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The College Football Report: Wide Right

We can't imagine paying cover to tailgate, but IMG College, the nation's largest sports marketing company, sees an opportunity to bring the obnoxious velvet-rope scene to the parking lot, to the tune of $250 per person.

Interviewed about IMG's new tailgating complex, complete with full bar, couches, and a projection TV, senior vice president Kelli Hilliard claims IMG wants to "celebrate the passion and pageantry behind college sports, but also wanted it to be very comfortable."

But isn't comfort counter to the pregame experience? Tailgating isn't about sitting on a couch, it's about a cheap folding chair. You can spill your soda, squirt mustard and step on a chip and nobody will complain about the rug. The only thing in common between the IMG patron and the rest of the crowd will be that both are outdoors. Pray for rain.

More specifically, pray for rain in Jacksonville. That's where IMG is setting up its Playmaker's Club on Saturday. The three-story mobile open-air sports lounge will appear adjacent to EverBank Field for the Florida-Georgia game.

"It's not your traditional tent," Hilliard says.

No shit. But will you have bottle service, Kelli? Because the rusty Weber grill in the next parking space will have bottle service. And no cover.

Note: Georgia-Florida earns Honorable Mention for Rivalry Game of the Week, bumped out by Canes-'Noles. See below.

Updated Bowl Projections: Only Two SEC Teams In BCS
Also: Minnesota in the Heart-of-Dallas Bowl (played in Dallas), Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl (played in New Orleans), and Marshall in the Beef 'O' Brady Bowl (played in a huge skillet).

This Is Ruining Our Heisman Exacta
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and FSU QB Jameis Winston may be in a two-man race for the Heisman at this point. Bookmakers have Mariota at 1/1 (from 10/11 last week) and Winston at 11/10.

And yes, you can win money betting on 1/1 odds. A $2 wager would return $4, not a whopping ROI until you consider that you didn't do anything to earn it.

Rivalry Game Of The Week
Florida State (#3) and Miami (#7) meet on Saturday night in the first big match-up between the two in 10 years.

FSU and "The U" haven't met as Top 10 teams since 2004, and both seemed to have disappeared in the interim, especially considering the dominance the teams exerted in the '90s and early 2000s.

Florida State appeared in the BCS championship in '98 (losing to Tennessee) and again in '99 (with a win against Virginia Tech) while Miami played in the '01 game, thumping Nebraska 37-14, followed by a loss to Ohio State in the 2002 championship.

After capturing the '03 Orange Bowl and back-to-back Peach Bowl appearances, Miami began to fade. The nadir came in 2006 when, en route to 7-6 record, a bench-clearing brawl erupted in a game against Florida International, complete with kicks, punches, and body slams.

The fight exemplified the frustration fans felt at head coach Larry Coker and, for a program with such a notorious history, stoked fears of a slide into chaos.

(To understand Miami's reputation as the bad boys of college football, we strongly recommend the excellent ESPN documentary The U - all 96 minutes - arguably the best documentary on college football, ever.)

The administration attempted to reverse course, but the Coker's successor, Randy Shannon, further tanked the team while controversy swallowed Coral Gambles in a prolonged investigation by the NCAA, which finally concluded last week.

Florida State followed a similar trajectory under the leadership of longtime head coach Bobby Bowden. FSU made an incredible run from 1982 to 2000, finishing in the Top 5 each season from '87-00 with a 15-4-1 record in bowl games.

(Ah, yes, the good old days . . . when games could end in a tie. The 1984 Citrus Bowl finished at 17 all, but not without a last-second 71-yard (!) field goal attempt that . . . just . . . fell . . . short. That is far.)

But allegations of misconduct, similar to the pay-for-play scandal at Miami, began to emerge in the mid-90s, summarized perfectly by the Ol' Ball Coach who dubbed FSU "Free Shoes University."

Following several years of (relative) mediocrity, the university awkwardly ushered Bowden out after discovering academic fraud (in an online Music Appreciation course, no less) involving football players and, probably more damning, a 7-6 record in 2009.

Bowden made a triumphant appearance in Tallahassee last weekend, returning to Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since his retirement in 2010. He made quite the impression, what with the Seminole regalia and war whooping and whatnot. Oh wait, he was the old guy in the blazer.

