Friday, December 16, 2011

Professor's Bowl Picks

2011-12 College Football Bowls

Welcome back to The Campus Game and the end of fall term.

With final exams a fast fading memory, students fleeing for home and the holidays, the college campus is a quiet, peaceful place over Christmas break. Strolling along Lumpkin Street during a brief trip to Athens the past couple of mornings, the loudest sounds came from the football practice fields where the Bulldogs prepared for an Outback Bowl appearance against Michigan State.

Below is the lineup for all 2011-2012 college football bowl games (listing courtesy of the Rivals website).


1/10/12 UPDATE: The bowls are over and the Professor finished up 23-12 with bowl selections ... not bad although missed the BCS title game pick for the first time in eight years.

* All times Eastern

Temple (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 2 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Albuquerque
COMMENT: Steve Addazio leads the Temple Owls to a bowl bid in the Land of Enchantment after a solid inaugural season. Cowboys look to build momentum for 2012 when they'll soon become a Mountain West power with the defection of Boise State and TCU.
RESULT: Temple 37-15 (Professor 1-0)

Ohio (9-4) vs. Utah State (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Boise, Idaho
COMMENT: Ohio comes into the game fresh from a tough MAC title game loss to Northern Illinois behind the leadership of dual threat QB Tyler Tettleton. The US Aggies have won five straight entering the spud bowl and earlier in the season put a big scare into Auburn and BYU before losing close games.
RESULT: Ohio 24-23 (Professor 1-1)

San Diego State (8-4) vs. LA-Lafayette (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New Orleans
COMMENT: LA-L will be playing a virtual home game at the Super Dome and that crowd should be enough to get the Ragin Cajuns past Rocky Long's Aztecs.
RESULT: LA-L 32-30 (Professor 2-1)

Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: St. Petersburg, Fla.
COMMENT: FIU and coach Mario Cristobal are both up-and-comers (the Panthers hope to hang onto to Cristobal during the on-going coaching carousel) and should get by Doc Holliday and the Thundering Herd.
RESULT: Marshall 20-10 (Professor 2-2)

TCU (10-2) vs. Lousisana Tech (8-4)

WHEN: Dec. 21, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Diego
COMMENT: Nabbing TCU is a nice coup for the Poinsettia Bowl and playing the highly regarded Horned Frogs is a nice opportunity for Sonny Dykes and the LA Tech Bulldogs. Expect the Frogs to get a big win before heading off to join the Big 12.

RESULT: TCU 31-24 (Professor 3-2)

Arizona State (6-6) vs. Boise State (11-1)
WHEN: Dec. 22, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Las Vegas
COMMENT: The Broncos return to Sin City a second consecutive time thanks to a tough loss to TCU (which knocked Boise from a BCS bowl). The game with ASU marks the swan song for record-setting Broncos QB Kellen Moore ... and also for Sun Devils head coach Dennis Erickson. Boise agains shows it can whip the power conferences.
RESULT: BOISE 56-24 (Professor 4-2)

Nevada (7-5) at Southern Miss (11-2)
WHEN: Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Honolulu
COMMENT: The USM Golden Eagles took an interesting path to the islands - thanks to bowl contracts between the SEC and Big East, and some nifty vacation planning by soon-to-be-former USM head coach Larry Fedora. Typically, the Conference-USA champion would play an SEC team at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis (a nice, easy drive for USM fans). However, since the SEC had only nine bowl-eligible squads this season (and thus could not place a team in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham), the Liberty Bowl contract called for an SEC-Big East matchup ... so the Liberty could not invite Southern Miss and its thousands of fans to take on Vandy. That left USM with the choice of any other C-USA bowl partner and Fedora (before taking the North Carolina job a few days later) acted like any good travel agent and opted for a week in paradise for his squad. Can't blame him! Let's say his team gets a win too.
RESULT: USM 24-17 (Professor 5-2)

Missouri (7-5) vs. North Carolina (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 26, 5 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Shreveport, La.
COMMENT: A bonus SEC-ACC game as the Tigers of Missouri move to the SEC next season. Changes will take place in beautiful Chapel Hill too as interim coach Everett Withers moves on to Ohio State and Larry Fedora takes over the Heels after this game.

RESULT: Mizzou 41-24 (Professor 6-2)

Western Michigan (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Detroit
COMMENT: WMU will want it more, but the Boilers should be a bit better.
RESULT: Purdue 37-32 (Professor 7-2)

Louisville (7-5) vs. NC State (7-5)

WHEN: Dec. 27, 8:00 ESPN
WHERE: Charlotte
COMMENT: Up and down Wolfpack takes down Cardinals.

RESULT: NC State 31-24 (Professor 8-2)

Toledo (8-4) vs. Air Force (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
COMMENT: Falcons option attack should run over the Rockets.
RESULT: Toledo 42-41 (Professor 8-3)

Cal (7-5) vs. Texas (7-5)

WHEN: Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Diego
COMMENT: Holiday Bowl is always a Professor's favorite, but this matchup is not up to par. Horns hook Bears.

RESULT: Texas 21-10 (Professor 9-3)

Notre Dame (8-4) vs. Florida State (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Orlando
COMMENT: Game is a sellout, TV ratings should be boffo, and the setting is great. Not so sure the game will live up though because FSU's defense will be tough for Irish.
RESULT: FSU 18-14 (Professor 10-3)

Washington (7-5) vs. Baylor (9-3)
WHEN: Dec. 29, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Antonio
COMMENT: Think the folks at Valero are happy to sponsor this year's Heisman winner? Me too. Robert Griffin III and the Bears should bring a whole bunch of fans down to the San Anton ... and should whip the Huskies.
RESULT: Baylor 67-56 (Professor 11-3)

BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 30, noon, ESPN
WHERE: Dallas
COMMENT: Two pretty good offenses on display in big D. Think it's Tulsa Time.
RESULT: BYU 24-21 (Professor 11-4)

Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New York
COMMMENT: The visuals alone make this game at Yankee Stadium worth watching. If the East Coast gets a snowstorm, well - all the better. Iowa State is better, but Rutgers is essentially at home so let's go with the Scarlet Knights.
RESULT: Rutgers 27-13 (Professor 12-4)

Miss State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

WHEN: Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Nashville
COMMENT: Two pretty solid coaches in Dan Mullen of MSU and Jim Grobe of Wake, but I like the Bullies team better. This should be a very physical matchup.

RESULT: MISS STATE 23-17 (Professor 13-4)

Iowa (7-5) vs. Oklahoma (9-3)
WHEN: Dec. 30, 10 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Tempe, Ariz.
COMMENT: The Hawkeyes return to Tempe for a second straight year and they are fortunate to be there having lost three of five to close the season, including double-digit losses to Michigan State and Nebraska. Iowa should at least have the motivation edge over OU because the Sooners expected to be playing in "a" BCS bowl if not "the" BCS bowl. Those hopes got gashed in a 44-10 season finale debacle against OK State. I'm leery of teams that don't want to be at their bowl, but will go with talent over motivation in this one.
RESULT: Oklahoma 31-14 (Professor 14-4)

Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 31, noon, ESPN
WHERE: Houston
COMMENT: The Aggies enter the game with interim coach Tim DeRuyter at the helm. The A&M defensive coordinator takes over for the deposed Mike Sherman, and will take over as head coach at Fresno State after the bowl as the Kevin Sumlin era begins in College Station. The coaching situation couldn't be more stable in Evanston as Pat Fitzgerald - always on everybody's short list when vacancies arise - seems to be a potential lifer for the Purple. NU is plucky, but the Aggies are stronger and faster.
RESULT: Texam A&M 33-22 (Professor 15-4)

Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS
WHERE: El Paso, Texas
COMMENT: Utah finished the season winning four of five, but the last game was a stinker - a 17-14 loss to lowly Colorado. Tech struggled down the stretch. After a 6-0 start, the Jackets lost four of six and yielded over 30 points in the last three games. Although flinty Tech coach Paul Johnson never admits it, his teams struggle in bowl games because opponents have time to prepare for the triple option. I think it will happen again.
RESULT: Utah 30-27 (Professor 16-4)

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ABC
WHERE: Memphis
COMMENT: Typically this game matches the C-USA champ with an SEC opponent, but due to some scheduling agreements (see Hawaii Bowl above), the Liberty gets a good Big East team in Cincy playing the home state Commodores. First year Vandy coach James Franklin is fiery and has done a find job in Nashville; watch QB Jordan Rodgers - he's a good player (yes - he's the brother of Green Bay's Aaron). Bearcat coach Butch Jones had his team in contention for a BCS berth all season and actually tied for the conference championship behind dual threat QB Zach Collaros. This one should be pretty good, but I like Cincy.
RESULT: Cincy 31-24 (Professor 17-4)

Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: San Francisco
COMMENT: This games tests the old Professor's theory that there is no such thing as a bad bowl game. UCLA got an exemption to play in the game with a losing record, and both teams can't get to the New Year fast enough. I would suggest tuning to the Liberty Bowl instead.
RESULT: Illinois 20-14 (Professor 17-5)

Auburn (7-5) vs. Virginia (8-4)
WHEN: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Atlanta
COMMENT: The old Peach Bowl has really taken off in popularity since Chick-Fil-A (America's finest fast-service chain) became the primary sponsor, and solidified the New Year's Evening date. I am nursing a bit of a grudge againts the Chick-Fil-A because their media folks have not approved my credentials the past few years (and I don't think it has anything to do with me gobbling down several of those great chicken sandwiches in the press box that last time), but this is usually an exciting game to wrap up the calendar. Auburn is about what most people expected, and UVA is better than predicted. With the Tigers losing both coordinators, I think the Cavaliers win.
RESULT: Auburn 43-24 (Professor 17-6)

Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3)
WHEN: Jan. 2, noon, ESPNU
WHERE: Dallas
COMMENT: The saddest season finally ends for Penn State. Let's go with the Lions since nothing has gone right for them in a long time.
RESULT: Houston 30-14 (Professor 17-7)

Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ABC
WHERE: Tampa
COMMENT: After an 0-2 start, Georgia rebounded with ten straight wins before losing to LSU in the SEC title game. Head coach Mark Richt may have needed every one of those victories because the Bulldog faithful were very restless. Now, Richt is set to sign a contract extension, the Dogs return a bunch of talent in 2012, and the conference schedule for next season is very favorable (again). Quite a difference since early September. The Spartans also lost in a conference title game and they were one of the Big Ten's best squads all season. State is rugged on both sides of the ball (I'm not convinced of Georgia's toughness on offense), but the Dog defense may be a bit too fast for them.
RESULT: MSU 33-30 (Professor 17-8)

Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Orlando
COMMENT: Yet another B1G vs SEC New Year's Day game finds the old ball coach returning to his home state and trying to coax the USC Gamecocks to 11 wins - which would be a first in school history. They will need to get past a Nebraska team that runs the ball well but struggles in the passing game. I don't particularly think either team is all that good, but will go with SC on a hunch.
RESULT: South Carolina 30-13 (Professor 18-8)

Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
WHERE: Jacksonville
COMMENT: This is an intriguing matchup because of the Urban Meyer angle. The former Gator head coach accepted the Ohio State position a few weeks ago and has apparently been at least peripherally involved in preparation for this game (based on comments by Buckeye interim head coach Luke Fickell). I'm sure that sits real well with the Florida folks who were already mad at Meyer for returing to the sidelines less than a year after retiring for health reasons. On the field, both teams finished at .500 but State sure seems like the better team right now. QB Braxton Miller is stellar and should be a real force running Meyer's spread attack the next three years. Florida was inept most of the season on offense and the departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to become head coach at Kansas was met with near glee in Gainesville. Gator coach Will Muschamp has his work cut out for him and it won't get any easier if he loses to Urban Meyer's new team.
RESULT: Florida 24-17 (Professor 18-9)

Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 5:00 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Pasadena, Calif.
COMMENT: A really nice contrasting matchup between the fleet Ducks of Oregon and the powerful Badgers of Wisconsin (returning to the granddaddy for a second straight season). For my money, this is the best of the BCS bowls outside the title game. I'll go with Bucky.
RESULT: Oregon 45-38 (Professor 18-10)

Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-1)
WHEN: Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Glendale, Ariz.
COMMENT: After suffering through a miserable pairing last year (Oklahoma vs U Conn), the Fiesta landed a dandy this time. OK State could make a legitimate argument for deserving to play in the BCS championship, but the Cowboys will have their hands full with Stanford and soon-to-be NFL #1 Andrew Luck. Use up your remote batteries early in the day, then set the channel to ESPN for a great double header of the Rose and the Fiesta. What a great day of college football!
RESULT: OK State 41-38 (Professor 19-10)

Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
WHEN: Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: New Orleans
COMMENT: I'll repeat this complaint ... call me old-fashioned but I prefer more games on New Year’s Day instead of spreading these major bowls out over several nights. The Sugar Bowl got the opportunity of offering two at-large bids due to the SEC placing two teams into the national championship game. Michigan, with the tradition and the large fan base, was pretty much a given even though the Wolverines did not get to the Big Ten title game. QB Denard Robinson - aka Shoelace - is perhaps the most exciting player in college football. The Sugar's selection of Virginia Tech caused some backlash, even though the Hokies actually did make it to the ACC title game (where they were trounced by Clemson). The Big Ten suffered another ugly bowl day on Jan. 2nd, but I think Michigan pulls out the win.
RESULT: Michigan 23-20 (Professor 20-10)

West Virginia (9-3) vs. Clemson (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Miami
COMMENT: The least appealing of the BCS games on paper, this may turn out to be an exciting game. Keep any eye of Clemson's explosive freshman WR Sammy Watkins - he's big time. ACC teams have done little of note this bowl season, but I like the Tigers.
RESULT: WVU 70-33 (Professor 20-11)

Kansas State (10-2) vs. Arkansas (10-2)
WHEN: Jan. 6, 8 p.m., Fox
WHERE: Arlington, Texas
COMMENT: Think the Jerry Dome will be rocking with these two fan bases filling the place on a Friday night. For a 2nd consecutive year, the Cotton Bowl lands a matchup of BCS worthy teams. Arkansas lost only to the teams playing for the national championship, and K-State had a strong case for landing the at-large Sugar Bowl bid that went to Virginia Tech. I think the Hogs are a better team, but do not always count on Bobby Petrino to have them ready.
RESULT: Arkansas 29-16 (Professor 21-11)

SMU (7-5) vs. Pitt (6-6)
WHEN: Jan. 7, 1:00, ESPN
WHERE: Birmingham, Ala.
COMMENT: Pitt returns to Birmingham a second straight season ... and again with a coaching staff issue. Last year, AD Steve Pederson (how does he keep his job) botched up things by firing solid coach Dave Wannstedt. After new hire Mike Haywood ran into legal issues, Todd Graham was hired from Tulsa. Graham bolted for Arizona State just a few weeks ago. Paul Chryst of Wisonsin takes over after this one. Meantime, the Mustangs also had some coaching angst as June Jones thought he had an offer for that same Arizona State job only to have it pulled and given to Graham. Whew! I think Junie makes a statement in this one, although SMU will struggle with the Pitt rushing attack.
RESULT: SMU 28-6 (Professor 22-11)

Arkansas State (10-2) vs. N. Illinois (10-3)
WHEN: Jan. 8, 9 p.m., ESPN
WHERE: Mobile, Ala.
COMMENT: Some coaching turnover in this game too as Auburn OC Gus Malzahn takes the helm at ASU after the game, replacing Hugh Freeze who's on his way to Ole Miss. I don't think it will matter because NIU is very good.
RESULT: NIU 38-20 (Professor 23-11)

BCS Championship Game (see post for full breakdown)
RESULT: Alabama 21-0 (Professor 23-12)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Professor's Picks - Championship Week

2011 Record

Final Regular Season Record: 120-41
Last Week’s Record: 11-6

Comment: Like a student struggling to reach semester’s end, the old professor saw grades slip late in the term. Two straight weeks with five or more wrong answers is enough to pass the class comfortably, but not to earn any academic honors.

Championship week is upon us and the prof will be monitoring SEC football final exams for LSU and the alma mater from the press box at the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon. The Bengal Tigers look to be a BCS Championship Game lock – win or lose against the Dogs – but an upset win by Georgia could garner the SEC an unprecedented three teams in the BCS bowls.

Enjoy championship week and keep in mind some conferences are still playing regular season games too (South Florida and West Virginia square off on Thursday night).

Championship Game Professor’s Picks

MAC Championship
Ohio (9-3) vs. N. Illinois (9-3)
Friday, Dec. 2nd at 7:00 ET
Ford Field (Detroit, MI)
Television: ESPN2
Preview: The MAC is one of the most underrated conferences in the land for my money. For the past several weeks, the old professor has enjoyed MAC games nearly every Tuesday and Wednesday, so I’ve missed them this week almost as much as Thanksgiving leftovers. The game should be exciting. These teams did not meet during the regular season, and both put up the points. NIU is led by one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Chandler Harnish, a true dual-threat who rung up over 2600 yards passing and 1300 yards rushing during the regular season. The Huskies survived one of the year’s most thrilling games when they beat Toledo 63-60 (in regulation!) on November 1st. I watched every minute and it was as exciting a game as I saw all season. The Bobcats are not as prolific on offense, but still plenty good. QB Tyler Tettleton has passed for over 2800 yards and added more than 500 rushing, so he’s quite the dual threat too. Don’t expect too much defense, but settle in for a nice game.
Professor’s Pick: NIU

Pac-12 Championship
UCLA (6-6) vs. Oregon (10-2)
Friday, Dec. 2nd at 8:00 ET
Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
Television: FOX
Preview: Commissioner Larry Scott and his Pac-12 athletic directors made two shrewd decisions in scheduling the first conference championship game. First, playing the game at an on-campus site likely guarantees a sell-out crowd, even with a mediocre UCLA team representing the Pac-12 South. Similarly, playing the game on Friday night avoids the busy Saturday schedule of title games featuring the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten. The conference powers-that-be did commit one blunder – signing on with FOX for broadcast rights … it was very aggravating the past several years watching the biggest games of the year (the BCS bowls) covered by a network that televised no regular season games. FOX will give the game its due, but their folks are ill-equipped to deliver a good telecast. As for the game itself, the best team in the conference (USC) is sitting home, one of the participants has fired its coach (UCLA), and the other probably is still stinging from letting a shot at the BCS title game slip away (Oregon). The Ducks quack all the way to Pasadena and another Rose Bowl appearance.
Professor’s Pick: Oregon

Conference USA Championship
Southern Miss (10-2) vs. Houston (12-0)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at Noon ET
Robertson Stadium (Houston)
Television: ABC
Preview: C-USA gets the big-time treatment from ABC as the great Case Keenum and his undefeated Houston Cougars vie for a conference championship and BCS berth against Southern Miss. The Cougars are the nation’s most prolific passing and scoring offense. Keenum will surpass 5000 yards passing in this game, and he tossed 43 TDs during the regular season. UH scores 52 points per game, so the Golden Eagles better try and hold onto the ball. Senior QB Austin Davis is no slouch, with over 3000 yards passing and 24 TD throws. Big surprise – expect plenty of scoring in this one with Houston winning a BCS bid (likely to the Sugar Bowl).
Professor’s Pick: Houston

