Posted on: August 29, 2011 4:55 pm
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford -- The ghosts of Jim Plunkett and Herschel Walker will haunt the season.
2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma -- OU has become Quarterback U.
3. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State -- Hasn't been one like him at OSU since Hart Lee Dykes (including Dez Bryant). I mean that in a good way.
4. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon -- With Lache Seastrunk no longer a threat to get in the rotation, is it possible the nation's leading rusher will get even more work?
5. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State -- New set of receivers, same old arm.
6. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan -- Would be a front runner but Michigan needs to win more and Brady Hoke is going to make him a pocket passer.
7. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina -- Just call him "Hoss" and give him the ball.
8. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama -- Longshot because Nick Saban spreads the carries around.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 11:52 am
1. South Carolina is this year's Auburn. Last year no one was talking about Auburn winning the SEC West, much less the national championship. Who is this year's Auburn? South Carolina isn't a bad place to start as this year's under-the-radar team. Sure, sure, the Gamecocks are favorites to win the SEC East but with (perhaps) three future pros on offense and the debut of Jadeveon Clowney on defense, they could go further. The coach sure has national championship experience.
2. Houston Nutt's seat is warm. Ole Miss' coach won nine games and the Cotton Bowl in each of his first two seasons. Last season things imploded as Mississippi fell to 4-8. The Jeremiah Masoli experiment failed, the defense was shredded and the Rebels lost again to Mississippi State. Will that be a blip on the radar or a trend? Nutt's teams always seem to play best when expectations are low. And they are low. It's hard to see the Rebs finishing higher than fifth in the SEC West.
3. Alabama can win a national championship with either quarterback. A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims? Sims or McCarron? It doesn't matter. Play them both, which Nick Saban has hinted at. It doesn't matter. This Bama team is so solid otherwise that it can win with a game manager at quarterback. Trent Richardson is a Heisman Trophy candidate. The defense is nearing 2009 levels. Bama gets LSU at home in the game to settle it all. What's not to like? As long as McCarron and/or Sims don't start channeling Jordan Jefferson the Tide will roll.
4. It's all on Isaiah Crowell. Caleb King and Washaun Ealey are gone at Georgia. That means that Crowell, a true freshman sensation, is going to have to be this year's Marcus Lattimore. Or do we dare suggest another Herschel Walker when talking about SEC freshman breakout tailbacks? Crowell is the kid who pulled out a real, live bullpup when he committed to Georgia. Now the question is, can he carry the program on his back?
5. When can Auburn really celebrate its national championship? Gene Chizik was slapped down last month by the NCAA enforcement director when he asked about the Cam Newton investigation. There is still the ongoing probe into the four former players who spoke out on HBO's Real Sports. News broke Wednesday that the NCAA was in Montgomery, Ala. in the last week of June conducting interviews. Tigers fans would like to finally celebrate this national championship without survivor's guilt.
Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:07 pm
For the moment I'm going to name it Super Saturday. Even that seems a bit modest.
Traditionally, the last weekend of the regular season was already a monster -- the Conference USA, Big 12, SEC and ACC championship games along with your random Civil War thrown in. It was, and is, usually a one-day play-in for the BCS championship bowl and other major bowls. Last year alone we got Oregon's coronation at Oregon State, Auburn's major, final statement against South Carolina and Virginia Tech winning the ACC (again).
That final weekend could be about to get a lot bigger. First, consider we've got a new configuration with the Big 12 dropping its championship game and the Big Ten and Pac-12 adding title games. Suddenly, the Big 12 is without a presence on that last day (Dec. 3 this year). Turns out there are serious talks underway about moving Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and/or Texas-Texas A&M to that day.
That could make Saturday truly Super considering the blockbuster implications for this season. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State most likely are both going to start the season in the top 10. The game could end up being the Big 12's first "championship game" in the new 10-team alignment. Texas and A&M could also be moved off its traditional Thanksgiving week home.
