Posts Tagged ‘Alabama Crimson Tide’

New Year’s Day = College Bowl Games!

If you’re a football fanatic like us, New Year’s Day is synonymous with college football and the tradition of bowl games.  There are some lesser known games today, like the TicketCity Bowl featuring Northwestern and Texas Tech.  There are also some “ho-hum” games, like the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with Connecticut and Oklahoma that we just cannot seem to get too excited about.  But thankfully there are also some great bowl games, which we highlight below. 

Outback Bowl – Featuring Penn State and Florida, 1 PM  EST, ABC

Two college football coaching giants meet in Tampa today – Joe Paterno, the legendary icon who, at 84, dismisses all ideas about retirement and Urban Meyer, who has announced (for the second time) that he is retiring from the college gridiron. 

While both teams are 7-5 and have had mediocre seasons, it should still be a great game to watch.  Here’s our take on the contest..

If the Gators play inspired football, determined to win one last game for their outgoing coach, they can probably pull off a victory.  What will the Gators’ attitudes be like?  It is hard to say, but even Urban Meyer himself recognizes that it is a key component of the game.  This week, he said, “I think the older players will play like there’s no tomorrow; they’re the invested group. I hope the younger guys carry the torch.”  He went on to say that this season is the first time in 10 years, “we have not followed the plan to win.”  All season long the Gators have played uninspired football, so it is a real concern for Meyer and a possible make or break factor in the game.

Another major element in today’s game is the injuries that are plaguing Florida.  Florida will be missing 5 starters, most notably corner Janoris Jenkins, which should give Nittany Lions QB Matt McGloin an offensive edge.   Even without all the injuries, Florida’s pass defense was poor.  The Lions will have to exploit this weakness if they want to pull off a victory.

Neither team has any superstars, which means the game may come down to the intangibles.  Motivation is certainly one intangible, but weather is another.  With game time temperatures expected to be in the upper 70s, Penn State may struggle keeping up with Florida’s speed. 

Prediction:  Florida 24, PSU 17

Capital One Bowl – Featuring Alabama and Michigan State, 1 PM EST, ESPN

Alabama began the season with high hopes.  A national championship seemed a real possibility as the Crimson Tide started the season with a 5-0 record and a #1 ranking.  In the last 6 games against Division I opponents the Tide went 3-3 and they found themselves out of national championship contention and relegated to a bowl game they are not very excited to be part of.

On the other side of the field, Michigan State ended the season as Big Ten champs (sharing the title with Wisconsin and Ohio State).   The 11-1 Spartans feel slighted since they were not invited to one of the elite BCS Bowl games and would love to walk away with a victory against the defending national champions.

Will Michigan State’s desire to prove they belonged in a more prestigious bowl game be enough of a motivator to win?  Or will Alabama look at this game as a way of salvaging a disappointing 9-3 season?  I think Alabama’s offense will be the deciding factor in this matchup.  QB Greg McElroy has thrown for nearly 2800 yards and just 5 INTs this season.  The Spartans will have to respect the run and crowd the line of scrimmage to contain last year’s Heisman winner Mark Ingram and running back Trent Richardson.  That will give McElroy the opportunity to showcase his arm.  Look for wide out Julio Jones, the Tide’s leading receiver with over yards this season, to be a critical factor in the game.

Prediction:  Alabama 30, Michigan State 21

Gator Bowl – Featuring Mississippi State and Michigan, 1:30 PM EST, ESPN2

The bowl season just wouldn’t be complete without one of our very favorite college players – Michigan QB Denard Robinson.  One last chance to see this dynamic, dual-threat player with the untied cleats is simply irresistible!

The game plan for Mississippi State is basic and simple – STOP DENARD ROBINSON.  The 8-4 Bulldogs have a strong run defense, but have struggled against the pass.  Expect Robinson to show that he is not merely a running, scrambling QB (over 1600 yards and 14 TDs this season), but an efficient passer (over 2300 yards and 16 TDs) as well.

Robinson enters the game rested and healthy.  Since he is the workhorse on the team and carries much of the offensive load, he takes a lot of hits and suffered various injuries this season.  A healthy Robinson will likely put up points for the 7-5 Wolverines, but it may not be enough to win the game.  The Michigan defense has struggled all season and were ranked 102nd in points allowed and 108th in yards allowed.  Statistically, it was the worst defense in the history of Wolverine football. 

