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November 18, 2012

Making sense of Saturday's upsets and near upsets

1. The Texas Longhorns are suddenly staring at a not-so-longshot share of the Big 12 title.

If you can believe that.

With wins against TCU and Kansas State and a victory by Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, the Longhorns would be in a four-way tie for the title and would appear to have the tiebreaker advantage.

The tiebreaker would come down to records against the other tied teams. And because Texas and K-State would have 2-1 records against the other tied teams, OU and Oklahoma State, which would have 1-2 records against the other tied teams, would be eliminated from the tiebreaker. Texas would then have the head-to-head with Kansas State, according to the Big 12 tiebreaker rules:


If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.

If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 4 will be followed until a determination is made. Once a team has been eliminated from a multi-team comparison, it is dropped from further comparisons.

If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.

The records of the three teams will be compared against each other

The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in the conference

The highest ranked team in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll following the completion of Big 12 regular season conference play shall be the representative, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of the other in the BCS poll.

In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two highest ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Bowl Championship Series.

The representative will be chosen by draw.



That's what the Baylor Bears did Saturday night in college football's latest diabolical plot twist. Except Hollywood wouldn't have been able to make us believe Baylor could RUN on K-State for 342 yards.

Not against a Wildcat defense giving up just 98.9 yards per game on the ground.

Hollywood wouldn't have been able to convince us Collin Klein who has seemed bionic, at times, would be short-circuited like some fake Terminator, throwing three interceptions and failing at critical moments to pick up yards with his legs.

So if Texas is ready to grow up this week against TCU and on Dec. 1 in Manhattan, Kan., a season that looked lost in October could end up with a conference championship trophy in the case.

What was missing in Waco was the poised resolve the Wildcats had shown all year in pressure situations. It's first-ever rise to No. 1 in the BCS rankings played tricks on the psyche of a team that had played to its standard all year.

Mack Brown talked last week about how hard it was to remain undefeated in 2005 en route to the national title and how Bill Parcells told him not to let his players eat the "poison cheese" of thinking you're better than you are.

Will Muschamp talked all the time about being a blue-collar team. He brought the "Hard Hat Award" to Texas. His Gators are suddenly back in the national title picture with a game against one-loss Florida State looming, as is Georgia and Alabama.

Who knows who will be in the national title picture after next week? It's like watching an episode of Boss and looking around the mayor's office to see who's left.

If Texas wants to think of itself as a national title contender in the next couple years, the Longhorns must start to reveal the player leadership and chemistry required of teams to make the slow, steady climb up the mountain of college football's best, where the oxygen is thin and hallucinations are commonplace.

That starts Thursday against TCU. There's suddenly a lot more on the line for Texas than there was last week.


1A. Is realignment back?

The reports of the Big Ten reaching out to Maryland and Rutgers are real. If that does play out, look for the ACC to reach out to Connecticut as Maryland's replacement.

None of it should affect the Big 12 in the short term. But it certainly opens the door for a school like Florida State to consider leaving the ACC without feeling like the one tearing the league apart.

Florida State and Maryland were the only ones who voted against raising the ACC exit fees to $50 million earlier this year.

I've already reported that Louisville has been constantly waving its arms at the Big 12 to say, pick me, pick me. But the Big 12 is not interested in making that move at this time.


2. I feel for Bill Snyder and Collin Klein.

No one will dispute they got their teeth kicked in at Floyd Casey Stadium.

But at 73 years old and with a coaching tree that includes the likes of Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bret Beilema, Mark Mangino, Jim Leavett, Brent Venables, Phil Bennett and Dana Dimel, I just found myself pulling for Snyder.

I think the guy is unbelievable in getting 18, 19 and 20-year-old kids to pay attention to detail. I know the critics will come roaring up and say Snyder has benefited from K-State being able to get anyone into school who can fog a mirror.

But Snyder still has to package, teach and direct that talent. And that's what Snyder has done. Over and over again.

And I found myself pulling for Collin Klein, the toughest guy in college football with Tim Tebow numbers who also happens to play the piano at a concert level.

Remember when Bill Snyder introduced Klein to the rest of college football as a starter? Against Texas in 2010, much to the surprise of Will Muschamp, who was expecting QB Carson Coffman. And the Longhorns simply had no answer for him that night.

Klein ran 25 times for 127 yards and 2 TDs in a 39-14 rout and didn't even complete a pass until K-State was up 31-0.

If I had to choose between coaches I'd like to see hoist the trophy, I'd take Bill Snyder over the rest of the field. One, because I think he's dragged one of the most sad-sack programs off the ocean floor … twice.

