Putting the Wraps on College Football With Three Questions for 2015

Gary Patterson and TCU have every right to be upset especially after the team that replaced won the title.

By now you know the Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of college football. While many will tell you this is the first-ever undisputed championship, you won’t catch me saying that.

Let’s remember that this team got into the playoffs simply because the committee wanted to avoid choosing TCU ahead of Baylor. By taking the Buckeyes, that meant neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were going into the playoffs so a lot of controversy was avoided. TCU had been listed in the top four for several weeks and in the last poll before the final rankings were released.

Both TCU and Ohio State had one loss. The Frogs lost a high-scoring shootout to Baylor 61-58 in Waco while the Buckeyes lost to 6-6 Virginia Tech in the Horseshoe.

Then bowl season came around and we all wondered how TCU would respond in their match-up against Ole Miss. Would they still be hanging their heads wondering about what might have been or would they prove to the committee that they should have been in rather than Ohio State?

Ask the Rebels which TCU team showed up…

The point is this; The Buckeyes are a worthy champion having defeated Alabama and Oregon and I certainly can’t say TCU would have accomplished this. But the fact that the one team that wasn’t in the top four rankings until the very end won the title tells me the playoff must expand to an eight-team field.

If J.T. Barrett recovers well, I expect him to get the nod at QB for the Buckeyes in 2015.

I believe it will eventually but probably not for several years at the earliest.

Five Questions Heading Into 2015

1. Can the Buckeyes make it two in a row? You bet they can. With Urban Meyer as head coach, a plethora of top new recruits and a lot of guys back from this past season’s team, there is no reason OSU can’t win back-to-back titles. The schedule is very favorable with the only troublesome road trips at Virginia Tech in the opener and at Michigan in the finale.

Obviously the biggest issue is at quarterback. It’s a good problem to have but Meyer is going to need to commit to Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller fairly soon. My gut feeling is that they go with Barrett as long as the leg heals properly.

2. Who bounces back for the SEC? Southeastern Conference expert Paul Feinbaum had a funny tweet yesterday and I’m paraphrasing a bit. “The Big Ten wins the National Championship in football, while the SEC has the top team in basketball. Something isn’t right.”

There’s no question the folks down South are hurting right now. While overall, their run of consecutive national titles still reigns supreme, but the fact they couldn’t even muster a team into the title game has left many feeling blue.

There isn’t a team in the SEC that doesn’t have question marks however. Both Alabama and Auburn will feature new quarterbacks and LSU is undergoing numerous changes on the defensive side. The SEC East should be better overall but whether they have a title contender is uncertain.

There’s no question the SEC will bounce back but there’s no clear cut evidence of who rises to the top just yet.

3. What is a “good outcome” in Harbaugh’s first year at Michigan? If you ask Wolverines’ fans they’ll tell you nothing short of a Big Ten title will suffice but that isn’t fair. Michigan will be better, there’s no way they won’t be with the staff Harbaugh has assembled and the attitude he’s already installing.

The defense last year in Ann Arbor was actually pretty darn good but the offense was the real problem. Harbaugh has to find a capable QB and a running game as well. I believe eight or nine wins is a very acceptable first year. Anything more is a bonus.


Michigan Gets Their Man; More College Football Thoughts

Jim Harbaugh is the next head coach at Michigan but how long will he stay?

University of Michigan Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett made it very clear in the days following the firing of Brady Hoke; having a “Michigan man” was no longer a top priority.

There was always an exception to that rule and his name was Jim Harbaugh. Yesterday, Harbaugh became the 20th head football coach of the Wolverines. There is no one more “Michigan man” than Harbaugh who started at quarterback from 1984-1986 for the Bo Schembechler -led teams who were so successful.

I must admit I’m surprised Harbaugh spurned the National Football League and especially for less money than what he could have gotten from just about any of those teams. I think that two things played a major factor in his decision however.

Number one is that of the available NFL jobs, none had a quarterback that Harbaugh really wanted to work with and that’s vitally important for the old QB because as we know he can flat-out coach quarterbacks (see Andrew Luck). The Raiders and Jets both have young signal-callers but neither was enticing enough for Harbaugh.

The argument could be made that both Atlanta and Chicago have good, veteran quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler but each have their issues.

The second reason Harbaugh chose to leave the NFL is because I really feel he was tired of seeing what was happening to his alma mater an the call to come home and fix it was too great.

