Author Archives: themanbearpig

The End of 2011 Sucked

Ah January of 2012. What a beautiful time of year this is. No more watching Case McCoy and David Ash battle to see who can lose the starting quarterback job quicker. No more playing hot potato amongst which Jet’s player will sabotage the season this week. No more A-Rod and .111 batting averages in the playoffs (even you stat nerds can agree that that is abysmal). No, all I have to truly worry about is where Texas’ (and to a lesser degree UConn’s) basketball season will wind up. Luckily, they (being Texas) have pulled the rare feat of being relatively mediocre in out-of-conference play with a 10-3 record. Subsequently my expectations are gloriously lowered and anything above sixth place (in a loaded conference mind you…) will seem like a great achievement. I’ve gotten used to fantastic implosions under Rick Barnes over the years, but they usually come in the middle of conference play when Texas is 17-1 and ranked #2 in the country. This season? They haven’t been ranked (like, at all) and I couldn’t be more psyched. Bring it on round of 68 11th seed! Because if there’s anything Rick Barnes teams do well it’s play above their double digit seeding in NCAA Tournaments. Wait, that’s Texas A&M? Crap…

"All I have to show for one year of Kevin Durant is a 10 loss season and a loss in the first weekend of the NCAAs!"

But in all seriousness, this is what I have to look forward to for January (and really the next four months): pure, unadulterated neutral rooting interest in one of the biggest times of the year for American sports. For the last 7 years or so I’ve been incredibly nervous this time of year. In 2004 Texas was desperately trying to prove itself with Vince Young as a sophomore quarterback (I got to sweat out a 38-37 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan) and the Jets almost beat the Steelers in the Divisional Round (Doug Brian, I’m still looking for you). 2005 was the greatest college football game ever played (if you have to ask, just…stop). 2006 and 2007 were relatively quiet but I whole heartedly wanted Alamo and Holiday Bowl wins for Colt McCoy and his underrated awesomeness. 2008 was one of the biggest fuck jobs in the BCS era (Texas still won a close Fiesta Bowl over Ohio State) and 2009 was both the National Championship AND the Jet’s first AFC Championship Game run since 1998 (seriously, fuck you Elway). 2010 might’ve been abysmal in 40 acres territory but it was also the first back to back AFC Championship games in Jet’s history. All in all, the Januaries of my senior year of high school through my second year out of undergrad have been down right stressful. Now? It’s like being Switzerland in World War II; I just don’t care.


Still, there are observations to be made, anger to be spat and various diseases to be wished upon people I don’t know personally. So, without further ado here goes my ranting for the past month and a half of purified shit that I witnessed on the playing fields of my favorite teams…

– The Yankees weren’t supposed to compete this post season. If it’s possible for a team with a $200 million payroll to have low expectations amongst many pundits, the Yankees did it…and yet. They went 97-65, watched the Red Sox gloriously tank their season, had home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs and…lost to the Tigers in 5 games. I said before the divisional round the team I wanted to see most was Justin Verlander and a bunch of scrubs. I got my wish, and proceeded to spiral into a nice little 4 day window of depression after game 5. Thanks bombers. But if we’re really going to talk high expectations…

I'd feel better about the playoffs if this guy ^ didn't look like a crazed child molester.

– Do you now what it’s like to be a Jets fan in January? It’s miserable. The Jets rarely make the playoffs and when they do we as fans become even more pessimistic than usual. Not only that, but we’re the fans that (I’m pretty sure…) copied the E-A-G-L-E-S for our J-E-T-S team chant (they started in 1960, check it on Wikipedia). Seriously, we stole from Philly! That’s like ripping off “Achy Breaky Heart” as your lone hit single. Still, the past two seasons were pretty glorious in the lives of Jets fans. We witnessed our rookie quarterback (after giving us all a collective ulcer in the regular season) beat a Chargers team he had no business beating at San Diego in ’09. This was before scaring the shit out of what might wind up being Peyton Manning’s last great Colts team in the AFC Championship. In 2010 they made the playoffs (without backing in), upsetting what might wind up being Peyton Manning’s last decent Colts team in the playoffs. They then shocked the world against the Patriots and came within an awful Brian Schottenheimer game plan (and five points) of making the Super Bowl.

But this season? Awful. It was just plain awful. After 3 years of Super Bowl proclamations (and almost backing it up…) the Jets imploded. There were signs early. They unsuccessfully chased a luxury cornerback only to re-sign the same good but flawed one from the prior year and lost out on key opportunities to sign another solid running back or wide receiver. The Jets let go of a couple of key veterans, signed at least one other cancerous veteran and then, in the crux of the season, lost Jim Leonhard for the year when they were 8-5. Ryan seemed to completely lose his knack for motivating the team, Schotty went from somewhat inept to completely inept and the Jets blew the few opportunities they had to beat a good team (Patriots, Ravens and, I guess, the Giants). To top it off, Mark Sanchez didn’t really improve at all (he might have even regressed…), and the Jets may very well be facing the possibility that the Sanchize isn’t a franchise quarterback at all. So…yeah.


– Speaking of Sanchize, do you know what it’s like watching the trio of Mark Sanchez, David Ash and Case McCoy play quarterback for your two (two!) favorite football teams?! It’s like watching the Kardashian sisters try to solve a rubiks cube. If I have to go through one more Fall of this I might very well kill myself. Hear that Mark? No pressure buddy.

Do you think they even know how to spell Rubiks?...or Kardashian?

– I know that in this age of absurd offensive stats (70 points allowed in the Orange Bowl Clemson? Seriously?!) I’m supposed to appreciate the defensive “masterpieces” that were LSU-Alabama I and II, but I don’t. Sorry. I get why NL guys love watching Roy Halladay go 10 innings in a 1-0 shut out. It’s an unbelievable piece of pitching in the live ball era, and while I don’t like NL baseball it’s an awesome athletic achievement nonetheless. But if people didn’t like that 3-0 Sun Bowl victory by Oregon State over Pittsburgh back in 2008 (everyone hated it), I certainly don’t understand why 9-6 OT scores and 8 quarters (I’m counting OT) of touchdown-less football are all of a sudden held in high regard. Look, I don’t love the pussification of our new favorite past time (no matter how cute Robert Griffin’s braids are…). I also know I don’t have to love the complete offensive ineptitude we saw on display in each of these SEC “Armageddon” games. So yeah…fuck you Saban.

The North Dakota State Bison: Your 2011 NCAA Division I National Champions

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for; “Did I mention how depressing the headline ‘Jets to Announce the Hiring of Sparano as Offensive Coordinator’ makes me? Did I mention how depressing the lie ‘BCS officials to consider all options’ makes me? No? 2012 is going to suck.”

Yes, even worse than this.


