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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/24/2006 07:20:00 PM

Saturday Observations: Friday Edition

Oakland Arena
LSU had plenty of reason to celebrate and has put itself in position for a possible BCS bowl bid.
LOS ANGELES -- Say what you want about the SEC this year – outstanding or overrated, tough or talked-up -- but there’s no question it’s been entertaining. Friday’s LSU-Arkansas thriller was just the latest in a season full of close, intense games amongst the conference’s upper-echelon.

The problem for the SEC is that all that entertainment is likely going to leave it on the outside of the national championship picture yet again.

Anyone who watched Friday’s game had to appreciate the sheer amount of playmakers on both sides, from Arkansas’ sensational tailback tandem of Darren McFadden (221 total yards) and Felix Jones (219 all-purpose yards) to LSU speed demon Trindon Holliday (92 yard kick return). The game came down to the quarterbacks, however: JaMarcus Russell was his usual clutch self in the final minutes, while Casey Dick completed just three passes the entire game.

But Arkansas’ loss didn’t just end the Razorbacks' hopes of reaching Glendale -- it also hurt Florida tremendously. The Gators really needed Arkansas to come into the SEC title game at 11-1 if they hoped to make a big enough statement to pass Michigan and/or USC in the BCS. Now they’re going to have to do something awfully special, because the whole “making it through the SEC with one loss is so tough” argument, although largely true, isn’t going to be a deciding factor for the pollsters.

LSU’s win was also huge for another reason: It should put the 10-2 Tigers in position for a BCS at-large berth. Any bowl would love a 10-win team coming in on a six-game winning streak. In particular, I think the Tigers move to the top of the Rose Bowl’s list of candidates to replace Ohio State. That, too, doesn’t bode well for the Gators. There had some speculation an 11-2 Florida team could go to the Orange Bowl if it doesn’t win the SEC, but if that happens, the second BCS bid would likely go to LSU.


∙ Remember when Mack Brown said after his team’s Oct. 28 win at Nebraska that he expected to see the Huskers again in the Big 12 title game? Well Nebraska’s going to be there –- not so sure about Brown’s team. If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State tomorrow, the Sooners, 6-1 in the conference, are going to Kansas City instead of Texas, a remarkable accomplishment for a team that lost its heart and soul, Adrian Peterson, six weeks ago. Texas lost Friday because it, too, lost its heart and soul – QB Colt McCoy, who quite clearly hadn’t fully recovered from his shoulder injury and was completely ineffective in a 12-7 loss to Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, it took four years but Dennis Franchione finally has his signature win as an Aggie. Even at 8-3, there had still been much grumbling about Coach Fran in College Station following disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Nebraska. You better believe those complaints will subside after A&M pulled the upset and ended a six-year skid to its arch-rival. And it will be even sweeter for Aggies fans if the win does end up knocking UT from the conference title game.

A&M finishes an impressive 9-3 and will now head to either the Cotton or Holiday bowls.

∙ What a crazy ending to the Oregon-Oregon State game. The Ducks rallied back from a 27-14 deficit to take a 28-27 fourth-quarter lead, only to have the Beavers drive down the field and set up a 40-yard Alexis Serna field goal (he hit from 49 and 50 earlier) to go back up 30-28 with a minute and change left. But after fumbling the ensuing kickoff return, Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart returned it to nearly the Oregon 40, setting up a game-winning field goal attempt by Ducks backup kicker Matt Evensen with 20 seconds left. He shanked it -- Beavers win.

∙ If the USC-Notre Dame game is even half as entertaining as today’s contests, the Coliseum may well explode.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |


Posted: 9:30 PM   by Anonymous
You see, this is why I dislike the BCS and am in favor of a college football playoff. It's sickening to me as a Gators fan that Florida could be nearing the end of one of its best seasons in years and be left out of the title game picture because another team in the SEC dropped the ball. I think the fans would rather see an easy-to-understand system where the two best teams in Division 1-A play for the title.
Posted: 10:06 PM   by Anonymous
LSU best in nation
Posted: 10:25 PM   by perry
Stewart - You don't think that the Arkansas loss hurts the quality of the USC win as well? By the end of the season the two touchdown win by UF over a potential top 5 LSU team would carry that much more weight.
Posted: 10:33 PM   by Instructor
Not only does this loss dash Arkansas' title hopes, but it makes Mandel look like a total idiot. Stu, say what you want about Texas, Clemson, Louisville, Arkansas, and whomever is your flavor of the week, but you have really shown a knack for hopping on the bandwagon this year right before the tires fall off. Dimwit.
Wow. Can't imagine a more depressing end to this season for the Horns. Two weeks ago they've got an outside shot to defend their title; now, all we've got are a) another off-season of "Mack can't coach"; b) Applewhite-Simms II, starring McCoy and Snead, and that high school kid if he doesn't head elsewhere; c) the Holiday Bowl, if they're not bored with us. Given Horns' fans propensity not to travel after a disappointing end to a season, the Cotton and Holiday folks may give the Longhorns the opportunity to make their Alamo Bowl debut this year.
Posted: 10:46 PM   by Joel
Stewart -

I disagree re: Arkansas' loss.

1. Florida's win over LSU only looks better, and that should help a little with the computers. LSU beating Arkansas might remind pollsters just how good LSU is, which can only help when looking over Florida's resume.

2. This puts the slightest smudge USC's win over Arkansas, so it could deprive USC of points it otherwise might have enjoyed.

3. Beating a 10-2 Arkansas team is pretty impressive in its own right. Florida had to show out a little either way, but I don't think the loss means Florida has to hang 50 on the Razorbacks... the smarter voters know this is a different team than the one USC clobbered.
Let me go ahead and add Houston Nutt to the list of worst coaches. This guy is a joke. I know this just sounds like an Arkansas fan complaining about something when I should feel lucky about our season, but hear me out. Our QB can't complete a pass, and our running backs are averaging nearly 8 yards a rush, so what do we do on 4th down? We get sacked for a loss. Then, on our final drive, our QB who is something like 3 for 324234 throws it 4 straight times without handing it off the the best running back in the country? Give me a break. This is a very talented Razorback team, much like the Matt Jones, Cedric Cobbs team a few years ago, and Houston coaches just good enough to lose the games that matter. We missed out on Springdale native Butch Davis, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't a more capable coach somewhere out there who wouldn't take the oppurtunity to take over a team of largely underclassmen and see what happens. Anyways, it's off to the SEC championship....WHOO PIG SOOIE!!!!
Posted: 11:55 PM   by Anonymous
What an entertaining post Turkey day. As an Ohio State Alumni, I am curious who we will play in Arizona. While many of us believe that school up north is still the best one loss team, we don’t feel that we need to play them again in order to prove ourselves. Arkansas was looking to be an interesting competitor, but that will not be. As much as I don’t like USC, I will be pulling for them tomorrow. If that does not work out, and if Florida tanks then it will feel fine making Lloyd going 5-1 and 6-1 in the same season. Go Bucks.
Posted: 1:18 AM   by Bobby D
Glad to see Felix Jones get some pub, he's as talented a 2-back as any in the country and could start for many teams. I knew LSU would give the Hogs all they could handle, the Bayou Cats are a dangerous team and a couple of breaks away from being nat'l title contenders.

Lot of upsets already, I look for another in Stillwater!
Posted: 1:58 AM   by Anonymous
Yeah Stewart- I can see what you mean, I mean, especially since Florida beat LSU by 2 TD's and all.. very fair to the Gators for LSU proving how great they are to "hurt" Florida. This result just feeds the BCS is a joke fire.