And No. 2 because I think he can flat-out coach.


3. The Heisman Trophy race now shifts to Los Angeles this weekend.

I had Collin Klein at the top of my ballot.

He's probably still on the ballot somewhere, for the moment, and could still end up at the top. But you're looking around at Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, USC's Marquise Lee, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Kenjon Barner, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

The game that could well decide the Heisman Trophy is Notre Dame at USC.

If Te'o plays great for Notre Dame in a victory over USC, he could surge into the lead the way Robert Griffin III did after Baylor's win against OU last year.

A. If Marquise Lee has a crazy good day for USC in a win against Notre Dame, he could finally get people to look at his eye-popping numbers (1,605 yards receiving, 14 TDs, including a 345-yard receiving day vs Arizona). But it probably wouldn't be enough to get to the top of the ballot from a four-loss team.

B. Tajh Boyd threw for five TDs and ran for three more in Clemson's victory over North Carolina State Saturday, and he might be able to get on some ballots with a great performance against South Carolina this weekend. Boyd has Heisman numbers - 33 TD passes, 11 INTs and 8 TDs rushing. He's No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency behind Georgia's Aaron Murray.

But Boyd's campaign has somehow been dismissed because the ACC is seen as a bad league. I think Boyd should be getting more love. (He had 3 TD passes and 1 INT in Clemson's only loss to Florida State.)

C. Braxton Miller would have to be superhuman against Michigan to get voters to elevate him to the top spot on the ballot from a team on probation.

I wouldn't have a problem voting for Miller. If they are going to count Ohio State's games on other team's records, his importance to Ohio State should count. But I don't think Miller's numbers 14 TD passes, 6 INTs, 13 TDs rushing are Heisman worthy.

And the Big Ten is a mess this year. If voters are going to discount Tajh Boyd for being in the ACC, then Miller is certainly going to suffer from beating up a mediocre Big Ten.

D. Johnny Manziel has a ton of momentum going into A&M's final game against Missouri next Saturday night (he accounted for 5 TDs in the Aggies' victory over Sam Houston State) after shocking Alabama. Manziel will have to play great against the Tigers in College Station, because that will be his last chance to impress the voters.

E. Collin Klein, despite his poor performance against Baylor, will have a chance to sway voters in K-State's game against Texas on Dec. 1.

EE. McCarron gets two more opportunities to impress voters (Auburn and the SEC title game).

It will undoubtedly come down to which player looks best on TV the next couple weeks.

F. Collin Klein and Manti Te'o are going to be a on a lot of ballots. And the key to winning is not always having the most No. 1 votes, but being on the most ballots. That will help Manziel as well. He could end up as the No. 2 and No. 3 vote on a bunch of ballots, and if he gets enough of those, he could sneak up on the lead if Klein and Te'o give him an opening. Even as a freshman, which is hard to believe.

G. And something tells me if Texas A&M thinks Johnny Manziel is still not ready to talk to the media, he may not be ready for all the life-changing stuff that comes with winning the Heisman, especially with three years of eligibility left.

H. I have a feeling Te'o shakes up the race this weekend at USC.


4. Other college football thoughts …

Do over:
That Oregon-Stanford game was incredible, from the questionable TD catch by Stanford's tight end (which looked like he was still juggling while falling out of bounds), to D'Anthony Thomas failing to turn around and throw a block for Marcus Mariota on Mariota's 77-yard run in the first quarter. It would have sprung Mariota for a TD. Instead, Mariota was tackled from behind at the Stanford 15, and the Ducks were stopped on fourth down and got no points.

Redemption: Good for Westwood's Jordan Williamson kicking the game-winning FG for Stanford after being the goat in the Fiesta Bowl last year against Oklahoma State.

I see you UCLA: I thoroughly enjoyed watching that game. It was one big play and one big hit after another. Now, we may get Stanford vs UCLA in back-to-back weekends. If Stanford beats the Bruins this week, they'd meet in Palo Alto for the Pac-12 title game next week.

Cut ties now: Lane Kiffin may not get thrown out after this four- and possibly five-loss season. But USC AD Pat Haden should make it happen.

First, I still can't believe former USC athletic director Mike Garrett hired Kiffin, who was the offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll during the now tainted Reggie Bush Era.

And secondly, because Kiffin has never done anything to prove he can be a head coach.

All he's proven he can do is snuggle up to Colin Cowherd and also bring embarrassment to just about any situation … from not knowing recruiting rules to incurring fines for flattening footballs.

