First and 10 - Revenge of the Nerds
1. 2012 has been a great year for private schools. Notre Dame is 12-0 and will play for the BCS National Championship. Stanford is 10-2 and one win away from the Rose Bowl. Northwestern is 9-3 and will play on New Year's Day. Vanderbilt is 8-4 for the first time in forever. Tulsa is 9-3 and hosts the Conference USA championship on Saturday. Baylor and SMU are going bowling for an unprecedented third straight year. Rice is bowl eligibile for the first time in five seasons. TCU has competed well in Year 1 of the Big 12.
2. Earlier in the year we offered turnover margin as the stat that best correlates with winning. Well, turnover margin, meet your new competition: red zone defense. The top 17 teams in red zone defense have a composite record of 164-37 (.816). Included among that group are AP No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Florida and No. 6 Oregon.
3. Offense wins again. According to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, teams are on track to set an FBS record of 29.6 points per game. A round of applause to all the offensive coaches out there and, to you defensive coaches: there's always next year.
4. The Big 12 has achieved near perfect balance. Nowhere in college football does offense rule the day quite like the Big 12. In fact, the conference leads FBS with 36.1 points per game, per team, a full touchdown ahead of the rest of college football. Not coincidentally, an absurd 90 percent of Big 12 teams will be going bowling this season.
5. Has Auburn reached uncharted territory? With the firing of Gene Chizik on Sunday, Auburn's last three coaches have now produced undefeated seasons, and all three have now been fired. Terry Bowden led the Tigers to an 11-0 season in 1993 and was let go in 1998. Tommy Tuberville went 13-0 in 2004 and was dismissed in 2008. Chizik, of course, went 14-0 and won the national championship in 2010 only to be let go 23 months later.
6. He won't win any awards this season, but the work of Hugh Freeze and is staff is to be commended. The Rebels reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009 with a 41-24 win over Mississippi State, the first time Ole Miss has beaten Dan Mullen. Freeze inherited a team that didn't win an SEC game and ranked in the 100's in a handful of offensive categories. This year's team has leaped 50 spots in most offensive categories, won three SEC games and come close in three others.
7. In case you missed it, ULM - FIU had one of the craziest endings in recent memory. Nursing a 17-10 lead late in the game, ULM quarterback Kolton Browning attempted to take a knee but fumbled at the FIU 40, which was recovered by the Golden Panthers. Two plays later, E.J. Hilliard hit Willis Wright with a 58-yard touchdown with 14 seconds left. Tie game. Luckily for Todd Berry, and Browning, the unthinkable was avoided as the Warhawks won the game in overtime. It was a cold overtime for Berry, as our eyes on the scene reported that he received his Gatorade bath before Browning's fumble.
8. MACtion on the big stage? BCS bylaws dictate that a non-automatic qualifier can earn a BCS berth by ranking in the top 16 while also being ahead of an AQ champion. Kent State enters the MAC Championship ranked No. 17 and, meanwhile, the Big East does not have a single team in this week's BCS rankings. With No. 16 UCLA playing at Stanford on Friday, the Golden Flashes could be BCS bound with a win. Oh, and there's the news that the conference is looking to trademark #MACtion. Big time, indeed.
9. The new cradle of quarterbacks. If Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as expected wins the Heisman Trophy next week, the state of Texas will stake its claim as the gold mine of college football quarterbacking talent, at least when it comes to the Heisman Trophy. Manziel could make it two straight after Baylor's Robert Griffin III won the stiffarm trophy in 2011, and that duo is joined by two-time runner-up Andrew Luck (a Houston product), two-time top three finisher Colt McCoy, two-time top 10 finisher Case Keenum as well as Chase Daniel (4th place in 2007), Graham Harrell (4th place in 2008) and Andy Dalton (9th place in 2010).
10. Conference realignment will create some awkward bowl match-ups. The Poinsettia Bowl announced today it will pit former WAC and Mountain West bunkmates BYU and San Diego State in this year's matchup. BYU, of course, left the Mountain West after Utah declared its intention to join the Pac-12. Texas A&M could be on a collision course with a former Big 12 foe in the Cotton Bowl. As the wheel of realignment keeps spinning, more and more of these matchups will become inevitable.
