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Tag:Rice
Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:10 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 3:11 pm
 

NCAA sickle cell testing debated

The American Society of Hematology issued a policy statement Thursday opposed to the current NCAA mandate that requires schools to test athletes for sickle cell trait.

The policy statement conflicts with that NCAA testing policy that is not yet two years old. For decades, the association had not tested for sickle cell trait but changed its stance as part of a settlement of a lawsuit over the death of a Rice athlete in 2006.

The NCAA requires that all athletes be tested for the condition unless they provide prior test results or sign a waiver. In a Thursday press release, the hematology society contended that “current scientific evidence does not justify screening.” It says that “universal preventive interventions” make testing unnecessary.  The society stated further that the Army uses such measures as heat acclimatization, hydration and work-rest cycles to deal with all situations regarding exertional issues.

Scott Anderson, Oklahoma head trainer and noted expert on sickle cell trait, countered: “Their [recommended] precautions are not working for individuals with sickle cell trait …”

Sickle cell trait is not a disease. It is a condition found in approximately eight percent of African-Americans and in a much smaller percentages of Caucasians.  Anyone with the condition can live a normal life. About two million Americans live with the trait. Problems occur when blood cells “sickle” due to overexertion.

Thursday’s policy statement seems to make public a large disagreement between organizations on how to treat the affliction. The hematology society said its position is supported by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, American Public Health Association and Association of Public Health Laboratories.

That differs from the approach taken by the NCAA, NBA, NFL and the military academies aside from the Army.

Oklahoma has had major award winners play with the condition. But because of Anderson and his research, afflicted athletes are acclimated to heat and exertion over a period of days at the beginning of spring and fall practice. Testing becomes a further safeguard.

Several high-profile deaths caused by the condition have occurred in recent years at Missouri, Florida State, Central Florida and Rice.  
Anderson added that the NBA, NFL, Navy, Marines and Air Force do screen for sickle cell trait. In results published recently in Health Services Research Journal, it was estimated there would be one death in the NCAA if every athlete were tested over a four-year period. Without testing, the research concluded that seven players would die over a 10-year period.

Anderson said that 2011 was believed to be the most deadly year for athletes nationally regarding sickle cell trait since 2000. Not all of the deaths have been confirmed to be caused by sickle cell trait, Anderson added. It is known that sickle cell trait has been the leading cause of non-traumatic deaths among Division I college football players since 2000. The NCAA changed its policy in 2010 after lawsuit brought by the family of Rice football player Dale Lloyd. The association promised to require testing and increase awareness.

“When you look at kind of objectively, this was prompted by a lawsuit,” said Dr. Janis Abkowitz, president-elect of the hematology society. “We’re not against the NCAA … We hope that we could provide information to the NCAA in rethinking both the correctness of the initial policy, but also some of its downstream unintended policy.”

Dr. Abkowitz said the NCAA plans to extend its policy to Division II and Division III athletes, “every high school kid that is interested in sport would be tested and confused.” She want on to call it a “huge network of misunderstanding”. The society notified the NCAA before releasing its statement.

“We’re not out for a battle, we’re out to be helpful,” Dr. Abkowitz said.

In February 2010, Ole Miss player Bennie Abram died of complications resulting from sickle cell trait. The school, the NCAA and other entities are being sued by Abrams’ family. The death took place just as the NCAA was changing its policy.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:51 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 1:23 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

What's a life worth? A life that could easily have been saved.

Is it worth a coach's job? His AD's? Is it worth the entire Central Florida football program? Absolutely.

Is a life worth $10 million?

No, a life is priceless, precious. But a judgment had to be made Thursday night by a six-person jury that decided that the second-largest university in the country was essentially at fault in the death of Ereck Plancher.

Three years after their son's death and two weeks into the wrongful death lawsuit over it, Enock and Gisele Plancher got "justice." A $5 million award for each doesn't replace him, but it sends a powerful message to anyone in college athletics dumb enough not to be familiar with sickle cell trait by now.

Dumb, because the first documented case occurred at Colorado more than 35 years ago. Dumb, because the NCAA recently began mandatory testing (under certain conditions). Dumb, because even with all that preventable deaths mount.

