1. Beware of Severe Dropoff: Take a day like the Saturday that just passed. Regular-season games abounded that were chock full o’ meaning and excitement.
Michigan-Ohio State. South Carolina-Clemson. Florida-Florida State. Oklahoma State-Oklahoma. Stanford-UCLA.
Each week of the season (especially once the nonconference mismatches of September are out of the way) has plenty of compelling games, lots of reasons to have a remote-control handy for flipping from entertaining contest to entertaining contest.
After Saturday’s regular-season finales in the Big 12 and Big East, and conference-championship games in the other four BCS conferences, it’s bowl-season. It begins Dec. 15 with the New Mexico Bowl and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. So begins a series of December nondescript postseason matchups that wouldn’t warrant your time were they played between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1. But almost all of these December games get their own time-slots on ESPN.
2. The Joy of Six (and Six): All sorts of 6-6 teams can now get ready to travel to bowl games. Iowa State is among those. I fear the Cyclones will land in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to play a 6-6 Big Ten team, be it Purdue or Minnesota or Michigan State.
But that’s what 6-6 gets you. Iowa State, at least, can say it didn’t pad its win-total with softies. The Cyclones beat Tulsa and won at Iowa before embarking on a fairly savage Big 12 schedule. Tulsa is 9-3. Iowa was not good, as we know, but it was still a road win at a Big Ten venue. Many other 6-6 teams are nothing to be taken seriously. ISU has three wins over teams with winning records in Tulsa, TCU and Baylor.
Duke will take a 4-game losing streak to its bowl. It lost those four games by an average score of 50-24.
Purdue beat zero bowl-bound teams. Minnesota was 2-6 in the Big Ten.
Iowa lost at home to three 6-6 teams: Iowa State, Central Michigan and Purdue. Central Michigan probably isn’t going to a bowl, though. The Hlist says it just as well.
3. What a System: The BCS gets plenty of grief, and deservedly so. But what about some of these conference-championship games that are money-grabs?
The SEC’s this year is as legitimate as you could ever hope for, an 11-1 Alabama against an 11-1 Georgia. But how these beauties:
Pac-10: UCLA at Stanford. They just played in Los Angeles Saturday. Stanford won, 35-17. So that gave Stanford the North Division title and a home game Friday night for the league-title against … UCLA.
Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers suggested the Bruins may not have been completely hungry to beat Stanford, since they would have had to play Oregon in Eugene had they beaten the Cardinal.
Oregon, ranked higher than any Pac-12 team in the BCS standings, will undoubtedly be headed to the Fiesta Bowl.
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs. Nebraska. The Cornhuskers earned their way in with a 7-1 league mark. Wisconsin did not. Well, technically, it did. Technically.
The Badgers are 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the conference. They finished in third-place in the Leaders Division, but as we all knew back in the summer, they had a clear path to the league-title game with Ohio State and Penn State both on NCAA probation.
Wisconsin had the sixth-best record in the conference. And is one win from the Rose Bowl.
ACC: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech. This is a gem. Florida State is 10-2 and is the class of the conference, if by a slim margin over fellow 10-2 Clemson.
Georgia Tech, however, is 6-6. But it is the Coastal Division champion. At 5-3 in the ACC, it tied for the division lead with Miami and North Carolina. But the Yellow Jackets beat Miami, and North Carolina is serving an NCAA postseason ban of its own.
Georgia Tech showed how ready it is for elite competition Saturday when it lost to Georgia, 42-10.
Last year, UCLA lost the Pac-12 title-game (which it was in because USC was barred from the postseason by the NCAA) to Oregon, and went to a bowl at 6-7. Then it lost the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to Illinois to close with a 6-8 record. Georgia Tech can duplicate that. And probably will.
4. Help Wanted: North Carolina State has canned Tom O’Brien. California got rid of Jeff Tedford. Boston College and Colorado fired their coaches Sunday. In the SEC, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee have openings.
In the Hope-and-Change department, Purdue has fired coach Danny Hope Sunday.
One name that will be bandied about for one or more of these openings is Bob Diaco. He is Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. He was a linebacker at Iowa, leading the Hawkeyes in tackles in 1994 and 1995.
Here is a Diaco press conference appearance in September: