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November 19, 2009

SCS.comIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Back in 2001, two all-time dyansties of college football went a new direction with head coaches. A decade later, these two programs would become the biggest dynasties of the decade. Ohio State had won 4 consecutive Big Ten titles and USC has won seven straight Pac-10 titles. The two programs clashed the past two seasons, with the Trojans sweeping the series. Yet on the second Saturday of November, it was the worst of times in Los Angeles as USC gave up the most points in the history of their program. Meanwhile in Columbus, Ohio State was redeeming a season seemingly lost in West Lafayette four weeks prior. One conference dynasty continues, one ends in flames. And so it goes in the world of college football.

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...

After another loss to USC on the big stage, some of the Buckeye fan base began to buy into the "Jim Tressel's system does not work" belief. This feeling grew after OSU's first truly bad loss in over five years to Purdue. Yet Tressel held the course and the offensive play calling duties, banking on his special teams and defense to carry the Buckeyes back into the conference title talk. While the wins are not always pretty against the better teams such as Iowa, four weeks of wins later proved the wisdom of Tresselball in the Big Ten. In a conference dominated by running games and defense, a conservative Woody Hayes-type strategy works very well. But even Tressel needed a bit of help, a bit of foolishness. Kirk Ferentz provided this foolishness in not going for the win on the road on their last possession, despite having timeouts, good field position, and all the momentum in the Horseshoe. Ferentz played for overtime, which was foolish and was quickly punished by who else, but the Buckeye special teams and defense.

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh finished a three-year revival project at Stanford by knocking off USC in the Coliseum for the second time in three years. Harbaugh came into the 2007 season with a belief that he could have Stanford playing with USC very shortly. Not only did he upset USC in his first attempt as a 41 point underdog, he now has led his team to more points scored against USC than any other team in history. Harbaugh had his belief in the program proven and could end up where nobody could have guessed...the Rose Bowl in 2010. Meanwhile, the seemingly always smug and smiling Pete Carroll had a look of incredulity on his face as the kingdom of Troy fell around him. Furthermore, Harbaugh pulled no punches by going for 2 late in the game up by 27. Carroll has finally been conquered, and you can just tell he cannot believe it. After seven years of dominance and reloading, the rebuilding has begun.

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness...

Terrelle Pryor surprisingly took away the starting quarterback reins at Ohio State his freshman season mostly because Todd Boeckman was exposed by a weak offensive line and a dominant USC defense in 2008. Pryor has shown moments of greatness, as his elusiveness and speed make him a hybrid between Ben Roethlisburger and Vince Young. However, as much of a bright spot as Pryor can be, there is a dark side. Pryor has been very questionable in his second season as far as throwing fundamentals. Hence, Jim Tressel has put such a tight leash on Pryor that he was merely a game manager against Iowa without any downfield attempts. So will Pryor ever live up to his bright shining potential, or will the leash get tighter and tighter until Pryor's career as a quarterback ends at the college level? The only certain thing is that the rest of Pryor's days will be filled with the brightness of being a Heisman contender or the darkness of being a wasted talent.

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...

Southern Cal football was one of four teams coming into this season which were considered sure-fire BCS Championship contenders. While Texas and Florida have lived up to expectations and Oklahoma has been understandably devastated by injuries, USC has no such excuse to lean on. With seven straight conference titles and BCS bowl dominance, everyone in Los Angeles hoped for yet another title shot in their own backyard. Instead, the Trojans will not be spending January anywhere near Pasadena for either the BCS Championship or the Rose Bowl. So although a lot of experience has been gained this season, there's no doubt that this is becoming a winter of despair in Los Angeles. USC is beatable in November and will truly need to have a bounce back year for the first time in a decade. It's going to a be a long few months of recruiting and rebuilding ahead.

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

The college football season is a fleeting beast, over before you know what hit you. The Buckeyes turn to Michigan week with stranger circumstances than any other time in the Jim Tressel era. Ohio State is playing for nothing as the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten title already sits before them. However, seasons are won and lost in Columbus based on Michigan week, something Tressel understands with a 7-1 record in the rivalry. With Michigan and a Rose Bowl ahead, one might be just as inclined to say the Buckeyes have everything before them as they are to say the Buckeyes have nothing before them with most of their season goals accomplished.

