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  • Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)

    Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBSSports.com Senior Writer
    Aug. 26, 2011

    This season's five Ws -- who, what, when, where and wahoo!

    The games of the year (ranked 1-25):

    1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 5: Seriously, can we hit the "sim" button on the season and just fast-forward to this mega-matchup? A lot of folks think these are the two best teams in the country. This game could decide the SEC West, the SEC and half of the BCS championship game. Alabama still has quarterback issues, but, oh, that defense. Speaking of quarterback issues, for all of his problems, Jordan Jefferson has missed only seven of 27 passes in his career against Alabama. Last year's 10-of-13 performance in Baton Rouge was one of the best of his career.

    2. Oklahoma at Florida State, Sept. 17: FSU has to prove it's back. No. 1 Oklahoma has to stay unblemished to continue its national championship run. The Sooners will have to win without leading tackler and best trash talker Travis Lewis. You get the feeling this is an all-in game for the 'Noles. In other words, if they do lose it's going to be hard to recover emotionally with a trip Clemson up next. Bottom line: OU can afford a loss. FSU can't.

    3. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 26: Don't sleep on the Iron Bowl after last year's all-timer. Remember what has happened in the offseason -- the Toomer's Oaks, the tornado, Saban's 9-foot statue, the Cam Newton investigation hovering over it all. 'Bama will be favored but what will that mean? This is guaranteed to be one of the most emotional Iron Bowls ever.

    4. Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12: This game should decide the Pac-12 North. (It feels funny just writing that.) It also could decide the Heisman given that the leading active vote getters are playing in this game (Andrew Luck, LaMichael James). This is the Cardinal's revenge game. There aren't many of them. After blowing a 21-3 lead last year at Oregon, Stanford watched the Ducks score 49 of the next 59 points.

    5. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1: Anyone not wearing red gets smacked over the head with a full Leinenkugel's. This is what Jim Delany had in mind when he expanded the Big Ten. Inventory for the league, lots of hype and two top-11 teams. Big Ten title-game preview? Nebraska plays its first conference game in its new league. Wisconsin tries to remind the Huskers who's boss. Russell Wilson never faced a defense like this in the ACC.

    6. LSU-Oregon, Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas: At this rate, patrolmen from Eugene and Baton Rouge will be going out for the coin toss. Call it in the air -- heads and Jordan Jefferson is suspended. Tails, Oregon receives -- another call from the NCAA. But seriously folks, this is one of the biggest season openers in years. The last time two top-five teams played on a neutral field to start the season was 1984. LSU will want to keep its momentum from the Cotton Bowl. Oregon will want to prove it can match up with, and this time beat, an SEC power.

    7. Oklahoma-Texas, Oct. 8 in Dallas: Yeah, yeah, I know. The Longhorn Network has more upside at the moment than the actual Longhorns. But the Red River Shootout should be on everyone's bucket list. These two teams could each be 0-4 and it would mean something. Texas is trying to become as relevant as its studio show while OU steams ahead for a possible eighth Big 12 title. Landry Jones has a lot to prove after almost fumbling away last year's game.

    8. TCU at Boise State, Nov. 12: Do not underestimate Gary Patterson's ability to motivate. When TCU announced its move to the Big East in 2012, Mountain West presidents got petty and moved this game from Fort Worth to Boise. That alone should fire up Patterson and the Frogs, who are a consensus No. 2 in the league after winning back-to-back titles. TCU's usually stout defense should be fully developed by this late-season encounter that should decide the MWC.

    9. Alabama at Penn State, Sept. 10: Last year this game had more history than competitiveness going for it. 'Bama's 24-3 win was considered charitable. Yes, it could have been a lot worse. This year, JoePa's boys are considered a Big Ten dark horse. The holler house known as Beaver Stadium should be in full throat.