War Eagle!
Posted: 3:11 AM   by roark
Now that Oregon State has clinched third place in the Pac-10, I hope that dispels the myth the Oregon State is a lower echelon Pac-10 team, and that USC's loss to them was a "bad loss" to a bad team. In fact, if USC was to lose a conference game at all, the Oregon State game was, in the last analyis, their toughest conference game; for USC played 2nd place Cal AT HOME, whereas USC played 3rd place Oregon State ON THE ROAD. Often the the 3rd place team on the road is a more difficult game than the 2nd place team at home. USC's strength of schedule was hurt by Arkansas' loss, but helped by Nebraska's win. Ohio State's strength of schedule will suffer even more with Texas' third loss. I heard that USC would even pass Ohio State in some computer rankings if USC wins out, and Arkansas and Nebraska win their conference championships.
Posted: 8:10 AM   by Anonymous
Stewart - as an Aggie fan (c'mon who can NOT love all that tradition stuff) I was very pleased you ranked the Ags #25 last week (even though it was by default). Would you do us Ags one more favor? In this weeks poll, please rank the Ags AHEAD of the Horns and give us some bragging rights for at least a month? Tks.
Posted: 9:45 AM   by Anonymous
Did you not say the Tigers were depleted on both offensive and defensive lines? The specter of a quarterback controversy would be devisive? You also said LSU would lose at least three games? I guess you'll eventually get around to your worst predictions on the 2006 college football seasons. To overcome a road schedule, even more difficult than most originally envisioned, it would seem appropriate that you swallow a little pride and acknowledge what the Tigers accomplished and your own ineptitude. The most undercovered story in the SEC is the great year that Jamarcus Russell had. He gets nary a mention for what he is, the best quarterback in the SEC. Maybe you can find time to write about that since the season is over you can't get that wrong.
Posted: 9:46 AM   by Anonymous
Like Roger Dangerfield, "LSU don't get no respect." Well that has changed and when Arkansas beats Florida it will increase even more. Do I smell the roses?
Posted: 9:57 AM   by K
With the season closing, after watching many games and listening to non-stop analysis by the "experts" here are three things that I know.

1. Over the course of the entire regular season, Ohio State is the best team in the country. They have been consistently dominant despite a weak schedule. (Florida gets an honorable mention because they are one bad call from being undefeated)

2. Despite yesterday's loss, Arkansas is the best team in the country right now. (Ohio State finished the season a close second despite the plethora of unforced errors against Michigan that made the game look closer than it was)

3. When Louisiana State brings their A game, they are ten points better than every team in the country. (Too bad they did not bring their A game to Gainesville and shot themselves in the foot against Auburn)
Posted: 10:03 AM   by Anonymous
This year drives the point home for a much needed NCAA Football playoff. Can you imagine the excitement of 8 or 16 teams reving up for the playoffs. The true best team would steam roll through the rest. This years "best team at the end" is probably LSU. Should we not be debating seeding right now instead of who should be playing Ohio State? No one would want a team like LSU in their bracket. How long do we have to wait for this to finally happen???
Posted: 10:59 AM   by rx
All this talk about how impressive a win is when the team loses later, whatever. Hasn't anyone seen that no matter what, USC always gets excuses. No one that matters in the voting even looks at the fact that USC ONLY won 50-14 against the third string QB and minus a healthy running back. The "this doesn't help Florida" mess about Arkansas losing is a joke. It should hurt USC as much as it hurts Florida, and only if they can win, which very well may not happen. Also, why aren't people looking more at who lost to who. UM lost to Ohio State, Florida lost to Auburn, Notre Dame lost to UM, and USC lost to Oregon State? Come on. And finally, everyone talks about how tough or not the SEC is. It is tough, probably the toughest in the country top to bottom. The SEC is the most political conference in the country, hands down. They thought Auburn had the best chance to get to the title game, and blew two calls that gave them the Florida and LSU games. Their schedule was most likely to give them (the SEC) an undefeated team. That is what is worst about the SEC.
Posted: 11:45 AM   by Anonymous
coldfirejt-it's just sickening to me that the Beavers beat the best team in the nation and are being left out of the national title game. Good golly, have you actually looked at Florida's schedule and compared it to Southern Cal's. If you want to be in a national title game then your schedule should reflect it.
lsu fan: hahahahaha! They are good, but not ...um... undefeated. Sorry, but Ohio State would whoop both our teams' butts this year.

I just hope Florida shows up today and gives FSU the loss to cause the sportswriters to start demanding papa-Bowden's resignation.

