Thursday, January 26, 2012

The College Football Blog: 2011 Season Awards

2011 College Football Horse Collar Awards

Two years ago I did my college football awards in December, before the bowl season. That wasn’t a good idea. At the time, I was thinking that the month off between the end of the regular season and the bowl season would be a good time for the awards blog. But it’s really best to wait until after the postseason, and it’s hard for me to believe that I ever thought differently. Last year I didn’t get my CFB awards out until February. That wasn’t ideal because the season had been over for a month. This year I’ve split the difference, finishing my awards after the final game, but before too much time has gone by.

Judging the 2011 CFB Season

Each time I do an awards blog the experience is different in some way. I always come away with a better understanding of how I feel about the season that has just past. When I was doing the memorable/worst moments section this year I really couldn’t think of all that many. It’s not that I had trouble recalling the events of the year. We’re still in the month of January, so the season is still fresh in my mind. I remembered lots of games; it just seemed like the story lines weren’t as clear cut this year. There weren’t as many memorable events that stood out for me.

I don’t want to say that this was a “down year” in college football because that’s really not an apt description. This year just wasn’t quite as interesting as others. Perhaps I’m contradicting myself by saying that the season wasn’t all that memorable or interesting, but that it still wasn’t a downer of a season. However, I must note that I had an even more difficult time coming up with a list of the worst moments of the year than I did coming up with the most memorable moments. So I can’t say this was a bad year; it just wasn’t the most memorable or interesting.

About My Awards Blog Format

The format for this year’s awards is pretty much the same as last season. There are a few minor changes but nothing significant. I did do something different this season in terms of the way I came up with the All-Horse Collar team. In the past I picked the different individual awards based on which player had the best season. For the All-Horse Collar teams (my version of the All-America teams) I focused more on who I thought the best player at each position was, focusing less on who had the most outstanding year. It seemed to make sense to me to do it that way in the past. For some reason this year it just didn’t make any sense to me at all, so I decided to pick all of my awards based solely on this year’s performance on the field.

Preemptive Defense of--and Excuses for--My Picks

I’m not a talent scout, nor do I want to pretend to be one. The only evidence I have are the numbers. However, as we all know, you can’t just judge everything in CFB based on the raw numbers. You have to take things like style of play and level of competition into consideration.

I try my best to take all of the different factors into account when making my picks. I try not to be overly dismissive of players from weaker conferences, while at the same time not being biased towards players from the biggest programs. You can decide for yourself how well I’ve done in this area.

The fact that not all teams play the same number of games can also make the process confusing. Fortunately, always lists the per game average of each player’s stats right alongside the total number, and that is quite helpful. They are by far the best site for individuals CFB stats that I have come across.

Beyond the difficulties already discussed (varying styles; varying levels of competition; varying number of games; etc), there are certainly some other limitations inherent in the process of doing an awards thing like this for college football, despite having all of the available data. In terms of the amount of knowledge and understanding that can be attained through stats, football is certainly not on a level with baseball, or even basketball for that matter.

The range of stats that can be focused on is somewhat limited, particularly at certain positions. The most obvious example is offensive line, a position which for all intents and purposes doesn’t record statistics. But there are several other positions which are not easy to grade through stats, including tight end; fullback; punter; cornerback; and defensive tackle.

The offensive skill positions are the easiest to grade with stats, but tight ends are a bit tricky. Depending on the system, a tight end might spend more time acting as a 6th offensive lineman than as a pass catcher, and again, blocking expertise is not easily quantified by stats.

Punters are much harder to grade in college football than in the NFL because detailed stats for the punters of all of the FBS teams are hard to come by. If you try to find punting statistics on the most well known sports sites, about 95% of the time you will only be given gross punt average and total gross punting yards. Finding net average is difficult and finding anything beyond that (punts inside 20 or 10; punts resulting in fair catch; touchbacks; etc) is extremely difficult.

As with baseball and basketball, traditional defensive statistics are simply not quite as useful as offensive stats. There are a few major categories (sacks, tackles for loss, tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries, defensive touchdowns) and several others only slightly less obvious (passes broken up, passes defended, QB hurries, forced fumbles). Clearly, players who don’t rack up numbers in the obvious categories will be harder to grade. A defensive tackle can have a huge impact on the game and end up with 2 tackles. A shutdown corner may be so effective in coverage that opposing QB’s simply don’t throw at him, limiting his number of opportunities for basically all of the defensive stats.

Tackle statistics can be problematic. For one, even in the NFL the process of recording statistics for number of tackles is suspect and produces varying degrees of accuracy. You have to assume the degrees of accuracy vary even wider in college football because there are so many more teams. Tackle stats in college football should be treated with even more skepticism. In addition, there are certain defensive systems which make the tackle numbers of linebackers less useful, because whoever is in the game at the position is going to end up making a lot of tackles.

I mention all of this to help explain why some of my choices may differ drastically from the choices of mainstream publications. I can only work with the information I have at my disposal, which is mostly statistical data and watching as much football as I can during the season. There may be a future Hall-of-Fame CB that I leave off of my awards blog simply because I don’t have any way of knowing how good he is if he doesn’t rack up stats. So I hope you will keep this in mind when looking over my picks.

The Offensive Linemen Problem

Once again this year I have picked an All-Horse Collar offensive line rather than picking centers, guards, and tackles. This more than likely won’t change unless I get a job doing this stuff for a living and I have access to game film. Individual offensive line stats don’t exist for the most part. You pretty much have to study film or rely on someone who watches film in order to have any idea who is having a good year and who isn’t.

If you watch a team all season long on TV you can certainly come away with some sense of how different offensive linemen are doing, but you still don’t get the whole picture. More importantly, you still wouldn’t be able to say at the end of the year which linemen had the best individual seasons in the nation.

I do the next best thing and try and figure out which offensive line was the best as a unit. This way I have statistical data I can use to make a relatively knowledgeable decision. To make my O-line picks I use stats like rushing average; sacks allowed; success rate converting 3rd and 4th downs on rushing plays; red zone TD percentage; and many others.

The All-Horse Collar Rosters

I should also explain another somewhat quirky aspect of my All-Horse Collar teams. Depending on the situation, I choose either 2 RB and 3 WR, or 3 RB and 2 WR. It just depends on the number of deserving players at each position. On defense, I choose 2 CB, 1 SS, and 1 FS, as well as a 5th defensive back who may be a safety or a corner. Again, it just depends on the position of the most worthy candidate.

The Awards Process

Last year I came up with my own individual awards rather than try and pick the traditional national awards given out by various entities, and I did so again this year (a few of my names are different than last year). There are more individual awards handed out in college football than in any other of the most popular American sports. Like many aspects of college football, the traditional award system has its roots in the long ago past, and therefore a lot of it doesn’t make much sense today.

There’s a lot of redundancy in the traditional CFB awards. For example, there are two prestigious awards for “most outstanding player,” (Heisman and Maxwell), and there’s another one for “player of the year.” There are also two prestigious “defensive player of the year” awards.

Then there are the awards which are both prestigious and also a little strange. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award goes to the “most outstanding senior quarterback.” That’s a superlative which strikes me as being largely irrelevant. Quite often the best QB in the country is a senior anyway. Moreover, if the best senior QB is only the 5th or 6th best QB in the country, what does it matter that he happens to be a senior?

Another example of the prestigious yet strange award category is the Rotary Lombardi Award, which goes to the top…well, I don’t really know exactly how to put it. To be eligible for the award—and these are the original guidelines that have been in place since the award was created in 1970—a player must be a down lineman on either side of the ball or a linebacker who lines up no farther than 5 yards deep of the ball. I think even the great Lombardi would find that criteria to be a bit odd.

Even the Outland Trophy—one of the most prestigious of all the CFB awards—seems a bit strange in the modern age. The Outland goes to the top interior lineman, whether on offense or defense. In a given year, voters may be trying to decide between giving the award to a center or to a defensive tackle.

In addition, there are the awards which an unpaid fan like myself simply can’t pick, such as the Rimington (top center) or the Broyles (top assistant coach). Why it’s difficult for someone like me to determine who the nation’s best center is has already been discussed. As for the Broyles Award, it’s hard enough to pick the top head coach of the year. Only guys who have been covering the game in depth for their entire careers know enough about all of the FBS coaching staffs to be able to say who the most deserving assistant coach is.

I’m just not familiar enough with the coaching staffs to be able to determine who had the best year. I will say this: I’m thankful that no one ever thought of naming a national assistant coach award for Penn State’s former longtime defensive coordinator, who unfortunately, we are all quite familiar with now.

Finally there’s the Campbell Award, which goes to the “top scholar athlete.” I wouldn’t pick that award even if I could, because I don’t really care which good football players also excel in academics, community service, and FCA.

Get On With It!

Okay, I’m done ranting about the traditional awards and the limitations of football statistics. As always, it was a lot of fun doing this blog entry. If you happen to stumble across it while traveling through cyberspace, I hope you will enjoy reading it as well. (And that, boys and girls, is how you wrap up an introduction with a cheesy concluding paragraph).

Conference Awards


Offensive Player of the Year: Sammy Watkins-WR-Clemson.

Runner Up: Tajh Boyd-QB-Clemson.

Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechly-LB-Boston College.

Runner Up: David Amerson-CB-NC State.

Coach of the Year: Jim Grobe-Wake Forest.

Runner Up: Dabo Swinney-Clemson.

Most Surprising Team: Wake Forest.

Runner Up: Clemson.

Most Disappointing Team: Florida State.

Runner Up: Maryland.

Best Moment: September 17th: Clemson beats defending national champion Auburn, 38-24. The victory makes Clemson 3-0 and snaps Auburn’s 17-game win streak.

Also Considered: November 26th: FSU beats Florida for 2nd straight year, this time on the road, 21-7. The win is FSU’s first at the Swamp since 2003. For the Noles, it’s the first time they’ve beaten the Gators in consecutive years since 2002-2003.