    10. Arkansas at Alabama, Sept. 24: Nothing like an easy SEC opener. Are you kidding? This is why the SEC West is the toughest "conference" going. We know Tyler Wilson can play. That's more than can be said for Knile Davis, who is out for the season with an ankle injury. If not for Ryan Mallett's three interceptions last year, the Hogs might have won in Fayetteville. If all that Arkansas optimism is going to be fulfilled this season, the Hogs must show well in Bryant-Denny. If not, they're in for a third-place finish in the West and another BCS bowl looks in doubt.

    Second 10

    11. Ohio State at Nebraska, Oct. 8: The Buckeye Four make their season debut. Who will be the Bucks' quarterback?

    12. Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Dec. 3: OU's Ryan Broyles is 1,577 receiving yards away from becoming the leading pass catcher in history (Nevada's Trevor Insley leads with 5,005 yards). The record could fall in this last regular-season game. As long as the Sooners don't fall, Broyles will be happy. An 11th win in the past 13 meetings against OSU could propel OU into the national championship game. They call this rivalry Bedlam but the Cowboys haven't made much noise lately, last winning in 2002.

    13. LSU at West Virginia, Sept. 24: Five months ago Dana Holgorsen was escorted out of Mardi Gras Casino. On this date, he'll be the toast of Morgantown in his first big-time game. Mountaineers just want a coach to cozy up to. Bill Stewart was pushed out. Before that, Rich Rod left for Michigan. West Virginia's spirits are lifted only if Holgorsen is the coach-in-waiting-to-beat-LSU.

    14. Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 10: Brian Kelly has his quarterback. Michigan has its lights. In the Big House's first post-sunlight game, a winner emerges in the Who-Will-Turn-It-Around-Quicker Bowl.

    15. Sept. 17: The ACC's credibility goes on display with four big nonconference games, all against BCS league opponents. You'll see some of them listed separately here, but the date itself is a milestone in the ACC's post-expansion history. Clemson gets a return match from Auburn, West Virginia travels to Maryland, Oklahoma goes to FSU and Ohio State is at Miami.

    16. First Big Ten Championship Game, Dec. 3: Things you never thought you would see: A unicorn, this guy with a career and the conservative Big Ten adding a championship game. Well, at least you never thought you would see two of those. Delany realized adding this game was such a no-brainer that a Minnesota-Illinois championship would sell out.

    17. South Carolina at Georgia, Sept. 10: A compelling case can be made for Georgia starting 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2. Two of those starts are acceptable. Mark Richt might not survive if he loses his first two against Boise and South Carolina.

    18. Boise State-Georgia, Sept. 3 in Atlanta: Buoyed by their clear advantage in uniforms, the Broncos cover themselves in Pro Combat before covering the spread.

    19. First Pac-12 Championship Game, Dec. 3: Plenty of tickets are available. I mean plenty of tickets, especially when there is the possibility that the game could be in one of 12 venues.

    20. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 26: Brady Hoke inherits one big intimidating number -- 2,834 days since the Wolverines beat the Bucks ... and counting.

    Five worth your time

    21. Auburn at Clemson, Sept. 17: Last season this was one of five games Auburn won by three points or less. Much pressure is on Dabo Swinney this time.

    22. Ohio State at Miami, Sept. 17: The Ineligibowl.

    23. Arkansas-Texas A&M, Oct. 1 in Arlington, Texas: Say it with me -- Aggies' unofficial SEC opener.

    24. Miami at Florida State, Nov. 12: This was supposed to be the ACC's annual signature game. Not quite yet.

    25. BYU at Texas, Sept. 10: This isn't a game, it's a site inspection. Battle of the collegiate networks might eventually result in BYU accepting invite to Big 12.

Related Topics

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  • DJRamFan
    Weekend in Review: 'New' BCS still could produce a mess
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 10, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    Halfway through the season, the national championship race has some feel, some texture.

