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Kicking Off Week 11 With Late-Season Issues and Old Coaches // 11.09.09

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On a scale of 1 to 100

A win over Vanderbilt provides no real reason to move them up or down. Don't let the man get you down, Urban.

A look at who's going which way in college football 

Takeup_medium BCS
Iowa loses, leaving just Texas, Alabama and Florida undefeated in the power conferences. What? The Big East is still a BCS league?

Just in time, coaches Georgia's first shutout in three years. Granted, it was against an FCS team that's only scored 24.3 ppg in its own subdivision, but baby steps.

Takeup_medium STANFORD
And just in time -- that tree will create a lovely Christmas motif for the Holiday Bowl.

Takedown_medium CHARLIE WEIS
Apparently, "decided schematic advantage" is Gaelic for "losing to Navy at home twice in a row."

Takedown_medium BIG TEN
And now, controlling its own destiny in the conference race is ... Ohio State? You're kidding, right?

A few things to think about this week

The BCS and the polls
The BCS Standings are sadly about as bad as we've come to expect from the only rankings that really count -- though you can actually make the argument that some of the snubs are less egregious this week than in previous editions.

The worst might be that Southern Cal is ahead of Oregon. For those who might think this conflicts with my stance against ranking based solely on head-to-head, this is not based entirely on the game between the two teams. That factors into it but, as Dr. Saturday points out, it's only part of the picture.

This despite Oregon's a) Possessing an identical overall record (7-2) and a better Pac-10 record (5-1 to 4-2) than the Trojans, and still controlling their own destiny in the conference; b) Having not lost to a team with only two other wins on the season, as USC did in its still-inexplicable flop at Washington; and c) Having utterly humiliated the Trojans as no other team has in more than a decade just last week. Apparently voters were so impressed by USC's worst offensive output in more than five years in its narrow, 14-9 escape at Arizona State Saturday while remaining so utterly horrified at Oregon's lopsided loss to the Cardinal that everything preceding those results was discarded entirely.

The computers are more sane than the humans in this regard: they have Oregon 10th ahead of No. 11 Southern Cal. But the gap for the human voters is so large -- four spots via Harris and six according to the coaches -- that the chips have no hope of canceling them out.

The computers do get Oregon State into the rankings despite human resistance -- the No. 18 vote of the machines overwhelms the Beavers ranking 28th in both the Harris and coaches' marks.

Florida at 1, Alabama at 2 and LSU at No. 8 are still the only SEC teams in the BCS standings.

The AP race has gotten a bit more muddled. Florida picks up an additional first-place vote to carry 39 and Texas loses three No. 1 ballots and now holds 10, but somehow the Gators' lead over the Longhorns goes from 40 points to 37. Alabama picks up three first-place votes for a total of 11 and is within eight points of Texas. LSU is ninth and Auburn is hypothetical No. 28. Tennessee would be No. 31 and Ole Miss is somehow still getting votes and would be No. 37.

As for the coaches: Florida loses two first-place votes, apparently both to Alabama, and now has 48 to help with a 61-point lead over Texas, down from 68. Alabama's new No.1 votes, for a total of seven, don't help it gain on Texas, with the Longhorns' lead on the Tide increasing from five points to 10 despite Texas' holding just four first-place ballots. LSU is No. 11 and Auburn is 25th. The Vols are 38th and the Rebels are 39th.

Late season slide in Carolina?
Lest you think that the absolute collapse in November is anything new for the South Carolina Gamecocks, let's be clear: You can almost set your calendar by it. But it might not be as bad as it used to be.

After the winless season of 1999, Lou Holtz went 12-20 (.375) over his last five seasons with the Gamecocks in the last six regular season games and the bowl game, when South Carolina attended one. His record in November was even more abysmal: 3-14 (.176), including three winless seasons (0-2 in 2000, 0-4 in 2002 and 2003). Even when Holtz went a respectable 8-6 in the final stretches in 2000 and 2001, he was only a combined 2-3 in November.

