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 14, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:50 pm

Coaches' preseason All-SEC team released

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We haven't felt like joining in the "wow, college football is really close!" chorus that's popped up as SEC Media Days creeps closer and various media guides across the land have landed in various media mailboxes. With more than half of July and all of August still to cross before we finally reach the promised land, we remain more depressed about the relative closeness of the season than excited.

But maybe, just maybe, it's closer than we think. That's our reaction to the news that the coaches' preseason All-SEC team has already been released. (That, and that the league's coaches sure don't think much of the Tennessee offense.)

A few notes before we get to the teams:
  • Arkansas leads the league with 14 total players honored, but not surprisingly it's Alabama with the most first-team selections, with seven.
  • More intriguingly, the team with the second-most first-team players? Georgia, including (as expected) the conference's first-team quarterback in Aaron Murray. Notably, though, none of those six play defense; lineman DeAngelo Tyson and corner Brandon Boykin were named second-team.
  • We don't have a whole lot of gripes with the selections, though we'd personally take outstanding Vanderbilt corner Casey Hayward over South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore for the first team. While big and physical, Gilmore was vulnerable to getting beaten deep, a big part of the Gamecocks' 10th-place conference finish in both overall pass defense and opponent's QB rating.
  • There's likely to be a lot more griping out of Knoxville, though, after zero Volunteers made any of the three offensive teams. There are cases to be made for running back Taurean Poole, offensive lineman JaWuan James and James Stone, and quarterback Tyler Bray, but the player with the biggest complaint is likely sophomore receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter only caught 16 balls last year, but seven of them went for touchdowns as he averaged an eye-popping 26 yards per reception. With the Vols' three leading receivers from a year ago all graduated, Hunter seems poised for a huge season.
  • It wasn't long ago the SEC was actually somewhat devoid of bellcow running backs. (In 2006, for instance, no player outside of the Darren McFadden-Felix Jones tag-team at Arkansas topped 1,000 yards.) That's not the case this season -- how often do you see the league's leading returning rusher (the Hogs' Knile Davis) consigned to second-team, or a player with 20 rushing touchdowns (Mississippi State's Vick Ballard) dropped all the way to third?
And without further ado, the teams:


First-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Orson Charles, Georgia 6-3 241 Jr. Tampa, Fla.
OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia 6-5 348 Sr. Riverdale, Ga.
OL Barrett Jones, Alabama 6-5 311 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
OL Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss 6-7 315 Sr. Hernando, Miss.
OL Larry Warford, Kentucky 6-3 340 Jr. Richmond, Ky.
C Williams Vlachos, Alabama 6-1 294 Sr. Mountain Brook, Ala.
WR Greg Childs, Arkansas 6-3 217 Sr. Warren, Ark.
WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina 6-4 233 Jr. St. Matthews, S.C.
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia 6-1 211 So. Tampa, Fla.
RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina 6-0 231 So. Duncan, S.C.
RB Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Second-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt 6-5 345 Sr. Lincolnton, Ga.
OL Alvin Bailey, Arkansas 6-5 319 So. Broken Arrow, Okla.
OL D.J. Fluker, Alabama 6-6 335 So. Foley, Ala.
OL Brandon Mosley, Auburn 6-6 306 Sr. Jefferson, Ga.
OL Rokevious Watkins, South Carolina 6-4 334 Sr. Fairburn, Ga.
C Ben Jones, Georgia 6-3 316 Sr. Centreville, Ala.
WR Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
WR Rueben Randle, LSU 6-4 210 Jr. Bastrop, La.
QB Stephen Garcia, South Carolina 6-2 230 Sr. Lutz, Fla.
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas 6-0 230 Jr. Missouri City, Texas
RB Jeff Demps, Florida 5-8 190 Sr. Winter Garden, Fla.
RB Mike Dyer, Auburn 5-9 206 So. Little Rock, Ark.