SEC Championship
LSU (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 4:00 ET
Georgia Dome (Atlanta)
Television: CBS
Preview: For many college football followers, the SEC Championship is a bit of an afterthought. Top-ranked LSU is a two touchdown favorite, and barring an unexpected blowout loss (and maybe even with one) the Bengal Tigers have procured a spot in the BCS title game. LSU has really dominated the season. The Tigers trounced Oregon at a neutral site, whipped West Virginia on the road, won the grudge match with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and overcame pre-season and in-season suspensions to some of their top players. Georgia overcame a great deal too. The Dogs opened the season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, and I believe coach Mark Richt’s job was in jeopardy with one more loss. The Bulldog leader steadied the team, took advantage of an abnormally soft conference schedule, and rallied his squad to ten straight wins. That’s an impressive streak versus any competition. Offensively, LSU is not fancy. The Tigers try to bludgeon opponents with a downhill rushing attack led by a deep tailback stable. QB Jordan Jefferson is a mediocre passer, but he is pretty clutch and (while not very fast) can escape trouble to extend plays. A key to the game will be whether Georgia’s defense can hold its own along the line of scrimmage. On the opposing sides of the ball, Georgia brings a more balanced offensive attack into the game behind QB Aaron Murray and a host of playmakers. The Dogs have really good, young wide receivers, the best being Malcolm Mitchell. If Murray has time and is accurate – neither is assured – the Dogs have enough weapons to challenge LSU’s vaunted secondary. A key to this Offense-Defense matchup may be Georgia’s rushing attack. The Dogs have been plagued by injuries, suspensions, and lack of toughness at this position. Georgia must get something from the run game to set up Murray’s play-action passing. While LSU may not be too excited to play this one, I just don’t see Georgia’s rushing attack doing enough to help out Murray and the receivers. If the Dogs start fast, they may be in the game late … if LSU starts fast it might get a little ugly.
Professor’s Pick: LSU

ACC Championship
Virginia Tech (11-1) vs. Clemson (9-3)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:00 ET
Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, NC)
Television: ESPN
Preview: Virginia Tech lost by three touchdowns to Clemson earlier in the season, but comes into this game as one of the nation’s hottest teams and a solid favorite. The Hokies feature a really nice offensive combo in huge QB Logan Thomas (6’6 254) and quick RB David Wilson (1595 yards rushing). Clemson faltered late in the season and comes into the title tilt having lost three of four … with all three losses by double-digit deficits. The Tiger offense can be explosive (WR Sammy Watkins may be the most exciting freshman in the country), but it’s tough to see them regaining form this late in the season, especially against a VT defense ranked 6th in the country. With a win, Virginia Tech and ACC supporters may make some noise about the Hokies getting into the BCS title game (sorry Bama fans), but it seems doubtful they would garner enough poll power. An Orange Bowl berth to the winner.
Professor’s Pick: Virginia Tech

Big Ten Championship
Michigan State (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (10-2)
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:17 ET
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)
Television: FOX
Preview: Complaint first – why the heck is FOX calling yet another big-time conference championship game? The almighty dollar has skewed common sense. At any rate, this should be a really fine game, albeit a rematch. Earlier in the season, I thought Wisconsin would be the legitimate team to face an SEC champ in the BCS title game … and I still believe they are the best team outside of Dixie. The Badgers lost back-to-back road games in mid-October (to Michigan State and Ohio State), both losses coming on fluky last second plays. Those miscues cost college football fans the best post-season matchup out there (I realize LSU and Bama are probably the two best teams, but I dislike rematches and think Wisconsin is the next best team). Michigan State is a tough, seasoned squad and the Spartans defeated Wisconsin on October 22 with a last second Hail Mary pass that had to be reviewed in the booth. Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball (29 TDS!) will be too much for Sparty in the inaugural Big Ten championship.
Professor’s Pick: Wisconsin

See you at kickoff!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Professor's Picks

One of my favorite sports traditions growing up in metro Atlanta was reading Furman Bisher's annual Thanksgiving Day column in which he offered thanks on the blessings in his life. In homage to the ageless Bisher, still going strong in his early 90s, please enjoy these turkey day thoughts (followed by Professor's Picks).

On this beautiful Thanksgiving in north Georgia, among the many thoughts that come to mind ... I am thankful for ...

... a brisk walk on a cold, clear morning.
... a pastor with a sense of humor in the pulpit (and an accurate timepiece).
... a wife who handles all our family financial business.
... a son who loves college football more than I do and knows more about it too.
... my college students; the professor gets older every year but the students stay the same - college professor is the world's best job.
... neighbors that put up Christmas decorations (but not until after Thanksgiving please).
... craftsmen who know how to build things.
... a couple of good lefthanders in the bullpen for the Braves (thanks Venters and O'Flaherty).
... listening to my favorite Bulldog for all those wonderful seasons. Oh, you Larry Munson.

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving was full of family, food, fun, and football!

Professor's Picks

2011 Overall Record: 109-35
Last Week’s Record: 10-6 (ouch again!)

Thursday, November 24

8:00 PM ET No. 25 Texas at Texas A&M ... a great rivalry ends for a while. PP: A&M

Friday, November 25

12:00 PM ET No. 8 Houston at Tulsa ... could the BCS buster get busted? PP: Tulsa

12:00 PM ET Iowa at No. 21 Nebraska ... should be the start of a fine corn-fed rivalry in the B1G. PP: Nebraska

2:30 PM ET No. 3 Arkansas at No. 1 LSU ... Bengal Tigers probably wrap up a BCS CG bid with win. PP: LSU

7:00 PM ET Pittsburgh at West Virginia ... sure hope the backyard brawl survives these teams splitting for different conferences. PP: WVU

Saturday, November 26

12:00 PM ET Iowa State at No. 9 Oklahoma ... Sooners blew a chance to get back in BCS title picture, but should beat tough Cyclones. PP: OK

12:00 PM ET No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech ... Dogs defense will have its hands full with Tech triple option, so UGA offense better improve. PP: Georgia

12:00 PM ET Ohio State at No. 15 Michigan ... Wolverine fans are counting on turning this rivalry back around in the Big House; better get it done this year because a man named Urban will probably be on the Buckeye sideline next go round. PP: Michigan

12:21 PM ET Tennessee at Kentucky ... Kentucky hasn't beaten Tennessee since I had no gray hairs and was skinny (well, skinnier anyway). PP: UT

3:30 PM ET No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn ... many expect a Tide rout in the Iron Bowl, but I'm not sure it will be that bad. PP: Alabama

3:30 PM ET No. 5 Virginia Tech at Virginia ... trip to ACC title game on the line in beautiful Charlottesville. Mr. Jefferson's U will be happy. PP: Virginia

3:30 PM ET No. 19 Penn State at No. 16 Wisconsin ... Wisonsin is two fluke plays away from playing for a national title. Bucky in Big Ten's best. PP: Wisconsin

7:00 PM ET Florida State at Florida ... Sunshine State showdown has lost some glamour but athletes still abound. PP: Florida

7:00 PM ET Ole Miss at Mississippi State ... the Egg Bowl should be played Thanksgiving night, but Ole Miss fans just want this season over no matter the day. PP: MSU

7:45 PM ET No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina ... the Tigers may have too much offense for the Gamecocks. PP: Clemson

8:00 PM ET No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford ... cannot agree with the way Brian Kelly handled the Irish QB situation this year. No such worries on the Farm. PP: Stanford

See you at kickoff!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Professor's Picks Week 12

Professor's Picks
Week 12

2011 Overall Record: 99-29
Last Week's Record: 9-6 (ouch!)

Around the SEC

Kentucky (4-6, 1-5 SEC) at Georgia (8-2, 6-1 SEC)
12:21 p.m. ET • SEC Network /
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Series Record: UGA leads, 50-12-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2010 at Lexington (UGA, 44-31)
Comment: Georgia can wrap up the SEC East and a trip to Atlanta with a win. Bulldogs grab 9th straight victory.
Professor's Pick: Georgia

The Citadel (4-6) at South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC)
12 p.m. ET • South Carolina PPV
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series Record: USC leads, 39-7-3 • Last Meeting: Oct. 20, 1990 at Columbia (CIT, 38-35)
Comment: Most of the eyeballs in Columbia will be scoreboard watching and pulling for Kentucky, but Gamecocks still stifle Citadel.
Professor's Pick: SC

Samford (6-4) at Auburn (6-4, 4-3 SEC)
12 p.m. CT • Auburn PPV
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Series Record: AU leads, 25-0-1 • Last Meeting: Sept. 11, 1993 at Auburn (AU, 35-7)
Comment: Auburn tries to improve bowl options with easy win over Samford.
Professor's Pick: Auburn

Furman (6-4) at Florida (5-5, 3-5 SEC)
1 p.m. ET • Florida PPV
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)
Series Record: UF leads, 6-2 • Last Meeting: Sept. 22, 1990 at Gainesville (UF, 27-3)
Comment: UF continues SEC vs. Southern Conference weekend. Everybody is tuning up for next week's rivalry games.
Professor's Pick: Florida

Georgia Southern (9-1) at Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC)
1 p.m. CT • Alabama PPV
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,82)
Series Record: First Meeting
Comment: BCS hopes are revived in Tuscaloosa but the Tide must handle the GSU option (in yet another SEC-Southern Conference showdown).
Professor's Pick: Alabama

