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Saturday's Slate: BCS Busters vs. Disciplined Talent

Posted: Oct 18, 2008

Last week was a lesson in symmetry.  Many teams met on the field that looked like mirror images.  Something had to give, and it did.  3 of the top 5 teams lost giving the nation a new number one, Texas, who beat Oklahoma in what was probably a top 10 of all time Red River Rivalry game.

This week's Saturday Slate can give further clarity in narrowing the teams that will compete for respective conference championships.  It will be a question of whether the teams who have better talent on paper can make it show on the field.

College football's national coverage is one of the most frustrating things to watch for us here at Tribal Fever.  The national sports media keeps wanting to turn college football into college basketball with its year end tournament filled with David and Goliath stories.

The national media's football version is the BCS Buster.  This is the designation for a non-BCS conference team that is having an undefeated season and probably has one win against a BCS school, usually a big name having a bad year.

Well, thank goodness for our TF breathern TCU currently trapped in the Mountain West.  The Horned Frogs put an end to BYU's BCS Buster title in definitive fashion with a 32-7 win.

Talent still wins.  The best coaches recruit that talent and make it produce on the field each week.  The reason that programs in our region win is that we field many teams with talented recruiting bases led by coaches who recruit and successfully coach that talent.

In the end, these national media folks keep forgetting that the entire season in college football is a playoff.  So far, there are two conferences, the SEC and Big 12, whose champions should be facing off in the national title game in January.

Both conferences field a handful of mighty teams, but only those who can harness their talent and consistently show it will be left standing.

Ole Miss @ Alabama - Alabama took last week off.  That was probably a good thing because Nick Saban could use other team's failures to teach his own squad a lesson.

Ole Miss might be the SEC's most dangerous team.  They have a great deal of first rate talent that finally has better coaching to go along with it.  If you don't believe it, just ask the Gators who lost at home to the Rebs a couple of weeks ago.

This is a huge test of Saban's "Don't Get Too Excited" philosophy.  Alabama should be able to beat Ole Miss if they play their game.  Alabama's power running offense combined with their stout defense should be poison to Ole Miss's upset chances.

Can the Tide stay disciplined?

Vanderbilt @ Georgia - Vandy isn't the homecoming fodder they once were.  In fact, this is a very scary game for the Bulldogs who have to be looking ahead to LSU and archrival Florida.

Vandy lost its first game of the season to Miss St who showed the rest of the conference how to neutralize QB Chris Nickson.  Bobby Johnson has made a change to Mackenzi Adams so that he can take advantage of Adams' ability to throw accurate short routes like he did in the Dores win over Auburn.

Georgia has o-line problems as well.  The way to beat the Dores is to play mistake free football so that your talent will beat their in the long run.  Discipline is again the key

LSU @ South Carolina - This game is suddenly more of a toss up than it appeared two weeks ago.  LSU's best victory at the time was against Auburn.  South Carolina was hovering around .500. 

Today, South Carolina's losses (Vandy, Georgia) don't look too bad while LSU's impressive win (Auburn) has lost its shine due to that program's shocking decline.

Both of these teams and coaches play recklessly.  Whichever side can do that without making the crucial errors will likely walk away with a win.

Arkansas @ Kentucky - Arkansas took their early season lumps and then they knocked out Auburn last week.  Bobby Petrino can coach at this level.  Arkansas will be good.

Kentucky is already good, but their loss to South Carolina had to sting a bit.  The Wildcats would like to think that they are above the Gamecocks in the pecking order of the SEC East.

This is a classic "who knows?" game.

Mississippi St @ Tennessee - Here we have a matchup of the two disappointments.  Miss St is coming off a bowl season that included huge upsets against Alabama and Auburn.  Unfortunately, they are now sitting at 2-4. 

Also at 2-4, the Vols look like a team whose wheels have finally come off.  Years of recruiting issues and offensive philosophy changes have taken a toll on Phil Fulmer's regime in Knoxville.

One of our favorites, Ron Higgins, lays out a pretty compelling case that it is time for a change at Tennessee.  The fact that AD Mike Hamilton wouldn't rule out a mid-season firing says volumes about what may be coming.

Can Sly "Croom" the state of Tennessee following his Vandy win last week?  If so, expect another nail to go into Fulmer's increasing likely coffin.

Mizzou @ Texas - The meat of the Big 12 has begun.  Unlike the SEC that has already played meaningful games for a month, the Big 12 didn't get into tough inter-conference games until last week.  A lot was learned.

Mizzou struggled in their first real test falling to Ok State.  Texas, on the other hand, showed resilience beating their archrival Sooners.

This entire season holds the future of Missouri football.  Coach Gary Pinkel revived this program by embracing the spread offense.  This allowed him to create on the field matchups that would minimize his on the field talent disparities.

The Tigers now have great talent on the field, but they've yet to make a statement against the upper echelon of the traditional Big 12 powers.  Losing to the Cowboys showed how vulnerable Mizzou can be against good, disciplined defense.

TF is going out on a limb, but we are calling this game a must win for the Tigers.  Two losses will certainly put Mizzou behind their fans rising expectations.  If criticism mounts, expect Pinkel to strongly consider Washington's likely bid for his services after the season.

The simple fact of the matter is that Mizzou isn't an elite program - yet.  They need a few more years of A-list recruiting.  The base is there as long as Pinkel remains.

Kansas @ Oklahoma - The Sooners need to shake off their disappointment from last week.  They still have a great chance to play for a national title.  A one-loss Big 12 champ will likely be one of the two teams left standing at season's end.

