SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
1/01/2008 03:35:00 PM
New Year's Observations Part I
Mike Hart and the Wolverines were heavy underdogs coming into the Capital One Bowl.
NEW ORLEANS -- Well, this has been an unusual -- and pleasant -- New Year’s Day for me so far.
Most years, I’m covering the Rose Bowl, which requires leaving the hotel about five hours early and is not exactly conducive to watching the early games. This year, it’s the Sugar Bowl, where kickoff is not until 7:47 p.m. local time and the Superdome is literally right down the street. It’s going to be a late, late night, but in the meantime, I get to lounge around and watch football like the rest of America.
• I’m always leery of commenting on games while still in progress, but as of halftime of the Capital One Bowl, I could not be more impressed with the way Michigan’s offense is playing. We’re seeing what might have been had Chad Henne and Mike Hart ever been healthy simultaneously, and if Lloyd Carr had not waited until the last game of his career to open up his playbook.
• Props to Wisconsin QB Tyler Donovan for a gutsy performance in which he was basically under constant duress the entire first half and briefly got knocked out, but Tennessee prevailed thanks to a defensive front that had its ups and downs all year but ended with two pretty solid performances. Bret Bielema’s puzzling decision not to kick the easy field goal, down 21-17 with nearly six minutes remaining, certainly contributed as well.
• Raise your hand if you figured the 282-yard rusher in the Cotton Bowl would come from … Missouri. Or that the Chase Daniel would throw for 137 yards and the Tigers would still crush Arkansas 38-7. Hats off to Tony Temple on his epic rushing performance. Not that the outcome would have been different, but I’m thinking the Razorbacks were a tad distracted this week.
• When’s the last time you saw a team score two safeties in the same half? That’s what Virginia did in the Gator Bowl thanks to two intentional groundings in the end zone by Texas Tech.
• I’m about to go out and grab lunch, but I can tell you from last night that the Hawaii “sea of green” from earlier in the week has since been enveloped by a small army of red-clad Georgia fans, many of whom presumably made the eight-hour drive the day before the game.
And they, like me, can’t wait to see Hawaii perform its pregame war chant/dance tonight.
I am a SEC guy (a UGA alum), but all the SEC fans were all about how UF was going to kill UM. Now comes these idiots who are talking about the #2 Big 10 team beating the #4 SEC team. I bet you guys are the same types who are Holocaust deniers.
I have no doubts the SEC is the best and deepest conference, but UM had a lot going for it including the fact that the UF secondary has been suspect all year and that pressuring Tebow (as UGA did) is the best way to defend Tebow.
UM was healthy and its offense outscored UF despite 4 turnovers including 2 at the goal line by Mike Hart.
Maybe players will cut back on the stupid reaching the ball out.
On a related note, if officials want to stop this diving into the end zone then the penalty might need to be more meaningful. Not sure what to do. It might also help if ESPN stopped showing those in the highlights when players do it.
As an OSU double-grad who had a tough time figuring who to root for (until Wisconsin lost), all I can say (for the first time ever) is Go Blue! and I guess now, Go Illini! which is a tougher thing to say this year.
Kudos to Lloyd Carr and Michigan on a great win against a very good Florida team. Both teams played hard, fast and tough. It was a great game, and the fact that Michigan won in spite of 4 turnovers was pretty impressive. Wisconsin also played tough against Tennessee--4 point difference in a very competitive game.
Florida will be very tough next year as well, but this was a great win for Michigan.
Michigan commits 4 turnovers to Florida's 0 and STILL wins the game.
Michigan loses to Appalachian State, but the same team beats "mighty" Florida.
The Heisman trophy winner earns his trophy by racking up stats in the SEC -but can't beat Michigan.
Call it what you will...Michigan still beat your "speedy" Florida team. You can be as fast as you want to be, but when you face a stiff defense from the Big Ten your boys are still that, boys.
