Most years when the CFB season ends, we are upset and left wanting more. Like many others around the country, I enjoy Saturdays in the fall more than close to anything. But the 2011-2012 season was not the great spectacle we all hoped for. While we look back through this season and recap everything from the top teams to best coaches to top games, lets hope we never experience the nightmare that was Penn State again, though it’s hard to imagine we won’t. Without further delay, the final wrap-up for 2011-2012:
Top 15 Teams:
1) Alabama Crimson Tide- Debate till you’re blue in the face whether this team belonged here. End of the night, Alabama played the “best team in America” and dominated them. As one-sided a national championship game maybe there has ever been. The defense gave up 8 points per game this year and removed any doubt after tonight who the best team in America was. O, and it helps they were my preseason pick. Roll Damn Tide…
2) LSU Tigers- Best resume’ in America and it’s not that close. They played great football for almost the entire season but ultimately got unlucky in the best team getting another crack. If Oklahoma St. sneaks in, they win by 2-3 TDs tonight and some are calling them the best ever which now we know would have been erroneous but even I probably would have had to hop on that train. They’ll be back next year. LSU just reloads.
3) Oklahoma State Cowboys- I firmly believe Arkansas beats you on a neutral field, but Arkansas with one extra loss (both in blowout fashion) didn’t do enough to pass you for 3rd. However any doubts you should have played for title were extinguished in a combination of tonight and the Fiesta Bowl. 3 point win vs Stanford when you rely on their kicker to miss a short FG? UNIMPRESSIVE.
4) Arkansas Razorbacks- Is anyone really going to fault you too much for losing at Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge? Solid team this year who had the misfortune of being in the SEC otherwise I’m not sure they lose. I was well ahead of everyone on this train and will be sad to see Joe Adams go. Kniles Davis back next year and Tyler Wilson staying could mean a more competitive Arkansas team in the SEC West. Great win over Kansas St. in the Cotton Bowl. Took a lot of critics of your schedule and silenced them.
5) Oregon Ducks- The Rose Bowl champs had a very solid season with really only a questionable loss to USC keeping it from being terrific. LaMichael James’ decision could be a key to whether this is just a BCS-caliber team or national title threat. Either way, Ducks should cruise through next season with likely only two games vs USC (barring big upset in one divison) from an unbeaten season. Don’t look now, I think Chip Kelly is already setting up his offense for the spring game.
6) Wisconsin Badgers- I went back and forth on this one for a while. I have a few teams clumped together here but at the end of the day, they played the best in their bowl out of all teams who I think have a case. Winning the Big Ten was a solid accomplishment and they redeemed one of their two regular season losses. Russell Wilson was a terrific one year rental and with the Buckeyes on probation and Montee Ball back, Wisconsin may be the favorite already next year in the Leaders.
7. USC Trojans- I really don’t think this team is as good as they were playing at the end of the year, but that is a testament to Lane Kiffin and the job he did this year. At season’s end their passing attack was playing at an elite level. Coming off probation, they will be likely a unanimous PAC-12 South pick next year and among the favorites for the national title with Barkley back in the fold. Still, I think they were playing over their heads and are not as good as a few teams behind them.
8) South Carolina Gamecocks- That defensive line was exceptional just about all year and Connor Shaw actually looked like a decent QB in their bowl game vs Nebraska. Still not sure they beat Arkansas with Lattimore but I can say with confidence it likely would have been a closer game. Losing Jeffrey and Gilmore early is a hit but they should be right back to SEC East contender status next year. Spurrier did a fabulous job this year.
9) Michigan State Spartans- My respect and love for Sparty hasn’t been hidden all year and this isn’t even that large of a jump for me as I had them 12th after the Big Ten title. A gutsy win coming back from double-digits against Georgia that sent all SEC haters into a massive celebration. D’Antonio and Cousins deserved better than the Capital One Bowl but it was a fitting end to another solid season for them in the Big Ten.
10) Baylor Bears- I actually had you coming into the bowl season at 9th but the Alamo Bowl was a joke. Listen, you won and that’s what counts most, but Washington was a mediocre team in a bad league and you needed a frantic comeback to beat them. You were down what? 18 at one point? Robert Griffin and Terrance Ganaway saved you from a poll-exiting loss (my top 15, not an actual). That defense is atrocious. Cross your fingers Griffin III is back Bears fans.
