SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/29/2006 01:18:00 PM
Five Things We Learned This Weekend
1. That USC is human -- barely: The amazing thing about USC’s 33-31 loss to Oregon State on Saturday wasn’t that the Trojans lost -- it was that the game was even close. Think about it: USC turned the ball over four times while failing to force even one Beavers miscue. Just how contradictory is that to Trojans’ teams past? From 2002-05, Pete Carroll’s teams finished their seasons with turnover margins of plus-18 (No. 5 nationally), plus-20 (No. 2), plus-19 (No. 1) and plus-21 (No. 2). So far this year: minus-one (No. 71). "I don't remember the last time we turned the ball over four times,” said Carroll. “Probably the  Cal game." That is correct. And what a coincidence -- that was the last time the Trojans lost a regular-season game.
2. That Thursday night ACC road games are murder: Clemson is the latest team to find out that lesson the hard way. The Tigers couldn’t have looked more powerful in their 31-7 home win over Georgia Tech last Saturday night -- and they couldn’t have looked more meager in their 24-7 loss at Virginia Tech five nights later. And yet, with that kind of turnaround, should we really be surprised? ACC road teams have lost their last six Thursday night games. Four of those, like Clemson, were doing a five-day turnaround. I know the ACC loves the exposure, but the league might want to at least reexamine its scheduling philosophy, because what it’s asking of some of these teams is pretty darn brutal.
3. That the Biletnikoff people missed a couple names: The folks who hand out the award for the nation’s top receiver announced 14 semifinalists last week. You would think that’d be a wide enough net to avoid any glaring omissions. Not quite. If you watched the USC-Oregon State game, you surely noticed Beavers WR Sammie Stroughter. He had 223 yards in a game against Washington earlier this year and, in addition to his punt-return touchdown, had eight catches for 127 yards against the Trojans. Not on the list. Neither is Indiana sophomore James Hardy, who, after catching four touchdowns against Michigan State, now has 18 scores in 17 career games. Give ‘em credit for this, though: USC’s Steve Smith, usually overshadowed by teammate Dwayne Jarrett, made the list before his 258-yard day against Oregon State.
4. That reports of John L. Smith’s and Chuck Amato’s salvation were premature: Silly me. I really thought the Spartans were going to build on the momentum of the biggest comeback in I-A history last week. Whoops. Instead, they lost 46-21 to upstart Indiana. “That was an ass-kicking,” said Smith. You think? Smith’s 4-5 team has now been outscored 105-13 in the first halves of its Big Ten games. Amato’s team, meanwhile, fell to 3-5 with an uninspired 14-7 loss at Virginia and will likely need to upset Georgia Tech next week (which is completely plausible with those two teams) to have a chance at a bowl. “We’ve not been real good at the end of a game,” observed Amato. Kind of the most important part, don’t you think?
5. That reports of Nebraska’s return to prominence were also premature: I’ve always admired the way Cornhuskers fans are about as perpetually optimistic as any you’ll find, so I won’t fault them for having visions of grandeur following last week’s near-upset of Texas. But like I’ve said all along, even as Bill Callahan’s team rolled to a 6-1 start, I still smelled something fishy, and Saturday’s Oklahoma State game confirmed my suspicions. While Mike Gundy’s Cowboys are no pushovers, there’s still no excuse for allowing 28 unanswered points in a 41-29 loss. The Huskers can still win their first North title in seven years, which would be a nice landmark in Callahan’s rebuilding efforts, but can we cut the nonsense about Nebraska being “back?”
Nebraska is not back until the coaching staff can figure out how to make basic adjustments mid-game. Def. Coordinator Cosgrove may come up with some good game plans, but just as often comes up with duds, and is absolutely incapable of making effective changes after kickoff. With Mizzou's help, the Big 12 North is still an embarrassment.
What's the deal with the pollsters? Arkansas went to Auburn and soundly beat them. Last week Arkansas horse-whipped Ole Miss. This week, Auburn barely survived Ole Miss. How long are they going to give Auburn to prove that they really were deserving of the rank they gave them to start the year? Even Arkansas' messy win over Alabama doesn't look so bad when you consider how the Vols struggled with them.
