So the Big Ten is wide open. Dan Shanoff always says if your team can't win a title in any given season, you might as well be interesting -- because that's the next best thing. I'm sure he'd place the Big Ten in the latter camp. Well, actually, no, he wouldn't -- he's an SEC maniac. Oh, but still. So yeah, here's the current Big Ten elite team equation, if you're lost -- and I'm including Notre Dame because because:
Things that happened: Michigan State < Notre Dame < Michigan < Michigan State
Things that also happened: Nebraska < Wisconsin < Michigan State < Ohio State < Nebraska
But where's Penn State?! Man, screw Penn State. Seriously. They are the worst. The worst. Everything about them is the worst. I hate Penn State. More on this later.
Meanwhile, Andrew Luck is amazing. Lukewarm on him through most of 2011 (more for his pocket passing than his actually being boring, which he really never was), I'm basically boiling now. My favorite part about Luck is you actually have to watch him to be impressed. You can't just watch a sweet highlight of him scrambling 83 yards and be like "damn, that guy's good." Because that's not how it works. For Denard Robinson, yes, but not Luck. In addition, you can't just look at a gaudy stat sheet from a random game and say "this guy is a lock to go No. 1 in the NFL Draft," and I only say that because his stats aren't mega eye-popping like some of the pass heavy college football teams. I'm not looking this up, but I'm pretty sure Andrew Luck has never had a seven, eight or nine touchdown game. Houston's Case Keenum has. And you know what? Nobody cares. Here's Luck's line from the USC-Stanford game -- a game I'd easily call Top 10 played this year: 29/40, 330 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT (returned for TD).
That's it. The pick-six makes it even better. Do yourself a favor and watch the dude play. Especially if you're an NFL fan. It doesn't get better than him (prospect-wise), he is a lock to start in the NFL (at very worst), and his team really isn't even that great. They've won 16 games in a row. Just gotta get past the Oregon test to make the national title. What a game that will be.
Iowa lost to Minnesota. Iowa rushed for around 948 yards against Minnesota, imposed their will all game long, got conservative as hell, then lost the god damned game by one point. I'm just going to recap an e-mail I sent to Hybrid reader, reporter, and friend Mikey B. following the aftermath of one of the most embarrassing Iowa losses since I've started following the team in 2004:
I don't want to waste time analyzing yesterday, but this is my question to you: can I distance myself from Iowa? I think it'd be unforgivable to quit on my alma mater or boycott it or dislike it, but I simply can't watch games where coaching staffs won't attempt a two-minute drill in the first half because they are so conservative and wrong.
The season was over after the [Iowa State] loss [in Week 2], and everything after just brings me pain. Their win aversion so greatly outweighs their loss aversion. It disgusts me in a really academic way. I consider myself an unentitled sports fan and an extremely unentitled Iowa fan, but losing to that Minnesota team [last week] was completely unacceptable. The onside kick was unforgivable. Iowa wasn't even close [to recovering it].
If they played that game 100 times, Iowa should have won all 100. mgoblog has been doing a feature called GopherQuest which basically pre-supposes the question: "Is 2011 Minnesota the worst Big Ten team of all-time?"
I'm so very tired of them never taking a chance late in a half. So very tired. ISU end, Minn 1st half, some other game I'm forgetting, OSU in 2009... so conservative.
Then fall asleep at the wheel in a situation where the onside was possible.
And on that onside, after Minn scored I wasn't thinking "be weary of the onside" (probably more because I was in a I-can't-believe-this-is-
happening haze), but I'm thinking someone on the coaching staff or a player should'vbe been ready for that.And to waste Coker's performance was criminal. Reminds me of the games they lost in 2008 when Greene went off.
He went on for a little more, then ended the e-mail with "Okie State or Stanford?" Which really is the only place it should have concluded.
