SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/12/2006 11:17:00 AM
Five Things We Learned This Weekend
Despite barely being healthy enough to play, Darren McFadden ripped off 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Nelson Chenault/US PRESSWIRE
1) That there are only two national-title caliber teams this season … and they're playing this Saturday. After watching Michigan in person Saturday for the first time since the Notre Dame game, I fully believe that The Game is a toss-up. This is not a slight against Ohio State, which is still quite clearly the team to beat. But the Wolverines are that good -- particularly their defense. Neither teams' Big Ten schedule has been particularly daunting this season, but they've both gone out and won convincingly every week. So when I see Florida barely surviving South Carolina (Big Ten equivalent: Penn State) or Texas losing to Kansas State (Big Ten equivalent: Purdue), it only reinforces that OSU and Michigan are in their own stratosphere this year.
2) That the most deceiving score of the season was USC 50, Arkansas 14: If both the Trojans and Razorbacks win out and end up right behind the Ohio State-Michigan winner in the standings, USC should and will get the national-title berth. But if you watched Arkansas' rout of Tennessee last night, you saw that the Hogs could not be a more different team than the one that got trounced way back on Sept. 2. Their heart and soul, Darren McFadden, was barely healthy enough to play in that game. Their quarterback Saturday night, Casey Dick, didn't even play in the game. Their defense has gone from questionable to formidable. But most of all, they've taken on an entirely different identity under offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Arkansas sure as heck wasn't lining up McFadden as a shotgun quarterback at the time of the USC game.
3) That USC also is not the same team that lost to Oregon State: Back when the Trojans were struggling against Washington State/Washington/Arizona State, the last thing you would have attached to their name was "national championship." But when they finally lost, they seemed to find themselves during that second-half comeback. The team that drubbed Oregon late Saturday carried the kind of swagger that was missing a month ago. I'm still skeptical they can win all three remaining games -- I wouldn't go writing off Cal just because of the Arizona game, and UCLA will be tough at the end (I've already made it quite clear what the Trojans' receivers are going to do to Notre Dame's defense) -- but just the fact they're back in the discussion so quickly is fairly remarkable.
4) That the Rutgers and Wake Forest bandwagons are about to overflow: It was easy to dismiss the Scarlet Knights as a novelty act back when they were beating up on Howard, but I can't imagine anyone who tuned in last Thursday night won't be acknowledging them as legit. Any team that can hold Louisville to 266 yards has a big-time defense. Their schedule is going to keep them out of the national title discussion for now (and I don't think they're going to finish undefeated, either), but with so many one-loss teams falling, I'm starting to believe Rutgers may be an attractive BCS at-large choice if they do go 11-1. Meanwhile, I'll admit I've been underselling Wake for weeks. I know Florida State's not very good, but when's the last time anyone went to Tallahassee and won 30-0? I now fully expect to see the Deacons in the BCS as well after they win the ACC.
5) That the best point guard in Lexington, Ky., doesn't play hoops: Historically, Kentucky quarterbacks needed to be either a high-school legend (Tim Couch) or inordinately hefty (Jared Lorenzen) to get recognition. Andre Woodson deserves recognition because he's just that good. Saturday night, the junior went 29-of-42 for 450 yards, four touchdowns and no picks in the Wildcats' bowl-clinching win over Vanderbilt. And the Commodores' defense is hardly terrible. On the season, Woodson has thrown for 2,575 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rajon Rondo had nothing on this guy.
Why gice USC so much credit? They lose to an unranked team...a team Boise State beat...and struggle with the Huskies/Cougars.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame lost to the #2 in the nation and they have sat in the #9-#11 spot all season. Sure, Michigan wasn't ranked #2 at the time but we all saw how flawed that decision was.
This is just another case of sports writers giving USC MULTIPLE chances. They beat a mediocre Oregon and all of a sudden they are "back on track". Come on! Losing to Oregon State should have meant USC loses all votes of confidence. Of course, Notre Dame continues to be picked apart while it roles over a very similar schedule to USC.
4 things we learned this past weekend....4 top 10 teams beat. 3 by unranked oppponents. How unreliable and subjective can you get. Why should we believe this weeks top ten any more than we do the final one?? How about a playoff so we can finally know who the real number one team is. It still may be Ohio State...or maybe not. Let the teams decide on the field who is best...we might be surprised who wound up on top.