The Bulldogs offense is solid and will be a challenge for the Wolverines.  MSU lost by only a field goal to #1 ranked Auburn and their other losses were to ranked opponents.  For Michigan to win, the Wolverine defense will need to finally step up this season.  

An interesting aspect of today’s game is how it may impact the future of Wolverine Head Coach Rich Rodriquez.  He has been on the hot seat all year.  In his 3 seasons at Michigan, he has a 15-21 overall record and is an embarrassing 6-18 in the Big Ten and 1-10 against ranked teams.  In addition, under Rodriquez the team had a number of NCAA violations related to practices and offseason workouts.  The outcome of today’s game may very well determine whether Rodriguez will return as the Michigan Head Coach.

Prediction:  Mississippi State 31, Michigan 27

Rose Bowl – Featuring Wisconsin and TCU, 5 PM EST, ESPN

Unbeaten TCU enters the Rose Bowl, referred to as “The Granddaddy of them All”, looking for validation.  As a Mountain West team playing in one of the elite BCS games, and after losing in the Fiesta Bowl last year to Boise State, TCU wants to prove it can play with the “Big Boys”.  Indeed, the 11-1 Badgers have a roster full of big boys.  Their offensive line is gargantuan with every starter over 300 pounds and at least 6’ 4”.  This massive line has allowed 3 different Badger running backs to rush for at least 860 yards each this season. 

Will this offensive line prove to be too enormous for TCU’s defense?  While the Horned Frog defense IS smaller, they are also renowned for their speed.  Combine that with solid tackling and leverage and TCU may just be able to handle the big boys.  After all, TCU has the top ranked defense in the nation!

While the Badgers’ ability to put up big points (averaging 43.3 points per game) is notorious, TCU’s offense is powerful as well and ranks 4th in scoring and 9th overall.  In fact, TCU’s offense also averages 43.3 points per game!  Both teams have scored an identical number of points – 520.  The Badger’s defense will be challenged with this dynamic, balanced offense led by senior QB Andy Dalton, who can both pass AND run.

With the Badgers ranked #4 and the Horned Frogs #3, today’s Rose Bowl looks to be the marquee matchup of the day.  These eerily, evenly matched powerhouse offenses will undoubtedly provide an exciting contest.  But games like this are won in the trenches, which should give the Badgers the edge and their 4th consecutive Rose Bowl victory.

Prediction:  Wisconsin 38, TCU 27

Sit back and enjoy today’s games.  With less than two weeks of college football remaining, soak up every moment you can! 

Happy New Year! 

From Your Gridironglamourgirl Team!

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Boise State Falls to Nevada in OT… Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz Oh What a Relief it is!

College football’s most divisive team, Boise State, lost 34-31 in overtime to Nevada last night.  The Broncos were ranked 4th and were undefeated this season.  In fact, they had not lost a game since 2008, when they fell to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.  Poinsettia Bowl?  Honestly, I did not even know that bowl existed.  This loss makes it quite likely Boise will end up in a similarly named bowl of obscurity.

If you detect a bit of mockery in my tone, you are right.  Politically correct or not, I am willing to admit that I am celebrating Boise State’s defeat.  I have felt all along that they were undeserving of their 4th place ranking.  Given the current structure of the BCS, I have little faith that the actual top teams will be playing for a national title.  The idea of Boise State playing in a BCS bowl game seemed so unjust and bizarre to me.  Thankfully last night’s loss will ensure that the Broncos will not be national championship contenders.  Whew!  What a relief. 

A few days ago Ohio State University President Gordon Gee offered his opinion about Boise State and 3rd ranked Texas Christian University being possible BCS contenders.  Since that statement, he has been widely criticized.  While Gee’s words were perhaps not as eloquent as one would expect from a university president, the basic concept he was trying to convey resonated among many fans.  During an AP interview, Gee said

I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.

It was an insensitive way to basically argue that schools like Boise State and TCU do not play with the “big boys”.  However, the OSU President should have looked at strength of schedule stats before making such a controversial, public statement.  It turns out that OSU’s strength of schedule (59) is only slightly better than TCU’s (68) and Boise’s (73).  These strength of schedule (SOS) stats have now been used against Gee by basically every sports commentator and writer around.

