Thursday, December 11, 2014

Duke Linebacker David Helton Wins Campbell Trophy

Not many people nationally know about the Campbell Trophy--it is not presented at some over-glitzy ESPN-created theme show--but if I was going to win one trophy for college football excellence, this would be the one. The Campbell, awarded for the past 25 years, goes to the college football player who best combines on-field success with academic qualifications and work in the community. With the Heisman Trophy quickly morphing into the best-player-who-gets-national-press-irregardless-of-off-the-field-issues award, the little-known Campbell is now the trophy that best showcases just how good college football can be. Linebacker David Helton, who topped a competitive group of young men, is the latest example of the best of the best I a sport that is proud of its ability to help mold men in the right way all the while the press harps on the bad apples. Which, of course, is why the name David Helton means very little nationally. Despite being a star member of a Duke squad that has now become an annual challenger for not only a bowl bid but a spot in the ACC title game, Helton gets virtually zero press. That is true of the entire Duke team in the era of the only teams worth covering are the ones fighting for national championships. That Helton holds a 3.64 in psychology while leading the ACC is tackles for a team that has won at least 18 games over the past two seasons is not worthy of attention in a celebrity era. His many volunteer efforts are greatly appreciated by the Duke community but he would have garnered more ink for driving drunk or punching a women in a club. He did not do that, of course, and is probably fine being a local hero. Fortunately the National Football Foundation exists to promote the less sexy but more important side of college football, the side that actually covers a majority of players. Helton and the rest of the finalists for the Campbell were honored at a wonderful dinner. Once again the NFF did the right thing but unfortunately not enough people cared or knew about it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

College Football Playoffs Set

I think I know what happened here. The committee had no idea how to choose between TCU and Baylor for one spot in the four-team playoffs that they booted them both. Or the committee is corrupt and chose the four teams with the most money. That is probably not the case but, of course, using a committee instead of a math formula allows that suggestion. Dropping TCU three spaces after a 52-pont win does not help. Alabama got everything they could have hoped for by not only playing against a third string QB but by avoiding the TCU and Baylor offenses. They also play close by, which is huge. Saban versus Meyer is fun but Saban seemed to have Meyer's number at the end of their rivalry. Let's all hope for some great games.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pac 12 Championship

Is it me or have we reached overkill with the race to the final four this year? Tonight Oregon plays Arizona for the Pac 12 championship and a presumed spot in the final four--for Oregon if they win, not Arizona--and yet there does not seem to be enough buzz. Is it that Oregon is expected to win, as the spread in the game indicates? Maybe, but Arizona has beaten the Ducks two straight times so they know how to play this team. And both teams feature great players with Oregon featuring the country's most dynamic player in QB Marcus Mariota. To me Friday is the problem as we associate Friday night college football with less important games. I do expect a good game tonight and look forward to it. Oregon has a lot to prove to not only Arizona, who seems to have their number, but to the nation as they have been expected to contend every year for a national title since they reach the BCS championship game after the 2010 season but they have not even won the conference since 2011. Stanford was the hurdle they could not overcome the past two seasons but they wiped them out this year. Now redemption against Rich Rodriguez is in order to reach the playoffs. They should be able to get the job done in a close game.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

CFB Playoffs

It is December 4 and the race to earn the four spots in the national championship playoffs is approaching the finish line. As with the BCS and even the old voting post bowl way of picking the national championship, the only way this works is if the right number of teams finishes clearly ahead of the pack. In 2005 Texas and USC were undefeated and clearly the best teams in the country and the BCS selected them to play for the national championship. Bingo. In 1977 after Notre Dame upset Texas in the Cotton Bowl there were a few teams with legitimate claims to the title. That was not so good. This year we have a chance to have four clear cut teams but are more likely to have some cloudiness, which should be expected. Should Alabama, Oregon, TCU and FSU win their games Saturday as favorites and Baylor and Ohio State lose then the current top four will be in and the only potential problem will be with seeding. That would leave us with four programs that have separated themselves from the rest and give us representation from four of the five power conferences. The biggest potential problem is with TCU and Baylor, if Baylor beats Kansas State and TCU does not stumble versus Iowa State. Even if we all think TCU is better than Baylor and even if we think there were some odd ref calls in the TCU-Baylor game, the committee would be setting a dangerous precedent if it picked a same-record TCU over Baylor being that Baylor won the head-to-head match-up. And before you counter that by saying that the road team, TCU, led throughout, the winner, Baylor, had 297 more yards. That is enough of a difference to raise an eyebrow if TCU gets the bid. The other thing about Baylor that bothers me is that the committee seems to be punishing them for a poor non-conference lineup--and I am all for that--but looking the other way with other teams. Remember when Mississippi State was the top ranked team in the country and looking for a final four spot? The Bulldogs played Southern Miss (3-9), UAB (6-6), South Alabama (6-6) and UT-Martin (6-6 in FCS). They also played Kentucky and Vandy from the SEC East. Yes they play some very good SEC West teams, but Baylor played TCU, West Virginia, OU, Kansas State (Saturday), and Texas. The difference is not overwhelming. So what's a fan to do? Well watch the games Saturday and hope for good action. Then we can bitch next week when the games are set. Have fun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Brady Hoke Fired