Of course, everyone please sit back...here come the SEC apologists with their typically lame excuses. Get ready here they come...just watch the posts. BOTTOM LINE: Michigan beat Florida, and that's all anyone will ever remember. Tim Tebow couldn't handle a defense from a team that didn't even win the Big Ten, and that's all anyone will ever remember. Well, amybe we will also remember how funny it was to hear all the lamo SEC folks crying and whining and throwing out their stats, blah blah blah.
SEC apologists are already making excuses. Florida just lost to a team that lost to App State at a place where it was essentially home field advantage. Get over yourselves. You are not that great. And it's just football.
As an OSU double grad, all I can say (esp.after Wisconsin lost) is Go Blue! I guess I now need to say, Go Illini, which is a tougher thing to say this year. Any other OSU grads have a tough time figuring out for whom to root in this game?
UM finished 3rd in the Big Ten you morons. And you guys are a hoot, talking earlier about how Vandy would have been undefeated in the Big Ten, and now complaining that this matchup was unfair for poor ol Florida. Seriously, screw you all...
I also agree that the SEC is presently the best and deepest conference despite being a Big 10 fan, but the disparity as not as large as people think it is. Again, it's all in good fun, and it's supposed to be a game. However, just give credit where credit is due to a UM team that didn't live up to expectations.
Yes being a OSU Buckeye all I can say is GO BIG 10 so root for them all.
Yes the SEC is strong, I won't deny that, but again, I don't thing there is that big of a difference. SEC fans almost believe that their teams are so god like in speed. Not so. The Pac-10 has some speed too, but you don't hear them bragging and being arrogant fans.
Everyone thought OSU would get killed by Miami too. So just wait and see and let the players sort it out on the field instead of all the running of mouths the SEC fans have been doing.
From what I can tell UM finished tied for 2nd in the Big 10 (Ill and UM were 6-2 although UM gets the tiebreaker if there is such a thing in those situations).
As for Joe C. You must not have seen much UGA football or Hawaii football. The UH defense may be better than people think, but that is not saying much especially when looking at how bad the WAC teams have looked in bowl games this year (aside from Fresno State playing a bad Tech team without its HC).
As for Jr and Sr beating FR and SO, well everyone knew the ages of the players before and yet so many thought UF would clean up.
I also thought that UM would have two things going for them 1) Everyone was healthy and a healthy UM has a great offense with weapons everywhere. (The defense played possibly its best game all year). 2) Lloyd Carr. I doubt most people posting here can begin to understand the bond between a coach and players. I have no doubt that the players were extra "jacked" because of Carr's retirement and also that seemingly everyone gave them no chance.
Even as an "SEC guy" I think Ohio State beats LSU. Part of the reason is that I think Tressel is a much better coach than Miles.
The same observation could be made about your juniors and seniors in basketball beating OSU's freshmen...get over it. Florida had a good season and will be great next year, but right now the moment is Michigan's.
please, LSU lost to two average at best teams that would not have been a threat in the Bigs. as to history, Ok has more national titles than any SEC team, dont even mention Bama and some of their imaginary titles.
The double-standards employed by SEC fans are nothing short of breath-taking.
Since early September, all we've heard about is how awful it was for Michigan to lose to Appalachian State ... how such a loss should automatically disqualify the Wolverines from a bowl game or the Top 25 ... how an SEC team would never lose that sort of game (cough*Louisiana-Monroe*cough*). ... how any one of six or eight SEC teams would "go undefeated every year in the Big Ten."
Well, guess what, SEC fans? You do NOT get to have it both ways. Your beloved defending national champions just lost to the team that lost to Appalachian State. You can try to deny, you can try to justify, you can make up all of your typical excuses, but none of it matters: another one of your "unbeatable" teams and another one of your "genius" coaches has been exposed. Yet again.
I wonder if this might be enough to finally stop the "41-14" nonsense we've also heard for the last year? No, probably not ... SEC fans just ignore everything that doesn't conform to their twisted version of reality or doesn't add to the complete media-driven myth of their conference's alleged "dominance."