(* = unbeaten, son)
1) LSU*: I've wavered once or twice on this properly hyped SEC regular season game people are treating like the BCS National Title, but ultimately I've settled with Alabama. The game is at Alabama, the Roll Damn Tide are favored by five, both defenses are elite, and both offenses kind of suck and rely on a ton of speed. All things semi-equal, 'Bama just makes sense. Also, can't you see this game being terrible? We've seen this narrative one too many times in college football: competent offense rolls inferior competition then not only comes down to earth but comes crashing down to earth against an overpowering defense. It happens, like, every other week in college football. This game could be no different.
2) Alabama*: Of course, because SEC people are so elitist and defensive, they'll defend the game no matter what. The excuses and reasons are built in: if the offenses light it up, it's because only offenses with the 'SEC speed' of 'Bama and LSU could solve the 'SEC speed' of the respective defenses. If the game is 13-10, then the narrative becomes, the 'SEC speed' on the defensive side of the ball is just so 'gaht dang mahty' that the offensives can't help but be completely boring and terrible. They're still great and amazing, so it's really not their fault. Not at all. Not in any way.
I truly hate this game. So glad one of them is going to lose.
3) Oklahoma State*: When do y'all play Oklahoma? Is that a 'last regular season game of the year' kind of thing? Mike B. said the game has a sweet title -- Bedlam Series. Can't wait.
Now, I've been rolling with Okie State ever since they sniped Texas A&M, but now blogging legend Doc Saturday is comparing them to college football legends Oregon?! And not just because of sweet/cool offense and a billionaire booster...but because of bad (read: awesome) defense? I love teams with bad defense! Seriously, you don't even have to read the article, just read the headline: "Oklahoma State's defense is not good. But is it good enough?"
So, so cool.
After that article was written, this happened...
4) Stanford*: Wanna be on record saying both college and NFL overtimes are great, and their drastic differences are what make them great.
5) Boise State*: You Big Eastin' or not, sirs?
6) Oklahoma: Seems high.
7) Arkansas: Seems high.
8) Oregon: Keep lurking, keep lurking.
9) South Carolina
10) Nebraska: How much to Nebraska fans (probably) love RB Rex Burkhead? Oh, you don't know who he is? Let me get a pic going. I've never seen his face before, but I'm confident I'll be backed up.
Wait. That's Rex Burkhead?
Damn. Really thought he'd look more like this.
11) Clemson: Clim...p....p....son. Everybody thought you'd blow it, and boy, did you blow it. Lost by double digits to G-Tech and put up just 17 points. Weak, dudes.
12) Virginia Tech
13) Houston*: Lowest ranked unbeaten.
14) Kansas State: Maybe I was too hard on poor Climpson, but there's no way I'm going to convey how much wrath Oklahoma brought down on K-State. The Wildcats lost 58-17 to the Sooners. With no further context, that's bad. But then there's this: K-State was actually up 17-14 in the second quarter before the Sooners went on a 44-0 run to end the game. How sick is that? The second half saw 35 of those 44 points. What death. Landry Jones is doing his best to atone for his weak showing against Florida State earlier this year. He put up 5 TDs and 2 INTs. Case Keenum would be rolling in his grave.
15) Michigan: Sometimes, when you need the best analysis, you have to defer to the best. mgoblog's Brian Cook, on Michigan/their ranking/college football, in his terrific words:
At some point, Michigan will find out what it is this year. I have no idea when that point will come.
We know they're better than they were last year. How much better remains frustratingly murky. You think you have the answer when Michigan is punked in East Lansing, but then the Spartans get throttled and Michigan beats Purdue and there they are again in the national rankings...
...and you wonder what happened to the rest of college football. This team is transparently flawed, incapable of going ten pass attempts without throwing the ball to the other team, and one year removed from having a defense that couldn't slow down a band of coked-out lemurs. So of course they are on the cusp of the top ten, hanging out with Houston, South Carolina's dumpster-fire offense, and Penn State's bold experiment into quarterback-free football. College football 2011: contagious and 100% fatal.
16) Penn State: Speaking of QB-free football. ESPN's very good Big Ten blog had the gall to throw up this headline Wednesday: Is 8-1 Penn State for real?
I'm not even going to waste an all-caps "NO" on that. It's NOt worth it. Haha.