"The leader in the clubhouse would be either UT-AM or OU-OSU,” a source told the Tulsa World. “ABC wants a blockbuster weekend on championship Saturday, but doesn’t want to blow up Thanksgiving, so it’s a tricky situation."
The odds of all four of those Big 12 teams being out of the title race on the final day are minimal. Even if they are, those games are sure to deliver the key Texas demographic (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio etc.) That cannot be underestimated. The source added that a Texas-A&M, OU-OSU doubleheader is a possibility.
"That (doubleheader) is on the table and being discussed," the source said. "It is by no means a 'done deal,' but it is certainly possible."
Don't forget that the Pac-12 will play its first championship game that day at the stadium of the school with the best record. The Big Ten is already slotted to play its title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In other Super Saturday news, the Big East -- which just released its schedule -- will have two games that day -- Connecticut at Cincinnati and Syracuse at Pittsburgh.
The next question: How to schedule all those games so they don't all bump into each other.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 11:46 am
Edited on: December 30, 2010 4:15 pm
Jan. 8 -- I'll never forget a crushed Mack Brown in the Rose Bowl hallway leading to the Texas lockerroom after losing to Alabama. I ask him, "Would Colt [McCoy] have made a difference?" Mack: "It wouldn't have been close."
Feb. 1 -- What's so special about Cretin-Derham Hall High in St. Paul, Minn. No. 1 recruit Seantrel Henderson? A lot. But the kid's nationally televised commitment to USC turns out to be a mockery of the system.
March 17 -- Before Butler bounces a ball in the NCAA Tournament I was there to chronicle what was then a stepping-stone job.
Also in May -- Haley Dodd graduates from high school, commits to the University of Missouri.
June 1 -- Big 12 spring meetings begin in Kansas City with all hell breaking loose.
June 3 -- Big 12 schools are so spooked by impending conference realignment that an ultimatum is issued: Declare loyalty or else. Nebraska won't commit, having been in talks with Big Ten since January.
June 9 -- Colorado announces it is joining the Pac-10.
June 11 -- Nebraska trashes Texas on the way to announcing its departure for the Big Ten in 2011. The Longhorns take their worst beating in seven years.
A portion of the remaining Big 12 have nots (Missouri, Iowa State, etc.) agree that Texas should get an increased share of conference revenue just because it's Texas. There is no Big 12 with it. The Horns spend the rest of the year establishing its own network, reportedly with ESPN for $15 million per year.
June 16 -- Troy is burned to the ground.
July 21 -- Nick Saban goes there with the p-word.
August 15 -- Haley moves into her University of Missouri dorm 30 years after her dad moved out of Columbia. Yes, a few sentimental tears were shed.
August 27 -- It's the Year of the Comeback.
September 7 -- Boise State launches itself into a season-long national conversation with a 33-30 win over Virginia Tech.
October 9 -- It's officially a national race again as defending national champ Alabama loses to South Carolina.
October 12 -- Turns out, South Carolina's win was a bigger deal than we thought. The Gamecocks become only the 45th team ever (in wire service era) to a beat a No. 1 team.
November 4 -- Story breaks of Cam Newton's dad soliciting $180,000 from Mississippi State.
November 6 -- Matt Hayes of the Sporting News and I get trapped in the LSU postgame celebration after an amazing win over Alabama. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the LSU's coach's "Lesticles."
Non-BCS story of the year: While covering that Boise-Nevada game on a bitterly cold night in Reno, a window in the press box has to be cracked so the clock crew "can hear the whistle." We're not exactly in Columbus, folks. Haven't heard a line like that since the Class 4-A state title game in 1984.
November 27 -- Miami's Randy Shannon is fired after an uninspired loss to South Florida. Jon Gruden gets his name in the search, as he always does, but in the first major hire of his career, AD Kirby Hocutt eventually picks Temple's Al Golden.