Mississippi State (5-5, 1-5 SEC) at Arkansas (9-1, 5-1 SEC)
2:30 p.m. CT • CBS Sports
Little Rock, Ark. • War Memorial Stadium (53,955)
Series Record: UA leads, 14-6-1 • Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010 at Starkville (UA, 38-31, 2 OT)
Comment: The SEC's top game of the weekend sees the Razorbacks still harboring BCS title hopes. The Bullies will be no pushover, and an upset is not out of the question. Hogs - barely.
Professor's Pick: Arkansas

LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC) at Ole Miss (2-8, 0-6 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • ESPN
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium / Hollingsworth Field (60,580)
Series Record: LSU leads, 56-39-4 • Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010 at Baton Rouge (LSU, 43-36)
Comment: Just a couple of games left in the Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss. If he keeps suspending players there may not be enough left to finish the year. Bengal Tigers cannot look too far ahead.
Professor's Pick: LSU

Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5 SEC) at Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC)
7 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)
Series Record: UT leads, 72-27-5 • Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010 at Nashville (UT, 24-10)
Comment: Everybody is picking Vandy to come into Neyland Stadium and wear out the Vols. Well, almost everybody.
Professor's Pick: Tennessee

Around the Nation

12:00 PM ET No. 16 Nebraska at No. 18 Michigan ... Huskers visit the Big House in a meeting of two storied rivals. Professor's Pick: Nebraska

3:30 PM ET Southern Methodist at No. 11 Houston ... Cougars try to bust into the BCS bowls with a win over the Ponies. Hope the scoreboard has plenty of power. Professor's Pick: Houston

3:30 PM ET No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State ... OK winner gets to hire Urban Meyer? Penn State sure needs some good news, and maybe they'll get some at the Shoe. Professor's Pick: PSU

3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) at South Florida ... were I on the hiring committee at Penn State, one phone call would be made. It would be to Al Golden. He's the perfect choice for the Nittany Lions. However, I think he loses today. Professor's Pick: USF

7:30 PM ET Virginia at No. 25 Florida State ... Cavs try and keep ACC title hopes alive. No. Professor's Pick: FSU

8:00 PM ET USC at No. 4 Oregon ... Give Lane Kiffin credit (as much as it hurts to type that) because he has the Trojans playing about as well as anybody. Ducks are probably a bit too fast. Professor's Pick: Oregon

8:00 PM ET No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 22 Baylor ... Baylor has never beaten OK and the Bears fall again Saturday night. Professor's Pick: OK

8:00 PM ET No. 13 Kansas State at No. 23 Texas ... Longhorns tame Wildcats and improve bowl standing (Cotton anyone?). Professor's Pick: Texas

See you at kickoff!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Professor's Picks Week 11

Professor’s Picks Week 11

2011 Overall Record: 90-23
Last Week’s Record: 11-4


Florida (5-4, 3-4 SEC) at South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC)
12 p.m. ET • CBS Sports
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series Record: UF leads, 23-5-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010 at Gainesville (USC, 36-14)
Comment: SC can wrap up the SEC East with a win and a Georgia loss to Auburn. Florida beat a pretty good Vandy team last week, and may be rounding into at least some semblance of an offense. Go with the Gators in an upset.
Professor's Pick: Florida

Kentucky (4-5, 1-4 SEC) at Vanderbilt (4-5, 1-5 SEC)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network /
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: UK leads, 40-38-4 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010 at Lexington (UK, 38-20)
Comment: Two teams struggling for bowl eligibility, but Vanderbilt has looked good since Jordan Rodgers took control at QB. Dores move within a win of going bowling.
Professor's Pick: Vanderbilt

Auburn (6-3, 4-2 SEC) at Georgia (7-2, 5-1 SEC)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Series Record: AU leads, 54-52-8 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010 at Auburn (AU, 49-31)
Comment: Like South Carolina, Georgia can wrap up the SEC East today. The Dogs need to beat Auburn and get help from nemesis Flordida. Tigers had two weeks to prepare for this one and the road team historically plays well. I'm just not sold on this Georgia team although their 7-game winning streak under pressure grows more impressive each week.
Professor's Pick: Auburn

Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 SEC) at Arkansas (8-1, 4-1 SEC)
5 p.m. CT • ESPN2
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Series Record: UT leads, 13-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 10, 2007 at Knoxville (UT, 34-13)
Comment: My neighbor will miss his first Volunteer game in twenty-two years Saturday night when he doesn't make the trip to Fayetteville. His home streak still stretches past the thirty-year mark, but hate to see it end. Might be a good one to miss though.
Professor's Pick: Arkansas

Western Kentucky (5-4) at LSU (9-0, 6-0 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (92,542)
Series Record: First Meeting
Comment: LSU will suffer a letdown after handling Alabama in the game of the year last Saturday night. Will it be enough to derail their championship drive? Don't think so.
Professor's Pick: LSU

Louisiana Tech (5-4) at Ole Miss (2-7, 0-6 SEC)
6:30 p.m. CT • CSS /
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium / Hollingsworth Field (60,580)
Series Record: UM leads, 8-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 6, 2007 at Oxford (UM, 24-0)
Comment: LA Tech took Miss State Bulldog to overtime, so the Bulldogs stand a good chance to beat the rudderless Rebels. Houston Nutt is gone at the end of the year so he'd like to get a win before attention will turn to his successor.
Professor's Pick: Ole Miss

Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (5-4, 1-4 SEC)
6:45 p.m. CT • ESPN
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)
Series Record: UA leads, 73-18-3 • Last Meeting: Nov. 13, 2010 at Tuscaloosa (UA, 30-10)
Comment: Many expect Bama to blow out the Bullies after Tide championship hopes took a big hit last week. I'm not so sure they'll have that much fire, but let's give them the solid pick.
Professor's Pick: Alabama


12:00 PM ET No. 2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech ... Cowboys must lasso the Red Raiders to keep championship hopes alive. Professor's Pick: OK State

12:00 PM ET No. 19 Nebraska at No. 12 Penn State ... I'm not sure how the Lions regain focus after the tumultuous week in Happy Valley. Maybe the game will serve as a release for them. Professor's Pick: PSU

12:00 PM ET No. 17 Michigan State at Iowa ... winner jumps to front of the pack in the jumbled Legends Division. Professor's Pick: MSU

12:00 PM ET West Virginia at No. 23 Cincinnati ... West Virginia must win to keep any Big East title hopes alive, while Bearcats remain impressive (and under the radar) with no conference losses. Professor's Pick: WVU

12:00 PM ET Pittsburgh at Louisville ... Louisville tries to stay within a game of Cincy in the standings (or move into a tie if the Cats lose). Professor's Pick: Pitt

3:30 PM ET TCU at No. 5 Boise State ... Broncos need another win to keep BCS title shot alive (if it is). Professor's Pick: Boise

3:30 PM ET Texas A&M at No. 14 Kansas State ... I believe A&M will continue to expose the Wildcats. Professor's Pick: A&M

8:00 PM ET No. 7 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford ... Stanford will leap Bama with a win, but the Ducks will be a tough out. Professor's Pick: Oregon

See you at kickoff!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Needing a Hero

"I need a hero ...
and it's gotta be soon,
and he's gotta be larger than life"

Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler, 1984)

* NOTE: For the full site go to

There likely have been sadder weeks in sport, but I don't recall one easily.

Joe Frazier died Monday and Joe Paterno was fired Wednesday. Losing those giants could cause even the most optimistic sports fan to go searching for heroes. Seems not many are around these days.

Let's spend a few minutes reflecting about Smokin' Joe first.

Each spring, I have the pleasure of teaching about the great Frazier-Ali rivalry in my sport history course. Their triology of battles between 1971 and 1975 personified the greatest era of American heavyweight prize fighting. I liked both men when they fought, but over time have come to admire Frazier more, both as a boxer and - especially - as a man.

Frazier whipped Ali in their storied matchup of 1971 when both men were undefeated. It was the closest they would ever come to meeting at their peaks (though in fairness to Ali he missed his prime after being stripped of the title in 1967). After Frazier lost a non-title rematch in 1974, the men staged one final epic encounter in Manila in 1975. Frazier's corner (specifically the quiet and gentle Eddie Futch) threw in the towel after the 14th round, unwilling to risk Joe's health for another round. Frazier was ready to keep fighting. Ali won the decision, but Frazier probably did the most damage in the fight - Frazier danced the night away after the fight; Ali went to the hospital.

We could debate their merits inside the ring all day, but outside the ring I think Joe was clearly the better person.

Ali, for all his fortitude in standing up for his religious beliefs and refusing induction into the military, was in many ways a fraud. He decried the racism in America, but was himself racist ... aligning himself with the Nation of Islam and their radical notions of blue-eyed devils, spaceships, and other such vitriol. Ali espoused pious beliefs for the cameras, but cheated on his multiple wives by running around with women like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Ali spoke of respect for his race, but poked fun of the noble Frazier in the most vile terms ... Gorilla, Uncle Tom, ugly ... names that cut Frazier in ways that Ali's lethal left jab never could. Nor was Ali alone. Bryant Gumble, as pompous and gutless a personality as you'll find in national sports coverage, penned an article calling Joe "a white man's n..." using an epithet a white man best not use; a word the spineless Gumble so cavalierly threw out against Joe Frazier - who grew up dirt-poor in South Carolina and faced far greater hardships than Ali (son of a Louisville schoolteacher) or Gumble (son of a New Orleans judge). Gumble is still pulling his tired act, recently comparing NBA players (who earn on average more than $5 million annually) to slaves. I'd give a month's paycheck to go back in time and have Joe dust off Gumble with a left hook.

