Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
15 Nov 2007
by Russell Levine
With BCS conference races and the national-title picture still up in the air, it's time to take a broad look at the state of college football this week.
My guest on this week's podcast is Matt Hinton, better known as SMQ or the Sunday Morning Quarterback. He writes the outstanding national college football blog SundayMorningQB.com. As such, he joins the esteemed line of MQ/QBs, a list that notably includes MMQB Peter King of Sports Illustrated and TMQ Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com.
You won't find anything about barristas, field hockey, or geopolitics on Matt's site, however. (And no, that is not an invitation to begin discussing those topics in the thread here. Let's save the SDA thread for things that matter -- like why my conference is better than your conference. And the fact that Nebraska fans aren't taking this season well. You know, keep it high-brow.)
(Ed. Note: As former music director of WKRO Daytona Beach, I have to remind you not to forget the radio industry magazine "Friday Morning Quarterback." There are a lot of quarterbacks out there in the morning, but none in the evening. Odd.)
Here are the games Matt and I will discuss this week, which run the gamut of teams that are angling for BCS bids. I was warned ahead of time not to bother engaging Matt in a discussion of Hawaii's merits as he is big on strength of schedule, so we left that one out.
Oregon gets a rare national-TV game to showcase it's worthiness for title game in New Orleans. Coming off a bye, Dennis Dixon should be at full strength after tweaking his knee against Arizona State.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who could sure use an Oregon loss to help his Sooners, probably still hasn't forgiven the Ducks for *beating* his team in Eugene last season. He has no doubt passed along some tips to brother Mike, the Arizona coach.
Both teams have outstanding offenses, so this could be another of those fun Pac-10 shootouts -- defense optional.
So it's not quite the game it would have been had both teams not lost last week. It's still Ohio State-Michigan (you don't see any HBO documentaries about other rivalry games this week, do you?) and it still matters. To the winner goes the outright conference crown and a trip to the Rose Bowl. To the loser, 365 days of shame (and in Michigan's case, a likely trip to Central Florida for the holidays).
There's also the rumor that this may be Lloyd Carr's last game. If so, will the Wolverines be able to send him out a winner, as the Buckeyes did for Earle Bruce in 1987? Unlikely unless Chad Henne and Mike Hart are at something approximating full strength.
The winged helmets should be more than enough for Ohio State to forget its disappointment over losing a shot at the national title against Illinois last week. Hey, at least they took that well.
(You didn't really expect me to get through this game without a dig at OSU, did you?)
Lost in all the hoopla over Kansas's success this season is the year that Missouri is having. The Tigers have an explosive offense led by Chase Daniel and their only loss came at Oklahoma in a game they led at the start of the fourth quarter.
This is the strange line of the week. Kansas State is coming off a game in which it gave up 700 yards and 70-plus points to Nebraska, yet is only slightly more than a touchdown underdog against a Missouri team that is rolling.
Does somebody know something I don't? Is there that much strength in Power Towels?
It took LSU just four weeks to re-ascend to No. 1 after losing to Kentucky. All the Tigers have to do to play for a national championship now is beat Ole Miss, Arkansas, and the SEC East representative in the conference title game.
The first task doesn't look hard on paper, but Ole Miss took LSU to overtime and master recruiter/psychologist/all around nut-job Ed Orgeron knows this is the rare opportunity to showcase his program on national TV.
LSU doesn't need style points, just to win out. That could be a good thing, if Ole Miss is up to the challenge.
And then there was one -- Kansas is the sole remaining undefeated team from a BCS conference after Ohio State lost last week. What's more, the Jayhawks are three wins from a berth in the national title game.
Though Iowa State would appear to be little more than a speed bump standing between Mark Mangino's crew and next week's monster game with Missouri for the Big 12 North title, the Cyclones do come in on a two-game winning streak after beginning the season 1-8.
Still, the Jayhawks should be able to shut down Iowa State's pop-gun offense and hang plenty of points on the board in their final home game.
It's been an ugly two weeks for Boston College, and specifically Matt Ryan.
Two weeks ago, the Eagles were No. 2 in the BCS and Ryan was leading the Heisman straw polls after his miraculous comeback in a win over Virginia Tech (never mind that he was awful for the game's first 56 minutes).
Then Florida State happened. And Maryland. Now, some are wondering if Ryan might not be the second-best quarterback in this game, let alone the country. Clemson's Cullen Harper has been on fire during a four-game winning streak, throwing 12 touchdowns with just one interception, while completing 77.1 percent of his throws.
Clemson owned the "late-season meltdown" category last year, so it's tough to trust the Tigers in this game which will decide the ACC Atlantic Division title. But these appear to be teams headed in opposite directions.
West Virginia is still alive -- barely -- for the BCS championship, but needs lots of help. Based on last week's sluggish effort against Louisville, the Mountaineer players may not believe they're still playing for such high stakes.
This should be an interesting matchup. Cincinnati is better than the sum of its parts, and feasts off turnovers. If West Virginia protects the ball, they probably win. But they couldn't protect it in their only loss of the season at South Florida.
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly was generating some buzz before back-to-back losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh torpedoed his team's BCS aspirations. He can get it right back with a win here. If the rumors about Lloyd Carr are true (and the ones about Les Miles are not), Kelly could certainly be due an interview in Ann Arbor come season's end.
Oklahoma is probably the least-discussed of the one-loss teams. They have only themselves to blame. Their loss -- to Colorado -- is clearly the weakest from among the once-beaten clubs, which means they'll need help to get to New Orleans.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach no doubt has his
gander dander up this week after getting fined $10,000 for criticizing the officials in his team's loss to Texas last week. America's favorite pirate-loving coach can just reach into one of his treasure chests for a few dubloons to pay that off, no problem.
What he can't seem to buy is a signature win. This is another opportunity, but the Sooners have won six of seven in the series, many by outsized margins.
Or, alternately, download the MP3 by clicking on the icon below:
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Matt Says||Russell Says|
|Ohio State||-3.5||Michigan||Ohio State||Michigan|
|Iowa State||+26.5||Kansas||Iowa State||Kansas|
|West Virginia||-6.5||Cincinnati||West Virginia||Cincinnati|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
218 comments, Last at 19 Nov 2007, 6:08pm by lionsbob