But to dismiss Gee’s arguments by simply quoting SOS data misses the bigger picture.  There is validity in what he was trying to say.  Frankly, the WAC and Mountain West conferences, which Boise and TCU play in, are NOT as competitive as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-10 or the ACC.  While teams like these do play weaker opponents, the majority of their games are against teams in more powerful conferences.  For example, #2 ranked Auburn has faced Arkansas (#12 at the time), LSU (#6 at the time), South Carolina (#12 at the time) and Alabama (#11 at the time).  Conversely, Boise State’s ranked opponents have been Virginia Tech (#10 at the time) and # 19 Nevada, whom they lost to last night.

Consider the argument from yet another perspective.  If you are a high school football player, being recruited to play at the collegiate level, would you choose a school from the Mountain West over ANY school in the PAC-10, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or SEC?  Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of elite high school prospects choose colleges from the powerhouse conferences.  This means that week after week teams like Auburn, Alabama and OSU face athletes who are simply stronger, faster, bigger and yes, better.  So until Boise State and TCU can compete against better caliber opponents on a consistent basis, football fans like me will continue to doubt them.

All the controversy about strength of schedules, BCS computer rankings and so forth could be eliminated if a college football playoff system was implemented.  It would put an end to the endless arguing about who deserves to play in the major BCS bowls.  Gordon Gee is not a proponent of a playoff system and prefers the status quo.  If he truly believes OSU is far superior to teams like Boise and TCU, he should welcome NCAA playoffs. 

In the meantime, people like me have to sit back and hope that the football media darlings, like Boise State, fall from grace and get eliminated from the national championship discussion.  If you listen closely, you can hear the sigh of relief from football fans throughout the land.

Cam Newton is the Comeback Kid!

If you watched Auburn vs. Alabama today in the Iron Bowl, I hope you didn’t turn it off at halftime to go grab some Black Friday bargains.  The game was one of the most exciting deals you could ask for and it was certainly a tale of two halves!

Auburn entered the game ranked 2nd in the nation.  The atmosphere at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium was hostile, with much of the hatred directed at Auburn QB Cam Newton.  Newton has been embroiled in pay for play allegations for weeks.  As the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, it is not surprising that Alabama Crimson Tide fans targeted Newton.   They threw play Monopoly money at him as he entered the stadium and the loudspeakers blared out the song “Take the Money and Run” during pre-game warm-ups.  In the end, though, Newton would silence all his critics with the biggest comeback n Auburn’s history!

The first half was dominated by 9th ranked Alabama, who at one point led 24-0 in front of their home crowd.  Alabama tore the Auburn Tiger defense to shreds and it looked as though a blow out was developing.  In fact, the Tide controlled the first half so completely that it was 21-0 before Auburn even gained a first down! 

Cam Newton had a dreadful start and at the end of the first quarter was 0 for 1 in passing and had 5 carries for negative 6 yards.  Late in the 2nd quarter, Auburn finally answered back with a 36 yard TD pass from Newton to wide out Emory Blake to close the scoring gap to 24-7.  Little did anyone know it was just the beginning of the Cam Newton Comeback Show.

In the second half, Newton threw a 70 yard TD pass on the second play to make it 24-14.  The Tiger defense stepped up and forced Alabama to punt, allowing Newton and his offense to work their magic.  Late in the 3rd quarter, Auburn scored again, this time on a Cam Newton run, to bring the score to 24-21.  With just over a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Alabama kicked a field goal and led 27-21.

In the first half, the Auburn defense gave up 379 yards to the Crimson Tide offense.  But Auburn’s defense looked like a different unit when they emerged from the locker room and held Alabama to just 67 yards in the second half!  Another Cam Newton passing TD early in the 4th quarter gave Auburn the lead for the first time, 28-27.  The Tigers would keep that lead and prevent Alabama from scoring for the rest of the game.

Cam Newton’s performance was indeed magical.  Alabama had won 20 consecutive home games and it looked as though they were about to seal their 21st victory.   But Newton would not be deterred.  His determination to keep Auburn’s undefeated record and national championship hopes alive was remarkable and should solidify his #1 position in the Heisman race. 

Despite the hostility directed at him and the incredible media scrutiny he is under, Newton was able to keep his composure and lead his team from what seemed an insurmountable 24-0 deficit.  He threw for 216 yards and 3 TDs, as well as running for a TD.  At the end of the game, he not only defeated the Crimson Tide football team, but also silenced the more than 100,000 fans who left the stadium in stunned silence.  On so many levels, Cam Newton truly was the Comeback Kid today!