NCAAF Week 10 and 11: The Darkness In Happy Valley

For over two and a half months I’ve blogged weekly about college football. I’ve talked about the prior week’s performances on the field, highlighted some of the amazing individual players, or chided teams for failing to live up to expectations. College football is something I’ve followed closely since I was a kid and it is probably the one topic I can most easily write about (and ramble on about…) every week. Trust me, the amount of useless facts I’ve accumulated that relate to teams like Eastern Michigan,Idaho and San Diego State is pretty amazing…and/or depressing. Still, writing about it is a release for me, an opportunity to put nearly 2,000 words on a computer screen and rant about something that, while I don’t have any control over it, I love following, discussing, and debating.

And yet, for the last 10 days I have really struggled to say anything about college football. Never before have I put so many words down that wound up getting deleted or tossed out. The last time I had this much difficulty with a finished product I was working on my senior thesis. This two or three page post has, at times, felt far more difficult.

Part of me didn’t even want to write about Penn State and Jerry Sandusky. Already, dozens of articles written by professionals far more talented than I am have explored every inch of this story. Some of them have been mediocre, but many of them have been exceptional, capturing the case and its emerging facts perfectly, while exploring other nuances to the tragedy as a whole. Really, I figured I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and I was scared shitless about writing on something so layered and difficult. Indeed, it doesn’t even seem like we’ve scratched the surface of this case, and yet there is already so much to think about.

Still, another part of me decided that if I was going to talk about everything college football, including the BCS debate and other off-field issues, then I’d better man up and be able to share my thoughts on the worst story ever connected directly to the sport, even if it doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with the actual sport of football. That is the important distinction to be made; this story is most certainly not about college football. It’s about at least 8 kids who were irrevocably damaged by a predatory monster. It’s about how two major institutions kept the facts surrounding these atrocities concealed and hidden for years, and it’s about how a monster can, for so long, pretend to be an upstanding man in his community. It’s about a Happy town turned to darkness, and a prideful mega-university shamed.

When the case against Sandusky is over, and the civil trials have occurred, and the victims are continuing a life long journey back to some degree of comfort, the college football aspect of the ugliness will seem like a very miniature piece of what has gone on. Oh, it will reverberate in the halls of Penn State, in the stands of Beaver Stadium, and in the locker room of the Nittany Lions for years. If it doesn’t, then that University and its athletic program haven’t learned shit. Still, in areas that really matter, football will fade into the background pretty quickly, a foot note at the end of every stenographers report as Sandusky is processed through the legal system. For now though, it’s still a big part of the focus, mainly because it adds to the severity of the story. There are plenty of predators out there like Jerry Sandusky. The man is, unfortunately not unique in his sickness.

What makes him and this case unique is the man’s station in life, both as a football coach and as the founder of an organization that interacted with nearly 400,000 kids a year in the State of Pennsylvania. As the second most powerful man at Penn State University, Sandusky’s position allowed him to get all kinds of free gifts (the tickets, shoes, jerseys, footballs….hotel rooms) that he in turn used as bait for these children (not a knock against corporate sponsors by the way, just another ugly side affect) and commit the atrocities that he did. The reason college football is important here is because it’s what allowed Sandusky to more easily commit his crimes. But it is not important here for any other reason. Joe Pa’s legacy doesn’t matter. Mike McQueary’s job status doesn’t matter. Nebraska-PSU doesn’t matter. What matters is getting straight exactly what Sandusky did, prosecuting him for it, and sending him to prison forever.

I think the man is as guilty as they come. That abysmal, and pretty disturbing, interview with Bob Costas was as much of a confession as I’ve ever heard. And I definitely don’t think it was just 8 kids. More than 8 may not come forward, but you don’t just suddenly become this kind of sicko as an adult. What causes Sandusky to do what he does is deep seeded and permanent. There is no rehabilitation for what that man is.

For what it’s worth, I think Mike McQueary didn’t do enough. I also think he did more than anyone else associated with Penn State University. An ESPN article recently interviewed a 25 year veteran FBI criminal profiler (Jane Turner) who shed some light on why McQueary initially froze up when confronted with what he saw in the Penn State locker room. She made the point that most men have never seen what McQueary witnessed in any capacity, and therefore the brain doesn’t necessarily know how to handle that kind of trauma, at least initially. This was especially true for McQueary because of his personal relationship with Sandusky. The agent also said she understood why McQueary didn’t pursue the case after he initially elevated it to Paterno and the gang, stating the man knew his whole career and life would probably be on the line if he did. She also said that this didn’t make his inaction in either instance right, just maybe more understandable, and typically human. She almost described McQueary’s reaction as not bad, but not good, a weird grey in-between where many men in the same scenario probably would’ve fallen. I hope that’s not the case, but this woman knows more about this topic than I do. Still, if I had witnessed this and acted as McQueary did, I would expect to be held in the same sort of harsh judgment. He did more than anyone else, but just because his reaction was a “typical human response” doesn’t make it okay.

In the case of Joe Paterno, his legacy is tarnished and deservedly so. Don’t give me bullshit generational excuses or tell me he elevated it as high as he could. My girlfriend’s father put it perfectly; in many universities the hierarchy goes in descending order of control from Board of Trustees, to the President of the University, to the Athletic Director, to the Head Coach. At Penn State, the hierarchy worked in the exact opposite direction (and to say otherwise is purely ignorant, especially when you consider that it was 2002). Everyone was taking orders from JoePa, and whether you believe that aspect of it was right or wrong doesn’t matter. The most powerful man in Pennsylvania washed his hands of it and let Sandusky continue on his merry way for 9 more years. Paterno had a great run of fame, fortune, and a sterling reputation, and I never begrudged him any of that, regardless of how I felt about his coaching ability. But when a man with that much power fails to squash something like this, he deserves to have that reputation tarnished and his legacy somewhat undone. He most certainly could’ve done more than Mike McQueary, but ultimately he really didn’t do anything at all.

The silver lining to this evilness is two-fold. For one thing, Sandusky is in custody. If the legal system does what it is supposed to (the prosecution should just hand the jury that fucking Costas interview and sit back) he will spend the rest of his life behind bars, rotting away, and learning what the jail definition of “horseplay in the showers” really means. Maybe with this man put away and with some time and help courtesy of Penn State University (thanks Jane Leavy) these victims can finally begin to heal. Maybe over time these victims can finally move past the horrors they experienced knowing that no one else will ever suffer at the hands of their oppressor.

The second silver lining is this; all of you tough guys who have sat there and said you would’ve done more than McQueary, that you would’ve blown the whistle on the abuse, here’s your chance. For the rest of your lives remember Sandusky. Remember Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and the PSU Board of Trustees. Most importantly, remember victims one through eight. Remember them so that whenever you see abuse in any form, whether it be bullying of a kid, the striking of a wife, or a beating in the street, you’ll do everything you can to stop it from continuing. Only then will this have done any semblance of good.

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for:

How a Punter Became the MVP of The Biggest Regular Season Game In Years

The above statement is not a mis-print. It is not meant to be some out of the box proclamation that infuriates college football purists or bottom of the page commenters (not that I have any of those). It is not my attempt to be different or to disregard some of the other performances on the field last night. Rather it is simply a statement of the facts. LSU punter Brad Wing, in a game that featured an absolute lack of offensive play making, seemed to be the only player intent on doing just that; making plays. Indeed, his 73 yard punt may have been the play of the game.

"'The Aussie Annihilator'? 'The Punter From Down Under'? 'Wing, Australian for Roll This'? I'm really bad at nicknames...

With 11:07 left in the fourth quarter LSU was forced to punt from its own end zone after what seemed like the 50th three and out of the evening. With Alabama wide receiver Marquis Maze back to receive, Wing launched an arcing punt right at the receiver that went over 50 yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. As the ball neared the Alabama 40 yard line Maze decided not to bother with a fair catch, instead allowing the ball to roll all the way to the Alabama 18 yard line. In a game where offensive yards were at a premium the decision to not even fair catch around the 40 was a somewhat inexplicable move.

"Should I catch this? Nah, I shouldn't catch this."

Two things led to that play. The first was a huge (if not slightly lucky) interception off of a throw by the receiver Maze out of a wildcat formation. It looked as if another Alabama receiver had made a beautiful leaping grab before the LSU defender stripped the ball out coming down. The second was Alabama’s return formation all night against LSU’s punt game. Alabama left its defense in the game on punts, protecting against potential fakes that Les Miles has been known for throughout his career. Indeed Brad Wing had scored on a long fake punt run earlier in the season (the Australia native is actually pretty athletic) that was called back on a taunting penalty. By leaving the defense on the field there was relatively little protection for the returner Maze. I should also add that Maze spent most of the second half hurt, affecting his lateral quickness visibly on subsequent offensive drives for the Tide. It also seemed to affect his mentality on the return. Still, not fair catching a ball he could’ve easily run up to is a pretty big lack of awareness.

"Maybe Brad Wing can some day star in an otherwise great guilty pleasure movie ruined by Keanu Reeves."

That was kind of the name of the day for Alabama though. Throughout the game the Tide ran a number of formations with three receivers bunched close in (a “trips” formation) on one side and a receiver (usually Maze) isolated on the other. With about four minutes left in the second quarter and the Tide on the LSU 17 Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron had trips left and an isolated receiver (this time Darius Hanks) on the right. With a wide open receiver in the left flat McCarron rushed the throw on a fade right into the end zone and an incompletion. One look at a furious Nick Saban on the sideline and you knew where the freshman McCarron’s eyes should have been. Bama finally got its first points of the game on a field goal, but after missing three kicks prior to that it was clear that three points was more of a win for the Tigers than the Tide.

The special teams in general were a huge disadvantage for Alabama all day. They went two for six on field goals (something I’d personally never seen before), including one block in the first quarter and a huge miss on their overtime possession. Meanwhile LSU’s kickers seemed completely loose and collected the whole time. On all three field goals their place kickers were completely in control, while Wing made people actually pay attention to a punter. I said last week that having a loose coach, loose team and loose mentality might come into play in one of the most pressure filled and hyped up regular season games in history. I said that LSU would have an advantage in that case playing for Les “The Mad Hatter” Miles. It was no more apparent than in the team’s respective kicking games, where Alabama looked incredibly nervous playing for one of the most methodical coaches in football. While Les looked natural being fired up on the sideline, Saban looked completely out of character. It translated to the players and subsequently to the outcome of the game.

"Strange. He was so nice in that Sandra Bullock movie."

All in all Armageddon was a weird contest, and somewhat of a letdown. While it was exhilarating to watch a ton of future professionals on both defenses it was thought that the offenses would flash at least some of their characteristic athleticism. Aside from a couple of phenomenal Trent Richardson plays (yards after contact should count double statistically) the offenses on both sides looked completely out of sorts throughout the evening. On a day and night where there was a number of exciting college football contests (including a Kansas State – Oklahoma State shoot out that was running parallel to The Duo of the Deep South) Armageddon had less excitement than a bad Bruce Willis movie. Oh well.

"In Bruce's defense, if the poster had Ben Affleck on it from 1998 to 2008 chances were it was just awful."

Still, after seeing the AP and coaches polls today, where Bama is ranked fourth in both, there’s a very real possibility for a re-match in the national championship game. If that happens then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a touchdown…on defense. That would be truly apocalyptic.

"This ^ is what happens when you search 'armageddon football' on Google images. Seriously, what the shit internet?"

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “No, I did not forget that there were over 50 other games played on Saturday, I promise. On a day and night when Texas won by 32, A&M became completely mediocre, Cincinnati cleared up the Big East picture, Oklahoma State nearly broke their fans hearts again and Stanford and Oregon set up a poor man’s Armageddon game, there was a whole mess of things to talk about. Week 10 break down is on its way.”

NCAAF Week 9: Letters To Clemson and Why Putting All Our Eggs in Stanford’s or Oklahoma State’s Basket May Not Be Such a Great Idea

Dear Clemson, You know I don’t like writing these letters right? Really, I hate seeing teams like you lose. See, I would much rather have 15 teams finish undefeated and cause every college football fan to collectively lose their BCS related shit over this convoluted system we’re subjected to each year. But no. You, like Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Michigan and Oklahoma before you (and Kansas State with you…), decided you just couldn’t keep winning anymore. You had to take a loss, and pretty much guarantee yourself out of the national title picture entirely. Granted either you or Georgia Tech would’ve had to lose eventually (you know, because you just played each other and everything) but at least one of you could’ve kept this interesting long into December and January. Now I’m stuck rooting for Stanford (we’ll get to you Andrew Luck), Oklahoma State (god help me), Boise and Houston (this isn’t actually a serious statement…) to all win out (mind you, with pretty much all of their toughest games left in front of them) so that we can properly start reigning down holy flames of blog related fire on some BCS ass (holes). Unfortunately, this is now like occupying BCS Street for the rest of the regular season with half a veggie sprouts sandwich, a teaspoon of petrulli oil and a stack of newspapers to sleep under. Don’t believe me? Let me walk you (and the other slackers) through what you’ve left BCS haters with:

"The BCS? They're the guys on the left, which makes me the shirtless weirdo...wait."

