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Sports Then and Now

College Football Picture Gets a Little Clearer

Posted on November 28, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Cam Newton led Auburn back against Alabama and proved his own the field accomplishments are worthy of the Heisman Trophy.

For now, the championship picture in college football seems a bit clearer, but with one week left there is still time for a mess to develop at the top of the standings.

Comebacks Set Contenders Apart

For a team to truly be deserving of being considered the best team in college football they must be able to come back from adversity and also be able to withstand the challenge from opponents who are playing at the top of their game.

Both Auburn and Oregon solidified their positions at the top of the BCS rankings by taking the best shots from Alabama and Arizona, respectively, and still coming out on top.

The rally by Auburn from a 24-7 halftime deficit probably secured the Heisman Trophy for quarterback Cam Newton and potentially will propel the Tigers into the BCS title game regardless of the outcome of their conference championship tussle with South Carolina.

Oregon made some miscues in their opening half against Arizona, but proved in the second half that they have one of the most explosive offenses in the country. They will have a challenge at Oregon State, but if they cannot win that game on the road then they probably don’t belong in the national title conversation.

Conversely, Boise State is no longer in the national title picture because they could not withstand the second half rally by host Nevada. The Broncos nearly remained undefeated, but a missed field goal at the end of regulation and another in overtime proved too much to overcome.

Some are now saying the Broncos were a fraud and never really deserving of consideration for the BCS Championship Game. It is likely that if Boise State played in the SEC or Big Ten they would have a difficult time winning every week, but they would still be a contender for conference titles and BCS bowl bids. Under the current landscape, Boise State has to finish undefeated to have a chance at even making a BCS bowl and that seems highly unfair as they are certainly better than the best teams from either the Big East or ACC and better than anyone in the Pac 10 other than Oregon.

Reports of My Demise…

The ACC Championship Game next Saturday will be a matchup of one team that was counted out earlier this season and the other that is back in the limelight after nearly a decade in obscurity.

When Virginia Tech lost to I-AA James Madison University in the second week of the 2010 season to fall to 0-2, the Hokies were written off as a team on the decline.

After a disappointing start, Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech Hokies have won 10 straight games to reach the ACC title game.

Few could have predicted that Coach Frank Beamer would rally his team to 10 straight victories and a perfect record in the ACC. Though the ACC may not be the toughest of the BCS conferences, that Virginia Tech could overcome their early challenges to win 10 straight games is a testament to the strength of their program and ability to regroup and adapt.

It has been a year of adaption for Coach Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles. That they would return to the ACC Championship Game in their first season after jettisoning longtime coach Bobby Bowden is seen by many as justification for making the coaching change. That may be true, but I believe the greater reason for the return to national rankings is that Fisher didn’t come in and make wholesale changes, but instead was able to transition from assistant to head coach and keep the Seminoles focused on the field instead of the sidelines.

Coaching Carousel Starts Now

The end of the college football regular season will also inevitably mark the end of the coaching reigns for a number of high-profile coaches.

Already, Randy Shannon has been dismissed at the University of Miami after a 7-5 record and a 28-22 record in four seasons.

Will Rich Rodriguez get a fourth season to guide the Michigan Wolverines.

There is no question that Shannon brought integrity back to Miami after a series of black eyes both on and off the field. However, at a program where success is judged by national titles, Shannon was never able to take the team near that level.

Another longtime prominent program that has struggled in recent years is the University of Michigan. We should find out in the next few days if they will be willing to give Rich Rodriguez a fourth season to prove that he is the man capable of leading the Wolverines back to national contention.

It may be quite a stretch considering that over his first three seasons, Rodriguez has led the Wolverines to a 15-21 overall record and 6-18 mark in the Big Ten. Over the last three seasons, the Wolverines are 1-11 against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

While it makes sense that Shannon and Rodriguez could be looking for new work, it is an illustration of how quickly things change in today’s college football landscape that Mack Brown, who led Texas into the national title game a year ago, and Mark Richt, who has enjoyed a decade of success at Georgia, have also been rumored to be on the hot seat.

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