College football writer Bob Asmussen breaks down the game he loves.
Team of the Week
Sorry, Falcons, but the rest of the MAC was rooting against you in the conference title game. When Bowling Green beat Northern Illinois, it cost the Huskies a BCS bid. And that cost the MAC millions in bowl money. What were the Falcons supposed to do, not try? Give Dave Clawson’s team credit for not allowing Northern Illinois’ resume to cause any kind of intimidation. The Falcons were ready to go. The problem then became keeping Clawson, who left for Wake Forest this week. Very impressive effort by the coach. Others noticed.
Team of the Weak
The Cowboys had a BCS berth in their hands. They were playing at home against their bitter rivals. And they let Oklahoma take it away. It’s a bad sign when the opposing kicker scores a touchdown. Oklahoma State couldn’t get the offense going against the Sooners. So much for the Cowboys taking control of the series. At least they still have the fanciest stadium in the Plains. And the basketball team is good, too.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
1. Florida State 1
The Seminoles did not take Duke lightly. For an instant. The way Florida State toyed with the Blue Devils, and every other team on the schedule, it’s difficult to imagine it losing the final BCS title game. But there is a month to waste before the teams meet in Pasadena. And history tells us that all sorts of things can go wrong in a month. A key player could hurt himself going to class. Or walking down the street. Or slip on some broken eggs at the Piggly Wiggly. So, expect Jimbo Fisher to ban class, walking and shopping between now and early January. Good thing football coaches aren’t paranoid. Chuckle, chuckle.
2. Auburn 3
The Tigers would like to play the game now. In a parking lot if necessary. Nobody is playing better right now than Auburn, which rolled Missouri in the SEC title game. It is more than just Tre Mason and Nick Marshall. It is the receivers, running backs and offensive line. Gus Malzahn knows his team well and should have some wrinkles ready for Florida State. Great to see former Illini Jay Prosch playing for the national title in his final college game. He refused to look ahead before the SEC championship. Didn’t want to jinx it.
3. Alabama 5
There will not be a three-peat for the Crimson Tide. If the new playoff system was in place this year, the Crimson Tide would be the favorite. Instead, Alabama will have to settle for a Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma. Alabama doesn’t always play well when there isn’t a national title on the line. Think back to the ugly loss against Utah. We will get a good idea of how well Nick Saban commands his team by its performance in New Orleans. Got a feeling Alabama might be listless.
4. Michigan State 6
There will be no questioning Michigan State’s enthusiasm for its bowl pairing. The Spartans are downright giddy to be playing in the Rose Bowl. For one thing, it has been a long time. For another, Michigan State’s national title hopes ended with the loss to Notre Dame. Can we ask the officials to review the pass-interference calls in that game? Nice job by Michigan State of not listening to those who said it would get blown out by Ohio State.
5. Ohio State 2
The Buckeyes must be kicking themselves. Beat Michigan State and they are playing for the title. Instead, it is off to Florida for the Orange Bowl against Clemson. Urban Meyer isn’t perfect. He just thinks he is. The Buckeyes should stop crying in time to take on the Tigers. Meyer can start another winning streak in Columbus. But it is going to be difficult to have much faith in future undefeated Ohio State teams.
6. Stanford 7
No school in the country has a longer BCS appearance streak than Stanford. Not Alabama. Not Florida State. Not Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh got the program rolling, and David Shaw has kept it going. If he wants the streak to continue, a Rose Bowl win against Michigan State would do wonders. The great recruits in the country continue to take long looks at Palo Alto.
7. Baylor 9
Given a chance for a BCS bid when Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma, Baylor took advantage of it. Art Briles has the most compelling offense this side of Auburn. The Bears will be fun to watch against Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. But they better not sleep on the Knights, who are better than you think.
8. Missouri 4
Hard to blame Missouri for losing to Auburn. The Patriots would have had a tough time in Atlanta. It seems like Missouri should get a better bowl draw than having to play Oklahoma State in the Cotton. Fans of the old Big Eight will be happy. That’s about it.
