Football Roundup

In the world of football, it was just another week. The College Football Playoff committee released another set of rankings — but again, it’s entirely meaningless until Dec. 6. And we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, or as I like to say, “Turkey and Football Day,” but the game outcomes aren’t going to make a tremendous difference, at least at this point in the season.

NFL

The NFL has remained pretty uneventful in 2015. It’s the teams at the bottom that have created the most excitement and it’s because we are all looking to see who could be the team to knock New England or Carolina off the high horse.

The Panthers dominated their Thanksgiving game against a struggling Dallas Cowboys team that has been looking all season to make a comeback. Dallas thought that if it could take down the undefeated Panthers, playoff hopes would be reunited. But if a win were at all possible, the Cowboys knew they needed quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo returned last week to pull off a not very impressive win, but a win nonetheless against Miami. The starting QB missed seven games after suffering a collarbone break against the Eagles on Sept. 20.

Thanksgiving wasn’t all so giving to the face of the Cowboy franchise; Romo went down and stayed down following a sack by the Panthers. It has been reported that he will miss the remainder of the season, so Cowboy fans, if you haven’t already done so, say so long to the playoffs.

The only game that was exciting on turkey day was the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were definitely the favorite going into the game, but I can’t say I’m all that surprised by the Bears’ 17-13 win. Since the Packers fell to the Broncos on Nov. 1, Green Bay has won one of five games.

After Week 5 of NFL play, this season was turning out to be pretty interesting. We had five undefeated teams. But after Week 6 there were only four, and now we are left with two.

Following the top tier we had six teams with 3-3 records, which although being subpar were second tier considering there were 18 teams with losing seasons by Week 5. The average in years past was 13.5.

Since Nov. 1, the league’s second-tier teams look much better than 3-3, with 8-2 and 7-3 records. The third tier are no longer the teams playing losing football, but we can’t exactly say they are playing winning football either.

The game to watch this weekend is New England at Denver. Can the Broncos be the ones to pull off the upset? The remainder of games should either be complete blowouts or have the ability to shake up the middle of the pack.

NCAA

College football definitely has all my attention right now. In Week 10 we went from 11 undefeated teams to Week 13 where only two are left standing, Clemson, No. 1, and Iowa, No. 3. Every week has been exciting with big wins and big losses, and in the last three weeks we have seen such an array of different teams in the top 10, I’m on the edge of my seat to see what goes on this weekend.

We have five matchups between top-25 opponents with four having strong promise to spark great change in the top 10 once again. The conference with the most on the line this week is the Big 12.

This weekend brings on state rivalries for the Big 12. Baylor, No. 7, at TCU, No. 19, kicks off first, and on Saturday No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State will meet.

Baylor is the favored team in the Texas state matchup, but TCU almost pulled off an upset at Oklahoma last week, 30-29. If the Bears beat the Horned Frogs, they have a chance at moving up in the College Football Playoff rankings, but they are heavily dependent on those ahead of them to secure a playoff spot. Because the Big 12 doesn’t have a conference championship, Baylor has one more regular season game next week, against a Texas team that has not brought much to the table this season other than a win over the Sooners.

Oklahoma is the Big 12’s best chance at not being snubbed by the CFP committee for the second year in a row. Following their one-point win over the Horned Frogs, the Sooners jumped from No. 7 to No. 3. However, the 10-1 Sooners need a win at the 10-1 Cowboys to remain in playoff conversation. The Cowboys fell to Baylor 45-35 on Nov. 21. Prior to the game the Cowboys were the only undefeated team left in the conference. If Oklahoma State wins, it has a good argument to make the playoffs, especially if Baylor wins as well.

The Notre Dame at Stanford game also has the ability to cause some distress in the top 10. No. 6 Notre Dame is trying to make a claim for the playoffs but without a win over No. 9 Stanford that all but goes down the drain. The Pacific-12 has lost all playoff hopes with its conference champion most likely being a two-loss team.

After falling 17-14 to the Michigan State Spartans, No. 5, the Ohio State Buckeyes, No. 8, are out of the playoff conversation. The Buckeyes head to the Big House with hopes to take down the Michigan Wolverines, No. 10. Urban Meyer and his defending national champions need the win in order to stay in the top 10 and prove that they are still worth talking about. If the Wolverines pull off the win, the Jim-Harbaugh-is-Michigan’s-savior train will ride straight into next season.