Oh, by the way... doesn't Notre Dame play some junior college this weekend?
Posted: 2:20 PM   by Anonymous
Delusional SEC fans. USC and Florida both a have a loss. Granted, Florida's loss to Auburn looks better than the USC loss to Oregon State. However, the whole "SEC is the toughest conference" stuff is nonsense. First, it's not even a conference. It's been cut in half with a certain amount of joke teams in each division. (See: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, both Mississippi schools). Second, SEC teams have laughable out of conference schedules. Florida scheduled out of conference games against Western Carolina, UCF and Southern Mississippi. What a joke. USC scheduled Arkansas, Nebraska and Notre Dame. They crushed the first two and Notre Dame will be the third. If USC ends with one loss they will have played and beaten Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame and rival UCLA in four weeks. Throw out the UCLA game and you still have a USC team that won consecutive games against no one ranked lower than 20. Give it up SEC fans. You keep saying how soft USC and it's conference is, meanwhile, every time a school from a "power conference" gets a chance to prove it, USC embarrasses them on national television. Prediction: Florida won't finish the season with one loss.
Posted: 3:55 PM   by Anonymous
Houston Nutt's primary mistake was that he pulled a 7-0 starting QB (Mustain) and substituted Dick. Mustain's only sin was a lack of experience in reading the defense, resulting in a couple of key interceptions. The only way you learn to read the defense is by taking snaps. So his development has been stunted while Nutt gives Dick a chance to play. If Nutt thinks they will survive against Florida while Dick underthrows every pass, they are in for a rude awakening. A weak armed QB on offense, and the little Arkansas defensive secondary are going to make for a long day for us Razorback fans.

We need to start Mustain and blitz Florida in an attempt to neutralize the Florida reciever corp.

Goooooo Pig Soooooooooooey
Posted: 6:11 PM   by Anonymous
rx, stop whining about the Hogs loss to USC. 3rd string QB, so what? It's not as if the first two are any good! And the missing RB doesn't cause the defense to allow FIFTY points in their house! Point, however, that Ark.'s loss hurts SC's strength of schedule too, and that Oregon's nosedive after losing to SC hurts the Trojans too. Still, SEC nonconference schedule, in general, is just awful and Florida has not impressed anyone in weeks. Prediction, Arkansas waxes the Gators in the SEC championship and leaves a bunch of TWO loss teams coming out of there.
If USC wins out they will be the most deserving team to play Ohio State. No one in the SEC deserves a shot with the conferences out of conference schedule against a bunch of cupcakes and the big east is just as bad. USC will have played Notre Dame, Arkansas and Nebraska, with 2 of them teams playing in their conference championship. I'm not a USC fan, I just enjoy watching the crybabies in the SEC whine around that their conference and/or teams are the best. Good luck getting thumped in bowl games AGAIN this year like last year SEC fans.
Posted: 7:45 PM   by Anonymous
my reasons for both USC and UF being the team deserving of playing OSU for the crystal football. I am an LSU fan, just FYI. My two cents:

UF-for: If the Gators beat the Razorbacks in the SEC CG, regardless of the outcome of any other games among 1-loss contenders. The Gators had a top-10 ranking in SOS and will have won an additional contest against another top-10 opponent. UF-against: not playing lately like even the second best team in SEC much less the #2 team in Div I-A. May not get past the Razorbacks and the following USC for/against will be meaningless.

USC-for: The men of Troy played the toughest OOC schedule in thenation, I think, and handled their business against all OOC foes with the ND showdown yet to kick-off; but, sorry, the vast majority of their PAC-10 conf foes minus maybe two PAC 10 conf foes are, comparatively, bottom-to mid levels of talent seen in the SEC and Big Ten, save 2-3 bottom dwellers in either. Should the Gators lose to Arkansas in the SEC CG, the Trojans deserve to go head-to-head with OSU for the crystal football. USC-against: tough OOC but weak conf on avg. also, they lost to an unranked team.

USC and UF-against: Louisville hasn't exactly done anything to completely erase them from consideration for the BCS title game. their only loss came at the hands of Rutgers, who were undefeated at the time.

I love college football, even with the BCS, because every game is important, part of an ongoing playoff system that lasts the entire season. Flawed? everything is flawed but college football remains, and will continue to be, the most exciting sport in the world.
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