Third-Team Offense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn 6-4 253 Jr. Marietta, Ga.
OL Grant Cook, Arkansas 6-4 318 Sr. Jonesboro, Ark.
OL Alex Hurst, LSU 6-6 329 Jr. Bartlett, Tenn.
OL Bobby Massie, Ole Miss 6-6 325 Jr. Lynchburg, Va.
OL Kyle Nunn, South Carolina 6-5 296 Sr. Sumter, NC
C Travis Swanson, Arkansas 6-5 305 So. Kingwood, Texas
WR Emory Blake, Auburn 6-1 197 Jr. Austin, Texas
WR Marquis Maze, Alabama 5-10 180 Sr. Birmingham, Ala.
WR Jarius Wright, Arkansas 5-10 180 Sr. Warren, Ark.
QB Chris Relf, Mississippi State 6-4 245 Sr. Montgomery, Ala.
RB Vick Ballard, Mississippi State 5-11 220 Sr. Pascagoula, Miss.
RB Onterrio McCalebb, Auburn 5-10 172 Jr. Fort Meade, Fla.


First-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Jake Bequette, Arkansas 6-5 271 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
DL Josh Chapman, Alabama 6-1 310 Sr. Hoover, Ala.
DL Malik Jackson, Tennessee 6-5 270 Sr. Northridge, Calif.
DL Devin Taylor, South Carolina 6-7 248 Jr. Beaufort, S.C.
LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama 6-4 260 Jr. Lewisburg, Tenn.
LB Chris Marve, Vanderbilt 6-0 235 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Danny Trevathan, Kentucky 6-1 230 Sr. Leesburg, Fla.
DB Mark Barron, Alabama 6-2 218 Sr. Mobile, Ala.
DB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina 6-1 194 Jr. Rock Hill, S.C.
DB Robert Lester, Alabama 6-2 210 Jr. Foley, Ala.
DB Morris Claiborne, LSU 6-0 177 Jr. Shreveport, La.

Second-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Melvin Ingram, South Carolina 6-2 271 Sr. Hamlet, N.C.
DL DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia 6-2 306 Sr. Statesboro, Ga.
DL Kentrell Lockett, Ole Miss 6-5 248 Sr. Hahnville, La.
DL Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State 6-4 295 Jr. Yazoo City, Miss.
DL Barkevious Mingo, LSU 6-5 240 So. West Monroe, La.
LB Ryan Baker, LSU 6-0 227 Sr. Grand Ridge, Fla.
LB Jerry Franklin, Arkansas 6-1 245 Sr. Marion, Ark.
LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama 6-2 265 Sr. Eufaula, Ala.
DB Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
DB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt 5-11 188 Sr. Perry, Ga.
DB Tramain Thomas, Arkansas 6-0 198 Sr. Winnie, Texas
DB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU 5-9 180 So. New Orleans, La.

Third-Team Defense

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
DL Corey Lemonier, Auburn 6-4 229 So. Hialeah, Fla.
DL Sam Montgomery, LSU 6-4 250 So. Greenwood, S.C.
DL Travian Robertson, South Carolina 6-4 298 Sr. Laurinburg, N.C.
DL Tenarius Wright, Arkansas 6-2 252 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
LB Jon Bostic, Florida 6-1 238 Jr. Wellington, Fla.
LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida 6-1 233 So. Olney, Md.
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama 6-2 234 So. Theodore, Ala.
DB Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State 6-2 185 Jr. Maben, Miss.
DB Dre' Kirkpatrick, Alabama 6-3 192 Jr. Gadsden, Ala.
DB Neiko Thorpe, Auburn 6-2 185 Sr. Tucker, Ga.
DB Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee 6-2 181 Jr. Clinton, La.


First-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Blair Walsh, Georgia 5-10 192 Sr. Boca Raton, Fla.
P Drew Butler, Georgia 6-2 214 Sr. Duluth, Ga.
RS Brandon Boykin, Georgia 5-10 183 Sr. Fayetteville, Ga.
AP Joe Adams, Arkansas 5-11 190 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.

