Tag:Kentucky
Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:00 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 11:54 pm
 

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen at SEC Media Days

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The last coach to speak on Day 1 of the 2011 SEC Media Days was Dan Mullen, head coach of the upstart Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 (4-4) last season, good enough for a No. 15 ranking to end the year (even while only managing a fifth-place finish in the six-team SEC West).

If those numbers seem merely good but not outstanding, objectively speaking, yes, that's true. This is Mississippi State we're talking about, however, a football program with just two nine-win seasons in the last 30 years (1998 and 1999) and a historical reputation alongside Vanderbilt and Kentucky at the bottom of the SEC. So clearly, nine wins is a big deal, and considering the amount of offense returning (nine positional starters and the kicker), it's hardly out of the question for a second straight year.

At Wednesday's Media Days appearance, Mullen credited his fans early and often for that turnaround, citing the 10 straight sellouts thus far, and he seemed to indicate that their continued support is what'll keep Mississippi State performing at such a high level consistently going forward.

For our fans, when I got hired, they were saying, "Boy, if we start winning games, you'll sell out the stadium and things will be great." It actually works in the reverse. You sell out the stadium, you create this game day environment, you're going to start winning football games. Our fans really bought into it. They bought into their role and their responsibility in making our team successful.

Questions about the Bulldogs' personnel were a little light, focusing only on bruising tailback Vick Ballard (968 yards, 19 TDs in 2010) and returning quarterback Chris Relf, a senior in 2011. Ballard was a first-year starter in 2010, coming out of junior college, and Mullen cited the praise from Ballard's coaches as a main indicator of future success. "When the coaches come out, and his junior college coaches say, 'He's the one that makes us go,' that's something that really draws your attention as a coach," Mullen said.

Mullen did not have such high praise for Relf as a prospect, however; Mullen said that in his first year coaching the Bulldogs, he "had a lot of doubts whether [Relf] could play quarterback in the SEC. Chris played his first year, relied on some of his natural ability, ran the ball well, made some good throws, but was very inconsistent." Mullen is now impressed with Relf's development and decision-making, and the coach praised Relf's maturity several times during the interview.

Of note, also, is Mullen's near-unconditional support of Mike Slive's academic proposals, noting correctly that currently, high school academic eligibility and college acceptance standards don't have much in common with each other, and that a high school student-athlete's grades usually climb considerably during his senior year once the importance of academics becomes tangible. "I'm all for increasing the standards," Mullen said. "We just want to make sure there's a plan in place, that we don't just increase the standards but don't have a plan to raise the standards of these young people while they're in high school as well."

One thing Mullen didn't bother mentioning, however, was his team's in-state rival: Ole Miss. Not once was that football program, its school, its fan base, its coach, its players, or any other aspect of its existence acknowledged during the course of Mullen's 40-minute appearance -- not even when Mullen was asked about the "Welcome To Our State" billboard on Mississippi's border that bears his face and his school's logo. Oh, Mullen mentioned Southern Miss and its head coach, Larry Fedora, as two parties that might not appreciate the billboard, but the billboard's real aim -- riling up Rebels fans -- went unmentioned. 

Indeed, Mullen preferred to discuss Starkville and Mississippi State, implicitly thumbing his nose at Ole Miss' famed campus and tailgating at the Grove as follows (emphasis ours):  

"I give our athletic department a lot of credit. They've made our game day not just a game. They've made it an event. If you come to Starkville on a Saturday, it is an event. It's the place to be in Mississippi. There is so much going on for everybody in the family, whether it be out in the parking lot, in the tailgating, in the kids' area outside the stadium, to actually all the excitement of the game itself. They have all bought in, and our fans have done that."

"I think one of the biggest challenges we had was people coming to Starkville.... You just don't pass it by. It's a hidden gem. Everybody that comes to visit us, that's the challenge we've had. Once they come on campus, whether it be recruits, parents, even fans, they say, 'Wow, I didn't know what a beautiful place this is, what a great place to live, what a great community Starkville, Mississippi is.' That's within our challenge."