Michigan fans will once again pack the seats at Michigan Stadium to see the prodigal son return and he will make the program prominent once again but I caution them this; the desire to win a Super Bowl never leaves you as a player or coach if you’ve had a taste of it and Harbaugh has. I believe his stint in Ann Arbor will be five years or less because that desire will be too strong to avoid.

The OU faithful are starting to wonder what's going on with Bob Stoops.

Bowl Game Bullets

-What on Earth has happened to Bob Stoops and Oklahoma? They were a preseason top five team who ended up finishing with five losses following a humiliating 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That score wasn’t indicative of how poorly Oklahoma played either. It was 40-0 after three quarters and Clemson pretty much emptied the bench in the final stanza. I have a feeling Stoops falls into that category of having been in the same place too long.

-I could be way off base here, but I think the Pac-12’s success in these early bowl games is a sign that Florida State better strap it up tomorrow when they face Oregon in the Rose Bowl. After Stanford’s 45-21 drubbing of Maryland last night in the Foster Farms Bowl, the Pac-12 moved to 4-0 in bowl season making them the only unbeaten conference remaining. Let’s face it – the level of competition between the ACC and Pac-12 wasn’t really a discussion topic anyway was it?

-As if I needed any more proof for my personal war against instant replay reviews in football I give you the LSU-Notre Dame game. Mad Hatter Les Miles went for a fake field goal and replays clearly showed the ball breaking the plane of the goal line but officials concluded it was disputable because of where the knee was. Here’s the thing, if the knee was down the play is over based on where the ball is when the knee touches right? The ball was over the goal line. If you can’t get replay right that you shouldn’t use it.

-Have a great New Year’s Eve and be safe people.

Michigan Moves on Harbaugh; Ramifications are Many

Jim Harbaugh has many things to consider but for right now, Michigan's offer cold have a ripple effect.

Well, there it is. The University of Michigan is doing their absolute best to bring home Jim Harbaugh. By now you probably already know what the contract offer looks like, six years and $48 million, but there’s a lot more to this story now than just the money.

Here’s a look at the ramifications of just the offer being thrown out there.

For Harbaugh – This offer immediately makes NFL teams prizing his services take notice. At eight million per year, it’s not out of the range for an NFL team to pay, but it does make it a little harder.

It’s believed that Oakland Raiders’ Owner Mark Davis will pay this much and more in an effort to get Harbaugh to come across the bay. There’s even a report Davis was willing to pay Jon Gruden as much as $16 million so eight is a drop in the bucket.

Harbaugh is clearly in the cat-bird seat while this unfolds. His team is out of the playoffs so his focus can pretty much be wherever he wants it to be. I expect the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins to be in play for him.

Don’t forget that Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross is a Michigan Alum with an endless bank account.

Michigan Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett did the right thing by going after Harbaugh now but will it work?

For Michigan – The school has obviously made it known they are no longer willing to be the punching bag for Michigan State and Ohio State and anyone else beating the Wolverines these days. This kind of money says only one thing; “We want success now.”

The problem is dealing with the letdown of a potential Harbaugh pass. The only way that pain is tempered is if Michigan goes and gets a current head coach of a program that no one sees coming. A guy like Gary Patterson or Mark Helfrich or Kevin Sumlin.

Regardless of who it is, anyone not named “Jim Harbaugh” will be a letdown to the vast majority of the fan base.

For Other College Coaches – If you heard a loud ring coming from Tuscaloosa, Alabama last night that wasn’t just yours ears. That was Nick Saban’s agent calling Alabama to demand a raise.

There’s no way that Saban is going to be paid less than a guy who has won very little at the collegiate level and especially way less than he has. This effect will be a trickle-down one too. Guys like Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio will also be looking for raises.

Even if Harbaugh goes in another direction and leaves Michigan hanging, those numbers aren’t going to go away. There isn’t a college coach in America who hasn’t had his eyes pop out from that offer.

For the 49ers – If I’m owner Jed York and I see how in demand my coach is and he has one year left on his deal, I’m increasing the price for his services. Common thought was that it might take a couple of third-round picks to get him out of his final year.

Now? I’m asking at least a first-round pick and then the negotiations can begin from there. York can’t let him go for nothing.

