After a head-scratching snub as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football's best receiver, Vanderbilt's all-time receiving leader Jordan Matthews was named to the Associated Press' All-SEC first team.
Matthews was joined on the first team by senior safety Kenny Ladler. Senior offensive lineman Wesley Johnson and senior cornerback Andre Hal were named to the second team.
Not much of a surprise for the top-line awards. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was named coach of the year, Tigers running back Tre Mason is the offensive player of the year and Missouri's Michael Sam is the defensive player of the year.
With four selections on the two teams, Vandy bested cross-state rival Tennessee. Vols linebacker A.J. Johnson was named to the first team; linemen Ja'Wuan James and Tiny Richardson were named to the second team. Vols punter Michael Palardy was an honorable mention.
Check out the full listings here.
This year is the last year of the much-maligned BCS as we know it. It will be replaced by a four-team mini-playoff which, using the current BCS formula, would pit Florida State and Michigan State in one semi-final with an Iron Bowl rematch of Auburn and Alabama in the other.
There's little doubt those three games would be thrilling and would (for the cynics among us) be TV ratings megaliths.
But let's be a little bolder.
Often, when people talk about the appeal of a football tournament, they point to the NCAA basketball tournament as an example of how exciting tournaments can be. But then they, invariably, talk about an eight- or 12- or 16-team playoff.
But one of the reasons March Madness is so great is because every team that fields a Division I team could, at least in theory, win the national title. Each conference sends its champion (for the most part determined in a conference tournament), so even the lowest of the low can get hot at the right time and make hay. At the end, we're typically given the cream of the crop, but before that, it's the upsets that stoke the passion.
With a small football playoff, there'd be no Florida Gulf Coasts. There'd only be Dukes. Sure, the title would be settled on the field, but there'd be little chances of a minnow making a few waves.
So let's mimic it. Let's imagine a playoff where every conference automatically qualifies. Let's expand the tournament to 24 teams. There would be 10 conference champions and 14 at-large teams (the FCS — what was long known as Division I-AA — expanded its playoff to 24 teams this year, with 11 automatic qualfiers). At this point, conference championship games are probably a thing of the past.
What would that look like for what is now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision?
Here's our methodology:
- 1. All 10 conference champions qualify
- 2. The 14 at-large bids are given based on the final BCS rankings. Personally, I'd give the last at-large to Northern Illinois, which had a stellar season but lost in this weekend's MAC Championship; no one is saying a 24-team field would eliminate controversy.
- 3. The teams are seeded 1-24 based on the BCS standings where applicable. Teams unranked by the BCS are seeded at my discretion.
- 4. The teams are placed into four regions (we'll call them East, South, Midwest and West) using an S-curve system. I moved a few teams into different regions for conference balance, geographic sense and to avoid early-round match-ups that are regular season repeats. I'll note those moves below.
AAC - Central Florida
ACC - Florida State
Big 12 - Baylor
Big 10 - Michigan State
Conference USA - Rice
MAC - Bowling Green
Mountain West - Fresno State
Pac-12 - Stanford
SEC - Auburn
Sun Belt - Louisiana-Lafayette
2. Ohio State
4. South Carolina
8. Oklahoma State
9. Arizona State
14. Texas A&M
And here's how those teams would be seeded 1-24:
1. Florida State
4. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
9. South Carolina
13. Oklahoma State
14. Arizona State
15. Central Florida
20. Fresno State
21. Texas A&M
22. Bowling Green*
* These three teams were unranked in the BCS and are seeded at my discretion.
And here's how each region would stack up. Seeds 3 and 6 would play with the winner playing the No. 2 seed; the No. 1 seed would play the winner of the 4-5 game.
1. Florida State
Clemson was moved in for South Carolina to keep the region from having three SEC teams. Louisville was swapped for UCLA to avoid a UCF-Louisville rematch in the first round in the South region and because UCLA in the South makes slightly more sense than UCLA in the East.
2. Ohio State
3. South Carolina
South Carolina is here as a virtue of a double-switch — with Clemson moved east and then Oregon moved to the West. UCLA, as noted above, replaces Louisville.
