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CFB Week 11 Wrap-Up: Game of the Week, Celebrating Alabama's Loss, ND's Fate, etc

November 11th 2012 19:14
I didn’t do well at all in my week 11 picks, going 1-2. Both losses were close, at least. My mother went 2-1, so she is gaining ground on me. Week 11 was one of those weekends that looked like it wouldn’t offer that many interesting games. But, boy, if you thought that, you were wrong. Lots of great games, making it very tough to pick the best game. Obviously, Northwestern-Michigan was the best to me, but I’m not a I’ll pick another game.

Game of the Week

Missouri @ Tennessee. I think a lot of people had basically started marking Tennessee’s last three games as wins for the Vols, meaning they’d get to 7 wins, a bowl game and possibly save Derek Dooley’s job. Mizzou certainly hasn’t been anything to write home about, but if you’re a Tennessee team that can’t play D you don’t want to let those Tigers hang around. And you definitely don’t want to go to overtime with them after they’d basically been outplayed most of the game. There was poor coaching going on in this game. As poor as Tennessee’s defense is, the offense--particularly the receivers--is good enough that Tennessee could have tried to score at the end of regulation with 20 seconds left. We were just sitting there like, “Is this dude (Dooley) really leaving two timeouts on the floor?!”

What made this game great was the four overtimes, which was like another game on its own. I agree with Tennessee going for it twice on 4th down. One was a fake field goal attempt, and when the Vols were lining up for it I remember saying, “Oh, Tennessee’s going to lose if it goes for the field goal, because the Vols can’t stop Missouri.” These last three games were must-wins for Tennessee, and 6-6 (with just two SEC wins) is not going to cut it...and you look at Vanderbilt, and Tennessee might not even make it to 6-6.

Honorable Mention: Northwestern @ Michigan, Miami @ Virginia, Kansas @ Texas Tech

Shock of the Week

Texas A&M @ Alabama. This was also truly the best game of the weekend, but it was a bigger shock and that’s why it’s here instead. Alabama got Alabama-ed, with A&M dropping 20 on the Tide before they even knew it. Look, SEC--this is what you get for inviting teams that don’t belong [geographically] to join the conference. They screw you over. Texas A&M clearly didn’t care anything about that precious SEC national title dominance that looks like it’s now coming to an end. Instead, the Aggies picked off AJ McCarron twice when other teams couldn’t even intercept him just once, and, like LSU, they dominated Alabama’s defensive line. In fact, Alabama’s D was worse in this game than it was against LSU, and part of that was because of Johnny Manziel’s mobility.

You do wonder if Alabama would have lost this game if it weren’t immediately following the tough road game at LSU. I think the Tide would have. Again, look at how Alabama is struggling against good offensive lines. Plus, McCarron seems to be crumbling under the enormous pressure of expectations. I could tell from the Michigan game that Alabama’s secondary could be exploited if it ran into a QB who really could take advantage of that. We haven’t seen the D-line issue, though, because Alabama hadn’t faced a stellar line until LSU. Michigan’s O-line is weak, and Michigan and Mississippi State are really the only other good teams Alabama had played before these last two games, even though people don’t want to acknowledge Michigan and the Bulldogs as good teams.

I’m now very curious about how good Georgia’s O-line is, because I haven’t paid much attention to it. My understanding is it’s pretty good, although it didn’t look that way in some games (South Carolina, Florida). If Georgia’s O-line plays strong in the SEC title game, then Alabama could end up not even winning the SEC.

Honorable Mention: Louisville @ Syracuse, Florida State @ Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette @ Florida, Georgia Tech @ North Carolina

Other noteworthy items:

1) Notre Dame continues to be blah on the field, but it is also getting everything it needs with each week. That Alabama loss is huge for the Irish. They might still show up at #3 in the BCS, but we keep getting signs that this season the stars are just aligning for ND. It’s really hard to see Oregon losing. I don’t care what anyone says--there is not a team left on the Ducks’ schedule to which they have any business losing. But the defense is why they could lose and break the door down for the Irish. And I think this weekend confirms what I wrote last weekend about the Big 12 actually being the best conference, when you look at what Alabama and Florida did this weekend. As such, Kansas State might actually be more likely to drop a game than Oregon.

One way or another, don’t be surprised if Notre Dame backs into the title game, even though it absolutely does not look like one of the two best teams in the nation.

2) Alabama’s loss is also huge for all of college football. Why? Because the odds are slim that the SEC grabs another national title now. My mother went on Facebook after Alabama lost, and she was surprised to see so many people happy that Alabama lost. I wasn’t. I think most of the college football nation is tired of not only the SEC’s domination, but just of Alabama’s domination. Alabama won the title last season (and in 2009)--why does it need to win this one?

I had mixed feelings about Alabama’s losing. I picked Alabama to win, and I could see that Oregon State might not beat I knew both losses would mess up my picks for the week. But my Wolverines also lost badly to Alabama, and it was easier to swallow when we could say that Michigan lost to the best team in the nation and that Alabama does “that” to everybody.

At the risk of seeming biased, though--which I think every sports writer, fake sports writer (myself) and sports media member is, no matter how much ESPN guys laugh at the accusation--personally, I don’t hate the SEC. I’m from SEC country. I’m always around SEC fans. I hate the way the sports media treats and talks about the SEC. ESPN likes to say “SEC haters,” which is, perhaps, not the correct way to describe 75% or more of the college football nation. I would say it’s the media with which we have an issue.