December 1 -- The best guy to talk about Kyle Brotzman's disappointment happens to be Boise resident and fan Bill Buckner.
December 5 -- Told you it was the Year of the Comeback.
December 19 -- Jack and dad enjoy the Chiefs and Rams in St. Louis during Christmas break. It's nice watching a game without a deadline to meet or a petulant coach to question. It's even better doing it with my wingman.
It was a great year. May 2011 be even better.
Tags: Alabama, Ascension Catholic School, Auburn, Baylor, BCS, Big Ten, Big Ten, Boise State, Butler, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colorado, Cretin-Derham Hall High, CYO football, ESPN, Final Four, Frozen Four, Haley Dodd, Heisman, Iowa State, Jack Dodd, Janet Dodd, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Magic Johnson, Mexico, Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri, NCAA Tournament, Nebraska, Newport Beach, North Carolina, Northern Iowa, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-10, Padres, Rams, South Carolina, Texas, Texas, USC, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, World Cup
Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:27 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2010 11:01 am
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Welcome to Day 2 of the post-Urban Florida coaching search. This time it's for real. We think.
Florida AD Jeremy Foley says he'd like to have someone hired in 2-2 1/2 weeks. He also says he hasn't contacted any candidates. Of course, he hasn't. That's not the way searches work. Coaches who want to remain anonymous can keep on the down low by speaking to a third party. You can bet some influential Gators have been burning up the phone lines talking to candidates already -- probably some of these candidates.
Here's my list in descending order of probability...
It would be a good get for Foley, but for how long?
The biggest drawback: Whit is an accomplished head coach already headed to a BCS conference (Pac-12). He could take a bigger step going to the SEC. If they hired him, the Gators would play defense, I guarantee you that.
Here's what bothers me: Mullen isn't exactly known as an aggressive recruiter. His record in two seasons with the Bulldogs is still only 13-11. On the plus side: Steve Spurrier didn't enjoy recruiting either and he did all right. Mullen would unite the Gator Nation, although whoever gets hired is going to be the guy to follow the guy. Never a good thing in the coaching profession. You know what happened here the last time a coaching icon left.
Kevin Sumlin, Houston: Foley loves him.
Chip Kelly, Oregon: If his team wasn’t playing for the national championship I bet he'd more than listen. The timing, though, is a deal breaker. Kelly wouldn't leave until after the BCS title game (Jan. 10) and Florida sure wouldn't wait that long.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: There will be some sentiment for Spurrier's former defensive coordinator to come "home". Insiders know that Stoopsie is perfectly happy in Norman, loves his AD (Joe Castiglione) and can continue to compete for Big 12 and national championships each year. Sorry, Gators.
Chris Petersen, Boise State: As much as I like Pete, he wouldn't last three minutes in Florida's media fish bowl. There's a reason he hasn't left yet. Petersen is completely comfortable at a place where he can win forever.
Larry Fedora, Southern Miss: Could be dark horse candidate.
Charlie Strong, Louisville: Florida's former D coordinator is a strong recruiter and great man. Florida needs a rock star. Charlie Strong is not a rock star.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: Don't. Think. So.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 6:14 pm
The BCS exclusionary?
Not today with 22.5 percent of Division I-A still eligible for BCS bowls. That's the conclusion after reading a BCS press release Tuesday afternoon. The BCS released its list of teams still under consideration for the five elite bowls. In addition to the 19 teams contending for automatic berths by winning their conference there are still eight teams being considered for at-large berths.
No. 11 (in the BCS) Alabama, 9-2. Eliminated from the SEC, the Tide could get in the conversation by beating Auburn.
No. 21 Arizona, 7-3. A longshot even if the Wildcats beat Oregon this week.
No. 12 Arkansas, 9-2. The LSU game is a playoff to stay alive in the BCS.
No. 4 Boise, 10-0. Let's be honest, if the Broncos don't win out they're not going to a BCS bowl.
