Senior Writer

25 Things to Watch: Football saves us after Summer of Sleaze


This space is supposed to contain 25 Things to Watch for the 2010 season. Turns out to be more like 200 if you include all the headlines, categories, lists and predictions.

Couldn't help it. Like the Big Ten or the Gosselin family, 25 Things expanded. Good for the reader. Bad for Lane Kiffin, Damon Evans and Jeremiah Masoli (among others). All we asked for was an offseason. What we got was perpetual conference-shifting, scandal, investigations, transfers and an infamous pair of women's underwear.

Which is a good place to start in what was ...

1. The Summer of Sleaze

Damon Evans' Red Panties Diaries
USC gets The Big Haircut from the NCAA
Gork's Gator Hat
Alabama can't spell Mississippi
Nick Saban can spell P-I-M-P, yo.

Nannygate at Carolina ... Masoli at Ole Miss ... BYU at, well, nowhere ... agents everywhere!

What's your favorite scandal from this offseason of oops, hiatus of hilarity, this time-off travesty, this Summer of Sleaze? It started with a relatively low-key conference realignment. It ended with, well, the only way it does end is to finally play some football.

Isn't it?

Lane Kiffin at USC will be one of the best things to watch all year. (Getty Images)  
Lane Kiffin at USC will be one of the best things to watch all year. (Getty Images)  
This was the offseason that never seemed to end. When it began Jeremiah Masoli was still at Oregon, Pete Carroll was still at USC, Lane Kiffin was at Tennessee, Nebraska was still in the Big 12 and BYU was perfectly happy in the Mountain West. This was the offseason when TMZ broke realignment news (and sometimes was right). became a must-bookmark.

If you walked into a certain South Beach nightspot this summer, you might have seen the top two rounds of the 2011 draft. In what seemed to be an agent recruiting party for top talent, several schools -- Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina among them -- were holding their breath. The NCAA, with its understaffed, overworked investigators, finally couldn't ignore the obvious. As long as young adult males are attracted by money and women, stuff happens.

Someday they're going to make a movie about those amazing six days in June. In that span, Colorado left for the Pac-10, Nebraska left for the Big Ten, the Big 12 fell apart, then stayed together. But for how long?

About that movie, Saban beat everyone to it (see below).

In the middle of the upheaval, USC was kneecapped by the NCAA with some of the most crippling penalties in recent memory. Lane Kiffin took the job in January assured that the NCAA would be playing Wiffle ball instead of hardball. That's what he gets for listening to Mike Garrett. Kiffin now has a new boss (Pat Haden) and a dark future. The new coach works at a place that has more than twice as many compliance staffers (15) than he has career college wins (seven).

How wild was it? A sitting school president (Boise State's Bob Kustra) called another school's fans "inebriated" and hardly moved the controversy needle.

Yeah, we need to play some football.

2. Chances of Alabama repeating as national champions ...

Better than Lindsay Lohan/Roger Clemens/Barry Bonds staying out of court ...

Better than the Hummer making a comeback ...

Better than your home equity rising by the end of the season ...

Equal with the SEC winning a fifth consecutive national championship.

Mark Ingram won't win a second Heisman, but the offense will be better. Ingram will be the third-best player on an offense that breaks out with Greg McElroy, Trent Richardson and Julio Jones. With the loss of nine starters, the defense will be top 20 instead of top 10. With the rest of the SEC slumping (exception: Florida), the schedule will be manageable. Biggest hurdle: beating the Gators twice to get to the BCS championship game.

In other words, you have to like the Tide's chances ...

3. ... Unless they get the big head ...

Which could happen based on an all-but-reclusive offseason in Tuscaloosa.

Saban went Hollywood and Bristol, allowing ESPN in for an all-access mini-doc about his program. That happens, you see, when the Worldwide Leader is paying multimillions to the SEC to be Alabama's de facto network.

Little new ground was broken unless you consider the news of McElroy taking offensive linemen out to dinner. Saban then starred in a movie debuting last week, Nick Saban, Gamechanger, a 93-minute salute to all things him and Alabama. It gave new meaning to red carpet.

This back-to-back championship chase needs to come with a warning label. There's no telling what we'll get if the Tide win it again. Extreme Makeover, Alabama? Last Dareus Standing? Comedy Central Presents: The Kirby Smart Roast?