Posted on: July 18, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Are Vols fans not sold on Dooley?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If you want a quick and easy gauge of how happy a college football team's fanbase is with its current lot in life, check out their season ticket sales. Auburn fans? Yep, pretty happy: they've sold out their season tickets for this season. Oregon fans? Hope you like standing-room-only. Think Mississippi State supporters are pleased with Dan Mullen's decision to return to Starkville for another season? They've already broken their record for earliest sell-out, set just last year.

Contrast that with the reports out of Tennessee, where the picture isn't nearly so rosy:
As of Friday, the school had sold roughly 61,500 of its 72,500 season tickets, said UT senior associate athletic director for external operations Chris Fuller. That's about 2,000-2,500 tickets fewer than what was sold at this point last year.
"We've got some work left to do for sure," Fuller said. "When you look at the factors in our case, obviously most of our fans lock in on performance.
"If you win, they'll come."
Certainly, last year's 6-7 mark isn't the kind of winning Volunteer fans are used to. But the chaos of the Lane Kiffin era didn't exactly leave the cupboard full, and on paper, Tennessee should be much improved in 2011. There's budding stars at quarterback (Tyler Bray) and wide receiver (Justin Hunter); arguably the SEC's best secondary now that Janzen Jackson has returned; the natural improvement that comes with being in the second year of a coaching transition; and the impressive* four-game winning streak to end the regular season.

In short, this seems like the perfect formula for an atmosphere of optimism and excitement, and with dates against LSU, Georgia and South Carolina, the home schedule shouldn't be that much of a drag. So why aren't Volunteer fans buying in? Is there a way to answer that question that doesn't suggest skepticism regarding Derek Dooley?

Maybe. The economy's still no great shakes, of course. Cavernous Neyland Stadium means that sell-outs are going to be naturally harder to come by. And improved or not, the Vols are almost certainly still another year or two away from being an SEC East contender again.

But we doubt too many Mississippi State fans believe they've got a shot at an SEC West title, and that hasn't stopped them. No team in the country has been more disappointing over the past two seasons than Georgia, but the Dawgs sold out their 2010 season tickets with ease and have already bought their entire allotment of seats for the 2011 opener vs. Boise State. In the SEC, any glimmer of hope is usually enough for demand to outstrip supply.

Not selling out still isn't an issue, necessarily, considering the huge numbers of seats the Vols have available. But that tickets are selling at a reduced pace in year two of the Dooley era suggests all the same that the Volunteer rank-and-file simply weren't impressed by year one, and don't yet see the need to get in on the ground floor for years three and four.

It's far too early to start speculating about what this might mean for Dooley's job security. But with a new A.D. in charge (eventually), we also don't doubt Dooley is already feeling the pressure to make sure that downward arrow on the sales graph is heading in a different direction this time next summer.

*Yeah, the wins came over Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Still, the average margin of victory in the streak was 24 points, with none of the four decided by single digits. That's nothing to sneeze at.



Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: July 8, 2011 11:02 am
 

Outland Trophy Watch List released

Posted by Chip Patterson

Check the time, we got another watch for you. 

The Football Writers Association of America also released its 2011 Outland Trophy Watch list on Friday.

The trophy is awarded annually to the best interior lineman in college football. Only tackles, guards and centers from both sides of the ball (defensive tackles are included) are eligible for the award. Of the 65 players currently on the watch list, 16 of them are defensive tackles.

The Outland Trophy dates back to 1946 and is one of the oldest annual awards in college football.

This award honors the often-thankless positions that fight in the trenches and establish the line every Saturday. Last year's winner was Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi.

Who do you have pegged as a favorite in 2011? Let us know in the comment section below.

