Wednesday, September 25, 2013

College Football Weekend Primer: Shame on the NCAA (Again) and the First Quarterly Report

NCAA President Mark Emmert says reducing Penn State's sanctions is "the right thing to do."
By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

I think we can all now admit that last weekend featured one of the lamest college football slates in recent memory.

As editor Jeremy Conlin pointed out in our Weekend Football Recap, there was only one game between ranked teams (Though Arizona State shouldn't have been ranked), and I would add that the "marquee SEC matchup" of Florida and Tennessee was largely on affront on the game itself. Even if you clicked away from that turnover-fest to see the competitive Notre Dame-Michigan State game, you were treated to inept offense and vanilla play calling.


But fear not college football fans, because exciting football returns this week with four different battles between ranked opponents. For more on those, the NCAA dropping the ball yet again, and our NCAA Football Quarterly Report, keep reading after the jump.

Game(s) of the Week

6.LSU at 9. Georgia

23. Wisconsin at 4. Ohio State

You want a Game of the Week? How about two?

LSU's trip Between the Hedges should be an interesting one, and may feature more points than you expect. Georgia's rebuilt defense has given up 30 points to every team it has faced with a pulse (Editor's Note: All teams but North Texas), and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is playing the best football of his career, boasting a 10-1 TD to INT ratio.

On the other side, the Dawgs will be able to score points. With the brutal and explosive running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, Georgia should be able to make some hay against a normally immovable LSU front. Add in quarterback Aaron Murray, who is also playing his best football, and it's easy to see both these teams scoring in the mid-30s.

SEC stereotypes be damned!

Back in the Big Ten, the Badgers will look to spoil Urban Meyer's undefeated run at Ohio State with a showdown at the Horseshoe. Wisconsin, as always, can run the ball down pretty much anybody's throat, and can take away the run on defense. For Ohio State, this week looks like it will bring the return of preseason Heisman candidate quarterback Braxton Miller from injury.

I'm not saying they should again start backup Kenny Guiton, who has filled in admirably while Miller was out with a knee sprain, but this could be the toughest possible week for Miller to come back. Last season, a healthy Miller was held to under 100 passing yards and under 50 rushing yards by the physical Badger defense. On the whole, Ohio State's Big Ten best offense only mustered 236 that day in Madison, and survived 21-14 in overtime, thanks mostly to the Buckeye defense.

Expect another slugfest this week, but with Ohio State now eligible for postseason play and the Big Ten Championship Game, the stakes will be even higher. With Penn State ineligible and Purdue, Indiana and Illinois all just fighting for respectability, this night game in Columbus should serve as the de facto Big Ten Leaders Division championship game.

God I can't wait until they rename those divisions.

Shame of the Week: The NCAA

The NCAA announced this week that it will slowly begin reducing scholarship sanctions against the Penn State football program beginning next year. The school was hit with unprecedented sanctions after it allowed an unprecedented scandal, as former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 young boys in and out of the Penn State facilities.

It may have been the worst sports scandal in American history, so the NCAA (Though it really had no right to do so) docked the Nittany Lions 10 scholarships each year for the next four seasons, then stipulated that Penn State could have no more than 65 players on scholarship by 2014.

But, that number will now jump to 75, and the program will be at full strength long before the 2024 estimation we were originally given.

Penn State will be back to business as usual with an allotment of 85 scholarships, including the ability to sign up to 25 scholarship players a season, by 2016. That's right folks, the biggest, most stomach-turning scandal in the history of sports just occurred here, and all the program had to do was vacate some wins, tear down a statue, and play with the "competitive disadvantage" of 10 less scholarship players per recruiting class for four years. Oh yeah, and no mid-level bowl trips for four years, but that bowl ban may even end early, according to the NCAA.

Do you know how good Penn State is with 10 fewer scholarships and no bowl games to sell to recruits? About as good as everybody in the Big Ten not named Ohio State or Michigan.

Well, at least we know where the NCAA stands.

Boosters pay your players through a slush fund: Death Penalty (SMU's entire 1987 season was cancelled by the NCAA Infractions Committee, as were SMU's home games in 1988. SMU was docked 14 scholarships per year for four years, only allowed five assistant coaches, banned from TV and bowl games for three years and prohibited from recruiting off campus.)

Enable a child rapist for three decades: Meh.

Quarterly Report

Most teams are now a quarter of the way through their seasons, so it seems like a good time to update the 'ole Suite 10 and give you my updated Heisman favorites. If you would like to see my preseason picks, you can check those out here.

The Suite 10

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Clemson
4. Stanford
5. Texas A&M
6. Ohio State
7. LSU
8. Georgia
9. Louisville
10. Miami

Handicapping the Heisman Race

1. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

Dropped Out: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State and Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.

I picked Boyd in the preseason and, though he had some rough patches against NC State, he played lights out against Georgia and should put up good enough numbers the rest of the way. If Clemson goes undefeated, it would be hard not to give it to him. But, you could say the same thing about Mariota who has been even more efficient and better on the ground, though against weaker competition. When the schedule picks up, so should his candidacy.

Manziel has a few things working against him. Voters have shown that they don't necessarily like voting for a past winner to win again, and his general attitude has been off-putting to many. Bridgewater debuts on the list because he has put up insane numbers, but I just don't know if he can win the award playing Louisville's schedule. Where would his "Heisman moment" be?

Finally, McCarron also breaks into the top-5 because of a fantastic performance in Bama's shootout win over A&M. AJ being a "game manager" was always an overly simplified way to look at the Crimson Tide quarterback, but Alabama's defense is somewhat mortal this year, so McCarron may get the chance to put up bigger numbers as scores rise in Tuscaloosa. Miller drops out due to health, and Clowney falls because, let's face it, a defensive player was never going to win this without 100 tackles and 25 sacks.

BCS Bowl Projections

Orange Bowl

Clemson over Louisville

Rose Bowl

Stanford over Ohio State

Sugar Bowl

Texas A&M over Miami

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State over Michigan

BCS Title Game

Alabama over Oregon

Not much has changed since my preseason predictions. I've still got Tajh winning a shootout with Teddy in the Orange Bowl, the Cardinal besting the Buckeyes in a slug fest Rose Bowl and The Tide edging Oregon in an exciting championship game.

Heck, I've even still got A&M winning the Sugar Bowl and Okie State taking home the Fiesta Bowl, but their opponents have changed. After a loss to Michigan and a disappointing effort against Purdue, Notre Dame gets dropped from the Sugar Bowl in favor of suddenly trendy Miami. Meanwhile, that Wolverine win has me putting Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl over Nebraska. Do Michigan's last "way too close" games against Akron and UConn scare the heck out of me? You bet. But please, try to find another deserving team that isn't in the SEC, Pac 12 or ACC.

The only way I could see this changing is if a Big 12 like Oklahoma or Baylor goes to the Sugar or Orange Bowl, freeing up Miami to face Okie State in the Fiesta Bowl. But whatever, these are my picks and I'm sticking with them.

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