Posted on: October 19, 2010 1:28 pm

Saban questions toughness of today's players

Posted by Tom Fornelli

I turned 30 recently, and it's somewhat of an odd age.  On one hand, I realize that I'm not a kid anymore, but at the same time, I sure as hell don't feel like a full-fledged adult yet.  Still, the signs are starting to creep in, and they're scary.  Just the other day the words "kids these days" came out of my mouth, and they came out in a direct, non-sarcastic tone.

I don't want to turn into that person that compares the world of today with the world of my youth, or how things were when I was younger.  I'm afraid that when it happens I'll officially be old.

This is not a fear that Nick Saban has.  He's in full-blown "back in my day" mode at the moment, particularly when it comes to questioning the toughness of today's football player.  Following his team's win against Ole Miss on Saturday, the Alabama taskmaster went on a bit of a rant about it.

"That's what I tell the players all the time, and they hate to hear it, but now I'm going to say it publicly so they can really get upset about it," said Saban.

"You're telling the other guy you're beating me up, I'm hurt and I'm going to stay down here.  It's just like a boxer. If you go down, get up. If you've got to come out for a play, come out for a play. But that's just me. I'm old-fashioned. I know they don't make 'em like they used to. ...

"But a guy lays on the ground and eight trainers go out there and everybody thinks he's hurt and he gets up and runs off the field. When I played, my coach, you wouldn't want to meet him on the sideline. So if you stayed down, you'd better really be hurt."

While Saban brings up some good points -- I'm tired of guys rolling around on the ground like they've been shot because they have a cramp -- he also misses one giant one completely.  He also has horrible timing considering Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand being paralyzed over the weekend.

Still, the one point Saban truly misses on is one he kind of makes.  It's true, they don't make players like they used to anymore.  The players of today are bigger, stronger and faster than the ones of the past.  Which means that collisions are more violent, and will lead to more injuries.  Bones are still bones, after all, and those things can break.

Saban could just ask his own wide receiver Julio Jones, who finished the South Carolina game with a broken hand.  Is that tough enough for Saban?

Some other things Saban thinks they just don't make like they used to?  First, hair gel.  "They're all scented now and make me smell girly."  Then there are scholarship limits.  "Why the hell can't I sign every player in the country!?  If they want to come here, why can't I have them?"*

*Those last two quotes may not actually be true.
Posted on: October 18, 2010 8:10 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2010 9:12 pm

Midseason Report: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race.  The Big East has been openly criticized for their weakness in the 2010 season, but they still hold on to a BCS Bowl berth.  Someone has to win it, ranked or not.  West Virginia has carried the banner for the conference thus far, but with a backlogged conference schedule, there is a lot of football left.

West Virginia (1-0)(5-1) - The race for the Big East is pretty much the Mountaineers' to lose at this point.  They appear to be a far superior team to their conference counterparts on both sides of the ball.  While there is some concern for running back Noel Devine's health and recent decline in production, quarterback Geno Smith has emerged as the center of the West Virginia offense.  Smith has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has done a good job spreading the receptions around the field, keeping the defense from stacking the box against Devine.  Head coach Bill Stewart said that Devine is "close to 100 percent" finally after injuring his foot against LSU.  Devine has not missed much time, but has been noticeably limited on the field.  The defense has also been a pleasant surprise for West Virginia fans in 2010.  Allowing only 12.3 points per game, the Mountaineers are rank 3rd in the nation in scoring defense.  Their greatest challenge left on the schedule is a late season matchup at Pittsburgh November 26.  But even that game looks very winnable at this point.
Rutgers (1-0)(4-2) - The most significant event of the Scarlet Knights' season unfortunately is also one of the saddest.  Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand still is in the hospital, paralyzed after making a special teams tackle in the 23-20 overtime win against Army.  But if you are looking for good things to take from the game, the most impressive was the performance of quarterback Chas Dodd.  Dodd appears to have the starting job locked up for now, after throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns to help Rutgers rally back from a 17-3 third quarter deficit.  Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights have one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the conference.  Road trips to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and West Virginia make a daunting order for Greg Schiano's squad.  
Cincinnati (1-0)(3-3) -  The Bearcats have shown flashes of greatness in 2010, they have just failed to carry it for an entire game.  However with a schedule full of conference foes, the slate might as well be clean for Cincinnati.  Quarterback Zach Collaros continues to sling the ball all over the field, with four straight games of at least 200 yards and three touchdowns.  His most recent five touchdown outing helped the Bearcats lock up that first road conference victory.  They still will have to face the other three teams on this list of contenders, but only have to leave home to travel to Morgantown.  Their failure to put a complete game does not give me confidence they will take the conference, but it does not make the feat impossible. 