Second-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Caleb Sturgis, Florida 5-10 192 Redshirt Jr. St. Augustine, Fla.
P Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss 6-2 227 Jr. Little Rock, Ark.
RS Warren Norman, Vanderbilt 5-10 195 Jr. Stone Mountain, Georgia
AP Trent Richardson, Alabama 5-11 224 Jr. Pensacola, Fla.

Third-Team  Specialists

Position Name, Team Height Weight Class Hometown
PK Zach Hocker, Arkansas 6-0 180 So. Russellville, Ark.
P Dylan Breeding, Arkansas 6-1 211 Jr. Hoover, Ala.
P Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky 6-1 185 Sr. Louisville, Ky.
RS Andre DeBose, Florida 5-11 180 So. Sanford, Fla.
AP Trey Burton, Florida 6-2 222 So. Venice, Fla.

Posted on: July 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:45 pm

The entire 2011 season simulated on NCAA 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After getting my new copy of EA Sports' NCAA Football 12 on Tuesday, I took the time to simulate the entire 2012 season to see what the video game thinks is going to happen this year. In order to make things realistic, I even went through all the trouble of updating rosters to reflect what they currently look like.

That meant moving Russell Wilson from NC State to Wisconsin, removing Terrelle Pryor -- not to mention benching the suspended Buckeyes for the first five games of the season -- removing WaShaun Ealey and Caleb King from Georgia's backfield and so on and so forth.

No need to thank me, it was a labor of love.

So how did things turn out?

Well, it looks as if we'll once again have a non-BCS school finish the year undefeated -- the only school to do so -- but it's not Boise State or TCU. In fact, Boise State finally got its shot at a national title, but it couldn't come through.

Who did?

Let's find out. First we'll start with the conference champions (Records don't include conference championships or bowl games).

ACC -- North Carolina 9-3 (6-2)

Big 12 -- Texas A&M 10-2 (8-1)

Big East -- South Florida 9-3 (6-1)

Big Ten -- Wisconsin 11-1 (7-1)

C-USA -- Houston 12-0 (8-0)

MAC -- Western Michigan 10-2 (7-1)

MWC -- Boise State 12-0 (7-0)

Pac 12 -- Oregon 9-3 (7-2)

SEC -- South Carolina 11-1 (7-1)

Sun Belt -- Troy 10-2 (8-0)

WAC -- Fresno State 8-4 (7-0)

And how about those BCS bowl games? Well I'm glad you asked.

Rose Bowl -- Wisconsin 49, Oregon 46 OT

Fiesta Bowl -- Texas A&M 38, Ohio State 17

Orange Bowl -- North Carolina 28, Alabama 20

Sugar Bowl -- Houston 48, South Florida 13

BCS National Championship -- South Carolina 24, Boise State 22

Yes, that's right, the Ol' Ball Coach has added another national title to his resume. Boise State did have a chance to topple the BCS machine, but couldn't pull through. Trailing 24-16, Kellen Moore hit Kyle Efaw on a 16-yard touchdown with 3 minutes left, but the Broncos couldn't convert the two-point conversion. The Gamecocks ran out the clock and celebrated a national title. Oh, and Stephen Garcia was the game's MVP. Let that marinate in your brain for a minute or two.

As for awards, I hope Houston quarterback Case Keenum used all that time off last season to build himself a trophy case because it looks as if he's going to need one. Keenum not only won the Heisman Trophy, but the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Davey O'Brien trophies to boot. That's what happens when you lead Houston to a 14-0 record yet still finish second in both polls.

Now, if that's not enough info for you, let's take a look at some of the season storylines by conference.


-- Jimbo Fisher hits the sophomore slump. Florida State doesn't even qualify for a bowl berth after finishing the year 5-7 with a 3-5 mark within the ACC. FSU loses to Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State, Boston College, Miami and Florida. And of those losses, only the loss to Florida was by less than 10 points.