Oklahoma State: This program may or may not be the biggest red headed step child in college football…and no, that is not a jab at Brandon Wheeden. They constantly live in the shadow of one of the 5 most successful college football programs ever and have spent decades trying to compete in a relatively barren state when it comes to recruiting (even many of Oklahoma’s players come from Texas). The few times OSU held the national spotlight over the Sooners they’ve routinely blown it (including Barry Sander’s Heisman Trophy winning season and the 2009 and 2010 seasons), and have generally just existed in a consistent malaise of mediocrity. But over the past six or seven seasons the Cowboys have steadily improved under Mike “I’m A MAN, I’m 40!” Gundy and worked themselves into national title contenders. This has culminated in an 8-0 start to this season where they’ve dismantled most everyone. With Kansas State (I can’t emphasis the O in Overrated enough), Texas Tech and Iowa State left before their game with the Sooners they should (I can’t italicize should enough) be 11-0 heading into a game that only back woods ancestors of the “Trail of Tears” could seriously coin as “Bedlam” (which, of course, they did). That the rivalry hasn’t exactly been close pretty much goes without saying. OSU last won in 2002 (prior to Gundy) and has watched their many disappointing campaigns symbolically culminate in a loss in this game. That OSU will probably have an undefeated season, first Big XII Championship and first spot in a national title game on the line here just makes the nervousness in Stillwater that much more palpable.

"No no, you're totally not f***ing bonkers."

Boise State: If I thought these guys actually had a legitimate shot at making the title game I’d be a lot happier with our group of BCS f***ers. Out of all of the teams here I have the most confidence in Boise to go up against LSBama and knock either one off their lofty perch. Boise’s entire history has been filled with success. Since moving up to Divison I they’ve had two losing seasons, and both of them came when they first became and FBS team in 1996 and 1997. Since then? 140-26. I can say with 99% certainty that no other team has done that in the same time frame. When you consider that this team has only been in the NCAA since 1969 and only in Division I at any level since 1978 the success becomes even more astonishing. I have no doubt these guys could compete in a BCS national championship game if given the opportunity. Considering their pedigree and basic inability to lose (as compared to all of the others here…), they’re actually the team most suited to really shaking things up and ending the nauseating SEC dominance. Too bad they won’t get a shot.

"This 12 year old is 45-2 as a starter. Neither of those things are a mis-print."

Houston: Just stop.


"This 45 year old threw for 9 TDs in ONE GAME. Again neither of those things are a misprint."

Stanford: I saved Stanford for last because out of all of these teams (yes, even Houston) they were the farthest away from this point 3 seasons ago. Remember last week when I said that prior to last year making a bowl game at Stanford was a big deal? I wasn’t kidding. The Cardinal spent the better part of the aughts bottom feeding in a top heavy Pac-10 and only remained relevant by occasionally paying ESPN to play the “trumpet player game” (which they lost…) as a random highlight. Now? They’ve gone 28-6 since the beginning of 2009 and won a BCS Bowl game by like 50 points. That’s downright impressive for the Cardinal. It’s also ridiculously rarified air for this program.

"Above: Jim Harbaugh fruitlessly tries to mirror how obsessed the rest of the country is with Andrew Luck...Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck."

No program in recent memory has quite done what the Cardinal have done since the start of 2009. Sure we’ve had some very interesting teams seemingly come out of nowhere. Cincinnati had that cool two year run under Brian Kelly (remember 13-0?!). Kansas inexplicably went 12-1 a few years back. Michigan State’s 11-2 season last year was pretty out of the ordinary. Hawaii made a BCS Bowl in 2006 (Colt Brennan anyone?). Texas Tech had the Michael Crabtree year (goddamnit…). All those teams had the same things in common. They were generally terrible to decent football programs that broke through for one truly magical year where everyone in the country stopped and said, “what in the f*** is going on?!” The closest doppleganger for the Cardinal though isn’t any of the above. It’s 2006 Rutgers.

For people not from the Tri State area (or the Northeast for that matter) 2006 Rutgers was a really big deal. It was a relevant college football team from a place whose most significant college football moment before that had been Donovan McNabb’s senior year at Syracuse. Rutgers rose to 9-0 and number 7 in the country before inexplicably dropping a 30-11 decision to a decent 8-5 Cincy squad led by Mark Dantonio. They’d still finish 11-2, barely losing the Big East Championship to West Virginia in an epic 41-39 triple OT season finale before winning their first bowl game ever (seriously). Prior to the game, Rutgers’ had been around forever (the first somewhat modern football game was played there in the 1800s) and yet never done anything even remotely remarkable besides be a doormat for some great Big East teams (which has pretty much been the case with Stanford for decades). That year they quietly gained national title game talk out of seemingly nowhere before settling down a bit and having a historic year. So really they’re a good doppleganger for 2010 Stanford. 2011 Stanford? We’re kind of in uncharted waters here…

"FACT: Every Rutgers fan and team member had a blowout in 2006."

For one thing Stanford won that BCS Bowl Game last year (something only Kansas, out of the schools above, can say). For another they kept the party going. All of these other schools had let downs following their golden year or two. And while most of them didn’t completely fall off the map, none of them got to 8-0 the next season, or number 4 in the country, or had anyone remotely like Andrew Luck. It’s what sets Stanford apart from all of them, but also makes Stanford an unlikely candidate to keep it all going and wreak some havoc on the system. This is not typical Stanford territory and like the schools before it we have no idea how much the team can handle.

Last year they lost their one game pretty early on to Oregon and from there somewhat understatedly got to 12-1. Sure everyone was freaking out about Andrew Luck but the limited west coast college football media attention was almost wholly focused on whether Oregon could actually stay undefeated and then compete in the national championship game (which they did, admirably). Now Stanford is dealing with mounting pressure and an undefeated campaign that has to get through four more regular season games (including Oregon…) plus a first ever Pac-12 Championship Game to have any shot at the national title. Then they have to win the stupid game for anyone to actually say “oh wait, I guess one of these teams can win a national championship.” And make no mistake, Stanford is one of those (read: middle of the pack or worse) programs. Oregon could have done that last year, but they blew it to Auburn. Now it may be Stanford’s turn, and while I love Andrew Luck and the Stanford story, I’m just not sure how much faith I have. Shit, now I’m depressed.

"You know Andrew, you look like one of those Occupy Wall street people. So how bout you go occupy the end zone in the national championship game?

In terms of games this week I’m just going to skip LSU-Alabama. It is the biggest regular season game of the last 5 years (Michigan-OSU in 2006 had similar hype, but for some reason isn’t being talked about at all) and has completely dwarfed the other 118 teams in the FBS. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. With that, I’ll only say that I’m rooting for LSU. After reading the Outside The Lines piece on Les Miles this week I love the guy, which from the sound of it is pretty typical. He’s a loose coach, he runs a relatively loose program, and with the build up to this kind of game you have to have some small sense of, well, looseness. Plus, I once called Nick Saban a soulless ass. So…yeah.

"I didn't stutter."

There are a couple of other somewhat less small games this weekend though. Most notably…Oklahoma State-Kansas State:  All that stuff I just talked about above regarding this team and breaking hearts? It could very well happen as soon as tomorrow against a Kansas State team that was thoroughly embarrassed last week. Still, something feels different about the Cowboys this year. If it’s going to end, it won’t happen here. South Carolina-Arkansas: If you BCS haters give two shits about Boise State squeaking into that national title game you will root for Arkansas (and Georgia). Damnit.

