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Rose Bowl

Contenders to potentially play in the 2015 Rose Bowl

After a wild week in college football, the Associated Press Top 25 has a drastically new look this week, with several major college football playoff contenders suffering losses. In one of the most memorable weeks in college football history, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA Bruins and Texas A & M all suffered losses, greatly impacting the outlook for the inaugural college football playoff. This season the Rose Bowl in Pasadena will hold one of the two college football semifinal games.

Here’s a look at the top contenders to potentially play in the Rose Bowl after the major upsets of the past week:

Florida State: The defending national champions take over the top spot in the AP poll and if they can go undefeated, should be a shoo-in for the national semifinals. Although the Seminoles have been undefeated, they haven’t been as impressive as a year ago. Two weeks ago the FSU gave up 41 points to North Carolina State, the second time they’ve given up over thirty points this season. The big test for Florida State will come on October 18 when they host undefeated Notre Dame.

Auburn: With Alabama losing the Auburn Tigers are now the highest ranked SEC team and currently in the driver’s seat to compete for the National title. This past week Auburn steamrolled the LSU Tigers in one of the more impressive performances of the college football season thus far. In a brutal upcoming schedule the Tigers have five remaining teams currently tanked in the top fifteen on their schedule. If they can somehow navigate their schedule they’ll be a leading candidate to potentially play in the Rose Bowl.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have made an impressive rise to the top of the AP Poll with consecutive wins over top ten teams, LSU and Texas A & M. The Bulldogs can cement their ranking with a defeat of Auburn this coming Saturday. In addition to Auburn the Bulldogs still play Alabama and Ole Miss, both ranked in the top ten. In quarterback Dak Prescott the Bulldogs have one of the most exciting players in all of college football.

Mississippi: In a remarkable turn of events, Mississippi joints Mississippi State in the AP top 5 after an impressive home victory over Alabama. In their first test of the season, Ole Miss came back from a halftime deficit to defeat Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. They’ll be tested immediately this coming weekend when they travel to College Station to face the Texas A & M Aggies.
Baylor: With Oklahoma losing the Baylor Bears are now the highest ranked Big 12 team, with a real shot to go undefeated. The Bears will get immediately tested this weekend when they host 9th ranked TCU. The Horned Frogs are coming off of an impressive victory over Oklahoma. Baylor has one of the most dynamic offenses in all of college football under quarterback Bryce Petty.

Notre Dame: The Irish aren’t blowing teams out, but they are collecting victories over solid opponents, most recently their defeat of Stanford this weekend. Notre Dame has two remaining ranked teams on their schedule, Florida State and Arizona State, as well as the season finale versus USC. If the Irish can manage to go undefeated they’ll have a strong case for the college football playoffs.

Arizona Wildcats: The most surprising team on the list, and the team that made the biggest rise in the polls, is Arizona. The undefeated Wildcats knocked off second ranked Oregon in Eugene this past weekend, vaulting them from unranked to number ten in the country. Arizona has upcoming games versus UCLA, USC and Arizona State on their schedule. Although it’s unlikely, if the Wildcats can go undefeated they’ll have a strong case for one of the two national semifinal games.

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Does the USC vs Notre Dame Game Matter in 2013?

At one time the USC vs Notre Dame game was one of the biggest games of the year in college football. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years it has often been the case that only one of these two teams is at the top of their game when they clash during the regular season. There have not been many top 10 match ups in recent years. Even when the game is competitive one team usually comes in ranked significantly higher than the other. The same will happen in 2013. In fact, this game will likely get overshadowed by an ACC game. Who would have ever guessed the ACC would rule the primetime ratings of this week’s Saturday slate? Trust me when I tell you many more people are going to be interested in Clemson vs Florida State than USC vs Notre Dame.

USC and the Lane Kiffin Debacle

The Lane Kiffin era did not last very long at USC. After Pete Carroll abruptly left the program to head to the NFL the Trojans felt as if they could replace Carroll with one of his disciples and have the same success. They did not have a problem luring Lane Kiffin away from the University of Tennessee, but it did not work out as planned for either party. Lane Kiffin came in with huge expectations but one issue after another made it difficult for him to lead the Trojans back to national championship status. As soon as Kiffin arrived on campus USC was under investigation. After getting stripped scholarships most USC fans were willing to give Kiffin a few extra years to turn it around.

