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Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

Hoosiers begin Big Ten schedule

After starting the spring season with a 10-3 record, the IU women’s tennis team kicks off its Big Ten schedule with a dual match Saturday against No. 21 Purdue in West Lafayette. The Hoosiers are riding a two-match win streak after defeating No. 66 DePaul and UNC-Wilmington last weekend.

The Boilermakers are 6-1 this season with four wins against ranked opponents.

Purdue defeated No. 32 Washington State, No. 19 Notre Dame, No. 45 Kansas State and No. 65 Wichita State in dual matches.

In addition to Notre Dame, IU and Purdue have one other common opponent. Both teams defeated Marshall 6-1 in February in Huntington, W. Va. Purdue’s lone loss was a 4-3 match against No. 14 Northwestern.

Despite being ranked fourteenth as a team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, Purdue does not have a ranked singles player or doubles combination.

IU’s pair of French players, senior Leslie Hureau and junior Sophie Garre, is ranked No. 44.

According to IUHoosiers.com, IU has a 53-5 all-time record against Purdue, but the Hoosiers have lost the past two matches against the Boilermakers.

In the 2011-12 season, IU tied for seventh with a 4-7 conference record, and Purdue placed fifth with a 6-5 record in the Big Ten.

In last spring’s Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament, IU, the No. 7 seed, defeated No. 10 Wisconsin 4-0 before falling to No. 2 Michigan 4-2 in the quarterfinals. No. 5 Purdue topped No. 12 Michigan State, No. 4 Nebraska and No. 1  Northwestern before upsetting Michigan 4-3 in the Big Ten Championship, which was the first time the Boilermakers have won the championship.

The in-state rivals will face off 11 a.m. Saturday at the Schwartz Tennis Center.

Press conference previewing No. 3 Indiana at Purdue

No. 3 Indiana (18-2, 4-1) will travel to Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. to face the Purdue Boilermakers (11-9, 4-3) on Wednesday, January 30 at 8:30 pm ET.

On Tuesday afternoon, IU Associate Head Coach Steve McClain, junior forward Will Sheehey and graduate student guard Jordan Hulls met with members of the media in Assembly Hall’s media room to preview the in-state rivalry.

The two schools have a long history and tradition of being competitive in basketball. Indiana and Purdue first met in 1901. The Boilermakers lead the all-time series 112-87. They have combined for 61 NCAA Tournament appearances, 88 All-Americans and 9 Big Ten Players of the Year.

“There aren’t many rivalries in the country that compare to Indiana-Purdue,” IU Associate Head Coach McClain said. “Maybe Kansas-Kansas State, I don’t know how many of them you can find where it’s truly the biggest game.”

Jordan Hulls, a native of Bloomington, Ind. and a Bloomington South High School graduate, said that everyone is going to be excited to play in the game because of the rivalry between the two Big Ten teams.

“Being from Indiana, once you put on the Indiana jersey that’s all that matters,” he said. “You’re a Hoosier for life when that happens.”

Will Sheehey, who hails from Stuart, Fla., said that he recognizes the significance of the Indiana-Purdue rivalry and he said that the matchup hasn’t changed over the course of his three years in Bloomington, Ind.

“We all know that it’s our biggest rivalry, it’s not a secret,” Sheehey said. “The game is going to be tough and hard fought. It has not changed for me since I’ve gotten here, it’s the same level of intensity every year and every game.”

He said that Purdue likes to be physical similarly to every other Big Ten team so he said that Indiana is viewing the game in West Lafayette, Ind. simply as the next game on its schedule.

Although, the matchup against Purdue will be different from every other game that the Hoosiers play this season because of the familiarity between the two teams.

Indiana freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Purdue freshman point guard Ronnie Johnson competed against one another throughout high school. Ferrell played for Park Tudor and Johnson played for North Central. The opposing starting point guards also faced off in AAU basketball.

Hulls and Purdue forward D.J. Byrd first played basketball together for the Indiana Elite when they were in seventh grade.

“We’re pretty good buddies, we played AAU together for a long time and we talk pretty often,” Hulls said. “It’s fun playing against guys that you know and guys that you’re good friends with. We’re competitors so we’re going to compete and try to beat each other. It’s a pretty cool dynamic out there.”