Steve Spurrier, by contrast, was actually 13-14 (.481) in his last six regular season games and bowls during his first four years and 6-8 (.428) in November, even if you include the awful 1-5 end to the season in 2007 that included a winless (0-3) November. But the discontent in Columbia arises from the last two seasons: In 2007 and 2008, the Head Ball Coach went 4-9 (.307) down the stretch and 2-5 (.286) in November.

Recruitniks and other believers in "Jimmies and Joes" like to blame this on South Carolina's depth, and there's almost certainly some truth in that. But it also ignores the fact that South Carolina has one of the most horrendously backloaded schedules in the league: It almost always ends with the Orange Crush, a stretch that includes Tennessee, Florida and Clemson surrounding the interdivisional rivalry game with Arkansas. Even when they have a relatively good season, the Gamecocks almost always struggle with those four teams.

Unless Spurrier can find a way to end that tradition, or unless he plans on heading to the links after this year, he'll need to do what he and Holtz failed to do if he wants to be successful in Columbia. Find a way to win in November.

The (old) boss is back
Two teams face their former head coaches this week, with Florida heading to South Carolina to meet the Head Ball Coach and his Gamecocks while Ole Miss welcomes Tennessee, which includes former Rebels leader Ed Orgeron on its staff.

It's likely to be a more emotional game for the Ole Miss players who were recruited by Orgeron than for any of the players on Florida's roster. After all, none of them were even in high school when Spurrier last walked the sidelines in Gainesville. They might remember watching Spurrier coach their team on television during their chidhood, but that's hardly as much of a motivation as facing your old coach.

In the two games this year in which SEC teams faced their former leaders, the old coaches seem to have the edge. LSU lost to Nick Saban's Alabama, 24-15 and Houston Nutt's Ole Miss defeated Arkansas, 30-17.


'You're doing a heckuva job, reffies'
The head of SEC officiating either does not watch football or does not understand it.

"This is not broke," Rogers Redding said Saturday night while attending Florida’s home game against Vanderbilt. "It doesn’t need fixing. ... I think we’ve had a really good season so far."

Doesn't need fixing? Two games have been influenced by awful calls late in the game, two others have seen fairly obvious replays ignored. All of those games have had major implications for the SEC standings -- and it's doesn't need fixing?

It's going to take an obviously wrong call costing Florida or Alabama the SEC championship. That's the only thing that's going to make the conference officials figure out that the TV executives handing out billion-dollar contracts expect excellence and accountability, neither of which has been apparent in recent performances by the league's officials.

Please destroy the black helicopters
Matt Hayes meanwhile does damage to any hopes of changing things by donning his tinfoil hat.

Since Miles won't say anything, I will. This is beyond bad officiating. It's so undeniably awful, I'm beginning to believe conspiracy nuts who claim the SEC is protecting its heavyweight teams (Florida and Alabama) since, you know, every poor call in the last month has involved, uh, Florida and Alabama.

Ah, skillful wording makes points so much better than the actual facts. Hayes' use of "in the last month" conveniently omits the LSU-Georgia game (by four days) that featured some of the most egregious calls of the bunch and started the whole fracas. (It also ignores the bad call against apparently unimportant Mississippi State during the Houston game, though another conference helped on that one.)

The problem I have with the conspiracy theorists is that it's too easy for the league to brush them off as paranoid and move on. That's why they're actually hurting the cause of those who want to see the SEC reform officiating. Keeping things in perspective -- like the fact that LSU was the beneficiary of a blown call earlier this season -- is the first part of being taking seriously.

The Wiz has your evidence
It was a pick.

Vanderbilt has an SEC record
Warren Norman now holds the single-season mark for kickoff returns. Vandy's season is officially over.

Berry now just eight yards short of interception return record
Apparently they still think he has a Heism@n shot in Knoxville. Interesting.

That worked brilliantly
Mark Richt's strategy for dealing with penalties approaches comedy, as he pulls offensive linemen guilty of committing false starts.

