Tag Archives: Ole Miss

I Voted for Utah

 

I wrestled with my AP ballot from the moment Utah drilled Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl on the night of Jan. 2 until the end of Florida’s 24-14 BCS title-game win over Oklahoma Thursday night.

What tipped me to Utah was when I entered Carver-Hawkeye Arena late Thursday afternoon, and a Per Mar security person said “Mike, you’ve got to vote for Utah.”

“OK, I will,” I said, and proceeded to watch bad basketball and then file a column on it. I had ample time to listen and then watch to the second half of the Gators-Sooners game.

It’s a good thing that Per Mar guy didn’t tell me to throw eggs on the court or drop a thousand thumbtacks on the steps leading to the arena floor, huh?

All right, before this goes any further – I made up my own mind. And I admit a Florida blowout of Oklahoma would have made it harder to hit the “send” button when I e-mailed my Utah-No. 1 pick to New York late Thursday night.

If Florida were to play Utah next week, would I bet on the Utes? No.

So what? I wouldn’t bet on Florida were it to play USC next week, but I ranked the Gators second and the Trojans third. We’re voting on a season of work, and I like what UF did slightly more than what USC accomplished.

Utah’s season was perfect. I don’t think you can do better than perfect, especially when the perfect run ended with an utterly fabulous performance against an Alabama team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for five weeks.

Did the Utes play Florida’s schedule. They did not.

Did they get upset at home by anyone the way Florida fell to Ole Miss? They did not.

Would they be able find any SEC teams who would schedule home-and-away series with them? They would not.

The only reason Utah isn’t the national champion, as far as we’ll ever know from now until nothing remains in Salt Lake City but, uh, salt, is that it never got the chance to play for the title.

This isn’t a Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt Conference team that ran the table and finished with a win in a Motor City or GMAC Bowl, both of which are seeking government bailouts.

No, this is a team from the Mountain West Conference, which won six of eight games against the Pac-10 this season. It’s a legit league, one that deserves a place at the BCS trough. Not that the six greedy-pig BCS conferences will ever start sharing with others. 

By the way, Iowans, I had the Hawkeyes 16th. That may actually have sold them a little short. Had they won one more game, I think you could have made a loud argument to have them at 10th or 11th in the final rankings.

Ifs and buts. Like what if Utah had played Florida …

My top 25 ballot:

1.       Utah

2.       Florida

3.       USC

4.       Texas

5.       Oklahoma

6.       Alabama

7.       TCU

8.       Penn State

9.       Ohio State

10.   Boise State

11.   Oregon

12.   Mississippi

13.   Texas Tech

14.   Georgia

15.   Oklahoma State    

16.   Iowa

17.   Virginia Tech

18.   Cincinnati

19.   Oregon State

20.   Missouri

21.   Pittsburgh

22.   Northwestern

23.   California

24.   Michigan State

25.   Rice

 

Hawkeyes Coldcock Gamecocks

 

Well, well, well. That was quite a display of efficiency the Iowa football squad displayed against a South Carolina team that showed all the poise and precision of a home video during an earthquake.

I said it at the end of my column that should be posted Thursday night on http://www.hawkeyebowlgame.com,  and I’ll elaborate here. I think Iowa is one of the 10 best teams in the nation.

Where will the Hawkeyes be ranked in the Associated Press poll late next Thursday night after the BCS title game? Probably 21st or 22nd, maybe 23rd.

But if you went on how teams were playing in November into December and January, can you honestly name 10 teams that are better?

The obvious ones on their bodies of work: Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, USC, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech. That’s seven. Although, you take Penn State with a grimace the way it fell so far behind in the first half of the Rose Bowl against USC.

Add Utah if it plays Alabama close in the Sugar Bowl. If Ohio State isn’t routed by Texas, you probably have to include the Buckeyes. I’d certainly include 11-2 TCU, as well.

OK, that’s 10 if Utah and Ohio State hold up their ends. And 11 if Cincinnati wins over Virginia Tech in Thursday night’s Orange Bowl, though I’d take the Hawkeyes over the Bearcats on a neutral field 10 times out of 10. But a BCS league-champ with a 12-2 record has earned its place.

But that’s it. A 10-3 Georgia? Not sold. A 10-3 Oregon? Very good, but I think the Ducks-Hawks game would be a coin-flip. If Ole Miss upsets Texas Tech Friday in the Cotton Bowl, I rank the Rebels on an even keel with Iowa.

You know how this works, though. Those four losses hang over Iowa’s heads, and not being ranked all year makes it hard for the Hawks to ascend very far once they do get into next week’s rankings.

No matter. They had the bowl scene all to themselves for the first two hours Thursday and wasted little time showing America (and poll voters) what they had.

They’ll get a nice spot in August’s preseason Top 25 for the 2009 season. What they do with that is up to them instead of the pollsters.