Also Considered: December 29th: Trailing 14-0 in the 3rd quarter, FSU comes from out of nowhere to score 18 unanswered points--15 of them in the 4th quarter--to stun Notre Dame, 18-14, in the Champs Sports Bowl, one of only two bowl victories for the conference this season. It is FSU’s 4th straight bowl victory and allows them to finish the year 9-4. They finish with at least 9 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002-2004.

Worst Moment: August 16th: Story breaks detailing countless illegal benefits given to Miami football players from 2002 through 2010, leading some to wonder if the U will end up receiving the dreaded “Death Penalty” from the NCAA.

Also Considered: July-September: Fallout from NCAA investigation of North Carolina continues, with Butch Davis being axed in July. In September, UNC self-imposes sanctions on the team in hopes of softening eventual punishment handed down by NCAA.

Also Considered: January 4th: Conference champ Clemson is humiliated by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, losing 70-33 in a pathetic effort. The Tigers allow 10 touchdowns in the game, at one point allowing 35 unanswered points. They trail 63-20 with over 9 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter before West Virginia begins subbing their starters out, taking mercy on the Tigers, who might have allowed 90 points if the Mountaineers hadn’t backed way off. With the loss, the ACC finishes bowl season 2-6 overall and 0-2 in BCS games.

Also Considered: January 3rd: Virginia Tech loses a heartbreaker to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, 23-20 in overtime. Several factors make the loss especially crushing. The Hokies defense has the game on lockdown with the score tied 17-17 late in the 4th quarter when VT makes the inexcusable decision of trying a fake punt. The gamble fails, allowing Michigan to kick a FG that puts them ahead by 3 with 4 minutes left.

The Hokies get a FG at the buzzer to send it into OT. On 3rd and 5 from the 20 in the first OT session, VT’s Danny Coale makes what appears to be a catch for the ages in the left corner of the end zone. The play is originally ruled a TD and there doesn’t seem to be enough to overturn the call on replay, but the call is indeed overturned.

Now facing 4th down, the Hokies send 3rd string kicker Justin Myer (only playing because 2 other VT kickers have been suspended) onto the field, having already gone 4 for 4 on FG tries in the game. This time Myer misses wide right from 37 yards out. Moments later, the Wolverines kick a short FG to win it, 23-20, despite being outgained 377-184.

Also Considered: September 24th: Maryland is utterly destroyed at home by Temple, 38-7, despite being favored by 9 points over the team from the MAC.

ACC Game of the Year

Week 13: NC State vs. Maryland (56-41)

Highlights: Looking to end the season on a positive note, Maryland led 41-14 in the 3rd quarter. NC State scored 42 unanswered points over the final 21 minutes and actually ended up covering the 11.5-point spread. The win was big for the Wolfpack, as they finished 7-5. The Terps lost their final 8 games to finish just 2-10.

Comments: Virginia Tech RB David Wilson was also a good candidate for the offensive award.

It may be surprising to some that I have Clemson coach Dabo Swinney as the runner up for conference coach of the year, when the media named him national coach of the year. But I didn’t really get that selection. They have an explosive offense fueled by great athletes, something they should always have due to their history and their location in the southeastern part of the country. Defensively they are a mess.

In addition, there was a lot about this Clemson team that seemed to argue against the notion of a tremendous coaching job. They were inconsistent from week to week and prone to “no-show” performances or at least “late-show” performances. Examples of this include falling into deep holes against Maryland and Wake; getting blown out by NC State a week after clinching a spot in the ACC title game; beating Wofford 35-27; and their despicable effort against WV in the Orange Bowl.

I give Swinney some credit, as I had them going 7-5 in the regular season and they wound up going 9-3; that’s why I have him as the runner up. But I’m not going to rank his performance ahead of WF’s Jim Grobe, who deals with a limited supply of talent and depth; no history; and higher than average academic standards.

Having said all of this, I will concede that I’m a bit biased against Swinney. I’m sorry, but I just have a really hard time bestowing accolades on a guy who calls himself “Dabo.”

I really don’t know what to make of the ACC adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh. I have to assume that the move was caused, at least in part, by a strong desire not to be left out in college sports’ version of musical chairs. Strangely, although the move was motivated almost entirely by football concerns, I think the addition of Pitt and Cuse will be a much bigger boost to the ACC in basketball than it will be in football. The ACC is already watered down with middling football programs and now they will be adding two more.

Syracuse actually makes sense to me in a strange way, as I had expected Cuse to join the ACC along with Miami and VT back in 2004, not Boston College. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, doesn’t make any sense.


Offensive Player of the Year: Robert Griffin III-QB-Baylor.

Runner Up: Justin Blackmon-WR-Oklahoma State.

Defensive Player of the Year: Frank Alexander-DE-Oklahoma.

Runner Up: Nigel Malone-CB-Kansas State.

Coach of the Year: Bill Snyder-Kansas State.

Runner Up: Art Briles-Baylor.

Most Surprising Team: Kansas State.

Runner Up: Baylor.

Most Disappointing Team: Texas A&M.

Runner Up: Texas.

Best Moment: December 10th: Robert Griffin III is awarded the Heisman Trophy. In the end, RGIII’s win is expected, but it was a total long shot less than a month earlier. Griffin becomes the first ever player from Baylor to win the award. RGIII is the 2nd Big XII QB to win the award in the last 4 years, and the 3rd in the last 9 years.

Also Considered: January 2nd: Oklahoma State survives Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, winning 41-38 in overtime to finish the season 12-1. The victory allows Oklahoma State to at least make some claim (weak as it might be) that they should have been in the national championship game. They finish 3rd in both final polls, garnering 4 1st place votes in the AP (for some unknown reason).

Worst Moment: September-November: A year after losing Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten, the conference loses Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. With egos and hard feelings winning out over a century of tradition, it becomes apparent that the latest departures will mean the end of both the Texas-Texas A&M and Kansas-Missouri rivalry series for at least the near future.

Also Considered : November 18th: One day after the plane crash that killed Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna, the #2 Cowboys (10-0 and favored by 26.5 points) blow a 24-7 lead and wind up losing, 31-37, in double overtime at Iowa State. Iowa State’s victory enhances the overall depth of the conference and ends up putting the Cyclones in a bowl game. That minor positive result in no way cancels out the fact that if Oklahoma State had beaten Iowa State they would have played in the BCS national championship game.

Big XII Game of the Year

Week 12: Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State (37-31, OT-II)

Highlights: Ok State was favored by 26.5 points and led 24-7 in the 3rd quarter, but ISU scored 17 unanswered points to tie the game with 5:30 in the 4th. The game went to overtime. Both teams scored TD’s in the first overtime. On the first play of the 2nd OT, Brandon Weeden was picked off, and the Cyclones scored a TD on their possession to pull off the upset, 37-31. For the Cowboys, the loss spoiled their perfect season and ultimately cost them a shot at the national title.

Comments: It wasn’t too hard to determine the awards for this conference. Choosing the best game was much more difficult, as there were over a dozen great games to select from.

Despite only having 10 teams this season and seeing 2 more teams announce plans to exit next year, this was a very good season for the Big XII. Week 12 was disastrous in many respects, as Oklahoma State and Oklahoma were candidates to make the NC game until they both got upset that weekend. On the other hand, the Big XII had the Heisman winner this season and they wound up putting 8 teams in bowl games.

For the first time in years, I think the case could be made for a conference other than the SEC being the best top to bottom this season, and the Big XII would be the alternative choice. I still think the best SEC teams were better than the top teams in any other conference, but from top to bottom, I think the Big XII was pretty damn close to the best this season.

Big East

Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith-QB-West Virginia.

Runner Up: Isaiah Pead-RB-Cincinnati.

Defensive Player of the Year: Derek Wolfe-DT-Cincinnati.

Runner Up: Khaseem Greene-LB-Rutgers.

Coach of the Year: Butch Jones-Cincinnati.

Runner Up: Charlie Strong-Louisville.

Most Surprising Team: Rutgers.

Runner Up: Cincinnati.

Most Disappointing Team: South Florida.

Runner Up: Pittsburgh.

Best Moment: January 4th: West Virginia violates Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 70-33. The Mountaineers score 10 TD’s against the ACC champs for their 3rd BCS bowl game victory in 3 tries. For the Big East, WV’s victory snaps a 3-game skid in BCS bowl games and is the conference’s first victory in a BCS bowl game since 2007.

Also Considered : September 3rd: Amid lightning and several lengthy weather delays, South Florida knocks off Notre Dame in South Bend, 23-20, in the opening week of the season. South Florida head coach Skip Holtz—son of former ND coaching legend and current clown of ESPN college football coverage Lou Holtz—wins in his first game against the Irish.

Worst Moment: September and October: Pittsburgh and Syracuse—founding members of the Big East conference—announce that they will be leaving the conference to join the ACC. The conference’s status as a BCS conference—and indeed, the future of the Big East in general—appears in jeopardy.

Soon after, looking to flee a sinking ship, West Virginia announces that they will be leaving to join the Big XII. It gets ugly, as the remaining members of the conference say they won’t allow WV to make a quick exit without a legal battle.

In any event, it appears that history will be shoved aside due to greed and egos. The Big East’s great basketball tradition will be sacrificed, along with the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry, at least for the near future.

Also Considered : December 14th: Todd Graham deserts Pitt in the middle of the night to take the Arizona State job, leaving the school after just 1 season, and breaking the news to his players via text message. After spending a year pushing the Pitt program through all sorts of changes and leading the team to a disappointing 6-6 record in a weak conference, Graham springs for Arizona State, calling it a “dream job.”

In the days ahead, Graham blames Pittsburgh for everything: the mediocre season; his quick exit; even his inability to inform his players of his departure in person. He complains that Pittsburgh didn’t show commitment to him and says that his family didn’t like living there. He also says that because he had to resign in order to take the job with ASU, he was no longer the coach at Pittsburgh, and therefore couldn’t call the players together for a meeting to announce that he was leaving.

