We begin this week with at tribute to a coaching legend.
His name is John Gagliardi, and this 86 year old northern icon, just retired, after 60 years as the head man of St. John’s, a Division III school in Minnesota.
He is America’s all-time winningiest college football coach: 489-139-11, eclipsing Grambling’s Eddie Robinson.
He is also the first active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame – 2006.
Here are some of his fanciful and eccentric coaching techniques:
No practicing if there are too many gnats. (Sounds reasonable to me.)
He also had his famous list of; “No Rules.”
He did not allowing tackling during practice. He had no team captains, or cheerleaders.
He never used a whistle, and players had strict orders to call him John, instead of coach.
“I eliminate the unnecessary, and I think almost everything is unnecessary,” he said.
He was 26 years old when his hired at St. John’s. The outgoing coach, Johnny “Blood” McNally, left with these parting words for the 4-time championship coach;
“Nobody could ever win at St. John’s.” He obviously didn’t know John Gagliardi.
On this final weekend of college football, let’s see which teams need some more practice tackling, and which, swarm the opposition, like a bunch of voracious gnats.
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. Georgia SEC Championship – (Ch.4, 4 p.m.) Atlanta, Georgia
In the South, the stakes of this de-facto semi-final are almost as important as a NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The winner, punches its ticket into the National Championship Game against Notre Dame, and will give the SEC the opportunity to capture its seventh consecutive national title.
The Tide is directed by its Heisman contending QB, A.J. McCarron (25 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions), who operates with the precision of a Syrian bomb detonator.
The nation’s second most efficient passer leans heavily on a pair of road-runners: Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon, who have combined for; 1867 yards and 24 TDs.
When this dart thrower goes aerial, wideouts; Amari Cooper, and Kevin Norwood, are big play chain movers.
It is also a good idea to strike first against the Tide.
Alabama has out scored opponents by a jaw dropping first-half seasonal total of; 320-54.
But it has been the play of the D, which sends shivers down the spine of offensive coordinators.
St. Nick’s (Saban) Houndstooth Hatters defends its territory, better than the Israeli Army.
These top rated Tuscaloosan Titans, led by backers C.J. Mosley, and Trey Depriest, are the nation’s stingiest eleven (9 pts.), and have allowed a Scrooge-like total of; 111 points.
Or, about the amount of points West Virginia gives up in a game and a half!
In Athens, the Dawgs have shown so well, they should be invited to the Westminster Show in Madison Square.
These Sons of Vince Dooley, mush with its lead dog, All-America caliber QB Aaron (30 touchdown passes – 7 interceptions) Murray, the nation’s pass efficiency leader.
He wideouts Malcolm Mitchell and Tavarres King are as consistently reliable as hearing; “Happy Holidays,” at the local mall.
The starry QB also has the luxury of mixing in a pair of scintillating freshman tailbacks; Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who have combined for over 1800 yards, and 22 TDs.
The solid D, fires behind its All-America backer Jarvis Jones (19.5 tfls – 10.5 sacks), and his partner Alec Ogletree, but will need to be almost perfect against Bama.
In a game that will have more hits than a Beatles Catalogue, or a Paris Hilton video, we think Saban, rolls the Tide on a path toward its second consecutive championship.
No.17 UCLA at No. 8 Stanford (Fri. FOX, 8 p.m.) – Pac-12 Championship
In January of 1832, New York Senator William Learned Marcy, stood on the floor of the US Senate and uttered this memorable phrase: “To the victor, belong the spoils.”
In this championship tussle, the victor earns a spot in the “Granddaddy of them all,” the Rose Bowl, while spoiling the season for the other.
And in the “bizzaro” world of college football, these teams will be meeting for the second time in six days, just at a different campus stadium location.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora has brought a long missing discipline to the Westwood campus, and in doing so, has made Bruins football, once again relevant, in the City of Angels.