When do we get Trent Richardson on Cribs, or the Eli Gold ap? It's good to see the Tide have, you know, kept things in perspective.

4. The Boise State Argument

In other sports, the little guy is loved, celebrated.

In college football, there is almost no room for a Cinderella. That's why a lot of folks are just now waking up to the idea that No. 3/5 Boise State can play for and win a national championship. The protests you hear mostly are coming from the South, where fans of a certain super conference are already contemplating the Broncos getting into the championship game over a one-loss SEC champion.

The dichotomy: Boise does have an easier road than your average BCS conference champion, but balance that with the credibility voters gave it by placing it in the preseason top five. The Broncos are good enough to be ranked high, but will the voters (and computers) reward them in the end?

Beat Virginia Tech and Oregon State and a Charmin-soft WAC schedule and we'll see. In that undefeated scenario, the only way the Broncos don't make it back to Glendale, Ariz., is if there are two undefeated major-conference champions or one undefeated champ and a one-loss champion from, say, the SEC or Big 12.

5. Blue turf in Pasadena

If Boise State doesn't play for the national championship, it has a good chance of landing in the Rose Bowl.

A little-known BCS rule this season states that the Rose must take a non-BCS team this year if one is eligible and the Rose loses one of its conference anchors. For that to happen, one or both of the anchors (Pac-10/Big Ten) would have to play in the BCS championship game.

What was last season's opener in Boise could be the Rose Bowl matchup in January -- Oregon vs. the Broncos.

6. Urban Renewal

He's in, he's out, he's back in. Urban Meyer is tanned, rested and ready to make another title run with the Gators.

The guy admits he was/is wound a bit tight. He went after a reporter when the scribe was basically doing his job. Meyer later admitted to texting -- in church!

"That," he said, "is certifiable."

There's no Tebow but there is John Brantley, who is well on his way to developing his own cult following in Gainesville. (Advice to the new quarterback: Keep walking, no matter what. Don't stop, ever. They'll get you with their Sharpies. That's certifiable, too.)

The offense will change to accommodate Brantley's drop-back game. Florida remains the fastest team in the country. It will need every bit of it on Oct. 2 when the Gators go to Alabama in the game that defines their season.

7. Mississippi's Masoli

It was the perfect storm of SEC lenience, Ole Miss desperation and player misconduct.

Voila, Jeremiah Masoli is in Oxford. When Houston Nutt suddenly needed a quarterback, he reached out to the waiver wire and plucked a flawed free agent from Oregon. At least Nutt was straight up about getting the former Oregon quarterback, saying, "I don't want to be hypocritical. I approached Jeremiah because of our team's needs."

Bravo for Nutt for at least admitting he was looking to shore up his roster through an NCAA loophole. Grad students are allowed to transfer without penalty if their course of study isn't available at their current school.

Related Links

The other players in this melodrama did not account for themselves as well. Masoli's family hired a crisis management firm to shop the quarterback's story to media outlets. Don't know if they got what they wanted. did a fine job of reporting. We found out both the depth of Masoli's misconduct and the desperation of his family.

The SEC doesn't look good as its image as a football-inclined league (at the expense of academics) is enhanced. Ole Miss looks worse. Notice that Vanderbilt, which we all know could use some quarterback help, didn't, as far as we know, contact Masoli. Neither did Kansas, another school in desperate need of a quarterback.

But at this school, in this league, there is always room for Jeremiah Masolis.

8. Coaches on the hot seat

Burning: Rich Rodriguez, Michigan; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Todd Dodge, North Texas; Paul Wulff, Washington State; Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; Ralph Friedgen, Maryland.

Smoldering: Les Miles, LSU; Mark Richt, Georgia; Ron Zook, Illinois; Bill Lynch, Indiana; Tim Brewster, Minnesota; Mike Locksley, New Mexico.

9. New coaches most likely to succeed

Patience is a virtue. It is almost unknown in major college football. In the past 10 years, the national-championship winning coach has been on the job at that school an average of 3.3 years. Every AD wants the next version of Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, who all won titles in their second season. Saban had the temerity to wait three years to deliver at Alabama.

Here are the new coaches for 2010 most set up for immediate success ...

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: He has been in the program three years. He recruited several of the players. He knows how to win, having gotten his big break under Saban. If the 'Noles aren't back in 2010, they will be in '11.