Iowa headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday to take on the unranked Cornhuskers. Nebraska’s biggest game this season was their win over the Spartans on Nov. 7. Other than that the Cornhuskers had been struggling to get something going all season.

Though Lincoln is known as one of the hardest places to play in the Big 10 and it knew it could deliver the upset following a win over MSU, Iowa still won 28-20.

The Hawkeyes were already the Big 10 West champion having secured their conference championship bid a few weeks back. They most likely be playing Michigan State on Dec. 4.

No. 2 Alabama plays Auburn and No. 1 Clemson plays South Carolina. The top two teams in the NCAA are predicted to win, but in sports we all know that on any given day, any team can win. So pull out your chips and dip and get comfortable. We have two more weeks of college football that are bound to be action-packed.

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Be Prepared for Week 12 Upsets

In the last two weeks we have witnessed games that have had quite the impact in the College Football Playoff rankings. In Week 10 Clemson showed its dominance with a win over Florida State; the Tigers’ only real chance to lose in what is left of the season. The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 4 when they took down No. 2 LSU, dropping LSU to just inside the top 10. Michigan State traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, to take on the unranked Cornhuskers and lost, dropping the Spartans six spots to No. 13. Oklahoma State defeated TCU, removing the Horned Frogs from the top 10, and moving the undefeated Cowboys closer to playoff contention.

Week 11 brought another slew of game changers. No. 10 Utah lost to unranked Arizona. LSU fell for the second week in a row, to an Arkansas team who beat Ole Miss the week prior. The Tigers have moved from No. 2 to No. 15 within two weeks. The undoubted favorite in the Pacific-12, Stanford, lost to the Oregon Ducks, solidifying the Pac-12’s fate of having a two-loss conference champion. Finally, Oklahoma beat No. 6 Baylor to make the Bears’ path to the playoffs even more difficult than it already was.

Two weeks ago when the first rankings were released I said not to let the rankings bother you, it was early and there was still a lot of football to be played. Going into Week 10, there were 11 undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently there are five and none from two power five conferences, the SEC and the Pac-12. I can’t say that the CFP rankings released this past Tuesday make any more of a difference, but as we wind down the regular season, what the committee is saying does tend to have more of an impact. We all want to see where our teams stand and if our top-four picks coincide with the committee.

The final ranking will be released on Dec. 6, and that is the only one that matters. It’s the one that seals each team’s fate for the season, and Week 12 is going to have a huge say.

This week there is a high chance that two more teams could be receiving their first loss. Week 12 welcomes six games between two ranked opponents, two of which have both teams in the top 10.

First there is No. 9 Michigan State traveling to Columbus to take on the No. 3 and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes. The biggest thing the Buckeyes and Spartans have had to answer to this season is weakness of schedule. Neither team has gone up against top-notch programs, and the Spartans fell to unranked Nebraska. This game is the end all for either team as the loser will automatically be removed from playoff conversation.

The Buckeyes have the Spartans this week, followed by a trip to the Big House to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 28. If the Buckeyes close out the regular season undefeated and then add a win against the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 championship, Ohio State has every right to be in the top four. If Michigan State wins out, a controversial loss to the Cornhuskers would almost definitely have to be overlooked to send the Spartans to the playoffs.

No. 10 Baylor is on the road at Boone Pickens Stadium, where both teams need a win to remain in the top 10. Oklahoma State comes into the game at No. 6 and is the only undefeated team remaining in the Big 12. Even if the Cowboys win, they have a season closer at home against state rival No. 7 Oklahoma on Nov. 28. Like OSU, Baylor would need to win out to potentially make the playoffs. If Baylor loses to the Cowboys, it would be the Bears’ second straight loss; but if they win, they end their season on the road at TCU.

The Big 12 has been the talk of the town for the last two weeks and it will continue for the next two weeks. An extremely backlogged schedule created this mess or in a way “blessing” for the college football playoff committee. No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 18 TCU are also in “do-or-die” mode in Week 12 with the loser out of the top four guaranteed. A TCU loss and potential drop out of the top 25 would devalue the entire Big 12 conference.

No. 15 LSU and No. 22 Ole Miss fight to stay in the top 25. No. 24 University of Southern California needs a win against No. 23 Oregon to win the Pac-12 South. The Ducks need a win, and a Stanford loss, to win the North.

No. 20 Northwestern travels to No. 25 Wisconsin in a fight to stay in bowl contention — but in all reality their outcome matters more to No. 5 Iowa than anyone else. The Hawkeyes’ resume depends on how both of these teams finish the season.