If I'm Haden, I'm working overtime to land a guy like Louisville's Charlie Strong, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy or Oregon's Mark Helfrich or, heck, even Jon Gruden, because Kiffin doesn't seem to be Haden's kind of guy … or any AD's kind of guy … or any football program's kind of guy.


5. My Big 12 power poll …

1.Kansas State


I still think Kansas State's the best team in the Big 12, despite their Bermuda Triangle performance in Waco. Remember when K-State whipped OU 35-7 in the 2003 Big 12 title game, and OU got to play for the national title anyway? Sad that K-State won't get the same kind of love from voters.

2.Oklahoma

Landry Jones bailed out the Sooners' defense in Morgantown, but OU's body of work still isn't as impressive as K-State's. And the Wildcats won in Norman.

3. Texas

Longhorns suddenly have more to play for.

4. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are putting it on people, and it doesn't matter who's playing QB.

5. TCU

Gary Patterson will have the Horned Frogs trying to break the Thanksgiving Day dishes in Austin

6. Texas Tech

Tommy Tuberville was so upset after getting waxed by Oklahoma State, he didn't let his players talk to the media

7. West Virginia

Tavon Austin ran for 344 yards against Oklahoma. That's not a typo. He ran for 344 yards as WVU ran for a total of 458 yards on OU. The Mountaineers have games against Iowa State and Kansas to become bowl eligible at 5-5.

8. Iowa State

Freshman QB Sam Richardson made his debut as a Cyclone in a big way, completing 23 of 27 passing for 250 yards and 4 TDs in a 51-23 rout of Kansas, also making ISU bowl eligible.

9. Baylor

Art Briles had his troops prepared for K-State. But where was that against the likes of TCU and Iowa State?

10. Kansas

Charlie Weis has greatly improved the Jayhawks, but has nothing to show for it with a 1-10 record.


Other Big 12 thoughts ….

OU escapes:
I thought Mike Stoops' head was going to explode when West Virginia scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 49-44 lead with 2:53 to play. And with Tavon Austin running all over his defense for … I'll say it again … 344 yards.

But Landry Jones and his receivers showed up big on OU's final two scoring drives as Jones went 9-of-10 passing. And where would OU be without transfers Justin Brown of Penn State (7 catches for 123 yards) and Jalen Saunders of Fresno State (6 catches for 112 yards)? Both will be seniors for OU next year.

Tavon Austin is a video game: He has been my favorite player to watch in college football this season. And that's saying a lot.

Would Gundy leave?: With three different QBs, Oklahoma State has won five Big 12 games by 21 points or more, including Saturday's 38-point thrashing of Texas Tech. Gundy should be getting calls for every big job opening this year. The guy is recruiting up a storm and now reloads from year to year.

Texas caught OSU before the Cowboys started to put it all together on both sides of the ball. Good timing for the Longhorns.

Say what?: Turnovers are impossible to predict. Oklahoma State led the nation last year, forcing 44 turnovers on a defense that had 8 starters back this year. In 2012, the Cowboys have forced just 14.


Big games this week …

Georgia Tech at Georgia


I'm putting the Bulldogs on upset alert. Ga Tech has figured some things out lately and can run the football.

Michigan at Ohio State

Something tells me Michigan QB Devin Gardner and the Wolverines pull the upset.

Baylor vs Texas Tech (in Arlington)

These two teams are suddenly going in opposite directions. Two weeks ago, I'd take Tech in a heartbeat. Now, I'm leaning Baylor.

Oregon at Oregon State

This is the game I thought Oregon would lose down the stretch. Now, I think the Ducks bounce back this week.

Florida at Florida State

Here's Florida State's chance to get some respect back after that horrible, N.C. State loss.

Oklahoma State at OU

The Cowboys are rolling. Can you believe three losses at home for the Sooners in one year?

Stanford at UCLA

Stanford's defense is too good in this one. Cardinal win.

Missouri at Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel gets to make his case for the Heisman and try to make the Aggies BCS-bowl eligible.

South Carolina at Clemson

What do you got Tajh Boyd?

Notre Dame at USC

Manti Te'o can jump in the Heisman lead, and the Irish can play for a national title with one more big performance. And USC may not have Matt Barkley (arm).


ONE MORE THING: If ND wins and Alabama handles its business, it will be a scalpers paradise in Miami.

And don't forget this nugget: Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all won a national title in their third year as coach at ND. Brian Kelly is in his third year as coach at ND.



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