Whether or not he should have been given these extra few years is an argument for another time. What we know now is that Lane Kiffin was not the man for the job at USC. He was an amazing recruiter but he was not a great coach. I think I saw the writing on the wall very early when Kiffin would go for a two point conversation after about half of his team’s touchdowns. There is absolutely no reason to do this at a big time football program. This is the type of stuff small schools do just to try to get attention. Lane Kiffin was acting immature and that does not lead to success as a Division I college football coach.

USC decided to let Lane Kiffin go earlier this year and it should have happen. Some would argue that it should have happened sooner. Even though USC was hampered by scholarships being reduced they were never the team that lived up to their talent. Year in and year out the team was in the preseason top 25. By the time the season ended they were lucky to finish in the upper half of the Pac 12 conference. Two years ago the Trojans finished the season strong and they were preseason top five last year. That didn’t last long as Matt Barkley actually got worse during his senior season. This was all I needed to know to make my final decision about Lane Kiffin.

Is Notre Dame Back?

Last year many people thought Notre Dame might be back to their championship ways when they finished the season undefeated. So many people were excited about the BCS National Championship game against Alabama that it was one of the highest selling tickets in the history of the BCS. As we got closer to the national championship game more people began to recognize that Notre Dame did not match up well with the Alabama team that had won two of the last three national championship. Some experts were even predicting a blow out in the national championship game. When all was said and done it was exactly that. About 10 minutes into the game it was quite obvious that Alabama was in a class of its own. They were not going to be challenged by Notre Dame in any way.

Does this mean Notre Dame is not back? Well, maybe or maybe not. Brian Kelly has only been at Notre Dame a handful of years and he is still building the program. Seeing Notre Dame in the top 25 is nice as a college football historian. Unfortunately, Notre Dame fans are not happy with a team that is just in the top 25. They want their team competing for a national championship every year. I honestly don’t think that is going to be possible as the landscape of college football has changed drastically. It is no longer the case that high school football players only see games on NBC, ABC and CBS. In the past, this was the way Penn State, Notre Dame and USC recruited. They were the only teams that were on TV every single weekend. With ESPN and Fox Sports now airing games all day on Saturday high school football players can watch any team play from the comfort of their home.

Growing Up a Notre Dame Fan

I am in my early 30s and I grew up in a very small town. While we did get ESPN we did not get other sports channels. On a Saturday afternoon in the fall I had the option to watch NBC, which always had Notre Dame games. The local ABC and CBS stations had games in the ACC but ACC football has never been great. This meant that I watched Notre Dame week in and week out. I eventually became I diehard fan as I could name all the players on the team. Names like Kevin McDougal, Jerome Bettis and Lee Becton come to mind. With NBC paying millions for these broadcasts it stands to reason they would push the Fighting Irish as much as possible. During my younger years Notre Dame only won a single national championship and that was in 1989. After that they were in the top 10 every single year and challenged for a title.

The change happened when Lou Holtz decided to leave Notre Dame. The coach after Holtz was Bob Davie and it was a steady slide through the Davie years. NBC and Notre Dame still have a very strong relationship but there are so many options for college football fans. At the moment I can watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, Fox Sports, Fox Sports 1, the Pac 12 Network, the B1G Network and all the local affiliates. At 3:30 pm on a Saturday there are about seven or eight games that fans have the opportunity to watch. When I was growing up I had the opportunity to watch two or three and one was always Notre Dame.

It is also important to point out that regional games dominated in my younger years. If I wanted to watch Oregon or Texas A&M I was out of luck. We would have to order a special package and it was just too much for my parents to afford. Rather than getting upset about not seeing these teams play I simply let it go and knew nothing about them. I did not have the Internet at the time. The only way I could get score updates was to wait for Sportscenter at the end of the night. This was a time when there were not daily sports shows dedicated to the college football updates.

With so many options available it is obvious that high school football players and athletes do not have to watch only one team. There are dozens of games on every weekend and sports fans can use the Internet to get updates at any time during the day. Finding out insider information in the early to mid 1990s was nearly impossible. Unless you knew someone walking around the campus you had no idea what was going on behind closed doors. Now, every single program has a specific website dedicated to recruiting and analysis of the team.

Ratings for 2013 USC vs Notre Dame

The USC vs Notre Dame game will kick off at 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 19th. As mentioned previously, the Florida State vs Clemson game will likely be much more widely viewed. If all things work out the Clemson vs Florida State game will be a top 5 matchup while the Notre Dame vs USC matchup will feature a team that has recently fired their head coach and another team that is trying to find its identity as a program. I am a diehard college football fan and I love tradition. I would throughly enjoy watching this game if it actually mattered. Notre Dame will not be playing for a championship this year and USC will be playing for a mid level bowl. This makes the game unappealing to me as a fan.