QUESTIONABLE RANKINGS

Every week the committee leaves college football fans confused and with way too many questions floating around in their heads. This week is no different.

Clemson is undefeated and has proved itself with wins over Notre Dame and Florida State but does the SEC team truly deserve the No. 1 spot? Sure a spot in the top four, but No. 1?

No. 2 Alabama and the SEC excel where the Big 10 falls short, strength of schedule. The Crimson Tide worked its way into that top spot with a win over LSU, but with the Tigers falling two times in a row does that win still hold that much weight? Also, who can forget Alabama’s loss to current No. 22 Ole Miss? Heads up: after their loss to Arkansas, the Rebels dropped out of the top 25. They’re only back in because they had a bye in Week 11.

Speaking of Ole Miss, how did they manage a jump in the rankings after a bye week while TCU made a drop following a win over Kansas? The Jayhawks have been considered the worst power five football team, with only Oregon State being mentioned in the same sentence, but a win is a win and a bye is a bye. TCU dropped three spots.

Perhaps the biggest question following this weeks ranking is No. 13 Utah being ranked one spot behind No. 12 Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off a Week 11 win over unranked Indiana, but the game went into double overtime and could have easily went either way. Michigan didn’t prove itself in any spectacular way. In fact putting themselves in the double overtime position with an unranked opponent is pretty equivalent to a loss.

Like the Wolverines, the Utes also found themselves in a double overtime situation against an unranked team in Week 11, but Utah lost. The difference is Utah lost to previously ranked Arizona, but Michigan beat never ranked Indiana.

Finally, how does Baylor remain in the top 10 after a loss to Oklahoma when TCU dropped nine spots after losing to Oklahoma State? The Horned Frogs lost to the Cowboys by 20 points whereas the Bears lost to the Sooners by 10. That’s a 10-point difference, but the bigger loss came by an undefeated opponent.

The Power of a College Athlete

This week the American population saw the power and significance of the college athlete grow. We don ourselves in jerseys, T-shirts and hoodies with the last names of college athletes. We buy tickets and allow the outcomes of games played by 18- to 22-year-olds dictate how we feel on Saturday. We allow our children to let other children be their role models.

College athletes, especially those of the “big” sports — football and basketball — have always had their influence on society, but this week we saw just how much of an influence they can have.

UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI

As the University of Missouri protest/hunger strike/boycott gained national attention last week, my Facebook and Twitter feeds became hotbeds for articles, videos and statuses in regards to it. And when ESPN began coverage, it was hard to not become knowledgeable of the issue.

To catch you up, Missouri’s flagship campus has witnessed several racial incidents this fall semester. From racial slurs to threats and even a swastika drawn out of feces in a dorm bathroom, racial tensions on campus truly came to light.

Following the incidents, many students and faculty felt that university officials were not taking enough action. On Nov. 2, Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. Butler made a statement saying that until university President Tim Wolfe either resigned or was removed from office, he would not consume any food or nutritional sustenance. Following Butler’s announcement, students began camping out on the Carnahan Quadrangle in support.

Following the hunger strike, a boycott of university goods as well as several demonstrations and meetings with school administrators began taking place. But the real turning point for the movement came on Saturday when the MU football players announced their support — “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences” — said a tweet.

Then on Saturday, Tiger head football coach Gary Pinkel released a tweet and a photo of himself with nearly 100 players and assistant coaches showing their support for their players and for the entire “Mizzou Family.”

On Monday morning, Wolfe announced his resignation and school chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, announced that he would be stepping down and moving his focus to a different area within the university.

Later that day, Butler announced that his strike was over, but the desire for a real change on campus is now in full swing and many are now watching with eager eyes to see what steps the university takes.

MONEY TALKS

But what does this have to do with football? Many can argue it has everything to do with football. Since Wolfe’s resignation some have made statements that without the football team taking its stand, Butler would still be on a hunger strike and the quadrangle would still be covered in multicolored tents.

The team’s boycott of practices and games until a resolution was made changed the game.

According to Maxwell Little, a UM student and early member of Concerned Student 1950, a campus group that began the fight against the racial injustices on campus, made the statement, “to get things done, we had to have some leverage and that leverage was the strength of the football team.”

The Tigers are 4-5 in the season and with their Saturday announcement were prepared to forfeit their Nov. 14 game against BYU. The forfeit wouldn’t only result in another loss for the Tigers, it would result in the loss of $1 million.