2. Skip Holtz, South Florida: Jim Leavitt left a lot of talent behind. Holtz knows it. The Bulls will continue to challenge for a Big East title and that breakthrough BCS bowl.

3. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech: Like Leavitt, Mike Leach left a load of talent behind. The Red Raiders will finish third in the Big 12 South, then challenge for the division title in future years if Tubs sticks around.

4. Butch Jones, Cincinnati: Jones followed Brian Kelly at Central Michigan, why not do it again at Cincy? The Bearcats are set up for a long run, having won 18 consecutive regular-season games.

5. Dan Enos, Central Michigan: His energy level is off the charts. Enos will miss Dan LeFevour, but the Chips will remain competitive in the MAC.

10. Where are they now?

Three coaches with a combined 229 victories and 31 years of experience aren't around this season. All three allegedly mistreated athletes in 2009. The game has been forgiving to those who have been accused of wrongdoing in the past (see: Rick Neuheisel, Mike Price). We'll see how these three fare in the future. For now, this is what they're doing ...

Mark Mangino (formerly of Kansas): Now residing in Naples, Fla.

Mike Leach (Texas Tech): Doing color analyst work for CBS College Sports

Jim Leavitt (South Florida): Residing in the Tampa/St. Pete area and, like Leach, is suing his former employer.

11. How long has it been for Notre Dame?

Glad you asked, Parseghian breath.

It has been so long since the last ND championship that its most experienced player, senior Brian Smith (34 games, 24 career starts), was born six days (Jan. 8, 1989) after the Irish won their last national title (Jan. 2, 1989).

New coach Brian Kelly is Notre Dame's fifth in the past nine years.

Case Keenum needs 4,123 yards to break Timmy Chang's I-A record of 17,072 career passing yards. (Getty Images)  
Case Keenum needs 4,123 yards to break Timmy Chang's I-A record of 17,072 career passing yards. (Getty Images)  
12. Milestones

 Houston quarterback Case Keenum needs 4,123 yards to break Timmy Chang's I-A record of 17,072 career passing yards. If he stays on his career average of 323 yards per game, Keenum would break Chang's record in the 13th game of the season -- either the Conference USA title game or the bowl game. Expect the record to fall sooner, though. Keenum averaged 405 yards per game (5,671 yards overall) while throwing 44 touchdowns last season.

 Wisconsin is a total of 170 yards short of having a 1,000-yard rusher 17 years in a row. As it is, 15 out of the past 17 years ain't bad. Dwayne Smith was 143 yards shy of 1,000 in 2003. Anthony Davis was 27 yards short in 2004. Current tailback John Clay will try to follow up a 1,517-yard season after offseason surgery on both ankles.

 Ohio State has won at least a share of five consecutive Big Ten titles. It would tie the Big Ten record (set by Ohio State) by winning again this season.

 Eleven of the 12 champions in the BCS era have come from below the 37th Parallel. In other words, the Sun Belt.

13. Rating the conferences

SEC: Six ranked teams, but the truth is the league has become Florida, Alabama and the 10 dwarves.

Big Ten: Back after an extended hiatus. Won a Rose Bowl for the first time in 10 years and beat four top 15-ranked opponents in the postseason. At least five deep with Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

Big 12: Three in the top 10 -- Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M need to step up.

ACC: Miami and Florida State are rising up to join Virginia Tech as powers.

Pac-10: USC's probation hurts a lot.

Big East: Pittsburgh a prohibitive favorite

Mountain West: TCU in line for second consecutive BCS bowl.

Conference USA: Houston, SMU, Central Florida all on the rise.

WAC: Once Boise leaves, the best thing this league has going for it is Louisiana Tech and Hawaii.

MAC: Temple should win but league is 2-15 in bowls the past four years.

Sun Belt: Won two games over BCS schools each of the past two seasons.

14. A brief interlude: In case you run out, some other names for Lane Kiffin

Lame Kitten
Maim Kiffin!
Monte's Boy
Al Davis' Revenge
Could I Have A Word ... (Pat Haden only)
Could We Have a Word ... (NCAA only)

15. Let's go streaking

Nation's longest winning streaks going into 2010: Alabama, Boise State, 14; Middle Tennessee, 7; Ohio State, 6; BYU, Virginia Tech and Central Michigan, 5.

