SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/04/2006 07:51:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part III
There's been much hemming and hawing since Thursday night about whether undefeated Louisville would deserve a spot in the national title game over any number of one-loss teams from the SEC or elsewhere. I've got news for you, people: There aren't going to be a whole lot of one-loss teams left come Dec. 3.
This happens every year. Everyone starts freaking out about the BCS as soon as the first standings are released -- and then, inevitably, nearly every one of the teams in discussion eventually goes down. One of those contenders, Tennessee, took it on the chin Saturday. True, the Vols had yet to crack the BCS top 10, but you know what? They've looked stronger in recent weeks than most of the other one-loss teams.
If you've been watching football all day today like I have, you've presumably had the same reaction: Nobody out there looks invincible. Ohio State and Michigan went through the motions against inferior opponents. Florida, which seems to be regressing by the week, struggled to put away Vanderbilt. Auburn and Texas have both looked vulnerable in recent weeks. USC and Notre Dame aren't both going to finish with one loss. And so on and so on.
Tennessee's loss was hardly a bad one, especially considering it was playing with a redshirt freshman quarterback. Should it have still won the game? Well, yes. You force four turnovers at home, you should probably get the W. But give Tigers QB JaMarcus Russell credit for leading yet another last-minute rally.
But I think you're going to see several more instances of one-loss teams going down over the last month of the season, for the simple reason that most of these teams are too flawed to make it through without another loss. That's what makes this sport so exciting -- upsets happen. Especially late in the season.
∙ I've stood next to CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. She is quite petite. Therefore, I was briefly worried for her safety during her start-of-the-second half interview with LSU coach Les Miles. A transcript of the exchange:
Wolfson: Coach, 0-2 against top-10 teams on the road ...
Miles (shaking his head, visibly agitated): I'm not worried about 0-2 teams on the road. (now waving his hands in the vicinity of Wolfson's head). I'm worried about finishing this game and finishing it well. Our football team's damn good. We figure to show that in the second half.
Wolfson: How are you going to do that?
Miles (staring straight at Wolfson): Play our asses off!
Wolfson: Thanks a lot, coach.
By the way, if you were watching closely at the end of the game, you could see Miles pointing his finger at Wolfson while shouting something at her. She did not look pleased.
∙ We know Ohio State and Michigan are fierce rivals, and Saturday the two tried to one-up each other as to who could look less inspired. The Buckeyes managed just 25 yards of offense the entire second half in a 17-10 win over Illinois, and Troy Smith finished with just 107 passing yards. Seeing as Ohio State had been rolling all season before that second half, I wouldn't exactly call it cause for concern. One thing that is: Chris Wells' fumbling problem. The freshman bruiser is a valuable weapon, but after coughing it up for the second time in two weeks (this one on a play where he wasn't even touched), Wells stayed on the sideline the entire second half.
∙ I know the saying is "Luck of the Irish," but if you ask me, Notre Dame may be the unluckiest team in the country this year. How else to explain why these mediocre/bad opponents just happen to do things they haven't been able to do all season when they play the Irish? Take North Carolina. The Tar Heels (1-8) hadn't scored more than 20 points against a I-A opponent all year, yet by midway through the third quarter Saturday, they'd scored 26 after QB Joe Dailey (yes, the same Joe Dailey) threw his three touchdown pass of the day against ND's secondary.
Man. Just bad, bad luck.
∙ Stop the presses -- Kentucky is going to a bowl game. True, the Wildcats still only have five wins at this point, but they also have a date with Louisiana-Monroe in a couple weeks. Give credit to oft-maligned UK coach Rich Brooks, who, after a miserable first three seasons, has made the 'Cats competitive enough this season to pounce on a reeling Georgia team Saturday. QB Andre Woodson is highly underrated, but on the game-winning drive, Kentucky basically ran right at Georgia with RB Tony Dixon. We haven't seen Kentucky do that in a long, long time.
Yeah, i was a little curious why Wells didn't come back in when Pittman wasn't able to do anything. Wells, up to the fumble, had been doing very well running the ball. The fumble-itis concerns me, but I remember when Pittman fumbled just about every game too. As to the bad game, I think this was a case of Ohio State's offense severely underestimating an Illinois defense that will be one of the best in the Big 10 next season. Illinois played their hearts out and clearly were more up for the game. But considering this is the first time that OSU has faltered and really been scared in the 4th quarter, I will wait until next week to make my conclusion about whether OSU is in trouble.