I did not bring up history as a disqualifier for bowl appearances, college is a year to year game, past performances have little to do with this year, Fla was destroyed by Neb in a title game, good thing they let them play another one wasn't it.
I'm a Pac 10 fan and hate the SEC but lets not put the Big Ten back on the map. Congratulations, one of your schools beat a great team. The other bowl wins are not impressive and your seocnd best team is down 14-0 in 1st quarter. I expect the deficit to at least double.
So after hearing for the better part of the last month that it wasn't a big deal that OSU held UM to 75 yards in their "ugly" win...can we finally let it go SEC fans after UM put up over [b] 500 [/b] yards on the defending national champions?
Or doesn't this win by the "slow" Big Ten count?
And, unless I'm missing something here...UF was ranked #12, while UM was unranked...and UF played what is essentially a home game.
I've never really understood the whole supporting-your-conference thing. As an Alabama fan, I enjoyed Florida losing and it may even help a little in recruiting (not that we need any right now). I also want LSU to lose because LSU fans are horribly obnoxious. I'd rather some frozen folks in Michigan be happy than the noveau riche Florida fans I have to deal with in person.
I don't think the Big 10 was ever OFF the map. Illinois is a ridiculous underdog against USC (it's one year too early for Illinois), but Wisconsin vs. Tennessee was a close game, Michigan State (a big underdog to BC) played close and Michigan beat Florida. I'm NOT saying the Big 10 is the best conference, just that they're better than people have given them credit for. They've overall played pretty well this bowl season. Hopefully OSU will play well against LSU.
I like trash talking as much as anyone (well, maybe not) but can we see the bigger picture here? As much as I am a fan of the Big 10, it's hard to argue against the SEC being the deepest conference this year, and they're doing well in the bowls. That said, I'm happy with how the Big 10 is doing, proud of the teams and their play in spite of all the crappy comments, and see this as continued increasing parity across the conferences.
If you like interesting seasons and interesting games, it's hard not to see this season as one of the best. If you can put aside for a moment the need to be the #1 team, and think about the quality of play, the story lines, etc., it's been a hell of a season.
Wow, did everyone see that SEC speed today against Mizzou and Michigan? At the end of the day, there is not much difference between the five major conferences (I don't count the big east as a major). I'm tired of hearing SEC fans crow about it. I guess I understand it though, since there isn't much else you can take pride in when you live in the hillbilly south.
Congrats to Michigan in the win today. As a team accustomed to underachieving and finishing second I know this must be like YOUR national championship. As a team who got embarrassed by App. State and Oregon you have rebounded well.
I suspect OU's loss to Texas Tech 5 weeks ago,rather than their 21-14 loss to LSU 4 years ago, had more to do with their absence the championship. I'm an OU fan, but face it, the defense couldn't stop Tech with a shot at the championship on the line. Mizzou has better gripe about being shafted with the cotton bowl, than OU does.
Florida was being touted (by SEC supporters) as possibly the best SEC team by the way they finished their conference schedule. What does that say for the SEC when your possibly best team can't defeat the 2nd or 3rd best team from a supposed inferior conference.
As I've said all year: you are all in denial. Last year you were 1-4 vs. the Big 10, counting regular season, and now your supposed best playing team at the end of the year goes down against the Big 10.
Y'all need to readjust your paradigms closer to reality. You're not as good as you like to think you are and the rest of the country knows it and is laughing at you.
Michigan last won a bowl game 5 years ago. Please don't now start talking smack about a win. You season was nothing short of a dissappointment. Yes, you won but please try to be humble about it. You really don't have much to brag about.
Not sure if your earlier comments were not-so-thinly veiled insults, but you should keep in mind that Appalachian State won a national championship and is a good football team by anyone's standards, and Oregon with Dixon would absolutely play even with anyone in the country (including any team in the SEC). The last couple of seasons have been disappointing ones for Michigan, sure, but they're hardly a team that is "accustomed to underachieving". I think this win was not only a big one but a nice turning point for the program as well.
