16 staffs competing for bowl eligibility on Saturday
Last week we noted that 17 staffs were coaching for bowl eligibility and seven met their goals of locking in post-season plans. This week, 16 staffs (some the same, some different) take a crack at locking in holiday plans. Here's where each of them stand heading into Saturday.
Air Force: at San Diego State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Two tough road trips, beginning this week at San Diego State, are sandwiched around a home date with bottom-feeder Hawaii next Friday.
Arizona: vs. Colorado (1:30 p.m. ET, FX). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: Rich Rod's team is licking its wounds after a tough night at the Rose Bowl, but up next is just what the doctor ordered: Colorado. The Buffs have lost five straight by no less than 28 points.
Arizona State: at USC (3:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: A 5-1 start has quickly turned into a 5-4 mark with an angry USC at the Coliseum. The Sun Devils get Washington State at home next week before closing the season at Arizona.
BYU: vs. Idaho (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 2004. Outlook: With losses to Boise State, Notre Dame and Oregon State, it can be argued the Cougars have been victimized by a tough schedule. A 9-4 finish is not out of the question.
Cincinnati: at Temple (12 p.m. ET, Big East Network). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: The Bearcats are the only six-win team on this list due to their two games with FCS foes.
Iowa State: at Texas (12 p.m. ET, LHN/ABC in Iowa). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: The opportunity is there for Paul Rhoads and co., as Texas' two worst performances of the season have come in noon kickoffs (against Oklahoma and Kansas). If it doesn't happen this week, the Cyclones visit the Jayhawks on Nov. 17.
Louisiana - Lafayette: at Florida (12 p.m. ET, SEC Network). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: A win on Saturday at the Swamp would be monumental for Rick Hudspeth's team for reasons other than clinching a second consecutive bowl trip.
Miami (Fla.): at Virginia (12 p.m. ET, ABC). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: The Hurricanes' administration is currently debating whether or not to self-impose a bowl ban due to its NCAA inquiry, so Al Golden's team could win and still be removed from bowl contention.
Minnesota: at Illinois (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: A win on Saturday would mean a great deal to Jerry Kill's program. Luckily for the Golden Gophers, they face an Illinois team still looking for its first conference win.
N.C. State: vs. Wake Forest (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Last non-bowl season: 2009. Outlook: A two-game slide has kept the Wolfpack on brink of six wins for a third straight game. They will face off with Wake Forest for a spot in the ACC bowl rotation.
Oklahoma State: vs. West Virginia (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). Last non-bowl season: 2005. Outlook: All things considered, Mike Gundy's team had a strong showing at Kansas State on Saturday night. But, a loss is a loss and they'll need to beat WVU to clinch a bowl spot for the seventh straight season.
Ole Miss: vs. Vanderbilt (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: This game means a lot to both programs. A win Saturday marks 2012 as a success for Hugh Freeze's first year in Oxford.
Vanderbilt: at Ole Miss (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last bowl non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Three straight wins have put James Franklin's team on the brink of a second straight bowl trip. The Commodores have never played in back-to-back bowl games.
Wake Forest: at N.C. State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Jim Grobe's bunch is faced with back-to-back road games before closing the year at home with Vanderbilt. It will take a strong performance to get the Demon Deacons bowling for the second straight year.
Washington: vs. Utah (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network). Last non-bowl season: 2009. Outlook: A tough early slate is now repeating its benefits. Starting with last week's win over Cal, Washington's final four opponents are a combined 5-20 in league play.
West Virginia: at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). Last non-bowl season: 2001. Outlook: Who would have thought a month ago this would even be a question? Stuck in a three-game slide, WVU's skid could hit five with a trip to Oklahoma State this week and a date with OU on Nov. 17. If worse comes to worst, the Mountaineers get Kansas at home to end the year.
What We're Watching - Previews of Saturday's Biggest Games
Week 10 of the college football season doesn't boast the number of marquee games of last week, but there are more than enough interesting match-ups to keep the viewer entertained throughout the day. Here's what we'll be keeping our eyes on throughout Saturday.