Dumb, because among the first words from a school spokesman Thursday night was "appeal." The next news out of Central Florida should be the resignation of AD Keith Tribble and coach George O'Leary. If not resignation, then firing. The $10 million represents about a third of the school's athletic budget. 

A kid died on their watch during a damn offseason drill. Everything since then has been botched, bungled and embarrassing. The $10 million award makes it a landmark case in the history of sickle cell trait legal battles. Hopefully, someone other than the Plancher jury is paying attention.


Central Florida could have gotten some cheap, legal advice by simply getting on Google. Florida State, Missouri and Rice all settled similar cases. In May, the family of an Ole Miss player filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and NCAA. Once again, sickle cell trait is involved.
 
Instead, Central Florida took this one to the wall arguing, incredibly, that Plancher died due to a heart condition. Each side presented its own set of experts, but the moment Plancher's parents took the stand this trial was over. Their testimony was compelling, emotional, raw

Still, Central Florida pressed on. In the end, the jury needed only five hours to determine that the Central Florida Athletics Association was negligent and didn't do everything in its power to save Plancher's life. His parents got money, not justice. Maybe that was saved for future players whose coaches and trainers educate themselves because of this verdict.

Twenty-one players have died since 2000 directly due to exertional stress during non-contact drills. Sickle cell trait remains the leading killer of college football players since that year.


Oklahoma knows all about sickle trait. Its head trainer Scott Anderson is one of the leading authorities on the condition because he chooses to be. Several Sooners have played with the trait and gone on to win major awards. If you're educated and, well, care it's not that hard to deal with the sickle cell athlete. Essentially, they need to be acclimated and ease into strenuous exercise.


"I think [the verdict] was the right decision, absolutely," Anderson said. "Hopefully it will have some impact. Hopefully some people are sitting up and listening. Then again, I don't know why there hasn't been any impact with the other dead football players and the other millions of dollars paid out. It's been business as usual."


From the beginning this case had the vibe of an arrogant university diving into the deep end of the legal pool without water wings. High-powered attorney doesn't begin to describe the plaintiffs' lead counsel. Steve Yerrid is the lawyer who got a $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997 while representing the state of Florida.

Yes, it might have been a good idea to settle. Now someone -- preferably more than one -- has to pay -- not with cash, but with their job.

Ten million isn't enough to bring back Ereck Plancher but it shouts to the world that sickle cell trait isn't dangerous. Ignorance to it is.


Posted on: November 8, 2009 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2009 12:14 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

After watching that replay again from Alabama, how can a reasonable person rule that wasn’t an interception? I’m expecting something out of the SEC office in the next couple of days.

Why I like Alabama on game day … “Sweet Home Alabama” comes on and immediately everyone on University Ave. starts jukin’ and yellin’. Ever see 10,000 folks do the Bama version of the River Dance?

Why I like Alabama on game day II … The houndstooth 1) skirts and 2) beer coozies.

Why I like Alabama on game day III … Yes, they were taking pictures of me as I was in makeup prior to my appearance on CBS College Sports’ SEC Tailgate. You people must find some meaning in your lives.

Get ready for a noisy Boise: The way things are sorting out, an undefeated Boise State is going to be beaten out for a BCS bowl by a two-loss team from one of the power conferences, p.r. firm or not.

The BCS bowl matchups began to get into sharper focus when Iowa lost and Alabama won. Here’s out it works:

The automatic qualifiers are down these teams …

Big Ten: Iowa/Ohio State. The teams plays this week in Columbus so that will sort itself out. Both teams have lost once. Saturday's winner most likely goes to the Rose Bowl.

Big 12: Texas will play either Kansas State or Nebraska from the North Division. K-State controls its own destiny after beating Kansas. Texas might be cruising but could get some blowback at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving or from Nebraska or K-State in the Big 12 title game.

SEC: Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC title game. If they teams stay undefeated before Dec. 5, the winner plays for the national championship. The loser most likely goes to the Sugar Bowl.