IU Associate Head Coach McClain said that the childhood rivalries will bring some extra emotion for the players but once the game starts, he said that he’s not sure whether or not relationships formed in high school with opposing players will be much of a factor once the game starts. He said that all of the players from both teams have improved from high school.

“Just like Yogi [Ferrell] has gotten better, Ronnie [Johnson] has gotten better,” McClain said. “Yogi’s got to understand what he’s [Ronnie] gotten better at as I’m sure the Purdue coaches will make sure Ronnie knows what Yogi has gotten better at since his senior year in high school.”

Hulls said that his AAU teammate Byrd has developed as a basketball player since high school.

“He’s being very aggressive,” Hulls said. “He’s always been able to shoot the ball, come off screens and quick release but I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s always played hard, he’s going to make the hustle plays.”

The graduate student and starting guard said that the Hoosiers have to stick together in the crazy environment at Purdue. He said that the upperclassmen need to let the freshmen know that it is going to be a physical game and that they need to come ready to play.

“It’s a rivalry game so you can throw everything out the window,” Hulls said. “You got to bring it no matter who you’re bringing. You have to bring your best game and your defense because it’s going to be pretty hostile up there.”

Making cases for Kansas, Michigan and Florida to be ranked No. 1

Last week was a bloodbath for the AP Top 25. No. 1 Duke lost at Miami (FL) by 27. Louisville lost three consecutive games in the Big East to No. 6 Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Minnesota lost four straight games in the Big Ten. With all of the losses by ranked teams, the No. 1 position is up for grabs and three teams have cases to claim the top spot in this week’s updated polls.

Kansas’ case to be ranked No. 1

The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)
The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)

The Jayhawks are 18-1 and their only loss was by three points to then-No. 21 Michigan State in the second game of the season. Since its only blemish on its 18-1 record, Kansas beat No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio and topped No. 11 Kansas State on the road. Bill Self’s squad is off to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and the team has won 33 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is nearly unbeatable at home and its two victories against ranked opponents were on the road, which proves that the Jayhawks can win anywhere they play. They also beat Ohio State, who gave Michigan its only loss of the season, by eight points.

Michigan’s case to be ranked No. 1

Similarly to Kansas, Michigan only has one loss this season and it was also by three points when the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines on Jan. 13. Michigan has two wins against ranked opponents. The Wolverines defeated then-No. 18 North Carolina State at home and then-No. 9 Minnesota on the road. The co-leaders of the Big Ten are 19-1 (6-1) and have 15 double-digit wins this season. Michigan’s resume also includes wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Illinois, who are all teams that have been ranked at some point during the season but weren’t when they lost to the Wolverines.

Florida’s case to be ranked No. 1

The Florida Gators are 16-2 (6-0) and tied with Ole Miss for the SEC lead. Their only two losses are a 65-64 loss at Arizona, a competitive game in which Wildcats guard Mark Lyons hit the game-winning jumper with seven seconds left, and a six-point loss to Kansas State. The Gators have rattled off eight straight wins and have dominated their SEC opponents in conference play. The most points that Florida has allowed in an SEC game is 52 and four of the Gators’ opponents have scored in the forties. Florida’s average margin of victory in conference play is over 26 points and earlier this month they defeated then-No. 17 Missouri 83-52. Granted, the SEC lacks proven teams and depth outside of Florida, Ole Miss and Missouri but the Gators are the team to beat down South.

Kansas has the strongest case because they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, who later handed Michigan its only loss, on the road by eight. Of the three teams, Florida’s case is the weakest because the Gators have two losses and play in arguably the weakest of the power 6 conferences.

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The first week of 2013 in review

College basketball conference wins are hard to come by, especially on the road

Conference play started kicked off in college basketball and it has already taken its toll on some of the top teams in the country. No. 18 Michigan State fell to No. 9 Minnesota 76-63, Purdue upset No. 11 Illinois 68-61, Marquette bested No. 15 Georgetown and No. 24 Pittsburgh is off to an 0-2 start in the Big East after losing to No. 14 Cincinnati and Rutgers.

Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)
Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)

Colorado was set to hand No. 3 Arizona its first loss of the season thanks to a career night from senior guard Sabatino Chen. Arizona came back from a double digit deficit in the second half and Mark Lyons tied the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds. Chen hit a pull up three with 00.1 seconds left to win the game and the referees ruled the shot good. Upon further review, they waived off the shot (which was determined in HD replay to have left Chen’s hands before the clock hit zero) and the Wildcats won in overtime.