Bret Bielema is the Hawkeyes’ Friend

Many an Iowa Hawkeye fan has cooler feelings about former Hawkeye player/assistant coach Bret Bielema since he became Wisconsin’s head coach.

It’s understandable. He’s trying to put his Big Ten team ahead of Iowa and the nine others. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, if you know what I mean.

But of the 61 coaches voting in the USA Today coaches poll, no one had Iowa ranked higher this week than Bielema. He tabbed the Hawkeyes 20th. They were 27th in the poll, with not nearly as many votes as they got in the AP coaches poll, where they’re 26th.

Most coaches excluded the Hawkyes from their ballots, but not Iowa State’s Gene Chizik. He had Iowa 24th.

You might think coaches would try to keep their state rivals down, so give Chizik credit. Give him credit for loyalty, too. He was one of just four coaches to tab Texas No. 1. It so happens his previous job was defensive coordinator to Mack Brown at … Texas.

Big Ten coaches support their own. Bielema had Michigan State and Northwestern 17th and 18th, repsectively, above where they’re ranked on the AP poll.

Purdue’s Joe Tiller also had Iowa 20th. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Indiana’s Bill Lynch, Illinois’ Ron Zook and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel placed Iowa 23rd. Mark Dantonio of Michigan State had the Hawks 25th.

Of the seven Big Ten coaches who have a vote, only Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez didn’t list Iowa. To check all the coaches’ votes, go here:

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2008-12-08-final-coaches-ballots_N.htm

Know that coaches should not and should never have votes that matter in the BCS, but they do. They are totally biased creatures.

You can’t blame Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach for putting his club second, behind only Oklahoma. But what’s with Florida Coach Urban Meyer having four-loss Mississippi 12th?

And what’s with Leach and Baylor’s Art Briles having Texas at No. 5? Do they see weakness in the Longhorns we don’t, having played them? Or were they trying to keep Texas down a bit.

Did Leach think his last-second win over Texas entitle his 11-1 Red Raiders to be second and the Longhorns – who beat Oklahoma by 10 points in Dallas – to be just fifth?

I had Iowa 18th (not 17th as an earlier Hlog entry goofed things up) in this week’s AP poll. That leaves me wide-open to charges of being a homer. I happen to think the Hawkeyes are better right now than anyone currently ranked 19th or lower, though Mississippi finished very strongly.

But I’m not alone. Brett McMurphy of the Tampa Tribune voted Iowa 15th this week, John Heuser of the Ann Arbor News has the Hawks 16th, and Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman concurs with the pick at 18th.

I threw Ball State out of my top 25 altogether after it got rubbed out by five-loss Buffalo Friday night in the MAC title game, but the voters kept the Fighting Cardinals in the rankings.

Anyway, the bowls will decide the final rankings. If Iowa beats South Carolina, it will be in the final polls and can hang its sombrero on that. If it loses, no votes, the end.

Hawkeyes to Outback Bowl For Absolute Sure … Or Not

Its bowl-juggling week

It's bowl-juggling week

 

Old Mike has been pretty adamant this weekabout an Iowa-South Carolina Outback Bowl.

When will he learn?

You take nothing for granted with these crazy bowls. Here are scenarios that have fans, media, and perhaps even teams hopeful or nervous around the Big Ten and SEC:

1) The Capital One Bowl takes 8-4 Mississippi instead of 9-3 Georgia, dropping Georgia to the Outback Bowl. Ole Miss is a much-hotter team than Georgia right now and its fans would probably treat a trip to Orlando as the greatest thing to hit Ole Miss since Eli Manning signed on the dotted line to play there.

2) The Outback takes LSU instead of South Carolina. Why? Enthusiasm in South Carolina for the Gamecocks appears to be minimal given the woeful way Steve Spurrier’s team finished the season, with one-sided losses to Florida and state rival Clemson.

3) The Cap One takes 8-4 Iowa instead of 9-3 Michigan State. Why? Just because. Some MSU supporters are scared it could happen.

4) The Outback takes 9-3 Northwestern rather than Iowa. Why? Because it would be confident it could sell just as many tickets and fill just as many hotel rooms with the Wildcats as the Hawkeyes, given Northwestern’s track record as a team that brings lots of fans to its bowls.

All that said, the Hlog stands strong with Iowa-South Carolina in the Outback. And by “strong,” of course, that means like a tin shack in a hurricane.

The Hlist: A Look Back at Last Week in College Football

Opening kickoff

“Lloyd’s of London has just refused to insure Ringer’s legs. Forty-four carries in a single game means Ringer deserves a sedan chair to get around campus for the next week in between practices and workouts.” — Spencer Hall, Sportingnews.com. Michigan State running back Javon Ringer rushed 44 times for 198 yards in MSU’s 42-29 win at Indiana.