"So Boise's National Title hopes may be riding on this douche's team? Great."

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “I’m slipping this post in under the radar and subsequently watching Brian Wilson on College Game Day as I finish. Seriously, he should quite baseball and do this permanently. He just told Corso not to ‘point his Ticonderoga at him.’ Hilarious.”

NCAAF Week 8: Sparty’s (non) Hail Mary, Red Raider’s Revenge and How Bout That Big XII?

Dear, Wisconsin. Ohhhhh Wisconsin. I had you all pegged as this balance of power running, phenomenally accurate arm strength, un-Big 10 like athleticism (read: good thing) and a down right nasty defense only to see you go out and do…this. Saturday night started out well enough for you. Two 1st quarter offensive touchdowns, dominant defense, a deafening East Landing crowd turned relatively mute in a matter of minutes. And then, in as weird a momentum shift as I’ve ever seen, Heisman trophy candidate Russel Wilson threw the ball away from his own end-zone only to have the refs call it intentional grounding. That meant Sparty’s first 2 points and the ball back, after which they scored on a 34 yard reverse to suddenly be down by only five. After blocking a field goal attempt on your next drive, Michigan State proceeded to go 80 yards, scoring on a 4th and 2 from your 35 to take a 16-14 lead. Huh? How did a team with such phenomenal ball control ability and defense allow that 16 point swing in less than a quarter of play. From there the momentum was all MSU. That they scored on a hail mary at the end of regulation to win the game after blowing a 31-17 (i.e. same 2 touchdown lead you started off with) only cemented how strange this game became…and how indicative it was of your bad luck/brain farts over the past decade. Your inability to stop big plays on defense combined with just enough good Mark Dantonio defense to become a perfect remedy against the steamroller you guys had been riding for over seven weeks. Woof.

"Sincerely, A guy whose nickname is based on that ^."

Wisconsin has had a number of good teams that took national title hopes into late October, or finished with one or two loss records and just enough regrets. Outside of Ohio State, they’ve quietly been the Big 10’s most consistent program since 2000. All that’s been missing is a truly great quarterback, with next level Heisman-esque potential to bring the Badgers a national title, which of course they got this year. While it looked good for six games, we now know that the football gods just won’t allow the state of Wisconsin to dominate football at both of its highest levels. Oh well. In 2012 it’ll be back to quarterbacks named Nate Tice and Joe Brennan and questions like whether you can, in fact, win the Big 10 just by running the ball. But for now, let’s see if Wisconsin can’t make a run at the Big 10 Title with a bit of help.

"You know why Wisconsin didn't win on Saturday? Because they didn't have Aaron Rodgers...Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers..."

The icing on the cake was Michigan State’s unlikely yet all too familiar way of winning football games under Mike Dantonio. Remember the fake field goal game winner at Notre Dame last year or when they scored 23 unanswered points to beat Illinois weeks later? How about the interception return for touchdown that ended Michigan’s undefeated run this year? The hail mary, especially when you consider how the game played out, should have actually been expected. Even if there’s a distinct possibility that the hail mary didn’t actually go for a touchdown (I’m still not sure if he broke the plain) is there any doubt that MSU would’ve pulled it out anyway? Honestly, they just saved everyone a few nutty overtime periods that would’ve essentially produced the same result. So congrats Spartans, you are officially the New York Jets of college football (you know, minus all the slap-your-forehead trash talking, insane coaching stunts and sub-par quarterback play). Bravo.

"Future SAT question: 'Ron Zook is to Rasputin as Mark Dantonio is to ______' (hint: he's pictured above)."

In other parts of the country, LSU and Alabama set up a regular season game that will decide, among other things, “which undefeated SEC coach has more southern moxie,” “how many times can LSU coach Les Miles outfox himself…and have it somehow pay off,” “the SEC West division, SEC Championship and possibly national championship,” and “can a player actually be arrested on the field in the middle of a play.” Heady stuff. We also found out that the geniuses at Stanford managed to do something no one else has been able to do; make Andrew Luck relatively meaningless in a big Stanford win (or really any Stanford win). Of course, everyone probably thought he went for those 400+ rushing yards all by himself anyway.

Wait, you mean Andrew Luck wasn't snapping himself the ball? Or solving quadratic equations in between plays on his wrist band? Andrew Luck? Andrew Luck Andrew Luck Andrew Luck...."

Lastly, Oklahoma was stricken with an ailment it has become quite familiar with in recent years; Red Raider’s Revenge. Texas Tech has managed to play spoiler for both Big XII heavyweights in recent years (how the Halloween catch keeps getting brought up in my own posts I will never know), but they’ve particularly had it out for the Sooners. Tech beat Oklahoma in ’99, ’05, ’07 and ’09. In ’07 the Sooners we’re 9-1 and ranked #3. Add in this year’s win and that’s two top 3 rankings ruined by the Raiders in five seasons. Only Texas has beaten Oklahoma that many times in the span, and they certainly haven’t gotten two wins against top 3 ranked Oklahoma teams in that time. Shit, this is making me depressed.

"It's like Montezuma's revenge...except with more puking."

Here are some take aways from this year’s installment: Tommy Tuberville’s now super-underrated head coaching record against top 5 teams (he’s 5-5…), how good Texas Tech QB Seth Doege is (24-4 TD:Int ratio), the rescinding of the “Big Game Bob” moniker that Stoops had somewhat gotten back in September (you don’t get to be Big Game when you can’t win an over-matched opponent game) and Oklahoma’s mediocre passing offense. That last one is huge by the way, because even if Oklahoma gets past the increasingly difficult remainder of the schedule (they still have K-State, A&M and Baylor who have a combined 16-4 record) they still have to go to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, in case you forgot, rank second in passing yards in the country. So…have fun with that Sooners.

"This ^ is not an embellishment...Yippee."

On to the week 8 games: I know there was a lot of Big XII talk above but guess what? That conference has two 4-2 teams, two 5-2 teams, one 6-1 team and two 7-0 teams. With five or six games left to go for each and the meat of the new round robin Big XII in-conference format to boot, most of these teams haven’t even played each other yet (and they all have to). That’s all about to change as we near November, and with no conference championship game there could be all kinds of intrigue going into the first weekend of December! Yes please. To kick it off we have two huge mid afternoon games on Saturday; Baylor at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma at Kansas State. To clarify; that’s all 3 of the Big XII’s top 10 teams plus a Heisman Trophy contender for the bears. If they add West Virginia this week then this conference might be nearly back from the dead.

"And Boise. For god sakes Chuck Neinas add Boise!"