We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

So in summary, all good things must come to an end. Whether the dynasties are destined for a better place or a worse place, eventually the other members of the Pac-10 and the Big Ten must shine. Even though Tressel and Carroll will likely be long gone, the respective fanbases can be comfortedin knowing that each program will rise to the top again and again. But for right now, one dynasty continues while the other experiences a true rebuilding year. Buckeyes feel like heaven while Trojans feel like hell.

The BCS Bowl Projections have not changed much. My initial guess at Boise State and TCU both getting BCS berths looks stronger and stronger with all the other big name contenders dropping from contention. Oregon is slotted right back where they were two weeks ago with USC's loss, while Miami's loss opens a spot for the Big Ten runner up. An interesting debate should happen between Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State, but Iowa beat both the others on the road this season. With a dominating win over a respectable Minnesota team and a great performance against OSU, the Hawkeyes should be the pick but the Nittany Lions are in the mix again.

2010 BCS Bowl Projections, 3 Weeks To Go
BCS Championship - Florida vs. Texas
Orange - Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Fiesta - Iowa vs. Boise State
Sugar - Alabama vs. Pittsburgh
Rose - Ohio State vs. Oregon

The first game of the week is "The Big Game" as Cal travels to Stanford. Just like the rivalry with USC, Jim Harbaugh has revived the life in this rivalry game as well, splitting his first two meetings with the Golden Bears. Both teams come in playing good football as of late, but Stanford is a bit hotter scoring over 100 points the last two weeks against teams Cal mustered a grand total of 6 points against (Oregon and USC). The Golden Bears offense is now leaning heavily on junior QB Kevin Riley with the continued missed time by RB Javhid Best. However, Cal has maintained a solid running game with RB Shane Vereen, and Stanford has struggled a bit against solid rushing attacks. On the other side of the ball, the Cal defense is tasked with stopping one of the most balanced offenses in the country. The Cardinal has thrived with freshman QB Andrew Luck, who has only thrown three interceptions all season. Look for Jeff Tedford to send a lot of different defensive looks and blitzes at the young Cardinal quarterback, hoping to disrupt the offensive juggernaut. Stanford is just too hot right now to be derailed. Cardinal by 10.

The second game of the week is Air Force visiting BYU. Although the reigning champion Utah and the new kids on the block TCU stole all the spotlight last week, this battle of MWC teams should not be overlooked. Although QB Max Hall cannot lead BYU past TCU for a conference title, he can lock up a school record for wins and finish his career strong with wins against Air Force and Utah. Hall has been helped tremendously by RB Harvey Unga, who has kept defenses honest this season. The Falcons run the option, but Air Force wins games with defense and not turning the ball over. BYU has dominated the Falcon defense the past few years, but no team (including Utah and TCU) has surpassed 20 points in regulation against Air Force. If the Falcons can attack the Cougar defense effectively and keep Hall off the field, Air Force could very well break their five-game skid against BYU. This game turns out to be a lot closer than expected, but BYU prevails with a 3 point win.

The top game of the week is Oregon at Arizona. Despite Arizona's loss last weekend, these two teams control their own destiny in the Rose Bowl race. Each team ranks in the top 30 nationally on offense, so expect this game to be another wild shootout in the west. QB Nick Foles leads the Wildcat offense, which throws for nearly 300 yards per contest. However, Arizona has sturggled to score points lately, which will be a problem considering how the ducks put up points. Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli will be tough to contain for the Wildcat linebackers, but freshman RB LaMichael James is the primary threat in the Ducks' prolific rushing attack. Arizona is undefeated at home and is due for a high quality effort, but Oregon can see the finish line again and would like to simplify the race significantly in the Pac-10. Ducks win by 13.

2009 GOTW Record: 20-13
Last Week: 3-0

Fitz Top 10 - Week 11
1. Texas
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. TCU
5. Cincinnati
6. Boise State
7. Georgia Tech
8. Pittsburgh
9. Ohio State
10. Oregon

Just Missed: LSU, Oklahoma State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State

Really this is a fairly weak rivalry week, as many of the traditional rivalries do not carry the usual weight this year. In any event, there are three weeks left in the regular season (not counting Army-Navy), and there's not much time left for surprises in the Top 10 and the BCS bowl hunt. Nevertheless, the storylines will captivate our weekends for the rest of November. Have a good weekend!

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