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First and 10 - Coaches excelling in year one

First-year coaches are in position to win over half of 11 available FBS conference championships. We'll start off this week's edition of First and 10 by examining each situation and what they need to happen to win their respective conference crowns. 

1. Kyle Flood has Rutgers three wins away from a likely Orange Bowl berth. Flood, a six-year veteran of Greg Schiano's staff and former Rutgers player, has taken a good situation and improved upon it. Rutgers ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense at 13.4 points per game, and have allowed an average of just 10.3 points in Big East play. In a similar scenario to Flood's first year on the Rutgers staff, when Rutgers knocked off No. 2 Louisville 28-25 on a Thursday night, the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals will likely square off for a spot in the Orange Bowl on the final Thursday night of the season. Flood has a chance to cap his inaugural season by leading Rutgers to its first BCS game.

2. Tim DeRuyter needs one win to clinch Fresno State's first conference title since 1999. Ironically, 1999 was the first season of Mountain West Conference football, a league Fresno State was originally excluded from. After multiple rounds of conference realignment musical chairs, DeRuyter has the Bulldogs in position to win the MWC crown in their debut season in the league. All that's needed is a win over Air Force on Nov. 24.

3. Matt Campbell and Toledo can play their way into the MAC Championship. The Rockets stand at 5-1 in conference play, one game behind 6-0 Northern Illinois in the MAC West. On Wednesday night Toledo will travel to DeKalb, Ill., to battle the Huskies for the top spot in the division. Campbell needs three wins to give Toledo its first MAC title since 2004, Campbell's second season as a 24-year-old graduate assistant at Bowling Green. 

4. Gus Malzahn has Arkansas State on the cusp of back-to-back Sun Belt crowns. After dropping his first conference game, Malzahn has led his team to five straight victories and the top of the Sun Belt standings. The Sun Belt doesn't stage an official league championship game, but the unofficial Sun Belt Super Bowl will probably be December 1 when Arkansas State visits second place Middle Tennessee.

5. Jim L. Mora can be the king of college football in Los Angeles. The Bruins haven't beaten cross-town rival USC since 2006, but a victory on Saturday would wrap up its first non-sanction aided Pac-12 South championship and likely send the Bruins to Autzen Stadium for the second straight year for the conference title. 

6. Kevin Sumlin needs a lot of help, but his Aggies aren't out of the SEC West race. Assuming Sumlin's team beats Missouri on November 24, Texas A&M likely needs two massive upsets - Auburn over Alabama and Arkansas over LSU - to win the tiebreaker atop the SEC West. It's a longshot, but at this time three months ago no one Texas A&M a chance to win in Tuscaloosa, either. 

7. Due to no fault of his own, Urban Meyer can't win this year's Big Ten title. But if they weren't on probation, his Ohio State squad would undoubtedly be the runaway favorites at this point of the season. The 10-0 Buckeyes would also be square in the middle of the annual debate for the top two BCS spots. Meyer and co. will have to wait until next year.

8. The final WAC championship could be decided Saturday in Ruston, La. One of the unfortunate consequences of the game of college football musical chairs is that the WAC will close up shop as a football conference after this season. But in typical WAC fashion, Saturday's game between 4-0 Utah State and 4-0 Louisiana Tech will be nothing but entertaining, setting up one of the best good-on-good match-ups of the year. The Bulldogs average 53.4 points per game on offense, while the Aggies surrender just 13.5 a game, a gap of almost 40 points. 

9. Congratulations to Charley Molnar and Massachusetts. The Minutemen earned not only their first win of the season on Saturday, but their first win as an FBS program in topping Akron, 22-14. That leaves Southern Miss as the only FBS team in search of its first win.

10. In case you missed it. The Division II, Division III and NAIA playoff brackets were announced on Sunday. The FCS playoff bracket will be revealed this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Best of luck to all involved. 

 

 




High school video combines highlights with Ali quotes

Muhammad Ali quotes and football highlights.

Those two things have a special knack for motivating, and they come together in this well done clip from Midland Lee HS (TX). Here's the video that they watched prior to their game against Permian HS (of Friday Night Lights fame).

Enjoy, this one's pretty good.




Did Charlie Weis put his team at a competitive disadvantage on Saturday?

Is it possible that Charlie Weis, he who declared his teams would have a  "decided schematic advantage" at Notre Dame, put his team at a competitive disadvantage before Kansas even took the field at Texas Tech on Saturday?