Not exactly earth-shattering news but Hoke's removal finally ends the talk. But now comes the hard part as a football program with an interim AD must hit a home run with a coaching hire after consecutive failed effort with Hoke and predecessor Rich Rodriguez. The problem with Michigan is Michigan. The expectations are higher than the results have been and top coaches would rather try to win championships in easier situations. Remember when Michigan man Les Miles was rumored to take the Wolverines job in 2007 and then was wooed again four years later? Sure he would love to coach there but he has the same pressure to win at LSU with access to a greater amount of talent and can run players onto the field whether or not they break the law. He has won a title so running away from the SEC West is not needed. Why leave and face more scrutiny? The athletic director situation is a huge problem. No coach with options is going to take a job without knowing the name of his boss. Good ADs are too crucial to the success of a program. The guy Michigan fans want as much as Miles is Jim Harbaugh, but it is hard to imagine him going back to college. He wants to win the Super Bowl to bad and will want to stick it to the 49ers as soon as they split up. Good luck to the Wolverines as their success is good for the sport. They will need to think outside the box and deliver someone who can return the program to the upper echelon of the Big Ten. It may take awhile but talent is there.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

ACC Football Update

The sound you heard throughout ACC country today was champagne corks popping as the conference swept four games against the dreaded SEC (well, SEC East) and in doing so firmed up Florida State's presumed spot in the final four playoff. Of course FSU still has to beat Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, something that looks tougher now than expected at the beginning of this season. The ACC is the little brother to their SEC neighbors and any sweep like this is sweet even if three of the four SEC victims are struggling and the fourth, Georgia, is inconsistent. The ACC will take what they get and build upon today's results, hoping to sway a recruit or two. All four of the ACC teams in question are ranked--while just one of the SEC teams was--but that helps those programs in the eyes of voters for the future. This is especially true for a Clemson team that always struggles against South Carolina and a Georgia Tech program that is supposed to struggle with athletic defenses like the one they saw today in Georgia. It is just another sign that the rest of the college football world is closing the gap with the SEC, although we will need a lot more key wins to confirm that.

SEC Update

Okay, okay I admit it. As someone who believes that the SEC has become grossly overrated--and that its overblown standing is bad for college football--I was happy that Missouri won its second straight East title yesterday. That they beat an SEC West team to do it made it even sweeter. Look I am not buying that Missouri was a mediocre program before joining the SEC. They were better than that but the Big 12 was underrated because of the SEC so it is with some irony that folks point to Mizzou as some mediocre team going to the SEC and then doing well. I also think it is great that a team that lost to Indiana won the SEC East. It happens. And yes it was fortunate that Mizzou pulled A&M and Arkansas but that happens and the Aggies were ranked when Missouri beat them and Arkansas was playing much better at year's end when the Tigers beat them. I also love that the Tigers were able to have a successful season without superstar wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was booted from school in April for repeated transgressions with pot and for being accused of throwing a woman down a flight of stairs. I wish he kept his head straight and I wish we could enjoy his play, but he screwed up and Missouri, despite the pressures of competing in the SEC, did the right thing and should be commended for that (OU did not but that is a separate story). As for the rest of the SEC, there is plenty of excitement slated for today. Can Alabama and Mississippi State keep their championship hopes alive while playing rivals Auburn and Mississippi who both once harbored title hopes? Can Florida upset FSU for both SEC pride and outgoing coach Will Muschamp? Georgia and South Carolina also have rivalry games against the ACC, so the conferences have a lot on the line today. While the conference focuses on national titles there is a great deal of opportunity today to prove that they are much better than everyone else. We'll see.