Asmussen: Hurricanes losing strength
Each week, college football writer — and AP Top 25 & Heisman voter — BOB ASMUSSEN breaks down the game he loves
Team of the Week
There were some who thought the college home of Tony Dorsett, Hugh Green and Larry Fitzgerald would be a better fit for the Big Ten than Maryland and Rutgers. Too late now. The Panthers have hitched their wagon (Loren Tate term) to the ACC. Yes, it seems weird. But the school and the league are feeling better about the choice after Pitt knocked Notre Dame from the Top 25 on Saturday. The Irish outgained the Panthers but were hurt by three turnovers. Wonder if Notre Dame wants to rethink that rejection of the Big Ten? Probably not.
Team of the Weak
See, H.U. told you the Hurricanes were a pretender. As one source put it, the worst undefeated team in the history of college football. After the meltdown against Virginia Tech, Miami now has three losses and has dropped out of H.U.’s Top 25. Thankfully, we won’t have to watch it get smacked around by Florida State again in the ACC title game. Virginia Tech now holds the division tiebreaker. Wouldn’t want to see another FSU-Miami game until the Hurricanes get some more guys.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
1. Alabama 1
Were the defending national champions in trouble against LSU? Is Nick Saban’s accent real? No and no. The big, bad Crimson Tide led by only three points at the half. Then they did what Saban’s teams always do: stormed the field after a halftime lecture/tongue-lashing from the greatest coach in college football history. Who else is there, Bear Bryant? Nope. Joe Paterno? Shattered image and vanilla offense. It is Saban. Period. The guy has won national titles with two different schools in the same league. When he says the name “Scooter” to acknowledge a local reporter, he sounds like he cares. Does he ever get flustered? Doubt it. Not that he would ever let on. Saban is great on camera and even better behind the scenes. Hard to believe Michigan State once had Saban running the football team.
2. Florida State 2
The thank-you cards are filling mailboxes in Palo Alto (question: are there still mailboxes?). The love notes are arriving from the Florida capital, where Seminoles fans cheered like the dickens Thursday night. If Florida State wins its final three regular season games and the ACC title match, it will play for the national title. Nothing anybody can do about it. The experts at ESPN, Fox Sports and ABC want to see a BCS title game between Florida State and Alabama. The folks at the BTN have another matchup in mind. More on that in the next section. Florida State takes a break Saturday after wiping Wake Forest off its shoes. Oh, that’s messy.
3. Ohio State 4
About that national title contender favored by the BTN: No surprise it is the Buckeyes. Unlike Florida State, Ohio State doesn’t control its national title destiny. It needs a loss from either Alabama or Florida State, which seems more unlikely by the day. Folks in C-U get a look at the Buckeyes on Saturday. Just guessing that goods seats are available. After that, Ohio State has Indiana (romp), Michigan (bigger romp) and the Big Ten title game (romp unless Michigan State is on the other sidelines).
4. Stanford 6
For most of the game against Oregon, the Cardinal looked like the best team in the country. Then it started trying field goals that got blocked and dropping onside kicks. What looked like a blowout ended up being close. It will give David Shaw something to complain about during practice this week. Stanford still needs some help but has a chance to play for the national title. Stanford will have no trouble at USC on Saturday. And the other three games are against Cal (blech), Notre Dame (see above) and the Pac-12 South winner. Make the Cardinal play Oregon again instead.
5. Oregon 3
The Ducks would love a rematch. They didn’t appear to have practiced going into the game at Stanford. They didn’t tackle well. The offense was sluggish and the uniforms garish. Of course, that’s always the case in Eugene. The amazing part about modern-day college football is you can play a dreadful game and still remain in the national title hunt. It has happened to LSU and Alabama in the past. Now it can happen to Oregon, too. The Ducks can impress the voters starting with Saturday’s game against Utah. Spoiler alert: the Utes beat Stanford earlier this season.
6. Baylor 7
H.U. hadn’t watched the Bears much before Thursday’s game against Oklahoma. H.U. admits to jumping to conclusions about Baylor that turned out to be untrue. Like that it couldn’t play defense. Boy, was that wrong. Without Phil Bennett’s band of happy tacklers, the Bears would have been in trouble against Oklahoma. While the Baylor offense got revved up, the defense kept the game close. There are two tricky games left, including the finale against Texas. For years, the Longhorns owned the series. This time, Baylor will be the favorite.
7. Clemson 5
Please, Tigers fans, no angry letters. You had your shot at the top spot and got drilled by Florida State. At home. Clemson wasn’t ready for the big time. Not this season. Still, an 11-1 finish and BCS bowl are within reach. The folks in New Orleans and Miami would love to have a bazillion Clemson fans invade in early 2014. The Tigers have a challenge Nov. 14 when better-than-you-think Georgia Tech visits. Clemson will rest up for the game with an open Saturday. Bags and lawn darts at Dabo Swinney’s house.
8. Missouri 10
A reasonable question: If you are the Tigers, do you want to win out? Beat Mississippi and Texas A&M and Missouri will play Alabama for the SEC title. That is supposed to be the goal. But Missouri might be better off avoiding the Crimson Tide. A late-season beatdown by the national power could dent the momentum being built by Gary Pinkel. Still, it is better than last year when they went 5-7.
9. Texas A&M 8
We know the Aggies would like another bout with Alabama. The last time was so much fun. But Johnny Manziel and friends couldn’t play defense against Alabama and have been playing catchup ever since. A&M takes the weekend off before the nasty end of the season against LSU and Missouri. That is Tigers-Tigers. Then a nice bowl game to celebrate the end of Manziel’s college career.