As I wrote last weekend, there are so many teams in the SEC I just don’t want Michigan or any other Big Ten team to get matched up against in a bowl game. I know these are remarkable teams at the top of the SEC, and I know Michigan will lose its bowl game. No one has to tell me that, but the media certainly doesn’t have to tell me that a thousand times a week, or spend almost entire shows talking about SEC teams (ahem, “BCS Countdown” on Sunday) or spend segments on how much better the SEC is than everybody else (ahem, “SVP & Russillo”).

This is why there are so many people celebrating the Alabama loss, and why so many people are ecstatic over the idea that the SEC won’t play for a national title this season. There’s a chance that a one-loss SEC team sneaks in there. But, as mentioned, this season seems to be setting up in Notre Dame’s favor, not the SEC’s. Notre Dame is Michigan’s rival and all, but I’d honestly rather see the Irish in the title game than an SEC team. Enough is really enough as far as the SEC is concerned, and it really is so bad that it has driven Michigan fans to cheer for Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame against the SEC, Oregon State fans to cheer for Oregon against the SEC and so on. It’s time for the media’s love affair with the SEC to end.

3) Texas Tech and Kansas had a really good game on Saturday that probably not many people saw. But there is most certainly one part of the game that a lot of us have seen or soon will see--the Tommy Tuberville meltdown. Some characterize it as a “slap.” Basically, Tuberville went off on an assistant on camera on the sidelines and yanked his headset off his head, which also took his hat off. I read an article after that which called it a “slap” and said he could or should be fired for this incident. Tuberville says he was aiming for the assistant’s shoulders or some such crap. He was clearly not. I think Tuberville made the incident worse by saying that, because it’s obviously not true.

When I look at it, I interpret it as Tuberville angrily telling this guy something, and he ripped his headset off as in “listen to me”--just basically emphasizing to the assistant that he wanted to make sure he got something through to him. I think, if this is true, it could have been explained in a way that makes some sense with an apology, although there are people out there who think there’s no excuse. I’m not saying there is. I don’t know what Texas Tech should do with Tuberville. But I think the whole thing shows the pressure coaches are under, especially when they’re in games they’re “supposed to win” and the game is not going the way it should. Stuff like this and like McCarron’s crying after the game-winning touchdown last week against LSU are two of many reasons why I don’t understand people who seriously think “it’s just a game.” For so many people, it’s really not.

4) Apparently, a report came out before the Georgia game that suggests Auburn is, indeed, leaning towards firing Gene Chizik. I am a little surprised Auburn’s going to pull the plug this season, but I can’t say I disagree with the decision. I think Chizik might have been fine if he hadn’t decided to try to change the offense from spread to pro-style. Stuff like that typically doesn’t work over night. The only thing I can think of is that he truly thought he’d have more time at Auburn. If so, it looks as if he thought wrong.

5) So quality of play is not the only thing wrong with the Big Ten. These Big Ten officials are killing me. They made bad calls in the Nebraska-Michigan State game last week, and they came right back this week with the same nonsense. They essentially took a victory from Penn State, saying a touchdown that would have given the Lions the lead was a fumble. And they tried their best to steal victory from Michigan, giving Northwestern first downs--plural--that it clearly didn’t have.

6) I didn’t see the Georgia Tech-UNC game--who on earth did (on TV)? But I looked at the score scrolling across the bottom of my screen and said, “Wait, is that, that’s the football score!” 68-50? Are you kidding me? That’s basketball scores in the Big Ten. Even worse than that was Georgia Tech was the team with 68 and North Carolina lost.

7) So let’s not just talk about Alabama. Major props to Texas A&M, a team I didn’t buy at all. I can’t believe what the Aggies have done in their first season in the SEC. Can you imagine if Texas A&M becomes a major player in the SEC?

It’s really time to start talking about Kevin Sumlin, too. This guy came in and beat the best coach in college football. So what does that make Sumlin? Real damn good.

A lot of people are not going to get what I’m about to write, won’t like it, won’t understand why it’s being brought up. But here goes:

Sumlin’s being, what is starting to look like, a remarkable coach is a huge, huge deal. And he is, measured next to anybody. Make no mistake about it. But I’m sorry--his being black is significant, especially being a black coach in the SEC. Black coaches have not really been getting it done in college football. I’m not saying that has anything to do with race, but it does in a way because black coaches are not usually handed the keys to places that have winning potential--that’s more so the source of failure for black coaches. You can think of some places, but a lot of those places also were fools’ gold--I’d say UCLA, Miami and Washington, for sure. And so many guys have tried and failed at Notre Dame. And I think when you get down to it, as this season shows, Michigan State is Michigan State--there’s really no making it Michigan or Ohio State, and I mean that as respectfully as I possibly can.

But here Sumlin is with the keys to a big-time program in Texas. And now he has a real shot at doing something amazing--becoming known as one of the best coaches in college football. Black, white, Asian--just one of the best, period. Doing this in the SEC? Even more amazing, not just because of how tough the conference is but because of what everyone thinks about the South and race. Sumlin had Houston rolling and was very close to getting the Cougars into a BCS bowl game. Now, black coaches have done something similar elsewhere, but most of those guys moved on to bigger programs and flopped. I looked at the situation at A&M and thought it was nearly impossible, with the program moving to the SEC as Sumlin entered. Boy, has he risen to the challenge, and it makes Texas A&M’s future look really promising if Sumlin could have a 10-3 or 11-2 season in his first year with the program in the SEC.

Charlie Strong at Louisville is another black coach with the potential to someday soon just be known as one of the best coaches in college football, but I think he’ll have to move up to a bigger program and conference--perhaps Tennessee, which certainly would be a bigger challenge than Texas A&M--for this to happen.

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