Penn State's remaining schedule? vs. Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin
They will not be able to do what Michigan State did through that slate. Not happening. Real teams recognize real teams, to paraphrase hip-hop. Pretenders are always peaced. Always. Cream rises, Penn State. You need real QBs. I swear you do.
17) Michigan State: Three points against Nebraska, eh? Sorry boys, but I'm going to have to cue it up. I got to.
/cues it up
/hits machine to get kinks out
19) Arizona State
20) Wisconsin: Wisconsin in a much more familiar spot in the rankings. Remember No. 20, Madison? Sure you do. Just picture the same team you have now, but with a way, way more boring QB. There you go! 20! Pretty sweet, right? Oh, it sucks, you say? Well, yeah, I suppose it does. Live and die with power football, chubs.
23) Georgia Tech: Double-tapped Climpson, ranked again.
24) West Virginia
25) Southern Miss: Southern Miss?
Dropped from (AP) rankings, sponsored by Buddy's in Dylan, Texas: Texas A&M (charred), Texas Tech (burned)
- Paper Tebow.
- Also, check out the Deadspin/ESPN Tebow commenting posts, if you care about that kind of thing.
- Lastly... this section is burning me out. Seriously, this all happened in a week. Tebowing got created, Tebow acknowledged it and approved it, a dude sacked Tebow and Tebowed over Tebow, then Tebow today (or recently after) said the Tebowing didn't offend him. There's a theme here. Though I think it'd be a disservice if we didn't make it till the rest of the year. Or at least until he gets benched again. Did you see him against the Lions? Me either, but I heard he sucked.
Michigan (15) at Iowa: If Michigan doesn't win this game by at least one point, I'm killing everybody.
Indiana at Ohio State: Terrible, but I added it solely so I could include this picture.
The real upset here is I didn't create this.
Stanford (4) at Oregon State: In. I think I'm in on every Stanford game for the rest of the year.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma (6): A&M was seriously in the Top 10 earlier this year.
Southern Miss (25) at East Carolina: Southern Miss on the road!!!
South Carolina (9) at Arkansas (7): Got too much respect for the sanctity of single digit rankings to not include this game, but they do both have a loss, so it really doesn't interest me. ESS EE SEE. ESS EE SEE. ESS EE SEE.
LSU (1) at Alabama (2): Do we need a sarcastic gates of heaven picture? I say yes.
Game of the Week.
Why it's cool: I rip on the South a lot, but I'll be damned if those cats don't super respect football. A school rescheduled an entire event just around the game. So cool. That could never happen up here. It happens nowhere else.
Why it's terrible: you like over-signing and treating kids horribly? Then these are the two teams for you!
Kansas State (14) at Oklahoma State (3): A very solid Game of the Week silver medalist. Who knew it even existed? Ok-ie State! Ok-ie State!
Every year, once my actual favorite teams (Michigan, Iowa, Washington State) have been eliminated from the national title picture (by, you know, losing just one game), my buddy Ryan and I create what we call the "College Football Bandwagon" which mostly consists of a list of all the undefeated BCS conference teams minus Notre Dame (and sometimes others). The goal of the CFB is to fake feel good about yourself when your "team" makes the national title game. Plus it provides invested, fake rooting interests.
Roll Damn Tide: NO WAY AWR WE LOOSIN THEE-US AHT 'OME.
Oklahoma State: Go Pokes.
LSU: No. 1 sure feels like No. 2.
Roll Damn Tide
No: Houston, Boise State
Kansas State: It's been way too real.
Climpson: Climpson transformed back into Clemson like Cinderella at midnight.
Ryan also provided his anti-Boise State case by saying: "Kellen Moore is left handed...he's one of those people."
I then tried to add Houston because Case Keenum (who I think we hate) dropped a baller amount of passing touchdowns (nine total) en route to a 73-34 super awesome, score runnin' up victory over noted Purdue killer Rice University. Ry also vetoed that: "The original intent of 'the bandwagon' was to root for teams that had a legitimate shot at the national title. They are currently ranked 18th I believe." My response back to him? "FINE."