Badgering the Badgers – Is Sportsmanship Missing in Wisconsin?

Tonight’s college football game features #11 ranked Alabama vs. Georgia State.  Georgia State?  Yes, the Tide is not facing Georgia or Georgia Tech this evening.  They are playing a first year program.  The Tide should easily roll over Georgia State’s young and inexperienced roster, giving their backups a chance at some game play.  Alabama faces #2 powerhouse Auburn the day following Thanksgiving in what is dubbed the “Iron Bowl”.  A “soft” game like tonight’s will give them much needed time to prepare for Cam Newton and the ferocious Tigers.

Alabama is predicted to win against Georgia State tonight by about a 40 to 50 point margin.  Expect Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban to take his starters out early.  It will be interesting to see just when he sends his back ups in and how far he runs up the score.  Running up the score has recently become a point of controversy.  After last weekend’s 83-20 slaughter of Indiana by the Wisconsin Badgers, the topic has once again been brought to the table.

The large margin of victory caused sports commentators throughout the country to jump on the anti-Wisconsin bandwagon.  Wisconsin was similarly criticized earlier in the season when they crushed Austin Peay 70-3.  In a game against Minnesota, the Badgers were up by 25 points with just under 7 minutes left in the game and went for a 2 point conversion.  Wisconsin’s 83-20 massacre generated lots of talk in the college football sports arena this week about the Badger’s lack of sportsmanship this season.

Wisconsin’s huge score certainly appeared excessive to anyone who simply looked at the numbers scrolling across the bottom of their TV screen last Saturday. It is easy to see the 83-20 score and listen to the pundits who claim it was unsportsmanlike and leave it at that.  But to accuse the Badgers of such disrespect, you really need to know the particulars of what happened.

Let’s look at some indisputable facts about last Saturday’s game.  First, the game was tied 10-10 in the 2nd quarter when Indiana’s starting QB got injured.  When he left the game, the Hoosier offense simply fell apart.  Even when Wisconsin put their backups in, it seemed Indiana had lost their motivation and desire to win.  How is that Wisconsin’s fault?

This is college gridiron.  It is not Pop Warner or Pee Wee youth football.  At this level, players and coaches need to be competitive and play hard.  When the backup players enter the game, are they supposed to go light? Of course not!  They are out there to try and execute plays!  It is the responsibility of the coach, in fact it is his paid JOB, to prepare all the players on his roster.  That means letting them gain real game time experience when the victory is already in hand. 

The main play that critics point to in last Saturday’s game is the 74 yard TD pass by Wisconsin half way through the 4th quarter.  For anyone who actually watched the game, the pass was the result of a broken play by their THIRD STRING BACKUP QB!  The Badger’s coaches did not call this long pass play, it just happened.

Stories like the 83-20 defeat by Wisconsin make sensational, scandalous fodder for sports pundits.  Did these same pundits point out the two games earlier this season where the Badgers took a knee late in the game to run out the clock, rather than go for the score?  Where were these same critics when Oregon crushed New Mexico 72-0?  Did sports writers and commentators cry about Boise State’s 48-0 and 59-0 shut outs of weaker opponents earlier this year?

Those of us who actually watched the game, or those who COACHED in it, have a much different opinion about whether or not Wisconsin showed a lack of respect and sportsmanship for its opponent. Indiana Head Coach Bill Lynch said he does not feel Wisconsin ran up the score.  Instead, he put the blame on his own team who simply lost their ability (and will, it seems) to stop the Badgers.

Earlier in the year, superstar QB Peyton Manning was playing the NY Giants. The Colts were leading by a big margin and there was no doubt the victory was theirs.  I remember watching Peyton, late in the game, arguing against a referee’s call.  Despite the fact that the game was in hand and that his little brother was taking a beating, Peyton’s competitiveness and drive could not be suppressed.  At game time, it’s just who he is.  As I watched him vehemently argue with the officials, I truly admired his passion and intensity.  It is what has made him one of the most successful QBs in the NFL. 

That same drive and competitiveness that Peyton Manning exhibited is expected in college football.  Wisconsin demonstrated it and earned a nice lead in the game.  Then the Badgers allowed their backup players to go out and execute plays.  They didn’t send them on to the field to simply stand around.  If Indiana was unable to stop them, perhaps the same critics who want to create a salacious story about sportsmanship should instead analyze why the Indiana squad seemed to simply give up.

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