The decision to leave the program comes roughly 3 weeks before Pittsburgh’s bowl game against SMU.

Big East Game of the Year

Week 10: Rutgers vs. South Florida (20-17, OT)

Highlights: South Florida scored to take a 17-3 lead with just 7:38 to play, but Jeremy Deering returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score to make it a 7-point game. The Scarlet Knights tied the game on a 34-yard TD pass with just 1:27 left. South Florida had a chip shot field goal to win in regulation, but Maikon Bonani missed from 27 yards out to send it into overtime. BJ Daniels was intercepted on SF’s OT possession, and San San Te booted a 37-yarder to give Rutgers the win.

Comments: The future of the Big East as a football conference is uncertain. Surely they will be able to replace the teams that flee and survive as a league, but the replacement teams will almost certainly be even more middling than the departing teams. To take just one example, it now appears that Navy will join the conference at some point over the next few years. Navy has built a very respectable program, but they simply aren’t—and will never be—on the same level as the overwhelming majority of teams in the BCS conferences.

The Big East’s worst nightmare is that all of the departures will lead to the conference losing its status as an automatic qualifier for the BCS. However, I think we can at least start to consider the possibility that it may not matter in the end. There’s no doubt that we are closer to a dramatic change in the postseason format than we have ever been since the BCS began in 1998. Maybe by the time the Big East is done with all of its changes the automatic bid will be a non-issue.

Big Ten

Offensive Player of the Year: Montee Ball-RB-Wisconsin.

Runner Up: Russell Wilson-QB-Wisconsin.

Defensive Player of the Year: Whitney Mercilus-DE-Illinois.

Runner Up: Chris Borland-LB-Wisconsin

Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio-Michigan State.

Runner Up: Brady Hoke-Michigan.

Most Surprising Team: Michigan.

Runner Up: Michigan State.

Most Disappointing Team: Ohio State.

Runner Up: Indiana.

Best Moment: January 3rd: Michigan pulls out a 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. The victory caps off a fantastic comeback season for the Wolverines, who finish 11-2 in Brady Hoke’s 1st season as head coach, after going 15-22 in the 3 previous seasons under Rich Rodriguez. The win snaps a 3-game losing streak in BCS games for Michigan and is their first win in a BCS game since 1999.

Also Considered: January 2nd: Michigan State overcomes a 16-0 halftime deficit and eventually knocks off Georgia in triple overtime, 33-30, in the Outback Bowl. The victory snaps MSU’s 5-game losing streak in bowl games and is their first bowl victory since 2001. In addition, the Spartans finish the season with 11 wins for a 2nd straight year, finishing with double digit wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. Michigan State’s win also keeps the Big Ten from going 0-5 on January 2nd and 0-3 against the SEC.

Worst Moment: November 4th—Janurary 22nd: The grand jury’s report on sexual molestation allegations against former longtime Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is released and begins to circulate during the first weekend of November. As the situation develops, Joe Paterno goes from being perhaps the most revered icon in all of American sports to being public enemy number two (behind Sandusky).

Paterno is fired on November 9th. The rest of the PSU season is consumed by the darkest cloud in the history of college football. On January 2nd, the Nittany Lions lose 30-14 to Houston in the Ticketcity Bowl, their 3rd loss in their final 4 games, finishing the season 9-4. Not quite 3 weeks later, on January 22nd, Joe Paterno dies of cancer at the age of 85.

Also Considered: March-January: The tattoos-for-autographs “scandal” that resulted in 5 Ohio State players being suspended for the first 5 games of the season is reignited when reports begin to surface that head coach Jim Tressel attempted to cover up the whole situation and had not been truthful throughout. The storm eventually leads to Tressel’s resignation on May 30th. A week later, amid mounting allegations of illegal benefits and other potential violations, it is announced that Terrel Pryor will be leaving the program immediately.

Hoping to lessen the eventual punishment from the NCAA, the Buckeyes vacate the entire 2010 season, but suspensions follow the team throughout the season. On December 20th, the NCAA hits Ohio State with a 1-year postseason ban and a loss of 9 scholarships.

The Buckeyes’ nightmare year ends on January 2nd with a 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, as they finish the season with 4 straight losses and a 6-7 overall record.

Big Ten Game of the Year

Week 8: Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (37-31)

Highlights: The Badgers entered the game 6-0 and they jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on the 5-1 Spartans. However, Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 23-0 in the 2nd quarter to take a 23-14 lead into halftime. The Spartans led 23-17 going to the 4th quarter and they scored a TD to make the score 31-17 with just 10:58 remaining. But the Badgers went on a furious late game rally, scoring a pair of TD’s to tie the game up at 31 apiece with just 1:26 left on the clock.

The game appeared headed for overtime, but with 4 seconds on the clock, Michigan State had the ball at the Wisconsin 44 and decided to try a Hail Mary just for the hell of it. Kirk Cousins’ pass ended up being caught by reserve receiver Keith Nichol just outside of the end zone. He was stopped just shy of the goal line but managed to twist his body just enough to cross the plane and get the call from the officials. The replay officials took a long look at it but the call eventually stood, giving MSU a stunning 37-31 win.

Comments: I really don’t know why there wasn’t more buzz about Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus this season. Maybe it’s because he came out of nowhere after not really doing much in his freshman or sophomore campaigns. Maybe it’s because he played for Illinois. Maybe he isn’t seen as a great pro prospect. All I know is that he led the nation in sacks; sacks per game; sack yards; fumbles forced; and fumbles forced per game; and was 2nd in TFL; TFL/GM, and TFL yards. To top it off, his last name is Mercilus; as in, “merciless.”

Michigan’s return to prominence this season was huge for the Big Ten. When Michigan is good the conference benefits because of their tremendous history and prestige. It was even more important this year when two of the other legendary programs in the conference took dramatic falls both on and off the field. Obviously I’m talking about Ohio State and Penn State here.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to PSU in the coming years. While Joe Pa’s impact on the team may have been fairly limited in recent years, they were going to fall off somewhat in prestige whenever he finally decided to retire (or died). It goes without saying that the drop in prestige will be much more serious now. You have to wonder what kind of success they will have in the next 10 to 15 years. Will they maintain their current level as a consistent top 10-20 team or will they move down a notch to the level of a team like Iowa?

The situation in Columbus is obviously not nearly as bad (I hate to pull out the “perspective” card, but freaking out over free tattoos and discounts at car dealerships seems silly when you compare those sorts of things to the Sandusky disaster) and the future is much rosier and more certain. With Urban Meyer taking over the Ohio State program they should be back to competing for national titles as soon as their postseason ban ends. Similar to when Alabama hired Nick Saban a few years ago, it’s almost inconceivable that the Buckeyes won’t be back among the top programs in the country within a few years.

Conference USA

Offensive Player of the Year: Case Keenum-QB-Houston.

Runner Up: Patrick Edwards-WR-Houston.

Defensive Player of the Year: Vinny Curry-DE-Marshall.

Runner Up: Sammy Brown-LB-Houston.

Coach of the Year: Larry Fedora-Southern Miss.

Runner Up: Kevin Sumlin-Houston.

Most Surprising Team: Marshall.

Runner Up: UTEP.

Most Disappointing Team: Tulane.

Runner Up: Central Florida.

Best Moment: December-January: Conference USA goes 4-1 in bowl games to tie the MAC for the Bowl Challenge Cup. Marshall beats FIU in the St. Petersburg Bowl (20-10); Southern Miss beats Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl (24-17); Houston beats Penn State on January 2nd in the Ticketcity Bowl (30-14); and SMU beats Pitt in the BBVA Bowl (28-6).

The conference’s only loss in the bowl season comes in the Armed Forces Bowl, with Tulsa losing to BYU on a last second touchdown (24-21). Conference USA teams go 2-0 against teams from BCS conferences and 1-0 in January 2nd games.

Also Considered : November 26th: Houston runs over Tulsa, 48-16, to finish the regular season 12-0 and ranked 6th in the BCS.

Worst Moment: December 3rd: Houston goes down in the Conference USA championship game for the 2nd time in 3 years, this time losing at home as 12-point favorites to Southern Miss. The Cougars enter the game 12-0 and ranked 6th in the BCS, needing only to get past the Golden Eagles to become the first C-USA team ever to play in a BCS bowl game.

But it’s not even close, as Southern Mississippi rolls Houston, 49-28. Houston’s loss costs Conference USA millions of dollars, not to mention the prestige of having one of its teams playing in one of the showcase bowl games against a national power.

Also Considered : August 25th-31st: Star Tulsa receiver/return man Demaris Johnson—FBS leader in all-purpose yards in 2009 and 2010—is suspended indefinitely after being questioned by police in connection with the arrest of his girlfriend. On the 31st, Johnson is arrested and charged with felony embezzlement. Johnson’s girlfriend charged him only a few dollars for thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at the Macy’s she worked at.

He is suspended for the entire season, dealing a crushing blow to one of the favorites to win the conference, who are already having to deal with a new head coach (Todd Graham left them for Pitt) and an extremely tough non-conference schedule.

Conference USA Game of the Year

Week 13: Marshall vs. East Carolina (34-27, OT)

Highlights: Bowl eligibility was on the line for both teams in the regular season finale. Marshall jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but by the time the 1st quarter was over ECU led 14-10. Trailing by 7, Marshall scored with only 39 seconds to go in the 2nd quarter to tie the score at 17-17. But the Pirates got off a 58-yard FG that went through as time expired to take a 20-17 lead at the half.

The score was tied up at 20-20 heading to the 4th. Travon Van scored on a 33 yard run to put Marshall on top 27-20 with 4:49 remaining, but the Pirates managed to tie it up again. On 4th and 3 from the 6, Dominique Davis hit Justin Jones for a score to make it 27-27 with just 14 seconds left, sending the game to OT.

It took Marshall just 2 plays to score in overtime, with Tron Martinez going in from a yard out. The Thundering Herd defense then picked off Davis to secure the win and bowl eligibility.

Comments: Houston is well represented in the awards section and that’s no surprise. Despite losing to Southern Miss in decisive fashion in the conference title game, I think most people would concede that the Cougars were the best team in C-USA this season. In my opinion, this was the 2nd time in the last 3 years that they failed to win the conference title despite being clearly the best team.

You may be wondering who in the world expected so much from Tulane that they could end up as my most disappointing team. Look at it this way: when we expect a team to be one of the very best in the country and they end up being very good but not great (like Florida State this season), we consider them a disappointment. Well, the same thing applies when you expect a team to be below average and they end up being gawdawful. I picked Tulane to go 5-8 this season but they wound up 2-11. They had only 1 win against an FBS team and they lost 10 straight to finish the year.


Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Floyd-WR-Notre Dame.

Runner Up: Riley Nelson-QB-BYU.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Van Noy-LB-BYU.

Runner Up: Jabaree Tuani-DE-Navy.

Coach of the Year: Bronco Mendenhall-BYU.

Most Surprising Team: BYU.

Most Disappointing Team: Navy.

Best Moment: December 10th: The 112th Army-Navy game in Landover, Maryland. The Midshipmen win a nail-biter, 27-21, for their 10th straight win the series.

Also Considered: September 17th: Army pulls off an unlikely upset of Northwestern, winning at home, 21-14, for their 1st win of the season.

Worst Moment: November 19th: Navy loses at San Jose State, 27-24, falling to 4-7 on the year, and clinching their first losing season since 2002. The loss eliminates Navy from bowl contention, brining their impressive streak of 8 consecutive bowl appearances to an end.

Also Considered: September 17th: BYU is destroyed at home by rival Utah in the 87th Holy War, losing 54-10.

Also Considered: September 3rd and 10th: Notre Dame opens the season with a pair of crushing losses. In the opener, the Irish suffer a bewildering home loss against Skip Holtz’s South Florida team (23-20). A week later, Notre Dame suffers a last second loss at the hands of Michigan for a 3rd straight season, this time losing 35-31 in Ann Arbor.

Independents Game of the Year

Week 15: Navy vs. Army (27-21)

Highlights: Navy led 7-0 after 1 quarter and held a 14-0 lead midway through the 2nd quarter, but Army went on a 14-0 run over the final 3:34 of the quarter to send the game to halftime all tied at 14-14. The Midshipmen drove for a touchdown on their first possession of the 2nd half, but the Black Knights answered the score, tying the game again at 21-21.

Jon Teague hit a FG early in the 4th to put Navy ahead 24-21. Army fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Teague hit another FG to make it a 6-point game. Army got the ball back and reached the Navy 25 before being stopped on downs. Navy ate up the rest of the clock to finish off their 10th straight win in the series.

Comments: While I still maintain that the option of being unaffiliated with a conference should be eliminated, at least there were 4 teams this year, making it easier to look at the teams as a group (it was always a pain having to deal with the independents when it was just ND and the two military academies; BYU’s presence makes the process a bit easier).

BYU had a decent season—perhaps better than most expected—but for the rest of the independents 2011 was a downer. Navy’s streak of 8 straight bowl appearances and 8+ win seasons came to an end; Army dropped off again after having their best season in over a decade last year; and Notre Dame once again failed to take that next step towards being a better than decent program.


Offensive Player of the Year: Jordan White-WR-Western Michigan.

Runner Up: Bernard Pierce-RB-Temple.

Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack-LB-Buffalo.

Runner Up: Jermaine Robinson-Toledo-MAC.

Coach of the Year: Dave Doeren-Northern Illinois.

Runner Up: Steve Addazio-Temple.

Most Surprising Team: Bowling Green.

Runner Up: Ball State.

Most Disappointing Team: Kent State.

Runner Up: Miami (Ohio).

Best Moment: December-January: The MAC goes 4-1 in bowl games to tie C-USA for the Bowl Challenge Cup. Temple hammers Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl (37-15); Ohio hangs on to beat Utah State in the Idaho Bowl (24-23); Toledo squeaks past Air Force in the Military Bowl (42-41); and Northern Illinois beats up Arkansas State in the Go Daddy Bowl (38-20).

The conference’s only loss in the bowl season comes in the Little Caesar’s Bowl, with Western Michigan coming up just short against Purdue (37-32). The MAC goes 0-1 against teams from BCS conferences during the bowl season but 2-0 against the Mountain West.

Also Considered: September 24th: Temple goes on the road and absolutely trucks Maryland of the ACC, winning 38-7, serving notice that the Owls’ resurgence will not end with the departure of Al Golden.

Worst Moment: September 24th: Week 4 should go down as a truly banner week for the MAC, but Toledo is robbed of a win over a BCS conference foe by incompetent officiating. Playing at Syracuse, Toledo leads the Orangemen by 4 late in the 4th, when Cuse scores on an 18-yard TD pass to take a 29-27 lead. With just 2:07 to play, the Syracuse kicker hooks the PAT wide left, but the officials erroneously rule the kick good.

The play is reviewed, and the replay clearly, incontrovertibly, conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt shows that the kick was no good. For reasons never adequately explained, the call is upheld, making the score 30-27. Toledo marches down the field and settles for a chip shot 20-yard FG to tie the game at the gun and send it into OT tied 30-30.

That kick should have won the game, 30-29. Instead, the score is only tied, and Cuse wins it in OT, 33-30. The Big East admits the officiating error after the game, but the final score goes into the record books and will never change.

Also Considered: September 10th: Northern Illinois blows a chance to get a win over a BCS opponent, losing a shootout to Kansas in Lawrenceville. The Huskies are 4-point favorites against one of the worst teams in any BCS conference. They lead 21-7 early and hold a 42-38 lead late in the game, but the Jayhawks score on 4th and goal from the 6 with just 9 seconds left, and the Huskies fall 45-42.

MAC Game of the Year

Week 10: Northern Illinois at Toledo (63-60)

Highlights: This was a big game for both teams, as NIU came into the game 3-1 in the conference, while Toledo was 4-0 in the MAC.

The teams alternated TD’s through the first 5 possessions, with NIU leading 21-14 at the end of the 1st quarter. Tommylee Lewis returned Toledo’s first two kickoffs back for touchdowns of 100 and 95 yards respectively. Eric Page scored Toledo’s first two touchdowns. The Huskies extended their lead to 28-14 on Nathan Palmer’s 2nd TD reception of the game before the Rockets scored 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 28-24 at the half, with Page scoring his 3rd TD of the game.

Toledo got the ball first in the 2nd half and they drove for a TD to take a 31-28 lead. It took NIU only 4 plays to score and retake the lead on their first possession of the 3rd quarter. On the first play of Toledo’s next possession, Eric Page hauled in a 60-yard TD for his 4th score of the game, putting Toledo ahead 38-35. Palmer’s 3rd touchdown catch put NIU back in front, 42-38, and they took that lead into the 4th quarter.

The Rockets got a FG to make it a 1-point game early in the 4th, but NIU answered with a touchdown to make the score 49-41. Eric Page scored another touchdown but Toledo failed on the 2-point try, leaving NIU ahead by 2 points. The Huskies fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Toledo needed only 2 plays to score again and take the lead. They again went for 2 and missed, leaving the score 53-49 with still 10 and a half minutes to play.

Northern Illinois marched 73 yards for the go-ahead score, making it 56-53 with 8 minutes to play. Adonis Thomas’ 2nd touchdown of the 4th quarter put Toledo back in front, 60-56, with 4:16 on the clock.

The Huskies moved immediately into Toledo territory. It was blindingly obvious that NIU was going to score; it was just a matter of when. For some unknown reason, the Rockets allowed NIU to run the clock down, never using any of their timeouts. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Chandler Harnish hit Perez Ashford in the end zone for the inevitable go-ahead score, making it 63-60.

Toledo only needed a FG to tie but they had only 19 seconds to work with. They reached their own 46, but with just 3 seconds left, the Rockets were forced to go with a desperation type play. They ran a hook-and-lateral play, and Page was able to make it all the way down to the NIU 25 before he was tackled on what would be the game’s final play. NIU got the victory by a ridiculous final score of 63-60.

Comments: This was one of the best MAC seasons in recent memory. They had several legitimately solid teams and few downright awful teams. Chandler Harnish was also a good candidate for the offensive award.

Mountain West

Offensive Player of the Year: Kellen Moore-QB-Boise State.

Runner Up: Ronnie Hillman-RB-San Diego State.

Defensive Player of the Year: Larry Parker-CB-San Diego State.

Runner Up: Miles Burris-LB-San Diego State.

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson-TCU.

Runner Up: Chris Petersen-Boise State.

Most Surprising Team: Wyoming.

Runner Up: TCU.

Most Disappointing Team: Colorado State.

Runner Up: Air Force.

Best Moment: September 3rd: Boise State gets the BCS-buster bus cranked up from the very start of the season, beating the Georgia Bulldawgs handedly in the kickoff classic. The Broncos win 35-21 at the Georgia Dome, making a major statement in the season opener.

Also Considered: November 5th: Boise State wins at UNLV, 48-21, as Kellen Moore sets the all-time FBS record for wins as a quarterback. The victory is Moore’s 46th; he will end his career with 50 wins.

Worst Moment: November 12th: The Broncos see their dreams of perfection, a BCS bowl, and a possible spot in the national championship game go down the drains on a missed FG for the 2nd year in a row. This time the loss comes at home against TCU, 36-35.

The Broncos lead 35-28 late in the 4th until TCU scores on a 25-yard TD pass and then gets a 2-point conversion to take a 1-point lead with just 1:05 remaining. Boise State has just enough time to set up for a 39-yard FG to win the game, but Dan Goodale misses wide right as time expires, and the Broncos see their dreams die.

In the end, the loss costs Boise State a spot in at least a BCS game, and costs the conference millions, not to mention the prestige of having a team in one of the showcase bowl games.

Also Considered: December 4th: Both Boise State and TCU find themselves shutout of the BCS again and relegated to meaningless December bowl games. Boise State—11-1 and #7 in the BCS—will play 6-6 Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. TCU—10-2 and #18 in the BCS—will play 8-4 Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Also Considered: December: The Mountain West conference—4-time Bowl Challenge Cup winner, including the last 2 years and 3 of the last 4 years—goes just 2-3 in bowl games. It is the first losing record in the bowl season for the conference since 2003.

Boise State (56-24 over ASU in the Las Vegas Bowl) and TCU (31-24 over LT in the Poinsettia Bowl) take care of their business. However, Wyoming loses to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl (37-15); San Diego State goes down to ULL in the New Orleans Bowl (32-30); and Air Force falls to Toledo in the Military Bowl (42-41).

The MWC goes 1-0 against BCS conference teams during the bowl season but 0-2 against the MAC.

Mountain West Game of the Year

Week 11: TCU at Boise State (36-35)

Highlights: The Horned Frogs came into the game 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the MWC; Boise State was 8-0 overall and 3-0 in conference. It wasn’t totally clear how big of a test this would be for the Broncos, but it certainly figured to be their most challenging game of the season other than the season opener against UGA.

It was 7-7 after 1 quarter and the Horned Frogs led 20-14 at the half. TCU was hanging in there on the blue turf but they appeared to commit a fatal error on the first play of the 2nd half. TCU got the ball first out of halftime, and they had a chance to take a 2-score lead, but on the very first play after the kickoff, Antoine Hicks fumbled and Tyrone Crawford returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to put Boise State ahead by a point. TCU punted on their next possession, and the Broncos marched 67 yards for a score, converting a 4th and 4 along the way.

TCU had to start their next drive at their own 14, down 28-20, with just over 7 minutes to play in the 3rd. The Horned Frogs got off the ropes, marching on an 86-yard TD drive. QB Casey Pachall ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 28. On the 2nd play of the 4th quarter the Broncos untied the game, with Kellen Moore hooking up with Dallas Burroughs on a 54-yard touchdown that gave Boise State a 35-28 lead. Pachall was picked off deep in Broncos territory on TCU’s next drive and the score remained the same late into the 4th.

The Broncos were in control, holding a 7-point lead at home, and in possession of the ball inside TCU territory. On 2nd and 6 from the TCU 35 Drew Wright took the ball and gained 4 yards before the ball was knocked loose. The Horned Frogs recovered at their own 27 with 2:26 on the clock.

TCU quickly moved down field. Pachall found Brandon Carter for a 25-yard touchdown and what would presumably be the game-tying score. But with just 1:05 left on the clock, Gary Patterson decided to gamble. TCU went for the 2-point conversion and the lead, and Pachall got it to Josh Boyce for the score, putting the Horned Frogs ahead by a point.

The Broncos were in trouble but they only needed a FG to win. TCU kicker Josh Evans then gave them a big boost by sending the kickoff out of bounds, giving Boise State the ball at their own 40. Soon the Broncos faced 4th and 10 from the 50-yard line. Moore was pressured and he threw a pass high and over the middle in the general vicinity of a crowd. It fell incomplete and it looked like TCU had held, but the Broncos got another chance.

An absolutely horrific pass interference penalty was called, giving Boise State a 1st down at the TCU 35. Just like that they were almost in FG range and you started to think how this game would end up being decided by a truly awful pass interference call. Boise State picked up 15 more yards on 2 plays, and on 3rd and 5 from the 20 Moore took a loss of 2 yards to center the ball for his kicker.

With 3 seconds showing on the clock, redshirt freshman Dan Goodale came on to try a 39-yard FG to win the game. He came nowhere near. For the 2nd year in a row, Boise State’s dreams of perfection ended on a missed FG, as TCU prevailed 36-35.

Comments: In a strange way this felt like a down year for the Mountain West or at least a weird year. With BYU and Utah no longer in the conference it just doesn’t seem like the MWC anymore. Boise State joined the league but TCU will be gone next year. The Broncos missed out on a perfect season, a BCS game, and perhaps even a shot at the NC due to a missed FG for the 2nd year in a row.

What’s even more odd, when you consider how good the Broncos have been the last 2 seasons, is that they haven’t won their conference in either year. Making matters worse for the MWC, TCU—the traitors in the eyes of the other longtime Mountain West teams—knocked off Boise State and won the conference title in their final season in the league.


Offensive Player of the Year: LaMichael James-RB-Oregon.

Runner Up: (Tie) Andrew Luck-QB-Oregon.

Runner Up: (Tie) Matt Barkley-QB-USC.

Defensive Player of the Year: Scott Crichton-DE-Oregon State.

Runner Up: Chase Thomas-LB-Stanford.

Coach of the Year: David Shaw-Sanford.

Runner Up: Kyle Whittingham-Utah.

Most Surprising Team: Utah.

Runner Up: UCLA.

Most Disappointing Team: Oregon State.

Runner Up: Arizona State.

Best Moment: January 2nd: Conference champion Oregon hangs on to defeat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, 45-38.

Also Considered: December 22nd: USC QB Matt Barkley announces he will return for his senior season, meaning the Pac-12 will have a team to replace Stanford as a top 10 contender along with Oregon, and a Heisman contender to replace Andrew Luck.

Worst Moment: January 2nd: The Pac-12 very nearly goes 2-0 in BCS bowl games, but Stanford suffers a heartbreaking defeat in the January 2nd nightcap, falling 41-38 in OT against Oklahoma State. Stanford outplays the Cowboys and has Jordan Williamson set up for a 35-yarder to win it at the buzzer, but Williamson misses wide left to send it to OT tied 38-38. Moments later, Williamson hooks a 43-yard attempt, and Oklahoma State makes a chip shot to win, 41-38. The loss costs Stanford a #3 finish in the final polls and the right (I guess) to shout that they should have been in the NC game.

Also Considered: September 3rd and 10th: Oregon State embarrasses the conference in back-to-back weeks to open the season. In the opener, the Beavers lose to FCS Sacramento State in overtime, 29-28, at home. A week later, the Beaves get flattened by Wisconsin on the road, 35-0.

Also Considered: December 29th: Washington puts on one of the most pathetic displays of defense in the history of major college football, as the Huskies lose to Baylor, 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl. While giving up 67 points, Washington surrenders 777 yards of total offense, as the Bears amass 33 first downs, and score 9 TD’s, 1 FG, and 1 2-point conversion.

Also Considered: Due to USC still being banned from the postseason, the inaugural Pac-12 championship game comes with a bit of embarrassment for the conference, as UCLA makes the game out of the South despite a record of 6-6. The Bruins come into the matchup with Oregon having lost 50-0 against the Trojans in their last game, and with Rick Neuheisel as a lame duck coach.

The Bruins fall 49-31 to the Ducks in the title game. With the loss, the Bruins fall to 6-7, and must apply for a special exception just to play in a bowl game due to finishing the year with a losing record. They will end the year 2 games under .500 at 6-8, bringing more shame to the conference.

Also Considered: December and January: The Pac-12 goes just 2-5 in bowl games. Oregon (45-38 over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl) and Utah (30-27 in overtime over GT in the Sun Bowl) claim the conference’s only wins during the bowl season.

ASU gets crushed by Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl (56-24); Cal loses to Texas in the Holiday Bowl (21-10); Washington embarrasses the conference in a shootout loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl (67-56); UCLA falls to a terrible Illinois team in the Kraft Bowl (20-14); and Stanford suffers a heartbreaking defeat to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl (41-38 in OT).

Pac-12 Game of the Year

Week 9: Stanford at USC (56-48, OT-III)

Highlights: USC came into the game 6-1, while Stanford was undefeated at 7-0. The game was surprisingly low scoring early on, with Stanford leading 7-3 at the end of the 1st quarter and 10-6 at halftime.

Things heated up after the break, with Curtis McNeal scoring a pair of touchdowns early in the 3rd quarter to give the Trojans a 20-10 lead. Stanford then reeled off 14 straight points to retake the lead, 24-20, going into the 4th quarter. A 28-yard strike from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee gave USC a 27-24 lead early in the 4th. Stanford kicked a FG to tie the score with 5:10 to play.

The Trojans moved into Stanford territory on their next possession but the drive stalled and they had to punt, giving the ball back to Andrew Luck. USC’s defense then appeared to have turned the tide in the game, as Nickell Robey jumped a route for a pick-six, putting USC ahead 34-27 with 3:08 remaining. Luck showed tremendous poise, regrouping, and leading the Cardinal on a 76-yard drive, with Stepfan Taylor scoring from 2 yards out to tie the game with 38 seconds left.

The Trojans attempted to move into position for a FG that could win the game in regulation. On 2nd and 10 from the 40 with just 9 seconds left, Barkley hit Robert Woods for a gain of 7 yards. USC attempted to get a timeout called but the officials ruled that the clock had run out. USC argued vigorously, wanting to get a chance for a 50-yard FG, but the ruling stood, sending the game into overtime.

The two teams traded touchdowns during the first two overtime sessions. On their 3rd overtime possession, Stanford scored on a 5-yard run by Taylor. They had to go for the 2, and Luck hit Coby Fleener for the conversion, putting the pressure on USC. The Trojans showed no signs of wilting, picking up 21 yards on the first play of their possession. It now looked like this might be one of those games that goes to 6 or 7 overtimes, as both defenses were gassed.

On 1st and goal from the 4, McNeal took the handoff and was driving towards the goal line when he fumbled the ball into the end zone and right into the middle of a pack of about 3 or 4 Stanford defenders. They fell on the ball in the end zone to win the game. Stanford had survived, 56-48 in the 3rd overtime.

Comments: My offensive award picks in this conference may not seem to make sense when compared with my picks for the Musburger award, but when there are several really, really worthy candidates I think it’s okay to spread things around.