2011 OUTLAND TROPHY PRESEASON WATCH LIST (65)
Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State, OT Ryan Miller, Colorado, G
Jeff Allen, Illinois, OT David Molk, Michigan, C
Don Barclay, West Virginia, OT Al Netter, Northwestern, OT
Chris Barker, Nevada, G Lucas Nix, Pittsburgh, OT
Kelvin Beachum, SMU, OT Xavier Nixon, Florida, OT
Tony Bergstrom, Utah, OT Trevor Olson, Northern Illinois, OT
Mike Brewster, Ohio State, C Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, OT
James Brown, Troy, OT Moe Petrus, Connecticut, C
Jared Crick, Nebraska, DT Ken Plue, Purdue, G
Andrew Datko, Florida State, OT Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT
David DeCastro, Stanford, G Nate Potter, Boise State, OT
Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech, OT Tydreke Powell, North Carolina, DT
Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech, G Kheeston Randall, Texas, DT
Joel Foreman, Michigan State, G Riley Reiff, Iowa, OT
Marcus Forston, Miami, DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut, DT
Dalton Freeman, Clemson, C Matt Reynolds, BYU, OT
Garth Gerhart, Arizona State, C Mitchell Schwartz, California, OT
Cordy Glenn, Georgia, OT Kawann Short, Purdue, DT
Ben Habern, Oklahoma, C Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss, OT
Braden Hansen, BYU, G Akeem Spence, Illinois, DT
Logan Harrell, Fresno State, DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington, DT
Dan Hoch, Missouri, OT Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State, G
Khaled Holmes, USC, C Chris Thompson, Houston, C
Jaye Howard, Florida, DT Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech, G
Malik Jackson, Tennessee, DT William Vlachos, Alabama, C
Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh, G Larry Warford, Kentucky, G
T.J. Johnson, South Carolina, C Brandon Washington, Miami, G
Barrett Jones, Alabama, G Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina, OT
Ben Jones, Georgia, C Billy Winn, Boise State, DT
Matt Kalil, USC, OT Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati, DT
Jonathan Martin, Stanford, OT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, DT
Mike Martin, Michigan, DT Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin, G
Zack Martin, Notre Dame, OT  
By conference: Big Ten 13, SEC 11, Pac-12 9, ACC 7, Big 12 7, Big East 6, Conference USA 3, Independents 3, Mountain West 2, WAC 2, MAC 1, Sun Belt 1.
Tackles, guards and centers are eligible for consideration
Candidates may be added or removed during the season

Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:40 am
Edited on: July 8, 2011 10:53 am
 

Bronko Nagurski Watch List released

Posted by Chip Patterson

The "Watch" Watch continues on as the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have released the first watch list for the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

The award is given annually to the nation's best defensive player, as selected by FWAA All-America Committee members. Players can be added or deleted from the watch list at any time throughout the season, a player not on the list can work his way on by being name Defensive Player of the Week by the FWAA.

Check out the full watch list below. Any snubs? Who's your favorite? Let us know in the comment section below.

2011 BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY PRESEASON WATCH LIST (87)
Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami, S Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, S
Mark Barron, Alabama, S Mike Martin, Michigan, DT
Jake Bequette, Arkansas, DE Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, LB
Brandon Boykin, Georgia, CB Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy, DE
Nigel Bradham, Florida State, LB Michael Mauti, Penn State, LB
Tanner Brock, TCU, LB T.J. McDonald, USC, S
Arthur Brown, Kansas State, LB Chase Minnifield, Virginia, CB
Zach Brown, North Carolina, LB Charles Mitchell, Mississippi State, S
Vince Browne, Northwestern, DE Roosevelt Nix, Kent State, DE
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State, LB Donte Paige-Moss, North Carolina, DE
Miles Burris, San Diego State, LB Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT
Tank Carder, TCU, LB Tydreke Powell, North Carolina, DT
Morris Claiborne, LSU, CB Shaun Prater, Iowa, CB
Quinton Coples, North Carolina, DE Kheeston Randall, Texas, DT
Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, DE Kendall Reyes, Connecticut, DT
Jared Crick, Nebraska, DT Xavier Rhodes, Florida State, CB
Vinny Curry, Marshall, DE Adrian Robinson, Temple, DE
Lavonte David, Nebraska, LB Josh Robinson, UCF, CB
Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, CB Keenan Robinson, Texas, LB
Tony Dye, UCLA, S J.K. Schaffer, Cincinnati, LB
Marcus Forston, Miami, DT Kawann Short, Purdue, DT
Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, LB Mychal Sisson, Colorado State, LB
Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, CB Shayne Skov, Stanford, LB
Zaviar Gooden, Missouri, LB Harrison Smith, Notre Dame, S
Logan Harrell, Fresno State, DT Akeem Spence, Illinois, DT
Cliff Harris, Oregon, CB Sean Spence, Miami, LB
Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, CB Alameda Ta'amu, Washington, DT
Dont'a Hightower, Alabama, LB Keith Tandy, West Virginia, CB
Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, CB Kenny Tate, Maryland, S/LB
Jaye Howard, Florida, DT Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech, LB
Delano Howell, Stanford, S Devin Taylor, South Carolina, DE
Bruce Irvin, West Virginia, DE Manti Te'o, Notre Dame, LB
Malik Jackson, Tennessee, DT Taylor Thompson, SMU, DE
Brandon Jenkins, Florida State, DE Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, LB
James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, LB
Coryell Judie, Texas A&M, CB Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee, S
Mychal Kendricks, California, LB Bobby Wagner, Utah State, LB
Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama, CB Brian Wagner, Akron, LB
Jake Knott, Iowa State, LB Korey Williams, Southern Miss, LB
Luke Kuechly, Boston College, LB Nathan Williams, Ohio State, DE
Robert Lester, Alabama, S Billy Winn, Boise State, DT
Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, LB Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati, DT
Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh, DE Jerel Worthy, Michigan State, DT
Brad Madison, Missouri, DE  
By conference: SEC 19, ACC 14, Big Ten 10, Big 12 9, Pac-12 9, Big East 6, Conference USA 5, Mountain West 5, Independents 3, MAC 3, WAC 3, Sun Belt 1.
Players may be added or deleted from the list before or during the season
Posted on: June 30, 2011 4:38 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Kentucky unveils new uniforms