    Dodd's Power Poll

    1. Oklahoma
    2. USC
    3. Miami
    4. Florida State
    5. Auburn
    6. Virginia
    7. Purdue
    8. Louisville
    9. Georgia
    10. Texas
    11. Utah
    12. Boise State
    13. Wisconsin
    14. Arizona State
    15. Cal
    16. LSU
    17. Michigan
    18. Tennessee
    19. Florida
    20. West Virginia
    21. Oklahoma State
    22 Minnesota
    23. Navy
    24. Southern Miss
    25. Missouri
    25. UCLA
    Non-BCS Top 10
    1. Louisville
    2. Utah
    3. Boise State
    4. Navy
    5. Southern Miss
    6. Florida Atlantic
    7. UAB
    8. Memphis
    9. Wyoming
    10. Northern Illinois
    And some chaos just in case you forgot the BCS is a week away from weighing in. USC remains No. 1 but lost style (and poll) points in beating Cal. No. 2. Oklahoma handled Texas to creep closer. It's hard to believe Miami is now a heartbeat away at No. 3 considering some of its problems.

    What's it all mean? Refer back to last season when the BCS couldn't make up its mind between LSU, USC and Oklahoma. A similar nightmare scenario is developing.

    Three words: Split national champions. The new BCS that was supposed to lessen that likelihood looks like it is leading down the same path. Remember, there is nothing in the new BCS formula that can pick the "right" teams if there are three or more worthy teams for the two Orange Bowl slots at the end of the season. By leaning more on the human polls this year, the BCS commissioners are hoping the credibility of those rankings will sort things out.

    One of many problems: The computers still count for one-third of the formula, which could just as likely create split champions as prevent it. Last season, LSU, Oklahoma and USC all lost one game before the bowls. The BCS math picked Oklahoma and LSU to play in the Sugar Bowl despite the fact USC was No. 1 in both human polls.

    We'll say it again: More reliance on the human polls this year doesn't necessarily clean things up.

    Here's an early glimpse at this year's potential train wreck: Assume there are these 13 legitimate national championship contenders at this point. Nine of them are undefeated -- USC, Oklahoma, Miami, Purdue, Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, Arizona State and Auburn. Four have one loss -- Florida State, Michigan, Cal and Tennessee.

    At this point a year ago (using the Oct. 12, 2003 Associated Press poll), there were 14 contenders. But there were only three undefeated teams worthy of title...
    -10-11-2004, 02:36 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Big 12 preview: No end in sight for North's woes
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    The Big 12 North isn't a division, it's a kennel.

    You know, a place where all the mutts go.

    The division's six teams fell just short of making it into Letterman's monologue last year. Colorado was the "champion" and lost by 39 points to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. In inter-divisional play, the North won only three of 19 games against the loaded South. Conference officials are still determining whether those even count. All three were against Baylor.

    Big 12
    Predicted Finish
    North
    1. Colorado
    2. Iowa State
    3. Nebraska
    4. Kansas State
    5. Missouri
    6. Kansas
    South
    1. Texas
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Texas A&M
    4. Texas Tech
    5. Oklahoma State
    6. Baylor
    Off. player of year:
    Vince Young, Texas
    Def. player of year:
    Rodrique Wright, Texas
    Coach of the year:
    Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M
    Once again, the conference's title game (Dec. 3 in Houston), is expected to be a formality. Texas or Oklahoma will wipe the floor with the North's Last Comic Standing.

    It wasn't always this way. The league debuted 10 years ago with most of the power concentrated in the North. Nebraska was in the midst of winning three national championships in four years. Kansas won 10 games in 1995. Kansas State was an emerging national power. But while you were in the kitchen getting a sandwich, Big 12 North football became the island of misfit boys.

    Actually, it took a little longer than that. In the pillow fight that was the Big 12 North race last year, all Iowa State had to do was beat floundering Missouri -- which had lost to Troy -- to win its first race of any kind since tying for the Missouri Valley in 1912. After 92 years, a tap-in right?