Iowa State at Texas (12 p.m. ET, LHN): The irony of putting a game that 99 percent of the country can't see on a Saturday viewing schedule is not lost on me, but there are some intriguing story lines heading into this game. Texas' defense has improved from 'horrific' to 'competent' in the last two weeks, holding Kansas and Texas Tech to 39 combined points. That turnaround figures to improve Saturday against an Iowa State offense that has Kansas to thank for keeping it out of the Big 12 cellar in all four major offensive categories. The Cyclones are ninth in the league in total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency, and 10th in rushing offense. That being said, Paul Rhoads continually gets the most out of his team and the Cyclones will do nothing less but fight for all 60 minutes on Saturday.
Northwestern at Michigan (12 p.m. ET, ESPN): While the run of Denard Robinson is in the air, Devin Gardner figures to garner his second straight start as Michigan's quarterback. Gardner compiled 255 total yards and three touchdowns last week in a victory over Minnesota, and will need a repeat performance on Saturday in a must-win game. With each team saddled with a loss to Nebraska, the loser will likely be out of the Big Ten Legends Division race. Fourth quarter execution will be key for Pat Fitzgerald's team. Northwestern has led eight of its nine games entering the fourth quarter, but allowed late rallies by Penn State and Nebraska in its two losses.
Wisconsin at Indiana (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Raise your hand if you pegged this game as the de-facto Big Ten Leaders Division championship. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the championship and Purdue and Illinois mired with 0-5 records, 3-2 Wisconsin's visit to 2-3 Indiana could decide who gets a shot at the Rose Bowl. Hoosiers quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 24-21 win over Iowa and will need more of the same on Saturday. Wisconsin's up-and-down rushing offense (337 yards two weeks ago vs. Minnesota, 19 yards last week vs. Michigan State) will look to get back on track against the nation's 107th-ranked rush defense.
Oregon State at Stanford (3 p.m. ET, FOX): The winner of this game will emerge as the greatest threat to Oregon's streak of three straight conference championships and stand in prime position to claim a Rose Bowl berth should the Ducks qualify for the BCS National Championship. Both of these teams have flip-flopped its quarterbacks in recent weeks. Stanford freshman Kevin Hogan threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 48-0 rout of Colorado, while freshly-named Beavers starter Cody Vaz compiled 267 yards and three scores in a 36-26 defeat of Arizona State. Each quarterback will need to be sharp as rushing yards figure to be hard to come by; Stanford leads the nation in rushing defense (57.8 ypg, 1.98 ypc) and Oregon State checks in fifth (91.8 ypg, 3.18 ypc).
It's been 50 years since Oregon State and Stanford played a football game where both were in the Top 25.— John Canzano (@JohnCanzanoBFT) November 9, 2012
Texas A&M at Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS): The dichotomy has been fairly simple for Texas A&M this season: when quarterback Johnny Manziel gets loose, the Aggies win; when the opponent finds a way to corral him, the Aggies lose. The dynamic freshman has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns this point, and he is also the SEC's leading rusher with 922 yards. Nick Saban detailed the steps Alabama has taken in defending Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury's offense to SI.com's Andy Staples as the Crimson Tide prepare to face a challenge unique to anything they've seen this season. LSU last week proved that the Alabama defense, while still dominant, isn't an immovable object, as quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for nearly 300 yards (when, truthfully, half of that total would have been considered a productive night). In its two losses the Texas A&M defense has fallen victim to a battering ram offense employed by Florida and LSU - the teams ran the ball a combined 93 times against the Aggies. Neither of those teams can throw the ball as effectively as Alabama, however.
Air Force at San Diego State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network): Among the gaggle of four teams atop the Mountain West standings sit Troy Calhoun and Rocky Long's teams. Last week San Diego State became the first team to win at Boise State and Nevada in the same season since 1988, and the win also gave the Aztecs their longest in-season winning streak since 1995. Last year's 86th-ranked total defense has jumped to No. 20 nationally in total defense and No. 19 in scoring defense. The key match-up will be when Air Force's third-ranked rushing offense battles San Diego State's Mountain West-leading rushing defense. Each team is in pursuit of its first conference championship since they shared the WAC title in 1998.
