Big 12 Football

September 15, 2006

Showdown Saturday

Tomorrow is Showdown Saturday. There are seven games that feature AP Top 25 teams going head-to-head. Teams from seven conferences plus Notre Dame will take part in those games. For some odd reason (or perhaps because it's the best game on ABC tomorrow), ESPN College GameDay is headed to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Nebraska-USC showdown, even though it was voted as the 3rd most popular game this week in an ESPN user poll. I suppose they didn't want to hype a game on CBS (LSU-Auburn) or NBC (Michigan-Notre Dame). It's a shame that they can't go to a better game though. Anyway, here are the games with my score picks (with rankings in parentheses):

(2) Notre Dame 21 - (11) Michigan 20
(3) Auburn 15 - (6) LSU 9
(12) Louisville 27 - (17) Miami 24
(18) Oregon 31 - (15) Oklahoma 17
(20) TCU 38 - (24) Texas Tech 31
(4) USC 42 - (19) Nebraska 21
(7) Florida 20 - (13) Tennessee 14

November 01, 2005

Longhorns Fans Already Pasadena Bound

We're still more than a month away from December 4, when the BCS selections are made. Try telling that to the Texas Longhorn faithful, who are already planning their trips to the Rose Bowl on January 4. Every single Southwest Airlines flight from Austin to Los Angeles on January 3 and from Los Angeles to Austin on January 5 are already sold out. Similar round trips from Austin to Burbank are also already gone.

Southwest Airlines flights AUS to LAX are all sold out

October 27, 2005

ESPN's Bayless is Clueless on Trojans and Longhorns

In his latest contribution to Page 2, Skip Bayless makes two bold, and somewhat absurd, proclamations in one sentence. “The Trojans, who wield the most difficult to defend offense in NCAA history, would beat Texas by two touchdowns on a neutral field. Maybe three.” (I tacked on the second “sentence” just because it makes his thesis a little more ridiculous.)

Plenty of pundits agree with Bayless, and they’ve been cramming it down your throats, so if you don’t understand what’s so ridiculous about that sentence, don’t feel badly. I’ll break it down for you.

First of all, Southern California’s offense has not earned a place in history, at least not yet. It’s true that the Trojans lead America in several offensive categories, including the two most important: total offense (581.14 ypg) and scoring offense (49 ppg). Quarterback Matt Leinart is the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and halfback Reggie Bush appears to be the heir apparent. The Trojans have won 29 consecutive games, and boast back-to-back Associated Press national championships. So why am I so critical of Bayless’ assessment?

For starters, anyone who gives a football team a definitive historical ranking during the middle of its season is setting himself up for criticism. How long ago was it that Oklahoma was labeled the greatest team in history? Kansas State didn’t agree, to say the least.

But my beef with this statement runs deeper than sheer principles. Simply put, the Trojan offense has yet to be tested against a legitimate defense. Out of SC’s seven opponents in 2005, Oregon ranks highest in total defense, good for 53rd in America. For those keeping score, that ranks the Oregon defense in the top 45% of Division I-A. It gets worse from there. Take a look.

Rank Team YA YPGA
98 @Hawaii 3011 430.14
78 Arkansas 2763 394.71
53 @Oregon 2878 359.75
108 @Arizona St 3152 450.29
65 Arizona 2656 379.43
97 @Notre Dame 2979 425.57
102 @Washington 3040 434.29
85.86 AVERAGES 2925.57 409.58

KEY: YA = Yards allowed, YPGA = Yards per game allowed

The popular counterpoint to the above table is to consider that the Trojans had a hand in these terrible defensive rankings. Such a point is valid, so here’s what that same table would look like if statistics from each team’s encounter with USC were discarded.

Rank Team YA YPGA
91 @Hawaii 2493 415.50
35 Arkansas 2027 337.83
36 @Oregon 2366 338.00
94 @Arizona St 2521 420.17
23 Arizona 1932 322.00
92 @Notre Dame 2503 417.17
106 @Washington 2650 441.67
68.14 AVERAGES 2356.00 383.53

The statistics do improve. This is not shocking considering USC does lead the nation in total offense. However, these numbers still aren’t very good. Over 43 games played, these teams average over 383 ypg allowed. That number puts this squad right behind Indiana in average total defense. Furthermore, lowly Washington actually improved its defensive numbers by playing the Trojans.

The numbers don’t lie. Battering seven suspect defenses does not warrant comparisons of this unit to the greatest offenses of all time, and it certainly does not justify anyone ranking them at the top of such a list.
Now all of this goes back to Bayless’ ridiculous thesis, and I stated that he made two absurd claims. So let’s get back to the other one. He thinks the Trojans would beat the Longhorns on a neutral field by 14 to 21 points. I wonder what his pick would be on a not-so-neutral field, like say the Rose Bowl, which is just a short distance north from Los Angeles, and therefore almost a home game for Southern California. (Apologies to UCLA fans. I know that referring to the Rose Bowl as the Trojans’ home in any capacity makes your blood boil.)

None of us know how that match-up will turn out, or even if it will occur. However, USC’s margin of victory over its last four games has been a little more than 15. Three of those four wins came against less than stellar competition: Arizona State (3-4), Arizona (1-6) and Washington (1-6). Even if you take Notre Dame out of the picture, the other three victories are still by an average of less than three touchdowns. Therefore, I question the credibility of his three-touchdown prediction for USC over Texas. Get a clue, Skip.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Texas ranks sixth in total defense. That’s a little bit better than Oregon.

ESPN Page 2: Oscar Meyer Winner

October 22, 2005

Week 8: GameDay Picks

Both Kirk Herbstreit and I took Notre Dame last week, while Lee Corso improved his record by taking the Trojans. So, through seven weeks, the three of us are tied at 4-3. (I've now lost my last three games!)

