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Pundit Roundup

---Lots of goodies from ESPN's ($) Bruce Feldman.

There's this about recently murdered Miami player Brian Pata.

And this mailbag including good stuff about Rutgers.

Having been around the program a bunch since Schiano first settled in there a few days after leaving Miami, I remember thinking, 'If he could only get them to 7-4, that would be a miracle.' In the middle of the game it started to sink in that the two biggest blue-chippers RU had signed (LB Berkeley Hutchinson and DT Nate Robinson) never panned out and here the Scarlet Knights are, going toe-to-toe with one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, playing some former walk-ons and guys the Big Three in Florida didn't want.

Going into last season, one of the guys I know on the staff kept saying that the toughest thing is for these players to learn how to win. And that's why last night was so perfect: Rutgers was down 25-7, and after surrendering a fake punt and a long kickoff return for touchdown and a crushing roughing the punter call, the Knights had plenty of opportunities to fold. But these guys now truly believe, and they shocked everyone.

And this notebook with an item about the magic of the Wake Forest offense that I've alluded to earlier on here:

I talked to one coach who marvels at Wake's system and its ability to keep people off balance. "They are really committed to the run and all the counters from the run, including play-action passing," the coach said, "but they are simply ahead of people with their offensive attack."

All of which makes me wonder what the hell teams like USC, Florida State and Miami are doing with their time.

---ESPN's Ivan Maisel has the lowdown on Notre Dame's helmet-painting process (in the 'how-to' tab).

Also: former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler being Bo Schembechler.

---ESPN's Pat Forde talks up a Michigan/Ohio State rematch in the BCS Championship game.

I'm straddling the fence on this one.  If they've proven to be the two best teams at the end of the season, they probably should be in there.  But it's also college football's signature postseason game, and the fans might want a more compelling, unique matchup if possible.  Check back with me in a few weeks.

---Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel goes to bat for Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.  Lots of groundwork being laid for 2007's Heisman race right now among the pundit class.  Feldman in one of his articles mentions a writer already deciding to vote Arkansas' Darren McFadden for Heisman.  West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton will finally be upperclassmen next year.  It should be a great race, and USC will get to re-insert itself in the debate with John David Booty's senior season.

Mandel also calls Rutgers' season the sports' "biggest cinderella story since Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl".  Too bad Rutgers doesn't have a Charlton Heston to part the purple seas at Disneyland.  Yet another reason college football is great.

He also has a little Michigan primer in advance of this weekend's tilt with Ohio State.  Wolverine back Mike Hart is healthy for the first time in three games against the Buckeyes.  Think that will help?

Finally, he is OH SO CLOSE to hitting on the things we've been talking about on here with his rankings this week, but then fumbles at the end.

Once upon a time, polls like this one were purely subjective pursuits meant to determine who supposed "experts" like myself felt were the best teams in the country at any given moment. They were meant mostly for fun and hype, and hey, whoever happened to end up No. 1 in the final poll got a trophy.

Well, the BCS has pretty much ruined that. These days, fans don't particularly care who I or anyone else thinks are the best teams in the country -- not when there's a berth in the national-championship game at stake. All anyone wants to talk about is who's "most deserving." In fact a lot of the e-mails I receive make me wonder whether anyone out there is actually watching the games or whether they spend their Saturdays poring over schedules and crunching numbers. You know -- like a computer?

The reason I bring this up is Arkansas. To me, there's little question the Razorbacks are playing the best football of any team in the country right now outside of the Big Two, which is why I have them third in this week's rankings. Not only have the Hogs won nine straight games, but they also seem to getting better each week.

Invariably, however, I will get a barrage of e-mails today asking me how in my right mind I could possibly have Arkansas ranked ahead of USC, the team it lost to 50-14 some two-and-a-half months ago. These people seem to think college football is played in a vacuum, where the teams are all exactly the same on Nov. 14 as they were on Sept. 2. Anyone who's watched Arkansas realizes it's not remotely the team that lost 50-14. Its quarterback, Casey Dick, did not even play in that game; the guy who did, Robert Johnson, no longer plays quarterback. And McFadden, the Razorbacks' heart and soul, was hurt and barely played.

USC, meanwhile, is just two weeks removed from a 33-31 loss at 6-4 Oregon State and a slew of sluggish performances before that. While the Trojans have certainly looked better since, if the two teams met today, I would take the Razorbacks in a heartbeat. Therefore, I have them ranked higher.

Great!  Stewart speaks and votes his mind.  Right? Er...

That said, if for some reason I was handed the responsibility of choosing the teams for the national championship game tomorrow, and it came down to one-loss Arkansas against one-loss USC for the second spot, of course I would give it to the Trojans. Why? Because USC would be ... say it with me now ... more deserving.

D'oh! ! ! ! ! !

This is one hell of an uphill battle, but slowly we'll get where we need to be.

---SI's Tim Layden compares the NFL and D-I football.

In the NFL, ballcarriers not only can't reverse their field, they can barely hesitate, lest they be swallowed up by the speed and ferocity of the entire defense. Gayle Sayers, Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson. There have been -- and are -- a few guys in history who can freeze the defense. But as a rule on Sundays it's North and South, baby.

I fail to grasp how that is a good thing.

---SI's Luke Winn checks in with Ohio State and says Buckeye QB Troy Smith's ready to go.

---CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd has more fallout from the ongoing Pac-10 officiating fiasco.

To be brief, a judgment was made on the field, USC challenged the ruling, replay officials sided with USC and overruled the initial call, then Oregon challenged the review, saying they didn't properly interpret a rule.  After 17 minutes in total, replay officials then sided with Oregon.  It was about as bizarre of a thing as I've ever seen and sent Pete Carroll into a flurry of bad words.

