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The College Football Report

By Mike Luce

A note to our readers: first, our apologies for the late release of this week's review; and second, we will use the terms Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Division I-AA interchangeably from this point forward. The same goes for Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Division I-A. We have complained about this cosmetic change to the long-standing I-A/I-AA naming convention before, and now we'll choose to ignore it as we see fit. So there.

Ofman:
  • Circus Tripping

  • * The College Football Report would like to give a hand to some programs across the land that became bowl eligible with a win on Saturday. While no one has been speculating about Southern Methodist's role in the national championship race, or how the Kentucky Wildcats could be a BCS darkhorse, both still deserve some recognition. This week, we will take a break from reviewing the exploits of big-name programs in favor of celebrating the little guy. Or at least the not-so-big guy.

    Note that not all of these teams will automatically play in a post-season bowl, although the odds are good. Most BCS conferences have at least six bowl tie-ins and some (the SEC, for example) have as many as nine. (This does not mean that the SEC sends nine teams to bowl games every season but instead that up to nine bowls will invite a team from the conference should that many be bowl eligible.)

    All the same, six is usually the magic number. Only four teams (Arkansas State, Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and San Jose State, all at 6-6) finished with six wins and remained home at the end of the regular season last year. At least one team (6-5 Kansas State, with two Ws against FCS schools) already has six wins in 2009 but must record at least seven for eligibility - teams from the former Division I-A can only count one win against I-AA programs toward their total. I'm not bothered by this rule. Let's face it - the Iowa States of the world need a little help padding the win total, but piling on Ws against Directional Creampuffs seems a bit unfair.

    So today, we tip our hat to:

    * Iowa State (-5, won 17-10 vs. Colorado): May your Cyclones never play the Hurricanes, lest we all suffer "total protonic reversal."

    * Missouri (-1.5, won 38-12 @ Kansas State): Good for you. No really, you didn't cost me money on Saturday or anything. Nice job. No, really. Bravo.

    Here is something to consider - we make picks (for entertainment purposes only, of course) every week. Should you enter into a friendly wager with a friend, we hope our picks can act as some helpful information. Most likely, for example, you would be well served reading our preview column and then doing the exact opposite of whatever we say. (Although it should be noted that we went 3-2 last week.)

    But services exist that require interested parties to pay for ongoing subscriptions, one-off reports, and access to periodic "key releases." The experts often pick every game but point out several of these key match-ups as the best bets. Further, some services go so far as to make special announcements when this or that game is a lock - a sure-fire winner.

    Are such picks 100 percent accurate? Of course not. But is it reasonable to think key picks and special selections should average better than 50 percent? We think so. Not true this season, however, as Kansas State (plus the points) was yet another busted call by the experts.

    Here's our advice for anyone tempted to cough up for special access to the experts: Flip a coin.

    Southern Miss (-3, won 27-20 @ Marshall): The College Football Report enjoys teams with a confusing nickname history. While Southern Miss has been known as the Golden Eagles since the 1970s, past nicknames include the Tigers, Normalites, Yellow Jackets, Confederates and Southerners. I say the more nicknames, the better. And if the marketing department at Southern Miss hasn't yet created a throwback "Normalites" jersey, they should. I would order one immediately - size M, please. (Does "medium" sound a bit girlie for something like a replica football jersey? Maybe. But those things always fit like curtains, and nobody looks good walking around in a "Normalite" jersey shaped like a tent. Trust me.)

    SMU (-7, won 35-31 vs. UTEP): The Mustangs have not received a bowl invite since 1984. The last winning season (6-5) came in 1986. Things have just not been the same for the Mustangs since suffering the "Death Penalty" from the NCAA for repeat rules violations in the 1980s.

    While the 'Stangs only lost a single season of play ('87) due to the judgment, the cumulative effect of the various penalties, including scholarship reductions, hiring limits, recruiting restrictions, and a ban on post-season play nearly killed the program. But the Methodists persevered, suffering through season after dismal season. The 2008 squad ended the year at 1-11. Coming into 2009, SMU ranked somewhere near the bottom out of all 114 I-A programs. The prospect of a winning season and a bowl game must seem like manna from heaven. Congrats, Mustangs.

    Arkansas (-14, W 56-20 vs. Troy): The Razorbacks have had a wild ride. If Arkansas played in the Big 12 North, rather than the SEC West, we might be talking about a New Year's Day bowl game. Instead, the Hogs have suffered in conference play but capitalized against cupcakes like Troy. While six wins at this point may feel like a bit of a letdown to the Arkansas faithful in Fayetteville, at least they notched number six in impressive fashion.

    Louisiana-Monroe (-21.5, W 21-18 vs. Western Kentucky): I wish the Warhawks didn't have to beat my beloved Hilltoppers to make it happen, but congratulations all the same. Nicely done! Headline: Directional Creampuff Reaches Bowl Eligibility!

    Kentucky (-3, W 24-13 @ Vanderbilt): The University of Kentucky Wildcats will (almost undoubtedly) reach a fourth straight bowl game this season. Last year, head coach Rich Brooks & Co. made UK history after making a third consecutive bowl trip - all Ws! The true-blue faithful in Central Kentucky are even talking about closing out the season with a win at home against . . . Tennessee. I mean, who are these guys?

    Football used to be no more than a distraction before the start of the real season - Kentucky basketball. But something curious happened over the past five or so seasons . . . basketball, with an obnoxious drunkard (Billy Gillespie) at the helm, slipped further and further from UK's accustomed heights. Meanwhile an old coot, out of the college game for 15 years, took over in 2003 and turned the program around in three seasons. We should all be so lucky to experience a career rebirth at the age of 62.

    CFR Notes
    In other action, the BCS contenders did not make much noise over the weekend. Apart from USC's stunning defeat at the hands of red-hot Stanford, the lineup has not changed much from last week. In fact, the top eight spots remain exactly the same.

    #1 Florida 24 (-17.5) @ South Carolina 14*
    #2 Alabama 31 (-11.5) @ Mississippi State 3
    #3 Texas 47 (-24) @ Baylor 14**
    #16 Utah 28 @ #4 TCU 55 (-20)***
    #25 West Virginia 21 @ #5 Cincinnati 24 (-9.5)****
    Idaho 25 @ #6 Boise State 63 (-32.5)
    #7 Georgia Tech 49 (-13.5) @ Duke 10*****
    Louisiana Tech 16 @ #8 LSU 24 (-23)
    #25 Stanford 55 @ #9 USC 21 (-10.5)
    #10 Iowa 24 @ #11 Ohio State (-16.5)
    Notre Dame 22 @ #12 Pittsburgh 27 (-6)
    Arizona State 21 @ #13 Oregon 44 (-21)
    #14 Miami FL 24(-3) @ North Carolina 33

    *As predicted by the Beachwood Sports Seal
    **Not as predicted by the Beachwood Sports Seal
    ***As we predicted
    ****Ahem, who is looking forward to taking Cincinnati's opponent in the BCS? (Raises hand.)
    *****Also, not as we predicted

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    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

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