Clemson at Georgia Tech; this was supposed to be the poor man’s LSU-Bama. Now it’s just another Clemson game that ACC commissioner John Swofford has to sweat out while he hopes to keep his conference football relevant. Stanford at USC; remember when Stanford put itself on the national map back in 2009 by crushing USC at the Coliseum by 34 points? Since that game Stanford is 20-3 and has spent most of the time in the top 10. USC is 16-7, and while that’s certainly respectable for most teams it’s also exactly how many losses USC had from 2003 to 2008…total. I think Stanford will make it 3 straight and 4 out of 5 versus the Trojans, but they might actually have to work for this one. Illinois at Penn State; who would have thought two weeks ago that the Nittany Lions would be the ranked team in this match up (and 7-1)? Oh that’s right, every Florida and Illinois fan whose ever been burned by the Zooker…so like millions of people. Georgia at Florida; this has to be mentioned because it used to semi-officially be called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (and I’m trying to do everything I can to keep that going). It also has to be mentioned because, while the Gators have seemingly given up, the Bulldogs have won five straight and are on the verge of giving Boise State a legitimate SEC win on its schedule. Go Ugga! Navy at Notre Dame; Brian Kelly, I dare you to lose to Navy for the third year in a row and fourth time in five years. Seriously, the Irish are not above firing you after two seasons. BYU at TCU; did you know BYU is 6-2? Yeah, me neither.

"Great, now I've been Zookered..."

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “The next time someone tries to sprint across midfield, belly dance, chest pump a 300 pound man, and then try to touch ME? I’m kicking them in the shins. Just saying Jim Schwartz…pussy.”

NCAAF Week 7: Oregon’s Inability to go Away, ACC Basketball Season and The First BCS Rankings Have Been Released, Let the Kvetching Begin…

It took exactly one week for the ACC to stop taking football seriously. The conference entered the weekend with one semi-unstoppable rushing team in Georgia Tech and a 5-1 Wake Forest team looking to make national noise. What they got was another disappointing close Georgia Tech loss at Virginia (where they were on a 1-8 streak coming in…), and Frank Beamer waking his team up just in time to ruin a promising start by the Demon Deacons. Clemson pulled it out against Maryland (an admirable comeback), but also managed to impregnate a seed of doubt in people’s minds. When you consider how bad the Terp’s defense is, you realize that putting up 56 points (and allowing 45) isn’t that impressive at all. Through 7 weeks, the ACC is now officially hanging this resurgent season on a team in territory it’s never even heard of. Still, Clemson has also found its way out of games it would have blown in past seasons. They won’t get any breaks with UNC this week before having to prepare for Tech’s triple option in Atlanta, and I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to stop the Yellow Jacket’s attack (Clemson is allowing 4.66 yards/rush through seven games). With that, the conference will have completely turned its attention to basketball by November.

"That's a Lamborghini on a basketball court. You're telling me that's any less gaudy than a fashion show? Seriously."

Let’s stop and appreciate what Chip Kelly’s done at Oregon…again. In his first season he had to replace Pac-10 1st team QB Jeremiah Masoli on a few months notice, and LaGarette Blount one week after the infamous punching incident (albeit the replacement was LaMichael James). They wound up winning 10 games and the conference. In year 2 he inserted a sophomore with no experience (Darron Thomas) to run his precise Blur offense and went to Oregon’s first national championship game where the Ducks lost on a last second field goal. This season? Not only is he in solid position for a 3rd consecutive BCS bowl in his first 3 seasons as head coach, but he just won his second toughest in-conference game without his most dynamic offensive player (James) and without Thomas for the second half.  All the while he’s battled off field incidents and handled them in relatively admirable fashion with suspensions or outright dismissals (see: Masoli, Jeremiah). The Ducks’ only loss was to LSU in week 1, and they played them closer than anyone. With the season headed towards probably 3 or 4 undefeated teams they won’t make it back to the national championship game, but 12-1 and a BCS bowl or 11-2 with losses to LSU and Andrew Luck Stanford, certainly isn’t shabby either. That an 11-2 record would be a semi disappointment is a testament to how far this program has come.

"Their 'Civil War' rivalry game was once reclassified as 'The Toilet Bowl.' Now? They're doing things like this^."

The end of week 7 brought the first release of the BCS rankings. The end of week 7 also began the kind of whining rarely seen outside of kindergarten classrooms and congressional oversight committees. While everyone bitches about where they should or should not be in the rankings I’ll go ahead and find a flaw (ok, and a strength) for each of our (legitimate) whiners:

1. Alabama/LSU: These two are really 1a and 1b, because whoever wins their match up is guaranteed a spot in the national title. What’s interesting is that both have identical flaws; their passing games. Alabama is a mediocre 72nd in passing yards per game in the FBS, while LSU is an abysmal 97th. While LSU’s 13:1 TD to interception ratio (and 157.9 rating) is solid, they have a budding quarterback controversy at exactly the wrong time and haven’t had to throw the ball. ‘Bama comes in at 9:4 with a 142.2 rating, and a sophomore at the helm of the offense. This is all well in good when both are winning by 20 points, but if either falls behind late in a game they’ll struggle to come back. Strenths:  Really everything else. LSU is 35th in rushing yards, 20th in points for and 7th in points against. Alabama is 12th in rushing yards, 14th in points for and 1st in points against. So…yeah.

"The Tigers are also 1st in the country in mug shots..."

3. Oklahoma:  Flaw: 5th, 6th, and 11th. Those are Oklahoma’s rankings in passing yards per game, points per game, and points against. 48th. That’s Oklahoma’s ranking in rushing yards per game. This is fine against shoot out prone Big XII opponents, but it’ll be a problem against LSU or Alabama. Strengths: Compared with Bama and LSU one thing stands out for the Sooners; quarterback Landry Jones. He’s a three year starter and in the thick of the Heisman race. Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson and AJ McCarron? Not so much.

4. Oklahoma State:  Flaw:  That defense is pretty glaring. They’ve allowed 27.3 points per game, and 34, 33 and 26 points to Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa and Texas respectively. While those scores are average for each team, you don’t see Alabama, LSU or Oklahoma simply holding teams to their averages. Strength:  So that offense is pretty ridiculous. They’re second in the nation in passing yards per game at 395.7 (395.7!). The only reason they aren’t putting up more rushing yards (they average 155.5 per game) is because it would take away from the air attack. Indeed, their top two rushers are averaging 5.2 and 6.9 yards per carry and have gone for 16 touchdowns on the ground. That, my friends, is an offense.

"There could be 1500 yards of offense in this game...You think I'm kidding."

5. Boise State:  Flaw:  Uh, schedule…I guess? They only beat Georgia by 14 in Atlanta? Kellen Moore only has 21 touchdowns passing? In all seriousness, their opponents so far are a combined 21-18, which isn’t terrible but also isn’t at the level of the four mentioned above. Strengths:  They’re outscoring their opponents by 30 per game. They are 7th in points scored, 8th in points allowed. They average over 300 yards passing and nearly 200 yards rushing. So…there’s a lot to work with here.