First downs

1. Victors Valiant: Michigan Stadium sits nearly three-fourths underground. The Wolverines dug out of quite a hole in their 27-25 win over Wisconsin.

In the first half they had 21 yards, one first down, and five turnovers. They trailed 19-0 at halftime and were booed off the field.

“If you were anywhere in the Ann Arbor vicinity,” Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez said, “you heard that.

“If there was a hole to crawl into, I’m sure a bunch of us, including myself, would have liked to crawl into it.”

Wolverines receiver Greg Mathews: “Their strength-and-conditioning coach was talking about how we were soft and out of shape, and ESPN was talking about how this was a warm-up for the Big Ten for Wisconsin. We take that personally. Michigan is nobody’s doormat, especially in the Big Ten.”

2. Biggest 12: The SEC faded into the sunset as superpowers Florida and Georgia lost at home. Looking westward, America finds its football power conference to be the Big 12.

Four of the top seven teams in the Associated Press rankings are Big 12 bullies. Oklahoma ascended to No. 1 after throttling previously unbeaten TCU, 35-10.

The Sooners rushed 36 times for a measly 25 yards — and still dominated. In the first half alone, OU had pass plays of 38, 24, 73 and 55 yards.

“Some teams are great stopping the run,” said receiver Manuel Johnson, who had an Oklahoma-record 206 receiving yards. “Other teams are great in the back end. If they’re going to give you an apple you’re going to eat it.”

3. Rebels With a Cause: The University of Mississippi hosted a rather important debate Friday night. The next day, its football team ended the debate over whether Florida was a strong contender for the national title with a shocking 31-30 triumph.

“I still can’t believe it,” a giddy Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden told a bunch of writers when talking about Florida’s shocking loss after FSU’s win over Colorado. “I’ll have to read your newspapers just to make sure.”

The game effectively ended when the Rebels stopped Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on a keeper on 4th-and-1 at the Ole Miss 32 with 41 seconds left.

“(Tebow) was saying, ‘I got it, I got it.’ I said, ‘No you don’t,'” said Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett.

4. High Tide: Before the season, Georgia was the chic pick to win the national championship. But national champs don’t trail 31-0 at home, at halftime, to anyone.

Alabama bulldozed the Bulldogs, 41-30.

“They had probably never been hit in the mouth like that,” said Crimson Tide offensive tackle Andre Smith.

“Forget Corso and Herbstreit,” wrote Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Forget Holtz and May. Forget, for that matter, anything you might have read in this space about Georgia being really good this year. For guidance in matters concerning college football, you had only to read the financial magazine Forbes, which last month proclaimed Nick Saban ‘the most powerful coach in sports.’

“Here’s how mighty the Alabama man actually is: He came to Sanford Stadium and outflanked (Georgia Coach) Mark Richt in a way nobody has since … since ever.”

Fumbles

1. Choked Cheddar: Wisconsin blew a 19-0 lead at Michigan in the game’s final 18 minutes, allowing three scoring drives of 75 yards or more.

“It was embarrassing,” Badgers linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t believe this was happening, how we basically gave the game away in the second half.”

“This isn’t something that ever goes away,” Wisconsin defensive tackle Mike Newkirk said. “No matter how much time passes, it’s going to haunt you.”

Thanks for participating in National Title Derby, Badgers. Off you go.

2. Fla-Fla Flooey: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has a Heisman Trophy. He won’t get a second.

Tebow’s top speech of this year won’t be given at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club. Instead, it was delivered after the Gators’ stunning loss to Ole Miss.

“To the fans and everybody of Gator Nation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry,” Tebow said. “We wanted an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

“You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.

“God bless.”

3. Black Eye: Georgia went to black jerseys for its game against Alabama, and had its fans wear black as well. It was a blackout, all right.

Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran told Crimson Tide players in a practice last week “They’re wearing black because they’re going to a (expletive deleted) funeral.” Somebody caught Cochran’s comment on video, and it showed up on YouTube.

Georgia’s players were so upset by that insult to their competitive spirit that they rolled over and played dead.

4. Ooooh! Scary!: Nebraska running back Marlon Lucky issued a warning for unbeaten Missouri as the Tigers get ready for their game at Lincoln this week.

“Missouri … they need to watch out, because we’ve got a lot of anger right now,” Lucky said after the Cornhuskers’ 35-30 loss to Virginia Tech.

Lucky had eight carries for 17 yards in that game. The Hlist thinks it’s better to be good than Lucky.

Final gun

“There’s a certain emotional fragility about (Coach Joe) Tiller’s recent teams. They simply don’t bounce back, after a bad break, after a bad loss. After Notre Dame came out in the third quarter and scored a quick touchdown to go ahead 21-14, Purdue became deflated. Just like that.

“The Boilers routinely put up big numbers against lesser teams, but routinely fall short against better teams.” — the Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz on Purdue’s 38-21 loss at Notre Dame