4. Arizona State
5. Fresno State
6. Bowling Green
Fresno State replaces Wisconsin to avoid a rematch of Arizona State and Wisconsin's controversial Sept. 14 game in the first round. While moving Oklahoma State in for Arizona State might make more sense geographically, such a move would put three Big 12 teams in the Midwest and three Pac-12 teams in the West.
1. Michigan State
4. Oklahoma State
6. Texas A&M
Oregon is moved West as noted above and Wisconsin swaps with Fresno.
Of course, there are logistical questions — Where will the games be played? How will they be scheduled? How can this be fit in using the established Labor Day-to-New Year's college football time frame? But those are questions for other people. (And they aren't insurmountable; again, this is the same size field as the FCS tournament.)
MTSU posted eight wins for the second-straight season — and this time they'll get their just reward.
Coach Rick Stockstill's Blue Raiders are headed to the Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, Texas, where they'll play Navy.
Last year, an 8-4 record wasn't good enough as MTSU was passed over for one of the Sun Belt's bowl spots, ostensibly because the Raiders were headed out of the conference. (MTSU is in its first year as a member of Conference USA.) Stockstill said that explaining the snub to his team was the hardest thing he's had to do in 30 years of coaching.
MTSU heads for the post-season riding a five-game winning streak. Navy's regular season is not yet complete — the 7-4 Midshipmen play Army Saturday. Coach Ken Niumatalolo is taking Navy to its 10th bowl game in 11 seasons.
Oh and a by-the-way moment: Middle was passed over last season in favor of Western Kentucky. This year, the Hilltoppers won't go bowling. Similar to the situation with last year's MTSU team, WKU is leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA, although it seems the Sun Belt sure did try to get more teams in the postseason.
Vanderbilt's reward for qualifying for a third straight bowl? Getting passed over by Georgia (also 8-4, headed to the Gator Bowl) and Mississippi State (6-6, headed for the Liberty Bowl) for a trip to Birmingham for the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4. The Commodores will face Houston (8-4) of the American Athletic conference.
The Music City Bowl, wanting to avoid a local tie-in for a second straight year, choose Ole Miss (7-5) to play Georgia Tech.
Head coach James Franklin relished the opportunity to get to nine wins again with the most successful class of seniors in the school's history.
"To me, that's the most important thing, the opportunity to stay together for a few more days because this team will never be together again," Franklin said. "From a cultural standpoint, from an expectations standpoint, it's a 360-degree difference right now. Vanderbilt hadn't had a nine-win season since 1915 before last year. Those things are very, very exciting. We've just gotta keep building. It allows us to change perceptions about Vanderbilt football."
Athletic Director David Williams said he was very proud of the program's accomplishment.
"Vanderbilt is very excited to accept an invitation to play in the upcoming BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on Jan. 4," he said. "Vanderbilt University is proud that the Commodore football program will be making its third consecutive postseason appearance in Birmingham. We will work extremely hard to make the bowl a success in very big way. We are looking forward to playing a tremendous opponent in the University of Houston."
As for senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews, it's just a chance to play his last game in his home state.
"Growing up in Alabama, Legion Field is always where the state championship game was played," said Matthews. "I take a lot of pride in [making three straight bowl games]. You can look at these things when we came in that we said we were going to do. We were able to turn it around. We were able to accomplish it. And now we've got one more test, to go down to Birmingham and get a win, it'll be huge for us."
For more information on travel and ticket packages, the school has set up a special site here.
In many ways, the Denver game mirrored the season for the Tennessee Titans: there was a bright start, they were in a close game against a superior opponent, but it all turned very, very wrong. After a 51-28 loss to the Broncos, the Titans were left to wonder about another lost season.
At 5-8, any mathematical chance the Titans had of making the playoffs was eliminated as the Broncos handed Tennessee a sixth loss in their last eight games. As one commentator noted, Peyton Manning again clinched the AFC South for the Colts by beating the Titans.