Kansas provides a solid bounce back opponent.  The Sooners must take care of business at home.

Baylor @ Oklahoma St - Mike Gundy's Cowboys made a lot of noise by not only beating Mizzou, but by outcoaching Gary Pinkel.  Gundy found the weakness in the Tigers' formerly dominant offense and frustrated it into mistakes.

Baylor, although improving, should give Gundy a nice win before bigger games come.  Texas and Oklahoma await.

Texas Tech @ Texas A&M - A&M represents that last of Texas Tech's likely wins on their schedule.  After the Aggies, they meet up with Kansas, Texas, and the Oklahoma teams in successive weeks.  The Red Raiders can't have a let down like they almost did last week against Nebraska.


Georgia Tech @ Clemson - This game best represents the change in the ACC.  Clemson has proven to be a paper tiger (pun intended) under Tommy Bowden who resigned this week.  Tech looks like an emerging power.

The Jackets must steal this road game against the talented, but mismanaged Clemson Tigers.  Tommy Bowden is gone so no one knows what to expect.  The talent is there so Tech can't take them for granted.

Wake Forest @ Maryland - These are two strange teams.  Maryland looked like they were going to run roughshod over the ACC until lowly Virginia blew them out.  Wake continues its tradition of winning close games without looking particularly dominant.

The question about the ACC is one of coaching.  Jim Grobe of Wake is clearly one of the conference's best while Ralph Friedgen remains an enigma.  Is he past his prime or not?

With all due respect to Wake and Grobe, as long as the Deacons continue to coast atop the ACC, this conference will struggle for respect.  Talent should win out over the long run.  Until teams like Maryland beat Wake regularly, the ACC will struggle for national respect.

UNC @ Virginia - Speaking of national respect, Butch Davis has brought that to UNC in a hurry.  Expect for one close loss to Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels would be undefeated with impressive wins at Miami and against an improved Notre Dame team last week.

Al Groh is doing everything he can to hold onto his job at Virginia.  After starting the season so poorly, the Cavs still hold destiny in their hands.

Despite everything that Davis has accomplished thus far, he can't sleep on this game.  It looks like a trap.

Virginia Tech @ Boston College - Frank Beamer remains the one holdover that has appeared to transition well.  The Hokies might have lost to East Carolina, but since then they have run off several key victories.

Expect them to take down BC in short order.

Miami @ Duke - Randy Shannon is in trouble in Miami.  TF predicts that if Tommy Tuberville is run out of Auburn that Miami will hire their old assistant coach to helm the bounty of great recruits that have come in the door in Shannon's short (so far) time as coach.

Some say Shannon deserves a chance, but his on the field coaching has been rightly questioned.  Shannon's tenure seems eerily similar to another old Hurricane assistant, Ed Orgeron, who recruited great talent at Ole Miss but could never get them to show it on the field.  Houston Nutt is doing that now.

If Duke keeps this close or wins, it could be curtains for Shannon.

(PS - Kudos to Florida State for taking care of business against NC State on Thursday.  The Seminoles appear to be finally making a turn for the better under HC in waiting, Jimbo Fisher.)

Syracuse @ USF - USF gets another shot to win their first conference game.  Luckily, they have one of the nation's worst teams as an opponent.

Middle Tennessee @ Louisville - Louisville has another out of conference game as they host.  The Blue Raiders aren't pushovers, however.  Just ask Maryland.

UTEP @ Tulsa - This is the matchup of the week for Conference USA.  The Western Division clearly seems to be the dominant division and these two teams are undefeated in conference play. 

Tulsa reinforces what appears to be a magical season for college football in the state of Oklahoma.  Despite many of C-USA's disappointments, Tulsa can run the table and make the conference proud.  They must not let up on the Miners.

Memphis @ East Carolina - The Pirates were the first BCS Buster after beating Virginia Tech and West Virginia early in the season.  Unfortunately, the Pirates weren't the real deal and have lost any momentum from those early wins.

Memphis has been one of the most consistent teams all season.  They almost took down Louisville last week and have been in every game this season.

The Tigers seem to have the momentum going into this key C-USA East battle.

Southern Miss @ Rice - Rice is part of that group of offensive firepowers in the West.  Southern Miss might be the best team in C-USA without a conference win.  It will be interesting to see how this East v West showdown turns out.

Houston @ SMU - Houston is also high-flying and undefeated in C-USA play.  They must win to stay close to Tulsa.  SMU has been competing under June Jones, but they are still a year or two away.

Marshall @ UAB - The Thundering Herd appears competitive again which is happening not a moment too soon for HC Mark Snyder.  UAB is a sad joke.

Arkansas St @ LA-Lafayette - This is a great Sun Belt game.  Both teams are undefeated in conference and have played well against BCS schools.  Ark St beat Texas A&M in College Station.  The winner of this game takes an inside track to the conference title.

FIU @ Troy - This game also feature two conference unbeatens.  Mario Cristobal has worked wonders in his second year at FIU.  It's amazing to watch this team's rise to respectability.

Troy is a monster SB team.  Expect them to end the Golden Panthers' conference run.

FAU @ Western Kentucky - Is there any bigger Sun Belt disappointment than FAU?  Howard Schnellenberger hasn't been able to retain last season's magic.  Now, they must go and play a future conference team on the road.  Watching FIU surpass FAU has been one of the Sun Belt's biggest surprises.

North Texas @ LA-Monroe - These two teams are the bottom feeders of the Sun Belt.  Somebody has to win. 

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