9. South Carolina 10
One of the best non-BCS games will match the Gamecocks against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Jadeveon Clowney will probably mouth off about the Wisconsin run game. And Steve Spurrier will get to play a lot of golf. South Carolina deserves more credit for its win against Central Florida. And the fact that it beat up on Clemson.
10. Clemson —
If you want to cry foul about any team being in a BCS game, it is Clemson. Oregon fans might have a beef when they see the Tigers playing Ohio State instead of the Ducks. Good point. Both teams lost twice. But you could make a case that Oregon played a better overall schedule. Tough call. The guess is that the folks at the Orange Bowl know they will see many more fans travel from Clemson than would have come from Eugene. Selling tickets is part of the BCS experience.
(Most disappointing teams of 2013)
SCHOOL FINAL RECORD
1. Florida 4-8
H.U. didn’t think much of the Gators in the preseason. For once, H.U. was right. The offense is going to get the bulk of the blame for the dreadful season, but defense and special teams played a role, too. It seems miraculous that Will Muschamp survived. The rope will be extremely short in 2014.
2. Northwestern 5-7
It looked like Pat Fitzgerald’s team, coming off success in 2012, was ready to threaten the Top 10. And it did for a few weeks. The loss to Ohio State seemed to take the spark away. And the Wildcats went into a spin. Injuries played a major part. And there were some heartbreaking losses. Just a hunch the Wildcats bounce back next season.
3. Michigan 7-5
If the Wolverines complete that two-point pass against Ohio State, they aren’t anywhere near this list. But that might be a sign of how things have dropped in Ann Arbor. The team needs to be playing for titles and shouldn’t be satisfied with being a spoiler.
4. West Virginia 4-8
Oklahoma State doesn’t believe the Mountaineers belong on this list. For the longest time, West Virginia was the only team with a win against the Cowboys. We expect West Virginia to contend for the Big 12 title. Maybe those days are over and it is time to think about lowering the goals.
5. Arkansas 3-9
Bret Bielema had plenty of enthusiasm in his first season but not much talent. The lost year with John L. Smith in charge hurt the program. And so did playing against the rugged SEC. A winless conference season does not inspire much confidence going forward. But one year in Fayetteville didn’t wipe out Bielema’s coaching ability. Better win soon. The Sooey Piggers are not known for their patience.
LEAGUE PREVIOUS RANK
1. SEC 2
2. ACC 4
3. Pac-12 3
4. Big Ten 1
5. Big 12 6
6. American 7
7. MAC 5
8. Conference USA 8
9. Mountain West 10
10. Sun Belt 9
Heisman ballot (For 2014)
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State. He is going to New York to receive the trophy this week. And then the scrutiny begins. Just ask Johnny Manziel. Everything Winston does going forward will be watched. Especially off the field. If he handles it well, he will join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winners.
2. Bryce Petty, Baylor. The Bears open a new stadium, and the quarterback will be the featured star. A big performance against Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl would kick-start his Heisman campaign. Voters have shown in the past they will pick a worthy Baylor player (RGIII).
3. Myles Jack, UCLA. Nothing a Heisman voter likes better than a novelty. And the two-way Bruins star qualifies. Smart UCLA coach Jim Mora will make sure to get him the ball more on offense. And his defensive work figures to improve as he gets older. The award is aching for somebody different. Jack is that guy in 2014.
East Central Illinois has a team to root for this weekend in the FCS playoffs when Eastern Illinois takes on Towson on Friday night. The best news for Dino Babers and pals is that the game is in Charleston. If you have a free night (and you do), head down to Spoo-ville to pack the place. The Panthers appreciate your support.
Finally, somebody picked up on the great work done by Craig Bohl. The king of North Dakota State football is taking over at Wyoming. From one cold part of the world to another. As in North Dakota, Bohl should thrive with the Cowboys. Here’s a bet that he turns Wyoming into a bowl regular and a team that will threaten to take one of the six slots in the new postseason setup. Bohl is a class guy with experience at a BCS school (Nebraska).
Best of the rest
Later H.U. will rank all 35 bowls in order of television worthiness. But a few that stick out as being watchable include Fresno State-Southern Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl, Miami-Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Texas-Oregon in the Alamo Bowl and Iowa-LSU in the Outback. Happy viewing to you all and to all a good night.