Any Given Saturday: Week 12

As news leaked out of Denver, it became clear that a victory had been scored for the little guys.

Following a meeting of conference commissioners and other shapers of the college football world, it was reported that lesser conferences — called the " Group of Five" — would have access to the new four-team playoff and its accompanying "access" bowls. At least one team from the Big East, MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt, providing it meets a certain criteria, would be allowed to compete with top teams and for big-time money in the six rotational bowls.

If that sounds restrictive — Why not even more? — keep in mind that it was just a week ago when we believed that access would be denied completely. “This gives us a chance to compete,” new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said.

Under this upcoming system, as flawed as it is, it's already clear that the BCS kept the Cinderellas out of the ball far too often.

Since 2009, there have been three separate occasions where a team from a non-automatic qualifying BCS conference could have made the semis. Across the entire BCS’ lifetime, anywhere from 6-12 “mid-major” teams could have played in the top-six bowls. Thanks for the drama.

But it’s a major conference that’s got us worried right now. We’re still two years away from change, which works best for Jim Delany, especially, who would be relegated to chairman of the “Group of Six” in a 2012 playoff.

The Big 10 commish heads the worst BCS AQ conference this season — thanks in no small part to undefeated, yet ineligible Ohio State’s incompetent miscalculation — and the playoff system would be yet another embarrassment.

Essentially, the conference’s often-too-creepy relationship with the Rose Bowl would keep it semi-relevant, and its representative (at the moment) would be two-loss Nebraska. Forget the fact that Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Stanford and Clemson are all, likely, better. It’s all on your shoulders, Huskers.

Resistance is futile: You are the winner, Jim Delany. You helped keep the corrupt bowl system alive and you lead the best “Group of Six” conference ever and no one — besides the Big East, Sun Belt, MAC and Mountain West — comes close.

Enjoy that Pasadena sunshine and a beatdown from the Pac-12’s second seed. You deserve it.



Collin Klein, Kansas State, QB: With his Suspects’ lead dwindling, the next two games against Lonestar lightweight defenses will be pivotal for Klein’s candidacy, especially since he will need to keep his team undefeated. Klein’s numbers are still strong – 2,678 yards, 31 total touchdowns, three turnovers – but keeping pace with Baylor and Texas offensively will keep him ahead of the pack. He’s eviscerated weak defenses (West Virginia, Kansas and Miami), but can he keep it up? Next game: Baylor

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, QB: First off, check the resume. Manziel has more passing yards, rushing yards and touchdowns than Klein. He leads the country in total offense and just knocked off the No. 1 team. Johnny Football might soon lead his own country, too. But he did not dazzle against Florida, LSU or Ole Miss, Klein has been more efficient and there are no more marquee games left on the regular season schedule. He needs Klein to stumble. Next game: Sam Houston State

Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, LB: He is the inspiration behind an undefeated team, and that won’t change until he moves on to the NFL. He snagged another interception against Boston College – his sixth pick, tied for second nationally – and, yes, he’s still a terrifying linebacker. That hasn’t changed either. Ultimately, his final regular season game against USC will define his Heisman chances. Time for the final (Bush) push. Next game: Wake Forest

Raising Suspicion: Kenjon Barner (Oregon); Marqise Lee (USC); Jarvis Jones (Georgia); Damontre Moore (Texas A&M);Braxton Miller (Ohio State); Colby Cameron (Louisiana Tech); Jadaveon Clowney (South Carolina); Tajh Boyd (Clemson)



Texas Tech at Oklahoma State: With or without headsets, Tommy Tuberville and the Texas Tech coaching staff are struggling. Even in last week's win (against Kansas … in double overtime) the defense allowed 34 points — it has given up 173 points combined points over the past four games. That's not encouraging in a matchup of two top-five passing offenses. While the Cowboys are 96th nationally versus the pass, these are two programs going in different directions. Pick: Oklahoma State

USC at UCLA: Can both teams lose? There aresurely someL.A. media members rooting for that outcome with Lane Kiffin and Jim Mora Jr., roaming the sidelines. But, in a battle of two quarterbacks (Matt Barkley and Brett Hundley), somebody will win, and it's likely to be the Trojans. While 'Battle Los Angeles' still rages on, it's tough to imagine the 103rd-ranked pass defense shutting down Barkley and the mega-star that is receiver Marqise Lee. Pick: USC

Stanford at Oregon: This could be the biggest obstacle remaining between Oregon and the national title game, depending on its potential Pac-12 championship opponent. Stanford, with Stepfan Taylor, has the power running game that could give the Ducks' defense (46th nationally against the run) trouble and keep the ball out of Marcus Mariota's hands. Though it could be close, ultimately, Chip Kelly's attack will wear down the Cardinal. Pick: Oregon

Oklahoma at West Virginia: Even after its loss to Notre Dame, Oklahoma's defense has not been impressive (Mike Stoops proving his supporters wrong, again) — not that it has mattered. The offense has fueled two straight victories, and will likely have to again versus former Heisman frontrunnerGeno Smith, who is still posting 347.11 yards per game (sixth nationally). The Sooners will find enough firepower in Morgantown. Couches beware . Pick: Oklahoma

ON WATCH: The Watch is joking here … sorta. With its option offense, FCS powerhouse Georgia Southern (8-2) will at least put up a bigger fight than Auburn ( Golf clap, Gene Chizik). The Bulldogs are more talented at nearly every single position, and their defensive team speed should eventually overwhelm the Eagles. But keep in mind: Before this season's LSU classic, Georgia Southern was the only team to score at least 21 points on Nick Saban's defense in 22 games. Bulldogs win; Eagles make it interesting.



Lubbock is Lubbock.

It’s been a tough few years for coaches at Texas Tech. Otherwise known as the end of the planet or 500 miles from civilization, Lubbock, Texas, seems to be a breeding ground for disciplinary trouble for instructors of football and basketball alike.

First, Bobby Knight continued hislegacy of run-ins. Then, Mike Leach was accused of something that eventually led to Craig James leaving national TV for a failed run at a seat in the U.S. Senate , which could be considered a win-win for everyone involved … besides the James family.

More recently, Billy Gillispie, the happy-go-lucky coach of the Red Raiders’ basketball team, was hit with reports of player abuse and extended practices. (Kentucky fans look into Rupp’s rafters and breath a sigh of relief.)

And now there’s Tuberville — the only one of the bunch caught on national TV — knocking the headset off of a grad assistant. Violently. Obviously. And though he claims to have been reaching for his shirt to pull him off the field, if a parent pulled that on a kid in Whole Foods he’d be talking to Child Protective Services.

This is why your undefeated 2004 run at Auburn will ultimately andunfairly be forgotten; truly legendary college coaches (i.e.Woody Hayes) only hit college-aged young men with helmets on. Was it that important to get him off the field? Or did he make an “Even Chizik wouldn’t need overtime against Kansas” joke?

And while it’s true Tuberville didapologize, this is why player safety protocols are becoming more and more imperative at all levels of football: Either padded up on the field or nonchalantly cruising the sidelines, you never know where you could get a concussion.

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