My Prediction: I honestly believe Michigan means a lot to Harbaugh but he’s not coming back. He’s spent nearly all of his coaching career on the West Coast and appears to be very vested in his family and their wishes.

This doesn’t mean he won’t listen to the Jets or Dolphins but right now I think Harbaugh either stays in San Francisco or goes across the bay. The lure of the Super Bowl title is too much for him to ignore.

Wednesday Bullets to Power You Through the Day

Is unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr finally headed for a showdown with Manny Pacquiao?

It’s been a few weeks since I gave you my patented bevy of random bullets from the sports world so without further ado let’s get on with it.

-While it appears that we are a step closer to the long awaited match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr, I still can’t help but wonder what might have been. Five years ago this could have been a bout that could have saved boxing but instead, arguments over money continue to hamper a once-proud sport. Ya, this will draw money if it happens but it will be a shadow of what it could have been.

-The Dallas Cowboys are 10-4 and have a game advantage on the Philadelphia Eagles. Sunday night though star running back DeMarco Murray suffered a broken hand that led to surgery on Monday. The question is, should they rest Murray or play him with a playoff spot still not yet sealed? If it’s me, I rest him. You have more than enough talent to get a win over Indy or Washington without him.

-For all of the things that the National Basketball Association has going right for it, once thing that needs to be addressed is tanking. There is no way the Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been built for total futility this season. This isn’t to say the current players aren’t trying but this team could have been better and it isn’t.

I just don't think Jim Harbaugh will pass up the huge payday awaiting him in the NFL.

-I have a feeling Michigan fans are in for really bad news. Despite rumors yesterday that with Jim Harbaugh out of the playoffs he’d be coming to Ann Arbor, I’m not buying it. His services will never be more in demand by NFL teams than they are now and that means a pretty price tag. I just don’t see him giving that up to return to college coaching.

-Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman says that as of right now Alex Rodriguez will be penciled in as the team’s designated hitter. A-Rod is of course coming off his year-long suspension.

-There were two plays in the NFL on Sunday that epitomized just how pathetic the league has gotten in their protection of quarterbacks. In Seattle, a 49ers players unloaded on Russell Wilson as he let the ball go. The tackler put his helmet right in the chest of Wilson and was flagged. This was nothing however compared to the Steelers’ Jason Worilds who sacked Atlanta’s Matt Ryan with what can only be described as a “perfect form tackle.” Ryan should have been flagged for not seeing Worilds coming to his play-side in my opinion.

-Watching Army-Navy never gets old. It isn’t just the tradition and the rivalry either. If you’ve been around long enough, then you know how exciting option football can be.

-I had a lot of people laughing at me for picking the Bills to beat the Packers last weekend but I could just see it coming. The Packers and Aaron Rodgers had been so hot, especially at home and with Buffalo’s very strong defense I just thought it was a perfect storm. A blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile right?

-Michigan State Junior Quarterback Connor Cook Stated yesterday that he will be returning to East Lansing for his senior season. Cook has been considered one of the top junior QBs in the country since his rise last season in leading the Spartans to the Rose Bowl. In my opinion, I think this is the right move for him.

-I’m old enough to know that everyone has different tastes and likes and dislikes but I don’t know how anyone can watch ESPN’s First Take. Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Firing of Pelini Speaks Volumes for Where College Football is Today

Even a winning percentage of .713 couldn't save Pelini in Nebraska.

If I had told you seven years ago that your university’s head football coach would have a record at your school of 67-27 (winning percentage of .713) and that he’d be fired for said record, what would you have said?

Let me answer that for you. What you would likely ask are the following questions.

Did we win a national championship? No.

Did we win a conference championship? Um, no.

Did we win a division title? Yes! Yes you did! You won four of them. One in the Big Ten and three in the Big 12!!

Great! Did we win the conference title games? Oooohh, that would be no.

Did we have any Heisman Trophy winners? Nope.

So we won a lot of big games then huh? Well, there’s the problem.

You mean we fired our coach because he couldn’t win big games? Bingo. And the fact that he was a total jerk on the sidelines…

Former Huskers' QB Scott Frost could be a leading contender to take over Nebraska.

This is what we have come to now in big time college football. You win nine or ten games a season but it isn’t nearly good enough and that’s exactly what happened with Nebraska.

The above narrative was about Bo Pelini if you haven’t figured that out by now. No titles, and losing all of the big games will get you shown the door regardless of what else happens.

The same thing has rung true at Florida where Will Muschamp has already cleaned out his office and at Michigan where Brady Hoke learned of his dismissal yesterday.

What’s different about those two situations however is that both had poor seasons that were used to support their respective ousters.

Muschamp and Hoke each had 11-2 seasons but the other years were anything but successful and in two proud football universities like those two, average and poor are not accepted.

What Nebraska has to realize is what many programs fight to accept and that’s that the good ol’ days are gone. There are plenty of Big Red fans who’d love to see a return to the option rushing attack of Tom Osborne but that isn’t realistic.

Football has changed drastically since Osborne left the sidelines and the faster the fan base recognizes this, the better. They must also accept the reality that Lincoln, Nebraska is not one of the top destinations any longer prized recruits to come.

If I can go to Tallahassee or Baton Rouge or Austin or any other warm climate why wouldn’t I? This just isn’t unique to Lincoln though. Other traditional powerhouses will lose recruits to teams in the south because of lower academic standards and a greater path to the NFL as well.

The top candidate to come to Lincoln appears to be Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost. Not only did he lead the Huskers to a National Title but he’s from Lincoln and his Ducks run the ball very well which would clearly make the traditional fan base happy.

The only hang-up here is do you want to follow up a first-time coach with another first-time head coach? That’s what Nebraska would be doing with the hiring of Frost. Other candidates will include Troy Calhoun of Air Force and possibly Craig Bohl of Wyoming who built a dynasty at North Dakota State. He’s also a former Huskers’ player.

One thing is for certain; the Huskers need to get this right and they need to get it done before the Gators and Wolverines bring in coaches they are targeting.

Lots of Leftovers for Your Wagering Plate

Saturday is likely the end for Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan.

Today would normally be a day to sit down and give you the breakdown on a handful of college games that are going on today and tomorrow. Instead, I’m going to give you much more. Kind of like how you went back for more turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc.

Loosen your belt and enjoy. (My picks are in BOLD)

Northern Illinois (+7) at Western Michigan – Both teams are tied atop the MAC West with Toledo at 6-1. WMU has won six-straight but needs help while a NIU win gives them the title.

Virginia (-1) at Virginia Tech – Both teams enter at 5-6. The winner goes bowling while the loser goes home and perhaps starts searching for a new head coach.

Nebraska (EVEN) at Iowa – There are some suggesting this game could determine Bo Pelini’s fate in Lincoln while Kirk Ferentz appears to be in Iowa City for life.

Arkansas (-3) at Missouri – The Razorbacks are playing as well right now as any team in the country. They’ve posted back-to-back shutouts over LSU and Ole Miss. A Mizzou win gives them the SEC East title.

Rich Rodriguez and his Wildcats host rival Arizona State in a game with major implications.

Arizona State (+2.5) at Arizona – This one is simple. The winner stays alive in the Pac-12 South race while the loser is out. This is one of the great rivalries in college football that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Stanford (+6) at UCLA – The disappointing season of Stanford finishes in the Rose Bowl where it all unraveled last season in a loss to Michigan State. The Bruins appear to be peaking and remain a long-shot for the college football playoff should chaos ensue at the top.

Saturday’s Action

Michigan (+21) at Ohio State – Brady Hoke needs a win just to make UM officials even consider keeping him. The Buckeyes have been heavy favorites before against the Wolverines but have struggled to win. Not today… This one will get ugly.

Minnesota (+14) at Wisconsin – Minnesota has to be ticked at being a two-touchdown dog at Wisconsin. The Gophers have played well in wins and losses this season and this one is for the Big 10 West title. Look for lots of running in this one.

Washington (-3) at Washington State – The Battle for the Apple Cup features the bowl-bound Huskies against a Cougars’ team that has struggled all season. Mike Leach’s job security in Pullman can only be described as “not very good” at the moment.

Baylor (-25) at Texas Tech – TCU is in the clubhouse at 11-1 after drubbing Texas. Baylor now must hold serve in order to keep their playoff chances alive. The Red Raiders can score points but their defense is…. Going to be abused today. Normally anything over 21 points scares me but not today.

Georgia Tech (+13) at Georgia – The Yellow Jackets are already in the ACC Title game against Florida State. The Bulldogs will already know if they are in the SEC Title game by the time they wake up today. Either way, I expect home-field to be important.

Oregon (-20) at Oregon State – What a disappointing season this has been for the Beavers. I expected so much more from Sean Mannion and company… The Ducks know the drill; win today and win the Pac-12 title and they’re in the playoff. OSU won’t go easily though and keeps it close.

Auburn (+9) at Alabama – Nothing can top last year’s game so let’s forget that right now. Bama has been a machine at home this season while Auburn has really fallen apart in recent weeks.

Florida (+7.5) at Florida State – The Seminoles have done nothing easy all season and that will continue today. In Will Muschamp’s final game coaching the Gators, I expect them to keep it close.

Traditional Powers are Reeling in College Football Plus My Latest Playoff Prediction

Brian Kelly's Irish have dropped four of five and Irish fans aren't happy.

It wasn’t that long ago that both Notre Dame and Nebraska were sitting in good shape for a potential playoff spot if things broke right for them. Both teams had started their respective seasons undefeated and even when both finally lost their first games, they were still in contention for some really good postseason news.

Nebraska’s loss was at Michigan State. The Cornhuskers fell behind but rallied late and nearly pulled off the comeback in East Lansing before losing by five points. It was a loss, but it was widely regarded as a “good loss” because at that point, Michigan State had lost only to Oregon in Eugene so losing to the Spartans was nothing to be ashamed of.

In South Bend, the feeling was that the Irish had been robbed in Tallahassee when their late, game-winning touchdown was called back because of a controversial pass interference call. So much like Nebraska, the Irish were still very much in play for a playoff berth should they run the table.

Things change quickly in collegiate athletics and college football is the prime example.

I imagine the Huskers will see lots of this face this week at practice.

Just weeks later, both of these traditional powers find themselves searching for answers. Nebraska has now dropped two straight games to Wisconsin and to Minnesota. Ironically, those two teams will be playing for the Big Ten West Division title next week in Madison while the Huskers will be playing for pride and bowl position against Iowa.

For the Irish, it’s been even worse. They struggled to put away Navy following the FSU loss since the win over the Midshipmen, Notre Dame has lost three in a row. The first of those was a sloppy loss at Arizona State and the last two have been at home to Northwestern and Louisville yesterday. The Fighting Irish are now 7-4 and still have USC to deal with.

Questions were already swirling about Bo Pelini’s fate in Lincoln and that will intensify this week. Brian Kelly can only ride the trip to the National Title Game so long before he starts to feel more pressure as well. His last two losses will not sit well with the Irish faithful.

Another traditional power on the outs is of course Michigan who dropped to 5-6 following a fourth quarter collapse and eventual loss to Maryland in what is sure to be Brady Hoke’s final game in Michigan Stadium.

The Wolverines now face the prospect of having to go to Columbus and defeat the Buckeyes in order to go to a bowl game and that ain’t happening. Michigan has suffered from horrible quarterback play and untimely defensive failures all year.

Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett announced yesterday that the decision on Hoke’s future would be his to decide. Firing Hoke isn’t easy because he’s a likable guy and a ‘Michigan Man’ through and through but the evidence is overwhelming in favor of terminating him. The only thing that can save Hoke is a win over the hated Buckeyes but I can’t see it happening.

I expect Hoke to join Will Muschamp on the unemployment line very soon.

My Playoff Predictions for this week

1. Alabama – Revenge week begins as Auburn comes to Tuscaloosa.

2. Florida State – Yes, they struggled again but the name of the game is winning and they are doing that.

3. Oregon – Another ho-hum blowout this time over Colorado.

4. Mississippi State – The Bulldogs bounced back from their loss to Alabama by crushing Vanderbilt 51-0.

Still in the running… TCU, Baylor, Ohio State

Saturday Sports’ Bullets for You to Ponder

Madison Bumgarner and the Giants have achieved dynasty status in my opinion.

There are s many things going on this time of year in the sports’ world that I just can’t find one to focus on so why not give you my thoughts and the latest news in the form we all appreciate? Let the bullets fly!

-One of the more hotly debated subjects this past summer was whether or not we should consider the San Antonio Spurs a dynasty. First of all, that term is thrown out way to often and while the Spurs under Gregg Popovich have been consistently good, I don’t view them as a dynasty.