11) Kansas St. Wildcats- Hard to argue with the season the Wildcats had. 3 losses all to top 20 teams. They just don’t match up well with strong passing attacks as was evident in almost all their games vs elite passing teams. Bill Snyder deserves massive praise for the season he led his team to. Colin Klein was sensational this year. If they can sure up that secondary in a league that is built for its passing attacks, they could be a sleeper conference champ contender next year.
12) Stanford Cardinal- Probably the lowest you’ll see Stanford in almost any poll but much like last year what did they really do to earn praise in the first place other than having the best QB? Fortunately this year they didn’t have a creampuff ACC champ to roll over to protect their top 5 ranking entering. 3 challenging games all year, they lost two and snuck by the 3rd in OT. Otherwise they beat up on a weak non-conference schedule and a terrible BCS conference. Color me unimpressed.
13) Michigan Wolverines- I’ll give the Wolverines their moment in the spotlight despite being thoroughly outplayed in the Sugar Bowl. 11-2 with a BCS win from the Big Ten is worthy of top 15 status at the end of the year even if I think the team is drastically overrated.
14) TCU Horned Frogs- Crappy performance vs La Tech and much like Baylor it kept you pretty much in a stand still despite numerous teams in front of you losing. The Mountain West conference champs had a mighty fine season considering the losses of a year ago and makes you wonder how in the world they lost to SMU earlier this year. Now off to the Big 12, we’ll see what Gary Patterson’s years as a BCS buster have done to prepare him for the full slate of BCS competition.
15) Boise St. Broncos- I almost took Boise out for others but with one loss, I can excuse the runner up in the Mountain West. Shame you were stuck playing Arizona St. in a lowly bowl game. Would have like to seen Kellan Moore one more time on the big stage. Still, it was dominant enough to maintain a spot on my poll for a team who I think very little of.
Top 5 Games This Season:
1. Big Ten Championship Game: Wisconsin 42 Michigan St. 39
The first game was just as easy to put on this list but with the stakes raised, this conference title for a spot in the Rose Bowl was too much to pass up as my favorite game of the year. A back and forth game that saw Wisconsin race to a 21-7 lead only for Michigan St. to roar back with 22 answered, each team responded time and time again with an answer of their own. In fact, if Michigan St. didn’t rough the kicker at the end of the game, we may be reflecting on a Spartans-Ducks Rose Bowl game right now. Two great teams who played one fascinating game.
2. Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma St. 41 Stanford 38 (OT)
The only bowl game to make the list, although it essentially was an exhibition, the Fiesta Bowl pitted two top 5 teams (according to just about every poll but TSHQ) against one another in a battle of the “next best” tier. Oklahoma St. survived an end of the game FG attempt and then another in OT to seal the Fiesta and a longshot hope at a split title with a FG of their own. In Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden’s farewell party, Weeden threw for 416 and 4 scores while Blackmon hauled in 8 for 186 and 3 scores, a proper sendoff for this 1-2 aerial punch.
3. LSU 9 Alabama 6 (OT)
FieldGate. Ultimately this game didn’t prevent Alabama from getting to the BCS title but at the time this matchup between the top two teams in America seemed to be for all the marbles. Despite the lack of offensive production from the two teams that some were upset about, I found the defensive game of chess fascinating as neither team tried to screw up to the point they’d lose the game. Alabama’s special teams would be their undoing as LSU outlasted Alabama on a FG to survive and eventually go on to win the SEC West and SEC championship game.
4. Michigan 35 Notre Dame 31
In a game that seemed to foreshadow each team’s 2011 season, Michigan gave up a TD with under a minute to play that seemed to wrap up the game for Notre Dame but a heave down field followed by a last second fade to the end zone that just about took all the time off the clock. Roy Roundtree hauled it in and Brian Kelly’s face lit up like a red Christmas light sending the Irish to 0-2. Michigan would rattle off a few more wins before succumbing to Michigan St.
