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TF Saturday Preview: The Year of Transition Nears An End

Posted: Nov 16, 2007

The wild year continues.  In many ways this was just a sign of the transition college football around the Footprint has experienced.  In some ways, it shouldn't be as surprising as it has been.

Nick Saban's arrival lit a fire under everyone.  The ante was raised.  Teams were either going to man up or fold.  It is a sign of resilience that so many chose to man up instead.

The TF Footprint is back in the national spotlight.  With Oregon and Ohio State bowing out over the last week, it seems pretty clear that the BCS Championship will feature two TF teams.

That's what all of us know here in the Footprint.  Don't panic.  It's a long season.  The cream will rise to the top in the end.

Take a look at this week's Athlon Sports College Football preview hosted by our Patrick Snow, whose Swampland Sports column this week is about the importance of conference titles, to get the lowdown on WVa-Cincy and Clemson-BC as well as a few others.



(23) Kentucky (7-3, 3-3 SEC)
(9) Georgia (8-2, 5-2 SEC)

This game represents some serious transition for the positive for both schools.

The Bulldogs have found a new identity under Mark Richt.  Despite all of his success, Richt was beginning to get overshadowed by all the big coaching names around the SEC. 

Richt's team has done anything but fold.  The Dogs could be looking at a possible showdown in the SEC Championship against LSU.  As the Saban era begins, Richt looks ready to compete and win.

The Wildcats have been one of the SEC's best stories.  They now have a solid program to match their basketball team's success.  Rich Brooks doesn't win with mirrors.  He recruits and coaches good players.

The Wildcats may not be in the SEC title hunt anymore, but they still have a lot to say about who will represent the East with Georgia this week and Tennessee the next.

Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5 SEC)
(20) Tennessee (7-3, 4-2 SEC)

Phil Fulmer lost the battle with Saban, but he won the war (at least for now).  No coach felt as much scrutiny in the changing SEC times as Fulmer did this year.  Today, the Vols are two wins away from an SEC East crown.

Fulmer better not be sleeping on Vandy.  The Dores also need one more win for bowl eligibility.  Realistically, they need wins against both Tennessee and Wake Forest next week.

Vandy is a tough out.  Fulmer could see everything he has re-established come crashing down if he loses at home to the Dores.

Mississippi St (6-4, 3-3 SEC)
Arkansas (6-4, 2-4 SEC)

Sly Croom has done it.  He is SPF's leading candidate for coach of the year.  Croom's seat wasn't even hot this year.  It was already being sized up for replacement.  Instead, Croom stayed the course and graced Starkville with its first non-losing season in years while beating both Auburn and Alabama. 

This game is critical for both teams.  In an SEC West pecking order that usually starts with LSU, Alabama, and Auburn in some order, the fight for fourth best is very, very meaningful.

A win for Croom might mean the end of the road for Houston Nutt.

(1) LSU (9-1, 5-1 SEC)
Mississippi (3-7, 0-6 SEC)

Ed Orgeron can point to the fourth years success of Croom, Johnson, and Brooks to make his point, but he might not get that chance.  Despite his excellent recruiting skills, it is hard for the Rebel faithful to find progress in Orgeron's tenure in Oxford.

The Rebs need a close game against LSU and a win against Miss State next week to ensure Coach O's return.  Doesn't sound very likely does it?

Florida Atlantic (5-4, 4-1 S. Belt)
(12) Florida (7-3, 5-3 SEC)

The Gators play a Howard Schnellenberger-coached team from south Florida.  This isn't the same as the good old days.

Louisiana-Monroe (4-6, 3-3 S. Belt)
Alabama (6-4, 4-3 SEC)

Saban's first year in Alabama has been a success.  He might not have won, but the Tide played in meaningful games all year, and they won a few to boot.

The Iron Bowl awaits.  This will be the ultimate litmus test for Saban Year One.


When the ACC stood at the season's midpoint with Boston College as its best team, TF raised a red flag.  However, the ACC now looks poised to become a very, very good conference in future years.  They might not overtake the SEC, but the gap is starting to narrow.

(17) Boston College (8-2, 4-2 ACC)
(15) Clemson (8-2, 5-2 ACC)

Tommy Bowden finally seems to have learned how to drive a stake in an opponent.  Winning this game gets the Tigers into the ACC Championship.  For all that is holy in southern college football, please don't let a team from Boston represent the ACC.

With South Carolina awaiting next week, Tommy Bowden has the ACC's reputation in his hands.  Two wins in two weeks by Clemson will have a great deal to say about how the ACC will be perceived in future years.

Miami (FL) (5-5, 2-4 ACC)
(10) Virginia Tech (8-2, 5-1 ACC)

Wow!  Miami really was eroding under Larry Coker.  That can be the only explanation for this season.  The word is that Randy Shannon is recruiting the Hurricanes south Florida back yard very well.  It sounds like he will need a lot of help.

Leaving the Orange Bowl may just be the way to break with the past and establish a new identity in a new, plush stadium.

The Hokies need only to hope that the Hurricanes can't get up off the mat.  They need this game and a win in next week's interstate matchup with the Cavaliers to play in the ACC Championship.