"10 seasons with 10+ wins since the start of 1999, 21 total losses in that time, 2 BCS Bowl wi - You know what? I'm just gonna stop."

6. Wisconsin:  Flaw:  Honestly? There’s really nothing to work with here. They have the best, most balanced offense in the country averaging 265.7 yards passing (with a leading Heisman contender at quarterback) and 257.5 yards on the ground (good for 7th nationally). They’re ranked 3rd in points allowed and 1st in points scored. Did you like Boise’s point differential of 30? Wisconsin’s point differential is 40.5 per game. You could nit pick at the schedule, but they beat a 5-1 Nebraska team by 31 and will play most of the solid Big Ten teams this year. Strengths: (above, see).

"In North Carolina 'Russel Wilson' is synonymous with depression...and 'Tom O'Brien's an idiot.'"

7. Clemson:  Flaw:  Finally, someone we can work with! Actually, this is really more of the OK State thing. They have a meh defense (23 points allowed per game) and a lot of tight wins that includes giving up 45 points to Maryland last weekend. Strengths: Part of the reason they’re giving up so many points is because of the competition. Out of all the teams on here, their opponents stack up against pretty much anyone’s so far, save for LSU. Oh, and they’re still averaging nearly 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.

8. Stanford:  Flaw:  This team has started off a few games slowly, which in the world of ridiculous expectations translates to:  “They’re on the west coast. It’s tough to see them regularly. We looked at the box scores and we’re surprised Andrew Luck wasn’t 20-21 with 400 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in the first half…Really, they’re not making our job easy enough.” Truth be told, they haven’t played much of anyone, but it is Stanford. Until 3 years ago, making a bowl game there was a big deal, and the mind set scheduling wise was to diminish the damage. Strengths:  304 yards passing per game, 182 yards rushing per game, 5th in points for, 5th in points against. Blahdy f***ing blah.

"In Miami 'Andrew Luck' is synonymous with 'Chad Henne blows'...and tanking."

While the weekend slate is somewhat thin, there are two big night games and a few nice under the radar contests. Cincinnati at South Florida, West Virginia at Syracuse: I know I know, they’re Big East games. They also involve two of the leagues 3 (3!) 5-1 teams, and both of its 4-2 teams. That’s four Big East teams with winning records playing each other…and possibly the pinnacle of in-conference Big East play this season…in mid-October. Western Michigan at Eastern Michigan: This is the first time both teams have entered this game with winning records in ages…mainly because this is the first time Eastern Michigan has had a winning record in October since 1995. Trust me, this is big news. Auburn at LSU:  The tigers lost to Cam Newton by a touchdown a year ago. Auburn may be ranked 20th, but I’d bet that same thing won’t happen this year (and not just because they don’t have Cam Newton). Still, it might be a closer game that LSU’s others. Louisiana-Lafayette at Western Kentucky:  ULL is 6-1. Seriously, that’s the first time a team in the Sun Belt Conference, let alone the Ragin’ Cajuns, has been 6-1 ever. Ever! Let’s see if they can keep it up. Wisconsin at Michigan State: Here’s the heavy hitter. The Spartans thrust themselves upon America after knocking Michigan from the unbeaten ranks last week. They’re allowing 10.8 points per game. They’re at home, where they haven’t lost since 2009. Aaaaand, I’m still going with the Badgers. Washington at Stanford: For all you Bill Simmons fans out there, we’re getting into Ewing theory territory here. UW is 5-1 and ranked after the 4th game of the year for the first time since 2003, and it’s all come without Jake Locker at quarterback. The supposed savior helped get them back to relevancy and a bowl game last year but he never came close to 5-1. What a shame that top 25 run has to end at Stanford Stadium this weekend.

"11 years and not a single 6-1 team until now. The other teams should tank the rest of the season purely for the publicity..."

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “The World Series just started with two one run games, both pitcher’s duels with one that was decided in the ninth inning, yet game 1 was the lowest rated in history. If that’s not a reason to change baseball (like shortening games somehow) then I don’t know what is.”

NCAAF Week 6: Why Florida and Texas Couldn’t School A Couple of Finger Painters, Conference Clusterf***s and Why Didn’t The Big XII Do This Years Ago?

Well we’ve reached the half way mark, with some teams having already reached bowl eligibility and others wondering if they should just stop trying. And while the focus is always on the national scene, there have been some interesting subplots developing in conferences around the country that, while not necessarily BCS bowl worthy, could nonetheless cause some intrigue. Without further ado…

"2012 New Mexico...2012."

In the interest of saving you time (and trimming the word count I definitely don’t pay attention to) I’m just going to say I was wrong. Texas and Florida will most certainly not affect the national landscape. Shit, after the way Florida looked against The Duo of The Deep South (I told you I was going to keep using this) and Texas bombed against its biggest rival, these two teams couldn’t affect a finger painter’s landscape. And while the Gators and Longhorns have a while to go in their progress back to the national elite, there are plenty of others taking over the spotlight these two power programs divvied up with Alabama less than two years ago.

"They'll get better...right?"

Out West Stanford and Oregon continue their respective marches towards Pac 12 supremacy. It’s too bad that these two teams have to reside in the same North division, leaving us with a conference championship game that, much like the SEC, is already guaranteed to disappoint. Still, at least Arizona State will probably be ranked for the match up (partly due to the abject lack of quality in the rest of the Pac 12). The SEC East isn’t that much better (and could wind up being worse). The two best teams in the division (Florida and Georgia) already have two losses, and they haven’t even played each other yet. South Carolina will lose to both of those teams, plus Arkansas and may maybe even Tennessee before the year’s out, and Vanderbilt is in fourth place over Tennessee and Kentucky at 3-2. It’s a turtle’s crawl in the race to get blown out by LSU or Alabama on December 3rd, and it isn’t even Halloween yet.

"SEC East: The picture of talented mediocrity."

Meanwhile, the Big XII thinned out another undefeated pretender when un-ranked Texas Tech managed to do what no other good A&M opponent had done to date; let them hold a lead. Don’t think the Aggies didn’t try to lose though. Kansas State managed to remain un-beaten for another week, dropping Missouri in typically close fashion (they won 24-17). Baylor steamrolled past Iowa State, while Oklahoma State warmed up for Texas’ defense by dropping a cool 70 on Kansas. That’s right, the same Texas defense that just surrendered 55 points to Oklahoma gets to spend this weekend in Austin facing the most prolific passing duo in the country in Brandon Wheedon and Justin Blackmon. Good luck with that.

In other Big XII news, the conference finally did something it probably should’ve done years ago when any of A&M, Colorado, Iowa State or Baylor were battling to see who could beat a high school JV team:  They added TCU. The Horned Frogs were once a member of the Southwest Conference and actually boast a Heisman winner and a national championship in their history (albeit from the Depression era), spending a lot of time as a fringe member of the elite. Yet, when the Big XII emerged they were left to fend for themselves while teams like Baylor and Kansas got brought into the BCS fold. Since then TCU has hired Gary Patterson, reeled off 10 win seasons like certain burnt orange or crimson colored neighbors and generally looked and played like the third best team in the Southwest, let alone the Big XII. That it finally gets its opportunity to come back into the big conference fold (the Big East really didn’t count) is long overdue.