-What does constitute a dynasty is the San Francisco Giants who have now won three World Series titles in the last five seasons. Some will make the argument that a dynastic team needs to at least have back-to-back titles somewhere in their championship run. I don’t see it that way. Bruce Bochy and company are a dynasty in my mind.

LeBron has to be glad to have that first home game out of the way.

-I really don’t blame LeBron James for that rock concert turned basketball game the other night in Cleveland. I mean, yes, he’s to blame for some of the craziness that has followed him from Cleveland to Miami and back to Cleveland but what about these fans? Aren’t these the same ones who burned his jersey and took to social media with hate-filled rants? Apparently everything is OK as long as we return home.

-It may have been a surprise to some on the outside but the resignation of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon wasn’t that shocking at all to those in the know around Ann Arbor. The Michigan fan site www.MGoBlog.com came into the possession of emails between Brandon and disgruntled fans. For a savvy businessman like Brandon to even reply to these was bad enough but his communications were immature and unwarranted.

-As for Michigan going forward, look for a permanent AD to be in place in the next six weeks and a new head coach in place in time for the recruiting push in January.

-I have a feeling Ole Miss goes down for the second week in a row today. Their defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points yet this season but Auburn hasn’t scored less than 20 points since Gus Malzahn took over as head coach. Factor in the loss of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and the diverse and up tempo Tigers’ offense and I just have a feeling the Rebels go down.

-Tomorrow of course brings us Brady vs Manning XVI and with both players shining brightly right now with their play it will be very interesting to see who blinks first. My gut tells me that Manning will put up better numbers but look for the Patriots to get the running game going early which will keep Denver’s pass rushers on their heels. Tom Brady just doesn’t lose at home either.

-If Kobe Bryant isn’t suspended for his use of the ‘N-word’ directed at Dwight Howard then all of the goodwill that Commissioner Adam Silver has built up will have been for nothing. The argument will be made that black players use that word as a “term of endearment” with fellow black players. Let’s be clear; that was not Bryant’s intent when he caught on camera. Let also not forget that Bryant has been fined in the past for gay slurs as well. Silver simply can’t tolerate this behavior from any player let alone his stars.

Things Get Worse at Michigan; Where Do We Stand for the College Football Playoffs

Brady Hoke has lost control in Ann Arbor and just needs to go.

It’s pretty common knowledge that Michigan’s Brady Hoke is no longer on the ‘hot seat.’ It’s not that Hoke isn’t in serious trouble it’s that there is no seat under him to even be hot anymore. The latest nail in his maize ‘n blue coffin wasn’t even so much that blowout loss to Michigan State. It was his team’s behavior before the game and his reaction afterwords.

After taking the field in the annual ‘Backyard Brawl,” the Wolverines apparently drove a spike into the center of the Spartan at mid-field. Now before “Sparty” fan gets all high and mighty let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that the Spartans stuck their flag in the center of Notre Dame Stadium following an upset of the Irish. Be that as it may, the actions by the Wolverines were tasteless and reeked of a team desperate for anything.

If you talk to Michigan alumni, they’ll tell you that’s the type of stuff that lesser programs used to do. Teams that needed to make their mark or gain attention through any means necessary. This was certainly not something Michigan did or would ever do but there it was and what made matters worse were Hoke’s comments afterwards.

The soon-to-be-fired Hoke claimed to know little if anything about what his team had done. Let’s consider just how dumb and how bad this looks on its’ own merits but then consider how badly it looks just weeks after Hoke claimed he didn’t realize his quarterback was nearly out cold.

Remember the Wolverines’ loss to Minnesota when Hoke started Shane Morris at quarterback? Morris was decked late in the game and while he tried to motion to the sidelines that he was ‘OK,’ he clearly was not as he stumbled and needed help getting to the sideline. Morris was later declared to have suffered a concussion and for Hoke and Athletic Director Dave Brandon it was a week of public discourse not seen in Ann Arbor perhaps in forever.

Brandon isn’t exactly off the hook either as he faces a huge push from the student body as well as the alumni to resign. My guess is that he will unload Hoke before anyone can unload him in a desperate chance to save his own job. Either way, but Hoke has demonstrated he really doesn’t have his fingers on the pulse of this team and that’s not good for anyone wearing the maize ‘n blue.

Don't sleep on Bo Pelini's Huskers who are flying under the radar right now.

