Saturday, November 24, 2007
As I look back at the season as a whole, this could be the year we define as a new era of CFB. Let's be honest, we haven't seen anything like this ever - in my opinion. Every week has been full of upset action. How many times have #1 and #2 gone down this year? Look for more parity like this season in the years to come. 85 scholarships is part of it. Great coaching and better programs across the land are other factors. CFB is the greatest thing going for most regions of of the country. Nobody wants to be left out of the action. These programs are marketing machines for colleges and universities across the land. In many cases, they fund all other sports.
As for the action this week, USC put a stamp on the PAC-10 with the their total demolition of ASU on Thanksgiving. They will win the PAC-10 again and hang 50+ points on UCLA next weekend to earn another bid to the ROSE BOWL where they will dismantle Ohio State in the grand-daddy of them all. You heard it here first. The Trojans are not only back, but they are better than ever - at least for this year. That defense is devastating. And the offense isn't too shabby either.
How about those Ducks? They're not even close to the same team w/o Dixon at QB. By virtue of their performance over the past six quarters w/o him in the lineup, he should earn a seat at the Downtown Atheletic Club next month for the Heisman Ceremony. While I know he won't win it, show me a player that means more to his team? There isn't one. Oregon had a great run this year. It's a brutal game. It's not fair. It's football.
As for the Chief, he's on the outside of the BCS looking in. With wins by USC, VA TECH, and BC this weekend, it's rather unlikely that the BIG-10 will send two clubs to the BCS this year. I look for the following conferences to send two: SEC, ACC, BIG-12, and the PAC-10 (USC and ASU). This means that unless UW can beat Hawaii next weekend, West Virginia and the Warriors will make up the two remaining sptos - with WV possibly in the title game after the Kansas loss. I stil expect ILLINIOS (#15 AP) to be offered a CAPITOL ONE BOWL invite to play Florida, TN, or Georgia. I'm hoping for a Zooker / Meyer showdown. But if this year has taught us anything, you just never know. Bowl games are about money, matchups, and marketing. They want teams that will draw fans and viewers. Doesn't hurt if you're one of the hottest teams in the land, and fun to watch. And very few schools 'travel' better than ILLINOIS. Last time we went to the CITRUS BOWL (1990 under Jeff George), we set the all-time attendance record which still stands today. And we blew a wad of cash down in Florida as well.
Next year could be our year (2008). We may be picked to win the conference with the returning talent we have, even w/o Mendenhall if he decides to go PRO. We could have three Heisman candidates in Williams, Benn, and RMIII if he decides to stay in Champaign for his final season. I expect ILLNOIS to be ranked in the pre-season top-15 next August. Look for the Zooker to spend at least one more season on the sidelines of Zupke. But, if we have a big year next year (conference champs and more?) look for him to be highly coveted by other big-time programs (depending on who they are). I'll be disappointed if we don't have a spirited drive for the BIG-10 crown. You can't count on anything in this game, but we should be competitive in each home / away contest. Look for all of this young talent to come into its own on both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to see how we handle all of the success, especially a bowl game this year.
Like I said before, it's about the journey and not the outcome. We're all better for having travelled the road behind us. College football is one of the greatest things going - and this rivalry weekend we all give thanks. I'm not sure I know of a sport which evokes so much passion, energy, loyalty, and determination for greatness. Friendships have been made and lost, families divided, and co-workers silenced by what happens on the field each and every Saturday afternoon in the fall. It's a great thing. We all can relate, no matter where we may have matriculated. The ups and downs are what make it a thing of beauty which the NFL and other sports simply don't possess (but crave). And for all of its faults with scheduling, money, scandals, and the politics of rankings - CFB insiders know that the weekly controversy leads to endless debate that can linger for years, decades, and generations to come.
My New TOP-10 (based on 13 weeks and recent performance):
1) MIZZOU, 2) WV, 3) LSU, 4) USC, 5) Georgia, 6) KU, 7) Ohio State 8) FL / VT, 10) OK/BC.
Drop me a line and tell me what you think, especially if you disagree. On a personal note, I'll be hoping and praying that MIZZOU beats OU in the BIG-12 title game next weekend. A loss by the TIGERS could open the door to disaster (Ohio State). Nothing against the BUCKEYES and their weak schedule this year (both in and out of conference), but the nation would not be well served by a BUCKEYE return visit to the BCS Championship (Ugh! at the thought). I can think of five or ten more worthy clubs, with two and even three losses. WV / MIZZOU would be good. How about USC / WV or USC / MIZZOU? I think Georgia would make a worthy opponent (won't happen now) with their undefeated non-conference record under Richt. Heck, put KU, Florida, BC, or Hawaii in there first. Anything, anything, but a BUCKEYE BCS. You have to give them credit as being a great team. As long as they continue to schedule just 8 conference games and 4 cream-puffs each year, no way should any one-loss BIG-10 team play for the title (except ILLINOIS, who probably battled MIZZOU in its toughest victory of the year)!
Interesting stats and storylines from around the rivalry nation:
- With their win over arch - enemy UTAH on Saturday, BYU extends its MW winning record to 15 regular-season games.
- With their win over Kentucky, the Vols now own the longest active winning streak in an uninterrupted series (23 years).
- Hawaii picked up just its first WAC title on Friday be beating Boise State.
- BC ended a losing streak against Miami on Saturday (15) by earning its first win over the CANES since Flutie did it in 1984.
- Urban Meyer starts 3-0 against FSU - first time any Florida coach has done that.
- For the first time in 22 years, Oregon was shut-out (Nebraska 1985) and has no shot now of reaching Pasadena again this season.
- Georgia under Richt is a perfect 25-0 in non-conference games, 7-0 versus Tech. You just don't beat him.
- In losing to USC, ASU had 27 rushing attempts through three quarters for zero total yards.
- Arkansas shredded LSU for 515 yards, 388 on the ground en route to their 3OT victory.