So does Nebraska's loss do anything to expose Texas? The Longhorns have played one good team, and they lost by 17 points. I don't think they deserve to be the highest ranked 1-loss team when they can barely beat teams like Nebraska and Texas Tech.
Didnt you also learn not to pick ridiculous "upsets" like TT over the 'Horns? Didnt you learn with your equally ridiculous prediction of Toledo a few weeks ago? I know you hit Wyoming last week....but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Give it up Stewy-
USC has always been human. Their weaknesses were exploited in the title game last year by Texas. Don't get me wrong, USC is a very talented team with a coach who could probably do very well for himself at the pro level. However, if USC were in the Big Ten, SEC, or Big 12 they would not post the amount of wins that they are capable of in the Pac-10. When they are beaten by Notre Dame later this year (a team I despise even more than I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers) everyone will see how mediocre USC and the PAC-10 really are.
USC has only been so dominant during the regular season due to the incredibly weak PAC-10. The 2004 Orange Bowl would've given them a chance to prove that they were for real, alas, the pollsters couldn't look at Oklahoma as anything but the best team ever. Now we see the same exact thing with USC and Mandel: excuses and inability to see that USC (and the PAC-10) just isn't all that. Anyone ever stop to think that 5 turnovers to a middle of the road team show that USC isn't top 10 material and not somehow proof that USC is actually a great team b/c they kept the score close?
The polls are a mess because the season has been a mess just like predicted. Other then Ohio State so far everyone looks vulnerable. Many of those one loss teams will probably have two before the season is over. We may as well just see how the next few weeks unfold. Could Michigan and Wisconsin be the highest 1 loss teams when this is over?
Texas played both Texas Tech and Nebraska on the road and yes those teams are not that good, however it was on the road to two good teams at their fields. Texas will have trouble with Oklahoma State and if they goof around with them at the start, I don't see a comeback like the previous two times, even at home. Texas will not play for the National Championship because Ohio State or Michigan and Louisville or West Virginia will be in the Title game, unless those teams stumble elsewhere.
Sorry to sound like a typical "whiny Penn State fan" here, but is it really that impossible for you to say something even mildly complimentary about the Lions? They've come out of the incredibly difficult portion of their schedule (who else has played three top 10 teams??) at 6-3, and have a good chance to finish up 9-3 and go to a New Year's Day bowl game. Moreover, they've given both Ohio State and Michigan their toughest tests to date. Oh, and they've also only allowed 29 points total in their last three games, which have come against Michigan (#2 team in the country), Illinois (just put up 30 on Wisconsin) and Purdue (a top-10 offense who torched our nation's beloved Fighting Irish for 490 yards a couple weeks back). All in all, I'd have to say this isn't too bad a job of rebuilding for a team that was nothing more than "lightning in a bottle" last year. So again, I apologize for being so "whiny," but I just wanted to touch upon all the things that an unbiased journalist would report. Maybe the white-coats should take you away.
Do you know what "unanswered" means Mandel? You must think you do since you went to the trouble of making it italicized...but you don't. Nebraska scored a touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game. No, its really not that important, but I think when you're spreading your message of Husker-hate, you should at least do your research. Did you even watch the highlights? If you did you'd have known that Brandon Jackson ran for 126 yards and 2 TDs on 12 carries in the first half. Maybe if you saw that, you'd have questioned the coaching, not the talent. Do your research on the Big 12 or strictly cover the SEC.
"ridiculous 'upsets' like TT over Texas"? I don't see that being such a crazy pick. Did you not watch the game? Last I checked, Texas only won 35-31 in a game they trailed 21-0 at one point. Texas deserves credit for the comeback, but Texas Tech was inches short on back to back 4th downs in the red zone of pulling off the win (although personally the first drive call was correct, the second was a bad spot on the 3rd down play).
I still cannot understand why ND doesnt move up in the polls. All the while Florida, Auburn and the Vols move up after narrowly beating cleary inferior teams. And you can give all the numbers you want Stewart, the fact is there is a clear "pollster" bias when it comes to ND.