ACC: Still a mess but Georgia Tech is the conference’s only one loss team and leads the Coastal Division. Clemson controls its fate in the Atlantic Division. The ACC winner most likely goes to the Orange Bowl.

Big East: Cincinnati is undefeated but still has tough games left against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. With no conference championship game to hinder it, the Bearcats could be headed to the Sugar Bowl to face the Alabama-Florida loser.

Pac-10: It looks as if Oregon, Arizona or Stanford will go to the Rose. The Wildcats and Ducks meet Nov. 21 in Tucson. Despite the letdown loss at Stanford, Oregon still seems to have the advantage. Arizona still has its toughest games to play (Cal, USC, Arizona State). Stanford has to get past USC and Cal before meeting Notre Dame in the regular-season finale,

That leaves four at-large berths. Notre Dame is out after losing to Navy. If TCU stays undefeated and ahead of Boise State in the BCS, it will go, most likely, to the Fiesta Bowl. As mentioned, the Florida-Alabama loser should gobble up a Sugar Bowl spot.  If USC wins out it could get the other Fiesta Berth at 10-2.

That leaves an undefeated Boise having to fight off a two-loss team from a major conference in order to get to the BCS. Things being what they are, which is the same for the past 50 years in this situation, the Orange Bowl most likely would pick a 10-2 Penn State to play the ACC champion.

Sorry Broncos.

Name this team: Its last conference championship came in 2003. Since then it has been a mixed bag. This program has changed coaches twice, beaten Texas twice and produced a quarterback drafted in the first round. This year alone it has given up 66 points to Texas Tech, lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and, amazingly,  is in first place in its division.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to Kansas State, 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12 North after beating Kansas 17-10. In Bill Snyder’s second term as coach, the Wildcats need only beat Nebraska in its final two games to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Snyder is getting some run for Big 12 coach of the year. We’re fairly sure no COY has lost to Texas Tech by 54 and lost to a fourth-place Sun Belt team in the same season.


USC decline: Before Saturday’s 14-9 victory over Arizona State, USC had allowed 110 points in its last three games. That’s the most in a three-game stretch ever. The Trojans had allowed 113 points combined in the previous 14 games.


Breaking down the big boys: Now that a Florida-Alabama rematch is assured, here’s the three-minute eval of the SEC title game slightly less than a month away.

Advantage Alabama: A better running game (I think) and the revenge motive for last year’s classic loss in Atlanta.

Advantage Florida: Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. As long as he’s taking snaps, Florida has a chance.

Advantage Florida: Defense. By a hair. This is going to be another matchup of the ages. Charlie Strong vs. Nick Saban/Kirby Smart. At this point Florida’s unit seems a bit more active.

Advantage Alabama: Special teams. With Javier Arenas returning kicks and Terrence Cody blocking them, give the Crimson Tide the edge. Kicker Leigh Tiffin is more than reliable. If you’re looking for an edge, this is it. Games like this tend to turn on special teams.

Stuff: SMU needed three blocked kicks to beat Rice and move to within one win of bowl eligibility. The Ponies last went bowling pre-death penalty in 1984 … Alabama hasn’t been 9-0 in consecutive seasons since 1973-74 … In its last 39 home games, Cal is 0-7 against Oregon State and USC, 32-0 against everyone else … My God, did you see Cal’s Jahvid Best suffer that concussion while diving into the end zone? Coach Jeff Tedford actually said his guy was “OK.” No, coach, he’s not OK. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Best’s season is over … Who knew UCLA had lost seven conference games in a row before beating  Washington?

The right now, no B.S., up to the moment Heisman Watch

1. Case Keenum, Houston. Another last-second win, this time over Tulsa. In his last two games Keenum has thrown for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns. Any questions? My goal in life is to get this kid a trip to New York. He’s earned it. In a perfect world, he’d win the Stiff Arm but because he plays at a Conference USA school it probably isn’t going to happen.

2. Mark Ingram, Alabama. It’s the KIIS system – Keep It Ingram, Stupid. After throwing 25 passes in the first half, Nick Saban changed tactics and had Ingram carry it 16 games in the second half against LSU. The result was 144 yards.