The NFL Playoffs are under way

For the second year in a row, the Houston Texans ended the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes, leaving Cincinnati winless in the postseason since 1990. In a game in which the majority of the points were scored by the kickers, Houston dominated time of possession by having the ball for 38 minutes and 49 seconds. Arian Foster moved the chains for the Texans with 140 yards  and one touchdown on 32 carries. Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half and the Bengals had -6 passing yards at halftime. Houston settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, which allowed Cincinnati to stay within striking distance but the Bengals struggled to put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)
Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)

Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder did not start against the Green Bay Packers due to an elbow injury, making Joe Webb the first quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season. Webb only took three snaps all season–two rushes and a kneel–but looked to beat Green Bay for the second time in as many weeks. The Vikings had the second fewest first half passing yards in NFL Playoff history (6) to only the Cincinnati Bengals, who set the dubious record just hours earlier. The Ponder-less Vikings could not keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Minnesota scored first with a field goal in the first quarter but surrendered 24 unanswered points, which was enough for the Packers to win at Lambeau Field.

Two long streaks end in the NBA

The Charlotte Bobcats ended an 18-game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bulls, who then beat the defending champions, the Miami Heat, in their next game.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Clippers put together a 17-game win streak before falling to the Nuggets in Denver.

Kobe Bryant may be 34 years old but the Black Mamba still has some gas left in the tank for the Lakers. He posterized Chris Paul on a fast break in Friday nights matchup between the two Los Angeles teams. Kobe also joined Twitter this week, giving social media users insight into his life, including his acupuncture therapy and his love to challenge himself. You can follow him @kobebryant.

Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)
Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)

Oregon and Johnny Football shine in bowl wins

In a matchup that had national championship hopes late in the college football season, Oregon routed Kansas State and the Ducks didn’t take long to get on the board–De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff and Dion Jordan took a shovel pass into the end zone to give Oregon an 8-0 lead 12 seconds into the game. While the Wildcats had possession of the ball for six minutes more than the Ducks, Oregon outgained Kansas State by 102 yards. The strangest play of the game was when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for a touchdown but Alejandro Maldonado’s extra point attempt was blocked, a Kansas State played grabbed the ball and pitched it to a teammate in the end zone and the Wildcat player was tackled for a one-point safety in favor of Oregon. Oregon won the Fiesta Bowl 35-17.

Johnny Manziel backed up his Heisman Trophy winning regular season with an impressive bowl game performance. Manziel had over 500 yards of total offense along with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns as No. 9 Texas A&M defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

Tommy Tuberville Did What?

On December 6, University of Cincinnati head football coach Butch Jones rejected an offer from the University of Colorado and reportedly signed a five-year deal with the University of Tennessee that is worth roughly $13.5 million. It is a classic example of the coaching carousel that exists in college athletics. Coaches have success at smaller schools and as assistant coaches until they can work their way up to head coaching positions at bigger programs. Both Butch Jones and Brian Kelly, Jones’ predecessor who is now at Notre Dame, came to UC from Central Michigan University.

However, Cincinnati’s new coach, Tommy Tuberville, who previously coached for three seasons at Texas Tech University, downgraded to join the Bearcats. The Big East is a dying conference. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville are on their way out of the conference to join the ACC. Rutgers is leaving for the Big Ten. Four of the top five teams in conference will be gone within the next few years.

Tommy Tuberville was in a good situation at Texas Tech and inexplicably left for the University of Cincinnati. (Image courtesy of http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2012/10/02/tommy-tuberville-and-his-players-preview-the-ou-tech-game/)
Tommy Tuberville was in a good situation at Texas Tech and inexplicably left for the University of Cincinnati. (Image courtesy of http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2012/10/02/tommy-tuberville-and-his-players-preview-the-ou-tech-game/)

 

Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Memphis, Houston, SMU, and Navy are set to join the conference in the near future, which will turn the Big East into the second Conference USA. The conference is becoming a hodgepodge of teams that are unable to join the likes of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC. The foundation of the Big East is becoming unstable as the pillars (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and West Virginia) are leaving or have already left. When the dust from conference realignment has settled, the Big East may no longer exist and it is not the conference of which the University of Cincinnati wants to be a member as it makes its plans for the future.

Tuberville’s decision to take over a 9-3 Cincinnati team does not make sense. Texas Tech is in a good position for the future. The Big 12 is thriving with talented and powerful athletic programs such as Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor. Even though the Red Raiders finished seventh in the conference this season, they finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and will face Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 28. Being mediocre in one of the best conferences carries much more weight than having eight, nine, and 10 win seasons when UC’s toughest competition in the conference will be Boise State and Navy. Plus, Tuberville is moving halfway across the country to a region with which he is not nearly as familiar. In his coaching career, Tommy Tuberville has always lived in the South. While at Arkansas State, Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Texas Tech, his recruiting was focused in a completely different region of the country.

Tuberville brings a 130-77 record, 7-3 record in bowl games, an SEC Championship, and lots of questions to Cincinnati. Unless he knows something about the future of the Cincinnati Bearcats or the Big East that has not yet been announced, his choice to leave Lubbock, Tex. is highly questionable.

2012 Heisman Trophy Breakdown

Entering the 2012 college football season, USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore were the early frontrunners to take home the Heisman Trophy.

Humbling losses, season-ending injuries, and underproduction took the preseason favorites out of the running. Then, Geno Smith took the reigns after leading West Virginia to a 5-0 start, with 24 touchdowns and no interceptions during that span. Smith seemed to be destined to earn a spot as a Heisman finalist after a 70-63 win over Baylor when he completed 45 of his 51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. The senior from Miami, Fl. fell out of the lead for the Heisman Trophy after West Virginia lost five consecutive games.

That’s when the three Heisman Trophy finalists, Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te’o, and Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein, took over. With the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday, December 8 at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square in New York City, here is a look at the three finalists:

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel beat opponents with his arm and his legs all season long. (Image courtesy of http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/texas-aggies/20120917-writer-texas-am-s-johnny-manziel-looks-like-a-potential-heisman-candidate-down-the-road.ece.)
Johnny Manziel beat opponents with his arm and his legs all season long. (Image courtesy of http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/college-sports/texas-aggies/20120917-writer-texas-am-s-johnny-manziel-looks-like-a-potential-heisman-candidate-down-the-road.ece.)

The Good

3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards, 41 touchdowns, and a 29-24 victory on the road against No. 1 Alabama is quite an impressive resumé for a redshirt freshman. Johnny Football’s stats compare to the likes of Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, both of whom are former SEC quarterbacks who won the Heisman. When Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy his sophomore season at Florida, he threw for 3,286 yards, rushed for 895, and had 55 combined passing and rushing touchdowns. Cam Newton threw for 2,854 yards, ran for 1,473, and scored a combined 51 touchdowns in his Heisman Trophy winning season.

The Aggies finished the regular season ninth in the BCS standings after a 10-2 season and tied for the second best conference record in the SEC at 6-2.

The Bad

Manziel had two weak performances in Texas A&M’s two losses, both of which were at home to SEC opponents. He completed 23 of his 30 passes for 173 yards and ran for sixty yards and a touchdown against Florida in the Aggies’ season opener. However, for being his first career college football game and losing to an 11-1 Florida Gators team, his performance shouldn’t affect his Heisman chances. His game against LSU, however, carries a bit more weight. Manziel completed just over half of his 56 passes, threw three interceptions, and was limited to 27 yards on 17 carries.

No freshman has ever won the Heisman Trophy, which puts a damper on Manziel’s odds to take home the most glorified award in college football.

Manti Te’o 

Manti Te'o has been Notre Dame's leader on defense, which has held opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game. (Image courtesy of http://www.ibtimes.com/sportsnet/notre-dame-football-news-manti-teo-propaganda-kicking-high-gear-903392)
Manti Te’o has been Notre Dame’s leader on defense, which has held opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game. (Image courtesy of http://www.ibtimes.com/sportsnet/notre-dame-football-news-manti-teo-propaganda-kicking-high-gear-903392)

The Good

Manti Te’o is the feel-good story of the college football season, which can only improve his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. Te’o was one of most highly sought after high school football recruits in the country for the 2009 class. He could have chosen to go to college reasonably close to his home state of Hawaii by choosing the University of Southern California or Brigham Young University but he ended up signing at the University of Notre Dame.

In his senior season, he made 81 tackles and was tied for second in college football with seven interceptions. Te’o has been the leader of a Notre Dame defense that holds opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game, which is the best in the country.

Te’o had to endure the loss of his grandmother and his girlfriend in the span of twenty-four hours in the week before the Fighting Irish faced Michigan. He promised his girlfriend that he would not miss a game despite anything that happened to her while she had leukemia and finished the game with eight tackles and two interceptions.

Te’o has been the face of Notre Dame’s return to glory and they have done so because of their stingy defense.

The Bad

Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson is the only defensive player to win the Heisman since its creation in 1935. However, Woodson was a punt returner and occasionally played snaps on offense for the Wolverines. When he won the Heisman Trophy in 1997, he scored on a punt return, had 14 plays from scrimmage for 246 yards and three touchdowns on offense, had 44 tackles, and intercepted eight passes on defense. Michigan, similarly to Notre Dame in 2012, went 12-0 during the regular season. The Wolverines were the Associated Press national champions that year.

Collin Klein 

Kansas State's lone loss to Baylor caused Collin Klein's Heisman chances to take a serious hit. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/gabriel_baumgaertner/11/04/kansas-state-oregon-alabama-week-10/index.html)
Kansas State’s lone loss to Baylor caused Collin Klein’s Heisman chances to take a serious hit. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/gabriel_baumgaertner/11/04/kansas-state-oregon-alabama-week-10/index.html)

The Good

The Kansas State quarterback led the No. 5 Wildcats to an 11-1 record, with the team’s only loss coming against Baylor on the road. Klein is a dual-threat quarterback who excelled in passing and rushing the ball this season. He completed two-thirds of his 272 passes for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns while also running for 890 yards and 22 scores. K-State had five victories over ranked opponents, including a 24-19 victory on the road against No. 6 Oklahoma.

The Bad

If Klein had led the Wildcats to an undefeated season and an appearance in the BCS National Championship, then he more than likely would have been the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. However, Kansas State’s lone slip up took them out of position to compete for a national championship and it also killed Collin Klein’s chances to win the Heisman. His stats are greatly diminished because of Johnny Manziel’s astronomic passing and rushing numbers. Plus, Manziel’s signature win against Alabama carries much greater weight than Kansas State’s defeat of an Oklahoma team that has done nothing but fallen lower in the polls this entire season.

The Verdict

History will be made on Saturday. The Heisman Trophy will be awarded to a freshman or a player who takes snaps solely on defense for the first time in its history; Collin Klein deserves to make the trip to New York City as a finalist but his chances of winning are slim to none.

Manti Te’o has a Heisman Trophy worthy story: leaving Hawaii for the continental U.S. to play great football for four years, overcoming two major deaths in the span of a day, leading the revival of Notre Dame football, and captaining the toughest defense to score against in the country. I won’t be surprised if a filmmaker in Hollywood makes a movie about Te’o’s life someday. It’s hard not to like Manti Te’o with his fiery passion for the game of football as well as his love of his family and the Notre Dame community. If voters feel the tugs at their heartstrings by his life story, then he could take home some hardware on Saturday.

According to Heisman.com, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”

Without a doubt, Manti Te’o fits that description. Johnny Manziel’s arrest and misdemeanor charges last June of disorderly conduct, failure to identify, and possession of a fictitious driver’s license does not live up to the integrity portion of the Heisman Trophy’s mission. However, this should not make or break his ability to win the award, which is supposed to be awarded on the merits of one’s play on the football field.

In the end, this is Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy to lose. He has put up numbers comparable to Tim Tebow and Cam Newton in their Heisman-winning seasons as well as he gave Alabama its only blemish on its 2012 campaign up to this point in the season.

Food for Thought

If Manti Te’o does not win the Heisman this year, then a defensive player may never win the trophy again. He is the best player on the only undefeated team in the country, which is a perfect storm that is unlikely to happen frequently and his inability (assuming he doesn’t win) to win the trophy with the season he had in 2012 would set a precedent for the future

And Then There was One

Entering Week 12 of the college football season, there were three undefeated teams sitting atop the rankings: Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. By the end of Saturday, only the Fighting Irish were left.

Kansas State was pummeled on the road by Baylor 52-24. It was the difference in the two rushing attacks that determined the outcome of the game. The Wildcats collected only seventy-six yards on the ground and averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Baylor amassed 342 yards on the ground and the Bears’ running backs scored five touchdowns. Heisman hopeful Collin Klein was just mediocre when his team needed him to be great. He completed 27 of his 50 pass attempts for 286 yards. He threw two touchdowns and ran for another but threw three interceptions.