The Scoop on Mark Stoops to Kentucky
Kentucky officially announced Mark Stoops, presently the defensive coordinator at Florida State, as its head coach on Tuesday afternoon. Stoops, in his third season at Florida State, took over a unit that ranked 108th nationally in total defense the year before his arrival.
Stoops instantly upgraded the Seminoles' defense, quickly transforming Florida State into one of the elite defenses in the nation, boosting their total defense ranking to 42nd in 2010, fourth in 2011 and second in 2012. Stoops is a nominee for this year's FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year award.
Stoops oversaw dramatic defensive improvements at both FSU and Arizona and is a finalist for national Defensive Coordinator of the Year.— Kentucky Athletics(@UKAthleticsNews) November 27, 2012
Since word broke, we have reached out to a number of coaches and every one of them thinks this is a tremendous hire. Stoops is regarded not only as a great defensive mind, but as a successful, energetic recruiter.
A Big 12 head coach just called me & said, "Kentucky can't imagine how much energy and enthusiasm Mark Stoops will bring up there!"— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 27, 2012
Like his older brothers Bob and Mike, Mark Stoops' career began as a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1990-91. Stoops worked on Jim Leavitt's staff in South Florida's inaugural football season before moving to coach defensive backs under Dana Dimel at Wyoming. After a one-year stay as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Houston, Stoops helped Miami to a 35-3 overall record and a national championship as the defensive backs coach from 2001-03.
Stoops then worked as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for his brother Mike at Arizona, helping the Wildcats improve from consecutive three-win seasons to consecutive eight-win seasons while boosting Arizona's defensive ranking by more than 80 spots. Stoops assumed the defensive coordinator role under head coach Jimbo Fisher at Florida State in 2010.
"Mark's passion has been evident in the way he coaches and in his love for the game of football," said Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart in the school's official statement. "That passion carried over into our process and his desire to wear the Blue and White. Our desire to get better defensively and continue to expand our recruiting base helped guide us to Mark. He comes from a coaching family and has been in big games and big atmospheres throughout his career. That has prepared him for this opportunity to become head coach at Kentucky. We welcome Mark, Chantel, Will and Zack to the Big Blue Nation."
"I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky," Stoops said. "My family and I are excited and looking forward to becoming a part of the Big Blue Nation."
For anyone curious for more information on Stoops, Kentucky has created an official Mark Stoops landing page.
Ellis Johnson has been bought out
Ellis Johnson and the Southern Miss fan base entered this season with high expectations coming off a 12 win season under former head coach Larry Fedora.
However, those high expectations were not met under Johnson and his staff, as the Golden Eagles struggled throughout the year and finished 0-12.
Earlier today the University announced that Johnson would not be retained, and athletic director Jeff Hammond released the following statement:
"Following a thorough assessment of our football program, I made the recommendation to our University President that we not retainEllis Johnson as our head football coach. Dr. Lucas accepted my recommendation and earlier this morning I informedEllis Johnson that he will not return in the future as our head football coach."
"At Southern Miss we expect to compete hard and succeed both in the classroom and on the field. This is not the exception...This is in fact the standard, the norm, our identity and who we are."
"In this regard, we have already initiated a search for a new head coach. We will move rapidly in this effort seeking a dynamic leader with the character to lead our program back to prominence."
"Today marks a new beginning, a new season and a new start. Thus I ask all members of the Southern Miss Family for your support, now more than ever. We must unite and come together as one through this transition period. Please let dignity, respect and love for Our Great University be our watchwords."
Dave Doeren's email promoting Jordan Lynch for Heisman
Plenty of schools have gone all-in on creativity when promoting their players for the Heisman Trophy. There's Collin Klein's band aids, Chase Daniel's viewfinder and Joey Harrington's Times Square billboard, to name a few.