We'll hopefully see Illinois play better in the second half of their game (some nice indications in the last few minutes or so) but as much as I'd love to see USC lose, I have to give them credit--their cheerleader's uniforms are the best!
No doubt in my mind that Georgia is the best team in the SEC, I've thought that all season.. Many SEC "experts" and fans were beating the Gators drums as possibly being the best SEC team with they way they finished their conference schedule.
I don't believe LSU is the best SEC team nor do I think their talent is as good as everyone thinks it is...just my opinion...and I could be wrong.
But at least I acknowledge the possibility of being wrong and even though I am a Big 10 fan, I'm not so in denial to think the Big 10 is the best conference, we're just much better than what most people think.
Congrats to Michigan and the great effort. For Michigan to come back from their miseries and finally play up to their talent speaks well of them. It is too bad it didn't happen sooner. This may be something Rodriguez can build on. This may also add something to the OSU spirit leading into their game. It looks like the Rose Committee may have let tradition get in the way of presenting a great game. Maybe Illinois will regroup and show a little of the team that managed to beat OSU. This won't go over well with some but I still think USC vs LSU should be the NC game. Not everything is finalized yet, but the SEC is 5-2 so far with most of its best teams playing today or later. That means they are going up against first class competition. Tennessee has had almost as many miseries as Michigan has had, but managed to defeat Wisc. The Big 12 and Pac 10 seem to be doing well after slow starts. I still think Texas may be #2 in the Big 12. Arkansas has not done as well as Ariz St and Texas handled Ariz St easily.
I don't disagree with you about Illinois being outmatched, and I also hope they do show some regrouping and adjustments in the second half. I can't remember all the complexities of the BCS, but I think a USC/Georgia game would have been a terrific one to see. Zook has done a great job with Illinois, but it's just a year or so too early for them to be in a BCS game.
And Dink, we're in agreement...the Big 10 is definitely not the strongest conference this year, but we're better than most give us credit for and hopefully will improve for next year. I thought Wisconsin did a nice job against Tennessee (SEC runnerup) as did MSU against BC. I'd like to see wins of course, but close games suggest competitiveness as well.
Big 12 is rolling in the bowls so far, too bad Mizzou/ARK was the only head to head match up of note with the SEC. i hate to read too much into it but it was really dominant against a team that beat LSU.
Congrats to Lloyd Carr and Michigan for finishing off in style. Thanks also to Wisconsin for playing your hearts out and giving the SEC runner-up everything they could handle.
What a disastrous day for the SEC and the sports media. Every media supported myth regarding SEC superiority gets flushed straight down the toilet, even in victory. One thing I've really hated to see is how dirty the SEC plays. Cheap shots everywhere with a lot of refs turning their heads. I'd take Tyler Donovan in a foxhole with me before any of those SEC punks. What a shame.
for Eric-y-town I hate to see you stoop to such low comments. According to you the Florida players first checked to see if a ref was watching, and if not, clobbered someone. Give me a break. The SEC is 5-2 so far and I don't see how losing two games on New Year's is disastorous. They have four teams playing on New Year's and another a bit later. No other conf approaches that stat. Michigan came in and to their credit played a great game. They managed to win a close one with Florida, but how that equates to disastorous for the SEC requires further explaining. Arkansas may be the 6th or 7th best team in the SEC and Mizzou is 2nd or 3rd in the Big 12. Again I do not see the world shattering significance. When you have to stretch to make your statements it undermines everything you say.
for Donroberto - I agree that Tex & OK match well with any other conf, but what victories this season suggest to you that either Mizzou or Kans could play on the same level with the best of others. I know Kansas fans point to the victory over Toledo, since Toledo beat them last year, as a significant victory, but the rest of us I suspect are more than skeptical. Have Kans or Mizzou beaten anyone better than just average teams this year? Please glance at what is happening in the Rose Bowl before you respond.
I have to agree with Charles; I haven't seen much in the way of cheap shots, and it seems to me the games haven't been too bad in terms of penalties either.