Kansas State at TCU (7 p.m. ET, FOX): With the status of All-Everything quarterback Collin Klein in question, Kansas State will need do what it has done all season - execute at a razor-sharp level unmatched across the country. Examine where Bill Snyder's team falls in the following statistics and then try to name a better-coached team this season: 1st in turnover margin (the Wildcats have lost the fewest turnovers of any FBS squad) , 1st in fewest penalties per game, 2nd in fewest yards penalized per game, 6th in tackles for loss allowed, 9th in sacks allowed and, as sports information director Kenny Lannou pointed out this week, they've compiled an 111-0 points off turnovers advantage. This is a team that simply does not make mistakes.
Mississippi State at LSU (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Both squads are looking to get off the mat following tough home losses last week. Mississippi State will look to prove its 7-0 start meant something after consecutive losses to Alabama and Texas A&M by a combined score of 76-20, while LSU hopes to breathe some air back into the invincibility of night games at Tiger Stadium after suffering just their second loss in 38 tries under Les Miles. The Tigers at least have something to build off last week's performance in which they threw for 296 yards and suffocated Alabama's efficient offense for all but one drive in the second half. Mississippi State, meanwhile, will look to forget a game in which it was out-gained 693-310 and trailed by 31 points before making a dent in the scoreboard.
Notre Dame at Boston College (8 p.m., ABC): For as much struggles as Brian Kelly's team has endured at home, Notre Dame has played lights out away from South Bend. The Fighting Irish have won games by an average score of 35-7, with a turnover margin of 6-1 in their favor, against competition that is a cumulative 21-14 this season. Enter Saturday's game with Boston College, the team that ended the Irish's last two undefeated forays into mid-November with a 41-39 stunner in 1993 and a 14-7 upset in 2002. Both of those games were in South Bend and, most importantly, both of those Boston College teams are better than the 2012 Eagles. BC's only win versus FBS competition came in a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Maryland. Boston College ranks 90th or lower in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense so if an upset were to happen it would require lots of help from Notre Dame's side.
Update on Southern Miss
Last season's 12-2 record got Larry Fedora a ticket to Chapel Hill and brought change to Hattiesburg for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.
Finalists for the job included Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Southern Miss offensive coordinator Blake Anderson and South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Most people thought that all four of those guys would be successful at Southern Miss. Johnson got the call and there was considerable excitement in Hattiesburg.
Fast forward 10 months and it's hard to believe what has transpired. The team is 0-9 and is in Dallas to play SMU (4-5) this weekend. They close out their home schedule with UTEP (2-7) and then finish the year at Memphis (1-8).
I haven't seen them play enough to truly opine on what has gone wrong but a quick look at the stats reveals a number of issues. In scoring offense, Southern Miss, which was 14th in the country last season averaging nearly 37 points per game, has dropped all the way down to 112th averaging 19 points per game. On the other side of the ball, they are allowing 38 points per game (115th) whereas last season they only allowed 21 points per game (25th in the country). There are plenty more stats we could look at but that paints the picture...and it's not a good one.
In all our years of doing this we can't recall meeting any coach who has had anything negative to say about Ellis. He's a great guy and has had tremendous success as a defensive coordinator. For whatever reason, that success simply hasn't found it's way to Hattiesburg yet. Perhaps with more time it will, however we are hearing that there is serious consideration being given to making a change after the season. In fact, sources tell us that if the administration chooses to make a change, the total buyout for Ellis and his staff would be in the range of $2.5 million and we are told the funds are available from outside sources to make this happen if the administration chooses to make a change.
While 3-9 wouldn't in any way be considered a successful season, pulling off three straight wins would at least give the program some positive momentum. On paper, none of their final trio of games seems unwinnable. Flipped around, losses in all three would in most people's eyes be considered unacceptable. When the season ends, just like with every staff in the country, the head coach will sit down with the administration and decisions will be made. Let's all hope Ellis and his guys can turn this around.
The Scoop on Pittsburgh at Connecticut
The Big East takes center stage tonight when Paul Chryst's Pittsburgh team visits Paul Pasqualoni and Connecticut at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
After a very slow start to his tenure at Pittsburgh, a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State followed by a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati to open the season, Chryst's Panthers have won four of their last six and came within a hair of upsetting Notre Dame last week. Pittsburgh must win two of their last three games to achieve bowl eligibility, and considering they still have 7-1 Rutgers on the schedule, tonight is a game they need to win.
