Some observations from a marathon afternoon/evening watching college football:
** Couldn’t help but think of Jim Tressel’s mantra about solid special teams play while watching the Pitt-Cincinnati game. Had the Panthers been able to cover a kickoff after going ahead 31-10 in the first half, they might have gone on to the victory. Letting Mardy Gilyard return that kick 99 yards for a touchdown kept the Bearcats in the game and also kept them thinking they could come back. Later, it was a missed PAT that cost Dave Wannstedt’s team a chance to at least go to overtime. Think about those things the next time you ridicule Tressel’s emphasis on solid special teams play.
** Same thing happened to Nebraska after it took a 12-10 lead on Texas in the final minutes. A kickoff out of bounds gave the Longhorns the ball at the 40-yard line, setting up a short field and allowing Colt McCoy to move his team into position for the winning field goal.
** McCoy nearly lost the game by taking too much time to throw an incompletion at the end of the Big 12 title game. That indiscretion and a so-so performance against a superlative Nebraska defense will undoubtedly cost him some Heisman votes. I have to admit that it gave me pause – pause enough to consider giving my vote to Mark Ingram of Alabama.
** I was torn between a bunch of players for third place on my Heisman ballot before watching the performance of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh against Texas, he can have that third-place vote.
** How much of a kick in the gut was the last-second loss Illinois suffered against Fresno State? An offensive lineman catches a deflected pass and scores the winning two-point conversion for the Bulldogs? Ron Zook’s look of incredulity said it all as the Fighting Illini finished a 3-9 season.
** After watching Ohio State play for 12 straight weeks, it was a strange sight to watch Pitt and Cincinnati combine for 89 points while Illinois and Fresno State rolled up 105. The last time the Buckeyes participated in a game during which that many points were scored was 1995 when OSU and Iowa combined for 91 in a 56-35 win by the Buckeyes.
** Strange but true: During the entire 3½-hour broadcast of the SEC championship game, Earle Bruce’s name was never mentioned once. Strange because both Urban Meyer and Nick Saban cut their coaching teeth as assistants for Bruce at Ohio State in the 1980s. Saban coached defensive backs for Bruce in 1980 and ’81, while Meyer helped with tight ends in 1986 and wide receivers in 1987.
** Strange but true, part II: If the SEC is truly the best conference in college football, wouldn’t you think it would also have the best technology available for replay officials? On one of the Alabama running back Mark Ingram’s touchdown runs, replay was inconclusive because there was no camera stationed on the goal line. I thought a goal-line camera was standard operating procedure these days in every conference. Apparently not.
** Speaking of coaches with Ohio State ties, how about the job Bo Pelini has done at Nebraska? Two short years ago, the Nebraska defense ranked 114th nationally in scoring defense. It entered the Big 12 championship game against Texas as the No. 3 defense in the land.
** I guess I’ll apologize to Big Ten officials for the criticism I have leveled at them all season. After watching Big East, SEC and Big 12 games, their officials seem to miss just as many calls.
** Yes, that was a left-handed compliment toward Big Ten officials. Besides, it looked like they may have gotten another one wrong at the end of the Illinois-Fresno State game. That conversion pass appeared to bounce off a Fresno receiver first, which would have meant his teammate could not have legally caught the deflection. The play was reviewed and the call on the field stood.
** It really was kind of nice to see Urban Meyer have that deer-in-the-headlights look during the second half against Alabama. The Crimson Tide rolled up almost 500 total yards, the most against a Meyer-coached Florida defense.
** You know that old saying “He doesn’t know how good he is?” The opposite is true for a USC team that tried to rub rival UCLA’s nose in a loss last week only to lose Saturday at home to Arizona. The Trojans don’t realize just how bad they are. Too bad Ohio State doesn’t have another shot at them.
** Once again, offense gets headlines and defense wins championships. Don’t believe me? Ask Pitt, Clemson, Illinois and Houston. They combined for 162 points – an average of 40.5 per team – and each one of them lost.
** I believe we can now cross Jeff Tedford’s name off any list of hot coaching commodities. Each year, California is supposed to contend for a Pac-10 championship, and each year the Bears finish in the middle of the conference standings. Saturday’s 42-10 blowout loss at Washington left this year’s Bears with a 5-4 conference record and only 14-13 in league play over the past three seasons.
** How can Wisconsin afford to send its football team to Hawaii every couple of years and Ohio State never goes?
** Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick showed his naïveté by rejecting any bowl bids for the Fighting Irish in the wake of the firing of head coach Charlie Weis. Not only was that a slap in the fact to this year’s seniors, next year’s team could benefit greatly from the extra practice sessions afford to bowl teams. Plus, I don’t care how much money is in the Notre Dame coffers. Any team that just paid a coach $18 million to go away should be able to find some use for the money that comes with a bowl berth.
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