"Welcome home fellas. I'm sure you'll do well here."

Speaking of the Big East, will this conference ever be back in the national title picture? Certainly not any time soon, but while the conference doesn’t have any contenders to speak of, keep any eye on West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati, all teams with at least 4 wins and only 1 loss. Rutgers is a particularly intriguing team, having only lost to North Carolina by 2 and having demolished Pittsburgh this past weekend. Their match up with Navy on Saturday will have a huge impact on where both teams are headed, as a win would raise the Scarlet Knights’ record to 5-1 while the Midshipmen would drop to 2-4, probably the worst it’s been in years.

"Big East Officials: Goooooooo Rut...gers?"

The stunning ACC continues to roll right along. We talked last week about Georgia Tech’s and Clemson’s eventual meeting but the biggest story here is actually Wake Forest. I joked in my last post about how this team had won a conference championship recently and how indicative that was of the ACC’s mediocrity. Under Jim Grobe they haven’t been that great but a few back to back bowl trips constituted a relative boon time in Winston-Salem. Still, they’re now 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference after knocking off Florida State, a team that at one point (albeit very early in the season) was in the top 5. Wake Forest gets Virginia Tech at home this week, a team that hasn’t put a complete game together all year, before going about 10 minutes out of their way to play both Duke and UNC. If they can swipe an upset of the Hokies before knocking off two basketball powers (although UNC is 5-1…) they will be 7-1 entering a home date with Notre Dame. Beat a mistake prone Irish team and they’ll head to Clemson with the Atlantic Division on the line. Or they could be 4-5 and trying to fight for bowl eligibility. Regardless, the ACC is shaping up to do what the Big East did for a few years between 2005 and 2007; take this football thing semi-seriously.

And then there’s the Big 10, the conference with the most undefeated teams left in the country at three. Two of those teams, Michigan and Illinois, are already bowl eligible, while Wisconsin’s average game score has been 48-10. Nebraska (5-1) looked great through the first four weeks until it got in the Badger’s way in Camp Randall and Penn State has sneakily gotten to 2-0 in the conference and 5-1 overall with stellar defense and just enough offense out of its young quarterback duo. Even Michigan State is 4-1. Still, I’m not sold on anyone outside of Wisconsin as a true contender. Michigan is a great success story in Brady Hoke’s first year there, and while it could be said that he’s riding Rich Rodriguez’s recruits to success, he’s also getting more out of them than Rich Rod ever did. Get past Michigan State this weekend and they’ll be 9-0 heading into a three game stretch where they go to Illinois and finish with Nebraska and Ohio State at home. That could arguably be the toughest stretch anyone sees in the Big 10 all year…unless of course we look at Illinois.

"What? You thought 9-4 at San Diego State was a fluke?"

Barring an absolute implosion (remember; this is Ron Zook) in their last six games they’ve officially saved their coaches’ job, and could realistically be 9-0 heading into the Michigan match up.  Still, the game with the Wolverines at home is sandwiched in-between a trip to State College to face that Penn State defense and a home date with Wisconsin. That, my friends, is the toughest 3 game stretch in conference for any contender in the Big 10 this year. The one caveat? They get a bye in between the Nittany Lions and Wolverines, meaning they get two weeks to heal after the first of those three games. Because of that I think they’ll knock off both PSU and Michigan to enter a hyped match up with Wisconsin at 10-0. It will be the last match up of un-defeated teams before Oklahoma State and Oklahoma on the last day of the regular season, and the Leaders (first time I’ve allowed myself to write out one of the atrocious division names) will be on the line. They’ll get steamrolled by the Badgers, but it will make for a great story line and might even draw a November College Game Day appearance. Solid work Big 10.

"Really Manbearpig? Your gonna predict 10-0 out of this guy? The one that couldn't even approach that at Florida? Ok, suit yourself..."

The smaller conferences may not have the clout or fireworks of the guys above but there are still some battles to be played in many of them. Houston and SMU should enter their November 19th match up with Conference USA’s West Division on the line. The cougars are undefeated, and I’ve talked before about SMU’s recent success. They’ll be playing for the opportunity to face a good Southern Mississippi squad (that just handled Navy) out of the East. Remember when I said FIU was an intriguing story so long as they stayed undefeated? Well at 4-2 they’re still something to watch in Florida’s increasingly diversified (muddled?) group of college football teams. Still, the Sun Belt’s best squad is now 5-1 Louisiana-Lafayette. It may come as a surprise that there are actual state universities outside of LSU in Cajun country, especially ones that play Division I football. And while Louisiana-Monroe (the actual University of Louisiana) isn’t doing so hot the ULL Ragin’ Cajuns are something to watch. Let’s see if they can give the Sun Belt a 10 win team this year after Troy carried the conference banner for so long. The Mountain West isn’t a budding juggernaut anymore but TCU will get one last shot at a big time in-conference opponent (like it did with Utah and BYU in the past) before “ascending” to the Big XII. Its visit to Boise State will probably be the Broncos last road block before finishing undefeated, and will be a symbolic sending off from its phenomenal small conference brethren. Still, don’t expect Boise to be nice on the way out; they’ll want to send a message to a team they may eventually join in the Big XII.

"Don't worry boys, we'll be riiiiiight behind you."

Not a lot to talk about in terms of Top 10 match ups this week, although Arizona State does give Oregon what will likely be its last major test before the Ducks play Stanford for the Pac 12 North title. The Sun Devils are 5-1 (3 point loss at Illinois) and shouldn’t lose again after this game and prior to the first ever Pac 12 championship (they blew out the division’s next best team, USC, by 21 points). They’ll play Oregon tough with LaMichael James temporarily sidelined but they’re playing in Autzen Stadium, so no top 10 upset this week. Elsewhere, Michigan State tries to prove everything I just wrote about Michigan wrong, Robert Griffin and Baylor continue the Texas A&M good bye tour by knocking them out of the top 25 and Texas tries desperately to redeem itself against the best Oklahoma State team since Barry Sanders played there. Some others not to be missed: Florida redeeming itself against Auburn, the Wake Forest – Virginia Tech match up and Illinois officially sending Buckeye Nation into a full blown WoodyHayesesque rampage fest in Columbus. Let’s just hope the students don’t all start punching each other in the face.

"I mean it won't be quite like Woody...Nobody's quite like Woody."

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “Between the Yankees, Jets and Longhorns, the end of 2011 is starting to look an awful lot like the ulcer inducing end of 2010 that almost killed the themanbearpig. Wait to see if a panic post pops up in early December.”