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Nike will not stop until it has changed every uniform worn in the world of sports, and Kentucky is the latest team to get a makeover. The school unveiled the new jerseys on Thursday, and they don't look that much different than Kentucky's old jerseys, but you can now play checkers on the sleeves. Which will probably help pass some time for players on the sidelines.





I'm not a huge fan, but, hey, it's Nike. It could be a lot worse. 

Photos courtesy of Kentucky Sports Radio 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings show SEC stability

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When it comes to the SEC and coaching turnover, there's reputation, and there's reality.

The reputation is that with a heaping help of pressure from the nation's most rabid fanbases, the nation's most cutthroat conference hires and fires head coaches on the slightest of whims, for the most gentle of disappointments. And certainly, there have been some head-scratchers over the years, like David Cutcliffe's sudden dismissal from Ole Miss or Houston Nutt's tumultuous departure from Arkansas despite years of success.

But as illustrated by Dennis Dodd's CBS Hot Seat Ratings, since the 2008 season -- and the surprising exits of long-tenured Auburn and Tennessee head coaches Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer, as well as Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom -- the league that supposedly sees its head coaches change with the wind has in fact become a model of relative stability. Collectively, the SEC has fired just a single coach the past two seasons--Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell, himself only hired as a last-minute replacement following Bobby Johnson's retirement.

Four other coaches have left the league in that span, but all of them -- Urban Meyer at Florida, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Rich Brooks at Kentucky and Johnson -- did so voluntarily, and in Brooks's case the seamless transition to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips barely even qualifies as a "coaching change."

That newfound reticence to put coaches on the firing line is reflected in Dodd's ratings, which show just one current SEC coach rated above the median "on the bubble" 3. You get one guess who:

Alabama Nick Saban 0.0
Arkansas Bobby Petrino 1.0
Auburn Gene Chizik 0.0
Florida Will Muschamp 0.5
Georgia Mark Richt 3.5
LSU Les Miles 2.5
Mississippi Houston Nutt 3.0
Mississippi State Dan Mullen 0.0
South Carolina Steve Spurrier 0.0
Kentucky Joker Phillips 1.5
Tennessee Derek Dooley 3.0
Vanderbilt James Franklin 2.0

Assuming we don't have some unforeseen three-win meltdown with Nutt in Oxford, there's a very real possibility the SEC enters 2012 with the same 11 head coaches listed above. Richt is -- without question -- the SEC coach in the most trouble, but he's also a coach with an extremely favorable 2011 schedule, a wealth of talent on hand, and perhaps the most patient administration in the conference.

And if Richt's still here, who won't be? The Spurrier retirement rumors have been securely put to bed with the arrival of recruits like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. A big 2010 has Miles back on (mostly) firm footing; it'll take multiple down years (or a grass overdose) for him to earn a pink slip. Dooley has at least another couple of seasons with the benefit of the doubt (if we may quibble with Dodd's "3"). And while the aforementioned meltdown might do the trick for Nutt with the Rebels, between his track record and the back-to-back Cotton Bowls -- not something that happens on the regular in Oxford -- he almost certainly has another season of rope.

