Monday Morning Mash-up: Week 14

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Why UConn-Rutgers is a toss-up, revealing actual candidates for the UConn head coaching job, revamping the Heisman and other thoughts on the national college football scene.

1.) Yawin Smallwood's pick-six.

Casey Cochran's keeper score around the corner.

Geremy Davis' 33-yard touchdown catch.

All these plays will deservedly be remembered as key cogs in UConn's tremendous comeback victory over Temple. But, it was the poor plays the Huskies avoided that made all the difference. Instead of continuing to engage in self-inflicted wounds, they executed crisply and allowed themselves back into the game.

Had UConn coughed up just one more turnover or missed another key assignment, it likely would've fallen short.

We'll have more in Wednesday's Tale of the Tape, but for now, the Huskies' penalty statistic demonstrates this idea perfectly:

1st half: 5 for 50 yards

2nd half: 1 for 15 yards.

Before you beat anyone else, you have to avoid beating yourself. UConn failed to do that last year against the Owls and in the first half last Saturday. Then, they turned things around in the nick of time for their first win of the season.

2.) Standing at 5-5, Rutgers will enter Saturday's game with a markedly better record than the 1-9 Huskies. Yet, despite being one game away from bowl eligibility, the Scarlet Knights are on a remarkably comparable slide. Each team has lost four of its last five while taking on no. 19 UCF, no. 20 Louisville, Cincinnati and Temple (UConn also went to SMU and Rutgers hosted Houston).

Over those five games, Rutgers has been outscored by 105 points while UConn opponents have bested the Huskies by 101.

The Scarlet Knights are favored in Saturday's game by four points, but given its location in East Hartford, this game to me is a toss-up. How often have we said that this season?

3.) Steam has been gathering on the Aaron Donald train for some time, but the Pitt defensive tackle should now receive Heisman votes. I'm not kidding.

In 11 games, he's posted 51 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass break-ups and one blocked kick to save the Panthers' win over Syracuse last weekend.

Mind you, a large chunk of these stats have come while playing against double teams and all of them as he's been surrounded by talent that beat Old Dominion and 2-9 Virginia by just 11.

4.) Speaking of hardware, let's have a quick Heisman talk. Presently, Florida State's Jameis Winston is far out ahead of all the other contenders. However, should he face rape charges after this Thanksgiving, there is obviously no way the redshirt freshman will be honored with the award.

Thus, voters need to prepare by resetting their options. Right from square one. And don't you dare bring up A.J. McCarron.

McCarron's a very good quarterback, yes. But he's not even in the best 25 players of college football. Furthermore, and more definitively, McCarron does not rank in the top-10 of any major statistical category for quarterbacks (as pointed out this weekend by "Sir Broosk" of Every Day Should Be Saturday). Winning is not amongst those. Wins are solely a team stat.

5.) Want to know how important strength of schedule and conference affiliation are to college athletics? For the last month, no. 20 Louisville has hung in the bottom five of the polls, despite a 10-1 mark and multiple losses sustained by the teams ahead of them. Their defeat, of course, was a nail-biter at home to no. 19 UCF.

Meanwhile, no. 17 LSU owns two more defeats than the Cardinals and fellow three-loss teams Texas A&M, UCLA, USC and Notre Dame are also ranked, ready to leap frog them. Would I argue this is wrong? No. I think all those programs are better or on par with Louisville. Then again, we haven't had a chance to see the Cardinals prove themselves against top-tier competition very often.

What's that boil down to? Schedule and conference affiliation.

6.) FCS no. 1 North Dakota State received a vote in this week's AP poll. To the voter who ranked them- I admire your spirit, but cut the crap. You have a duty of escalating importance as the year comes to a close, and you knowingly chose to make a selection that is a waste.

7.) No. 1 Alabama is going to demolish no. 4 Auburn in one of the most anticipated Iron Bowls in recent memory. You heard it here first.

Alongside Florida State, the Tide has proven itself to be far and away the best team in college football (sorry, still not sold on you, Ohio State). As for the Tigers, they've yet to truly handle a ranked foe this season. When battling the four top-25 opponents on their schedule, they've amassed only a plus-three point margin. The mark of a great team is dominating, and I just don't see it.

‘Bama 40-17.

8.) Checking in on all the Husky opponents of 2013 and you'll find they are a combined 67-41. I've said it before in this space, and I'll say it again: Those UConn marketing folks weren't kidding.  This season was without a doubt the toughest schedule this program has ever faced, and two weeks still remain. Funny thing is, big, bad, 7-4 Michigan had little to do with it.

9.) CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman is reporting that amongst those "in the mix" for UConn's next head coaching job are Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and Ball State head coach Pete Lembo.

My take on the whole thing is this- Any judgment you or I could have on the upcoming coaching search would be entirely on hearsay and resume pieces. We can offer our thoughts until we're blue in the face, but the most worthwhile assessments will be from those in the coaching community and the interviewing room. They'll have the most information at hand for who is the best man for the job.

So, if and when these people speak, listen to them critically and learn.

Some coaching cases are clear as day. Any reasonable fan base with a head coaching vacancy would run from Lane Kiffin like the plague. The opposite would obviously be said for Nick Saban. But when tackling the question "Do you think he's a good choice for head coach?" (barring a Saban/Kiffin-like clarity to the situation) my best answer is "I may initially feel one way or another, but the best way to know for sure is to wait and see how they do their job."

10.) Finally, Ohio State and Michigan will meet this weekend for the 109th kickoff of "The Game". It is one of the greatest events in sports, but given the season Big Blue has endured, ABC will in all likelihood be broadcasting a slaughter by two o'clock.

So, I bring you one of the most fun pieces I have ever written; a running diary kept exactly two years ago over a roadtrip to Ann Arbor, which ended in a thrilling last-minute Wolverine win. It was one of the most enjoyable times of my life.

Please enjoy "Hail to the Memories"

For the best coverage of UConn Football you can find, follow Andrew on Twitter: @UConnFB_Andrew

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