5. Baylor 50 TCU 48-
One of the first games of the season, this Friday night special had the intrigue of TCU coming off a Rose Bowl in its first game without Andy Dalton as well as Baylor and Robert Griffin trying to make a statement in their opener that they were for real. A back and forth tussle, TCU rallied from 24 down at the start of the quarter to take a one point lead before Griffin III recovered leading Baylor to ultimately a GW FG drive which TCU had no answer for with Casey Pachall’s late INT. There was certainly thousands of people nation-wide who checked out of this game far too soon.
Top 5 Coaching Jobs:
1. Les Miles, LSU- Ironically you’ll notice Nick Saban isn’t even on this list and the guy he beat is. From the beginning of the season issues with his starting QB to leading his team through a grueling out of conference schedule and then wins a monstrous game in Tuscaloosa over a superior team, I tip my cap to Les Miles for a remarkable season. It’s a shame he’ll take so much heat for how the last game played out.
2. Bill Snyder, Kansas St.- Snyder put together a extremely impressive season with a team who barely qualified for a bowl game a year ago. Despite numerous escapes (Miami, Texas A&M, Baylor), Snyder worked wonders again for a Wildcats team who many including myself I think expected to fall at some point and they never did.
3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State- The team who everyone knew what they had coming back and still picked behind A&M and Oklahoma in most preseason polls, Gundy pushed all the right buttons most of the year and managed to manufacture a ball-hawking defense out of a group who struggled to stop opposing offenses. From his handling of the loss to Iowa St. to his attitude throughout the aftermath of the BCS title game selection, Gundy was a class-act in every sense of the definition and can point to one of the best Cowboys seasons in history for satisfaction.
4. Mike London, Virginia- Mike London, a coach who preached a change in the UVA program delivered in a big way in 2011 taking the Cavaliers to a bowl game and the brink of an ACC Coastal title in his second season. The Cavaliers won 8 games and gave many people reason to believe there may be a new contender in the Coastal for years to come. As a big London fan, I was glad to see him deliver on his promise and especially my predicition.
5. Larry Fedora, Southern Miss- Despite Houston’s BCS chase stealing the spotlight most of the year, the CUSA champs got it done without the talents of a Case Keenum winning 12 games in the process. Somehow, someway this team managed to lose to UAB. Still Fedora was rewarded with a new job at UNC for his success this season.
Top 5 Offensive Performers
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin RB- Though Griffin left 2011 with the Heisman, Montee Ball solidified his 2011 offensive player of the year campaign for me in a drastically tougher defensive conference where he accounted for a national leading 1923 yards and 39 TDs. Despite the offensive brilliancy of Russell Wilson helping, Ball dominated this season like few backs in CFB history including only 4 games under 100 yards, only 1 after September. The scary part is he’s back next year.
2. Robert Griffin, Baylor QB- The Heisman Trophy winner led Baylor to its first 10 win season in decades throwing for nearly 4300 yards and accounting for 47 TDs in total. His showings on national TV vs Oklahoma, TCU and Texas were enough to swing voters to award him the Heisman. If not for my distaste for the defenses in the Big 12 as well as a terrible Washington defense he played in the Alamo Bowl, he’d be #1.
3. Case Keenum, Houston QB-
Timmy Chang Keenum put up video game numbers all season for a Cougars team who was a BCS buster up until their CUSA title game loss. In the process Keenum set numerous NCAA records and threw for over 5600 yards on the season including a ridiculous 48 TDs to only 5 INTs. If you simply take numbers, Keenum is best but against the level of competition they faced and with over 600 attempts (Griffin barely over 400 in comparison), this system QB gets about as much credit as I’ll give him in a pass-happy system.
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama RB- Trent Richardson showed that even without Mark Ingram the Tide have a back they can rely on to carry the load while they break in a new starting QB. Despite playing in likely the best defensive conference in America, Richardson still managed to go for a bit under 1700 yards and over 20 TDs on the season. Even in one of his lowest outputs of the season on Nov. 5th vs LSU, Richardson showed his excellence as perhaps the best player on the field. Playing with a defense as dominant as the Tide’s was makes it hard to give him too much credit.
5. Jordan White, Western Michigan WR- The nation’s leader in receptions by a large amount and receiving yards (3rd in TDs), White went relatively unknown on a Broncos team who limped through the MAC. Anyone involved in the crazy #MACtion games of 2011 needs to have an eyebrow raised to their numbers but Mr. White should be acknowledged for a tremendous season in his last year.