Anyway, people are still scratching their heads, including Dave Parry, Big Ten supervisor of officials.

When contacted Sunday afternoon, Parry himself wasn't sure if a reversal could be challenged. Parry is also the NCAA coordinator of officials for bowl games.

Wonderful.  Does anybody really know what time it is?

Also, this item from the Texas/Kansas State game on Saturday.

With 54 seconds left following a penalty, [K-State coach Ron] Prince elected to pass on third down when failure would have probably handed the ball back to Texas with time left on the clock.

"We were coaching our brains out down there at the very end," Prince said.

The play worked, barely (Freeman to former walk-on Jordy Nelson, who lunged for the first down). That basically ushered in a new era in K-State football.

I'm still not sure that Nelson got that first down, it looked like his knee was down and the ball not yet at the first down marker.  Officials saw something different.  The rest is history.  Great call however, and I would have done the same.

---The Sporting News' Matt Hayes says nyet! to playoff talk.

When all else fails, follow this credo: November is the month to remember. It's when pressure is overwhelming, when teams thrive and survive or flop and drop.


---TSN's Tom Dienhart assembles another round of coaching rumors-a-plenty.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione has nine lives... and a potent contract.

The more sources I talk to, the more I'm told not to expect anything to happen to Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione -- no matter how the Aggies finish the year. On more than one occasion, I have been told that Fran's contract would cost "millions" to buy out. Another source told me Fran has "one of the sweetest deals" in college football. So, it looks like he's safe for 2006.

Yup.  Reggie McNeal's gone but the eye-rolling hilarity can continue unabated for at least another season.

---TSN's Chris Russell calls the Florida Gators a fraud.

I'm starting to see these arguments bubbling up about the Gators.  Where there's smoke there's fire, perhaps?  I'm already nervous about where I have them in my rankings, but it's not like there's much else to draw from at the moment.  There are no great teams in college football this year, remember.

---The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum is on the warpath this week.

First item: he wants Alabama coach Mike Shula's head on a stick.  Like, yesterday.  He's absolutely perplexed by the "nothing's wrong" tune played by Alabama uppity-ups.  Good read.

Next up, the national irrelevance of the Iron Bowl rivalry between Auburn and Alabama.

The last time the Iron Bowl had a chance to stand the nation on its ear was 1994. Alabama entered with a perfect 10-0 record and it looked like Auburn would as well, until the Tigers were tied by Georgia the week before. Auburn was No. 6 in the AP while Alabama was No. 4.

You have to go back to 1971 to find both teams entering the game undefeated with real national title hopes.

Quite different from say, Ohio State/Michigan and USC/Notre Dame.  I'll always pay attention to the rivalry just the same, however.  It means something quite powerful to the fans of these proud programs. 

Finally, another flurry of endorsements for the embattled coach arrived this week, leading Finebaum to play contrarian and summon the dead horse of former coach Mike DuBose.

---Count the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhardt as another playoff skeptic.

Here is why college football has the best regular season of any sport on the planet. Just went you think you’ve got it all figured out, here comes a weekend where four Top 10 teams get beat and the national championship deck gets completely reshuffled.

I know a bunch of you guys want a playoff, but if there were a playoff, what happened last week would not be nearly as dramatic. Louisville losing to Rutgers would not mean as much because Louisville could still make the playoffs. Florida almost losing to South Carolina would not have been so big because Florida could still win the SEC championship and make the playoffs.

To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links.  You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

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Reader Comments (9)

Later in the article, Hayes calls the SEC "the best conference in the nation." Damn, he drank the SEC Kool Aid too! That seems to call into question his judgement -- maybe he's wrong about having a playoff too.
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarty
Straw man alert.

I've never blanked condemned or approved any columnist. It's like writing off any politician who has one unlikeable idea among many good ones.

The whole effect of this roundup is to point out that there isn't this giant wave rippling through the fans and pundit class clamoring for a playoff system.

Another day, another time I can address Hayes' SEC notions.
November 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR
I'm with you on that clincher play in the Texas-Kansas State game. I didn't think he made the marker before his knee touched either. Now, perhaps K-State would've gone for it and gotten it, or perhaps they run the clock down, punt and Texas doesn't have enough time to get down the field. But I was pretty positive he didn't make that.
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLD
C'mon CFR, lighten up just a little.
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarty
Prince's call is most definitely the right one, and shows he has the moxie to succeed in big time college ball. That is in direct contrast to Karl Dorrell and his run, run, run, punt plan against Notre Dame earlier this.

Most coaches would have done what Karl Dorrell did.
November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJae

November 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR

Really enjoyed the pundit roundup this week. It's convenient to have opinions from across the country all in one place. Have you noticed whether there have been many articles supporting a playoff lately? My guess would tend to be no, due in large part to the great games we have been seeing. But I wonder if we'll see more pro-playoff arguments if Arkansas, SC, and Rutgers win out.
November 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjabba
I think Mandel got it exactly right. Nobody said the AP, Coaches and Harris polls need to be "power rankings". If you totally toss out the USC-Arkansas result are you just saying that early season games don't matter at all? Then why play them?
November 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterphil


This week? Not so much.

You're right, we'll probably hear the playoff aligned pundits pen their arguments when the BCS title game is determined, taking the side of whatever bereaved team suits their cause.

Hell, I may not even like the decision, but then I'll write about it as a bad choice, a mistake by the polls or computers instead of as a sign of a need for wholesale change to the game.


Correct, there is no power ranking mandate for the polls. But maybe there should be.

I think you can give weight to early-season games and still choose whoever's best at the end. These games all count as a body of work and evidence to each team's strengths and weaknesses, even games in week one.
November 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR

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