The Titans led early, bolstered by a return game that had been non-existent through the season. Leon Washington's 95 yard kickoff return gave the Titans a short field and after a 3-yard Chris Johnson touchdown, the Titans held a 14-7 advantage.
Leading 21-17, the Titans were forced to punt late in the second quarter. With just under a minute, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was able to move the Broncos 40 yards in just 52 seconds to allow Matt Prater a chance at an NFL-record 64-yard field goal, which he made by inches.
The Prater field goal seemed to flip the game. A surprising, but strong, 21-10 lead turned into a 34-21 deficit halfway through the third quarter after 24 straight points by the Broncos.
“So that was the part of the game where we had jumped out and made some plays, we got some momentum, but they’re a good team; we knew they were going to come back and do pretty much what they did," Titans head coach Mike Munchak said. "We just wished, again, somewhere in there we needed a stop, we needed a play, we needed a tipped ball. We didn’t get those things and credit them for being the good team that they are.”
After the game, kicker Prater said Denver got a jolt out of the record.
“It was awesome, because the whole team almost rushed the field after that kick, so it was definitely a momentum swing and I’m just happy I had the chance to kick it,” he said
In the second half, the Broncos steamrolled the Titans, putting up 31 points and scoring on every possession but their last. In the end, the Broncos held the ball for 39:20 and ran 91 plays to Tennessee's 48.
Manning said that they didn't expect to have the ball that much.
“You never plan for 95 plays. Defense had about 45 plays and they settled down and did a good job on third down getting them off the field. We had a lot of first downs. I don’t know how many, but we were first-down, second-down, first-down. When you’re in that kind of rhythm it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It doesn’t give them a chance to even get to their third-down packages,” Manning said.
For the Titans on offense, Chris Johnson rushed for 46 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown while Shonn Greene also had 46 yards, but two touchdowns. In the second half, with little possession and falling further behind, the Titans largely abandoned the running game. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the day 13 of 24 for 172 yards and one touchdown, a pretty 57-yard throw to Justin Hunter.
Last offseason's target for the Titans, Manning, posted gaudy numbers, completing 39 of 59 passes for 397 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he throws just 7 more touchdowns in the next three games, he'll break the NFL single-season mark, held by Tom Brady.
The best shot the Nashville Predators have at beating the Washington Capitals on Saturday is to make sure the game does not go to a shootout.
Through the first two months of the season, the Predators have been one of the NHL’s worst in the tiebreaking procedure. They are the only Western Conference team and one of four overall that have yet to earn a point in that manner. Washington, on the other hand, has won more than any other.
WORST SHOOTOUT RECORDS
New Jersey 0-5
BEST SHOOTOUT RECORDS
Los Angeles 5-2
The reason for Nashville’s struggles is obvious.
In order to win a shootout a team must convert more often than the opponent. The Predators have not found the back of the net in any of their three shootouts, including one against Phoenix that went five rounds.
WORST SHOOTOUT PERCENTAGESOttawa 0.0 percent (0-8)Nashville 0.0 percent (0-11)New Jersey 5.9 percent (1-17)Detroit 8.3 percent (1-12)Vancouver 13.3 percent (2-15)
“Our goalies have been pretty good,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We haven’t scored any goals for our goalies in shootouts. … That’s on us.”
Nashville and Washington, which play Saturday in D.C. (6 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee), have gone to a shootout twice in their last six meetings. The Capitals won both and are one of five teams the Predators never have bested in a shootout.
Editor's note: Our friends at OVCBall.net will preview the local OVC teams each week. For extended previews of the rest of the OVC, go to their website or follow @OVCBall on Twitter.
The rematch is on between the conference’s best defense in Tennessee State and the nation’s best offense in Eastern Illinois. Yes these two teams have battled before, but things have changed in the six weeks since they last met up. The conference’s short two-game winning streak is going to come to an end, but the OVC is guaranteed at spot in the quarterfinals. A position the conference hasn’t been in since Western Kentucky in 2000.