Frazier wasn't glib, quick-tongued, funny, or silly like Ali. He was ferocious, fearless, and loyal (even giving the spendthrift Ali money at times). He was repaid with hate, jealously, and insults. He deserved better ... he was the better man.

Rest in peace Smokin' Joe ... you were the bravest guy in the ring I ever saw or ever want to see.

Now to the even sadder case of Joe Paterno and the mess at Penn State.

The word so many national pundits use is "unspeakable" as they continually speak about the alleged crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's longtime defensive coordinator.

Obviously, any empathy felt about Joe Paterno is not meant to diminish feelings of anguish, anger, and sympathy for the victims and their families. It's not the same reaction and one should not exclude the other.

The victims are unknown to the general public. They have not been on our television screens, our computer monitors, or in our newspapers for the majority of our lives. Obviously, we felt like we knew Joe - coke bottle glasses, high-wader khakis, black shoes and white socks. My gosh, the last time Paterno was not on the Penn State coaching staff Harry Truman was President. So, yes I hurt for Joe Paterno, for myself because I'll miss him greatly, for college football fans, for American sports fans who loved him. My sadness and hurt regarding Paterno does not diminish in the least what I feel for the victims. Nor should yours.

There's simply no sense to be made of this case.

Why didn't Mike McQueary, a twenty-eight year old 6'2 strapping former Nittany Lion player, stop Sandusky when he caught him harming a child in a deserted locker room shower? Why didn't he call the police right then (and better yet, beat hell out of Sandusky while waiting on them to arrive)?

Why didn't Paterno or his bosses - all the way up to PSU president Graham Spanier - inform the police and make sure Sandusky was put away? There's no rational answer.

Until more information comes out, I refuse to believe Joe Paterno would sweep something like this under the rug to keep from tarnishing his image or that of his program. I refuse to believe it because Joe Paterno is a good man who did great work for his university for over sixty years.

Revisit that word "unspeakable."

In my neigborhood growing up near Atlanta, there was a strange guy that was about seven or eight years older than the kids in my age group (we were about eight or nine). He had a reputation for approaching young boys and offering them free comic books or the like if they'd come to his house and play. We didn't really understand what was going on with the guy, but our parents told us to stay away from him, and when he rode his bike up around our circle (cul-de-sac to you more affluent readers) once too often, my mother went and spoke to his parents. The second time he came back about five of us pelted him with rocks and ran. Looking back, there was nothing ever spoken about what this guy did ... we were told he was weird, we were to avoid him and tell our parents if he came around, but otherwise his behavior was ... unspoken.

Ivan Maisel of ESPN wrote the only piece that has made much sense at all to me in this Penn State story and he spent some time on that word - unspoken. He (presciently) remarked that while Paterno's age never failed him in his coaching duties, it did off the field - tragically so - when he was faced with Sandusky's actions. I can believe that behaviors, even crimes, like those Sandusky is accused of, were unspoken in Joe Paterno's world ... embarrassing matters to be handled quietly and privately.

Does that excuse McQueary, Paterno, Tim Curly (AD), Gary Shultz (VP), or Spanier? No. The university had to rid themselves of all those men (why McQueary is still on staff baffles me). The institution failed to protect children ... and allowed Sandusky free reign around the football complex to continue his evil. That's unforgivable.

In the weeks and months to come nobody will be surprised to find out more heartbreaking, unspeakable acts committed by Jerry Sandusky. It seems too convenient that he retired soon after one of the earliest complaints about him in 1998. The coverup at Penn State may be far worse and more devious than we know right now. It is altogether sickening.

Joe Paterno - a tremendously significant figure in American sport history - failed to do all the he could to stop a staff member from harming children in the most vile way.

That should sadden all of us on so many levels.

At the risk of overload, let me close with comment on heroes.

Those who look to the sports world for heroes are going to be disappointed (same goes for any public profession in America). Look in the mirror and make that person a hero to someone. You be the person that your child reveres. You be the person that is a good neighbor, a good friend, a trusted confidant, a fine spouse, a community leader, a loyal employee, or a kind boss. Don't count on the quarterback, the coach, the baller, or the slugger.

Searching for a hero?

Look in the mirror and find one staring right back at you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Professor's Picks Week 10

Professor's Picks Week 10

2011 Overall Record: 79-19
Last Week's Record: 9-5

The professor tries to rebound after a lackluster week as we enter the season's stretch drive. Enjoy the games.


Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC) at Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC)
12:21 p.m. ET • SEC Network /
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)
Series Record: UF leads, 33-9-2 • Last Meeting: Nov. 6, 2010 (UF, 55-14)
Comment: QB Jordan Rodgers is playing really well for Vanderbilt, giving the Dores a nice dual threat. While it would not be a shock for rapidly improving Vandy to gig the Gators, the talent level at the Swamp is still too much to overcome.
Professor's Pick: Florida

New Mexico State (3-5) at Georgia (6-2, 5-1 SEC)
12:30 p.m. ET • CSS /
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Series Record: UGA leads, 3-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 28, 2002 (UGA, 41-10)
Comment: (In my opinion) For six straight games, Georgia coach Mark Richt has been faced with this situation: Win or Lose (your job). Winning against arguably the worst FBS team in America should not be a problem, but with the Dogs you never know. They are down to the bottom of the RB depth chart due to suspensions (3 tailbacks this week!) and injuries.
Professor's Pick: Georgia

Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5 SEC) at Kentucky (3-5, 0-4 SEC)
3:30 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium / C.M. Newton Field (67,942)
Series Record: UM leads, 27-13-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 2, 2010 (UM, 42-35)
Comment: One team will get its first conference win of the season. I think Ole Miss is a little better team, but am going to give the home field and hunger edge to Kentucky. Big Blue gets a win as their fans get ready for the hardwood.
Professor's Pick: UK

Middle Tennessee (2-5) at Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC)
7 p.m. ET • FS South /
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)
Series Record: UT leads, 1-0 • Last Meeting: Sept. 7, 2002 (UT, 26-3)
Comment: Tennessee is not good enough to take any team for granted, so the Vols better come prepared to handle a Blue Raider offense ranked 22nd nationally. MTSU averages over 460 ypg with a balanced attack, but the defense gives up nearly as much while yielding 34 ppg. Vols score enough to win.
Professor's Pick: UT

South Carolina (7-1, 5-1 SEC) at Arkansas (7-1, 3-1 SEC)
6:15 p.m. CT • ESPN
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Series Record: UA leads, 12-7 • Last Meeting: Nov. 6, 2010 (UA, 41-20)
Comment: This is a big game for both squads, but it is really huge for South Carolina. If the Gamecocks can get past the Razorbacks, a home victory over Florida next week would earn them a second straight trip to Atlanta and the SEC title game. Might not be getting the hype of the LSU-Bama game, but should be a good one.
Professor's Pick: South Carolina

Tennessee-Martin (5-3) at Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4 SEC)
6:30 p.m. CT • CSS /
Starkville, Miss. • Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)
Series Record: First Meeting
Comment: State needs two wins for bowl eligibility and with Alabama and Arkansas on the horizon this better be one of them.
Professor's Pick: MSU

LSU (8-0, 5-0) at Alabama (8-0, 5-0)
7 p.m. CT • CBS Sports
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Series Record: UA leads, 45-24-5 • Last Meeting: Nov. 6, 2010 (LSU, 24-21)
Comment: See "Wrong Place This Evening" post below (by the way, word comes down this morning that the great Smokin Joe Frazier is gravely ill with liver cancer. Keep the champ in your prayers.
Professor's Pick: Alabama

OPEN: Auburn (5-3, 3-2 SEC)


12:00 PM ET No. 15 Michigan at Iowa ... Wolverines stay in contention by beating Hawkeyes. Professor's Pick: Michigan

12:00 PM ET Texas Tech at No. 21 Texas ... is anybody in the SEC surprised that a Tommy Tuberville team would lay an egg (getting blown out by Iowa State last week) after a big win (beating Oklahoma two weeks ago). The answer is no. Professor's Pick: Texas

3:30 PM ET Texas A&M at No. 6 Oklahoma ... Plenty of offensive fireworks in Norman as the Sooners start climb back toward BCS title game contention. Professor's Pick: OK

7:00 PM ET Cincinnati at Pittsburgh ... Winner may well win the Big East; let's go with Bearcats on the road. By the way, I'll miss these type Big East games - this is a good river rivalry that figures to be lost (same as Pitt-West Virginia). Professor's Pick: Cincy

7:30 PM ET No. 19 Arizona State at UCLA ... Winner plays sacrificial lamb to PAC-12 North champ? Professor's Pick: ASU

8:00 PM ET No. 14 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State ... OK State stays in BCS contention and becomes second team to expose KSU as a fraud (the Wildcats will lose four games before this season ends). Professor's Pick: OK State

8:00 PM ET Notre Dame at Wake Forest ... Irish are too unpredictable to feel strongly about, but let's say they handle the Demon Deacs. Professor's Pick: ND

10:30 PM ET No. 8 Oregon at Washington ... Huskies can score - but probably not enough to stay with Ducks. Professor's Pick: Oregon

See you at kickoff!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wrong Place This Evening

The Wrong Place This Evening
LSU at Alabama

Muhammad Ali - "I'm God! Don't you know I'm God?"
Joe Frazier - "God ... you in the wrong place this evening."