The most likely coach to keep the SEC from going 12-for-12 in the retention department isn't likely to be fired at all, in fact; it's Dan Mullen, who could be one more sterling season in Starkville away from getting the kind of megabucks, keystone program offer the Bulldogs just can't quite match.

But the guess here is that Dodd, overall, is entirely correct--if Mullen stays put and Richt can salvage eight or nine wins, there's not enough heat under the SEC seats to expect a coaching change anywhere in the league's 12 head coaching positions.


Posted on: June 17, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: June 17, 2011 11:26 am
 

Kentucky No. 1 RB undergoes knee surgery

Posted by Chip Patterson

Joker Phillips' first season at Kentucky was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but the Wildcats were able to finish the regular season 6-6 and return to the postseason for the fifth straight year. Much of that was thanks to the work of playmakers Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb. With Locke and Cobb gone, the primary rushing responsibilities are falling on speedy sophomore Raymond Sanders. Sanders had knee surgery this week, so his preparation for his first season as the primary back will be put on hold for the time being.

UK officials confirmed to LEX18 in Lexington that Sanders had undergone arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage on his left knee. After successful surgery, Kentucky expects Sanders to be back on the field in August when the Wildcats start practice.

Sanders rushed for 254 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman, adding to 16 receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown. With seven home games -- and no out-of-conference opponent more challenging than Louisville -- the schedule sets up well for Phillips' second year at the helm in Lexington. The surgery should not set back Sanders too much, but the expectations will be high for the 5-foot-8 speedster from Stone Mountain, GA.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: preseason top 25

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We've already talked about No. 1, but the end of spring has also meant a revision of the rest of the preseason top 25, like our colleague Dennis Dodd's. What teams do you feel like might deserve a better ranking at this stage (or one at all)? What teams do you feel like might be ranked too highly?

Jerry Hinnen: There always seems to be one team from the SEC that comes from outside the preseason polls and surprises--think Mississippi State last year, Ole Miss in 2008, etc. But Dennis's 25 already includes every SEC team but Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and I'm not sold on any of those teams as poll material. (There's a case to be made for the Vols, but only if Tyler Bray takes a major step forward, and his 5-for-30 spring game suggests that step may not be imminent.)

So I'll look elsewhere for a sleeper and mention how much I like San Diego State. The Aztecs have absorbed some heavy losses in their pair of NFL-bound wideouts and, of course, the head coach-offensive coordinator pairing of Brady Hoke and Al Borges. But Ronnie Hillman is an All-American running back waiting to happen, and senior Ryan Lindley is easily the best MWC quarterback this side of Kellen Moore. Together, they're one of the nation's best RB-QB combos, and new OC Andy Ludwig (the man behind Utah's undefeated 2008 attack) should know how to get the most out of them.

Defensively, the Aztecs should be much more comfortable in the second year of Rocky Long's unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme, and the schedule also offers the opportunity for two huge statement wins since TCU and Boise State travel to San Diego. Put it all together, and I don't think the departures of Hoke and Borges will be nearly enough to stop the program's momentum towards the polls.

Bryan Fischer: One team I think is a bit under the radar is Georgia. The Dawgs get the other division favorite, South Carolina, early in the schedule--that could be key if the Gamecocks are breaking in Connor Shaw, who has all of 33 passes to his name. I'm concerned about Georgia's running game but they have a good quarterback and the defense should be markedly improved in year two under Todd Grantham.

West Virginia is another team that can really make a move. They lose a lot from last year on defense but should be solid nevertheless. They might have one of the best offenses in the country with Geno Smith running the show and get their big non-conference game against LSU at home.

Chip Patterson: I agree with Bryan that West Virginia is a team that could cause some problems this fall. Dana Holgorsen might have done the coaching job of the year in 2010 with Oklahoma State's offense; the Cowboys did not return a single offensive lineman and his scheme resulted in the third-most productive offense in the nation anyway. Now he gets a stable full of athletes that, in many people's opinions, have been underperforming under Bill Stewart. Smith is the type of quarterback who can be a threat in Holgorsen's spread, especially once he gets familiar with the reads and changing plays at the line of scrimmage. The toughest challenge on the Mountaineers' slate is an early-season battle with LSU in Morgantown (as Bryan mentioned). I think that game is winnable, and could give them confidence headed into the back-loaded conference schedule.