In case you forgot about the original matchup between these two, here is a quick refresher: The Panthers faced their first test on the road in conference at the end of October, heading to LP Field to take on the Tigers. The Panthers used the deep ball early and often to jump out to an early 21-3 lead at the half. With the Tigers struggling to get a passing attack with freshman quarterback Ronald Butler at the helm, the Panthers defense stuffed the Tigers ground game and cruised. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have his best game completion wise, going 24 of 41, but threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. To add to the misery for the Tigers’ homecoming crowd, running back Shepard Little ran for 138 yards on 22 carries in the Panthers 34-10 victory.
Normally I don’t open a preview with a weather report but it has to be mentioned. The game time temperature is projected to be in the twenties with wind gusts up to 20 mph. Both head coach’s during this week’s teleconference had concern’s about the weather.
“Unless these guys are totally wrong it is going to feel like between 22 and 28 and I will be bundled up like the Michelin man,” Eastern Illinois Head Coach Dino Babers said. “We have about 20 guys from Florida so you tell me how it is going to affect us, but if you are going to win a national championship you have to win in cold weather,” TSU head coach Rod Reed said.
What makes things different from the last time these two played is seen on offense for the Tigers. The last time Eastern Illinois took on TSU, they knew Butler wasn’t going to stretch the field and loaded up the box to stop the run. The result was 126 yards on 32 carries by TSU.
Last weekend, Pioneer League champions Butler did that same thing but there was a different quarterback. The return of junior quarterback Michael German is a huge boost to the TSU offense and EIU knows that. The ground game was ok against the Bulldogs but German’s ability to create the big play or extend plays with his 6-foot-2, 215-pound body made the difference. “I think they are a different football team than what we faced the first time,” Babers said.
On the other side of the field, we all know about the Eastern Illinois offense. The passing attack of Walter Payton finalist Garoppolo with his weapons of Erik Lora, Adam Drake, Jeff LePak and the possible return of Keiondre Gober who has missed the last three games with an injury. While the passing attack won’t be shut down, in the cold weather it could be the ground game of Little that could be the x-factor for the Panther’s offense. The Panthers will need to shake off the rust(I’m going to say ice) after not playing last week. The Tigers should be well rested as the majority of the starters were done halfway through the third quarter.
In the history of the OVC, only twice has there been a rematch in the FCS Playoffs. In both instances, the winner of the first game was able to pull off the second victory. Babers mentioned over and over in the press conference that it is not the ideal circumstance to play a team twice. The Tigers have the revenge factor on their minds, the Panthers are the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Regardless, this weekend’s game should be another classic and guarantees us another week writing football.
Previews by Catlin Bogard. For unfiltered coverage of the Ohio Valley Conference, go to OVCBall.net
Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber briefly lost vision in his right eye when a puck struck him late in the team's 3-0 loss to Edmonton on Thanksgiving, causing blood to get into the eye.
"When you can't see it's pretty scary," Weber, the team's top defenseman and tied for the team lead in goals (7), said in a Friday media availability. "You can't see anything ... and you wonder if it's long term."
Weber said he had no vision in his right eye throughout the night of the game, though it did start to return the following morning.
Weber is eyeing a return to the lineup as his team heads on a two-game road trip to Washington and New York, looking for wins after a woeful four game homestand in which the team lost four games, earning only one point by virtue of the shootout Saturday against Philadelphia.
Weber will play with a visor "for right now," though he didn't commit to putting on the eyeshield permanently.
He, like most players, has worn a visor in the past. They are required equipment in junior hockey and at international tournaments like the Olympics and World Championships. The NHL only started requiring visors this season and only then for players with fewer than 26 games of experience.
We here at Post Sports have been known to place a wager or two and we respect the many ways you can win (or lose) money on your favorite team. The proposition is simple. We started the season with a hypothetical $100 and pick the Titans against the moneyline, against the spread and the over/under on total points. We'll keep track of how we're doing by the size of our bank account and, hopefully, we won't be bankrupt by the end of the season.