-- Al Golden has Miami on the right track. Sure, the Canes only went 8-5 during the season, but they did finish 6-2 in ACC play, just missing the ACC title game thanks to a 27-17 loss to North Carolina

-- Duke goes bowling! That's right, Duke finishes the year 7-6 with a 4-4 mark in the ACC, including a two-point win over UNC. Though the Dukies do lose to Florida in the Music City Bowl. I have no idea who Steve Spurrier was rooting for while watching.

-- Boston College is the "best" team in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles finish the year 8-6 with a 5-3 mark in the conference. They even nearly beat UNC in the title game, losing 29-27.

Big 12

-- Oklahoma can't handle the pressure. The Sooners started out the year 7-0 before getting shocked by Kansas State on the road -- where else? -- 24-21. They also lost at Oklahoma State 38-24 to end the regular season and kill their hopes of a BCS berth.

-- Texas won't be terrible two years in a row. The Longhorns finish the season 11-2 with a 7-2 mark in the Big 12. Though they do lose to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, which stings a bit.

-- Where have you gone, Blaine Gabbert? Missouri needs you. The Tigers finished the season 4-8 with a 2-7 mark in the conference. Seems they're going to miss Colorado, Nebraska and the North Division.

Big East

-- The Big East is respectable. While no team in the conference finished the season with less than three losses (Pitt being the only with three), seven of the eight Big East schools won at least seven games, with Rutgers holding the only losing record.

-- Louisville can't finish. The Cardinals led the Big East most of the season before losing four of their last five games to finish 3-4 in the conference.

-- Casino or football field, Dana Holgorsen has a tough time winning anywhere this year. The Mountaineers went 2-5 in the Big East during his inaugural campaign.

Big Ten

-- Who needs Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor? Ohio State went 4-1 in its first five games of the season while so many of its playmakers sat out, and though the Buckeyes struggled in Big Ten play, they still finished the year 9-4 and got an at-large berth to the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and they still beat Michigan.

-- Not that Michigan minded all that much, because Brady Hoke made believers out of the faithful in his first year. That Michigan loss to Ohio State? That was the Wolverines only Big Ten loss of the regular season, as they went 7-1 to win the Legends Division.

-- Wisconsin loves Russell Wilson. Wilson and the Badgers tore up the Big Ten all year long until the final week of the regular season. Then, after being 11-0 and ranked #1 for the majority of the regular season, the Badgers fell at home to Penn State 42-28. Though I guess beating Michigan 34-13 in the first Big Ten Championship Game and then Oregon in the Rose Bowl took some of the sting out of it.

-- New kid Nebraska gets picked on. The Huskers went 3-5 in Big Ten play, even losing to Minnesota. Though that wasn't as embarrassing as the 13-7 loss to Ohio -- University, not State -- in the Texas Bowl.


-- USC isn't on probation in virtual reality. So the Trojans were able to win the Pac-12 South division, even if they did lose to Oregon 35-14 in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship.

-- Utah enjoyed their move more than Colorado. The Utes finished the season 5-4 in conference play while Colorado went 3-6.

-- Andrew Luck should have gone pro. Stanford and Luck were off to a very nice start to the season, opening 7-0. Then Luck broke his arm, missed the rest of the year and Stanford finished 10-3.


-- The East still stinks. Sure, South Carolina wins the national title, but no other SEC East team managed to win more than four games in the conference. Meanwhile, in the West, LSU had the worst season of anyone, going 7-6 with a 3-5 mark in the SEC. Les Miles needs to eat more grass.

-- Will Muschamp did OK. Florida finished the season 9-4 with a 4-4 mark in the SEC, though Charlie Weis' offense needs some work. The Gators never scored more than 21 points against a SEC opponent not named Vanderbilt.

-- Alabama needs to fire Nick Saban, PAAAAWWWWWWWL. Oh the indignity of Alabama's 2012 season. Not only did the Tide lose the SEC title game to South Carolina, but then they went and lost to North Carolina in the Orange Bowl. Since when does Alabama play in the Orange Bowl, PAAWWWWL? NICK SABAN HAS GOT TO GO.