Longest losing streaks: Western Kentucky, 20; Eastern Michigan 12; Washington State, Colorado State, 9; Vanderbilt 8.

16. Let's not

Most likely dates those streaks will end ...

Alabama, Oct. 2 vs. Florida
Boise State, Sept. 6 vs. Virginia Tech
Middle Tennessee, Oct. 16 at Georgia Tech
Ohio State, Oct. 16 at Wisconsin
BYU, Sept. 18 at Florida State
Virginia Tech, Nov. 20 at Miami
Central Michigan, Sept. 11 at Temple

Western Kentucky, Oct. 30 vs. North Texas
Eastern Michigan, Oct. 2 vs. Ohio
Washington State, Sept. 11 vs. Montana State
Colorado State, Sept. 25 vs. Idaho
Vanderbilt, Oct. 9 vs. Eastern Michigan

17. Defusing a bomb

It promises to be an uncomfortable final year in the Big 12 for Nebraska. But on Oct. 16 Husker fans get to raise a middle a finger or two as Texas comes to town. You can't spell ugly departure without UT. For a variety of reasons, Texas has been blamed by Nebraska officials for forcing the Huskers to the Big Ten.

Just don't tell Mack Brown. Texas' coach has done his best to drain the hostility out of that meeting.

"It's the only place in the country where I've been where we broke a 47-game home winning streak [1998] and I thought Ricky Williams would get abused after the game," Brown said. "Those fans stayed and gave him a standing ovation after the game and they gave him a chant, 'Heisman, Heisman, Heisman.'

"To me, Nebraska has the best fans in the country. If there has been some tension between Texas and Nebraska I don't see it carrying over to the kids, I don't see it carrying it over to the coaches. By and large, Nebraska has the classiest setup in the country."

Your move, hatin' Huskers. You're 1-8 against Texas in Big 12 play.

18. An offseason refresher

Is conference realignment over? No. The Big Ten wants to establish a beachhead on the East Coast, perhaps by the end of the year. We're already hearing the league is infatuated with Rutgers and Maryland.

If the Big Ten goes to 14 teams, then what does the SEC do? All-out war is still on the horizon on the expansion front. Jim Delany is still playing God as the Big Ten "pauses" until its next round of expansion. Meanwhile, in summation: Nebraska left for the Big Ten (beginning in 2011). Colorado left for the Pac-10 (beginning in 2012). Utah did the same thing, only it will leave the Mountain West after this season. Boise State replaces Utah in 2011. Nevada and Fresno State will join the MWC in 2011 or 2012.

Notre Dame stayed put and we still don't know what BYU is doing.

A certain burnt orange crown jewel remains the key. You can sum up Texas' intentions with this June 14 press release ...

AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas' athletics program will continue competing in the Big 12 Conference, the university announced today.

Doesn't exactly sound permanent. Stay tuned for updates.

19. The Pac-10 attacks

Don't forget that sleepy, laid-back conference on the Left Coast. The Pac-10 went gangsta in June trying to blow up the Big 12 by inviting half the conference.

It was all set to happen until Texas figured the time wasn't politically right. What we learned is that there is quite a hustler and playah under the calm exterior of commissioner Larry Scott. Just like Delany, he is not done yet.

20. The BCS grows a set

For all of its faults, the BCS manned up this summer. Huge. Last month, executive director Bill Hancock announced that the BCS would vacate USC's 2004 title if its NCAA appeal failed.

You can argue that USC's acts of contrition opened the door for the BCS and the Football Writers Association of America.

Maybe, but I never thought I would see the day that the BCS would be in the business of punishing a fellow member.

Remember, USC/Reggie Bush had been an issue for three or four years. Each time the subject of vacating came up, a BCS official kind of shuffled nervously and tried to change the subject. It didn't want to have to make the decision to take away a BCS championship.

Once the penalties were announced June 10, Bush's conduct made the decision easy. BCS action is going to happen and it's going to be embarrassing. The FWAA became the first entity to vacate USC's 2004 championship on Aug. 26. The National Football Foundation is watching closely.

Has it been easy to pile on? You bet. There are plenty of villains. Bush stuck a shiv in the program's back, denied any wrongdoing, offered to help in the appeals process, then "apologized." Pete Carroll and Mike Garrett looked the other way or didn't want to look at all.