Ali-Frazier I March 8, 1971

He was in the wrong place that storied night at Madison Square Garden (Ali - not God). After fourteen brutal rounds, Frazier launched a left hook in the fifteenth that broke Ali's jaw, knocked him to the canvas, and secured "Smokin Joe" a unanimous decision. It was Ali's first loss.

On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, two undefeated heavyweights meet when LSU travels to Alabama. Which team will be in the wrong place?

Ali and Frazier battled for the heavyweight title as unbeaten champions, a first in the annals of prize fighting. Ali was the better known man.

As Cassius Clay, he won the light-heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1964, he upset fearsome Sonny Liston in Miami Beach to win the heavyweight championship and a day later proclaimed his name change and his adherence to the Nation of Islam - he was a "Black Muslim." So little known was this shadowy group to most of black America, and virtually all of white America, the Louisville Lip might as well have announced he was from Mars and adhered to the teachings of Ali Baba.

Ali reigned over the division into 1967 without a loss.

During that time, two social movements in the U.S. gained momentum. The Civil Rights Movement peaked in 1964 (Civil Rights Act) and 1965 (Voting Rights Act) then became more angry and threatening, with semi-fringe groups such as the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam preaching and practicing a virulent form of rebellion against social and political inequalities. A bit later, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement strengthened. Ali would become a symbol for both groups.

In 1967, Ali's draft status was reclassified, making him eligible for the draft. When drafted, he refused induction (famously proclaiming "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong") and was stripped of his title and boxing license. Ali would not fight again until October 1970. He would whip Jerry Quarry that month and Oscar Bonavena in December as preludes to his "Fight of the Century" with Frazier.

Joe Frazier had quietly moved up the ranks of heavyweight contenders upon winning his own gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

After Ali was stripped of the belt, Frazier emerged as a top contender and won the title from Jimmy Ellis in 1970. He had defended his title once before beating Ali in March of 1971. That bout marked the apex of the finest era in heavyweight prize fighting history.

When Alabama plays LSU this weekend, the game may one day be looked at as the peak of SEC dominance over college football.

Like Ali and Frazier, neither team has lost. They are the top ranked contenders in the sport. It has been nearly six years since a team from another conference has worn the BCS crown.

In this contest, the Tide reminds me of Frazier and the Tigers of Ali.

LSU opened the season in grand fashion, dismantling last season's runner-up Oregon 40-27. Les Miles and his Bengals backed that win up with easy victories over highly regarded Mississippi State and West Virginia in the next three weeks and no team has played them closer than 13 points all year. The Tigers have been a bit controversial too. Starting QB Jordan Jefferson was suspended for his role in a fight outside a bar, then reinstated and now shares time with Jarrett Lee. Two weeks ago, Miles suspended his best offensive player (Spencer Ware) and best defensive player (Tyrann Mathieu) for one game, but they were hardly missed as the Tigers swamped Auburn (last season's BCS champion).

Alabama's trek to the big game has been less eventful, but even more methodical and efficient. The Tide's closest game was a 16-point win on the road over Penn State. Arkansas, the best team Bama has faced this season. fell by 24 points, Tennessee by 31, and Florida by 27. Similar to Frazier getting his shot on the big stage against Ali, this game provides the 2011 Tide team an opportunity to prove its mettle against the best of the best.

Like Ali, I believe LSU is more talented. Like Frazier, I think Alabama is tougher and hungrier.

There may not be a rematch (Ali would come back and defeat Frazier twice), but I'm sticking to the original script.

Frazier over Ali ... Alabama over LSU.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Professor's Picks Week 9

Professor’s Picks Week 9

2011 Overall Record: 70-14
Last Week’s Record: 11-2

Around the SEC Week 9

Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3 SEC)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network /
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: UA leads, 6-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010 at Fayetteville (UA, 49-14)
Comment: Should the Razorbacks rumble past Vanderbilt on the road as expected, they figure to be strong favorites in three upcoming home games (South Carolina, Tennessee, Miss State) before the season finale at LSU. Another BCS bid could be in the offing. Vanderbilt is scrappy and needs two wins to earn bowl eligibility.
Professor’s Pick: Arkansas

Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) vs. Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports
Jacksonville, Fla. • EverBank Field (84,000)
Series Record: UF records list UGA leads, 46-40-2 • UGA records list UGA leads, 47-40-2
Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010 at Jacksonville (UF, 34-31, OT)
Comment: Around Georgia I’m hearing more and more apathy about Mark Richt and the Bulldogs. Near the end of the Ray Goff regime, many Dog fans felt torn between pulling for their team – in which case the overwhelmed Goff might linger longer in the job – or counting on losses so a coaching change would occur. The animosity is not at that level yet, and Richt has certainly built up much good will, but another loss to Florida would trigger a backlash. It just might happen too. While Georgia has won five straight, the level of competition has been weak. Florida has lost three straight, but played Alabama and LSU back-to-back and then lost at Auburn with a beat up squad. If the schedules were reversed, you’d probably see about the same results. Georgia will probably be without top deep threat Malcolm Mitchell on offense, and the Dogs need a strong game from freshman RB Isaiah Crowell (who’s been a little banged up himself). Florida gets back starting QB John Brantley. Georgia will play this game on a 5 and 1/2 inch space (between their helmet earholes) and I’m just not sure the Dogs are composed enough to handle the stage.
Professor’s Pick: Florida

Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4 SEC) at Auburn (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium / Pat Dye Field (87,451)
Series Record: AU leads, 26-9 • Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010 at Oxford (AU, 51-31)
Comment: Ole Miss arrives on the Plains after losses to Alabama and Arkansas, but the Rebels did play the Razorbacks close last week. Auburn got whipped pretty soundly by LSU (who hasn’t). Neither squad plays much defense, so you may see a lot of points.
Professor’s Pick: Auburn

Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4 SEC) at Kentucky (3-4, 0-3 SEC)
7 p.m. ET • FS South /
Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium / C.M. Newton Field (67,942)
Series Record: UK leads, 21-17 • Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010 at Starkville (MSU, 24-17)
Comment: One team finally gets a conference “W” in this battle of teams with identical records. Miss State would seem to be the stronger team, but the Bullies have been overrated quite often this season. Let’s give them one more try.
Professor’s Pick: Miss State

South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) at Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
7:15 p.m. ET • ESPN or ESPN2 /
Knoxville, TN. • Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)
Series Record: UT leads, 22-5-2 • Last Meeting: Oct. 30, 2010 at Columbia (USC, 38-24)
Comment: Seems like not many still give South Carolina an edge in the SEC East after the dismissal of Stephen Garcia and the season-ending injury to Marcus Lattimore, but the Gamecocks can hold serve with a win on Rocky Top. The Vols hope to use a victory over SC as a springboard to a bowl and they will use freshman QB Justin Worley under center. Many Vol fans questioned pulling the redshirt off Worley in a hopeless cause against Alabama last week … they should keep in mind he’ll probably just be redshirted next season when Tyler Bray returns from injury with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Calling for the moderate upset here.
Professor’s Pick: Tennessee

OPEN: Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC); LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) … have you heard? These teams play next week!

Around the Nation Week 9

12:00 PM ET No. 11 Michigan State at No. 14 Nebraska … Spartans are physical, but I think Huskers get enough offense to knock them off in Lincoln. Professor’s Pick: Nebraska

12:00 PM ET Missouri at No. 16 Texas A&M … These SEC teams play a Big 12 game on Saturday; Aggies prove themselves the bigger catch right now. Professor’s Pick: A&M

3:30 PM ET Baylor at No. 3 Oklahoma State … HOpe T. Boone Pickens paid all the electricity bills (or maybe the OSU scoreboards run off wind power); either way plenty of points as the Pokes try and stay in BCS title contention. Professor’s Pick: OK State

3:30 PM ET No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Kansas State … Bob Stoops has lost consecutive conference games … ah, never? K-State gets exposed in the first of what this prof thinks will be at least three losses before season’s end. Professor’s Pick: OK

3:30 PM ET Illinois at No. 19 Penn State … Who is this up and comer coaching the Nittany Lions to another fine season? Joe Pa’s only loss to Alabama, but the Zooker at Illinois might upset the State bandwagon. Professor’s Pick: Penn State

3:30 PM ET Navy at Notre Dame NBC … Last season Navy ran for a few miles against a clueless ND defensive scheme. Last week East Carolina completed around thirty passes in a row against the Middie defense. Something has to give. Let’s say Irish by 42-33. Professor’s Pick: ND

8:00 PM ET No. 5 Clemson at Georgia Tech … This figures to be a nice contrast between the Tigers explosive spread attack, and the Jackets explosive option game. I’ll be tuned in. I want to pick the upset but Tech’s defense scares me too much. Professor’s Pick: Clemson

8:00 PM ET No. 6 Stanford at USC … Is anybody a more graceless winner than Lane Kiffin? We won’t have to suffer him this week because Stanford will whip USC (actually Kiffin’s a graceless loser too so maybe we will have to put up with him). Professor’s Pick: Stanford

8:00 PM ET No. 15 Wisconsin at Ohio State … Wiskey must recover from the heartbreaking loss to Michigan State and I believe the Badgers will. Let the Urban Meyer to Columbus watch begin (oh, am I late on that?). Professor’s Pick: Wisconsin

See you at kickoff!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Almost Heaven

Almost Heaven
Country Roads Take Me Home
to the place I belong,
West Virginia ...

Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver 1971)

"Almost Heaven, West Virginia," begins John Denver's iconic ode to the Mountain State.

Too bad Mike Slive is no John Denver fan.