-- Auburn doesn't miss Cam Newton as much as you'd think. Even without their Heisman winning quarterback, the Tigers still manage to go 8-5 with a 4-4 mark in the conference. Not great, but not terrible either.


-- TCU would like to get to the Big East ASAP. The Horned Frogs lose twice in 2012, and not just to Boise State. Unlike 2011, TCU wasn't able to escape San Diego State, losing 33-30 at Qualcomm Stadium.

-- Notre Dame is back! The Irish finish the year 10-3, and feature one of the most potent offenses in college football. Why they're painting Brian Kelly over Touchdown Jesus as you read this.

-- BYU finds independence to be constricting. The Cougars first season free of the shackles of conferencedom does not work out very well, as BYU finishes the year 4-8 and even loses to Utah State along the way.

-- While I already went over the disrespect Houston received, what about conference mate Southern Miss? The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 11-1 before losing to Houston in the C-USA title game, and they couldn't even sniff the Top 25.

And that's it. There's the entire 2011 season right there according to a video game. I suppose at this point there's no point in even watching any of the games. Now, if you don't mind me, I'm going to go try and wrap my head around Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a national championship.

Can you imagine that party?
Posted on: July 13, 2011 8:32 pm

NCAA investigation of Auburn isn't over

Posted by Tom Fornelli

If you thought that the NCAA's investigation of Auburn and its recruitment of Cam Newton was over, then it seems you'd be wrong. At least, that's the impression NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach gave Auburn head coach Gene Chizik last month. That's when football and basketball coaches from the SEC were in Destin, Florida where Lach made a presentation to the group.

According to a report in the New York Times, after Lach opened up her presentation for discussion, Chizik had quite a few questions for her and then she dropped a bombshell on him.
[Chizik] peppered Roe Lach with a flurry of questions about the N.C.A.A.’s investigation into Cam Newton and why the N.C.A.A. had not publicly announced that the investigation was over. Chizik complained that the inquiry’s open-ended nature had hurt Auburn’s recruiting and he followed up at least three times, leading to a testy exchange.

“You’ll know when we’re finished,” Roe Lach told Chizik, according to several coaches who were at the meeting. “And we’re not finished.”
Well then!

While neither the NCAA or Auburn would confirm the exchange between Chizik and Roe Lach, according to the New York Times report, four fellow SEC basketball coaches -- Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings, Arkansas' Mike Anderson, LSU's Trent Johnson and Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy -- did confirm the exchange to the paper.

Of course, just because the investigation isn't over, that doesn't mean the NCAA is going to find any new evidence than what it has already and use it to punish Auburn. Still, the fact that the NCAA is still digging around can't be all that comforting for Auburn faithful.

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.

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: July 6, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:12 pm

Big Ten not spending enough on assistants?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

By now, anyone who follows college football has seen enough "BREAKING: Football coaches somehow earn lots of money in billion-dollar enterprise" headlines to last us a lifetime. So at a glance, this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article -- "Assistant coaches' salaries soar in college football" -- doesn't appear to be one we haven't read plenty of times before.

But there's one highly interesting nugget from the Post-Dispatch's math that's worth paying closer attention to:
The SEC paid its assistant coaches an average of $276,122 in 2010, according to figures compiled by St. Louis attorney and agent Bob Lattinville of the firm Stinson Morrison Hecker.
The Big 12 was second at $232,685 and the Big Ten a distant fourth, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, at $187,055. In each instance, the averages do not include salaries at private schools such as Baylor, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
It's no surprise to see the conferences of Gus Malzahn and the Manny Diaz-Bryan Harsin tag team topping the list, but ... the Big Ten? Fourth? Really?

They may not actually be a distant fourth, in fact -- Penn State probably pays better than the likes of Indiana, and Lattinville's salary-based figures don't appear to take into account Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's unusually structured $750,000 contract -- but it's baffling why the conference that distributes more money to its members than any other in the FBS should lag so badly behind anyone in coaching salaries. Some of that is Big Ten schools' insistence on spening their cash on crazy ideas like, say, men's soccer teams, but it's hard to see why the conference's highest-profile sport should be getting the short end of a stick this lucrative.