The Big 12 mandates that teams may take 70 players on the road. Kansas took just 54 players to Lubbock on Saturday.

"This was about going on the road with guys that really, really care," Weis told the Lawrence Journal-World. "It's important to them. I'll take that group of guys that played today and give us a chance whenever we're playing."

According to the paper, not included among the Jayhawks' 54 travelling players were junior Christian Matthews, who has rushed nine times for 73 yards and a touchdown in eight games and played regular snaps at wide receiver, and redshirt freshman Damon Martin, who started at left guard against Texas.

Is it possible that Weis' team, which scored 10 points in the last half of the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, wore down as the game stretched into double overtime?

The Jayhawks scored a touchdown to open overtime, but were unable to stop Texas Tech as the Red Raiders scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, the second of which saw Texas Tech move forward in increments of 11, 5, 3 and 3 yards to score in four plays.

Kansas moved forward one yard in the ensuing possession, thereby ending the game with a 41-34 Texas Tech win. 

So it's certainly possible that Weis put his team at a disadvantage on Saturday, but maybe Weis was correct and his smaller roster banded together to put forth a more focused effort. 




Great fake punt by the St. Louis Rams

Most of the attention from Sunday's St. Louis Rams - San Francisco 49ers game will be focused on how it became the first NFL game since 2008 to end in a tie.

But what we liked most about the game was the pair of fake punts employed by the Rams. 

The first play appears to just be a sight read by punter John Hekker, who fired a pass to gunner Rodney McLeod when the 49ers applied a late rush. It was well executed, and we applaud the Rams to sticking to their reads even when punting out of their own end zone.

 

The next fake punt was clearly called ahead of time when Hekker faked a handoff to Danny Amendola, drawing all of San Francisco's attention to its left, and then had a run / pass option to the left and would up hitting a wide open tight end Lance Kendricks for the first down.

 

Have you seen a better fake punt or field goal this season? If so, send it our way and we'll compare. 




In the NFL if you have the opportunity to score, you have to take it

With 5:44 left in the third quarter, with a 41-17 lead over the Raiders, the Baltimore Ravens ran a fake field goal yesterday to the left side of the formation where they had the Raiders outnumbered.

After the game, head coach John Harbaugh explained the decision, stating that in the NFL, when you have the opportunity to score points, your obligated to take advantage.

"I wish we could say that we stand up there, and you guys might roll your eyes at this a little bit, but I wish you could say you stand up there and you feel like 'Hey, the game is out of hand' or 'We don't need those points.'"

"When I'm looking up at the clock and I'm seeing twenty five minutes left in the game, a lot of things can happen. Turnovers can happen, people can score quick. So if they're going to give us an opportunity for four points that we normally wouldn't have, then we just feel like we're obligated to take advantage of that." Harbaugh explained.

"We are trying to win the game, so if you can extend your lead, you really should do that in this league. There is just too much talent over there to assume that they can't get back in the football game, so that's what we do."

Interesting point.

Take a look at the fake field goal and defensive alignment up top for yourself, and hear more from coach Harbaugh below.




The Scoop on Stats - Week 11

As we inch closer to the end of the season, a number of NCAA records become more and more in danger of falling.

If you see any other stats out there worth mentioning, please send them our way.

- Oregon continues on its record-shattering pace. The Ducks scored 59 points in their win over California, upping their season average to 54.8 points per game, just 1.2 points per game behind the 56.0 ppg averaged by Army in 1944.

- Oregon remains well on pace to break the NCAA total scoring records, set by Texas in 2005 with 652 points in a 13-game season and by Oklahoma in 2008 with 714 points in a 14-game season. 

- The Ducks need to score 24 more touchdowns to break the NCAA single-season touchdown record of 99 set by Oklahoma in 2008. 

- Oregon has already broken one NCAA record as Saturday night marked their 13th straight game scoring 40 points or more. 

- The biggest disparity between opponents' scoring offense and scoring defense averages this season will take place on Saturday when Utah State visits Louisiana Tech. Utah State ranks sixth nationally with a defensive scoring average of 13.5 points per game, facing off with Louisiana Tech's second-ranked scoring offense average of 53.4 points per game. That's a difference of 39.9 points per game. 

- Per ESPN Stats & Information, Tennessee is the first team in SEC history to allow 38 points or more in six consecutive games. 

- Courtesy of the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton: From the 10 quarters from the Oklahoma game through the first half against Kansas, the Texas defense allowed 127 points and 1,482 yards. In the 10 quarters since, Texas has surrendered 32 points and 793 yards. 

