Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NCAA Football Weekend Primer: The Game of the Century (of the Week)

Just like their classic 1993 clash, Florida State and Notre Dame's game this weekend will have plenty of Heisman and national title implications.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

In the annals of college football, many games have been dubbed "The Game of the Century."

2006's Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus comes to mind, and the 2011 Alabama-LSU game in Tuscaloosa is another recent example (there are plenty of others from both centuries), but the big one I remember, from when I was too young to fully understand coaches polls and bowl games, was when No. 1 Florida State traveled to South Bend to face No. 2 Notre Dame in 1993.

The Irish were the biggest name in college football, boasting a huge home field advantage, while the Seminoles were the hottest program in the land under Bobby Bowden, but still hadn't won a national title.

The Irish built a 31-17 lead and held on like crazy to defeat eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and the Noles 31-24. Oddly enough, an upset loss to rival BC caused Notre Dame to lose the top spot in the polls just a week later, and it was Florida State that played new No. 2 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for a national title, beating the Huskers on a last-second field goal.

After losing the game of the century, Florida State captured it's first national championship and became a national brand.

When the two programs meet again this Saturday in Tallahassee, the stakes won't be quite as high, but there are a pair of Heisman hopefuls, big-time national title implications, a pair of scandals (both surrounding FSU's reigning Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston) and that ever-losable "program momentum" on the line.

Despite several off the field issues, No. 2 FSU has more momentum than any program in the country, while No. 5 Notre Dame has turned the recruiting and on-field tide to once again be competitive at the national level. A win for the Irish and quarterback Everett Golson (a Heisman hopeful with a history of academic fraud. Gosh I love this game) would likely push Notre Dame into the Top-3 and set them up for a spot in the College Football Playoff, never mind the nation-wide recruiting perks that would come with such a win.

FSU would certainly like a win to keep its train rolling, but with everyone in the ACC other than Clemson playing catch up on the recruiting trail, and in-state rivals Florida and Miami underachieving, and possibly changing coaches, the Seminoles don't have quite as much to lose.

Well, except for a shot at the playoff, because no ACC team is getting in with a loss. For all the grief the Big Ten has taken (deservedly so), the ACC is tied with the oft-criticized conference in Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings, with both divisions of the ACC ranking behind the Big Ten East.

What's more, FSU has faced the 45th toughest schedule this year, according to Sagarin, and won't face a Top-20 ranked opponent other than Notre Dame all year.

Yeah, I guess they better win that game.

As for the game itself, who knows what to expect. Florida State Jimbo Fisher says he full expects Winston to play, and that both his autograph scandal and the re-emergence of his sexual assault scandal won't affect the sophomore quarterback's performance.

Vegas isn't so sure.

After opening with the Seminoles as around an 8-point favorite in most Vegas sports books, many locations are taking the game off the board, citing Winston's uncertain status. We'll see how things shake out on and off the field for college football's most controversial figure, and whether or not the Seminoles' high-powered attack can continue to pile up points against a Top-10 Irish defense.

Game of the Week

Oh come on, were you even reading earlier?

Sneaky Good Game of the Week

Anything in the Big 12

The Big 12 has an immensely entertaining slate this week, which is mostly good news for FOX, and you can catch the ruck'em, chuck'em action at noon when No. 4 Baylor faces high powered West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bears are fresh off a huge comeback win over TCU, but the Mountaineers have scored 33 or more in 5 of their 6 games (season low was 23 vs Alabama), while Baylor is coming off a game in which it surrendered 58 points to the first team on its schedule with a pulse.

Expect points galore and a ton of fun, possibly ending with hundreds of couches burning to celebrate a WVU upset win.

If that game on FOX Sports 1 isn't enough for you, Big 12 action will take center stage on ESPN as well, with No. 14 Kansas State traveling to face No. 11 Oklahoma. The Sooners just survived the Red River Rivalry, despite being thoroughly out played by Texas, and are looking to get back on track after a pair of lackluster efforts. K-State, meanwhile, is a few ill-timed mistakes against Auburn away from being undefeated and in the thick of the national title hunt. It's unlikely either of these teams makes the College Football Playoff (though Oklahoma has an outside shot), but this one could go a long way toward determining the Big 12 champion.

At 4 pm a pair of one-loss teams clash and hope to stay alive in the conference title race as Oklahoma State heads to Fort Worth to face TCU. The Horned Frogs no doubt have a bad taste left in their mouths after giving up 24 unanswered points to lose to Baylor last week, and the Cowboys have won five in a row since their season-opening 6-point defeat to Florida State.

Both of these teams can play with anybody, and each has shown the ability to win (and lose) in some interesting ways. Should be a good one.

And heck, if you like to see bad football, the Big 12 even has intriguing bad games! Coach-less Kansas travels to face Texas Tech and their fast-fading star coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Iowa State and nearly-out-the-door coach Paul Rhodes head to Austin to face somehow-already-on-the-hot-seat coach Charlie Strong and the Longhorns.

You just get the feeling that a few teams are going to prove they're for real, a few teams are going to self-destruct, and a few fan bases are going to start "" Saturday.

It's going to be a fun weekend in the Heartland.

Coach Who Could Get Fired This Week

Will Muschamp, Florida

I mean, could it be anybody else? Both Big Ten coaches on the hot seat, Michigan's Brady Hoke and Illinois' Tim Beckman, are idle this week, as is the ACC's most fireable coach, Miami's Al Golden. So, it's really gotta be big Willy style!

Muschamp saw freshman quarterback Treon Harris momentarily save his job with some late-game heroics against a bad Tennessee team two weeks ago, then had to sit idly by while he new savior was charged with sexual assault. He then saw former starter Jeff Driskel return to the lineup against LSU and throw a pair of picks, plus lose a fumble as the Gators fell apart late in the Swamp.

Harris has been reinstated by the university after his accuser (almost on cue) dropped the complaint, and now Muschamp is saying he's going to play both quarterbacks when the Gators host Missouri Saturday.

It's going to be a lose-lose for Muschamp. If the Gators win, all we'll hear about is how this is the same beaten-and-bruised Missouri team that lost to Indiana at home, but if the Gators lose, it will drop them to 3-3, 2-3 in the SEC, and may lead to an early firing next week.

There is plenty of intrigue, as the Gators come in as 6-point favorites, but this just seems like the kind of game a "dead coach walking" loses to seal his fate.


But first, here's your Stone Cold video of the week.

Man, the crowds at those wrestling events back in the day used to be wild. It was like a college football environment. Ok, now let's get to it.

Army (+5) over KENT STATE

Why am I making this prediction? Do I know anything about Army? Well, not really, other than the fact that the Black Knights rank 4th in the nation, rushing for over 320 yards per game. Unfortunately, Army also throws for less than 85 yards per game, and has lost to FCS Yale, gotten blown away by Stanford, lost to Rice and Wake Forest.

Still, the Knights have shown life, defeating MAC foes Ball State and Buffalo. Neither of those teams are as bad as their conference mates the Flashes, who are coming off a 40-17 loss to the team we thought was the worst in the country, UMass. Kent State has also lost 66-0 to Ohio State, lost by 10 to South Alabama and fell 45-13 to Virginia.

Not Virginia Tech, Virginia.

Basically, this is me betting that a bad team with something to play for can continue to embarrass the worst team in the country. Yeah, I'm OK with that.

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