Today, College GameDay is in Austin, Texas for the game between Texas Tech and Texas. This will be the last matchups of unbeatens until potentially December 3, when there could be two games of unbeatens (UCLA-USC and Georgia-Alabama). Of all the seven remaining unbeaten teams, the Red Raiders have the most to prove. Although they are 6-0, three of those wins came against Division I-AA schools. The Longhorns are no Division I-AA program. Today, the Texas defense, ranked 3rd in the nation, steps up and slows down the high-powered Red Raider attack. Vince Young rolls and Texas wins.

Jimbo's Pick: Texas 35 - Texas Tech 27

On the GameDay set, Herbstreit picked Texas "big" over Texas Tech and Corso donned a Bevo head. One way or another, we'll all be tied for at least one more week.

September 11, 2005

Week 2: Sunday Morning Notes

My notes after a college football Saturday that lived up to all the hype:

It is rare that an excessively hyped up early regular season game can live up to its billing. But Texas - Ohio State certainly was a game for the ages as Texas prevailed 25-22. In the week leading up to the game, Buckeye linebacker Bobby Carpenter gave the Longhorns some high grade bulletin board material: “Our goal is when Vince Young leaves here, he won’t be a candidate for the Heisman,” Carpenter said. Well, Mr. Carpenter, you've managed to put Young front and center in this year's Heisman race. The Longhorn quarterback finished with 346 yards of total offense. And his big plays came through the air; he completed 18 of 29 passes for 270 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. His game-winning 24-yard touchdown pass to Limas Sweed all but sealed the game. "Obviously he's a great runner," Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "Tonight he showed us he's a great passer."

Iowa State blew up Iowa 23-3 yesterday. There goes my national championship pick. And it wasn't even close! The Hawkeyes' furthest offensive penetration was the Cyclones' 26-yard line.

Georgia survived a surprisingly close scare from South Carolina yesterday in Athens. The Gamecocks gave the Bulldogs all they could handle but a missed extra point on South Carolina's first touchdown came back to haunt them.. After all that pregame talk about running up the score on Steve Spurrier, Georgia barely held on for a 17-15 win.

Finally, LSU and Arizona State each needed a fourth and 10 conversion to win the game late in the fourth quarter. The difference was LSU converted theirs, as JaMarcus Russell connected with Early Doucet on a 39-yard strike on fourth and 10 with 1:13 remaining. The Sun Devils were unable to respond and the Tigers won 35-31 in a thriller in Tempe.

September 08, 2005

Return of the Intersectional Football Rivalry

September 28, 1996 was the last time two non-traditional rivals both ranked in the top five met during the regular season: #4 Ohio State defeated #5 Notre Dame 29-16 in South Bend. Nine years later, college football fans once again will be treated to such a high-profile game when #2 Texas takes on #4 Ohio State in Columbus in the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Stewart Mandel of points out that scheduling these types of intersectional rivalries between elite teams has become somewhat of an endangered species lately. He points to some of the intersectional rivalries of the past that made college football classic, Notre Dame - Army of the 1940s, USC - Alabama of the 1970s, and Notre Dame - Miami of the 1980s. Lately, many athletic directors have strayed from these types of games because they require a home and home contract that requires the sacrafice of a home game every other year.

But with schedule strength being a determining factor in getting Oklahoma to the BCS title game over USC and Auburn in each of the last two years, we're beginning to see the return of the intersectional rivalry to college football. Consider: Ohio State and USC will play in 2008 and 2009; Miami and Ohio State (remember that 2002 Fiesta Bowl?) in 2010 and 2011; Nebraska and USC in 2006 and 2007; Cal and Tennessee in 2006 and 2007; Florida State and Oklahoma in 2010 and 2011; Notre Dame and Oklahoma in 2012 and 2013.

Texas head coach Mack Brown, however, has indicated that the Longhorns will shy away from tough non-conference scheduling after the Ohio State series is over next year: "At places like ours, we're going to fill up our stadium regardless of who we're playing, so we'd actually make more money playing another game at home, getting our guys ready for our conference schedule. So I don't see this continuing."

Read more: Bring on the big boys

September 03, 2005

TCU Stuns Oklahoma

TCU is in victory formation as the final seconds tick off the clock. Down 10-0 at halftime, the Sooners scored 10 in the third quarter to tie, but TCU shutdown Oklahoma once again in the fourth quarter. Clearly, without Jason White under center, Oklahoma is a much different team. The defense may still be strong, but putting up a measly 10 points at home against the Horned Frogs will not get the job done, especially with a tough Big 12 schedule right around the corner. Adrian Peterson can put his Heisman campaign on hold for a while, as well, as he finished with only 64 yards on 22 carries. The loss was Bob Stoops first in September as the Sooners head coach. After being ranked #7 in the AP preseason Top 25, it now looks like this should be a very long year in Norman. Congratulations are in order for TCU quarterback Tye Gunn, who finished 24-for-45 with 222 yards and one touchdown.

Trouble in Norman

The Oklahoma Sooners, the perennial big time losers of the BCS title game, are in big trouble at halftime, as TCU leads 10-0 going into the lockerroom. What is the deal with these guys? I guess they're still reeling for that embarrassment of a "game" against USC in last year's Orange Bowl. They better get their act together fast or their title hopes and running back Adrian Peterson's Heisman Trophy dreams may end before Labor Day. The College Football Index currently features the headline "The Forgotten" referring to the Sooners as being overlooked and underrated: "OU is an afterthought in the Big 12." Yes, but perhaps for good reason!