Let's give credit where credit is due; the SEC is deep this year and they'll likely finish really well in their bowls (hopefully WITHOUT a win from LSU of course). But there are clearly some good teams out there, and some good football being played, in every conference. I'm looking forward to the Hawaii/Georgia game and seeing how Brennan performs.
In answer to your query to Donroberto about KU and Missouri, I don't know about KU but when I've seen Missouri play they've looked really impressive, and they're ranked #7 for a reason--evidently a significant number of experts feel the same way that Donroberto does.
Charles- I was referring to Tennessee more than anyone in the cheap shot department. And yes, if you still think that the SEC is superior to anyone in speed and athleticism, you're kidding yourself. Considering that they are supposed to be the runaway preeminent conf. in the country, and in the history of college football (according to Stew), I'd say that 1-2 in big time New Year's bowls, while barely winning the 3rd against Wisconsin, is rather damaging. The only thing the Big Ten lacks in inter-conference play is the ability to hang onto the football. Their endless amount of turnovers is ridiculous and they deserve what they get, but to suggest that they are lacking the sheer physical talent to hang with the rest of the country is ridiculous. Illinois is currently handing the ball over to USC at an astounding rate. It's shameful the way these guys can't protect the football.
P.S. Why are there like a hundred guys in the SEC that look like they could win a Chris Rock in "CB4" look alike contest? I guess it's a southern thing?
Okay, after further thought, I'll retract the cheap shot comment. I saw some stuff, but yes, it was nothing worth mentioning and I don't have enough solid evidence to back my argument. My apologies. I went too far. However, and in my shoddy defense, I guess that I'm just not used to the excessive preening, taunting, standing over players, etc. that we see from the SEC. Perhaps that gives the impression that there's more dirty play than there really is.
This is really quite entertaining. Most fairweather, bandwagon fans are the first to make excuses. Having just spent the last month telling us how we didnt belong on the same field with you florida, now youre all chalk full of excuses. "Theyre young, theyre the 4th best in their conf etc) You guys sure as shit werent saying that 12 hours ago. What can you say about the Big 10? Didnt Arkansas-the same arkansas that beat LSU-just get embarrassed earlier today? Wrong! Theyre the #9 team in the country you were so proud of before. They have the Heisman WINNER. They lost to LSU by 3. Theyre the same team you cheered for all year-they simply got outplayed and BEAt. Not because of some freak accident or turnovers-(UM actually coughed it up 4 times) Not because Tebow has having a heisman Hangover. You were beat because we put pressure in Tebows face EVERY snap. We had a healthy team for the first time since September. Take your speed and shove it. We were just as fast and played SMASHMOUTH football and YOU LOST. Stop with the excuses. I'll be the first to say that top to bottom the SEC is the deepest team with regards to pure talent and speed. But i'll take your challenges anyday. We'll come to Floridas own house and smash them. I hope OSU does the same. I picked LSU to win it all back in August. I dont knock your conferance so dont fucking knock mine! Im a student athleter who graduated from U of M, in my opinion the greatest placde in the nation. I hate OSU, but i love the big 10. Ill be rooting for the buckeyes just to shu you SEC poser, wannabe, fairweather bandwagon fans up. Go Blue! If you think we're good today, wait till next year!
for Eric-y-town Michigan was able to play a great game and deserved the victory. The Big 10 has great athletes but there seems to be little doubt that the philosophy of 3 yards and a cloud of dust is not the best. I think that Rodriguez will bring changes to the program more in tune with current theories. I wonder if you'll dispute that. I also think that the current bowl results also do not provide evidence that a change is needed. So far the only victory of significance that the Big 10 can show is the Florida game.
What makes you think the "3 yards and a cloud of dust" philosophy is so prevalent in the Big 10? Seems to me that that, along with the "big and slow" is part of the past. And hopefully we'll see another victory with OSU, but regardless if the question is "is the Big 10 competitive with other conferences" I think the answer would be yes...unless you feel that a 3 or 4 point difference in a game is a blowout? Illinois was clearly overmatched with USC, but even with a loss, MSU and Wisconsin both played close against tough opponents.