Last week, I got sad and lazy and didn't track this because I thought my season was over. Then, the stupid Northwestern TE scored four touchdowns* for me, and with a win and some luck, I am currently slated to make the playoffs. I need to catch some breaks this week, but it's so definitely possible.
We have two weeks left of the regular season before a four-team final four playoffs that occurs over another two week span. As you can see, my division is jam packed, but the first place guy and guy below me play this week, so that should help me in some way, right? Right? Math?
* - a non-QB scoring four TDs in college fantasy football (!) would be the equivalent of a guy scoring seven or eight TDs in real fantasy football
This week: Playing the only 1-8 team in the league (two games worse than anybody else). Though you think his team would suck, he starts super lame MSU QB Kirk Cousins, as well as the cool Ohio State tight end, the Wisconsin second string RB, the Northwestern defense, and some other guys. I would by no means call this game a lock. That said, I've got Russell Wilson against the Purdue defense. So... guaranteed victory? Not gonna do that, but I'm feeling OK about it.
I'm being harsh, but seriously and more specifically: when it comes to not super bumming out their fan base, Iowa really does suck. More ESPN Big Ten Blog:
What is Iowa football? A good program that sometimes has great seasons.This will not happen.
But it's also a program that loses far too often to teams that, in most years, it should beat. Whether it's Iowa State, Northwestern or, more recently, Minnesota, Ferentz's Hawkeyes seem to struggle against certain opponents.
Does Iowa simply play to the level of its competition? Or, is this program simply not at a point that it can reload and take care of business year after year?
...The Hawkeyes also have fared well against most of the upper-tier Big Ten teams, other than Ohio State. But just when the program seems to be turning a corner and becoming a power, seasons like 2005 and 2010 happen.
Iowa seems to be sending mixed messages to its fans. It pays [head coach Kirk] Ferentz handsomely, putting him among the top earners in college football. I've supported this decision, as I believe a big step toward becoming a big-time program is paying your coach a big-time salary.
But with that comes expectations. Among them: not losing to Iowa State and Minnesota.
Ferentz's response? Iowa isn't alone.
"There's a team in the Big 12 that went to a pretty prestigious place, beat a team that had a long win streak, beat them in their stadium," he said Tuesday, referring to Texas Tech's upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Oct. 22. "I think they were 29-and-a-half point underdogs. I did look it up. That's something we talked about. That's exemplary of college football."
It is, but these types of losses seem to happen with Iowa more than with most programs.
From Mike Hlas of The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette:
From 1999 to 2005, Ferentz's first seven seasons as Iowa's coach, the Hawkeyes were 18-0 straight-up when they were favored by 10 or more points. Since 2006, they are 19-9. That isn't especially good. It looks even worse when you compare it to the same records of the other Big Ten programs as double-digit favorites since 2006:Wisconsin 31-0
Penn State 29-0
Ohio State 42-2
Northwestern 8-1 .
Michigan State 16-2
That's a lot of times to disappoint your fan base, especially one led to believe Iowa has reached a different level. More discouraging is that the program Iowa most closely resembles, Wisconsin, has repeatedly taken care of business during the same span.
"The team we lost to this past weekend [Minnesota] had a couple tough outings," Ferentz said Tuesday. "They also lost to Southern Cal by two points at the Coliseum. Southern Cal played Stanford into overtime. If you pay attention to what's going on in the landscape of things, I'm not making any excuses, but that's football. As much as we all want to know what's going to happen before things happen, that's why you play games."
Can't argue with that. It's why Iowa might surprise everyone by sweeping its final four games, winning the Legends division and heading to Indianapolis. Stranger things have happened...
I've already bombarded you with passages this week, so we'll skip.
Wrapping It Up...
Solid 19% I don't watch 'Bama-LSU, but it feels like I kind of half to, right?
Bobby Loesch is the assistant editor of Tremendous Upside Potential and weekly contributor to SB Nation Chicago. He can be reached at bobbyloesch [at] gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobbystompy.