Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Weekend Football Roundup: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Yeah, tell me how the new rules won't make guys go for the knees...
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Every week, editor's Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello bring you the good, the bad and the ugly from the pro and college football weekend that was.

The Good

Auburn's Luck

Seriously, something has just gone improbably right for Auburn every single week. Actually, this week's Ohio State loss in the Big Ten Championship Game was far more likely than the Tigers' Hail Mary win over Georgia, or their 100-yard (More like 109-yard) field goal return for a game-winning touchdown against rival Alabama.

Yeah maybe it's just their year.


The Last Year of The BCS

Did we end up with a clear-cut second-best team in the country? No.


Did we end up with a controversy where a one-loss team with a tough schedule beat out an undefeated team with a poor schedule? No.

Did we end up with a title game between the country's only undefeated team and the champion of the most competitive conference in college football? Yes.

Did we end up with an evenly-matched championship game? For the most part, yes.

Did we end up with a scenario where a four-team playoff would have absolutely and totally decided the best team? Not really - Florida State and Auburn would be two of the four, but who would the other two be? Alabama would be a strong No. 3, but Michigan State, Stanford, Baylor, and Ohio State would all have legitimate gripes for the No. 4 spot.

All things considered, the BCS did it's job for the fourth year in a row - it identified teams that are either (a) unimpeachably the two best teams in the country (based on performance), or (b) unimpeachably the two teams most "deserving" of playing for a national championship (based on "resume").

An eight-team playoff would probably be the only way to effectively split the difference between "crowning a champion" (like the NCAA Tournament) and "identifying the best team." (like the NBA or NHL Playoffs). That's not around the corner any time soon, but in its last year, the BCS gave us a pretty good title game.



It just seems like football is more fun in the snow, and the early flurries Sunday gave us several exciting games. The back and forth affair in Baltimore between the Ravens and Vikings was only outdone by Antonio Brown's near-game winning lateral-fest touchdown as the Dolphins picked up a huge win in snowy Pittsburgh. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Nick Foles and the Eagles were tightening their grip on the NFC East with a come-from-behind win in the snow against desperate Detroit.

The Patriots seemed to be the only northern team not playing in snow, but they did unleash an "Avalanche" onside kick in their comeback, so that's gotta count for something.


The Minnesota-Baltimore Ending

Yeah, Joe mentioned it above, but it needs to be mentioned again. The ending of this game was ridiculous.

Six touchdowns in the fourth quarter. FIVE of them within a span of two minutes. Three touchdown drives that spanned less than 45 seconds each. Just look at this Win Probability chart:

That's five different swings of 60% or more in the span of two minutes.

If this game were, say, the Broncos vs. the Seahawks, and it was a national night game instead of a crappy team and a mediocre team playing a regional afternoon game, we'd be calling it the best regular season game of all time. And we might be right.


The Bad

Chris Petersen Leaving Boise State

Everything about this sucks for everybody. First of all, it really sucks for Boise State, a program that Petersen legitimately had competing with the blue bloods of college football.

But it also sucks for Petersen, whom I assumed would only leave Boise- a job he seemed to love, with no real pressure- for a "dream job" scenario. If that dream job is Washington, then I think we can safely say Petersen doesn't dream as big as his inventive play calling might suggest.

Petersen, who had won 90 percent of his games, including five conference titles and two BCS bowl wins to end perfect seasons, seemed to be turning down high-profile coaching gigs every year.

A few years back it was rumored that Petersen turned down Stanford, and a few weeks ago he withdrew his name from the USC coaching search… And now he takes the job at Washington? I guess he prefers to stay a little further north, and maybe he doesn't want the lofty expectations of some power programs, but this just seems beneath him. Well, at least below his coaching resume.

To use a Fast and Furious analogy (Because we're irrationally upset about Paul Walker. Yes, I know everyone, Mandela did more for the world, etc. Those movies were still awesome), it's as if Petersen tuned a Honda Civic to the point it could run with Ferraris. After years of being offered the chance to race a Ferrari of his own, he finally chose to get behind the wheel of… an Audi.

An Audi is a fine car, and Washington is a fine program, but we expected more.


The Ugly

Gronk's Knee

GRONK NO!!!! The only guy on the Patriots that has any fun is done for the year with a torn ACL and MCL. Now we'll just have to watch the boring, efficient Patriots still make the AFC title game and lose.


The Cowboys' Defense

It's one thing to allow 490 yards of offense. It's another thing entirely when it marks the sixth time in a season that the defense allows at least 450 yards (Dallas is 1-5 in those games). The Bears were 8-for-11 on third-down conversions, and the only three they missed resulted in field goal attempts. The Bears committed no turnovers and did not punt.

Last season, the Cowboys didn't a very good defense - they were 24th in scoring defense, 19th in yards allowed, and 25th in yards per play allowed. This year (with largely similar personnel), those rankings have dropped to 26th in scoring defense, 32nd in yards allowed, and 31st in yards per play.

Last season, the Saints had a terrible defense - they were 31st in scoring defense, 32nd in yards allowed (surrendering the most yards in NFL history), and 32nd in yards per play allowed (a full half-yard worse than the next-worse team - the 31st-ranked Giants were as close to league average as they were to last place). This season (with largely similar personnel), those numbers have improved to 5th in scoring defense, 6th in yards allowed, and 13th in yards per play.

One of the two teams fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The other hired him. I don't think that's a coincidence.


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