I'm a whiny Notre Dame fan. How could you NOT dedicate 16 paragraphs to the dominance of the Irish?? We absolutely smoked (insert service academy here) this past weekend!! We won tons of National Championships in (insert early 1900's decade here). Have you seen what Brady Quinn has done against (insert inferior defensive team here)?? C'mon man, look at the Dome!! I am both shocked and appalled at your egregious lack of recognition of our Irish might, as well as the genius that is Charlie Weis. As a clearly unbiased college football fan who is only looking out for the integrity of the game, I suggest that you cover a league where ND football players haven't been relevant in some time: the NFL. Thanks, and GO IRISH!!
I certainly was not surprised by Auburn getting slaughtered by UGA. I am surprised that it has taken 11 weeks before I heard the first on-air sports head admit that people simply are accustomed to saying that the SEC is the premier football conference. Any casual college football observer can see that such has not been the case in years.
Unbelievable. Arkansas loses 50-14 to USC but they get the benefit of the doubt while Notre Dame's only loss is to the second ranked team Michigan and continues to be penalized in the ranking. I cannot wait for the Notre Dame/USC game for the truth to come out. Once ND prevails we will see a rematch with Michigan for the national championship
Interseting how in one week a close Ohio State/Illinois game and a close Michigan/Ball State game are so quickly forgotten and how a hungry Spurrier coached South Carolina team in the Ol' Ball coaches old stomping grounds should have been a blowout,but hmmm somehow became a close SEC game on a day that saw Georgia take out the concesus pick Auburn from the whole mix.Let the games play out and forget the style points and let the computers and bias polls we have to pick two teams to play for the mythical National Title.
To say that OSU and Michigan are the only national championship caliber teams is ridiculous. Since neither has played anybody , who could know? (Texas was/is overrated and Colt McCoy hadn't played a game yet). The truth is, were they to have to play an LSU or an Arkansas, they would be exposed -- never mind having to play 2-4 great teams in a row, like they do in the SEC. I'd take CAL or USC or either. WHAT's MORE, So. Carolina ain't Penn State, they're far superior (did you see the Arkansas game?) This other USC has a great coach (Penn State doesn't, Joe Pa's just a recruiter, 2 great QBs (PSU has -1), both an offense and a defense (soenthing you never see in the Big Ten, a team having both). PERHAPS you thought last March that Connecticut and Duke were the only national championship caliber teams in the NCAA tourney? I bet you did. You probably discounted Florida, UCLA and LSU, am I right? You can't really know how good a team is until it has to play a series of big games, not one a year like they do in the Big Ten. Playing in a good conference, Michigan and OSU would both be 1-2 loss teams.
How can you sat that Rutgers if it wins out doesz not deserve to play in the National Championship if it wins out because they play in the Big East but hype USC as deserving when they play in the Puff-10. Yes, the Big East is the weakest major conferance but the Puff-10 is not far behind. If an SEC team finishes with only one loss then it deserves to play in the National Championship. Lets go to a playoff system for the Championship ans see how the Puff-10 fares. or would that upset the large LA media market.
So what is the Ball State SEC equivalent that threatened Michigan late, Chief? Did you forget that PSU had the ball with a chance to go ahead under 5 minutes to play in the 4th quarter vs OSU? Who have OSU or Mich played this year. By your own accord, OSU's ONLY quality win this year is against a team that lost to "Purdue." When Illinois and Ball state play you close, you cant claim you would wipe the floor in SEC conference play. Sorry.
I agree with Maynard at the top. Losing a game in the PAC-10, sepecially to an unranked opponent, should eliminate you from national title contention. How does USC gain credibility from killing Oregon, who never had a defense in the first place? No team in the PAC-10 has a defense. Cal, the next best team besides USC, has given up 500+ yards 4 times and 400+ 6 times. Any decent team's offense would find 'credibility' against such crappy defenses. The Notre Dame comes to town, who incidentally also has a crappy defense, and whoever wins that game gains 'credibility.'
Stew, I find your assessment to be somewhat flawed. No doubt that OSU and Michigan are the No.1 & No.2 teams in the country but to say OSU and Michgan won convincingly every week? What's about the Illinois and the Ball State game? That wasn't very convincing, if you asked me. Now you can argue, it's just 1 game, even good team has an off game every now and then. So, I'll ask you, why do you say a team that struggles against Washington State / Washington / Arizona State and on top of that lost to Oregon State is now a different team just because they beat the Ducks convincingly? If that's the case, shouldn't Arkansas be favored over USC and for this matter Florida too? They lost on Sept 2, but now, I can argue that they are not the same team anymore and they did beat every other team they've met in the SEC?
