will be determined over the weekend.

The championship chase includes:

ACC … Georgia Tech and Clemson face off in Tampa with the winner earning an Orange Bowl berth.

Big 12 … Nebraska plays Texas at Cowboys Stadium and the Cornhuskers will try to deny the Longhorns a trip to the BCS title game.

Big East … Unbeaten Cincinnati travels to Heinz Field for a game with Pitt that decides the Big East title and the league’s BCS bowl bid.

Conference USA … High-scoring Houston meets solid East Carolina on the Pirates home field in Greenville (NC) where ECU tries to earn a second straight conference crown and trip to the Liberty Bowl.

Mid-American … The mighty MAC determines its champion with a Friday night fight between Central Michigan and Ohio at Ford Field in Detroit. The MAC champ earns a return trip to Motown for the Little Caesar’s Bowl (formerly the Motor City).

PAC-10 … The Civil War between Oregon State and Oregon takes on added meaning as a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl awaits the victor. The game is Thursday night at Oregon.

SEC … For the second straight year Alabama and Florida meet at the Georgia Dome to settle the conference championship and send a team to compete for the national championship.

Several conferences have already determined a champion … Big Ten (Ohio State), Ivy (Penn), Mountain West (TCU), Sun Belt (Troy), and WAC (Boise State).

Be sure to read Professor’s Picks for predictions on all the championship games.

Varsity vs. Jayvee

Remember those high school days when the varsity team got to square off with the junior-varsity (jayvee) squad?

Whether it be basketball, football, or baseball, the old veteran juniors and seniors would show the frosh and sophomores who was boss. The jayvees would take their licking and know their place.

The ACC knows its place this week.

SEC = Varsity
ACC = Jayvee

When South Carolina spanked Clemson and Georgia rambled over Georgia Tech in rivalry games last weekend, both ACC division champs headed to the conference championship game smarting from losses to middling SEC teams.

Dabo Swinney of Clemson and Paul Johnson of Tech each made nice efforts to return the focus toward the conference titles and the Orange Bowl, but much damage was done to the league’s reputation (the ACC has still never landed more than one team in a BCS bowl).

It will be particularly interesting to see how Paul Johnson of Tech handles losing in the future.

So far he has not handled it very well.

After the Georgia loss, the likeable (but curmudgeonly) Yellow Jacket head coach bristled when reporters asked him about his questionable play-calling at the end of the game (with nearly two minutes left and Tech in UGA territory, Johnson called for three straight long passes instead of running the ball with his vaunted triple-option attack). A short fourth-down pass was dropped and the ball game was over.

Johnson followed up his post-game sneering by telling Tech fans to respond to taunts from Georgia fans by punching them in the face and getting a thicker skin. OK, he was being sarcastic about the punching, but Paul appears a little prickly and might need thicker skin himself.

Perhaps he’s unused to criticism.

Johnson never played college ball, so he’s never faced the scrutiny or pressure his players do every week.

He’s also been treated with kid gloves by the Atlanta press since taking the Jacket job.

The Tech loss came after a week (and really a whole year) of over-the-top fawning by the Atlanta media toward PJ (The Campus Game had an article a couple weeks ago entitled “Paul not Perfect” poking fun of such coverage).

While no one doubts how good he is and that he is likely to keep Tech a contender for years, Paul certainly proved he’s not the perfect coach with those calls late in the loss to Georgia. He proved it after the game too.

Hope he doesn’t punch me in the face for saying so.

Bobby Bowden

College football lost another grand old coach this week when Florida State shoved Bobby Bowden out the door.

80 years old. 388 wins. 44 years as a college football head coach. Those numbers are unlikely to be seen again.

Bowden’s forced retirement (and that’s what it was regardless any political correctness you might hear from FSU) leaves Joe Paterno as the last truly legendary coach working at a Division I school (treasure him while you can). Joe Pa fought off the wolves snapping at him a few years ago, but “Saint Bobby” could not.

On a more positive note, several legends in the making still roam the college sidelines each Saturday … Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, and others should be around a long time to come.

Notre Dame Search

Is ND still relevant?

Does it strike anyone else as humorous when a national sports entity like ESPN devotes hours and hours of coverage and commentary to the Irish then asks whether the Gold Domers are still significant in contemporary college football?

Go to any major national college football columnist, website, or newspaper and see if they are mentioning the Irish. You bet they are.

As for the candidates to replace Charlie Weis … and I write this as a long-time ND follower and fan (dating to the old Notre Dame football replays with Lindsey Nelson and Paul Hornung – look them up if you don’t know them) my concern is that Irish AD Jack Swarbrick not botch the search as has happened with the last three ND hires.

Bob Davie was not ready for prime-time when Lou Holtz left (perhaps most evidenced by Davie soon being hit with an age-discrimination lawsuit by one of his own coaches for comments made to a fan publication).

Tyrone Willingham was a consolation (booby) prize when George O’Leary’s resume turned out to have inaccuracies on it. Willingham had been moderately successful as a head coach, but his recruiting efforts and work ethic apparently were not up to par and after a strong first eight games he faded quickly.

Charlie Weis was probably about the fifth choice for ND when he was hired five years ago (after Urban Meyer and others either turned down the Irish or used them to get pay raises).

My hunch is that Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly will get the job … if the timing of the Bearcats’ game with Pitt doesn’t make him feel pressured to push ND away prematurely.

Since Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are out of the picture based on their own comments, the other candidates probably include:

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern): Young, attractive, articulate, and energetic coach would be a good choice.

Randy Edsall (U Conn): Edsall would be a nice fit with Notre Dame in part because his solid, down-to-earth personality contrasts strongly with that of Charlie Weis. He also favors a strong running game and stout defense, traits admired by many Irish faithful.

Jim Harbaugh (Stanford): This pick would sure light a fire under ND fans eager to take it to USC and Pete Carroll. Harbaugh is fiery and his teams are very physical.

Unless Stoops is stonewalling or a big-name sleeper pick (like Tony Dungy) emerges, the guess here is the Irish will offer and land either Kelly, Fitzgerald, Edsall, or Harbaugh (in that order). Butch Davis of North Carolina might also get in the mix.

Heisman Trophy

The best college football player in America is Tim Tebow.

Had I a vote for the Heisman (which I do not), he would get it. No player means more to his team than Tebow and it is not even close.

Now, do I think Tebow will join Archie Griffin as the only man to win two Heismans?

No.

Colt McCoy probably already has it locked up for a couple reasons.

First, while the award is supposed to be based only on the current season, it often takes on a “lifetime achievement” aspect. McCoy has been part of the holy trinity of college quarterbacks the past three seasons … Tebow won his, Sam Bradford won his, now McCoy will win his.

Second, Tebow and Alabama running back Mark Ingram may cut into the other’s support just a bit, while McCoy has no significant rival in the Southwest. Stanford’s Toby Gerhart has made a nice run at the trophy and might challenge McCoy for some western votes, but it’s doubtful he can overtake the Longhorn.

Of course, the SEC title game gives Tebow and Ingram one last prominent stage this weekend.

My guess as to the Heisman results:

1) Colt McCoy
2) Toby Gerhart
3) Tim Tebow
4) Mark Ingram

Professor’s Picks

The Championship Week edition of Professor’s Picks will be posted by the end of the week.

See you at kickoff!