3. Colt McCoy, Texas. It was only Central Florida but McCoy continued a recent uptick with 469 passing yards. McCoy was removed from the game with nine minutes left four yards shy of the school passing record (Major Applewhite, 473 yards in the 2001 Holiday Bowl).

Funny thing, Applewhite might have the school record but because the NCAA didn’t recognize bowl stats back then it officially doesn’t exist. What makes things more annoying is that a few years ago the NCAA started counting bowl stats. I still contend that an intern at each school in the country could go back and add in all the bowl numbers.

The NCAA explains that current record holders would have their names expunged if records were updated. Tough! You count all the numbers, not just some of them.

4. Toby Gerhart, Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh is preaching physicality. Gerhart pounded Oregon for a school-record 223 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-42 win.

5. C.J. Spiller, Clemson. If the Tigers are going to win their first ACC title in 18 years, Spiller is going to be the reason. He went for a school-record 312 all-purpose yards against Florida State.

Posted on: June 29, 2009 11:45 am
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:51 am
 

NCAA finally recommends sickle cell trait testing

The NCAA doesn't often back down when it comes to court challenges. Like any large corporation, it is lawyered to the gills, and will often fight to the death in the courtroom even when it knows it is wrong. 

But it isn't Teflon. In fact, the NCAA's ability to exist was upheld by a narrow 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court in 1988. There have been devastating losses as well. In the infamous restricted-earnings case, the NCAA paid $54.5 million in damages after it tried to limit the salary of entry-level coaches. Last year, the NCAA settled an anti-trust class action suit for $10 million. The suit sought the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes.

So when the NCAA settled with the family of Dale Lloyd on Sunday night it was a watershed moment. Lloyd was the former Rice player who died in 2006 due to complications from sickle cell trait. For more than three decades the NCAA's own medical handbook has stopped short of recommending of testing for the trait. As part of the settlement, the NCAA will now recommend testing.

Rice University, Lloyd's college, will lead an NCAA charge to make testing mandatory.

If I was able to help, I take some small amount of pride in moving the issue along. In May I reported that sickle cell trait had become the leading killer of Division I-A athletes this decade. What made it additionally ridiculous was that none of the deaths had occured in actual competition.

You wonder what took the NCAA so long. The association has formally acknowledged sickle cell trait deaths since 1994. Almost half of those deaths (seven out of 15) have occured this decade. Lloyd's case was one of three high-profile suits brought by the families of deceased players since 2006.

It took the Lloyd family naming the NCAA in its lawsuit to get some movement on the issue. That's when the NCAA finally relented. Experts say the association was concerned all these years about legalities (aka, being politically correct about singling out African-Americans) if it recommended testing. Meanwhile, players continued to die.

CBSSports.com recently talked to former Oklahoma All-American Curtis Lofton about the issue. Lofton tested positive for the condition at OU. With proper training techniques, he was able to play with sickle cell trait. He went on to become the Big 12 defensive player of the year in 2007 and made the NFL all-rookie team with Atlanta in 2008.

CBSSports.com: How did you find out you had sickle cell trait?

Lofton: "In grade school, I'd be in shape but I'd get tired. I'd ask myself, 'Why am I getting tired and everyone else keeps going?' So I took the test (at Oklahoma) and that's the first time I ever heard about sickle cell."

Q: Did it phase you?

Lofton: It didn't phase me because during the game you're not going constant. There are breaks here and there. The only time mine kicks in is when I'm going constant.

Q: Did teams downgrade you in the draft because you had the condition?

Lofton: I think some teams may have done that. When I was going through the combine, people didn't really know what sickle cell trait was. Everybody looks at it like a negative. It really doesn't come into effect when you're in a game. I had to explain to a lot of teams what it was.

Q: Was it troubling that you had to explain to them?

Lofton: Coaches didn't know what it was, so I really didn't have a problem breaking it down for them.

Q: Have you kept track of all the deaths this decade?

Lofton: I think sickle cell is the leading cause for collegiate deaths.

Q: This decade, it is.