Also, why aren't teams in the Big East getting any love? Rutgers did every team the met convincingly, and upset Louisville. Louisville beat WVU and every other team convincingly but fell to Rutgers. WVU whose only lost to Louisville beat every other team convincingly too. Even in that lost, they still managed to put up 540 yards of total offense, which is pretty consistent in what they have shown the whole season regardless who they played. IF SEC teams beating up each other makes them a strong conference, I guess Big East should be the 2nd toughest conference in the nation.
It seems to me that traditional big name schools seem to be favored more by the media. Here's my "unbiased" top 10 ranking for this week. 1. Ohio St, 2. Michigan, 3.Rutgers, 4. Notre Dame, 5. Arkansas, 6. USC, 7. West Va, 8. Florida, , 9. Wisconsin, 10. Louisville.
How can everyone continue to rip on OSU/Michigan? Personally, I hate both of 'em, but still have to respect the fact that they are clearly the top 2 teams in the country. People like to rip on their schedule, which confuses me just a bit, as they've both beaten some top teams (Michigan = Notre Dame, Wisconsin; OSU = #11 Texas). Furthermore, a "weak" Big 10 (three top-10 teams) is still better than most major conferences (i.e. PAC-10, Big Least and ACC). The only difference is that when teams from those conferences beat each other, they're considered "deep," whereas when Big-10 teams beat each other, the conference is overrated. Take a look at the top 10 for just a second: USC lost to an unranked team, West Virginia lost to Louisville, Notre Dame got blown out of the water by (guess who?) Michigan, and so on and so on. What's the common denominator? When those teams didn't show up to play, they lost. On the few instances that OSU/Michigan didn't show up to play, they still won!! If those aren't the markings of championship-caliber teams, I'm just not sure what is. The bottom line is if you're a true fan of the game, you'll put your bias aside and recognize the obvious: OSU and Michigan are the best, hands down.
To all of you Notre Dame fanatics... who have they beaten? The had two big games on their schedule coming into the season; Michigan and USC. So far, they have played one of those games, and were soundly beaten. Now lets look at who they have actually beaten. Georgia Tech (probably their best win so far, but it was very close), Penn State, Michigan State, two bad Pac-10 teams (or maybe only one... Stanford should count as a bye week), North Carolina, and every service academy. Is it just me, or is their best win over the #18 team in the country, and a very close win at that. Stop your complaining until you have beaten someone worth mentioning. You will get your chance at USC, and your pass defense will be exposed by Booty and crew.
Everyone who continues to criticize OSU and Michigan for their games against Illinois and Ball State must not have watched those games (I was at one, and Tivo'd the other). Both teams started rotating 2nd and 3rd string players in almost from the opening snaps. When the games got close, the starters were brought back in to either score or make a stop, which they did. These were not "weak performances" or embarassing wins. They were two games to give the starters some rest and walk away with wins.
I don't think USC, Florida, Notre Dame, or WVU were rotating their scrubs in during their losses. Arkansas is the only team, in my opinion, with a legit excuse for their loss. Without having to make excuses, OSU and Michigan are truly at another level.
Wow - what a weekend! I can't believe so many great games and upsets. That is why I love college so much more than pro (the senior tour).
As a USC Alum/fan, it basically works out that USC runs the table with solid winds over Cal, Notre Dame and fUCLA, how could you put anyone else at #2? Arkansas is the toast of the SEC by far and USC manhandled them IN THEIR HOUSE. Rudgers? Amazing season but if they(when they play WVA) play a great team, it will all seem a bit silly? Florida? Not impressed. If they beat Ark. it would almost make them title worthy. Who else is even a candidate any more?
Something else we learned this weekend was that Vince Young wasn't the sole reason Texas won the National Championship last year. The offense put up 42 points last night and still lost. This Texas team isn't missing VY, they are actually missing Michael Huff. People seem to forget how much a force he was in that Texas secondary last year. He was the guy that stopped Lendale White on 4th down to get VY the ball back last year. This is no knock on VY, he was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but I'd much rather have Huff back than Vince.
This is for "Eric", the whiny Notre Dame fan, and Tyler Beebe, the myopic Trojan idiot - I can't wait to hear your smartass posts after ND tunes up against Barmy, then comes into Socal and whips the s*&^ out of USC - and for you Stewie, you better be ready to gulp a heapin helpin of crow when the "crappy" ND defense shuts down your obviously favorite, impartiality-destroying Trojan receivers
I don't like the new USC fan. This rivalry used to be about mutual respect. I'm running into more and more USC fans who hate ND, instead of respect the mutual tradition between the two programs. Trust me, your national title hopes/dreams are tied to ND every year just like ND's are tied to USC's every year. Fact: The ND-USC rivalry involves two teams with 14 Heismans. Fact: The ND-USC rivalry involves two teams with 22 Consensus Championships. Enjoy the fact that ND football is once again on the upswing and that this game will once again be one of the marquee games of the year. In a day and age, where more and more teams schedule cream-puffs, this rivalry is good for college football. Go ahead and hate UCLA, we'll continue to hate Michigan. Appreciate this rivalry for what it is though. The greatest, most-storied, rivalry in college football. Go Irish! Fight On!