It's so hard, in fact, we won't speculate on the reasons. But we don't have any problem stating this for the record: the Big Ten's stinginess is hurting it on the football field.

Contrast the decisions from some of the SEC's and Big Ten's best assistants from 2010. Malzahn was offered the head coaching job at Vandy and had some interest (at least) from Maryland; he turned them both down when Auburn stepped up with its gigantic raise. In the end, the only SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason was Steve Addazio, who'd basically been dumped out of his Florida gig already.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was busy guiding Michigan State into the national top 20 in yards per-play, winning multiple games as MSU's interim head coach during Mark Dantonio's health-related absence, and generally being the nation's most underpaid assistant as the Spartans won 11 games. He left East Lansing to take the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio). Dave Doeren capped years of outstanding work at Wisconsin by coordinating the defense that took the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl (and nearly won it); he left to become Jerry Kill's replacement at Northern Illinois. (PSU's Tom Bradley, one of Joe Paterno's longest tenured-assistants, also did some serious angling for the Temple job that went to Addazio, you'll recall.)

It's not just retention that's a problem, either. How much better would Michigan have been under Rich Rodriguez* if they'd made Jeff Casteel a Mattison-like offer-he-couldn't-refuse to tag along from West Virginia, instead of subjecting themselves to Greg "GERG" Robinson? Would Tim Brewster still be around if he'd been able to hire one legitimately great offensive coordinator instead of subjecting Adam Weber and Co. to a revolving door of schemes? Even the newcomers aren't immune--it's yet-to-be-determined, but one has to wonder if Nebraska couldn't have done better in replacing exiled OC Shawn Watson than promoting running backs coach Tim Beck (especially considering the Huskers' head coach's expertise is on the defensive side of the ball).

As the Post-Dispatch article points out, it's not like the conference has to look very far to see the value of paying top dollar for assistants. After a miserable 2009, Ron Zook was thisclose to being fired at Illinois. So he went out and hired two top-shelf coordinators at salaries commensurate with the SEC's; in fact, one of them (Bobby Petrino brother Paul Petrino) was an SEC coordinator. Result: a job-saving 7-6 campaign and, in 2011, likely the program's first back-to-back winning seasons in 20 years.

It feels awfully awkward to tell anyone to follow Ron Zook's example. But when it comes to assistant salaries, it's high time the Big Ten at-large did exactly that.

*Rodriguez actually got the defensive coordinating hire right the first time, when he plucked away current Syracuse DC Scott Shafer from Stanford; Shafer's been a success everywhere else he's been, and his work with the Orange last year--the only team in the country to finish in the top 20 in total defense while also finishing in the bottom 20 in time-of-possession--was nothing short of remarkable. But RichRod and Shafer didn't appear to see eye-to-eye, and in came Robinson after just one season. You'll forgive Wolverine fans if they spend the rest of the afternoon banging their heads against the closest wall.

Posted on: July 5, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 6:22 pm

SEC math says back Bulldogs, doubt Tigers

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Click over to the "expanded" version of the Major League Baseball standings here at CBSsports.com, and you'll see something interesting: Each team's record in one-run games.

Even 10 years ago, casual baseball fans would have shrugged at those records every bit as forcefully as they would have at "record in day games played west of the Mississippi River in which both starting pitchers wore mustaches." But thanks to baseball's stats revolution, even your average CBSSports.com-reading seamhead likely knows that over 162 games, every team's record in such close games will gravitate to .500.

This is an outgrowth of Bill James' pythagorean theorem for baseball, which, if you 've never heard of it, isn't nearly as complicated as its name might make it sound; the idea is simply that total runs scored and allowed (i.e., winning by many runs rather than just one) is a better indicator of future performance than straight win-loss record.