A: The number one thing that I hope to get out of this thing is bringing awareness to others and hopefully being able to save some lives.










Category: NCAAF
Tags: Oklahoma, Rice
 
Posted on: May 27, 2009 9:36 am
Edited on: May 28, 2009 5:49 pm
 

Picking Conference USA

Welcome to Big 12 Jr.

Just like its big brother, Conference USA is high scoring. The offensive talent is wide ranging. Yes, there are even Heisman candidates at this level. The Big 12 has six programs from Texas and Oklahoma. CUSA has five. Both are able to mine those areas of the Southwest for talent.

C-USA had three teams in the top 10 in total offense.  The Big 12 had five. Only C-USA and the Big 12 averaged more than 400 yards in total offense per game. C-USA finished second behind the Big 12 nationally in touchdown passes per game, points per game and plays per game.

Just don't come around here to find any defense. Just like the Big 12, Conference USA had a problem stopping the ball. Half the league finished No. 100 or lower in total defense last season.

On offense, though, six of the top seven rushers and eight of the top 10 passers return. Nine of the 12 teams have at least eight offensive starters returning. Four of the nation's top 20 players in total offense last season were from C-USA.

Houston, Tulsa, Texas-El Paso, East Carolina and Southern Miss look like bowl teams. Houston or East Carolina could be BCS busters.

Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch.

West Division

1. Houston -- Kevin Sumlin set a school record for wins by a first-year head coach (eight). Don't be surprised if the former Oklahoma assistant pumps out double digit wins this year. Sumlin's best players still haven't reached their peak yet. Quarterback Case Keenum (5,020 passing yards) should be a Heisman candidate. Tyron Carrier caught 80 balls as a freshman. If a shaky defense holds up behind CUSA defensive player of the year Phillip Hunt, the big boys better watch out. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Mississippi State are all on the schedule. They're all winnable games.

2. Tulsa -- In less than a month's time Todd Graham's offense scored 77 (against Texas El-Paso) and his defense gave up 70 (to Houston). If Graham can ever balance this thing out, the Golden Hurricane are going to be a BCS buster.  Unfortunately for them, it's not going to be this year.  The offense lost coordinator Gus Malzahn to Auburn, its quarterback (David Johnson) and top rusher (Tarrion Adams, 1,523 yards). Tulsa will score will rely on a veteran defense to hold teams under 70.

3. Texas-El Paso -- This might be Mike Price's best team since he headed for the border five years ago. Four of the five starters are back on the offensive line. Some think quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could be the league's best. A defense that helped put the Miners among the top 10 in turnover margin returns seven starters.

4. Rice --  From biggest turnaround in the country (seven-game improvement from 2007) to bottom half of the West. David Bailiff has to replace 56 touchdowns produced by Chase Clement (44 passing, 12 rushing). It's not going to be easy with the first three games on the road. After that the Owls plays Tulsa, Navy, East Carolina and Houston. If Bailiff goes 5-7 with this group give him a bonus.

5. Tulane -- Bob Toledo has won only six of 24 games in his two seasons in New Orleans. The beat should go on this year. The Green Wave's only victories last season were against Louisiana-Monroe and SMU. They come into this season having lost eight in a row, the last seven by at least 17 points.

6. SMU -- This is exactly where Hawaii was 11 years ago -- at the bottom, 0-12 under Fred vonAppen. June Jones blew into the islands in 1999, going 9-4 in his first season. It's going to take a little longer at SMU. Jones went 1-11 in his first season at SMU. He has most of his offensive talent returning but this is still SMU, losers of 17 consecutive CUSA games.


East Division

1. East Carolina -- The Pirates are loaded with 16 starters returning a CUSA championship team that beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia. While opponents are more wise to the ways of quarterback Patrick Pinkney, it's hard to scout takeaways. The Pirates had 33 of them last year, including six against Tulsa in the conference title game.
 
Skip Holtz stayed put after becoming one of the hottest coaching commodities around. That means the Pirates could once again take a run at a BCS berth if they are able to defeat West Virginia and North Carolina in back-to-back weeks on the road.