Top 5 Newcomers (Freshman): *With all Respects To Offensive Linemen
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson WR- Sammy Watkins became a household name and temporary Heisman candidate for his brilliancy at Clemson. The freshman caught 82 balls for over 1200 yards and 12 scores and had his biggest coming out party in comeback wins over Auburn and Maryland where he also returned a kick. An ACC 1st-team selection, Watkins was brilliant in his first year at Death Valley and has all of Tigers country waiting for more next August.
2. D’Anthony Thomas, Oregon WR/RB- Thomas or DAT for short was nothing short of electric for the Ducks in 2011 perhaps easing the potential loss of James this offseason. Despite only 595 yards receiving, it was his talents as a runner and KR as well that lands him here. Thomas went over 1000 yards on offense with 14 TDs and returned 2 other kicks for scores. His one down fall was his 6 fumbles (5 lost) this season, but I doubt there’s many Ducks fans who’d give him up.
3. Brad Wing, P LSU- A twitter icon of sorts, Wing made his name leading a Tigers special teams in one of the more dominant punting seasons (stop laughing) you’ll ever see. The Tigers essentially conceeded nothing on punts all year only adding to their dominant defensive numbers. Some may best remember him for being the recipient of the first “taunting pre-TD” play under the new rules when a fake punt TD run was called back vs Florida.
4. Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina- The #1 recruit from this past season, his freakish athletic ability was put on display repeatedly in 2011 helping form perhaps the most dominant defensive line in the nation opposite Melvin Ingram. Despite only 37 tackles on the year, Clowney picked up 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles and early in the season made perhaps his signature play in blowing up a play in the Georgia backfield to force an Aaron Murray fumble.
5. Marqise Lee, USC WR- Lee was the lesser of USC’s stud wideouts behind Robert Woods but it is easy to see the reason for excitement around Trojans nation with the heralded youngster who caught 73 balls for 1143 yards and 11 scores. With Barkley back next year, expect the second-team PAC-12 selection to grow into a Biletnikoff candidate potentially.
The Dark Side of 2011:
Normally I would reserve this part for the teams who underperformed or the NCAA violators of the NCAA landscape but 2011 was a season most of us would like to move past and forget. The troubling news of sexual misconduct at Penn State that led to numerous young adults now coming forward to talk about their abuse rocked not only the college football landscape but really the nation. Whether you’re a college football fan, sports fan, or just average parent the events that are alleged to have happened at Penn State over the course of many years made you sick and wanting answers. Long-time Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was forced out of his position and rocked an image he had built up on himself and an institution. For better or worse, we all hope to get some closure from all of this and hope this is a wake up call of sorts to programs and workplaces around the country about the dangers that can happen when people worry more about their jobs or well-being than protecting victims. The allegations against Syracuse basketball assistant Bernie Fine as well only raise the number of questions regarding what goes on behind close doors and who parents are entrusting the care of their children to. For all of the fun memories I had with Clemson this year as a football fan as well as the enjoyable Saturdays college football produced, I think I speak for all when I say hopefully we never have to relive another college football season that resembles the one we just experienced off the field.
There you have it, the College Football season ended tonight amidst controversy. What’s new? However, we try to never end the CFB discussion here at TSHQ. As NFL announcements are made and rosters begin to form for next year after recruiting and such, check back as I’ll produce an educated guess at next season’s preseason top 25 to kick off the College Football coverage. From there we’ll see how much we cover on the college football landscape between now and August but surely we’ll keep you in a loop even as we move our writing onto other sports. To all you gamblers, we scratched, we clawed, but the TSHQ Gamblers did it again, profiting (barely) for the season. K.M and I each made it to a $50 profit for the year on the 99 games we bet. Pretty crappy but our Hot Hook Ups paid nearly 300 ($290) for the year. So if you rode our Hot Hook Ups and ONE of us on our disagreements for the season, you made $340. A fortune? No. But we just guarantee profits, not mortgage payments. SO SAY THANK YOU!!! Hope you enjoyed reading as much as we enjoyed writing (although you probably didn’t.)