Year in Review: The Best and Worst of the 2011 Football Season
So, it is over. The year of 2011-2012 has been one for the record books.
A season of missed field goals, rematches, heartbreaks and controversy.
Let's look back at what stories we saw that filled this season with some cheers, jeers, and most importantly, a myriad of questions with few answers.
This slideshow will not be in any special order. But I will make sure to do my best to cover what seemed to stand out as the most interesting, if not controversial, stories of the year.
BCS Should Stand for "Botched Championship Series"
Whether or not Alabama deserved the #2 spot will always be a topic of debate.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Let's face facts. There are going to be arguments about whether Alabama truly deserved the No. 2 spot in the BCS national championship game. The Crimson Tide did not win their conference and lost to LSU during the regular season.
To add to the controversy, three other good teams were bypassed in the BCS process due to either not being within an automatic-qualifier conference or because their conference already had two teams in one of the five BCS games.
Kansas State got overlooked for Virginia Tech or Michigan because the members of the BCS did not think that it was deserving enough, even though it was ranked higher in the BCS than either Michigan or Virginia Tech. But the odds were not in its favor. Michigan has the prestige and Virgina Tech played in the ACC Championship game. Plus, both schools have large fan bases that have traditionally travelled well to bowl games.
Arkansas and South Carolina also finished in the Top 10 BCS rankings, but because LSU and Alabama were in the national championship game, they had to settle for non-BCS bowls.
Boise State finished No. 7 in the BCS standings, but because they are in a non-AQ conference and lack the prestige, they too had to settle for less.
The SEC National Championship
Nick Saban and Les Miles shake hands after a 21-0 shutout of LSU in the National Championship game
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OK. Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. Most of the nation did not want to see a rematch between LSU and Alabama in the national championship game. Most people would have argued that Oklahoma State should have been in it since they were the Big 12 champions.
Unfortunately, the BCS is the ruling body in terms of who goes to bowl games, and in the end, the voters felt the first round of LSU-Alabama was not enough and gave us a second game.
Alabama's shutout of LSU sent a message that perhaps indeed the loss to LSU in overtime during the regular season may have been more of Alabama losing the game and not LSU winning.
This sort of rematch is not one that the BCS thought would happen. But in football, "never say never" should be law.
Oklahoma State Gets Snubbed
Oklahoma State beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl but must settle for #3 in the AP Poll
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This season has not been kind to many teams. And no team can be a better example of this than Oklahoma State.
Throughout most of the season, everyone anticipated that it would be LSU and either Oklahoma State or Stanford in the national championship game. But Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State and Stanford lost to Oregon.
Oklahoma State didn't give up. And with a prominent win over Oklahoma, the Cowboys thought for sure that the BCS voters would pit the Big 12 champion against the SEC champion in the title game.
The computers were in their favor, but the voters were not. The Cowboys therefore had to settle for Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.
But the Cowboys welcomed this as a chance to prove it should have been them, not Alabama, in the title game. Beating Stanford seemed to give them the push they needed.
But once again, the Cowboys must settle for less than what they want. After Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU, the AP poll almost unanimously voted Alabama No. 1. While Oklahoma State earned four first-place votes, the Cowobys must settle for No. 3.
2012 looks like a year of proving and statement-making for the Cowboys.
Robert Griffin III (RG3) Gets Baylor Their First Heisman
Robert Griffin III gets Baylor their first Heisman.
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This was one of Baylor's best years in recent memory.
The Bears opened with a stunning, 50-48 victory over (then) No. 14 TCU. Baylor then improved to 3-0 before falling to Kansas State, 36-35.
Midway through the season, Baylor had slipped to 4-3 and many people may have thought that the Bears would retreat back into the lower ranks of the Big 12.
But that was not to be.
Led by quarterback Robert Griffin III, Baylor went on a five-game winning streak, beating Oklahoma (which was then ranked No. 5) 45-38 in a game that was exciting to the finish.
Later, Baylor beat Texas, then No. 22, 48-24.
At the Heisman ceremony, Griffin won by a wide margin over the second-place Andrew Luck.
But Baylor was not done.
While its defense was not present, Baylor's offense (once again led by RG3) put up the second-highest number of points this bowl season in its 67-56 win over Washington in the Valero Alamo bowl, helping the Bears finish 10-3 and No. 13 in the AP poll
USC Proved That They Are Ready for Their Return
Matt Barkley is returning to a stacked USC team that is poised to run for the title in 2012
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
For the past two years, USC has been playing under sanctions for violating NCAA rules. They have been banned from any postseason play, which includes the Pac-12 championship and a bowl game.
But that did not stop USC. This season the Trojans went 10-2. They defeated Oregon 38-35 and UCLA 50-0 in their final two games, showing everyone that sanctions would not keep them down.
With the return of quarterback Matt Barkley, USC is one of the favorites to knock the SEC off their streak of six consecutive BCS Championships and perhaps bring the crystal football back to the Pac-12.
This Has Been the Year of Field Goal Kickers
Alabama's kicker Smelley redeemed himself after missing 4 field goals during the first LSU game.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Forget the year of the QB, this has been the year of the kickers.
Let's look at seven of the most high-profile games that came down to field goals.
1) Nov. 5, LSU vs. Alabama—LSU wins 9-6 in overtime.
2) Nov. 19, USC vs. Oregon—Oregon misses a field goal in the final seconds to lose 38-35.
3) Jan. 3, Michigan vs. Virginia Tech—Virginia Tech misses a field goal in OT to lose to Michigan 23-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
4) Dec. 1, West Virginia vs. South Florida— West Virginia makes a field goal in the final seconds to bear USF 30-27 and earn its trip to the Orange Bowl.
5) Nov. 24, Texas vs. Texas A&M—Texas kicks a game-winning field goal in a 27-25 victory over Texas A&M in possibly the last game between the in-state rivals.'
6) Jan. 2, Stanford vs. Oklahoma State— Stanford misses a field goal in OT in a 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
7) Nov. 1, Boise State vs. TCU—Boise State misses a last-second field goal to lose to TCU 36-35 and dash all hopes of playing in the BCS title game.
A Year of Scandals
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
What is any football season without some sort of scandal or discussion about off-the-field acts?
Last season the talk was Cam Newton and how his dad, Cecil, was found to have sought money from Mississippi State for Cam to play there.
This season, we have had two major scandals: Ohio State players receiving tattoos and money for signed memorabilia and the Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal at Penn State.
For anyone who has been left in the dark, Ohio State players were found to have such items as tattoos and money in exchange for autographed memorabilia. As a result, Ohio State has been banned from postseason play next year. To add fuel to the fire, former coach Jim Tressel has been put on a "show-cause" list. This means that for the next fiveyears, any school that hires him must show good cause for its hiring or it will receive NCAA sanctions.
Another big scandal has been Sandusky and Paterno. Allegations of child sexual abuse have been made against Sandusky. And to make matters worse, Paterno admitted he did not do enough with the information given about Sandusky's actions, and was dismissed by the Penn State trustees.
Also, a small tidbit...not so much a scandal...Urban Meyer is now coaching at Ohio State.