I also have the opportunity to watch two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston in the Clemson vs Florida State game. This is not a difficult decision at all. Also, the geographic differences in Notre Dame and USC make it unappealing. Neither is in the south and neither is in the hotbed of recruiting. These are just a few of the many reasons the TV ratings for the USC vs Notre Dame game will be subpar.

Who Will Win the 2012 Heisman Trophy?

Matt Barkley, the USC Trojans QB who decided not to enter the NFL draft and return for his senior season, will not win the Heisman Trophy this year, that much is sure. But, who will accept the Heisman bust this December?

Late in the season it appeared that Kansas State Wildcats do-everything QB Collin Klein might be the guy. However, an ugly 52-24 upset loss to Baylor on Nov. 17 leaves Klein’s possibility as a finalist looming. Mante Te’O, the Notre Dame LB, has had an amazing season (tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with seven) under a fair amount of duress. Te’O lost both his girlfriend and grandmother earlier in the season, not to mention the stress of having to face every opponent’s best shot week in and week out as the Irish finished the season unbeaten.

The front-runner, however, for college football’s top award is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manzeil. The redshirt freshman has led the Aggies to a remarkable 10-2 record including an upset win over then top-ranked Alabama. Manziel, or “Johnny Football” as he has become known, is one of just a handful of quarterbacks who have thrown for over 3,000 yards and ran for over 1,000 in the same season. He leads the SEC in rushing with 1,181 yards and has run for 19 touchdowns.

When new head coach Kevin Sumlin took over, it appeared that the Aggies would be rebuilding while they entered the mighty SEC. After a season-opening loss to Florida, Texas A&M reeled off five straight wins and the legend of “Johnny Football” began to rise. If anyone needs validation that Manziel is deserving of the Heisman, watch the game film of the Aggies’ win over ‘Bama. Manziel was 24-of-31 passing for 253 yards, two touchdowns, and he did not throw an interception. He also rushed for 92 more yards against arguably the nation’s best defense.

Along with Klein, Te’O, and Manziel, the other finalists may be Oregon Ducks speedy RB Kenjon Barner who has rushed for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns, and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who has hauled in 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 scores. This year’s winner will be announced on Saturday, December 8, live from the Best Buy Theater in Times Square.

Why Notre Dame Will Not Win the National Championship

Currently ranked third in the latest BCS poll with a record of 8-0, Notre Dame is on the verge of its first unbeaten season since 1988, when QB Tony Rice led the Irish to a national championship. Should Brian Kelly’s squad finish the season unbeaten at 12-0, the Irish will surely be in the BCS title discussion. Also in that discussion will be Kansas State, Oregon, and top-ranked Alabama.

Assuming that, like the Irish, the other three teams in the mix win out to finish the season, Notre Dame will be left wishing that it was 2014. That, of course, is when the new four-team playoff format will begin. Sure, Notre Dame’s schedule is probably good enough to warrant playing the title game, but of the next four opponents only USC has a winning record. Oregon will play three ranked opponents in their last four games and then likely another in the Pac-12 championship. Again assuming the Ducks win out, playing through that schedule will likely move Oregon Ducks ahead of ND in the BCS rankings.

Kansas State, currently ranked second, faces two ranked opponents, Oklahoma State and Texas, in its last four weeks, and also faces dangerous TCU (5-3). At the present, the Wildcats and the Irish are tied in the computer rankings with a composite percentage of .970. With KSU at 12-0 and facing a tougher schedule in the last four weeks, Notre Dame’s score will only decrease leaving the Irish with no chance of overtaking Kansas State.

Almost every likely championship scenario does not include the Irish. If Alabama and Kansas State win their remaining games, there’s no doubt they will play in the BCS title game. It is also likely that Alabama and Oregon could meet should both teams win out and KSU falter. Another scenario has a one-loss SEC team, possibly Georgia or LSU, in the title game as well.

For the Irish to be playing on Jan. 7th all of the cards will have to fall into place. And, yes, there are some key games remaining on the schedule, especially the big LSU-’Bama showdown, which will have a huge impact on the BCS championship. First, Notre Dame must win handily over the teams they should-Pitt, Boston College, and Wake Forest. Then, they will need to put up some serious numbers against USC in the LA Coliseum. A victory is great, but a little cushion on the final score wouldn’t hurt.