Panthers running back Ray Graham is heating up with two straight 100-yard games, rushing for 109 yards against Temple and 172 yards versus Notre Dame. Coupled with an efficient passing game, the Panthers place 12th nationally with 14 touchdowns against two interceptions, and it's clear where Pittsburgh's turnaround has come from.
Connecticut has dropped all four Big East games thus far, and scoring has been a major struggle for the Huskies. Connecticut has scored 3, 14, 10 and 6 points in four consecutive losses. The other side of the ball, however, has performed well throughout the year. The Huskies' defense ranks first in the Big East and ninth nationally with just over 290 yards allowed per game, first in the Big East in pass efficiency defense (112.1 opposing quarterback rating), and second in the conference in rushing defense (114.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.6 points per game).
The home team has won the last three games in this series and to keep that trend alive Connecticut must find a way to reverse its Big East-worst turnover margin, convert turnovers into points, and use its attacking defensive front (2.67 sacks per game, 7.22 TFL per game) to stifle the Panthers' offense.
Mike Bellotti thinks its only a matter of time before Chip Kelly takes an NFL job
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reported Friday that, according to former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, it is "inevitable" that Kelly will one day jump from Oregon to a head coaching position in the NFL.
As we know, last year Kelly accepted the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before changing his mind and staying at Oregon.
“It's just inevitable that he will eventually be in the NFL,” Bellotti said. “Chip is one of the ultimate competitors and he sees that. It actually surprised me he changed his mind [with the Bucs] last year."
Dodd also spoke with an anonymous source who stated, "There are nine chances in 10 if he wins out [this season] he's gone."
Kelly took over for Bellotti in 2009 after Bellotti to a dozen bowl games in 14 years as the Ducks head coach. Bellotti hired Kelly away from New Hampshire to serve as the Ducks' offensive coordinator for the final two seasons of Bellotti's tenure before Kelly was promoted to head coach after Bellotti's retirement. In his fourth season at the helm, Kelly is 43-6 at Oregon while closing in on his fourth conference championship with hopes of appearing in his second BCS National Championship.
When asked if Oregon could keep Kelly out of the NFL again, Dodd's source had this to say: "I don't think so. I wish we could. He's a friend. I want him to be happy. I would like to think he's got the best college football job in America. He clearly has all the tools that one could ever need.”
Or, as Bellotti put it, “Once you get to the top of the mountain, there's one other mountain for him to climb."
Read Dodd's full report here.
Friday TV - Pittsburgh at UConn in prime time
The Big East takes center stage in prime time
All times Eastern.
Pittsburgh at Connecticut - 8pm - ESPN2
Report: Auburn president considering a coaching change
"News" broke earlier this afternoon that Auburn president Jay Gogue has told AU Board of Trustees members that he is possibly planning to dismiss head coach Gene Chizik, according to AuburnUndercover.com. According to the report, Gogue has contacted board members about forming a search committee to name a new head coach "within days after the end of the season", should he decide to make a change.
The report also stated the athletics director Jay Jacobs would be retained and that executive associate athletics director Tim Jackson, who oversees football, would be reassigned.
Chizik's buyout presently stands at $10 million but drops to $7.5 million on December 1, according to AL.com.
For a full summary of the report, please click here.
To be clear, Chizik has not been let go.
In the meantime, Auburn hosts Georgia on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The Tigers are 2-7 on the season and 0-6 in SEC play.
David Cutcliffe outlines plans for Wallace Wade Stadium renovation
Duke announced last months a $3.25 billion campaign for improvements across the university, with $250 million earmarked for athletic facility improvements. On Wednesday, head coach David Cutcliffe detailed to the Raleigh Sports Club what the improvements will entail for Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We’ll do what Stanford did, and as soon as we finish the last ball game (in 2013), construction will start,” Cutcliffe told the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer. “It will require a day and night operation to get it up and running.”
In the off-season between the 2013-14 seasons, Duke will remove the track surrounding the field, lower the playing surface and update the stadium's facade to match the rest of campus.
Originally opened in 1929, Duke Stadium was renamed in honor of College Football Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade in 1968. Originally opened with a 35,000-seat capacity, the stadium grew to 44,000 in 1942 but has been downsized twice since, most recently to 33,941 in 1982.