Overheard in Pittsburgh: “Notre Dame is a bad football team. Trust us, we know what a bad football team looks like. We were up 14 on them in the fourth quarter! Then our guys started forgetting which end zone to go towards. Even then, we win if our kicker makes that chip shot. And they had two guys on the field with the same number during the kick! Typical ND favoritism from the refs right there.”
Overheard in Ann Arbor: “Notre Dame, No. 1? Seriously? If Denard didn’t throw 10 interceptions we would have won easily. We still should have won. And that was at their place. Their defense wasn’t any good. We just gave it to them. And their offense was terrible.”
Overheard in West Lafayette: “They’re the fourth or fifth best team we’ve played this year, and remember, Purdue plays in the Big Ten. We scored two touchdowns against them, no problem. Couldn’t do that against Penn State or Michigan.”
Overheard in Palo Alto: “The refs wanted to go home early that evening in South Bend. Everyone knows Stepfan Taylor got into the end zone. But hey, at least they got the replay review right for us on Saturday.”
Overheard in Provo: “We had ’em. We led in the fourth quarter. They’ve got a good defense; looks like ours. But their offense looks a lot like ours, too, and that’s not a good thing.”
Fans can say what they want, but the only fact that matters for Notre Dame now is that it’s the only undefeated team in the country. As I noted two weeks ago, the Irish have played two fellow independents and a school from every BCS conference except the SEC. They are now one win away from a national championship game appearance and, potentially, a shot to make it a conference sweep (SEC schools are currently 2-4 in the BCS standings). I make various preseason predictions with my brothers and we pegged Notre Dame as 6-6, 7-5, and 8-4. All of this is sort of amazing.
Big Ten [insert number here]
Maryland and Rutgers will leave the ACC and Big East, respectively, to join the Big Ten for the 2013-14 academic year. I don’t like this. I understand college sports are a business, but I don’t like how in the past few years that point has been driven home with increasing force.
From a football standpoint, additional Big Ten expansion means less frequent games against the teams in the other division. Currently the Big Ten has 12 teams and an eight-game conference schedule. Every season, teams play each team in their division, one protected “crossover” game against a team in the other division, and two against a rotating group from the other division. Adding a team to each division and keeping those first two scheduling rules the same means every Big Ten team plays all inter-divisional opponents (other than its protected game) once every six years. That’s once every 12 years at home.
If you want a concrete example, take Michigan. Michigan would play the six teams in its division, Ohio State (its protected crossover game), and then one from the rest of the other division. Currently that group is Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois, with one of the newcomers being added. Those teams would play Michigan once every six years and get a home game against the Wolverines once every 12. I’d have to check, but Michigan may have played the University of Chicago more recently than that. Adding an extra conference game would help, but I still wouldn’t like the looks of the schedule.
Spend a lot of money for the opportunity to spend a lot of money
The Orange Bowl, the host of this year’s BCS National Championship Game, is providing a unique way for fans to buy tickets. Through a service called TeamTix, you can bet on a particular team making the national championship. For the teams now favored to reach the game—Notre Dame and Alabama—you’d have to spend around $600 for the right to buy a face value ticket, which is at least $350. What makes this service unique is that you only get that right should the team you bid on reach the title game. Otherwise, your $600 (or, if you bid on Georgia, your $175; or Florida State, your $15) goes down the drain.
Heisman Watch: Johnny Manziel’s first time talking to the media may be when he gives his Heisman acceptance speech. Texas A&M doesn’t let its freshmen talk to the press, so the quarterback has let his unbelievable play speak for him. Remember those ridiculous statistics Cam Newton and, before him, Tim Tebow, posted during their Heisman-winning seasons? Johnny Football is exceeding those. And yet it wasn’t until Collin Klein’s Kansas State team lost that Manziel shot to the top of most Heisman lists. In a future column, I will look at whether, over the last 10-15 years, the award has gone to the best player on one of the country’s best teams as opposed to the nation’s best player.
Play of the Week: Dri Archer of Kent State has one of the best runs of the season, miraculously emerging from a mass of humanity at midfield, cutting across the field, and weaving past Bowling Green defenders for a 74-yard touchdown.
Fun Factoid of the Week: Southern Cal started the season at No. 1 in the AP Poll and is now 7-4 and unranked. Since the poll came to be in 1934, only one preseason No. 1 has finished the season with more than four losses: Mississippi in 1964. That team was also the last to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked in the final poll (and the fifth team in history). I noted earlier this season that Lane Kiffin is an underperformer, but this is a new low even for him. To avoid a fifth loss, USC will first have to beat the No. 1 team in the country without its starting quarterback. The replacement QB, making his first career start, is confident…
Quote of the Week: “If he wants to air it out, let’s air it out. If he wants to pound it on the ground, let’s do that. I’m gonna go out there, I’m gonna play within myself, within the system, and we’re gonna win this ballgame.”
—USC redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek on Kiffin’s game plan, in an interview with 710 ESPN Radio in Los Angeles
Video of the Week: Les Miles talking about his seniors after last week’s win over Ole Miss.
Weird Game of the Week: Stanford vs. UCLA. Might UCLA want to lose? The Bruins are already in the Pac-12 title game, so Saturday’s regular season finale is not meaningful to them. If they lose they will play at Stanford six days later for the right to go to the Rose Bowl. If they win they will play at Oregon, should Oregon handle Oregon State. If the Ducks are upset, in a game that kicks off 3.5 hours earlier than the Stanford/UCLA game, then the Pac-12 title game would be a Stanford/UCLA rematch regardless, with the winner hosting the game. There’s certainly something to be said for UCLA not showing Stanford too much, scheme-wise, on Saturday.
Kahn Family Smiles:
Upset Pick of the Week: Rutgers over Pittsburgh. That’s right, Rutgers (9-1, 5-0 in Big East) is a 2.5-point underdog at Pitt (4-6, 1-4). It looks too good to be true. I’m taking it. (By the way, my crazy upset pick last week, West Virginia, lost by one to Oklahoma. The Mountaineers were 5-0 and ranked in the top 5, but if they don’t win at Iowa State on Friday they’ll need to beat Kansas the following week just to become bowl eligible.)