Last year the University of Missouri and BYU signed an agreement stating “the parties agree that if one party cancels any game or games, the defaulting party shall pay as liquidated damages to the other party $1 million.”

The Tigers athletic department brought in $84 million in 2014; with the football program being the largest moneymaker.

Missouri is no longer in danger of paying the fine with the conclusion of the football team’s boycott Monday. The Tigers resumed practice and have shifted their focuses to Saturday’s game against BYU. But the Mizzou football team and squads across the nation are learning just how much of an impact they can make and just how much of an influence they have on their respective campuses and in the greater scheme of things, the country.

ATHLETES SHOW THEIR POTENTIAL

We are living in a world where sports coaches have more say and more influence than a university president. There is no greater public representation of schools than their athletic programs and their success.

The Missouri football team came out and made a stand, and the players’ efforts paid off — they made a difference.

Racial issues are not just present at the University of Missouri. There are students at every university who feel discriminated against and there have been incidents that each university has needed to handle. But like I said, Missouri is just the beginning.

In the days since Wolfe’s resignation, students from universities across the country have started protests and movements of their own, but none have garnered much attention. Which makes me wonder, what will it take the college football teams and basketball teams of America to truly spark a change?

I sincerely hope that the University of Missouri is looking to take action against racial tensions on campus and make it a safe environment for all of its students, and that Wolfe’s resignation was not just about the money.

But if it takes college athletes getting involved for change to be made, I hope the young men and women representing universities on the playing field have the courage to stand up for what they believe and I hope they have the courage to use their influence for good.

Plenty of Football Left

Tuesday night the first college football rankings by the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee were released. I had been anxiously awaiting these rankings for weeks, but as the day got closer and closer I lost interest.

This season has been a weird one. By week 10 in 2014 there were only three undefeated teams left in all of the NCAA, in 2015 we have 11. What are we supposed to do with 11 undefeated teams?

Now I know by the end of the season there is no way there will still be 11. Considering how many of them play each other in an extremely backlogged season, it is absolutely impossible for there to be 11 come December 1. And for that very reason, I knew that these rankings in the end would turn out to be meaningless.

If the CFP was this weekend, the selection committee has Clemson No. 1, LSU No. 2, Ohio State No. 3 and Alabama No. 4 playing for the national title. While I don’t 100 percent disagree with the committee considering how strange of a season it’s been, I can’t help but question one loss Alabama’s spot especially when eight undefeated teams fall lower in the rankings. But the Roll Tide will have a chance to defend the committees choice in placing them fourth and those undefeated teams lower in the rankings will have a chance to work their way up as well.

There is still plenty of football left to be played. Plenty of big games to make sure you are in front of a TV for. And plenty of potential upsets are on the horizon.

First up are No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama. The Roll Tide will look to defend their No. 4 ranking and knock the Tigers out of contention when the two square up Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Second we have Clemson, the ACC’s only chance to enter the ring, but a game against Florida State on Nov. 7 at home could jeopardize that. The remainder of the Tigers’ season is pretty uneventful.

Next we have No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the undefeated Michigan State Spartans on Oct. 21 in Columbus and then they close out the season against the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House. If Ohio State remains the only undefeated team in the Big Ten then the defending National Champions definitely deserve a bid. But if they don’t will the Big Ten still have a representative?

If MSU beats the Buckeyes and then goes on to beat No. 9 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship I’d count the Spartans in, but if they’re what some are calling “miracle” wins like they had against Michigan, the Spartans may still find themselves on the outside looking in. Michigan and Iowa have a much harder path to the CFP.

Currently the Big 12 finds itself in the same position they did last year, right on the cusp. Undefeated Baylor ranks in at No. 6, undefeated TCU at No. 8, undefeated Oklahoma State at No. 14 and 7-1 Oklahoma is No. 15. Crazy thing is all of these teams have yet to play each other.

Saturday Nov. 7, TCU visits Oklahoma State. On Nov. 14, Oklahoma travels to Baylor. TCU takes on Oklahoma and Baylor takes on Oklahoma State all in Oklahoma on Nov. 21. And in the final week of the season, the Bears are on the road to the Horned Frogs and the Sooners are at the Cowboys. If one of these teams comes out undefeated, a huge “if,” the Big 12 may finally see themselves in the top four.

I don’t know about you but I am definitely ready for November. Bring on the football!