After having the Thanksgiving week off, let's catch up. Headed into the Raiders game, the bankroll was sitting at $143.97 and we hit the trifecta of moneyline ($5 at -120 paid $4.17), spread ($5 on Titans -1 paid $4.55) and over ($5 on 41.5 points paid $4.55). That's $13.27 for the week and our total for the year is now is a season-high $157.24.
We'll keep this week simple as we're all in on Peyton.
Moneyline: Broncos -600, Titans +450
Pick: $20 on Broncos
Do you think the Titans can win at Mile High? Me either. Let's not belabor this. Biggest bet of the year.
Spread: Broncos -12
Pick: $5 on Broncos
Do you think the Titans can get inside of two touchdowns against a Super Bowl contender? Me either. Let's not belabor this.
Over/Under: 49 points
Pick: $5 on the under
We're on record as hating unders. However, let's consider the conditions: cloudy, cold and temperatures in the teens. If this were in decent conditions on a fast track, we'd say the sky is the limit for Manning and this offense. But it feels like a 35-10 game, and that's still the under.
When it comes to AFC teams, the Denver Broncos are a remarkably uncommon opponent for the Tennessee Titans.
It was not until the fifth season of the Titans era that these clubs met for the first time and it was another three years until they played again. On top of that, the Titans/Oilers have played in Denver just once in the last 20 years.
Yet with Peyton Manning in his second season as Broncos quarterback, there is an air of familiarity to Sunday’s contest at Sports Authority Field (3:05 p.m., CBS). The Titans faced the former University of Tennessee star often enough during his years with Indianapolis (18 times, to be exact) to know exactly what they’re up against.
Three reasons to believe the Titans will succeed Sunday
• The Wright stuff: The best way for Tennessee to limit Peyton Manning’s effectiveness is to keep the ball out of his hands. That means the Titans’ offense has to stay on the field – and typically that requires third-down conversions. Wide receiver Kendall Wright leads the AFC with 26 catches on third down, which accounts for 37 percent of his season total and is a factor in why the Titans are sixth in the NFL in third-down conversions. The second-year wide receiver gives the Titans an obvious option when they need to keep the chains moving.
• None shall pass: Manning might be the premier quarterback of his generation (maybe even all-time) but the Titans rank seventh in the league in pass defense. They have faced four of the NFL’s top 14 passers this season yet have not allowed anyone to throw for 300 yards or more. In fact, five of their 12 opponents were held to fewer than 200 yards. Manning’s going to throw the ball but Tennessee just might be able to minimize the gain on those throws.
• Westward ho: Tennessee has won two of three thus far against the AFC West (and it had a chance to top Kansas City). Under the current scheduling format, the Titans have faced the entire AFC West three times previously and never finished with a winning record – but maybe – just maybe – the time is now. If they can’t win this one, they’ll have to wait another three years before they get their next crack at those four teams.
Three reasons to believe the Titans will struggle Sunday
• On the road again: This is the last of their three-game road trip and it takes them to one of the NFL’s toughest places for road teams. Denver is one of five teams that has yet to lose at home this season. All six of its victories have been by 10 points or more and the average margin has been 20 points. A year ago the Broncos were 7-1 at home, which was tied for best in the AFC.
• Get to the point(s): In a golden age for offenses in the NFL, no one does it better than Denver. The Broncos have scored at least 27 points in every game this season, have topped 40 five times and average 38.7. By comparison, the Titans have topped 27 once in the last eight contests, they average 22.0 and their season high is 38, which falls just short of Denver’s average.
• Protecting Peyton: Denver’s offensive line allowed a league-low 15 sacks, which might have more to do with Peyton Manning’s ability to read defenses quickly and get rid of the ball before the pass rush gets to him. Regardless, the NFL’s only four-time MVP has all the time he needs to work (there have been five games when he has not been sacked at all) and much more often than not he gets the job done.
The bottom line
At worst, the Broncos are the AFC’s second-best team right now. Unquestionably, they have an offense that can make any defense look bad, which it has done on many occasions.
Victories against Denver are measured differently. For example, it was considered a triumph for Jacksonville when the Jaguars lost by just 16 points back on Oct. 13.
Chances that the Titans pull of the real thing are slim – at best.