The Pac-12 had some highs and lows in the first year after expansion. They had 3 elite teams in Stanford, Oregon, and USC but they also had some horrible teams in Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State, and Arizona. Arizona State was a major disappointment and USC was still banned from the postseason. UCLA’s presence in the first ever Pac-12 title game was a bit of an embarrassment.

The Pac-12 might have been the top conference in terms of QB play this season (at least the top half), with Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Darron Thomas, Nick Foles, Keith Price, and Brock Osweiler all enjoying stellar seasons.


Offensive Player of the Year: Trent Richardson-RB-Alabama.

Runner Up: Tyler Wilson-QB-Arkansas.

Defensive Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu-CB-LSU.

Runner Up: Danny Trevathan-LB-Kentucky.

Coach of the Year: Steve Spurrier-South Carolina.

Runner Up: Les Miles-LSU.

Most Surprising Team: Vanderbilt.

Runner Up: Arkansas.

Most Disappointing Team: Tennessee.

Runner Up: Mississippi.

Best Moment: January 9th: #1 LSU plays #2 Alabama in the BCS national championship game, marking the first time in the history of the BCS that teams from the same conference have squared off in the NC game. Regardless of the outcome, at the end of the night, the SEC will have won its 8th national title in the 11 year history of the BCS, and the 6th straight.

Also Considered: November 20th: With LSU (#1), Alabama (#2), and Arkansas (#3), the SEC holds the top 3 spots in the BCS standings. It marks the first time any conference has held the top 3 spots in the 14-year history of the BCS. LSU, Bama, and Arkansas also hold the top 3 spots in the AP poll, the USA Today poll, and the Harris poll.

Also Considered: January 10th: The SEC dominates the final edition of both the AP and the USA Today polls. In the final AP rankings, the conference holds the #1 and #2 spots; 3 teams in the top 5; 4 teams in the top 9; 5 teams in the top 19; and 6 in the top 27. In the final USA Today rankings, the conference holds the #1 and #2 spots; 3 teams in the top 5; 4 teams in the top 8; 5 teams in the top 20; and 8 of the 40 teams receiving votes.

Worst Moment: November 11th-January 10th: Beginning with #1 LSU’s “ugly” 9-6 win at #2 Alabama in OT on November 11th, the conference must deal with incessant whining and bitching and moaning from across the world about how boring a game it was, about how no one wants to see a rematch, about how nothing is fair, and about how Oklahoma State and Stanford and a bunch of other teams deserve a chance and could probably kill LSU or Alabama if given the opportunity.

Also Considered: September 3rd: The Dawgs let down the conference, falling 35-21 to Boise State in their own backyard.

SEC Game of the Year

Week 10: LSU at Alabama (9-6, OT)

Highlights: Obviously this game wasn’t stuffed full of what you would normally call highlights. This game was reviled by a seemingly overwhelming majority of the public and the condemnation of the way the two teams played was stunningly widespread and vocal in the immediate aftermath.

Actually, the public outcry—not over the outcome of the game but over the style and nature of the game itself—would really never let up because it would soon become clear that a rematch in the NC game was a distinct possibility. Most bewildering of all, not only were voices offering a different opinion of the game scarce, anyone who even attempted to give an opposing interpretation of the event was shouted down and risked being accused of having a part in some sort of SEC/ESPN conspiracy.

In my view, the game between #1 LSU and #2 Alabama in week 10 was a defensive struggle taken to a more extreme level than usual. Both defenses are simply on another level from the rest of the country, including their own offenses. Neither coach wanted to risk making a mistake that would cost his team the game. I actually enjoyed the game and I saw great defense rather than inept offense.

It was immediately clear to me that there were 2 things that the irate mob of fans and media members didn’t quite understand. Point 1: they obviously didn’t recognize or appreciate how special the defensive units of these two particular teams were. The level of talent, combined with the coaching expertise, was just miles apart from the average defense in college football, and a lot of people didn’t seem to grasp that. Point 2: the recent state of the game, with offensive domination being the norm, has caused many people to look at physical, defensive dominated football as mediocre or even bad football.

Both teams came into the contest 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. The 1st quarter was scoreless and it was just a 3-3 game at halftime. Amazingly, Alabama clung to a 6-3 lead going into the 4th quarter. Early in the 4th LSU kicked a FG to tie the game at 6-6 and the score stayed tied into overtime.

The Tide got the ball first in OT and they moved backwards. Eventually they were forced to attempt a 52-yard FG. Cade Foster couldn’t connect. Foster and Jeremy Shelley combined to go 2 for 6 on FG tries for Bama in the game. Now needing only a FG to win, LSU was conservative. They sent Drew Alleman out for a 25-yarder and he nailed it to give LSU the 9-6 win. Alleman was 3 for 3 in FG tries in the game, and it was the kicking game that made the difference in this battle.

Comments: I’ve mentioned this before in other posts but I really felt like this was a year of mixed feelings for the SEC. On one hand, they reached unprecedented levels of success at the top, and they won a 6th straight BCS national title. On the other hand, they also had the loser of the national championship game, even if that team lost to another team from the conference.

The chance to prove their superiority over the other top teams in the country was actually taken away from the SEC. Also, while the SEC was miles ahead of the rest of the country in defense this season, the SEC’s offense—particularly quarterback play—was simply not very good.

In addition, two of the conferences traditional powers—Florida and Tennessee—have clearly fallen off. This is particularly the case with the Vols, who have now lost at least 6 games in each of the last 4 years. The Gators have lost 11 games over the past 2 seasons, after losing only 10 games over 5 seasons from 2005-2009.

Sun Belt

Offensive Player of the Year: Bobby Rainey-RB-Western Kentucky.

Runner Up: Blaine Gautier-QB-Louisiana-Lafayette.

Defensive Player of the Year: Brandon Joiner-DE-Arkansas State.

Runner Up: Randell Johnson-LB-Florida Atlantic.

Coach of the Year: Willie Taggart-Western Kentucky.

Runner Up: Mark Hudspeth-Louisiana-Lafayette.

Most Surprising Team: Western Kentucky.

Runner Up: Louisiana-Lafayette.

Most Disappointing Team: Troy.

Runner Up: Louisiana-Monroe.

Best Moment: January 8th: 4 Sunbelt teams finish the season with winning records. It is the first time in the 11-year history of the league that more than 2 teams have finished over .500 in the same year.

Also Considered: September 9th and 17th: Florida International pulls off back-to-back wins over (somewhat) major programs, winning at Louisville in week 2 (24-17), and then beating Central Florida at home a week later (17-10).

Also Considered: November 26th: Western Kentucky beats Troy, 41-18, to finish the season 7-5. The 7-win season comes in WK’s 4th season at the FBS level. They had been a combined 4-32 during their previous 3 years at this level.

Worst Moment: December 4th: Western Kentucky—the best story in college football—is the only eligible team with a winning record left out of the bowl season.

Also Considered: September 17th: It looks like Western Kentucky may still be a long way away from competing in the FBS, as they are blown out by an FCS team. Playing at home against Indiana State, the Hilltoppers lose 44-16 to fall to 0-3 on the season, making them 4-35 since joining the FBS. The idea that WK would win 7 of their final 9 games would be ridiculous at this point.

Sun Belt Game of the Year

Week 10: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Louisiana-Monroe (36-35)

Highlights: ULM jumped out in front early, leading 14-0 after the 1st quarter. ULL responded in the 2nd quarter, outscoring ULM 24-0 to take a 24-14 lead into halftime. The Warhawks wouldn’t go away. They cut the deficit to 24-21 early in the 3rd, and on the first play of the 4th quarter they scored again to take the lead, 28-24.

When Jyruss Edwards scored his 4th touchdown of the game to make it 35-24 with just 3:08 left on the clock, it appeared the Ragin’ Cajuns were done for. However, a short kickoff and a penalty on ULM gave ULL great field position on their next possession, and they needed just 6 plays and a minute and 3 seconds to go 48 yards for a TD make it a 1-score game. They failed on the 2-point try, leaving the score 35-30 with 2:05 to play.

The problem for the Cajuns was that they were out of timeouts, meaning they would have to rely on an onside kick. That worked out in their favor, as they recovered the onside kick at the ULM 39. Moments later Alonzo Harris scored from 3 yards out to put ULL in front with 1:06 on the clock. They again missed on the 2-point try, leaving the score 36-35.

The Warhawks reached the ULL 46 on their final drive, but the ULL defense held, and the Cajuns came away with a miraculous comeback win over their rivals, 36-35.

Comments: This was quite simply the greatest season in the history of the Sun Belt Conference.


Offensive Player of the Year: Robert Turbin-RB-Utah State.

Runner Up: Taveon Rogers-WR-New Mexico State.

Defensive Player of the Year: Donyae Coleman-SS-New Mexico State.

Runner Up: Jay Dudley-LB-Louisiana Tech.

Coach of the Year: Sonny Dykes-Louisiana Tech.

Runner Up: Gary Andersen-Utah State.

Most Surprising Team: Louisiana Tech.

Runner Up: Utah State.

Most Disappointing Team: Idaho.

Runner Up: Nevada.

Best Moment: November 12th: Louisiana Tech wins easily at Mississippi, 27-7. The victory is their first over Mississippi since 1946.

Also Considered: September 10th: New Mexico State—one of the worst programs in the FBS over the last few years—pulls off an early season stunner against a BCS team. Playing on the road at Minnesota as 23-point underdogs, the Aggies shock the Gophers, 28-21.

Worst Moment: December: The WAC finishes with only 3 bowl eligible teams and goes 0-3 in bowl games. Utah State comes up short against Ohio in the Idaho Bowl (24-23); Louisiana Tech falls to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl (31-24); and Nevada goes down to Southern Miss in the Hawaii Bowl (24-17).

The conference goes 0-3 against the MWC; C-USA; and the MAC. At the end of the season, the only team with less than 6 losses in the WAC is Louisiana Tech at 8-5.