    No, just another case of the yips. Missouri won in overtime, leaving the field feeling somewhat better about a 5-6 train wreck of a season in which its hothead coach needed some anger management and a new offensive coordinator. How dare media ask why Gary Pinkel's offense was able to turn Brad Smith from brilliant scrambling Heisman contender to pocket piņata?

    Once again, all six teams in the North have a chance to win the division going into 2005. That's kind of the problem. Colorado won it last year as much as the other five didn't.


    Gary Barnett and the Buffs are the best team in a bad Big 12 North division. (Getty Images)
    Can the Big 12 North bounce back? The short answer is "no" which, for now, is also the long-term answer. Blame it on Tom Osborne. When T.O. hung it up in December 1997, in retrospect, that sent Nebraska and the North...
    -08-18-2005, 08:49 PM
  • DJRamFan
    SEC preview: Miles' task at LSU simple: Win 'em all
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    No pressure or anything, Les Miles, but it would be nice if you'd deliver an SEC title in your first season at LSU.

    OK, a national championship wouldn't hurt either.


    SEC
    Predicted Finish
    East
    1. Tennessee
    2. Florida
    3. Georgia
    4. South Carolina
    5. Kentucky
    6. Vanderbilt
    West
    1. LSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Alabama
    4. Arkansas
    5. Mississippi
    6. Mississippi State
    Off. player of year:
    Chris Leak, Florida
    Def. player of year:
    Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee
    Coach of the year:
    Urban Meyer, Florida
    Like any coach jumping up a level, Miles wanted the fame, money and power that goes with coaching an SEC power. Now comes the reality. Nick Saban left Miles a load of talent.

    And Miles cannot screw it up. No pressure or anything, Les, but the expectations are through the roof.

    "I think I spoke on (a) Wednesday night and I got in the car," said the Tigers' new coach. "(A) guy talked about nine wins and then at the podium somebody mentioned 10 or 11, then a guy said, 'Well, you know 12 victories is probably just what we'd like, coach.'"

    Yeah, no pressure.

    Miles enters the House That Nick Built with the burden of Tiger Nation upon him. Being the first coach to lead Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowl games is one thing. Keeping Tiger Stadium rocking at an earthquake level is another.

    Saban wasn't the most media-friendly guy in the world, but he did deliver two SEC titles and a national championship. That will earn him a lifetime spot in LSU hearts.

    Saban recruited so well that the Tigers have averaged 10 victories the past four seasons. Seemingly the only way they can be dragged down this year is a still-questionable quarterback situation.


    Les Miles hits Baton Rouge after leading Oklahoma State to back-to-back upsets of then-No. 1 Oklahoma. (AP)
    Sophomore JaMarcus Russell has been slow to develop, but that doesn't mean he can't be this year's Jason Campbell. Besides, the Tigers are so loaded at defensive line, running back and receiver that it might not matter.

    Right now, it certainly doesn't matter to LSU fans. LSU was an overwhelming pick to win the SEC West by the media. Six players were picked on the preseason all-conference teams. The run started by Saban is unprecedented in LSU history. It's up to Miles (28-21 at Oklahoma State) not to screw it up.

    "The program is in great shape," he said. "There's arguably maybe no finer football program in the country being run."

    What...
    -08-24-2005, 08:00 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Iowa State coach certain Cyclones will be contenders
    by DJRamFan
    By Daniel Berk University Daily Kansan
    Lawrence, KS (U-WIRE) -- Iowa State was the surprise of the Big 12 Conference last year, taking advantage of a weak division to earn a piece of the Big 12 North crown.

    Last season, the Cyclones were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference. They hadn't captured a football trophy since 1912.

    This season, Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said he was hopeful the Cyclones would continue to improve and contend for the Big 12 Championship again.

    "We have rewritten the history books at Iowa State," McCarney said. "We have done things the school and program has never done in football, and yet we have lots and lots of room to improve. I am proud of what we have done."

    Iowa State finished the season winning five of its last six games, including a victory against Miami of Ohio in the Independence Bowl. The only game the Cyclones dropped during that stretch was a 17-14 match against the Missouri Tigers in the final regular season game of the year.