And though college football isn't nearly as stats-obsessed a sport as baseball has become, concepts like these are hardly new to dedicated followers of the pigskin, either. Numbers-driven magazine guru Phil Steele has been tracking "net close wins" for years, finding that teams that win or lose an unusually high number of one-possession games one season tend to lose or win a corresponding number the next season. (The current poster children for this phenomenon are the Iowa Hawkeyes, who lost four games in 2008 by a total of 12 points, went 11-2 in 2009 by winning four games by a total of eight points, then slipped back to 8-5 last year with all five losses coming by seven points or less.)

One Alabama blog, RollBamaRoll, has taken the next step where the SEC is concerned, actually performing the Pythagorean calculations for the 2010 SEC conference season. Though eight games is a tiny sample size for this kind of statistical work, the same calculations predicted (or would have) the downfall of such notable disappointments as 2005 Tennessee, 2000 Alabama, and 2009 Georgia.

So what do these approaches have to say about the SEC in 2011? Several things:

Georgia should be taken seriously in the East. Both Steele and the pythagorean wins agree: the Bulldogs were the unluckiest team in the SEC last season. Mark Richt's team suffered a league-high four "net close losses," and per their points scored/allowed should have won nearly two more games than they did in 2010.

Combine better fortune in competitive games with the Bulldogs' manageable schedule, and the numbers say Georgia should be poised to take a big step forward in 2011. (Steele pegs them as this year's East champions.) If they don't, the question has to be asked: if Richt can't engineer a turnaround this year, when can he?

Auburn is due for a sizable tumble. The next team to win a national championship without a healthy dose of luck will be the first, but Auburn might have enjoyed a little more than most last season; its seven net close wins were the highest in the nation, according to Steele. The pythagorean wins marked them as overachievers by nearly 2.5 games in SEC play alone. In other words, Gene Chizik and company shouldn't expect quite so many friendly bounces of the ball in 2011--and should in fact expect the opposite.

Of course, the numbers can't account for the expertise of Gus Malzahn or the fine recruiting classes assembled under Chizik's watch. But it's safe to say that between less good fortune, the Tigers' massive losses, and a brutal schedule, another top-25 season on the Plains will have been earned.

LSU remains the ultimate wild card. Steele tabulates the Bayou Bengals at five net close wins for 2010 -- usually an indicator of an impending backslide. But thanks to blowouts of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, the pythagorean wins saw LSU as only slight overachievers in 2010, and (as we've noted before) Les Miles has an unusual knack for late-game decision-making that's given him a 22-9 record at LSU in close games. (Is it the grass?)

In other words, LSU could see Miles' dice-rolls come up snake eyes and the bottom drop out. They could continue to ride the Mad Hatter's hot streak back to a BCS bowl. Any and all possibilities seem to be in play.

Mississippi State may have to run to stay in the same place. With Dan Mullen still in Starkville and plenty of starters returning on both sides of the ball, State may seem poised to take the next step and challenge for a West championship. But there's also some indications the Bulldogs weren't quite as good as their 9-4 record last fall might indicate. Despite going 4-4 in league play they were outscored by 30 points over those eight games, making them the SEC's second-biggest overachiever according to pythagorean wins. And while Steele's net close wins indicator doesn't feel strongly about them, his magazine does note that State's average yardage margin of -36.5 yards per SEC game was third-worst in the conference.

Steele also recently introduced a new metric which shows that teams that take a big leap forward (or backward) over (or under) the baseline of their previous two seasons usually -- though not always -- regress back towards their previously-established mean. Aside from Auburn, no team in the SEC fits that profile better than the Bulldogs.

No reason here to not buy Alabama or South Carolina. Though the above "slipping and sliding" Steele metric is mildly doubtful of Carolina's ability to maintain last year's gains, neither presumptive divisional favorite has anything to worry about from this statistical perspective. In fact, thanks to several blowout wins and their losses to LSU and Auburn by a combined four points, Alabama was the second-most unfortunate team in the league last year behind Georgia.

If the Tide get a handful more breaks and have the defense we're all expecting? Look out.

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