With the 12-0 record in the bag, the Irish will then have to hope the teams at the top stumble along the last four weeks. A one-loss Alabama may still make it to Jan. 7th, if that loss is to LSU and not in the SEC championship. A one-loss Oregon might still have a shot if its loss is to USC in the regular season and comes back and destroys its opponent in the Pac-12 title game. A Kansas State loss will likely take them out of the picture since there is no Big 12 title game to count on for redemption. Plus, the Wildcats face Texas and Oklahoma State, each ranked in the lower end of the Top 25. Losing to either won’t be the same as losing to say, a No. 5 LSU. Regardless, Notre Dame’s path the BCS glory is murky at best.

USC Trojans, Still A National Contender?

USC Trojans

USC Trojans

To remain in the national title hunt, the University of Southern California football squad cannot afford another slip up.

Yet to exhibit the greatness predicted by college football experts before the season, inconsistency plagued the Trojans through the first five games. USC rolled over Hawaii and California, struggled mightily at various points against Syracuse and Utah, and lost to Stanford. The Orange, Utes, and Cardinal all lack the raw talent of USC, but they managed to keep each contest unexpectedly close.

Possibly the only unit outperforming expectations, USC’s defensive line exhibited dominance over the first several games. Junior defensive end Morgan Breslin ranks among the top players nationally in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (10.5) on a defense that yields fewer than three yards per carry. As the Trojans trudge through the high-scoring PAC 12 Conference, its opposition will likely try to beat them by way of air.
Cornerback has been a major point of concern for coach Lane Kiffin. The starters struggled so much the first few weeks, speculation surfaced that Kiffin might consider shifting wide receiver Marqise Lee to the position. Though he recently denied the possibility of moving Lee over to defense, safety Josh Shaw practiced at corner this week, confirming the staff’s lack of confidence in the secondary.

But it does appear the Trojans are trending upward in recent weeks.

In a 27-9 victory over in-state foe Cal on Sep. 22, USC was able to sack Bears’ quarterback Zach Maynard seven times. And for the first time since 2008, two running backs surpassed the 100-yard mark for the Trojans—Silas Redd racked up 158, while Curtis McNeal totaled 115.

Against Utah last week, USC dug itself out of an early hole to earn a valuable conference road win. QB Matt Barkley posted perhaps his best game of the season, completing 23 of 30 passes and three touchdowns. Equally impressive, the receiving corps displayed deep threat potential all game long as the Trojans prevailed, 38-28.

As USC plows deeper into the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

With a trip to Seattle to play Washington on the horizon, as well as #2 Oregon Ducks and #7 Notre Dame coming to town in November, the Trojans have plenty of boulders in their path. Also laying in the weeds is crosstown rival UCLA, a squad foaming at the mouth to avenge last year’s 50-0 embarrassment. With one loss, a national title game appearance doesn’t appear as likely as it did prior to the season, but if the Trojans do find themselves in Miami they will most certainly have earned it.

Contenders for the BCS Championship game

Four weeks into the young 2012 college football season, it is clear that the Alabama Crimson Tide are the nation’s best team. But are there any sleepers out there? Is there a team that may be able to sneak up the polls and contend for a shot at–the very least a BCS bowl bid–the BCS title? Here’s a look at the best prospects after four weeks.

1. Kansas State Wildcats (4-0)
The Wildcats are usually quiet year in and year out, and you can never count out a Bill Snyder-coached team. KSU has a senior dual-threat QB in Collin Klein who can beat you with his arm and his legs, but most importantly, his head. Snyder’s defenses are always sound, this year is no exception, and they play solid special teams. The drawback? A brutal Big 12 schedule. KSU beat No. 6 Oklahoma a week ago and faces five more ranked opponents.

2. Stanford Cardinals (3-0)
After their 21-14 win over a USC team that everyone thought would challenge the SEC dominance of the BCS championship trophy, the Cardinal are a legitimate contender. Tough defense…check. Powerful run game…check. Sound special teams…check. Can they get through the Pac-12 schedule and, more importantly, beat Oregon?

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0)
The Irish are 4-0 for the first time in a decade and with convincing wins over both Michigan and Michigan State are in a position they have not been in for quite some time. And, minus an Oct. 13th date with Stanford and the season-ending clash with USC, the schedule gods look favorably upon the Irish. Should ND get through the balance of its schedule, coach Brian Kelly’s squad will be in the BCS picture.