No. 5 LSU, 10-1. The highest-ranked one-loss team would seem to be in if it beats Arkansas.
No. 19 Nevada, 10-1. Another longshot even with a win over Boise on Friday.
No. 20 Utah, 9-2. Consecutive losses to TCU and Notre Dame doomed the Utes.
No. 3 TCU, 11-0. The Frogs are nervous. If they are passed by Boise for the No. 3 spot, their BCS bowl chances are in jeopardy.
To be eligible for an at-large berth, a team must finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings. For a non-A.Q. (automatic qualifier) conference champion to get into a BCS bowl it must finish in the top 12. (Top 16 if it is ranked higher than a champion from a power conference.) Only the highest-ranked non-A.Q. meeting those parameters is guaranteed a spot in the BCS.
What's amazing is that there are 19 teams still alive for automatic berths:
ACC: Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise, Florida State, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-10, Pittsburgh, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, TCU, Texas A&M, UConn, Utah, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 14, 2010 5:15 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2010 1:31 am
Watch Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon at Texas Tech. He just might be the best receiver in the country. The problem is OSU is 0-6 in Lubbock during the Big 12 era. Overall, the Cowboys haven't won in Lubbock since 1944 ... The remaining 59 teams in I-A will have played half of their regular-season schedules after this weekend, including USC which will play its seventh of 13 games ... If Ohio State is able to hold on to the No. 1 ranking for four more Sundays this season it would pass Oklahoma to become the most-frequent No. 1 in AP poll history. The Bucks became No. 1 for the 94th time this week. Only Oklahoma (97) and Notre Dame (95) have been No. 1 more often ... If anyone had told you Louisville would be 4-2 halfway through its first season post-Kragthrope would you have laughed? The Cards would be just that if they win Friday night against Cincinnati...
Miami (3-2) reaches the halfway point in its season this week at Duke a candidate for the nation's most disappointing team. The record isn't terrible, it's more where the program stands right now -- No. 3 in the state. Jacory Harris has been uneven. FSU ran the Canes out of their own building. You look at the talent and just think Miami should be better. You can have your argument between Florida State (5-1) and Florida (4-2) right now but it's clear the Hurricanes -- in the middle of a comeback -- are in danger of finishing back in the pack in 2010's in-state race ...
Bad game of the week: Eastern Michigan (0-6) at Ball State (2-4). The teams are a combined 4-32 since the beginning of 2009 ... Army and Rutgers play the first college game in new Meadowlands Stadium ... Utah (at Wyoming) has scored at least 56 in three consecutive games ... Jim Tressel is the first Big Ten coach to win 100 games in 10 seasons ... Alabama continues a rather remarkable streak not having allowed a 100-yard rusher in 40 consecutive games ... Mississippi State (at Florida) is shooting for its first four-game winning streak since 1999 ... Something to consider while boarding the South Carolina bandwagon: Stephen Garcia is 11-2 at home, only 1-5 on the road heading to Kentucky ... Steve Spurrier is 18-0 vs. the Wildcats combined at Florida and South Carolina ... Oregon State has lost one turnover this season ... TCU is back in a familiar spot leading the nation in total defense. That's where the Frogs finished the last two seasons ... Denard Robinson's Heisman season -- and maybe Michigan's season -- hangs in the balance. Robinson is facing the country's No. 2 rush defense in Iowa ... Michigan State (vs. Illinois) is going for its first 7-0 start since its 9-0 start in 1966 ...
Tags: Alabama, Army, Ball State, Big Ten, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, TCU, Texas Tech, USC, Utah, Wyoming
Posted on: October 13, 2010 10:44 am
Edited on: October 13, 2010 10:45 am
It only seems like Alabama obsessed all offseason about facing six SEC opponents coming off bye weeks.