It's uncomfortable for USC. It's supposed to be. The only shame is the current players who must do without postseason opportunities the next two years.

The next step for the BCS is to actually ask USC to return the crystal ball from '04.

21. Bye, bye Bobby

The last time Bobby Bowden didn't roam a sideline as a head coach was 1969. We are all the worse for it now that he is gone from Florida State.

As usual, he stayed classy when brutally cut loose by one of his former players, Florida State president T.K. Wetherell. The rest of his life is being spent doing speaking engagements, spreading his faith and being the subject of a fine new book -- Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football.

Dad-gum it, there will never be another one like him.

22. JoePa's days are numbered

Or are they? A lot of us freaked out when we saw how frail Penn State's coach looked earlier this month at the Big Ten media days.

It sucks getting old. It sucks worse doing it in front of millions of people. Don't be surprised if Vegas starts offering odds on if this will be the legend's final year. He fought a dental infection in the offseason. He then had a bad reaction to the antibiotics it took to clear it up.

You just hope that Paterno doesn't go through the same thing Bowden did. JoePa is six victories short of 400. The Nittany Lions are more than competitive. Remember when the argument used to be that recruits would stop coming because of his age? Now they're coming, in part, because they want to say they played for a legend.

If this is it for Joe, the short list for replacements looks like this: Randy Edsall, Connecticut; Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Al Golden, Temple; Tom Bradley, defensive coordinator; Larry Johnson, defensive line coach; Jay Paterno, quarterbacks coach.

23. Shakeout Saturday

Usually we have to wait until October for this kind of defining Saturday. The biggest weekend of the season comes in Week 2 on Sept. 11.

Penn State at Alabama: Does Paterno's farewell tour go through Tuscaloosa? Before each game, Bear Bryant growls on the video board, "I ain't nothing but a winner." On this night, he's got company.

Miami at Ohio State: Before the Ohio State band dots the "I", the Hurricanes will attempt to punch Terry Porter in the eye.

Florida State at Oklahoma: Rematch of the 2000 national championship game. Hopefully, with more points.

Michigan at Notre Dame: Must-win for Rich Rod? Second ND win for B.K.?

Oregon at Tennessee: Not the opponent Derek Dooley wants to play in his second game as a Vol.

Georgia at South Carolina: The winner clinches second place in the SEC East.

South Florida at Florida: Put up or shut up. USF wants to make it the Big Four in Florida. Here's its chance.

24. The All-Name Team

The annual tradition of the All-Name team is enhanced this year by the addition of a legendary Texas A&M tailback, legendary not so much for becoming the Big 12 Freshman of the Year or leading the Aggies in rushing. For Christine Michael it is, of course, his name. First off, he's a dude. Second, when she was pregnant, mom wanted a girl. When a boy arrived, she stuck with the female name but changed the pronunciation to Christin.

Not exactly macho but we'll take it. If college football can have a boy named Suh, it can certainly have a tailback named Christine.

RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
RB: Gee Gee Greene, Navy
QB: Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh
OL: Cameron Zipp, Southern Miss
OL: Giancarlo Revilla, Florida International
OL: Faraji Wright, Boise State
OL: Lazarius Levingston, LSU
OL: Senio Kelemete, Washington
TE: Ferbia Allen, Ole Miss
WR: Frantrell Forrest, Alabama-Birmingham
WR: LaVon Brazill, Ohio

DL: Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
DL: Sealver Siliga, Utah
DL: Kwamaine Battle, Virginia Tech
DL: Ladi Ajiboye, South Carolina
LB: Cobrani Mixon, Kent State
LB: Culmer St. Jean, Wisconsin
LB: Eltoro Freeman, Auburn
DB: Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
DB: DeJon Gomes, Nebraska
DB: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
DB: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

Special teams
P: Dylan Breeding, Arkansas
K: San San Te, Rutgers
RET: Shiloh Keo, Idaho

25. In and Out

In: The 3-4 defense
Out: The 4-3 defense

In: Alabama
Out: Florida

In: Fullbacks
Out: Naked backfields

In: South Beach
Out: North Carolina

In: Nannies
Out: Cliffs Notes

In: Vacating wins
Out: Vacationing in Europe

In: Oversight and compliance at USC
Out: Mike Garrett

In: Big Ten expansion
Out: Big 12 stability

In: Jimbo
Out: Bobby (sadly)

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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