Virginia Tech, though, is a huge question mark in my opinion. While I'm not sure whether they will end up higher or lower than 17, there's as much of a chance of them finishing the season unranked as getting to 10 wins. Their schedule does set up extremely well, with Clemson, Miami and North Carolina coming to Blacksburg and Florida State, Maryland and N.C. State avoided completely. But Logan Thomas needs to prove himself in a game situation, and running back David Wilson will have to work without Darren Evans or Ryan Williams to compliment him. Even if the Hokies finish the season strong, the eye test does not have them as "Top 20 good" just yet.

Adam Jacobi: After the first, oh, eight teams, I've got some major concerns about nearly every team on the list. Spring is the season for questions, of course, but it's like, "Michigan State at 11? Really? Wisconsin at 12? Really? Arkansas at 13? Really?" But you look at that list, and yeah, that's about right.

The one team that stands out to me is Notre Dame, who sort of creeps in under the radar at 19. I don't expect that sterling recruiting class to make much of an impact in Year 1, but there's a lot of talent coming back for Brian Kelly to build on. They have options at quarterback with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, the passing game basically only lost tight end Kyle Rudolph (who was injured for the second half of the season anyway), and four of five starting linemen return. The defense, meanwhile, is still led by Manti Te'o and returns its top eight tacklers. There's some retooling to do up the middle of the front seven, but the leadership and experience are there for the D to take a big step forward this year.

Lastly, I really like the Irish's schedule. The only truly worrisome game is the season finale at Stanford; the rest of the games are winnable. That's not to say the Irish are definitely going 11-1 in the regular season -- that's not happening without a ton of luck -- but it's a nice very-best-case scenario.

BF: I think the top 10 is pretty much standard for everyone. Sure, you can change the order and move teams around, but you can't argue with those 10 teams much.

After that, I have an issue with Auburn at 15. I know they're the defending champions, but they lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers have a very tough schedule where they could take some losses. I'm also not sold on Utah after watching them collapse down the stretch last year, and they've had a ton of guys sit out this spring with injuries. I'd swap them in the rankings with USC -- who has depth issues but also has Matt Barkley and Robert Woods throwing the ball around -- or UCF.

AJ: Here's something I want to know -- what do you do about Ohio State if you're a voter? Do you ding them since the Buckeye Five are suspended for five games? Do you un-ding them when they come back? How many spots does Jim Tressel's situation cost them? What's the protocol here?

Tom Fornelli: I would have them lower on my rankings, personally. Losing some of your best players and your head coach for five games is a big deal, even if those games are against MACifices that shouldn't prove much of a test to the Buckeyes. Either way, those players and Tressel aren't there to start the season, so we should treat Ohio State as if they're not there. And do you see Ohio State being a top-25 team with Joe Bauserman?

JH: Disagree. I don't think there's a "protocol" on how to deal with the Buckeyes' current (unprecedented) situation as it relates to preseason polls; your guess is as good as mine is as good as anyone else's. But I don't think dropping them out of the top 25 all together is fair. Until we hear otherwise from the NCAA, the Buckeye Five and Tressel won't miss any more than the first (mostly winnable) five games. Dropping them entirely -- under the mere assumption Tressel, Pryor, et al are a dead team walking -- seems to put the cart before the horse.

TF: Seriously, though, I need somebody to explain to me why Arizona State is suddenly the cool team to vote for. Do people just really like their new uniforms? Is Vontaze Burfict sitting over their shoulders as they fill out their brackets? This is a team that won six games last year, with those six wins coming against Portland State, Northern Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona. Arizona is the only impressive win on that list, and it was a one-point victory in double overtime. This is a team that may have a lot of returning starters this year, but they're returning starters from a team that wasn't exactly a world-beater last season. Also, after losing quarterback Steven Threet to injury, the guy who has to lead that returning-starter-filled offense is still new.

JH: You didn't even mention their plague of torn ACLs this spring. I wish I could disagree -- the Sun Devils have had a ton of bad luck the last couple of seasons -- but they strike me, too, as a prime candidate to disappoint.




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