When news broke today that West Virginia agreed to join the Big 12, it marked a missed opportunity for the Southeastern Conference.

Slive, the Ivy League-educated (Dartmouth 1962) Southeastern Conference Commissioner, has by all reasonable accounts been a truly successful leader of the nation's premier college football league. As anybody who follows the sport knows, he presides over a group that has captured the past five BCS championships, boasts the top two teams in the most recent rankings, and far surpasses all competitors in attention, attendance, and zeal among fans.

Still, nobody's infallible and I believe it was a mistake for the SEC to pursue Missouri and take a pass on West Virginia.

Deciphering first, second, and third-tier television contract rights, numbers of potential viewers, and marketing footprints of Mizzou vs. the Mountaineers sails far above this old professor's comprehension and interest. But, as a southerner with interest in the league going back to the 1960s I think I have a feel for the SEC - and West Virginia was a better fit than Missouri.

Yes, the Mountaineer football program is probably a notch above the Tigers (but not by much), basketball is about a stalemate. Columbia is certainly more cosmopolitan than Morgantown, and the UM academic reputation exceeds that of WVU (an important consideration for the pseudo-academician Slive and the twelve conference presidents who actually make decisions in the SEC). The state of Missouri has bigger cities, bigger television markets, and may bring a bigger dollar windfall when the SEC renegotiates its contract with ESPN (which still has a dozen years remaining).

All that said - West Virginia is a better fit.

Geographically West Virginia is a better fit. The state is contiguous (touching Kentucky) with the rest of the conference. Missouri borders conference states too, but WVU would fit nicely into the SEC East Division as a counterpart to recent league addition Texas A&M. Just watch, Missouri will be placed in the East initially (so as to save the annual Alabama-Tennessee football game), a glaring exception to the league's current east-west geographic balance and an affront even in this age of map-twisting silliness.

More significantly, West Virginia - the state and university - is a better fit culturally. Whatever aspirations Mike Slive and the SEC presidents have from an academic perspective, the conference will always be sneered at by the likes of the Big Ten and the Pac-12 (welcome to the South boys). West Virginians sound more like us, act more like us, and wanted to join us (in contrast to Missouri - which openly pined for the preening Big Ten only to be rejected).

The SEC missed out on the Mountaineers ... leaving this professor with only a misty taste of moonshine and a teardrop in my eye.

West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home country roads.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Cowboy in Me

The Cowboy in Me

I got a life that most would love to have
But sometimes I still wake up fightin' mad

The Cowboy in Me - Tim McGraw 2001

Welcome back to campus where college football coaches and players are apparently channeling their inner "cowboy" from Tennessee to Tucson. Professor's Picks are below, but first a few fightin' words.

This fall's pugilistic proliference actually started before the season when several LSU Tigers celebrated the end of football camp with a parking lot brawl outside a bar called (appropriately enough) Shady's. Starting QB Jordan Jefferson was initially suspended after being charged with felony battery, but was reinstated after the charge was lowered to a misdemeanor.

This past week really got the cowboy blood boiling in a couple of SEC coaches. Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin took offense to some mouthing off by Georgia defensive back Shawn Williams in the aftermath of the Commodores close loss to the Dogs. UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in turn blew his top and engaged in a good, old nose-to-nose screaming session with Franklin (below).

Finally, last night a "knucklehead" (in the great description of ESPN's Rece Davis) prompted a donnybrook between Arizona and UCLA that was far more entertaining than the 48-12 beating administered to the Bruins by the Wildcats.

The fighting filtered down to the high school level as well. Warren County (GA) High head coach David Daniel suffered a severe beating from Hancock Central players after his squad won a road game last Friday night. When Daniel tried to break up a post-game altercation between the teams, a Hancock player allegedly struck him in the face with a helmet and then several players beat him. Daniel suffered crushed bones in his face, but is now out of the hospital.

Since many faculty and students are engaged in Academic Advising this week, allow me to provide some advice for our gridiron grapplers.

1. Coaches get control of your teams. If you promote a cocky attitude and allow the constant jabbering and posturing after even mundane plays - which many college programs do - then you should not be surprised when somebody on the team crosses the line.

2. Coaches get control of your own emotions. Todd Grantham of Georgia is fiery (which a lot of Dog fans like because of the contrast with the placid demeanor of head coach Mark Richt), but he cannot come unglued like he did at Vandy. Watching the game live, I truly thought he might take a punch at Franklin. Similarly, we saw Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers and Jim Schwartz of the Lions tangle after an NFL game last week ... if players see their coaches out of control, why should they maintain their own composure.

3. Administrators get control of everybody. Athletic Directors, conference commissioners, and even college presidents need to be more proactive. The SEC suspended a couple of Georgia players (one for a punch and one for a late hit) and one Vandy player (for a particularly dirty late hit to the back of a knee) for a grand total of .... one half! Boy, that's strong. Still, that's better than the ADs at Vandy and Georgia. Neither publicly addressed the penalties imposed on their childish coaches.

I teach a Sport in Society course spring semesters that addresses ethical issues in sport. All are welcome to enroll.

Professor's Picks

2011 Overall Record: 59-12
Last Week's Record: 10-1

Around the Nation

12:00 PM ET No. 4 Oklahoma State at Missouri ... Cowboys look to keep riding high into Bedlam with a shot to play for BCS title. Professor's Pick: OK State

12:00 PM ET North Carolina at No. 7 Clemson ... following a terrific comeback, the Tigers face the talented but unpredictable Tar Heels. Professor's Pick: Clemson

3:30 PM ET Air Force at No. 5 Boise State ... one of the few tests left for Boise, but the Falcons probably cannot swoop in and derail another unbeaten season. Professor's Pick: Boise State

3:30 PM ET No. 22 Georgia Tech at Miami (FL) ... The Ramblin' Wreck crashed unexpectedly in Charlottesville and must regroup in a tough place against a decent team. Professor's Pick: Miami

7:00 PM ET No. 21 Penn State at Northwestern ... great seasoned coach in Joe Pa against fine young coach in Paddy Fitz - nice matchup. Professor's Pick: Penn State

7:30 PM ET USC at Notre Dame NBC ... the nation's most famous intersectional rivalry moves to prime time in South Bend. Irish are favored and also unveiling new helmets and (most likely) green jerseys but I think USC has a very good chance to spoil the party. Professor's Pick: USC

8:00 PM ET Texas Tech at No. 3 Oklahoma ... Sooners typically handle Tech pretty well. Professor's Pick: OK

8:00 PM ET No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 16 Michigan State ... Really looking forward to this pairing of the Big Ten's most physical teams. Suspension of Sparty's William Gholston is a difference maker. Professor's Pick: Wisconsin


Headlines (courtesy of

• SEC Football Players of the Week for games of Oct. 15 are Alabama RB Trent Richardson (offense), Auburn DE Corey Lemonier and South Carolina FS D.J. Swearinger (co-defense), Auburn P Steven Clark (special teams), LSU OT Chris Faulk (offensive line), Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox (defensive line) and South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington and Georgia OLB Ray Drew (co-freshman).

• The SEC has six teams ranked in this week’s AP poll and the consensus 1-2 teams in the major polls. LSU and Alabama are ranked 1-2 in the AP, Harris Interactive and BCS Rankings this week.

• Ole Miss DE Jason Jones is this week’s SEC Community Service Player of the Week.

• The SEC has a 29-4 mark in non-conference games this season (87.9 percentage). The mark is second this season to the Big 12’s 26-3 (89.7 percentage) record.

• LSU has won at least two SEC road games every season since 2001. The 11-year streak is the longest in the conference.

• Vanderbilt’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Andre Hal against Georgia was the first allowed by an SEC team this season.

• LSU’s 16-play, 99-yard, 8:44 touchdown drive against Tennessee is the longest in the SEC this season in all three categories.

• The Auburn-LSU series (Saturday, CBS Sports, 2:30 p.m. CT) is the ninth closest in the SEC since 2000 with an average margin of 11.27 points. Six of the 11 games during the time have been decided by nine-points-or-less.

SEC Professor's Picks

Jacksonville State (5-1) at Kentucky (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
12 p.m. ET • ESPNU
Lexington, Ky. • Commonwealth Stadium / C.M. Newton Field (67,942)
Series Record: First Meeting
Comment: Kentucky will take a win against any level, but Gamecocks are not pushovers.
Professor's Pick: UK

Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network /
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium / Hollingsworth Field (60,580)
Series Record: UA records list UA, 31-25-1 • UM records list UA, 30-26-1
Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2010 at Fayetteville (UA, 38-24)
Comment: Rebels look like worst team in the league while Razorbacks are not out of title contention just yet. Houston Nutt would love to knock off his old team, but don't think he has the squad to do so.
Professor's Pick: Arkansas

Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) at LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
2:30 p.m. CT • CBS Sports
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (92,542)
Series Record: LSU leads, 24-20-1 • Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2010 at Auburn (AU, 24-17)
Comment: The suspensions of two top LSU Tigers hurts, but Auburn will be throwing a new starting quarterback (Clint Moseley) into the din of Death Valley against one of the nation's top defenses. I still think Les Miles is going to harm LSU's title chances by expanding the number of snaps Jordan Jefferson gets at QB. I've noticed what looks like a decline in confidence by Jarrett Lee ... Jefferson should not be playing in this professor's gradebook.
Professor's Pick: LSU

Army (2-4) at Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: Tied, 4-4 • Last Meeting: Oct. 10, 2009 at West Point (Army, 16-13, OT)
Comment: James Franklin better calm down this week or an Army coach might really show him how to handle an altercation. Improving Commodores should beat Cadets.
Professor's Pick: Vandy

Tennessee (3-3, 0-3 SEC) at Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
6:15 p.m. CT • ESPN2
Tuscaloosa, Ala. • Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
Series Record: UA leads, 47-38-7 • Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2010 at Knoxville (UA, 41-10)
Comment: This great old southern rivalry may be on its last legs because the game is probably gone (at least on an annual basis) if Missouri joins the SEC. For that matter, Vol fans might prefer not to play it this year.
Professor's Pick: Alabama

OPEN: Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC), Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC), Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4 SEC), South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC)

See you at kickoff!