And did you mean the bowl results DO suggest a change is needed? I think that's what you were trying to say...in any case I don't think there's any doubt that RR will bring more of a spread to Michigan, much like Purdue, Illinois, and other Big 10 teams use.
Tough loss for Illinois but it's seasoning, and I think they're going to be tough next season.
The Rose Bowl bills itself as the granddaddy of all bowls. As evidence we see the senility of clinging to the tradition of matching the Big 10 against the Pac 10 instead of trying to find the best game available.
for Larry - At best the Big 10 will finish 4-4 in bowl games. I did think that this would be a disappointment to fans. If so then a change is needed or are you really arguing that the Big 10 has produced satisfactory results? For me to say that this season fell short of Big 10 standards, and to say the Big 10 is no longer competitive is two different things. Anytime your conf goes 4-4 in bowl games there is reason to believe that it is a solid, competitive conf. Again I think you are misinterpreting my comments when all I am suggesting is that the Big 10 has fallen short of the standards it has established and that there needs to be a real change. Right now the Big 10 has played seven bowl games and has only one quality win to identify. Beating Texas A&M, a team that played so poorly it dumped its coach, does not qualify as a quality win in a bowl game IMO. What do you really think?
Using the scores above, we could extrapolate that Michigan is 45 points better than Tennessee, but we could also conclude that Tennessee is 20 points better than Michigan.
Likewise, we could say Wisconsin is 22 points better than Florida, or Florida is 43 points better than Wisconsin.
It's not so much that one conference is superior. Each individual team has its strengths and weaknesses, and each brings its own mindset to each game. What's so great about the sport is you never know what's going to happen on a given day.
Congratulations to the University of Michigan. Tremendous game, and it was cool to see Lloyd Carr carried off the field like that. I actually enjoyed that win, as an LSU fan.
Condolences to the Illini.
If it matters, my reckoning as of this writing puts SEC Bowl record at 6 wins and 1 loss. Looks like the Big 10 qualified fewer teams for bowls, but they do have a 3 wins and 3 losses for a most admirable inconclusive result to date. Perhaps they can get a winning percentage in bowls against LSU . . . .
You're usually so spot on that I was suprised by your misleading post about bowl records right now.
Let's examine these games, shall we?
MSU (unranked) gives BC (#14) all they want.
Purdue beats CMU.
Penn State beats T A&M
Indiana gets destroyed by Ok St.
Wisconsin (#18) loses a close battle with UT (#16)
UM (unranked) beats UF (#9)
Illinois (#13) loses to USC (#6)
So...by my calculations here...
The UW/UT game was a wash due to the teams' ranking. UM certainly rose to the occasion (or one could say that UF choked similar to my Buckeyes last year). And Illinois should have lost to USC in what essentially amounts to a home game for them.
Miss St. beat UCF
'Bama beat Colorado
Kentucky beat FSU
Auburn (#22) beat Clemson (#15)
Tenn beat UW
Arkansas (#25) lost to Mizzou (#7)
UF loses to UM
UGA (#4) beat Hawaii (#10)
So Sas...according to the experts who "rank" the teams for these bowl games, the only "upset" for the SEC could be Auburn over Clemson. Every other SEC team SHOULD have won their games, while according to those same experts, the Big Ten lost the games they were "supposed" to.
You guys need to get a life. Talking trash to one another because a football conference "may or may not" be the best? Every conference has its good side along with its weaknesses. As a Pac-10 fan, I had to admit the Rose Bowl was absolutely horrible to watch. Illinois wasn't ready, and USC would probably have preferred playing Michigan or LSU.
Point aside, all of the football conferences are good, and SEC may have the "deepest" talent, but give credit to Michigan for winning.
Actually, I agree with you on that. I was just going by W/L and trying to correct an earlier error in them.
I would guess that you and I could also agree that it will matter little on January 7. Too many other things motivating both teams for them to worry about carrying their conference flags into the game however much that might be a minor thing for them to think about I suppose.