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Football has become essential agony: The Pundit dishes on the Birds and the BCS

The Eagles

What exactly was Andy Reid thinking when he sat McNabb down on Sunday? The Birds were only down by three points, after all. Granted, McNabb had been playing an atrocious game, but benching McNabb, at least to me, signaled a move in a new direction, i.e. the Kevin Kolb era. And then Kolb stunk it up, and Andy announced on Monday that McNabb would be his starting QB.

Huh?

So now, not only have you put all of the pressure on McNabb’s shoulders by singling him out and benching him, but you also are refusing to give Kolb a long look to see what you have for next year. ‘Cuz let’s be honest – it doesn’t look like McNabb will be coming back after this year. What kind of message has Andy Reid now sent to his starting quarterback? To me, he’s sent a very simple one: “Better, uh, watch your back there, Donovan, ‘cuz at the next sign of trouble, you’re coming out, and, uh, Kevin Kolb, we’re uh, we’re going to go ahead and give him a shot.”

Because, you know, the quarterback position isn’t already chock full of pressure. Let’s go ahead and put even more pressure on McNabb. Let’s go ahead and bench our franchise quarterack, in a game we are only trailing by three points, while we are still apparentely in a playoff race!

I MEAN, ARE YOU FRICKIN’ SERIOUS?

Kudos to McNabb for toeing the company line and playing it cool on this one. I, personally, would have been pissed the hell off. Don’t tell me that no one’s job is safe, bench a guy, then start him again the next week. Especially in a game they were only trailing by three friggin’ points! To me, Andy simply didn’t evaluate the situation properly. Was McNabb playing horrible football? Absolutely. Can you blame Andy for wanting him out of the game? Maybe not. Should Andy Reid have considered how sensitive the entire quarterback issue is this season, and really has been throughout Donovan McNabb’s career in this town, before he yanked him at halftime? Shouldn’t he have considered how this would be treated by the media and the fans, many of whom are already questioning whether or not McNabb will, or should, be back next season?

DUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just obnoxious).

What is going to happen to McNabb? If he isn’t going to return, will we get to see Kolb at some point? Barring a ridiculous hot streak by the Eagles, where they win out, at what point should Kolb get a look? Is Andy Reid’s job safe any longer? Has he lost control of this team? He certainly has lost the public support, but will that matter to Jeffrey Lurie? Who would you want to replace Reid?

I miss the Phillies.

The BCS

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Now, unless Alabama loses to Auburn or Florida loses to Florida State, the winner of the Alabama – Florida SEC Championship Game will be playing in the BCS Championship Game. Right, that seems simple enough. And it seems likely that somebody from the Big 12 South will be there as well, in all likelihood either Texas or Oklahoma, each with one loss. Ahhhh, let the debating begin.

In one corner, you have Texas, who beat Oklahoma earlier this year, on a neutral field. I mean, honestly, shouldn’t the argument end there? Well, not exactly. After all, if you are going to rank Texas ahead of Oklahoma, shouldn’t you also rank Texas Tech ahead of Texas? Tech also only has one loss, and beat Texas earlier this year.

Ah, but let’s not forget about that neutral field. Texas’ win over Oklahoma has to be slightly more impressive than Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech, since Texas beat OU on a neutral field, while OU beat Tech at home.

But hold on, hold on a second: OU absolutely destroyed Tech, 65-21. They beat the number two team in the nation by 44 friggin’ points, for God’s sake. To me, that cancels any advantage that Texas would be given for winning on a neutral field. Still, Texas beat OU.

Alright, but how about this: OU has several impressive non-conference victories. They beat Cincinnati, who will likely win the Big East, 52-26, in week two. Cincy is currently ranked number 16 in the BCS rankings. They also beat TCU, currently ranked 14th in the BCS rankings, 35-10 in week 5. As a matter of fact, in 4 games against opponents currently ranked in the BCS top 25, OU has outscored its opponents 187-92. Very, very impressive stuff, and if they knock off number 12 Oklahoma State this Saturday, it’s hard to imagine they won’t jump ahead of Texas.

But would that be fair? Texas has also played against 4 teams currently in the top 25 of the BCS rankings, and outscored those opponents 162-129. Not as impressive as the margin of victory posted by Oklahoma, but Texas faced those 4 opponents in four consecutive and unbelievably brutal weeks!

To review: if OU beats Oklahoma State, they will have victories over Texas Tech, OU State, TCU and Cincinnati under their belts. Their primetime, utter demolition of Tech will not quickly erase from the minds of the voters. Sam Bradford might be the frontrunner for the Heisman. Oklahoma is certainly the sexy pick.

Texas will have victories over OU, Oklahoma State and Missouri under their belts. Their only loss of the season will have come in an extremely tight game against Texas Tech, which they lost on the last play of the game. Oh yeah, and they already beat Oklahoma this year – on a neutral field. Texas is, by no means, a sexy pick, but they just might be the correct one. Hard to say, and they will be ignored if Oklahoma destroys Oklahoma State like they did to Tech.

Funny thing about that game for Texas: they need OU to win. See, the only reason this discussion is taking place is because, in the Big 12, if there is a three-way tie for first, the tiebreaker goes to whoever has the highest BCS ranking. But in the case of a two-way tie, the tiebreaker is a head-to-head match-up. And Texas Tech beat Texas. So if OU loses, Texas Tech wins the South based on their head-to-head win against Texas. Texas actually needs OU to beat Oklahoma State for them to have a chance, though I doubt they want them to win anything other than a squeaker.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine sure as hell does.

Alright, let me do my BCS predictions. OU is hot right now. They beat Oklahoma State, though not as handily as they beat Texas Tech. Let’s say 38-21. Sorry, Texas, but the sexy chick always gets laid before the bland, practical one does. Florida beats Alabama, Oklahoma beats Missouri, and Florida beats Oklahoma, 56-52, to win their second National Championship in three years. The other bowls? Oregon State will lose to Oregon, meaning an intriguing Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. I go Penn State over USC, 23-21. (Editor’s note: What a homer!) Alabama will face at-large Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and handle them fairly easily, winning 35-13. The Orange Bowl will be Cincinnati vs. one of the ACC teams. Seriously, I have no friggin’ idea what is going on in the ACC, and quite frankly, I could give a damn. Cincinnati wins the Orange. Finally, poor ‘ol Texas gets a less than appealing match-up against Boise State, who gets a rare second at-large bid for the mid-majors, ousting Ohio State for the final BCS slot. Texas Tech is the highest ranked team to get stiffed, since only two teams from any one conference are eligible for BCS bowls. Texas takes out its rage on Boise State, winning 49-10. Clearly, none of this will happen, and it is only what I am hoping will happen. In all reality, I just want the BCS to explode.

(Editor’s note: God, would a playoff be great this year. Stay tuned – methinks The Pundit is in his linguistic laboratory, concocting the perfect playoff system, one that will please all available parties. Oh, it shall be grand – or not. Either way, stay tuned).

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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