Pittsburgh (1-0)(3-3) - Pittsburgh's season has been painfully inconsistent.  Not only have they failed to string together back-to-back wins, but their "Jekyll and Hyde" routine has kept them from climbing back into the national scene.  Ever since the season opening loss at Utah it has been a season of head scratching for Panther fans.  The good news is there are six conference games left on the schedule, and regardless of overall record they are currently tied for first.  Additionally, they also picked up their victory on the road, leaving only one significant test away from home: a season finale showdown with Cincinnati.  Both teams will be fighting for postseason postion (or maybe eligibility) and should the Panthers string some wins together and upset the Mountaineers, could have conference title implications.  Having said that, I'm not holding my breath on the Panthers running the table. 

Posted on: October 16, 2010 10:04 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 10:08 pm

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 16)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1.) West Virginia's defense is playing a big part in West Virginia's success - West Virginia has largely been thought of as an offensive threat, especially with Noel Devine and Geno Smith in the backfield, but West Virginia fans should be thanking their defense for the 5-1 start.  West Virginia's defensive unit shut down B.J. Daniels and the South Florida Bulls, keeping them out of the end zone for the entirety of their 20-6 win.  The Mountaineers are only giving up an average of 12.3 points per game, best in the conference and making them one of the best defenses nationally.  When Smith or Devine have been inconsistent, the defense has been able to carry the Mountaineers.

2.) Syracuse is not ready to be considered a contender - Last week, I mistakenly suggested that Syracuse might be ready to climb out of the incredibly deep hole and make things interesting in the Big East.  After a three game winning streak, including knocking off South Florida in Tampa, the Orange looked like they were ready to make a statement against Pittsburgh.  The only statement made in Pittsburgh was that Syracuse's success mostly had to do with the caliber of their opponents, and they might not be ready to be considered a contender in the Big East.  Syracuse's defense looked porous against a Pittsburgh squad that has been far from impressive.  
3.) Chas Dodd is the man (for now) at Rutgers - When Tom Savage went down in the second quarter against Tulane, Chas Dodd saw an opportunity to repeat history at Rutgers.  When Savage was a freshman, he earned the starting job early in the season and won over fans orchestrating memorable wins like the last-minute touchdown to defeat Connecticut.  Two weeks later Dodd is 2-0 as a starter, after leading the Scarlet Knights to a close win over Connecticut and a 23-20 victory of Army in overtime.  Dodd threw for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Rutgers, who had to overcome a 17-3 second quarter deficit before finally locking up the win in overtime.  The starting job appears to be Dodd's, at least for now.
4.) Anyone could win the Big East (still)- West Virginia appears to be the best team in the conference, but with most teams backlogging their schedule with conference games, there is a lot of Big East football left to play.  West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Rutgers all could be considered legitimate contenders, and with a few upsets Syracuse and Louisville could be added to that conversation as well.  No one team looks supremely dominant, but all teams have shown flashes of greatness at some point.  West Virginia is the favorite, but they will have to finish their season playing Pittsburgh and Rutgers back-to-back, so nothing is certain.

For more breaking news and analysis follow us on Twitter @CBSSportsNCAAF or subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: October 11, 2010 9:02 am
Edited on: October 11, 2010 9:06 am

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 9)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. West Virginia...And Everyone Else - There were concerns regarding West Virginia's offensive capabilities with a banged-up Noel Devine in the lineup, but after the 445 yards of total offense amassed in the Mountaineers 49-10 victory over UNLV, many of those concerns have been laid to rest.  Quarterback Geno Smith completed 12 of 16 passes for 220 yards and connected with wide receiver Brad Starks for three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers, and for the first time in eight games the offense did not commit a single turnover.  While the Mountaineers have yet to play a conference game, the eye test would suggest that Bill Stewart's squad is running at a different speed than the rest of the conference at this point in the season.
2. Rutgers Might Have A QB Controversy On Their Hands - Rutgers' seemingly annual nail-biter with Connecticut revealed a new hero in Piscataway in the likes of true freshman quarterback Chas Dodd.  With starting quarterback Tom Savage out with a hand injury, Dodd let if loose through the air for 322 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  Savage led the offense for the most of his time at Rutgers, but has struggled so far in the 2010 season.  His only touchdown came in the Scarlet Knights' 31-0 season opening victory against Norfolk State.  Head coach Greg Schiano will have a difficult decision moving forward choosing between the two young signal callers.