Maryland (5-5, 2-4 ACC)
Florida St (6-4, 3-4 ACC)

Maryland continued BC's slide, but the ACC needs FSU to win this game.  The Noles have had a togh year, but there have been enough positive signs to give some hope to Jimbo Fisher's ability to turn around the offense in the long term.

Maryland competes, but they don't have the cache of FSU on a national level.  They don't bring nearly as much to the table for this emerging conference.

North Carolina St (5-5, 3-3 ACC)
Wake Forest (6-4, 4-3 ACC)

Tom O'Brien can sweep the state of North Carolina by winning in Winston-Salem.  The Wolfpack showed the Tar Heels that they won't lay down in years to come.  Wake won't lay down either in this game.

North Carolina (3-7, 2-4 ACC)
Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-4 ACC)

Butch Davis has put everyone in the ACC on notice.  This conference is going to get better and deeper in a hurry.

Chan Gailey might have coached his way out of this league.  Chan feasted on some pushovers, but he just doesn't seem to have it.

Butch Davis might net his first coaching casualty by winning in Atlanta this weekend.

Duke (1-9, 0-7 ACC)
Notre Dame (1-9, 0-6 home)

The Irish wanted high academic standards.  Now they can relish going after their second win against an equally (ahem) academic football team.  It's hard to believe that the ACC once begged Notre Dame to join their humble conference.

BIG 12

Sshh!  The Big 12 could be following the ACC as the biggest turnaround story in college football.  Oklahoma and Texas have been playing great football for years, but the conference's depth has been suspect.  This week, the Big 12 sports thre top five teams.  If all goes to form, Oklahoma will play the Mizzou-Kansas winner for a BCS birth.  Exciting days lay ahead for this conference.

(4) Oklahoma (9-1, 5-1 Big 12)
Texas Tech (7-4, 3-4 Big 12)

Mike Leach raised a few eyebrows by questioning the integrity of the Big 12 officials in last week's loss to the Longhorns.  Leach has kept the Red Raiders competitive, but TF wonders whether his real anger isn't focused on his team's inability to rise of middle of the pack status.

The Sooner will prove this point yet again in Lubbock.

(5) Missouri (9-1, 5-1 Big 12)
Kansas St (5-5, 3-4 Big 12)

Mizzou has 9 wins for the first time in quite a few decades.  They have only to beat the two Kansas teams to play for a Big 12 crown.

TF hopes there won't be any letdowns so that next week's game against Kansas will put the Big 12 North back in a good light.

Iowa St (3-8, 2-5 Big 12)
(3) Kansas (10-0, 6-0 Big 12)

Speaking of letdowns, Kansas has been great in not having any.  Iowa State is much, much better than their record looks.  Don't let up Jayhawks!  We want next week's KC showdown to have meaning.

Oklahoma St (5-5, 3-3 Big 12)
Baylor (3-8, 0-7 Big 12)

Mike Gundy has emerged as a coach who won't back down to anyone.  The Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to several teams, but they appear close to turning the corner.  With Oklahoma coming next week, they must have this one (and should).


(6) West Virginia (8-1, 3-1 Big East)
(22) Cincinnati (8-2, 3-2 Big East)

This is the game whose winner will likely be the Big East Champion.  WVa has the pedigree and the ranking, but the Bearcats aren't going to go down easily.

TF just hopes for a good game, thankful that UConn and Rutger appears out of it.

Louisville (5-5, 2-3 Big East)
South Florida (7-3, 2-3 Big East)

Louisville has had a very difficult year as has USF.  Both programs will be better for it next year (assuming that no team comes in and snatches away Jim Leavitt from USF).  This is a battle for pride.  Sometimes those are the best games to watch.

Syracuse (2-8, 1-4 Big East)
(24) Connecticut (8-2, 4-1 Big East)

UConn still has a nice record, but they are a pretender.  WVa will beat them next week ending any threat that a non-Footprint team will win the Big East.

Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-2 Big East)
Rutgers (6-4, 2-3 Big East)

No comment.


Tulsa (7-3, 5-2 C-USA)
Army (3-7, 3-1 home)

UCF (7-3, 5-1 C-USA)
Southern Methodist (1-9, 0-6 C-USA)

Marshall (2-8, 2-4 C-USA)
Houston (6-4, 5-2 C-USA)

Tulane (3-7, 2-4 C-USA)
Rice (3-7, 3-3 C-USA)

UAB (2-8, 1-5 C-USA)
Memphis (5-5, 4-2 C-USA)

Southern Miss (5-5, 4-3 C-USA)
UTEP (4-6, 2-4 C-USA)

With Tulsa's dismantling of Houston and Marshall's upset of ECU, Tulsa and UCF appear to be heading towards a Conference USA title showdown.  However, next week could provide a hiccup or two.  This week won't, which explains our limited  C-USA commentary this week.


Louisiana-Lafayette (2-8, 2-3 S. Belt)
Florida International (0-9, 0-4 S. Belt)

With Arkansas State's win earlier in the week and the other two games against SEC opponents already covered, there is only one Sun Belt game left to mention.  These two doormats aren't key teams in this conference's emergence.  Next week will be the week to watch in the Sun Belt.

related tags

Tribal Fever,
New Orleans,
West Virginia,
South Carolina,
North Carolina,

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