Race to the Final Four

With Ole Miss’ loss in Baton Rouge, the college football playoff picture got a little more clear. Or did it? Auburn won at home but struggled with a very average South Carolina team. Mississippi State struggled at Kentucky while teams like Michigan State and Kansas State posted solid wins.

There is any number of one-loss teams right now waiting to pounce if one of the remaining unbeatens goes down. Two interesting two-loss teams to keep an eye on though as West Virginia and LSU. If things get really crazy, don’t count either of these teams out if they run the table because of the teams they will have beaten.

One other team to pay attention to is Nebraska. After hosting Purdue this week, they play at Wisconsin, host Minnesota and finish at Iowa. If the Cornhuskers run the table and presumably play a one-loss Michigan State or Ohio State in the Big Ten Title Game and they win, that becomes a one-loss team that cannot be ignored by the selection committee.

Another Great Saturday Slate for You to Consider

Kiffin Saban
Kiffin Saban
The combination of Lane Kiffin and Nick Saban is an odd one and their next challenge is in Knoxville.

Alabama (-17.5) at Tennessee (O/U 46.5) – It’s pretty much a shame that the focus of tomorrow’s game is less about the players and more about Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville. Kiffin is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama and was the coach at Tennessee for just one year 2009. His tenure was marked by stupid comments and a quick split out of town for USC.

The Vols have improved under Butch Jones but this program is still a few years away from truly competing at a high level. I expect the team to have its’ moments tomorrow but these guys are significantly over-matched by an Alabama team fresh off a 59-0 destruction of Texas A&M.

Trends: Alabama is 2-7 against the spread in their last nine games… The Vols are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games at home against Bama… The Crimson Tide are 18-2 straight up in their last 20 road games… The total has gone UNDER in five of Tennessee’s last seven games against Alabama in Neyland Stadium.

The Pick: Take the Tide to cover and the OVER.

The Paul Bunyan Trophy is what Michigan and Michigan State will battle for tomorrow.

Michigan (+17.5) at Michigan State (O/U 49.5) – The Backyard Brawl in recent years has been more like the “Spartan Beat Down” as Michigan State has dominated the series winning five of the last six. Brady Hoke is no longer on the hot seat in Ann Arbor, he’s a dead man walking and sure to be replaced this winter.

Things couldn’t be better in East Lansing where Mark Dantonio has built the Spartans into a national powerhouse behind toughness, discipline and difference-making players. Last year, the Spartans sacked Devin Gardner eight times in pounding the Wolverines 29-6.

The only way Michigan keeps this close is with their defense which has been pretty decent but I don’t think they are good enough to completely stop the Spartans which they would need to do to win.

Trends: Michigan is 8-16-1 against the spread in their last 25 games on the road… The total has gone OVER is eight of MSU’s last nine games… The Wolverines are 1-6 straight up in their last seven road games… The Spartans have won five straight since losing to Oregon.

The Pick: This one is over early. Take Sparty to cover and take the OVER.

Ole Miss (-4) at LSU (O/U 44.5) – LSU is 35-2 at home since 2009 and despite this being one of Les Miles’ weaker teams, this can’t be overlooked. At stake for the Rebels is obviously their unbeaten season. The thought of both Ole Miss and Mississippi State (who already beat the Tigers in Baton Rouge) being unbeaten when they play their season finales against each other is enough to boil over the Magnolia State.

The problem that LSU is facing is that the Ole Miss defense is darn good and the Tigers’ offense is struggling to find a QB and consistency. In order for LSU to pull off the upset, the Tigers’ defense will need a colossal effort to limit Bo Wallace and the Rebels’ offense.

Trends: Ole Miss is 1-5 straight up in its’ last six games when playing LSU in Death Valley… The Tigers are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games at home against the Rebels… The total has gone OVER in four of Ole Miss’ last five games when playing the Tigers… The total has gone UNDER in four of LSU’s last six games at home.

The Pick: Every time I count out Les Miles, he burns me. Take the Tigers at home and getting the points and take the UNDER as well.

Other Games of Note:

South Carolina (17) at Auburn (O/U 64.5) – Auburn covers, take the OVER

Mississippi State (-14) at Kentucky (O/U 59) – Take UK and the points, UNDER

Oregon State (+13) at Stanford (O/U 42) – Take the Beavers and the points, UNDER