3. (Hold Your Breath) Syracuse Is Leading The Big East - Granted, the Orange have yet to play much of anything that resembles a formidable opponent, but Syracuse is in first place nonetheless.  The 4-1 Orange held strong against B.J. Daniels and the South Florida Bulls, not allowing a single offensive touchdown in their 13-9 victory.  One of the reasons has been the success of the running game.  Running back Delone Carter is among the league's leading rushers at 104.8 yards per game, and against South Florida he and backup junior Antwon Bailey combined for 186 yards on the ground.  Syracuse may not be ready to start thinking Big East title, but they will have a very good shot to make their first postseason appearance since 1999. 

For more breaking news and analysis follow us on Twitter @CBSSportsNCAAF or subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: September 23, 2010 1:24 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 3:18 pm

Miami and Rutgers may play at Yankee Stadium

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Later this year on November 20 the new Yankee Stadium will play host to its first college football game when Notre Dame and Army continue their annual rivalry.  It should be pretty cool for fans in New York to be able to see a college football game in the city, and it also serves as a chance for Notre Dame to expand its recruiting base into the city.

Which is something that a lot of other schools would like to do as well, so it's not that surprising to hear news today that there is another game currently in the works to be played at Yankee Stadium in the future.  This one between Rutgers and Miami.

UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt dined with a group of school officials and John Mosely from the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Lidia's in Pittsburgh. Hocutt said "a deal could be imminent'' for the Hurricanes to play Rutgers in 2013 at Yankee Stadium. "It would be a fun matchup, wouldn't it?'' Hocutt said, referring to facing former UM defensive coordinator and current Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. "I'd like to have a presence in New York every four or five years. It makes sense for us.''
Hocutt is currently in Pittsburgh for Miami's game with Pitt tonight and he'll be joined by members of the Yankees organization in the press box

Posted on: September 20, 2010 7:26 pm

Big East has one more week to justify existence

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Big East is an automatic BCS-qualifying conference, and as one of the six "power" conference, they are afforded a certain amount of respect. Thus, we owe it to the conference and its members to begin this entry with a compliment. So here it goes: The Big East is three games over .500 against all competition this year.

And that's about it. Because even that lackluster 12-9 record among the eight Big East teams is misleading. For one, every single team is 1-0 against FCS competition. So, good news, Big East: if the conference as a whole were to be relegated tomorrow (unlikely as that may be), they'd be very good all of a sudden. Against the FBS, though, not so much; the Big East is 4-9 overall, which includes a 3-3 record against teams that aren't even in automatic-qualifier conferences. For example, Connecticut lost to Temple last week. By 14 points.

That brings us to the meat of the Big East's resume, and that's play against quality competition. It almost couldn't possibly be worse. The conference is 1-8 against BCS conference teams. Only West Virginia -- who beat a truly miserable Maryland team last Saturday -- has such a win under its belt. That, friends, is poor performance nonpareil.

If that's all going to change in the Big East's favor at all this season, it's going to have to be this weekend; Miami visits Pitt on Thursday, Oklahoma travels to Cincinnati, West Virginia is at LSU, and Rutgers hosts North Carolina. Four difficult -- but winnable -- games against high-profile competition. Among the four listed games, WhatIfSports.com only gives Pitt better than even odds to come away with a victory, so don't be terribly surprised if the conference can't break even against its "real" competition this weekend.

If there's one saving grace to all of this, it's that a conference is usually judged by its highest achievers. The SEC has always been able to rest its laurels on the members who would run through the conference undefeated, for example, because those teams almost always win their national championship games that await. Nobody would demean a conference that could produce a 14-0 Alabama team if that Crimson Tide runs through 14-0 Texas as happened last year, after all. So, West Virginia now has a similar opportunity. While we're not positive that even an undefeated Mountaineers team is guaranteed a BCS Championship berth, they will certainly face high competition during bowl season when that time comes (even if they drop a game between now and then). Win that matchup, and people will pay less and less attention to the cupcakes littering the Mountaineers' conference path.

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