Also Considered: September: Utah State suffers come-from-ahead losses in 3 different non-conference games, each one of them in heartbreaking, soul crushing fashion. In the season opener, Utah State travels to Auburn as 24-point underdogs and has the defending national champions down for a 9-count. With just 3:38 remaining and Auburn down to their last timeout, the Aggies score to go up 10, 38-28. The fans begin to exit the stands in droves.

As the fans file out, Auburn goes 65 yards in 6 plays for a touchdown, scoring on a 15-yard pass play on 3rd and goal. That makes it a 38-35 game. Auburn then recovers one of the easiest onside kicks of all-time, with the Auburn player catching the kick off a bounce in stride.

The Tigers take over at their own 44 with 2:07 left. They go 56 yards in 8 plays for the score to take the lead. The Aggies are stopped on their final desperate attempt, as the Tigers somehow survive, 42-38.

In week 4, Utah State is favored by 13 points at home against Colorado State. The Aggies lead 14-3 midway through the 3rd quarter and they still lead 21-13 with just 4:56 remaining in the game as Colorado State begins a drive. On 4th and 30 from midfield, the Rams are forced to punt, with just 2:17 remaining, but the Aggies muff the kick and CSU recovers at the 15.

The Rams go in for the score to make it 21-19. A false start means CSU will have to try for the 2-point conversion from the 8, but they get it anyway to tie the game. Utah State ends up punting after going 3-and-out, and pinning CSU at their own 1 with 17 seconds left. The Aggies stop a running play for no gain but the Rams stay out of the end zone and send it to OT.

The teams trade touchdowns in the 1st OT, and then CSU scores a TD to start the 2nd overtime session. The Aggies score on the first play of their 2nd OT possession, but they decide to go for 2 and the win and get stuffed, losing 35-34 in double OT.

The next Friday Utah State goes to Provo to play rival BYU, where they have not won since 1977. They have lost 15 straight to the Cougars on the road and they are 7.5-point dogs. A FG gives Utah State a 24-13 lead with 12:43 left in the game. The Cougars go 60 yards in 8 plays for a score to make it 24-20 with 10:05 to go.

The Aggies drive to the BYU 30 before they are stopped on downs. BYU drives into Utah State territory but the Aggies recover a fumble at their own 28 with 3:53 left. They are forced to punt but they pin BYU at their own 4 with only 1 timeout left and just 2:36 on the clock.

BYU goes 96 yards in 9 plays, scoring on a 13-yard TD with 11 seconds left to take the lead. The Aggies are stopped on their last desperate attempt and lose 27-24.

WAC Game of the Year

Week 12: Louisiana Tech at Nevada (24-20)

Highlights: This was a big game for both teams, as LT was 4-1 in the WAC, while Nevada was 4-0 in conference. Nevada led it 7-0 after 1 quarter of play and the score stayed the same into halftime.

The 3rd quarter ended with the Wolf Pack leading 13-3. When Stefphon Jefferson scored from 4 yards out to put Nevada up 20-3 with 13:01 left in the game, it looked like the Wolf Pack had the game in the bag. But nothing came easy for Nevada this season.

Colby Cameron led LT on an 84-yard TD drive to cut the deficit to 20-10 with still 9 minutes to play. Nevada went 3-and-out on their next possession and Louisiana Tech started moving again. This time they marched 89 yards for the score, with Cameron throwing his 2nd TD pass, bringing LT within 3. There was still almost 6 minutes left on the clock.

Nevada did a good job of taking some time off the clock and changing field position. They pinned the Bulldogs at their own 8 with just 2:29 remaining. The trouble was that LT had gone on drives of over 80 yards on each of their last 2 possessions, taking a total of just 5 minutes and 27 seconds.

They moved right down the field again. Cameron threw his 3rd touchdown of the quarter to put Louisiana Tech on top for the first time in the game, 24-20, with less than a minute to play. The Bulldog defense shutdown Nevada on their final attempt, sealing the victory and putting Louisiana Tech in the driver’s seat for the WAC title.

Comments: The 2010 football season was one of the best in the history of the WAC. The 2011 season was one of the worst. The WAC has less momentum going forward than the Big East (and it’s not even close). The conference lost its bellwether this year and no one emerged to even come close to filling Boise State’s shoes.

This was the first year in a long time that the WAC was clearly inferior to both the MWC and C-USA. With Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State leaving next season, to be replaced by Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, it’s possible that the MAC or even the SBC will be a stronger conference than the WAC.

National Awards

The Brent Musburger Most Outstanding Football Player Award

Winner: Robert Griffin III-QB-Baylor.

Runner Up: Andrew Luck-QB-Stanford.

Third Place: Montee Ball-RB-Wisconsin.

Fourth Place: LaMichael James-RB-Oregon.

Fifth Place: Trent Richardson-RB-Alabama.

Sixth Place: Matt Barkley-QB-USC.

Seventh Place: Tyrann Mathieu-CB-LSU.

Eighth Place: Russell Wilson-QB-Wisconsin.

Ninth Place: Kellen Moore-QB-Boise State.

Tenth Place: Justin Blackmon-WR-Oklahoma State.

Eleventh Place: Whitney Mercilus-DE-Illinois.

Twelfth Place: Case Keenum-QB-Houston.

Comments: When RGIII went from being on the edge of the Heisman race to being basically assured of winning the award virtually overnight I was skeptical and slightly annoyed. But I eventually came around and in the end I had to admit that he was without a doubt the top player in college football this season.

Andrew Luck had a tremendous year, and he may well be the best player, but he was not as good as Robert Griffin III this season. RGIII was 4th in the nation in completion percentage (72.4%); 2nd in QB rating (189.47); 7th in passing yards per game (330.2); 1st in yards per attempt (10.7); and tied 4th in passing TD’s (37 against just 6 picks).

He also averaged 53.77 rushing yards a game and scored 10 rushing TD’s and a 2-point conversion. He punted 3 times (average: 33.0 yards) and caught a 15 yard pass. He was 2nd in the country in total offense per game (384.0) and amassed 714 yards from scrimmage.

I feel pretty good about the variety in my Musburger picks this season. The top 12 list breaks down like this: QB (6); RB (3); WR (1); CB (1); DE (1). In addition to all of the great seasons turned in by QB’s, running backs LaMichael James and Montee Ball both had spectacular seasons. Trent Richardson had another stellar year, putting up great numbers in the best defensive conference. Justin Blackmon was clearly the best receiver in CFB again this season, though he wasn’t quite as good as he was in 2010. Tyrann Mathieu was perhaps the biggest “game changer” in CFB this season. Anyone who watched LSU this season knows how big of an impact he had on things. However, I do think it’s fair to say that the Honey Badger nickname was at least part of the reason that he became such a star this season. There are 120 FBS teams. For a defensive player to become a “household name” it takes something extra to allow them to standout from the crowd. It could be an amazing performance on a big stage (Ndamukong Suh against Texas in Big XII title game), a spectacular play (David Pollack against South Carolina in 2002), or a larger-than-life persona (Warren Sapp at the U). For Mathieu it was a unique nickname. As I mentioned earlier, I’m still trying to figure out why Whitney Mercilus didn’t receive more publicity this season. He even has a last name that could have been his little something extra to make him standout.

Other National Awards (Individual)

The Barry Sanders Offensive Player of the Year Award

Winner: Robert Griffin III-QB-Baylor.

Runner Up: LaMichael James-RB-Oregon.

The Lawrence Taylor Defensive Player of the Year Award

Winner: Tyrann Mathieu-CB-LSU.

Runner Up: Whitney Mercilus-DE-Illinois.

The Joe Paterno Coach of the Year Award

Winner: Bill Snyder-Kansas State.

Runner Up: Mark Dantonio-Michigan State.

The Herschel Walker Freshman Player of the Year Award

Winner: Sammy Watkins-WR-Clemson.

Runner Up: De’Anthony Thomas-RB-Oregon.

The Bernie Kosar Quarterback of the Year Award

Winner: Robert Griffin III-Baylor.

Runner Up: Andrew Luck-Stanford.

The Bo Jackson Running Back of the Year Award

Winner: Montee Ball-Wisconsin.

Runner Up: Trent Richardson-Alabama.

The Sterling Sharpe Wide Receiver of the Year Award

Winner: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State.

Runner Up: Jordan White-Western Michigan.

The Ozzie Newsome Tight End of the Year Award

Winner: Coby Fleener-Stanford.

Runner Up: Tyler Eifert-Notre Dame.

The Jerome Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year Award

Winner: Whitney Mercilus-DE-Illinois.

Runner Up: Vinny Curry-DE-Marshall.

The Darryl Talley Linebacker of the Year Award

Winner: Danny Trevathan-Kentucky.

Runner Up: Jarvis Jones-Georgia.

The Scott Case Defensive Back of the Year Award

Winner: Tyrann Mathieu-CB-LSU.

Runner Up: David Amerson-CB-NC State.

The Kevin Butler Place Kicker of the Year Award

Winner: Randy Bullock-Texas A&M.

Runner Up: Brett Maher-Nebraska.

The Reggie Roby Punter of the Year Award

Winner: Brad Wing-LSU.

Runner Up: Shawn Powell-Florida State.

Top 3 Individual Performances

1. Robert Griffin III-QB-Baylor vs. Oklahoma (Win, 45-38): Facing an Oklahoma team poised to jump right into the middle of the national championship picture, Griffin leads the 17-point underdog Bears to their first ever win over the Sooners. Griffin completes 21 of 34 passes for 479 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no picks, while also rushing for 72 yards on 18 carries, amassing 551 yards of total offense. With the score tied 38-38, Griffin fires a 34-yard TD strike to Terrance Williams with 8 seconds remaining to give Baylor the victory. Griffin enters the game as an afterthought in the Heisman race. Though not realized at the time, by game’s end, he has the trophy wrapped up.