Instead of shooting for something clever, Northern Illinois speaks from the heart as Dave Doeren today sent out an e-mail promoting the merits of his quarterback, Jordan Lynch.
The letter may not help Lynch win the award, or even get to New York, but it's great to see a head coach vouch for his player to this extent.
Here is Doeren's letter in full, provided by CBS's Bruce Feldman.
I wanted to personally write to you regarding my QB Jordan Lynch. I know many of you have his stats and have followed his season. In my 17 years of coaching college football I have never seen a tougher, multi-skilled, consistently productive quarterback than Jordan. In 12 games he has rushed for 1611 yds, 16 TD's, 134.2 yards/game and passed for 2750 yds, 23 TD's and only 4 INT's with a QB rating of 157.3. Please understand that many of the second halves this season we were up and didn't play him in the 4th Q. His stats could be even more over the top. His game management skills and clutch decision making also sets him apart.
He is the first player in FBS history to pass for more than 400 yards and rush for more than 150 in a game (vs Toledo, 11/14/12). He is the second player to ever pass for more than 2,500 yards and run for more than 1,500 yards in a season. Jordan holds the NCAA record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games by a quarterback (10 straight). He needs 92 yards to break the NCAA record for Rushing yards by a QB in a season.
He is a blue collar winner that truly loves and respects the game of football. His relentless energy and passion for competition and winning is inspirational and contagious. I love to see him practice and play - he is worthy of any and all consideration he gets for the Heisman Trophy. As an award that represents the best - he is purely that! I know that there are many deserving candidates out there. I just wanted you to know from a coaches perspective how special Jordan Lynch is. This is what college football players should inspire to be like - he is tough, loyal, competitive, fierce, poised, accountable, and productive!
Thanks for your time and consideration.
"If you comfort the afflicted, then you afflict the comfortable"
David Cutcliffe recently signed an extension to keep him at Duke through 2019. More time at Duke means that Cutcliffe and his staff will be able to build on the progress that they made through the early part of 2012 (and their 6-2 start), before dropping their last four games in a row.
Cutcliffe and his staff have started an impressive turnaround by creating an environment of accountability within the program. Now in his fifth season with the Blue Devils, the coaching staff seems to have successfully created a mindset where they expect to win each week. That's quite the accomplishment for a program that has won 6 or more games just five times since 1980.
“It’s gotta’ be important to you. That’s the accountability we have to each other – how important is it to win,” Cutcliffe told Examiner.com. "No offense, but you didn’t come to Duke just to get a quality degree. You’re here because you’re expected to win.”
While Cutcliffe is proud of earning their way to a bowl, and the progress that they've made since he first arrived on campus, the last thing that he wants his guys feeling is a sense of complacency.
“If you comfort the afflicted, then you afflict the comfortable. We don’t need to be very comfortable, that’s just a fact...that’s where we are.”
The key to getting win number 7 for Cut and his guys will be finding a way to make unfamiliar territory seem familiar, and maintaining their focus through a long bowl prep period, as this will be the first bowl game for the Blue Devils since 1994.
“We’re right there. It’s like being at the top of a wall and you’ve got both hands on and your fingers got a firm grip on it - but if you don’t have anything really left in you - you’re not going to climb over it.” Cutcliffe explained.
VIDEO: Go inside the locker room as Rice celebrates bowl eligibility
At the beginning of October, Rice was 1-5 and left for dead. The Owls' only win was a 25-24 comeback at Kansas. For a program that had won a total of 11 games since the beginning of the 2009 season, not much was expected of Rice but more losing.
But David Bailiff, his staff and his players knew things weren't as bad as they appeared. Two of those were understandable setbacks to strong teams in UCLA and Louisiana Tech, and two more were close calls against Marshall and Memphis.
On Oct. 13, Rice beat UTSA 34-14. The next week they challenged eventual Conference USA champion Tulsa to a 28-24 final score on the road. Then things really started to pick up. A 44-17 win over Southern Miss and a 49-47 win over Tulane led into the Owls' finest performance of the season, a 36-14 drubbing of SMU. Those three wins put the Owls within one win of bowl eligibility, which they achieved by beating UTEP, 33-24, on Saturday.