    A victory in that game would have given the Cyclones sole possession of the Big 12 North division, and would have sent them into the Big 12 Championship game against the Oklahoma Sooners.

    Leading the charge for the Cyclones this season will be sophomore quarterback Bret Meyer. Meyer started all 12 games for Iowa State last season, and accumulated 122 rushing yards in the Independence Bowl.

    McCarney said in order for the Cyclones to have another successful season, Meyer would have to continue to improve.

    "There is a tremendous upside to Bret Meyer," McCarney said. "It is just a matter of improving, doing the little things right, and picking up where he left off last year."

    Meyer will be joined in the backfield by junior running back Stevie Hicks. Hicks ran for more than 1,000 yards last season and will take the pressure off Meyer on offense.





    Also important on offense will be sophomore wide receiver Todd Blythe. Blythe was named to the Big 12 Media Preseason Football Team after wowing opponents by catching nine touchdowns and leading the conference last year with 21.4 yards per catch.

    Another target for Meyer will be junior wide receiver Austin Flynn. Flynn saw time at quarterback last year, but was moved to wide receiver in the off season to make room for Meyer.

    On defense, the Cyclones will have to replace first-team All-Big 12 cornerback Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs was the only Cyclone chosen in the NFL draft. Senior safety Nik Moser will be expected to replace Hobbs as the leader in the secondary.

    Another stand-out on defense will be senior defensive tackle Nick Leaders. Leaders is a four-year starter who coaches named second-team All-Big 12. Last season, Leaders racked up 50 tackles and led...
    -08-29-2005, 06:11 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Penn State has Coke-bottle glasses about JoePa
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 27, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    National feature | Notebook
    At least Florida had the power to fire its coach.

    Penn State has no such option. The only person who can determine the future employment of Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. And at last check the 77-year-old was armed with a four-year extension as a foundation for an increasingly obvious stubborn streak.

    SportsLine.com odds
    Florida coaching candidates
    Coach, School Odds
    Steve Spurrier EVEN
    Bobby Petrino, Louisville 2-1
    Butch Davis, Browns (NFL) 3-1
    Urban Meyer, Utah 10-1
    Jeff Tedford, Cal 100-1
    Rick Neuheisel, H.S. $11,000-1
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 1 million-1
    The silly season kicked off early Monday with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. The 2004-05 round of coaching changes apparently won't include the departure of Paterno. What was merely uncomfortable the past couple of seasons could get flat-out embarrassing in Happy Valley.

    Those Coke bottles might help JoePa focus on his world, but they're still blocking his view. Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa proved that -- or rather reinforced it. The Nittany Lions have few Big Ten-quality athletes, even fewer playmakers.

    They are 2-5 this season and 5-14 over the past two seasons. In the last four-plus seasons, Penn State has lost 31 games. That's not a blip on the radar, friends, that's a trend. The school lost a total of 22 games in the 1970s, 28 in the 1980s and 26 in the 1990s.

    What little Big Ten talent Paterno does have, he doesn't seem to know what to do with. The coach lashed out at reporters last week after calling quarterback/receiver Michael Robinson "one of the best football players I have ever coached."


    Steve Spurrier is getting in some golf in Florida before a widely anticipated return.(AP)
    "Don't question me," Paterno added.

    Robinson promptly went out and threw two interceptions and fumbled on plays that ended Penn State's final three possessions. Most troubling, and usually a sure sign a coach is in trouble, is thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium.

    Apparently, not at Penn State where the school would be firing one of its biggest donors who has ties to bigger donors. That the final score was the same as the first college football game played in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, taints those first noble football warriors.

    Back then, didn't each "touchdown" count for a point?

    Considering the issues, jobs, coaches and schools this could be on the most interesting offseasons in recent history. Now that Florida has broken the seal, here the top potential openings in the country ...

    Florida
    He's coming...
    -10-27-2004, 12:14 PM
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