2. Southern Miss -- Larry Fedora has 19 starters back from a team that won its final five games. The Golden Eagles might have the best running backs, receivers, offensive line and defensive backs in the league. The difference might be Nov. 28 when Southern Miss has to go to East Carolina for a division showdown.

3. Memphis -- Jucos usually need a year to get acclimated. Tailback Curtis Steele came in from Northwest Mississippi and ran for 1,223 to become conference newcomer of the year. If the Tigers can stay healthy at quarterback then senior receivers Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton should have big seasons. Calhoun has caught a pass in 37 consecutive games. The 6-foot-8 Singleton is tied for the school career receiving touchdown record (19). 

4. Marshall
-- Mark Snyder is under pressure to produce a bowl game. Marshall hasn't been to the postseason in his four seasons. Snyder is 16-31 and is coming off a 4-8 finish in '08. If he doesn't get it done with 16 returning starters including All-American prospect Cody Slate at tight end, then it might be time to freshen up the resume.
 
5. Central Florida -- George O'Leary has alternated winning and losing seasons in his five seasons. The pieces are in place for an above .500 finish but that's about it. Last season's offense was last in I-A. It's going to take more than the return of 15 starters to rebound from a 4-8 downer. O'Leary loses only left tackle Patrick Brown (All-CUSA) on offense. The problem will be scraping out seven wins in the ultra-competitive East Division.

6. Alabama-Birmingham -- This is Neil Callaway's best team in Birmingham. The Blazers, though, have to play seven road games (in a nine-week stretch).  Joe Webb was No. 3 rushing quarterback (1,021 yards) in the country.

 


Posted on: December 10, 2008 12:44 am
 

National notes

My Heisman ballot:

1. Tim Tebow
2. Sam Bradford
3. Colt McCoy

I can't give you a quantitative reason why Tebow is my No. 1. His numbers are down from '07. However, after watching him lead that fourth-quarter comeback against Alabama, it's more of a feel, an emotional reaction.

I go back to Sept. 27 when Tebow basically called his shot after the Ole Miss loss and then delivered! Nine wins in a row. Go back and at the quotes from that day. Tebow as Babe Ruth pointing his bad toward the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Until Saturday, Bradford was my guy. I had started hyping him for Heisman back when he was a freshman. How many players ever have led the country in pass efficiency two years in a row?

It's hard to vote Colt McCoy third when he took a team with a mediocre offensive line and led it in passing and rushing. The point is, I can't slide a piece of paper between the three of them.

The voters: John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel; Tony Barnhart, CBS; Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe; Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman; B.G. Brooks, Rocky Mountain News; Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Brian Davis, Dallas Morning News; Mike DeArmond, Kansas City Star; Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Michael DiRocco, Florida Times-Union; Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle; Scott Ferrell, Shreveport Times; Anthony Gimino, Tucson Citizen; Herb Gould, Chicago-Sun Times; Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune; Mike Griffith, Knoxville New Sentinel; Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune; Matt Hayes, Sporting News; Tommy Hicks, Mobile Press-Register; Ron Higgins, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Mark Janssen, Manhattan Mercury; Todd Jones, Columbus Dispatch; Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star; Ted Lewis, New Orleans Times-Picayune; Mike Lopresti, Gannett Newspapers; Tom Luicci, Newark Star-Ledger; Ray Melick, Birmingham News; Rodney McKissic, Buffalo News; Brett McMurphy, Tampa Tribune.

(Two voters did not want their names used)

The rest of the national awards, etc.


MVP: McCoy

There's a difference between the Heisman winner and MVP. McCoy did more with less. Texas wouldn't be in the conversation without him.

Best quarterback: Bradford

This is getting confusing so let's just drop it.

Best running back: Shonn Greene, Iowa

The nation's No. 2 rusher came on in the second half of the season to surpass Michigan State's Javon Ringer and UConn's Donald Brown as the most consistent ground force in the nation.

Best receiver: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech


Do back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards do anything for you? An NFL star in waiting.


Best tight end: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

This was tough. I recently shifted away from Missouri's Chase Coffman who was too injured at the end of the season to back up a spectacular first eight games of the season.