This coming week leading up to the Michigan vs. Ohio St game is going to be much more deserving of the epic build up and publicity of a national championship game than the 50 days afterward until the January 8 BCS game.
Even if they have to play the Jan 8 game to meet the terms of a tv contract, can we just award the crystal football to the winner of this Saturday's game in Columbus? And recognize that the rest of the bowl games are just exhibition games?
#1 That Michigan and Ohio State should have a rematch in the championship game, regardless of who wins Saturday, because they are soooo much better than everyone else..
#2 The Big East is a Joke. Three teams in the top ten and I don't believe any of the three can beat anyone in the top 15, other than themselves. Watching that conference is like watching division 2.Their defenses play like bullfighters. ole.....And Rutgers? Give me a break.
Okay "flyin irish," I'll be sure to take your feelings on the matter into account after USC blasts ND. In the meantime, why don't you do some research and look back at what happened to the last nine highly overrated Irish teams in the postseason. Is it just happenstance that they all lost? Seriously, until you actually beat someone, stop talking about how great the Irish are, and please stop acting like Notre Dame is a legitimate NC contender. It's disrespectful to all the real teams out there.
Whether we like it or not, winning teams that show defensive strength get better rankings than winning teams that give up lots of yards and points (all else being equal).
SEC teams have shown better than average defensive prowess, so that makes writers and voters think they are tougher than teams from other conferences. That gives them the edge when compared to other teams with the same winning record.
OSU and Michigan (especially the Wolverines) have won with consistently good defensive performances (with one or two exceptions, of course). This accounts for their being cut large amounts of slack when the final scores indicate they failed to bring their A game in a particular week.
We all know that Michigan has only allowed 30 yards rushing per week and that the Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring defense. These two teams are consistently ranked among the leaders in many team defensive categories this season. Since writers and coaches all spout the maxim that defense wins games, guess who they vote for in the rankings?
TimmytheGeek, I see how you got your name. What do you mean that Arkansas get the benefit of the doubt but Notre Dame doesn't. The AP has AR one above ND (which doesn't count in the BCS) and the Coaches Poll (which does count) has ND one above AR.
So how is it that AR is getting the benefit of the doubt and ND isn't?
ND was full strength when it got stomped by MI whereas, when USC stomped AR, AR's premier RB probably shouldn't have even been in on any plays and they had to go with a QB, who hasn't played QB in a game sin
OK, Domers...For one final time, your team doesn't even belong in a BCS bowl, let alone the Championship.
You got completely taken apart (yes, all but one of those turnovers was forced by the Michigan D) AT HOME, well into your season, with an experiened QB, RB, and defense, in a game that wasn't even close to a "let down" game, by the ONLY good team you faced all year. Get over it.
Arkansas would eat you alive, as would Wisconsin, LSU, WVA, and even Texas. Heck, you might beat Rutgers on a last second field goal, but that would be a BCS match-up of TWO undeserving teams.
all right time to end all the Notre Dame discussion
lets just have a look at the schedule, shall we...
They've played 1 good team(UM), one decent team(GT) this year. The good team destroyed them, and they barely survived the decent team.
Besides those lackluster performances theyve beaten...
Purdue- big ten doormat Michigan State- total embarassment, and needed a comeback to do it The Service Schools- well, yeah thats self-explanatory Stanford- another doormat UCLA- shouldve lost that too
What have they done? besides ger MAULED by the only elite team they've played the whole year?-- their secondary is porus, they cant get pressure on a decent offensive line, and their offense can only rack up cake yards on defenses in the bottom third of division 1-A---
if you beat USC, then ND will START deserving some respect- then they'll actually have to win a bowl game- and maybe the domer homers can start to make an argument that ND is "back"
I attended that Auburn game yesterday, and I had feeling something like this was coming. I think Arkansas has only improved as the season has progressed and if they win out, I think they should get the trip to the big game over Rutgers, USC, Notre Dame,etc. Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and their receiver Monk have performed amazingly.