I always enjoy your writing but I tire of the facination with USC. So it was a miracle that USC almost came back against an unranked opponent? But Notre Dame deserves their lower ranking because they actually did win their comebacks against unranked opponents? For shame for a lack of consistency, my friend.
Stewart, you seem to really be taking emails from fans personally. I am starting to think this blog is not really a good idea - you just use it as a means to lash back at emails from fans you don't like. Why don't you do what most other columnists do, and ignore them? Your responses make you look as childish as the people that send them to you. Just something to think about.
how can you say the upset pick of TT was "ridiculous"? did you even watch the game??? i'm no TT supporter but it struck me that for 3/4 of that game they were the best team on the field. i'd hardly say that was a ridiculous pick.
Thursday night ACC road games are murder? Well there's the surprise of the century. Think Tom and Nicole are gonna get divorced? Is Y2K a serious threat? As long as ESPN handles these games, underdogs will always win, no matter where the game is played. When they have cameras set up to focus on band members, family members of players, former babysitters and parole officers, etc., you know exactly who they want to win. If your team is facing an underdog on a Thursday night ESPN game, might as well chalk up a loss and wait for CSI or ER. At least on those programs, the outcome is always up for grabs
I tell you what, Watch out for them Gators!! IT looks like they are heading to an SEC Championship game. My prediction is Florida vs. Auburn. Sweet Revenge for the Gators. The National Championship dream is reachable. Louisville will defeat West Virginia and Michigan will Defeat Ohio State. Gators will win the rest of the season and the SEC and say hello to Gators vs. Wolverines. Its a very realistic Dream. Watch Out !!!!!
you talk crap about the pac 10, that is complete bs. The pac 10 is the second best conference. Wash. st and wash. are rediculously underated, no matter who they lost to early in the season. Right now Cal will beat any team in the nation and oregon and arizona st are damn solid teams. so shut up about how you think the pac 10 is weak
Old Money doesn't play on Thursday nights, perhaps thats why most of America is having such a hard time taking the two basketball conferences seriously. Ever see Michigan, Tennessee, Texas or USC play on a Thursday night? No. Thursday nights are for second tier programs like NC State and Pitt, WVa, and Louisville. Want some respect? Play Saturdays...and by the way, schedule someone who matters.
OK, I'm a Paul Thompson supporter, but 'nough with the comparisons to Bomar of last year and how Thompson is better. Yes his stats are better right now but think of this. Paul Thompson is a fifth year senior who's had all that time in the system being a backup. Bomar was a redshirt freshmen who had never taken a 1-A snap ever. True you could argue ("well look at TEXAS' Colt McCoy") Plain fact is that most quarterbacks need time to adjust in the beginning, and sometimes there are exceptions with him (McCoy) being one of them. Make no doubt about it..Bomar was destined for probable stardom..might have been able to develop into an actual quarterback with NFL caliber potential...but that's all if and what if now..
Leinart and Co were good, but much of USC's success has been because Pac-10 is consistently a bad defensive conference, especially against the pass. Just in 2006, 3 teams are worse than 90th out of 113 in total defense and 4 worse than 70th. ONLY USC is in the top 3rd in the country.
Is it any wonder the games are usually shootouts? A Pac-10 team would never survive unscathed or probably even with 1 loss in the SEC.
I'm sorry, I can't take Penn St talk seriously, as they barely beat the Minnesota Golden Rodents due to a fishy pass interference call. I like Penn St, but when you barely beat the Gophers (who barely beat a I-AA school last week and got pasted 44-0 by OSU), you've got problems.
It is as simple as Ohio State and Michigan...best teams in the Country. Look at who they have played! Michigan has beaten Notre Dame- and kicked their butt, played Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, and have beaten them all! Ohio State played Texas and spanked them! What other conference can say they played the teams that those two teams have. To say that Louisianna Tech, or West Viginia or some of the other "nobody" teams have a stake at National Champions is a complete joke. The National Championship game will be taking place in Columbus this year! And my money is going on Michigan and their tough as nails defense!!
Well glad to see Penn State fans can read. I believe the final score of the Wisconsin - Illinois game was 30-24 Wisconsion. I also wouldn't go ahead and say that Penn State is going to go 9-3. Wisconsion is not a cake walk, especially at home. Penn State may want to bring a litlle more offense with them next week. 12 points won't be enough to beat the Badgers.