Baylor emerged victorious against the No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats. Courtesy of http://collegefootball.ap.org/columbian/content/baylor-beats-kansas-41-14-1st-big-12-victory-0.

After Kansas State had fallen, the Oregon Ducks had their chance to claim the No. 1 spot in the polls. However, the Stanford Cardinal were too much for the mighty Oregon offense to overcome. Stanford’s defense held Oregon to an uncharacteristically low 405 total yards. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota led the team in rushing with 89 yards on twelve carries, but 77 of those yards came from one long run. Kenjon Barner was held to three yards per rush and gathered only 66 rushing yards on the night. De’Anthony Thomas had the Ducks’ only rushing touchdown and the team’s best average yards per carry but only had seven carries against Stanford. Both teams had opportunities to take control of the game. Stanford had four turnovers and a missed field goal. The Ducks turned the ball over three times and missed one field goal in regulation. With the game tied at fourteen apiece, Oregon and Stanford went into overtime. Oregon was on offense first but could only advance one yard in three plays before Alejandro Maldonado missed a 41 yard field goal. Oregon had a glimpse of hope when Kiko Alonso forced a fumble when Stanford had the ball at Oregon’s 23 yard line but the Cardinal recovered the football. On 4th and 5, Jordan Williamson kicked the game-winning 37 yard field goal, knocking off the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

De’Anthony Thomas and the Oregon offense were held in check by Stanford. Courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2012/11/17/3657188/college-football-tv-schedule-oregon-stanford-usc-ucla.

Notre Dame had no trouble defeating Wake Forest 38-0 and will move up two spots to the No. 1 position. The Fighting Irish will be in control of their own destiny from here on out. They travel to Los Angeles, Calif. to take on the struggling USC Trojans, who lost to UCLA 38-28 in Week 12. If Notre Dame finishes the season undefeated, it will have the opportunity to win its first national championship in football since 1988, when it defeated West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

Who Notre Dame would play in the BCS National Championship remains a mystery. Kansas State, Oregon, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are one-loss teams that will come after Notre Dame in the rankings and it may depend on who the computers select to be the No. 2 team when the regular season is over.

Down Goes the SEC

The SEC has been the best college football conference in the past decade without question. An SEC team has won the last six BCS National Championships and the conference has dominated the college football rankings. However, after Texas A&M upset Alabama 29-24 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, the Southeastern Conference’s reign over the title game appears to have come to a brief end. The Crimson Tide fall to 9-1, while Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame all advanced to 10-0 on the season. While the order of those three schools has yet to be determined, they will surely take the top spots. Alabama will likely be ranked fourth, followed by a host of SEC schools in Georgia, Florida, and LSU. As long as two of the three remaining undefeated teams stay unbeaten, the SEC will not be represented in the BCS National Championship Game for the first time since 2005.

The Aggies overcame the country’s top scoring defense by jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Johnny Manziel generated 345 total yards of offense. He completed 24 of 31 pass attempts for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also led Texas A&M in rushing with eighteen attempts for ninety-two yards, including a thirty-two yard run. Aggies kicker Taylor Bertolet tried to let Alabama back in the game by missing a PAT in the first quarter and pushing a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right in the fourth quarter but A&M’s defense backed him up. Steven Terrell forced a fumble when he hit T.J. Yeldon on the Crimson Tide’s next drive following the missed field goal. Two plays and sixty-six yards later, Manziel found Malcome Kennedy in the end zone to give the Aggies a twelve point lead.

Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to a 29-24 victory at Alabama. Courtesy of http://thequad.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/live-analysis-college-football-saturday-4/.

A.J. McCarron connected with Amari Cooper for a 54-yard strike to cut Texas A&M’s lead to five points but threw an interception in the end zone by Deshazor Everett on Alabama’s next drive. The Aggies ran out the clock and gave Alabama its first blemish on its nearly flawless resumé.

The SEC could potentially finish the season with six top ten teams–Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M–but not be represented in the championship game. While the SEC’s talent and depth of great teams solidifies it as the nation’s best college football conference, it is punished when its good teams beat each other and non-SEC schools go undefeated and finish higher in the rankings.