Here's what we REALLY learned: 1. There is a "big 10 bias" that launches mediocre Michigan to #2. They will get slaughtered this weekend. 2. 3 SEC teams ( Fl, LSU, Ark) could easily go undefeated in the "Big 10". 3. Who did Oklahoma tick off by being ranked 17?? They are better than their ranking and would beat Note ER dame easily. 4. Speaking of Le DAme, playing Army, Navy and Airforce in a season should result in a BCS negative rating. 5. Chris Leak is the worse QB on any top 25 team. He has tried to hand many big games ( remember how they lost to Auburn) over and he tightens up under pressure.
Even if you beat USC, you still might not jump the OSU/Michigan loser, and you also have to get past the SEC winner. How in the world you are currently ahead of Arkansas in the BCS is truly a mystery.
Let's say, somehow, because some voters are as short-sighted as Irish fans, you do play in the National Championship. How's that post season worked out for you in the past? What is it? 0-12 in bowls the last 12 tries, with about half of them blowouts.
Yeah, you've surely demonstrated a history of coming up big when it counts, and I'm talking about the last 20 years, not WWII era.
To be honestly considered at the next level, Notre Dame MUST BEAT USC -- PERIOD!!! Furthermore, in addition to a win over the Trojans, at the very least ND must be very competitive in the BCS bowl to follow. The Michigan State and UCLA wins were a "pulling of the rabbit out of the hat". This team [ND] should be 7-3 or 8-2 -- not 9-1!!!
If Florida or Arkansas win the SEC and only have one loss (SEC loss mind you), they play for the National Title. Period. Regardless of what the Big 10 whiners are spewing, their conference does not match up AT ALL to the SEC. Strength of schedule will decide the outcome. Cry, complain, whimper all you want. Add another team to the Big 10, have a conference title game and THEN and only THEN compare yourself to the rest of the NCAA elite conferences. The championship will have to go through the SEC. Additionally, I know this system sucks but it is all we have until a play-off is initiated. Until then, the Big 10 needs to make itself BIGGER.
How did Florida not drop in the polls???? They needed several minor "miracles" to win the game against South Carolina (5-5). Who really wants to see Florida's pathetic offense against Ohio State or Michigan? I'd rather see Notre Dame, Arkansas, West Virginia or USC in the NC. Sorry, Rutgers, your offense just can't keep up OSU or Michigan.
To say Florida, LSU and Arkansas would go undefeated in the Big Ten conference is just stupid. Was this a joke I took literally, or are you serious? Do you think before you post things like this on the board? Arkansas has one decent year and now they’re a perennial powerhouse? Florida struggles on a weekly basis, and they would win out in the Big Ten? How many turnovers does LSU have this year in big games? Russell wouldn’t throw 4 picks a game in the Big Ten? They would all take their fair share of lumps in the Big Ten. I'm not saying the Big Ten is better than the SEC, but let's not go overboard.
Why do the Domer and Trojan fans get on bulletin boards and blogs and denigrate each other? Shouldn't they be building up the credentials of the other team so that a victory over them seems more impressive and deserving of the coveted spot opposite Mich or OSU in the BCS game? Domers should be the biggest fans of U$C! They should hope that SC beats Cal and are ranked #2 for their game in two weeks. Trojans should be hoping they play a #4 ranked Irish team.
Maybe the posters are actually SEC homers posing as U$C and ND fans.
last time i checked the sec had one exactly one meaningful out of conference game. the tennessee waxing of Cal, who apparently really isn't that good. i'd say that's cancelled out by the usc waxing of arkansas. therefore, noone really knows how good the sec really is.
That's fine Arkansas naysayers. We expect such from a basketball conference which wasn't good enough to put two basketball teams in the Final Four last year ala Florida and LSU. Razorbacks take care of business on the field and not against Duke, NC, NC St. and the rest of the doormats. McFadden for Heisman!!
Thank you to Mr. Mandel for finally "going out on a limb" and legitimizing Wake Forest. I smiled all night after listening to Lou Holtz talk about how FSU was going to beat Wake. I also waited all night after the game to see what he had to say (Nothing). Not that Wake deserves a shot at the NC, but at least someone in the Sports Writers World is giving them credit...although late.
I thought the games at the end of the year were supposed to be similar to "playoff" games. Why would a team that just lost a "playoff" game, Michigan, get to keep playing??? Then what if Michigan beats OSU in the NC? Isn't a 1-1 record against the same opponent considered a tie, not a National Championship for the team that won the second time? If there's a "rematch" I may be done watching college football for a few years.....let me know when a playoff system is in place!!!