The win moved Rice to 6-6, which means the Owls are now, for the first time for the vast majority of Rice's players stepped on campus, bowl eligible. Rice hasn't played in a bowl since 2008, when the current fifth-year seniors were in their redshirt year. Plenty of people say there are too many bowl games, and that's a debate for another day, but those who do need to see scenes like this inside Rice's locker room after reaching win the all-important No. 6.
Thanks to Rice SID Chuck Pool for passing this along.
The Scoop on Stats - Week 14
With the regular season now complete for the majority of FBS, this week's Scoop on Stats takes a look at some overarching trends that occurred in the 2012 college football season.
- Michigan completed their regular season on Saturday with an 8-4 record. Their four losses came to AP No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 14 Nebraska, who hold a combined record of 45-3. On of Nebraska's two losses came at the hands of Ohio State, meaning that against outside competition Michigan's opponents were 44-2.
- Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel reached the 4,600 total offense mark in the Aggies' win over Missouri on Saturday. The 4,600 yards are a new SEC single-season total offense record, breaking the mark set by Cam Newton in 2010. Newton amassed 4,327 yards in 14 games and Manziel passed him in 12 games.
- West Virginia snapped a very dubious streak this week. Not only did the Mountaineers' 31-24 win over Iowa State halt a five-game losing streak, it also ended a streak of five consecutive games in which a WVU opponent was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week. That honor went to Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones for his come-from-behind win over Oklahoma State.
- Unfortunately, Southern Miss was unable to avoid a dubious record as the Golden Eagles became the first team to drop from 12 wins to zero wins in one year.
- Did any team have a bigger yo-yo season than SMU? The Mustangs opened the season with a 25 point loss, then beat Stephen F. Austin by 52, and then lost to Texas A&M by 45. SMU then nearly upset TCU, shutout UTEP but then lost to 2-10 Tulane, only to set a school record the next week with 72 points in a blowout of Houston. The Mustangs then beat Memphis by 31, lost to UCF by 25, beat Southern Miss by 28, lost to Rice by 22 and ended the year by giving Tulsa its only Conference USA loss.
- With the win over USC, Notre Dame became the first BCS National Championship participant to begin the season unranked.
- Conversely, USC joined the 1964 Ole Miss team as the only AP preseason No. 1's to end the season unranked. In fact, the AP views the Trojans only ahead of Cal in the state of California. Stanford, UCLA, Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State all received more votes than the Trojans in this week's poll.
- As we know, Alabama will meet Georgia on Saturday for the SEC championship. But did you know that in eight trips to the SEC title game, Saturday will be the first time the Crimson Tide has played an SEC East opponent other than Florida?
- It was an incredibly top-heavy year for the SEC, as the league's top six teams (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M) went a combined 30-0 against the other eight teams in the league.
- Equally top-heavy was the Big Ten's Leaders Division. The two teams ineligible for the conference title (Ohio State and Penn State) went a combined 14-2 in conference play, while the eligible teams (Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois) were a combined 9-23.
- Michigan State held Minnesota to just 96 total yards in their 26-10 to win over Minnesota, the fewest yards allowed in a Big Ten game since Ohio State held Michigan to 91 yards on November 17, 2007.
- Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein produced 29 touchdowns against only three turnovers through his first nine games. Since then, he has totaled four touchdowns and four turnovers.
Offensive coordinators will want to add this one to their playbook
Skyline HS (WA) quarterback Max Browne, one of the top quarterbacks in the country and a USC committ, went 29 of 32 for 387 yards and 4 touchdowns in a state semifinal showdown with Camas HS in which they went on to win 51-28. But we find it hard to believe that any of those touchdowns were more fun to throw than the bounce pass he threw to one of his receivers early in second half.
Take a look at this trick play that they pulled out on the opening series of the second half.
Offensive coordinators may want to add this one to their playbook. Pretty clever.