4. Texas Longhorns (3-0)
The Longhorns took a few years off it seems after their BCS championship appearance in 2009. Head coach Mack Brown has his team back to the level of play Texas fans had become accustomed to–tough defense, powerful ground game, great QB play. Are they a contender? The biggest drawback is the Big 12 schedule. The Longhorns will play no less than five ranked league opponents. If they truly belong in the BCS picture, they will come out of league play unscathed.

5. TCU Horned Frogs (3-0)
It seems like each year the college football world is talking about TCU being a BCS-buster. Well, no more. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs are now part of the very talented Big 12 and won’t have to “bust” into the BCS anymore. That is, if they can somehow fight the same battle as Kansas State and Texas–Big 12 schedule–and win. Since 2005, TCU has won at least eleven games in every season but one. If they do it again, they may be playing for a national title.

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What Notre Dame’s Move to the ACC Means for College Football

Notre Dame moves to ACC

Notre Dame moves to ACC

With the recent announcement that Notre Dame will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football, college football fans are left wondering about the landscape of their sacred game. And with all of the conference realignments and possible future conference shifts, how does Notre Dame’s move impact college football?

Well, Notre Dame still remains an independent in football, but the agreement with the ACC will allow the Fighting Irish to schedule five games against ACC opponents every year. The plus? Notre Dame can renew old rivalries with the likes of Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles, both of which played some very meaningful games against ND in the 1990s.

The negatives? Some of the Irish’s traditional rivalries, like the “battle of the Catholics” (Boston College Eagles), will likely end. Some rivalries will continue and the university has announced that it will keep its annual contests with Navy Midshipmen, USC Trojans, and Stanford Cardinals. Years ago, it was Navy that bailed Notre Dame out of a financial crisis and the Irish will never forget the gesture.

With the current 12-game schedule allowed by the NCAA, Notre Dame will play the five ACC opponents, Navy, USC, and Stanford, and still have room for four more games each year. Traditional opponents Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, and Purdue, all of the Big Ten, will likely remain on the schedule, though not yearly. Pittsburgh Panthers, which ND has played every year since 1982, is moving to the ACC and will continue to be on the schedule, though the Panthers may not be a yearly opponent either.

In scheduling opponents, it is important to the university to maintain a national awareness of the Notre Dame brand. Keeping USC and Stanford brings the West Coast, ND is already a fixture in the Midwest, and now with the ACC gig, the Irish will be able to have a presence in the largest media markets in the United States.

In the grand scheme of college football, Notre Dame’s move to the ACC really doesn’t change anything. The Irish will not be a full-fledged member of the conference and, other than facing a few new opponents each year, the schedule will not change that much. They may get a few extra wins per year playing the Marylands and Dukes of the league, but get a chance to renew some old rivalries (Miami and Florida State) and keep another (Pitt).

USC Trojans Football 2011: Where do the USC Trojans Stand

The USC Trojans were at the top of the Pac-10 for years. Now, it is safe to say that they are not the elite team that they use to be. Pete Carroll leaving the team and other off field woes have definitely hurt them in a big way.

However, these are not the only reasons why the Trojans are not dominating the Pac-12 anymore.

The competition is a lot better now then it was a couple of years ago.

With this said, the Trojans find themselves in second place in the Pac-12 South, trailing No. 22 Arizona State. However, they are only one game behind them.

This would not be that bad, if USC’s only loss did not come from the Sun Devils.

More than half the season still has to be played, but USC’s toughest games are ahead of them.

USC will have two tough road tests at Notre Dame and No. 9 Oregon. However, they lucked out by getting No. 7 Stanford at home. Not to mention, USC really lucked out by not having Stanford or Oregon in their devision.

USC will be favorites against Notre Dame and the rest of their competition, but they will be huge underdogs against Oregon and Stanford. If the Trojans can upset one of these two teams, they will be looking really good in the Pac-12 South.

That is of course if the Sun Devils lose. Arizona State controls their own destiny. They are playing great football right now and they are clearly the best team in the Pac-12 South. The Sun Devils will have to face Oregon on the road in a couple of weeks.

Oregon will be the clear favorite in this game and they will most likely knock the Sun Devils into a tie for first place in the South.However, after that game, Arizona State’s schedule does not look bad at all.

In fact, their last five games of the season will be played against teams that have a total of two wins in the Pac-12.

The Trojans are not who they use to be. If they can pull off some big upsets this year, then maybe they will win the Pac-12 South. The way they are playing this season makes that unlikely though.

For the time being, the Trojans remain one game back in the Pac-12 South.

By: Trevor Lowry