The 6-foot-6 inch Gresham gets opens, is hard to tackle and has speed. Need anything else?

Best offensive lineman: Andre Smith, Alabama.

He is what coaches look for when they recruit left tackles. A case can be made for Smith, the likely Outland Trophy winner, being Bama's MVP. Without him protecting John Parker Wilson and carving out holes for Glen Coffee, the Tide don't start 12-0.

Defensive player of the year: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC

From a troubled beginning, this voracious tackler became the foundation for one of the best statistical defenses in history.

Best defensive lineman: Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

Ask BYU's Max Hall what he thinks of the nation's sacks leader In their October matchup, Hughes sacked Hall three times.

Best defensive back: Eric Berry, Tennessee.

Lane Kiffin should be at Berry's house right now making sure he's happy, comfortable and ready to take 20 snaps a game on offense.

Best special teams player: Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati

You won't find many other All-Americans on the best Cincinnati team in history that won 11 games and the Big East. We'll give it to Huber who bombed 20 punts more than 50 yards and dropped 20 punts inside the 20.

Remember when Cincinnati used to be a basketball school?

Freshman of the year: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

How did he get from Texas to Corvallis?

Coach of the year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Staff of the year: Penn State

The Broyles Award is doing a disservice to Penn State. The honor goes to the assistant coach of the year. Not only were there no Penn State assistants among the finalists, the Broyles folks didn't do the right thing and pick the entire Penn State staff.

With JoePa ailing, his staff basically took over and led the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title. Big ups to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. They were the glue.

Biggest disappointments: Georgia, Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, the ACC, the Pac-10.

Biggest surprises: Oregon State, Ball State, Alabama, Buffalo, East Carolina, Rice, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech.

Sometimes you just live right: Charlie Weis almost got run out of town after a 6-6 season. His reward? A trip to the Hawaii where he can continue to recruit linebacker Manti Te'o. 

Don't give me any of this stuff about a dead period. Te'o will be a captive audience as the Irish take over Oahu.

Best games: Texas 45, Oklahoma 35, Oct. 11 in Dallas.

The winner usually wins the Big 12 South and competes for the national championship. Right? Right?

Texas Tech 39, Texas 33, Nov. 1 in Lubbock.

Not to pick on the Horns here but the reason they are playing Ohio State instead of Florida is Crabtree's game-winning catch with one second left.

UCLA 27, Tennessee 24 (OT) Sept. 1 in the Rose Bowl.

Tennessee's defense held UCLA's Kevin Craft to only four interceptions in the first half. Then, in his best performance of a long, long season, Craft rallied the Bruins in the second half.

Rick Neuheisel led a post-game pep rally.

Florida 31, Alabama 20, Dec. 6 at the SEC championship game.

The BCS was smiling as the closest thing to a national semifinal was played out in front of the largest Georgia Dome crowd in history.

Whine of the year: Pete Carroll and USC

You lost to a team you weren't supposed to (Oregon State). You paid for it in the polls. Deal with it. Maybe the difference between that and Florida losing to Ole Miss? Urban Meyer has made a habit lately of winning the big ones <em>and</em> the little ones.

Best stories:

Six teams ranked No. 1 during the season (the most since 1984)

Alabama arriving a year early (at least) under Nick Saban

Utah, TCU and BYU making a huge statement by the Mountain West: The BCS doesn't belong to the six power conferences.

Notre Dame's collapse from 4-1 and Weis barely hanging on for another year.

Oregon State beating USC and chasing its first Rose Bowl in 44 years.

Coaches in waiting.

Coaches waiting in line ("resigning" in the middle of a season).

The end of a Bowden (Tommy).

The continuation of a Bowden (Bobby).

The longing of a Bowden (Terry, to get back in the game).

Joe's hip.

Charlie's knee.

Nate Davis' gloves.

Jay Jacobs' "shock" over Tommy Tuberville's "resignation."

Tennessee goes from old school to youngest coach in the country.

The (sad) state of Washington. (Combined records of the Huskies and Cougars, 2-22).

Big 12 quarterbacks.