News flash...ARMY lost again! I think it's time to admit that Bobby Ross' $700k per year salary is a waste. If Army wins one of its remaining 3 games against Air Force, Notre Dame, or Navy, their record will be 4-8...same as last year. Mr. Ross' salary equates to exactly $175,000 per victory. Couldn't that money be better spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? I sure think so.
actually unanswered means exactly what mandel said it did, just points in a row. at least, thats how announcers and writers always use it. just saying don't single out him as the only one to make this mistake, if it even is one
Two things there Stew. The first, USC is more human than you think. The two losses before this one were to two very good teams. The only reason this one was close was because of the team on the other side of the football field. If they would have played that game at Arkansas, it would have been different. Second, and a little more importantly, Auburn is overrated. Yes, that is correct. Three questionable calls against LSU and one huge one against Florida is the only reason they are still in the top 25. They could very well have 3 losses. If they did have 3 losses and played those games against South Carolina and Ole Miss so badly, they would be lucky to be in the top 25. Tommy T can thank the refs instead of running his mouth. That is the main reason everyone can rip the SEC teams in the bowl games. Auburn is overrated and will play someone like Wisconsin again and get the snot kicked out of them.
I might have listened to "the pac-10 is the second best conference" argument until you said that Arizona State was a damn solid team. How about Dirk Koetter being one of the first coaches looking for work at the end of the season? In any case, the fact that Michigan and Ohio State are 1 and 2 highlights the need for a - say it with me - P-L-A-Y-O-F-F!!! No way the loser of that game does not have as much a claim as the best 1-loss team in the country as anybody else.
As an SEC fan, it pains me to see that Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams in the country. All of the upper-tier SEC teams have their weaknesses, but LSU should have been the team coming out of the SEC this year. LSU only has itself to blame for its situation - an anemic running game and the fact that Jamarcus Russell is put on a leash in big games by the coaching staff. I'd vote for the OSU/UM winner vs. an undefeated Big East winner (even Rutgers) for the championship game. I didn't mean that last statement... we need a playoff.
As a Michigan alumnus, I am sick of Lloyd Carr. With all the talented players he has been lucky enough to attract through the years, the man doesn't play to win. Tressel plays to win, Carr plays to save.
Before he had a commanding lead against Ball State, this light weight plays his freshman and sophomores, while his journeymen who know how to play football sit the bench and watch the junior player mistakes eat up their game,and that they ultimately had to go out and clean up.
Carr is a strategist who gets caught using conservative play against less talented players who overwhelm his "WISDOM" with heart and guts. Carr would like to turn a football game into a chess match. Ball State should have won that game.
Carr will never beat Ohio State, and the game of the year for Michigan will be against Indiana, who he will look past, sandbag, underestimate, and ultimately loose. Get rid of him, Michigan. Get somebody who wants to play football, someone who respects the game as ultimately a physical, balls out contest, not a jeopardy game.
He will blow this season with his stupid "prevent" strategy much like he has the last eight.
Mandel...you need to get a clue! Why don't you talk of gloom and doom for the Trojans or Gators or Horns..they have all lost gamnes, unlike the Wolves. Michigan is just luring in the Buckeye's. They will think the Michigan game is a going to be a walk in the park.....they will get STOMPED! The real national championship game will be on the 18th of November and it won't be in Glendale.
The Wolverines won by 8 pts, OSU by 7 and Florida by 6. If one of these teams go down in the rankings, then all of them should. As a Michigan fan I can honestly say I'm worried about my team measuring up to the ranking they have. I am positive that they are so much better than they played today, and so is OSU and Florida. It just seems to have been a dastardly bad day for some very good college football teams.
So what happens as far as who takes the BCS bid from the Big East if Rutgers were to upset Louiville and West Virginia were to defeat Rutgers season ending, leaving a three-way tie for first, each team having an 11-1 overall record (assuming all three win all of their other matches)? In other words, how does one break the three-way tie when A beats B, C beats A, and B beats C? That is, A = Louisville, B = West Virginia, and C = Rutgers.