The rivalry has produced some classics, many decided by misadventures in the kicking game. Missed and/or flubbed kicks swung the outcome of six games between 1991 and 2004. Here's a rundown:

1991 - Wide Right I: Whiff to the, you guessed it, right. Final score #2 Miami 17, #1 FSU 16.

1992 - Wide Right II: And . . . it's no good . . . again. Final, #2 Miami 19, #3 FSU 16.

2000 - Wide Right III: By this time, the younger generation had forgotten about the grief that comes to FSU kickers. Too bad for Matt Munyon, who sliced his last-minute attempt past the right goalpost, #7 Miami 27, #1 Florida State 24.

2002 - Wide Left: Why? Why would you kick for the Seminoles? At least call in sick for the Miami game. Based on past history, FSU would be better off heaving up a Hail Mary than attempting a game-winning field goal anyway. That said, placekicker Xavier Beitia did introduce a new innovation into last minute failures: the hook. Your final: #1 Miami 28, #9 Florida State 27.

2004 - Wide Right IV: Punished by the College Football Gods for not transferring, the capricious deities push Beitia's attempt with five minutes remaining wide, and FSU loses the BCS Orange Bowl 16-14, the only meeting between the two squads in a postseason bowl game.

2005 - The Miami Muff: We were a little worried about Googling this one. Other people look at this computer and the wrong sort of search results for "Miami muff" could be tricky to explain. Fortunately, it's a real thing: Miami placeholder Brian Monroe flubbed the snap, costing the 'Canes an attempt to tie the game. #9 Florida State 10, #9 Miami 7.

There you have it, six games decided by a total of 13 points, proving free shoes can't win football games. You actually need someone to kick the ball, preferably between the uprights.

Our pick: Florida State 37, Miami 24.


Punters vs. Kickers
Speaking of kicking woes, Syracuse will turn to punters Riley Dixon and Jonathan Fisher to handle placekicking duties on Saturday during a one-game suspension for kicker Ryan Norton. Neither has attempted a field goal in college. Here's our question: What if Dixon or Fisher prove to be really good? If 'Cuse doesn't miss a PAT or FG this weekend, can the Orange give Norton the boot?

Our pick: Kickers, by a toe.


Match-Ups of the Week
In addition to Florida State and Miami, many of the other top teams are in action this weekend, including: #4 Ohio State, #8 Clemson, and #9 Missouri. But none play in interesting match-ups, except:

#18 Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) vs. #15 Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1 Big 12)
Texas Tech may be for real. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has led the darlings of college football into unexpected national prominence this season. Coach Kliff attracts attention off the field as well for his dreamy good looks. For example, among the top Google searches for Kingsbury are: "kliff kingsbury", " . . . Texas Tech", ok so far, " . . . wife", odd, " . . . twitter", to be expected, " . . . shirtless", oh now we see where this is going, and " . . . Ryan Gosling". Right. Got it.

Our pick: Texas Tech 39, Oklahoma State 35.


#21 Michigan (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) vs. #22 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
With a W, the newly ranked Spartans (having just entered the Top 25 this week) project as the winner of the Legends Division and the lucky contestant to get thumped by Ohio State in the league championship game. Should the Wolverines win, there's still a tough road ahead (including #4 Ohio State to finish the regular season) for the Legends bid but an L sinks Michigan to 2-2 in the Big 10 and out of the running for the conference championship.

Not that the players need to know any of that to get up for this game. This is for Paul Bunyan Trophy. No, not Paul Bunyan's Axe. You're thinking of the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry.

Why doesn't someone in the Big Ten compete for the Blue Ox? Bunyan never went anywhere without his trusty steer. Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Western Michigan all play in the MAC and (we believe) all play each other every (most?) season. A tripartite trophy battle! We love this idea. Somebody call ESPN.

Our pick: Michigan State 27, Michigan 20.


The Pigeon's Pick
The College Football Report Sacred Chicken is undercover on a top secret mission for the government, giving understudy Timothy the Pigeon a shot at the big time. Here are Timothy's picks:

Minnesota at Indiana: Bwaaak!
Indiana 32, Minnesota 31.

Northwestern at Nebraska: Bwaaak! Bwaaak!
Nebraska 32, Northwestern 31.

NIU at Massachusetts: Harumph.
NIU 32, Massachusetts 10.


Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.

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