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.
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.
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.
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?
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
The Championship Week edition of Professor’s Picks will be posted by the end of the week.
See you at kickoff!