The director of this renaissance, is r-shirt freshman QB, Brett Hundley (26 touchdown passes – 10 interceptions-8 rushing), who has played with a surfer’s coolness.
The talented kid is assisted by the nation’s ninth leading rusher, Jonathan Franklin, and his All-America tight end sky scraper (6-7, 258), Joseph Fauria, has hauled in 11 TDs.
The D, led by its bone crushing end Anthony Barr (19 tfls – 12 sacks), and backer Eric Kendricks, shows occasional flashes, but still struggles mightily defending the pass.
For the first time in its history, the Cardinal has won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons.
Coach David Shaw changed the entire team dynamic, three weeks ago, when he made a QB change, handing the keys to Kevin Hogan.
The young maestro (8 touchdown passes – 3 interceptions), is assisted by his bruising tailback, Stepfan Taylor (over 1300 yds. 11 TDs), and an All-America caliber tight end; Zach Ertz.
But the bedrock of the Boys on the Farm has been a defense that is tougher to penetrate than the posse surrounding Justin Bieber.
The nation’s 11th stingiest (16 pts.) is spearheaded by a trio of disrupting backers: Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, and Trent Murphy.
This group leads the nation in stoning runners (2.5 yds. a carry), and sacking the quarterback, averaging over 4 QB captures a game.
In the rematch, we thing the spoils are awarded to the Cardinal, who earn a primo spot in the Rose Bowl parade.
No. 19 Northern Illinois vs. No. 18 Kent State – MAC Championship – (Fri. ESPN2, 7 p.m.) Detroit
The winner may earn a spot in a BCS game.
And don’t be surprised if both coaches; NI’s Dave Doeren, and KS’s Darrell Hazel are leading other teams next season.
The Huskies, who have won eleven in a row, are directed by the best player no one knows.
In fact he may be more anonymous than our pal the SRD, also known as; John “Rothstein” Collins.
His name is Jordan Lynch, and this Heisman worthy QB, the nation’s fifth leading rusher, and 12th most efficient passer, has accounted for 39 touchdowns.
The conductor of the nation’s twelfth highest scoring eleven (40), is assisted by tailback Akeem Daniels, and a 1000 yard, 11 TD receiver; Martel Moore.
The country’s fifteenth stingiest (17pts) D, led by disruptors, end Alan Baxter (10.5 tfls-9 sacks), and backer Tyrone Clark, isn’t spectacular, but solid in all phases.
The Golden Flashers have been golden.
Kent State winners of ten straight, are having the finest football season in its 90 year history.
A victory gives the; “Little Engine that could,” its first MAC Title since George McGovern was at the top of the national Democrat ticket in; 1972.
[McGovern conjures up the image of the famous bumper sticker: Nixon 49, America 1]
The Flashers one dimensional attack – Kent State is 111th in passing- relies on the legs of a pair of free flowing tailbacks.
Dri Archer (9.6 yds. a carry) and his partner, Trayion Durhan, have combined for a jaw-dropping 2513 yards and 28 touchdowns.
When QB Spencer Keith (11 touchdown passes – 7 interceptions) goes aerial, the aforementioned Archer, Josh Boyle and Matt Hurdle are principle targets.
Archer is also a hidden yardage assassin, leading the nation in kickoff returns, averaging close to 40 yards a touch.
The D, featuring tackle Roosevelt Nix (14 tfls – 5.5 sacks), and backer Luke Batton, struggles defending the pass (111th) which is not a good recipe against the Huskies.
Unlike McGovern in ’72, we think the Huskies flash the victory sign to the Flashers.
No. 14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin – BIG Ten Championship – (FOX, 8p.m.) Indianapolis To Paraphrase the Allman Brothers classic; “One Way Out,” Wisconsin “back doored” into this game.
The Badgers finished third in the Leaders Division, but won this lottery courtesy of the bowl bans directed at Penn State and Ohio State.
The Wiscy attack revolves around its All-America tailback Montee Ball, the all-time NCAA touchdown maker (79), and his partner James White.