10. Auburn 9
A whole lot of people are rooting for Gus Malzahn’s team. Except for Bret Bielema. The Tigers have the best shot to upset Alabama and that makes the Buckeyes, Seminoles and Cardinal all fans. Auburn would be thinking about No. 1, too, if not for a close loss to LSU. Auburn will try to pile up the points Saturday when Georgia visits town. Should be a hoot. Unless Mark Richt and Malzahn get into a squabble.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
125. Georgia State 125
Fantastico news (heard that at the Olive Garden), the Panthers are not coming off a loss Saturday. Repeat, the Panthers are not coming off a loss Saturday. How long did it take you to realize that Georgia State had the weekend off? Probably about as long as it took the Panthers to realize they were looking at a winless season. H.U. is glad this mess isn’t falling on Bill Curry’s record. The former Alabama coach started the Georgia State program in 2010. Wisely, one of our favorite football announcers ever retired after 2012. He is probably home right now, patting himself on the back for getting out in time. The Panthers are going to lose again this week, probably by a big score, against Louisiana-Lafayette.
124. Miami (Ohio) 124
It is difficult to leave the B-5. Kind of like trying to get out of the mob. The RedHawks barely showed up for last week’s game against Bowling Green, losing 45-3. They will take Saturday off before returning to duty next Wednesday at Kent State. Then, two more losses before Ron Zook returns to his alma mater to save the day. H.U. promises Miami won’t go winless in 2014. We would bet Zook’s favorite speedboat on it. Miami is going to get whacked in its final three games. Kent State, Buffalo and Ball State are a combined 22-6. Yeesh.
123. Southern Miss 123
The Golden Eagles have been eliminated from bowl consideration. Actually, it happened weeks ago. Just checking to see if you are paying attention. After Saturday’s 36-13 loss at Louisiana Tech (big game for Karl Malone), Todd Monken’s winless bunch hosts Florida Atlantic. Might want to tell former coach Carl Pelini to stay out of Hattiesburg. We don’t need any drunken riots in the peaceful Mississippi city.
122. UConn 122
The Huskies only lost by 21 to Louisville on Friday night. Not too bad. Just another sign that the UConn program doesn’t have a ton of ground to make up to reach respectability. Finding the right coach to replace Paul Pasqualoni is critical. Based on the most recent hire, confidence is not high. Pas was a reach for UConn. Almost like it wanted to fail. There has to be a younger coach out there who has the right stuff to compete with the dominant basketball programs at the school. Stay tuned.
121. Purdue 121
It is hard to be as bad as the Boilermakers have been this season. The latest train wreck came against Iowa. At least Purdue reached double figures in points. For the first time since late September. It doesn’t figure to be better this week against desperate Penn State. After losing that one, the Boilermakers will play Illinois on Nov. 23 to see who avoids the Leaders Division basement. But at least the harvest looks good.
LEAGUE PREVIOUS RANK
1. Pac-12 3
2. SEC 1
3. Big Ten 2
4. ACC 5
5. Big 12 4
6. MAC 6
7. Mountain West 7
8. American 8
9. Conference USA 10
10. Sun Belt 9
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State. The freshman remains the front-runner, but he might want to tell his teammates to back off a little bit. It is hard to pile up Heisman-worthy numbers when your team is winning by 50. The Seminoles barely needed him. The same should be true for this week’s game against Syracuse. While 159 yards and two touchdowns aren’t eye-popping numbers, Winston remains the choice because of team success. He should go find himself a tux. Just in case.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The good: Five touchdown passes vs. Mississippi State. The bad: three interceptions. The good: 446 yards passing. The bad: No chance to prove himself again in the SEC title game. He is going to New York and might want to stick around afterward in case the Jets want to talk. He has a lot of Joe Namath in him.
3. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin. It has been 25 years since Barry Sanders had the best year ever for a running back. Gordon isn’t Sanders, but he is closest thing to a Heisman threat at the running back position. Just ask the Illinois defenders.
Trouble in the Sunshine State
The folks in Gainesville bounced Ron Zook in the middle of his third season. And he was winning games. So what do you think they are going to do with Will Muschamp? Losing to Georgia and Miami and Missouri is bad. Losing to Vanderbilt is a felony. The Gators are 4-5 and in danger of missing a bowl for the first time in two decades. They have games left against South Carolina and Florida State. Normally, those schools would love to be a part of Muschamp’s demise. But they might want to take it easy on the Gators so he isn’t fired. Don’t give the school a chance to hire another Urban Meyer.
Trouble in America’s car lot
That would be Michigan. While Michigan State is rolling, the rest of the FBS schools in the state are a mess. The Wolverines look dreadful on offense and could finish close to .500 after a 5-0 start. The state’s three MAC schools are a combined 6-23. And Eastern Michigan just fired Ron English for using inappropriate language. At least Brad Ausmus was a solid choice to replace Jim Leyland with the Tigers. Never mind.
You are busted
If you have followed H.U. in the past, you understand his affinity for the little guy. Loved to see Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl. Well, until the game started. Looks like more BCS bowl fun this year. Fresno State, NIU and Central Florida all have a chance to land a spot in one of the big games. You will hear howling from some that those schools don’t belong. The howlers are wrong. A long time ago, Miami and Florida State were considered outside the group of cool schools. Thankfully that changed. Just like it changed for Boise State and TCU and Louisville. The more barriers that are broken down, the better the game will be.