The SEC schedule wasn't finalized until late summer as the school and league tried to move opponents around to keep from the dreaded six-pack. The Tuscaloosa News had revealed that over a three-year period Alabama had faced more bye-week opponents (17) than any SEC school. The best Bama could do was move Georgia State from a Saturday to a Thursday in November, thus allowing nine days before the Nov. 26 Auburn game.
That doesn't help things now. The Tide are on the brink of falling out of national championship contention after Saturday's loss to South Carolina. Their fall from No. 1 to No. 8 in the AP poll is the second-biggest fall for an in-season No. 1 since 1996. (Nebraska fell to No. 8 that year after losing to Arizona State). While Bama can still win the SEC and compete for the national championship, the final six conference opponents are going to be well rested. At least one columnist said the schedule already has caught up to the former No. 1.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban is trying to turn that offseason obsession into an in-season footnote. After 19 consecutive victories that included a national championship, Saban said this week his team may have believed a bit too much in itself.
"It's drinking the Kool-Aid, thinking that just because they say it on ESPN, it's so. Reading the newspapers all week. Just because you beat Florida 31-6, people start talking about you being the best team in the country. We're not the best team in the country. We had the best team in the country last year, and we proved it. We proved it over 14 games.
Hey, that's the best Sabanator outburst since my question led him to the famous "pimp" line in July.
Anything colorful from Saban is always appreciated. It beats "behind-the-scenes" mini-docs where the only thing behind-the-scenes is what you don't see. This was raw emotion, a glimpse at Saban's soul at this point in the season. The message got through. Saban won't be taking bye weeks as an excuse going forward. It's clear that playing three consecutive top-19 opponents (in the AP poll) took something out of the Tide. Now they have to play Mississippi, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn coming off byes. Both teams will have a bye coming into the Nov. 6 meeting at LSU.
"Everybody out there assumes that having a bye week is an advantage," Saban said last week. "I've always answered that question by saying, 'I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage.'"
Maybe we're starting to find out.
The Nits are 3-3 after a depressing home loss to Illinois. Joe needs three more wins to become the third coach ever to win 400. There is growing doubt, though, that JoePa doesn't reach that mark this season. And what if he doesn't? What does that do to the program if Joe holds on (or is held over) for 2011?
The (mostly) cushy non-conference schedule has gotten Joe halfway to those six he needs, but the road ahead is littered with broken glass -- or at least formidable Big Ten opponents. Penn State still has to play the Big Ten's top three teams -- Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Assuming losses in those, Joe will have to win at Minnesota, at Indiana and at home against Northwestern to get to 6-6, 400 wins and a bowl game.
Is that a sendoff or a rebuilding year?
The problem with OSU is that its schedule is typically backloaded with second-half meetings with Big 12 South heavies Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, Gundy has never beaten the LongSooners, or is it the SoonHorns? (Combined 0-10 against the two schools and 21-23 after Oct. 1.) Holgorsen has been the difference this year with his version of the spread option, getting the most out of new quarterback Brandon Weeden, established tailback Kendall Hunter and breakout receiver Justin Blackmon.
The problem remains a defense which has finished above 89th nationally only once in Gundy's previous five seasons. This season's unit is marginally better in its second year under coordinator Bill Young. It is No. 88 nationally allowing more than 400 yards per game.
The difference is Holgorsen, a 39-year-old Mike Leach discipline who spent eight seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant, the final three as offensive coordinator. Holgorsen came to Okie State after a couple of seasons tutoring Case Keenum at Houston. Keenum is out with a season-ending injury but is seeking a sixth year of eligibility in 2011 during which he could become the NCAA's career passing yards leader.
Weeden, who turns 27 this week, is a former minor-league pitcher who is finding a new career playing pitch and catch out of the shotgun. Almost halfway through the season, Weeden has the fourth-most passing yards in the country leading the No. 2 scoring unit.
"[Weeden] was just a poor practice player," Gundy said. "There's a reason why we changed offenses. He can't execute [OSU's 2005-09] offense. It wasn't set up for him. ...We thought he could function at a high level, but we didn't know."