Big 12 offenses.

Big 12 top 10 games each week.

The Big 12 surpassing the SEC, if only for a moment, as the best conference in the country.

The tie in the Big 12 South.

The cry that followed.

Politcking.

Text messages.

The high road.

Running it up.

Calling off the dogs. 

Flyovers.

"To me that's a little ridiculous," Bradford said.

That's a good way to end it, for now.

 

 

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.

 

 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.

 

Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?

 

 


Posted on: September 30, 2008 7:57 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2008 7:59 pm
 

National notes

Some observations as we round the quarter pole of the season (most everyone has played at least four games):


Updated BCS bowl predictions

BCS title game: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC
Fiesta Bowl: Missouri vs. BYU
Sugar Bowl: South Florida vs. LSU
Orange Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest


Three teams to watch:

 South Florida -- Everyone else is trashing the Big East. Some team has to win it. No one is talking about the 
Bulls. They're in the top 10 and have only three road games remaining. All the sudden the Dec. 6 game at West 
Virginia doesn't look that tough.

 

 Texas -- Oklahoma is No. 1. We're all assuming the Sooners are going to beat the Horns in Dallas. Don't discount 
Texas so easily. Colt McCoy is playing at an all-time high and the pass defense has to get better doesn't it?

 

 Kentucky -- This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. It's looking like a 9-3 year. The Wildcats are off to a 4-0 
start and have allowed only 22 points. We'll know more when they go to Alabama this week, but having a strong 
defense in the SEC isn't a bad thing.

 

Three shocking developments to come:

 Mid-season firings -- Watch for either Virginia's Al Groh, Syracuse's Greg Robinson or Washington's Tyrone 
Willingham to lose their jobs during the season. Syracuse AD Daryl Gross seems especially fidgety.

 

 Tim Tebow will not make it to New York -- Forget consecutive Heismans. I'm not a hater. Any casual follower of the 
sport has noticed Superman's downturn in production. The fourth-down stop against Ole Miss was a shining example. 
And the Heisman is all about production.

 

That, plus the glut of candidates nationwide, looks like it will keep Tebow out of Times Square.

 The upsets have just begun. OK, so that isn't so shocking.

 


Projected award winners:


Outland: Andre Smith, Alabama
Biletnikoff: Jarett Dillard, Rice
Thorpe: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
Davey O'Brien: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Nagurski/Bednarik: George Selvie, South Florida
Groza: Louie Sakoda, Utah
Heisman: Chase Daniel, Missouri

Coach of the year: Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt


(Outland, best interior lineman; Biletnikoff, best receiver; Thorpe, best defensive back; Davey O'Brien, best 
quarterback; Nagurski/Bednarik, best defensive player; Groza, best kicker; Heisman, best player)

 

 CBS' Spencer Tillman on Pete Carroll: "After the Ohio State win, because of the relative weakness of Pac-10, Pete 
Carroll's coaching challenge totally shifted. He needed to become Dr. Phil. Be basically Nick Saban, Nick can piss a 
lot of people off. That's what he needed to."

 

 Clemson's loss to Maryland marked the eighth time in the Tommy Bowden era that the Tigers lost to an unranked 
opponent at home. The others:

 

2006 -- South Carolina 31, No. 24 Clemson 31-28

2006 -- Maryland 13, No. 19 Clemson 12

2004 -- Georgia Tech 28, No. 20 Clemson 24

2001 -- North Carolina 38, No. 13 Clemson 3

2001 -- Virginia 26, No. 19 Clemson 24

2000 -- Georgia Tech 9, No. 5 Clemson 3

 

 Is there is any question whether BYU can play for the national championship consider that BYU debuted at No. 7 in 
Harris poll and moved up to No. 9 in the coaches' poll. Jerry Palm has BYU 10th in his weekly BCS standings 
projection.

 


 Texas Tech has put up a website mimicking a presidential campaign for their stars Graham Harrell and Michael 
Crabtree. Here's an idea Mike Leach, trying bringing both guys to the Big 12 media days so hundreds of reporters can talk to them in person.

 Lloyd Carr to Syracuse?

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com