2. Matt Barkley-QB-USC vs. UCLA (Win, 50-0): With USC banned from postseason play, the Trojans face their in-city rivals—who will be going to the first ever Pac-12 championship game the next week instead of USC—in what will be their final game of the season. In what some expect will be his last game at USC, Barkley puts on a near flawless performance, completing 35 of 42 passes for 423 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no interceptions, as the Trojans demolish the Bruins.

3. Case Keenum-QB-Houston and Patrick Edwards-WR-Houston vs. Rice (Win, 73-34): On a random Thursday night in October, the duo of Keenum and Edwards combines to rack up numbers heretofore only seen in video games. Keenum completes 24 of 37 passes for 534 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Edwards catches 7 passes for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns, as the Cougars improve to 8-0 on the season with a beat down of their in-city rivals.

Comments: You might have noticed that I changed some of the names of my awards this year. I decided that it was silly to name an award after a player who really didn’t do anything of note as a college player. That was yet another aspect of last year’s blog that I can’t believe ever made sense to me.

I did some spreading around of the accolades, putting James as runner up in offensive player of the year and Richardson runner up in RB of the year. I’m pretty sure the most surprising thing about these picks for most people would be picking Danny Trevathan as top LB over both Jarvis Jones and Luke Kuechly. Many people have probably never even heard of Trevathan. Just trust me: he’s good. Trevathan recorded 143 total tackles (67 solo; 76 assisted); 12 TFL (-32 yards); 3 sacks (-20 yards); 4 INT (73 return yards); 5 pass breakups (9 passes defended); 2 QB hurries; and 5 fumbles forced.

National Awards (Team/Game)

Most Surprising Team: Kansas State.

Runner Up: Baylor.

Most Disappointing Team: Texas A&M.

Runner Up: Florida State.

Best Regular Season Inter-conference Game

Week 2: Michigan vs. Notre Dame (35-31)

Runner Up

Week 1: Baylor vs. TCU (50-48)

Best Bowl Game

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford (41-38, OT)

Runner Up

Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin (45-38)

Worst Bowl Game

BBVA Compass Bowl: SMU vs. Pitt (28-6)

Runner Up

BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs. LSU (21-0)

FBS Game of the Year

Week 12: Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State (37-31, OT-II)

Runner Up

Week 12: Baylor vs. Oklahoma (45-38)

Biggest Shocker

Week 8: Texas Tech wins at Oklahoma (41-38) as 29-point underdog.

Runner Up

Week 12: Iowa State knocks off Oklahoma State (37-31, OT-II) as 26.5 point underdog.

Comments: Most of these were fairly clear cut for me. Kansas State came out of nowhere. I had serious doubts about whether Bill Snyder would be able to recapture the magic in Manhattan. Those coaching comebacks don’t often work out like we want them to. I was wrong about this one. Snyder is genius.

Texas A&M and FSU were certainly the two most disappointing teams for me this year, but nobody comes close to the Aggies. For them to finish the regular season 6-6 was just ridiculous. Plus, the way they lost made it much worse, as they blew big leads in most of their losses, and 5 of their 6 losses came by 4 points or less or in overtime.

Due to the fact that regardless of who won the NC game it would result in 1 SEC team winning and 1 SEC team losing, I was less excited for the BCS championship game than ever before this season. Then the game itself was exceedingly boring.

The only reason I have the BBVA Compass Bowl as the worst bowl game instead of the BCS title game is that at least the Bama-LSU game was the top 2 teams in the country playing for the national championship. The BBVA Compass Bowl was boring; non-competitive; ugly; and was a matchup of 6-6 Pitt from the Big East against 7-5 SMU from C-USA. Plus, it’s in the top 20 all-time for worst bowl game titles (and that’s a category with many worthy contenders).

It doesn’t help that the game is played at Legion Field in Birmingham and takes place a few hours before the start of the first NFL playoff game of the year. They should have moved this game to Thursday when for some unknown reason there was no game. Mike Gleason, John Congemi, and Eamon McAnaney called the game for ESPN. If you don’t have any idea who those three people are don’t worry; neither does anyone at ESPN. They have to be somewhere around 19th string on ESPN’s CFB announcing depth chart.

The game was a total drag. SMU jumped out to a big lead and Pittsburgh never so much as hinted at making an attempt at even cutting into the lead at all in any way whatsoever. Pitt hadn’t played in 5 weeks and during that time off they had lost both coordinators and been abandoned by their head coach. SMU hadn’t played a game in 42 days. This was a recipe for garbage.

2011 All-Horse Collar Team

1st Team


QB: Robert Griffin III-Baylor

RB: Trent Richardson-Alabama

RB: LaMichael James-Oregon

RB: Montee Ball-Wisconsin

WR: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State

WR: Jordan White-Western Michigan

TE: Coby Fleener-Stanford

OL: Oregon Ducks

PK: Randy Bullock-Texas A&M.

KR: Greg McCoy-TCU


DE: Whitney Mercilus-Illinois

DE: Vinny Curry-Marshall

DT: Derek Wolfe-Cincinnati

DT: Drew Nowak-Western Michigan

LB: Danny Trevathan-Kentucky

LB: Jarvis Jones-Georgia

LB: Luke Kuechly-Boston College

CB: Tyrann Mathieu-LSU

CB: David Amerson-NC State

CB: Morris Claiborne-LSU

SS: Donyae Coleman-New Mexico State

FS: Bacarri Rambo-Georgia

P: Brad Wing-LSU

PR: Joe Adams-Arkansas

2nd Team


QB: Andrew Luck-Stanford

RB: Bernard Pierce-Temple

RB: David Wilson-Virginia Tech

WR: Robert Woods-USC

WR: Patrick Edwards-Houston

WR: Kendall Wright-Baylor

TE: Tyler Eifert-Notre Dame

OL: Stanford Cardinal

PK: Brett Maher-Nebraska.

KR: Raheem Mostert-Purdue


DE: Frank Alexander-Oklahoma

DE: Corey Lemonier-Auburn

DT: Aaron Donald-Pittsburgh

DT: Brett Roy-Nevada

LB: Sammy Brown-Houston

LB: Chris Borland-Wisconsin

LB: Courtney Upshaw-Alabama

LB: Chase Thomas-Stanford

CB: Brandon Boykin-Georgia

CB: Casey Hayward-Vanderbilt

SS: Jamie Bender-UAB

FS: Omar Brown-Marshall

P: Shawn Powell-Florida State

PR: Dustin Harris-Texas A&M

Comments: I can hear the howls that would be released if people actually read this blog: “how can you have only 2 players from Alabama and 3 players from LSU among your teams!!!” However, I feel the lack of Tide and Tiger players among my All-Horse Collar teams is certainly defensible and perhaps even justified (I know there’s not much of a difference between those two adjectives but I really liked that sentence).

First off, I only pick an offensive line unit, so I have 2 spots to be filled by 2 units instead of 10 spots to be filled by individual linemen. O-line play was a strength of both LSU and Bama so the number of guys from those teams represented here would doubtless be larger if I picked individual linemen.

In addition, neither team had stars at the offensive skill positions other than Richardson, who is included in my 1st team offense.

Finally, while Bama and LSU had the top 2 defensive units in the country, neither side had an abundance of guys putting up big time stats as individuals.

40 Memorable Moments (in no particular order)

1. Defending champs survive Utah State in opener.

2. Boise State thumps Dawgs at the Dome.

3. LSU sends message with win over Oregon at Jurrah’s Palace.

4. USC’s blocked FG for a TD comes off the board…or does it?

5. Michigan stuns ND again.

6. More Dawgs; less cats.

7. Temple destroys Maryland.

8. A&M collapses over and over and over again.

9. Clemson hammers Virginia Tech twice.

10. Hokies put Cavaliers in their place.

11. Spartans stun Badgers on Hail Mary/twist and fight and lean to break plane.

12. Badgers avenge loss to MSU in first ever Big Ten title game.

13. UCLA makes first ever Pac-12 title game at 6-6; finishes year 6-8.

14. Ohio State stuns Wisconsin.

15. Michigan beats Ohio State.

16. RGIII beats Oklahoma, wins Heisman.

17. Red Raiders pull off stunner in Norman.

18. Stanford survives USC.

19. Oregon pounds Stanford.

20. USC stuns Oregon.

21. Toledo shootouts.

22. Kansas State out of nowhere.

23. Alabama and LSU FG fest.

24. Boise State done in by a kick again.

25. ISU pulls off shocker against Oklahoma State.

26. Week 12 madness.

27. Houston chokes in C-USA championship game again.

28. Remembered the Alamo, forgot the defense.

29. Rose/Fiesta/Sugar thrillers.

30. WV violates Clemson in the Orange.

31. Western Kentucky!

32. USC beats UCLA like a prison sissy.

33. Rematch in the NC game.

34. Top 3 all-SEC in week 12.

35. LSU runs the gauntlet.

36. Utah gets unholy on BYU.

37. Texas beats A&M (for last time?).

38. MAC is the mack.

39. WAC is wack.

40. Big Ten is 12 and the Big XII is 10.

20 Worst Moments (in no particular order…well, except for #1)

1. The Sandusky grand jury report.

2. Joe Pa excommunicated.

3. The U in deep shit.

4. Buckeyes take themselves down.

5. Tressel doesn’t survive.

6. Conference realignment reigns supreme again.

7. Weather delays breakout like plague.

8. Complete and total officiating failure in Toledo-Syracuse game.

9. Boise State and TCU left out again.

10. BCS final is a bust.

11. Howling and whining over first LSU-Bama game lasts for months.

12. Bitching and whining about rematch lasts for months.

13. Delusional claims about Oklahoma State deserving consideration for #1.

14. Wing gets called for taunting.

15. Graham screws Pitt.

16. Urban Meyer returns after brief retirement and no questions it.

17. Western Kentucky left out of bowl season.

18. Ryan Broyles goes down.

19. Army and Navy can’t go bowling.

20. The great Larry Munson dies.