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Tony's Top 10: 9/11 brings perspective amid NCAA craziness

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For a moment, let's turn our heads away from the fact that Baylor president Ken Starr has Texas A&M locked in the basement until somebody promises to keep the Bears in a big-boy conference with big-boy money.

Let's turn our heads away from the fact that Florida's Sharrif Floyd, who grew up poorer than poor, has to sit for two games for being honest. He accepted money from someone who was trying to help the kid pay his living expenses -- someone who was not connected to an agent and was not connected to Florida. No recruiting advantage was gained. He could have kept the information to himself, but told Florida because it was the right thing to do. He missed last week's opener and the NCAA tacked on another game. Will Muschamp is seething and I don't blame him. This was a bad ruling. It should have been only one game.

Let's turn our head away from the money grab that may be coming if the Big 12 falls apart and its members get scattered to the winds. It may be good for the bank accounts of those who survive, but Kansas playing in a 20-team Big East is not good for college athletics, period. How would you like to be Baylor or Iowa State right about now?

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Instead, let's lift our heads and remember all the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, and the families who lost love ones. I was on my way to Knoxville to do some interviews when the planes hit the Twin Towers. I will never forget sitting down with Will Overstreet, Tennessee's great defensive end. He had a cell phone in his hand. His sister was in Washington, D.C. and scheduled to be near the Pentagon that day. He could not reach her and was waiting on her call. It finally came.

Conference expansion doesn't seem like a big deal right now, does it?

Let's get on to the Top 10:

1. Brian Kelly will be fine. Just keep the blood pressure medication close by. I saw there was an actual debate this week about whether Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly got a little too angry during last week's 23-20 loss to USF in South Bend. People, please. Kelly is a football coach -- a very good football coach, in fact. When players do stupid things, coaches scream at them. And when players do really stupid things, coaches get really upset. You think Ara Parseghian didn't dress players down? Lou Holtz would light you up for a stupid mistake. What if Notre Dame had shown an ounce of courage and kept George O'Leary? Now there's a coach who knows how to chew out players.

It's called accountability. But since it has become an issue, it will be interesting to watch Kelly's demeanor Saturday night at Michigan.

2. It's a big game for Mark Richt. Okay, it's a really big game. Georgia coach Mark Richt is about as even-tempered as they come. But even his patience is getting tested. Earlier this week he was asked by a reporter if Saturday's game with No. 12 South Carolina was a "must win."

Now no coach on the planet is going to let those words come out of his mouth. So Richt said, "It's a really crucial game," which it is for Georgia because Richt is feeling some heat after the Bulldogs were beaten 35-21 by No. 4 Boise State last Saturday.

The reporter persisted: "But is it a must win?"

Good thing Brian Kelly wasn't asked that.

Yes, it's a big game for Richt. The loser of the Georgia-South Carolina game has never won the SEC East. If Georgia loses, it will start to get really ugly. But the fact is that Georgia can lose and still win the SEC East. South Carolina won the division last season with a 5-3 record.

3. Duke won't be back in Black. Don't expect Duke to wear anything other than its basic blue and white uniforms on Saturday at home against No. 6 Stanford. Last week coach David Cutcliffe was trying to generate some excitement for the home opener with Richmond, a good FCS team. So the Blue Devils warmed up in their traditional home uniforms and returned to the locker room. Duke took the field for the kickoff wearing all black while the PA system blasted AC/DC's Back in Black. The final? Richmond 23, Duke 21. Besides, no uniform is going to slow down Andrew Luck.

4. Let's just call it The Cam Newton Bowl. When Cameron Newton left junior college in 2010 he appeared to be headed to Mississippi State to play for Dan Mullen, who had been his quarterback coach at Florida. Newton instead signed with Auburn and proceeded to lead the Tigers to the national championship, win the Heisman Trophy and become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. I think it was fair to say the Mississippi State folks were not happy with that sequence of events.