This Mad-Town duo, has accounted for over; 2200 yards, 26 touchdowns, and can batter a defense, like Sandy, battered the Jersey Shore.
Senior QB Curt Phillips (4 touchdown passes -1 interception) is the third Wisconsin signal caller, and when he connects, wideout Jared Abbrederis (head injury – will play), can be a glue fingered acrobat.
The nation’s 17th stingiest D, led by backers Chris Borland (hamstring – will play) and Mike Taylor (14 tfls), force teams to work for every yard.
After being pummeled by Ohio State in the first weekend in October, Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini issued his team a challenge; “WIN OUT!”
And win out they have, as the Huskers riding a six game winning streak, are trying to win its first conference championship since Bill Clinton was sneaking White House desserts; 1999.
Dual-threat QB Taylor Martinez (21 touchdown passes – 8 interceptions – 8 rushing), and 1000 yard tailback Ameer Abdullah, are the diesels behind the eight best rushing attack.
[Note: tailback Rex Burkhead (knee) will also see playing time.]
When the scrambler takes to the sky, wideouts Kenny Bell, and Quincy Enunwa, are comforting ports in the storm.
The D behind disrupting end Eric Martin (16 tfls – 8.5 sacks), and backer Will Compton, aren’t vintage Black Shirt, but have become much more cohesive during the streak.
We like the Huskers, by a nose, to capture its first conference championship.
Pitt at South Florida (ESPN2, 7 p.m.) We selected this game instead of the woeful ACC Championship Game; (6-6 Georgia Tech versus Florida State), because we think this is a better story.
Pitt started the season 0-2, including a loss to a Division 1AA team, and literally looked like one of the worst teams in the country.
But since then, newly minted Coach Paul Chryst has given the faithful a glimpse of what the future may look like.
If Pitt wins its final regular season game in the Big East, it will go bowling.
If that should happen, it would be a great sendoff to a pair of classy seniors; QB Tino Sunseri, and tailback Ray Graham, who have battled through injuries, and unnecessary, and absurd, coaching changes.
These kids are the epitome of Pitt toughness, and perseverance, and are deserving of wearing the Panther uniform for one more game before graduation.
The improving offense is directed by Sunseri (18 touchdown passes – 2 interceptions) who is riding the nation’s longest streak of 245 passes, without a pick.
The talented Graham, 52 yards shy of 1000, and his sidekick, freshman tailback Rushel Shell, are the pistons in the Panther attack.
When Pitt’s field general airs it, wideouts; Mike Shanahan, and Devin Smith are capable of making Ringling Brothers worthy catches.
The D led by tackle Aaron Donald (14.5 tfls-4.5 sacks), and backer Shane Gordon, is in the top 25 in almost every category, allowing 21 points a game.
Unlike his dad, the Bulls faithful will not be erecting a statue to Coach Skip Holtz anytime soon.
In fact, Skip may be forced to skip town, when the USF debacle of a season comes to a merciful end on Saturday evening.
South Florida is a bottom feeding 98th in scoring (22 pts), and third from the bottom in turnover margin; minus-15, a statistic that will not win you many games.
QB Matt Floyd (0 touchdowns – 2 interceptions) is filling in for injured starter B.J. Daniels.
The newbie leans heavily on tailback Demetri Murray, and when he connects, wideout Andre Davis is a comforting sight.
The D led by tackle Cory Grissom and backer Sam Barrington is equally inefficient, particularly defending against the pass.
In Pitt’s Big East Last Hurrah, it’s a toast to Sunseri, and Graham, as the Panthers go bowling on.
Last week’s record: 5-0 Season record: 47-18.
PS: This is the last full report of the season.
We’ll be back next week with my favorite; Army/Navy, and how I voted in the Heisman.
Thanks to all for reading, and commenting. As always, it was a blast for me.
Until we meet next year, stay well, Peace, and listen to the music. PK
Finally, dare I say; “Merry Christmas!!”