Articles by Chris Morgan

A listing of all the articles written by Chris Morgan for the RotoWire Blog.

Well, the Big East Sure Turned Thing Around Quickly…

Last season, the Big East was roundly considered the worst of the "AQ Conferences" in college football. Why, some even posited that they were worse than the Mountain West, and considering the MWC contained Utah and TCU, that wasn’t an unreasonable argument. However, a mere season later, I personally find it safe to say that the Big East isn’t the worst conference of the AQs. In fact, I think they are a pretty good conference… and maybe the third best conference in college football.

We’re all pretty much in agreement the SEC is the best conference, right? At least, we probably should be. Alabama and Florida are there, as well as a bunch of other good teams. Only Vanderbilt would I consider a bad team. Stick Mississippi State in a difference conference and you might have a bowl team. Then, I would say the Pac-10 is solidly second this year, even with USC falling a bit. Oregon has been good, Arizona is under the radar, and Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal all have had rather good seasons.

So, this leaves five reasonable contenders for the title of third best conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, and the Mountain West. As much as the MWC is impressive up top, and you could make the case TCU should play for the national title if Texas falters, the presence of winless New Mexico, who only achieved any relevance due to their face punching coach, leaves them out in my book. The ACC has Georgia Tech, who is really fun to watch, an up and coming Miami (FL) team, a down but still good Virginia Tech who has been really let down by Tyrod Taylor, and Clemson who’s pretty good because they have C.J. Spiller. Also, Duke might make a bowl game, which would be cool. However, they also have a lot of mediocre teams. Clemson might make the ACC title game simply from playing in the bad half of the conference.

Speaking of conferences with uneven divisions, I’ll talk about the Big 12 now. Actually, since I think they are at least the fourth best conference, allow me to get the Big Ten out of the way first. No national title contender. A less than stellar Ohio State team might win it. Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, and Indiana all play there. I think people were too hard on them last season, but this year they are definitely down. Now, it comes down to the Big East and the Big 12.

The Big 12 has the best team, I’ll give you that. Texas is better than Cincinnati. That said, I think I might take the Big East’s top three (Cincy, Pitt, and WVU) over the next best team in the Big 12 (Oklahoma State?). No matter who is under center the Bearcats are winning. Bill Stull has done a complete 180 this season for the Panthers, and stud freshman wide receiver Dion Lewis has certainly helped. West Virginia is good as per usual. Meanwhile, Big 12 powers from recent years such as Oklahoma and Missouri are having down years. So are Texas Tech and Nebraska. Kansas State might win the Big 12 North. A tribute to Bill Snyder’s coaching ability? Sure. A referendum on the lack of talent in that division? Yeah, it’s probably that too.

Yes, the Big East has two lousy teams in their cellar, and as an eight team conference that really hurts. However, the Big 12 has way more mediocre teams than it usually does, and the Big East is still really good at the top. You can take the Big 12 if you want, but I’m taking the Big East this season.

The year with no Heisman favorite

This was supposed to be the year of the "Big 3" in regards to the Heisman Trophy. Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford. They were considered by most far and away the favorites. Now, Bradford is done, and Tebow and McCoy are struggling mightily. Additionally, nobody has really stepped into the void. This year, we’re over half of the way through the season and nobody has stepped up as a solid, definitive Heisman favorite.

In lieu of great candidates, this year might be a case of the quarterback on the best team winning it. That would more or less be the case of Tebow or McCoy wins. Tony Pike had a chance, but now injuries have done away with him. As far as quarterbacks go, the two top guys might very well be Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and Boise State’s Kellen Moore, though not necessarily in that order. If Notre Dame wins out, which would be a more impressive deed than most thought before the season, maybe Clausen will win it. As for Moore, he has pretty much no chance since, you know, he plays in the WAC.

Other candidates include Alabama’s Mark Ingram (a personal favorite), Clemson’s C.J. Spiller, Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, West Virginia’s Noah Devine, and Jordan Shipley from Texas and Golden Tate from Notre Dame. Of course, winning a Heisman as a wide receiver is nigh impossible, what with their reliance on quarterbacks and all. As far as those running back candidates go, Ingram has the easiest road, since he has the best team. Does it make any sense? No, but that’s the way it goes. Additionally, Dion Lewis from Pittsburgh has played outstanding but he’s a freshman so he probably won’t win.

A few defensive candidates came and went, but none of them have much of a chance now. If I had to vote right now, I’d probably go with Ingram, with Moore as the runner up. As for who will win it, I’ve got no idea. The Heisman race is definitively wide open. Almost any player can seize the lead the rest of the way. It’s just a matter of which of the myriad candidates actually do that.

Florida and Alabama: Who you got?

Yes, the college football season still has a ways to go. However, I feel confident in proclaiming two teams as standing head and shoulders above the rest: The Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Right now, the AP poll agree with me (the coaches poll is meaningless as far as I’m concerned) and I think there is a good chance both teams head into the SEC Championship Game undefeated. So, to me, the only question left is, which team is better?

Quite frankly, you can make the case for either team. Both have very good, efficient offenses, but it is the defense that is the name of the game for both teams. Yes, including the Tim Tebow led Gators. Alabama has only let up 75 points in six games, and Florida a mere 32 in five. Granted, both teams had cupcakes on their schedule, as most top tier teams do, but you cannot argue with how impressive these two teams have been thus far.

Florida’s defense features the likes of Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, and Joe Haden. Bama counters with Rolando McClain, maybe the best linebacker in the country, and the space eater to end all space eaters, Terrence Cody.

Both teams also feature a run heavy offense. The Gators lack a main running back, but they get production from several rushers, including former Heisman winner and all things to all people Tim Tebow. Alabama has a nice collection of running backs themselves, but they have a definitive standout in Mark Ingram, perhaps one of the most overlooked players in all of college football. He’s definitely one of the best running backs in all of college football. However, the Crimson Tide also have a weapon in the passing game in Julio Jones, though he has been slowed by injuries this season.

If I had to choose, I think I’d pick Alabama as the better team. Hopefully, both teams can remain undefeated through the regular season so they can meet in the SEC title game with pretty much everything on the line: A flawless record, the SEC, and a shot for the national championship. Incidentally, could this be the year we see a rematch in the national title game? I highly doubt it, but if Bama and Florida establish themselves as the top two teams in the nation and play a close SEC title game, it could happen. Texas, USC, and Va Tech would likely have to lose two games each, though, which probably won’t happen.

So, to reiterate the question in the title of this article, who do you think is the better team; Florida or Alabama?

The Madness of College Football

By the nature of the sport, college football is often prone to crazy things happening during the season. Huge upsets, wild fluctuations in rankings, and of course all the BCS nonsense. However, this season after four weeks has the feel of one of those particularly nutty seasons. How many top ten teams have already gone down? There’s been a lot, and there are plenty of more chances at upsets. What could be even more upsetting to the foundations of college football, however, might be who doesn’t lose.

I don’t root for any particular college football team. Being from Michigan and thus knowing many people who have matriculated at, or at least root for, UM and MSU I always kind of pull for them, but I don’t take too much joy in their wins or disappointment in their losses. What I root for is chaos. I want upsets, I want BCS Busters, I want teams coming out of nowhere to be national title contenders, and most of all I want conflict regarding the national championship. I am as much rooting against the BCS as I am rooting for anything. I know I’m not the only one who does this, and for those like me this could be a good year.

I’m throwing my support behind four teams in particular this season: Cincinnati, Boise State, Houston, and TCU. The latter three are all from the "Non-AQ" conferences and thus qualify as BCS Busters. Boise is, of course, a perennial contender to shake things up, but Houston and TCU have joined the party now as well. Even more exciting is how highly these teams are ranked already. In the AP Poll, Houston is 12th, TCU 11th, and Boise a staggering fifth. Two of the teams above them, Florida, LSU, and Alabama, are guaranteed to lose, and Texas isn’t a guaranteed undefeated season either. If Boise wins out, and with their exceedingly easy schedule that is a real possibility, and teams above them start losing, perhaps even twice, then things could get very interesting. BSU could have a legitimate argument for a shot at the national title.

Alas, that schedule is likely to be the death of them. To be fair, there is a point there. Their schedule is extremely easy apart from their game with Oregon they already won. This is what makes TCU and Houston even more interesting to me. If the Cougars win out, they will have beaten Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Mississippi State (hey, they’re an SEC team), and Southern Miss, who are no slouches. TCU has Clemson, Air Force, Colorado State, BYU, and Utah on their schedule. They already won one of those, if they win the rest, they have a shot at cracking the top five at least as well, if not reaching higher. The non-AQ teams are getting as much respect as ever, which is helping their rankings and thus their cause. However, when the chips are down, I’d reckon the BCS formula and the voters will lean toward the BCS conferences when the title is on the line.

Which leads me to Cincinnati. The Bearcats are ranked 10th and have a BCS conference pedigree, even if that conference is the Big East. They’ve been to a BCS bowl before, and they’ve got supremely talented players in Tony Pike and Marshawn Gilyard, the latter of which I really wanted in the Rotowire College Football league, only to have him taken right before me. I was left with… Arrelious Benn. However, that is beside the point. The Bearcats could easily run the the table in the Big East, thus beating potential bowl teams in South Florida, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh. They’ve already won at Oregon State and beaten Fresno as well. If there are no undefeated teams in the SEC and Big 12 (quite possible), or in the Big Ten for that matter (very likely), then Cincinnati could find themselves in the national title game of all places, and I for one would love it.

Of course, Florida and Texas could simply go undefeated and ruin all the fun. However, there would still be plenty of intrigue in college football. Every conference, save for the Big East, seems up for grabs. Who will take the Pac-10? I’m hoping for anybody put USC just for a change of pace. What if it’s Oregon? Dismissed after a week one loss and the Lagarrette Blount punch, could they redeem themselves entirely? The Big Ten has two potential spoilers in Iowa and Michigan. Imagine if either of them pulled off the upset and won the conference. The Hawkeyes could go from needing two blocked field goals to beat Northern Iowa to playing in the Rose Bowl. Michigan, meanwhile, would see Rich Rodriguez stick it to all those who doubted him so fast. College football season is always crazy and unpredictable. This season could take the usual madness to the next level. Get ready for what could be a wild ride, and go Bearcats!

Teams that Made Statements in Week 1

I am a big believer in keeping sample size in mind whenever you view anything in sports. I don’t even start paying attention to stats or records until the halfway point of the season in any sport. However, even though we’re only one week into college football season, some teams have already made statements with wins in week one. Whether or not these statements prove themselves out during the season we will have to wait to see, but for now here are a few teams that won games in relatively significant ways.

Michigan: I started rooting for Ole Miss last season just in hopes of Houston Nutt sticking it to all the Arkansas fans who treated him in despicable ways. I’m now hoping that Rich Rodriguez can turn Michigan around sooner rather than later and rub it in the face of all the myopic naysayers. Not only that, this team is exciting, as anybody who saw them trounce Western Michigan in the opener. This is going to be a bowl team, and if Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson can live up to their hype, they could win nine games this season.

Notre Dame: UM’s week two opponent also came into this year with a coach in hot water, albeit not a particularly sympathetic one. The biggest thing about the Irish’s 35-0 win over Nevada isn’t the 35 points for, but the shutout they pitched. Nevada isn’t a bad offensive team, so shutting them out in impressive. With their easy schedule, it looks like a BCS game might be a lock.

Boise State: Their win over Oregon was overshadowed by a post game punch, but it would be remiss not to remember that the Broncos beat the #16 team in the nation, and they didn’t do it in a shootout. If their offense picks it up, they could make another run at a BCS bowl.

BYU: Speaking of potential BCS busters, who saw the Cougars beating Oklahoma? BYU is already a top ten ranked team, and they still play TCU and Utah. If they win out, you will hear rumblings for them playing in the national championship game.

USC: This is mostly about Matt Barkley. I know it was only San Jose State, but a 56-3 win showed that Barkley is at least serviceable. Ohio State is the litmus test, but the Trojans have to be optimistic right now.

Missouri: A lot of people, myself included, were righting the Tigers off without Chase Daniel or Jeremy Maclin. I thought Illinois would have their way with them. Arrelious Benn injury aside, a 37-9 drubbing of the Fighting Illini leads me to believe that rumors of Missouri’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

Cincinnati: The Big East is wide open, and almost any team looked like they could win it this season. Some people were picking Rutgers to take the BCS bid, but those people have presumably changed their minds after the Bearcats walloped the Scarlet Knights 47-15. If you are looking for an early favorite to win the Big East, I don’t think you need to look any further than last year’s champs.

Those are the wins that stuck out to me. Anybody else stick out to any of you out there?

College Football Season Predictions

With the latest installment of college football starting this Thursday, it is as good a time as any to get one’s predictions down for the upcoming season. That way, if you are right you have a place you can point to with a smug "see?" and a self satisfied grin. However, if you are wrong, then I suggest vehemently denying every having made predictions or even having ever heard of this "college football" you speak of. Anyway, here’s what I think is going to happen this season.

ACC: The ACC doesn’t get a lot of national love, but it is usually a pretty exciting conference. I think Florida State will win their division, Virginia Tech will win theirs, and even without Darrell Evans the Hokies will win the ACC and I will once again groan at the idea of them playing in a BCS bowl.

Big East: This is a truly lousy conference. I’m going to pick West Virginia because they have Noel Devine and because they usually win, so why not?

Big Ten: It comes down to Penn State and Ohio State. I like Darryl Clark and Evan Royster more than I like Terrelle Pryor and (insert favorite OSU running back here) and as such I’ll take the Nittany Lions. Plus, their schedule is comically easy. I think Appalachian State plays a tougher group of teams this season.

Big 12: While Oklahoma State should be exciting, I don’t think they can do what Texas Tech did last year. The Big 12 South will come down to Oklahoma and Texas, and I’ll take the Longhorns this time. In the North, it comes down to Nebraska and Kansas for me, and I’ll put my money on Todd Reesing and the Jayhawks, but not with much conviction.

Pac 10: One of these years, I hope a team manages to knock USC off their pedestal. Cal and Oregon have a chance this season, but I don’t think they’ll do it. The Trojans win yet again.

SEC: I think most people are (rightfully) ceding the SEC East to Florida. A lot of people like Ole Miss in the West, but give me Alabama. I really like this Ole Miss team, but I just don’t think they have quite enough. I hope I’m wrong on this one, though. I’ll take Florida to win the conference.

As for potential "BCS busters" I’ll take Boise State as the top candidate to shake things up, provided you don’t consider Notre Dame a "BCS buster." With their super easy schedule, I think the Fighting Irish will get themselves a nice blowout loss in the Sugar Bowl or some such big game. I also like TCU and BYU, for what it’s worth.

For the national title game, I’ll take Texas and Florida, with the Longhorns winning. Incidentally, I think voter prejudices and a genuinely great season will land Colt McCoy the Heisman Trophy this season.

Those are my predictions, hows about you?

Is the Heisman already a three person race?

As we draw closer and closer to the glorious start of the college football season, the time comes for one of everybody’s favorite traditions; way too early Heisman talk! However, it is a more reasonable discussion this year than in most. Already, it seems that it is a three person race. You’ve got the reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, former Heisman winner and all things to all people Tim Tebow of Florida, and Colt McCoy of Texas, who due to having never won the Heisman might inexplicably be the front runner. Thus is the sometimes baffling system we call "Heisman voting."

If you have listened to any of the Heisman talk thus far, all you have heard about is these three guys. Granted, they are all very talented, but so are dozens of other college football players. These aren’t the only three great players in the land. However, due to name recognition and what have you, they’ve already solidified their spots as the top Heisman candidates.

I find this mildly disconcerting due to what I’ll call preseason Top 25 Syndrome. You know what that is, the higher you are in the preseason top 25 polls, the easier it is to end up in the national title game. A team with one loss that starts in the top five and a team with one loss that was ranked in the low teens don’t have the same odds of ending up in the title game, all because a team was perceived as better before a single game was played. In the same vein, Bradford, Tebow, and McCoy are already perceived as being the best, or perhaps the only, Heisman candidates, which makes it a lot harder for the Jahvid Best’s of the world to contend for the trophy, no matter how well they do.

Of course, the reason teams are ranked in the top 25 preseason, usually, is because they are actually a good team. However, the voters makes mistakes, overrating and underrating teams. The same thing can be said about this year’s Heisman race, although certainly Bradford, Tebow, and McCoy have legitimate track records. All that said, let us remember that past performance is not always an indicator of future results and let’s hope if Best or Jevan Snead or somebody along those lines has the best season of any college football player, they go home with the Heisman.

Speaking of players such as Best and Snead, if anybody besides the "Big Three" win the Heisman, who would you expect it to be? I’d put my (metaphorical) money on Best, but there are several reasonable options out there.