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Under the Radar: Eastern Powers Rise Again, Two For The Win, "Don't Panic" Coaching Aw

Old Eastern Independent Powers Rising: Until Penn State shook up the conference landscape by joining the Big 10 in 1993 there were 7 Eastern Independents who played each other every year (Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse, Temple, Rutgers and Boston College). In the 1970s and 80s these teams played in 6 National Title games (Penn State won 2 and played for 2 others, Pitt won one and West Virginia played for another). This year there those teams are resurgent. Excluding the 3 games played against each other those teams are a combined 40-23. Four teams are in the Top 25 and 6 of the 7 are bowl eligible. Both Pitt and WVU are close to clinching spots in conference games in the ACC and Big 12 respectively. There are still 2 games left this year among these teams as Penn State heads to Rutgers this Saturday and the following week Syracuse is on the road to play BC.

Two for The Win--Should I Stay or Should I Go?: This is a source of debate on every coaching staff in America. Down seven driving to tie the game, do we boil the game down to one play from the three yard line to win the game or do we play it safe, take the extra point and send it to an overtime where both teams get a possession from the 25 yard line? Last week it was West Virginia at Texas and this week it was Oklahoma State opting to go for 2 at the end of the game to try and beat Oklahoma. While WVU won, the Oklahoma State Cowboys came up short when the throw fell short of an open receiver. "Cowboying Up" to win the game is the new macho in college football coaching. WVU’s Coach Dana Holgorsen was seen asking his team “Do you guys want to go win this?” Oklahoma State’s Coach Mike Gundy said after the game“They pay me to do that, that way y’all can criticize me.” His full answer is worth watching and speaks volumes about why fans should respect hs approach--Watch his answer here.

Don’t Panic Coaching Awards: Often teams are capable of very good seasons after rough starts. One sign of good leadership is a team that doesn’t panic and continues to compete to do things that seemed impossible just weeks before. Two that jump to mind are Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi. Northwestern began the season 1-3 after three consecutive home losses to Duke, Akron and Michigan—in a game they led 17-0 before losing 20-17. Since then they have reeled off 5 straight Big Ten wins and clinched the Big Ten West's slot in the Big Ten Championship game. Pitt started 2-3 including mistake-plagued blowout losses to Penn State and UCF. They responded by winning 4 of their next 5 (the lone loss being a late game setback at Notre Dame). A win at either Wake Forest or Miami puts Pitt in the ACC Title game.

Bowl Eligibility: What's The Big Deal?: Six wins and “Bowl Eligibility” is celebrated as though it is a major achievement in college football. Given that 6 wins in a 12 game schedule is hardly something to celebrate you may ask: "What's the big deal?" For coaches it means Bowl Bonuses--some as high as $200,000. They get paid six figures just for going .500 which would seem to be a basic requirement of simply “doing your job.” But that’s where we are. Which team has the toughest road to bonus riches? Maryland (5-5) needs just one win but plays Ohio State and at Penn State. Florida State (4-6) needs to beat both BC and Florida.

Screen Shot of The Day: Just Another Big 12 Day at The Office: With 1:18 to go in the game Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had already combined for 1312 yards of offense. They would end up combining for 95 points and 1342 yards in OU's 48-47 win.

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