"For a while, it got kinda crazy," quarterback Joe Cox said. "You looked over and there were like three guys running out, and it's like, 'What is going on?' That's tough, too, because some guys might get a little tight when there's something like that going on. But it's something we've gotta learn how to stop, and we've gotta stop it now."

 Did it work? Six false start penalties would suggest a new strategy is needed. Dick Cheney might have some suggestions for you.

Win one for Coach O?
One hopes this is not the best that Tennessee's got. 

Ed who?
Houston Nutt on the return of the Orgeron:

"I haven't heard that. We've just been trying to go through one game at a time ... (Tennessee) is starting play some really good football. They're doing a good job. ...

"So I'm not going to get together and see what our guys think about Ed coming back. I'm not really concerned about that."

Frightened of bodily injury might be the most likely reaction of most players anyway.

Cracks in Columbia?
Some are starting to show concerns about the play-calling at South Carolina. My guess would be that Spurrier will call more of the plays, at least against Florida, without saying anything about it. Much of this is about preserving Jr.'s chance at a head coaching job in the future.

And here we go again
You knew it was only a matter of time before this started.

Why would Urban Meyer leave? Because of you, Florida fans. Because if this is what it's like to coach the University of Florida during the best of times, what happens when, you know, everything changes? Why be rich and scrutinized at Florida when you can be even richer and scrutinized equally somewhere else? ...

Consider this scenario: Florida plays for the national championship on Jan. 7 and Notre Dame fires Charlie Weis the next day. Notre Dame then offers Meyer $6 million a year. Do you, Florida fans, actually think Meyer will ignore Notre Dame if the price is right? What about job security?

Yes, nothing says "job security" like your two immediate predecessors being fired with time left on their contracts. And the fans at Notre Dame have expectations that are so much more in line with reality than those in Gainesville.

Injury Report

Team (Kentucky)
Seriously. Fifteen players sat out practice on Sunday.

RB Charles Scott (LSU)
Broken collarbone, season


Another concussion
That makes two in as many weeks for Jahvid Best. Again: These are serious things not to be taken lightly.

A fan's response
I'm not sure what the answer is here -- I certainly don't want to call for the end of football, not that I think it would do much good even if I were successful. But we have to find a way to protect these athletes. We owe them that much.

Tomahawk Nation: Ponder done for the year
Our FSU blog cites "sources" saying that Christian Ponder has played his last snap in 2009.

So let's make it even more meaningless!
Ah, it's time for the playoff supporters to start trotting out their arguments, which shift from season to season based on whatever fits their purposes at that moment. (The good thing about being in the opposition? You don't have to choose one argument and stick with it.)

One of the arguments against a playoff is that it could render late-season games meaningless because top teams would have already secured spots.

But if Alabama loses a close game to Auburn in its regular-season finale, then goes on to beat No. 1 Florida and earn a trip to the title game on Jan. 7 ahead of unbeaten Cincinnati — or maybe even unbeaten TCU — hasn’t the Iron Bowl been rendered, essentially, meaningless?

But I thought the whole argument was about fairness, and whether late-season games were meaningless really wasn't a factor. Oh, opponents are saving for later when it's more convenient. I see.

Will the Iron Bowl be meaningless this season? Well, not any more meaningless than it would be under a playoff system. Do you really think in that same scenario that Alabama would be left out of a playoff? In fact, you could argue that the SEC Championship Game would be meaningless in addition to the Iron Bowl, since in the 16-team field that many seem to favor, Alabama would likely be able to get into the playoffs with a loss to Auburn and a loss in Atlanta.

It really comes down to simple statistics: The more games you can lose and still be in the hunt for the national title, the less important each individual game becomes. The Iron Bowl would be even less meaningful under a playoff system and we would be devaluing the SEC Championship Game as well. That's a solution?

ESPN loves MWC
Despite no longer having the TV contract for the Rocky Mountain-area conference, College GameDay will once again broadcast from a Mountain West school: TCU. (HT: Block U)