The Bulldogs lost to Auburn 17-14 last year in Starkville. Now Auburn is rebuilding, as last week' 42-38 win over Utah State will attest. Mississippi State rolled up over 600 yards of total offense in 22 minutes against Memphis last week. Auburn will play better this week, but if the Bulldogs get up big, don't expect Mullen to take his foot off the gas.

5. Will this be Joe Paterno's last game against Alabama? It's no secret Penn State coach Joe Paterno and former Alabama coach Bear Bryant had a great deal of respect for one another. So it is amazing that Paterno, 84, will still be on the sideline, almost 30 years after Bryant's death, when Penn State hosts Alabama on Saturday afternoon. The last time Alabama came to Happy Valley, the Crimson Tide's Thomas Rayam blocked a chip shot field goal with seconds left to preserve a 17-16 win. Paterno has been in the sideline for all 15 meetings between the schools -- 14 as head coach and one as Penn State assistant in 1959. There are no future games scheduled between the two schools, so barring a bowl game matchup, this could be the last time Joe Pa faces Alabama.

6. Now about that Cy-Hawk Trophy. Until Aug. 19, the rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State barely caused a ripple outside the state. But then Iowa Corn, which sponsors the game, decided to change the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which goes to the winner. The new trophy had a farmer kneeling over a basket of corn in the presence of his family. I swear I am not making this up.

It was a concept that was just born for Twitter, which had a field day with the design. The governor didn't like it. Former coach Hayden Fry didn't like it, which is reason enough to change. ESPN.com called it "something your grandmother would buy off the home shopping channel." The trophy had a shorter shelf life than New Coke.

So the Iowa Corn folks will go back to the drawing board, this time with fan input. An interim trophy will be awarded on Saturday in Ames when Iowa tries to beat the Cyclones for the seventh time in nine seasons.

7. Sacramento State. Really? Oregon State had not lost a home opener since 2001. The Beavers had a back run for 223 yards. They had eight starters return on offense. Still Oregon State lost 29-28 to Sacramento State, which was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference (FCS). How does a team recover from that and get ready to visit No. 8 Wisconsin, which looked All-World last week in destroying UNLV?

"A lot of this will be a mental factor for our team because, as we all know, in sports confidence is a big deal," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley.

Uh-huh. And confidence will be harder to come by once Oregon State sees Russell Wilson up close and personal.

8. BYU-Texas could be a conference game next year. It appears unlikely the dysfunctional family that is the Big 12 conference can be saved, but if it can be, then Saturday's BYU-Texas a game could be a conference matchup in the future. Brigham Young is in its first season as an independent since leaving the Mountain West, but the Cougars could be a strong candidate to replace Texas A&M, which has an invitation to join the SEC when all of its legal issues get resolved. BYU already has its own network, so the Cougars will fit right in with the Big 12. BYU is 2-0 all-time against Texas and here is the thing that should scare the Longhorns: BYU went on the road last week and held Ole Miss to 208 yards of total offense. This is a dangerous game for Texas.

9. Hey Utes! Welcome to the Pac-12. I guess they couldn't let Utah sort of ease into life as a member of the Pac-12. No, the Utes have to go straight to the Coliseum and take on a USC team that almost got beat by Minnesota (19-17) last week. After looking in from the other side of the glass for so long, Utah wants to prove it belongs with the big boys in its first time up to bat. It will be interesting to see if Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow has anything up his sleeve for his old team. Word on the street was Chow held a bunch of stuff back in last week's 27-10 over Montana State.

10. Talk about a change of pace. Last week TCU, which had led the nation in total defense for three straight years, got shredded by Baylor's Robert Griffin III, who had 359 yards passing and five touchdowns. Now the Horned Frogs open Mountain West play on the road against the option attack of an Air Force team that won nine games last year and is good enough to compete for the conference championship. The Falcons had a pretty vanilla showing in a 37-20 win in the opener with South Dakota State. "They went about their business and still won 37-20," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "We'll be like Custer going over the hill, so we better be ready." Tim Jefferson, the Air Force quarterback, is really good.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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