- Fresno State is the only FBS team to have players ranked among the top 10 nationally in passing yards (Derek Carr, 3,290 yards), rushing yards (Robbie Rouse, 1,362 yards) and receiving yards (Davante Adams, 1,027 yards). 

- The top 11 FBS teams in turnover margin (all with an average margin of 1.2 or greater) have a combined record of 93-17 this season.

- Auburn has only intercepted one pass this season. 

- Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron set an FBS record on Saturday by throwing 419 consecutive passes (and counting) without an interception. 

- Abilene Christian became just the third program in college football history (following Hawaii and Houston) to produce three consecutive 12,000-yard passers. 

- Wisconsin ran for 564 yards on Saturday in its 62-14 win over Indiana, more yards than Tulane and Washington State have run for all season.

- Tulane and Washington State have averaged less than two yards per carry this season. No FBS team has rushed for less than 2 ypc since Temple averaged 1.87 yards per rush in 2006. 

- Rutgers is threatening to accomplish something no FBS team has done in more than a decade. The Scarlet Knights average 30.4 yards per kickoff return, which would make them the first FBS team since Hawaii in 2001 to hit the 30-yard barrier. Rutgers is currently ahead of Florida State's NCAA record average of 30.33 yards per return, but the Scarlet Knights' 10 returns falls well short of the minimum 25. 

 - The Denver Broncos lead the NFL in sacks (31) and are tied at the top of the league for sacks allowed with just 11 on the year.




NAIA playoff bracket

The NAIA playoff bracket can be seen below. Nine teams will look familiar from last season's bracket, when St. Xavier (Chicago, IL) took the national title home.

Interestingly enough, two conferences (the Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division and the Heart of America Athletic Conference) each landed three teams in the playoff bracket. St. Xavier, Marian, and St. Francis represent the MSFAE and Missouri Valley, MidAmerica Nazarene, and Baker represent the HAAC.

One perennial power that failed to make the cut was Carrol (MT), who failed to make it for the first time since 1999. The Fighting Saints had previously been a mainstay in the national championship game, appearing in 8 of the last 10 title games.

As you can see, there will be some quality match ups to see who has what it takes to bring home the hardware in 2012. Read more about the teams and the match ups here.

 

Game 1: Bethel (Tenn.) (8-3) at Georgetown (Ky.) (10-0), 3:30 p.m.
Game 2: Ottawa (Kan.) (8-2) at Missouri Valley (10-0), TBD

 

 

Game 3:

Montana Tech (8-2) at Morningside (Iowa) (10-0), 1 p.m.

Game 4: William Penn (Iowa) (9-2) at Saint Xavier (Ill.) (9-1), 1 p.m.

 

Game 5:

Northwestern (Iowa) (9-2) at Marian (Ind.) (8-1), 1 p.m.
Game 6:

Baker (Kan.) (8-2) at Saint Francis (Ind.) (8-2), 12 p.m.

.
Game 7: MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) (8-2) at Cumberlands (Ky.) (9-1), 12 p.m.
Game 8: Southern Oregon (8-2) at Saint Ambrose (Iowa) (9-1), 1 p.m.

 

 




Two North Carolina teams combine for 184 points

In North Carolina high school playoff action over the weekend, Davidson Day high school outlasted Harrells Christian in a scoring frenzy that would make even Oregon jealous.

Davidson ended up winning 104-80, and quarterback Will Grier set the national passing yardage record with 837 yards through the air to go along with his 10 touchdowns (which ties the national record). Grier has thrown 64 touchdowns on the season.

Harrels Christian running back running back Russell Washington also put up some ridiculous numbers, carrying the ball 46 times for 429 yards and 8 touchdowns. The eight touchdowns in a game was good enough to tie for fourth nationally.

The game lasted nearly four hours (the final buzzer sounded around midnight) and Davidson Day scored on all but one of their possessions, while never leading by more than 24 points. After the game Davidson Day head coach Chad Grier (Will's father) told NewsObserver.com "I sure didn't come in with a plan for us to score 104 points, and I sure as heck didn't have a plan to give up 80."

It's rare to feel a sense of both accomplishment and disappointment after a game, but the bottom line is that a win in the playoffs means you're fortunate enough to be playing next week.

Here's an interesting note. Of the 26 NBA teams that played on that same Friday night, 20 of them failed to put up more points than Davidson Day did. Impressive job.