Friday, October 14, 2011

College Football Fall Break 2011

College Football Fall Break

Welcome back to campus.

Most colleges follow a semester course schedule which means this week - midpoint of the semester - includes the dreaded midterm exams but also the treasured Fall Break (a couple of days with no classes). Fall Break 2011 finds the college gridiron schedule a bit light on big-time games, so hopefully students allotted plenty of study time for tests, papers, and presentations (what - you don't think so?).

This prof is knee-deep in grading such assignments, but still has made time to provide midterm grades and professor's picks.


Class Clown ... Steve Spurrier. The ol' head ball coach (shown below studying a new backfield formation) refused to hold his weekly press conference with columnist Ron Morris of The State newspaper in the room. Spurrier claimed he was upset over a 7-month old story Morris had written, but this seemed to be more a case of the ball coach throwing up a smokescreen so he wouldn't have to answer questions about dismissing troubled QB Stephen Garcia. That's an F in the professor's gradebook.

Dean's List ... the top academic honor halfway through the season goes to "The Hat" and LSU. Les Miles may not wear a mortar board perched atop his head, but he and the Bengal Tigers are heading for Summa Cum Laude status for overcoming a preseason scandal that cost them starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson. The Tigers devoured solid competition including Oregon, Miss State, West Virginia, and Florida. With Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, and a potential SEC title game still to come, the Tigers would certainly earn their BCS championship game appearance by winning out (and maybe even with 1 loss).

Honor Roll ... Alabama appears to play the nation's best defense to this point of the season; Wisconsin's offense has blended the talents of new QB Russell Wilson seamlessly into the Badger power run game; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State seemed destined to decide the Big 12 and perhaps a BCS title game berth; Boise State mashed Georgia in the Broncos one annual big game.

Incompletes with High Marks ... the winner of Georgia Tech and Clemson has a really good shot at an undefeated regular season (they meet in Atlanta in late October). Clemson might deserve a higher rating, but I'm not sold on the Tigers just yet (nor on the Tech defense); Stanford and QB Andrew Luck look terrific, but have played a cupcake schedule; Michigan is off to yet another fast start but the Wolverines have gotten out of the gate in similar fashion the last few years only to stumble (however their schedule is favorable).

Failing ... Ohio State fans can begin pooling their money to try and lure Urban Meyer or Chris Petersen to Columbus; the Arizona administration - yes Mike Stoops lost a bunch in a row but wasn't the program in a mess when he took over?; Pitt, Syracuse, and the ACC - while the rest of college athletics is driven by football, ACC Commissioner John Swofford must have lent his ear to Coach K from Duke by bringing two basketball schools with mediocre football programs into a league full of schools with similar resumes. All he probably accomplished was to kill the Big East; Realignment - so would people in NYC really rather watch Rutgers play NC State than Alabama play Florida? This talk of expanding because of television markets seems awfully short-sighted to me ... fans want to see good football programs (that's why the Big 10 move to accept Nebraska was a fit). I realize academics play a larger role than many might imagine, but please spare me that conferences are inviting or decling membership based on a school's academic reputation - not the case.

Professor's Picks Week 7

2011 Overall Record: 49-11
Last Week’s Record: 11-2


Saturday Oct. 15 Games

12:00 PM ET No. 11 Michigan at No. 23 Michigan State (ESPN) ... State stops Brady Hoke's unbeaten string by controlling Denard Robinson. Professor's Pick: Michigan State

12:00 PM ET No. 20 Baylor at No. 21 Texas A&M (FX) ... The Aggies haven't done much to excite SEC fans since garnering the coveted invite a few weeks ago; they get back on track against the Bears. Professor's Pick: TAMU

12:30 PM ET Miami (FL) at North Carolina ... Al Golden is a prof's favorite although I'm not sure his Hurricanes can beat a pretty good NC team. Hey, he wears a shirt and tie on the sideline, that's good enough for me. Professor's Pick: Miami

3:30 PM ET No. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 22 Texas (ABC/ESPN) ... Texas tries to recover from a massive beating at the hands of Oklahoma, and must do so against one of the nation's highest scoring offenses. Cowboys lasso Bevo. Professor's Pick: OK State

3:30 PM ET Ohio State at No. 16 Illinois (ABC/ESPN) ... Can the Zooker keep it going another week? Ohio State is showing some signs of improvement but the Illini have a lot of confidence. Professor's Pick: Illinois

10:15 PM ET No. 18 Arizona State at No. 9 Oregon (ESPN) ... This could be a preview of the PAC-12 championship game because the Sun Devils almost assuredly will be there (the Ducks will settle the North when they face Stanford). Oregon makes a statement. Professor's Pick: Oregon


SEC Headlines

• SEC Players of the Week for games from Oct. 8 are Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina (offense); Mike Gilliard, ILB, Georgia (defense); Blair Walsh, PK, Georgia (special teams); Will Blackwell, OG, LSU (offensive lineman); Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State (defensive lineman); and, Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas (freshman).

• Six different SEC teams are listed in the top 25 of the three major polls – USA Today Coaches, Harris Interactive and AP polls. In the USA Today poll, LSU and Alabama are second and third, followed by Arkansas 11th and South Carolina 13th. In the Harris Interactive poll, LSU and Alabama are 1-2, followed by Arkansas 11th, South Carolina 15th and Florida 25th. In the AP poll, LSU and Alabama are 1-2 followed by Arkansas 10th, South Carolina 15th and Auburn 24th.

• The SEC now has a 29-4 (.879) non-conference winning percentage this season, which is second to the Big 12 (26-3, .897). Since 1992, the SEC is 714-221-2 in all non-conference games (including bowls) for a 76.3 winning percentage.

• In five SEC home games last week (Week 6), the total attendance was 447,627, an average of 89,525 fans per game. The average capacity of the five games was 99.68 percent. In 40 SEC home games this season, the total attendance is 3,104,673, which is an average of 77,617 fans per game. The average capacity so far this season is 95.37 percent. 18 of 40 games have been sell-outs.

• Three of SEC's 5 highest active players with most TDs scored have as many TDs as games played (Trent Richardson, UA – 31 games/31 TDs; Marcus Lattimore, USC – 29 games/19 TDs; Vick Ballard, Mississippi State – 25 TDs/18 games).

• Georgia and LSU are the only SEC teams to have scored first in all of its games this season.

• Florida has the SEC’s best mark against AP Top 25 teams since 1989. During that time, the Gators are 68-52-1 (.566) against AP Top 25. Alabama is second with a .519 winning mark (54-50-1).


South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
11:21 a.m. CT • SEC Network /
Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field (55,082)
Series Record: USC leads, 7-6
Last Meeting: Sept. 29, 2007 at Columbia (USC, 38-21)
Comment: The Gamecocks never got to enjoy their best performance of the season (a pasting of Kentucky) because of the dismissal of Stephen Garcia and the childishness of Steve Spurrier this week. They really cannot afford a loss with Georgia breathing down their neck in the East.
Professor's Pick: SC

LSU (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at Tennessee (3-2, 0-2 SEC)
3:30 p.m. ET • CBS Sports
Neyland Stadium / Shields-Watkins Field (102,455)
Series Record: UT leads, 20-8-3
Last Meeting: Oct. 2, 2010 at Baton Rouge (LSU, 16-14)
Comment: Last year was a vintage crazy finish on the bayou, a game Tennessee should have won. This time around the Vols are struggling and the Tigers are rolling.
Professor's Pick: LSU

Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
5 p.m. CT • ESPN2 /
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium / Hollingsworth Field (60,580)
Series Record: UA leads, 44-9-3
Last Meeting: Oct. 16, 2010 at Tuscaloosa (UA, 23-10)
Comment: Look at the stat above ... Ole Miss has only beaten Alabama 9 times in the history of the rivalry. Does anybody think the Rebs will make it into double digits this week? I agree with you.
Professor's Pick: Alabama

Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) at Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • ESPN /
Jordan-Hare Stadium / Pat Dye Field (87,451)
Series Record: AU leads, 42-38-2
Last Meeting: Sept. 29, 2007 at Gainesville (AU, 20-17)
Comment: For my money the most intriguing SEC game this weekend. The Tigers finally got thumped a bit at Arkansas last weekend, while the Gators got steamrolled for a second consecutive week (first by Alabama and last week by LSU). Florida must be a beaten up team at this point and with all the problems on offense this season could get away from new coach Will Muschamp in a hurry. Auburn is clever enough to score some on the Gators and I think that will be the difference.
Professor's Pick: Auburn

Georgia (4-2, 3-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2 SEC)
6 p.m. CT • FS South /
Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773)
Series Record: UGA leads, 51-18-2
Last Meeting: Oct. 16, 2010 at Athens (UGA, 43-0)
Comment: Regardless as to how terrible Georgia looked to open the season, many people now favor the Dogs in the East. I still give the edge to South Carolina, but Georgia should win at Vandy and then head into a bye week before the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.
Professor's Pick: Georgia

OPEN: Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 SEC); Kentucky (2-4, 0-3 SEC)

See you at kickoff!