Tag:Mississippi State
Posted on: June 1, 2011 2:02 pm
 

Mullen compares Toomer's Corner to cowbells

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen made sure that he wouldn't be picking up any fans at Auburn on Wednesday afternoon by comparing the poisoning of the oak trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner with the ban on cowbells at Mississippi State. Mullen made the comparison when speaking to reporters on Wednesday.



One one hand, I completely understand what Mullen is saying. When Harvey Updyke allegedly poisoned the trees at Toomer's Corner, he did so as a way to hurt Auburn and Auburn fans. Revelling in an Auburn victory at Toomer's Corner has been a tradition amongst generations of Auburn fans. The same can be said of generations of Mississippi State fans annoying the hell out of opponents with cowbells over the years. So I get what Mullen is saying when he says that people wanted to hurt an Auburn tradition.

The difference is that the trees at Toomer's Corner weren't sentenced to death by a vote amongst the SEC, as MSU's cowbells were by a 9-1 vote years ago. The cowbells are banned from use during SEC games in Starkville, though that really hasn't done anything to stop State fans from bringing them to the game and using them. The school just pays a fine every year, and everybody lives happily ever after while giving opponents a headache.

Those oak trees, however, should they die, will be gone forever. Sure, new ones can be planted, but trees don't just grow over night. If a Mississippi State fan has their cowbell taken away, they can easily buy another one. Century old trees aren't sold on the corner.

Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 90-81

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the 100 99 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

90. T.Y. HILTON, receiver/returner, FIU. Every so often, a player rises up from the lower rungs of college football to make a credible run at the Heisman Trophy: Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois, Steve McNair at Alcorn State, Gordie Lockbaum once upon a time at Holy Cross. And if that's happening this year, the smartest bet is on Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year and leader in all-purpose yardage.

But if Hilton does make a splash nationally, it won't be for his accolades, statistics, or even team success (though Hilton led his Golden Panthers to their first bowl berth and conference title last season, and could repeat the feat). It'll be for his electric playmaking, on full display in last year's Little Caesar's Bowl, when his 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown and 4th-and-17 conversion keyed a thrilling Panther comeback. Put a few more of those types of plays on SportsCenter (particularly in an early-season Friday night visit to Louisville), and the sky -- or more specifically, New York -- might be the limit. -- JH

89. LOGAN THOMAS, quarterback, Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have won four conference championships and four Coastal Division titles. The league's expansion might have expected to highlight Florida State and Miami, but it has been the Hokies who have most often represented the conference on the national stage. But for the last four years of that run, the Hokies were had ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor. Now Taylor is gone, and it's Thomas who's set to take his place.

The redshirt sophomore has already impressed coaches and teammates with his performance in spring practice, and the hopes are high for his first season as the Hokies starter. Standing at 6-foot-6, Thomas often looked like the big brother as Taylor tutored him throughout last season. With quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain now assuming the play-calling duties, the offense will run through Thomas. Tech has many of the pieces in place to defend their ACC championship, but they'll need Thomas to settle in quickly to get it done. -- CP

88. AT&T PARK, temporary home stadium, Cal. For the first time since 1923, the California Golden Bears will play their home games somewhere other than California Memorial Stadium. As the university enters the final stages of their $321 million retrofit and renovation project, the Bears will play their home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco - home of the Giants. The setup for football won't be entirely foreign for the venue -- it's the home of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl -- but it will be an inconvenient trip for players, students and fans so used to their home games in Berkeley.

With four critical, winnable home games on their Pac-12 slate (highlighted by visits from USC and Utah), how well the Bears adapt to their new surroundings could well determine the trajectory of Jeff Tedford's Bears tenure. After four seasons with no fewer than four losses and no league finish higher than fourth, Tedford needs a big year to avoid a make-or-break 2012 season, and given the Bears' rigorous road schedule (at Oregon, at Stanford) that simply won't happen if Cal spits the bit at AT&T Park. The stadium could be Tedford's sanctuary; it could prove to be his house of horrors. -- CP

87. VICTOR ANDERSON, running back, Louisville. In 2008, Anderson rushed for 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns, numbers good enough for him to be named the Big East Rookie of the Year. But nagging injuries over the last two seasons have prevented Anderson from recapturing that freshman form. Now, for the first time since that promising campaign, Anderson is 100 percent healthy.

Just in time, too, for Charlie Strong's second season as Cardinal head coach. With very little chance to prove himself in 2010, some believed that sophomore Jeremy Wright might replace the dominant Bilal Powell as the 'Ville's starting running back. But after one of his best springs since stepping on campus, Anderson has reclaimed the greater share of snaps in the Cardinals' backfield. There will be a lot of pressure for Strong to repeat the success of 2010, and he's already shown his affection for the rushing game. If the Cardinals are going back to the postseason again, they'll need 2008's Anderson (or better) in 2011. -- CP

86. CASE KEENUM'S KNEE, body part, Houston quarterback. The coronation of college football's newest passing king looked to be in serious jeopardy last fall when Keenum, a senior, suffered a season-ending ACL tear during an ill-advised attempt at a tackle against UCLA. Keenum had been on pace to set NCAA records in career yards and touchdowns before the injury, but there's no progress to be made there on the sidelines.

Fortunately for Keenum, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility this January, meaning not only does he have another shot at setting those NCAA records, but he's 636 yards and three touchdowns closer. At this point, the biggest obstancle in Keenum's way is his own health. His rehab's on track so far, and he's going to be doing 7-on-7 drills with his receivers to get that all-important timing down, but how is he going to respond physically and mentally to this setback? Can he still set those records? Will his knee allow him to? -- AJ

85. LSU AT ALABAMA, potential Game of the Year, SEC. In a division where as many as four or five teams can have realistic dreams of a top-10 season and a trip to Atlanta, there's no shortage of "Game of the Year" candidates. Pair off any one of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State -- a group featuring three of the last four national champions, a fourth team coming off a Sugar Bowl berth, and a fifth coached by a man with two national title rings himself -- and you're going to get not only a potential classic, but the game that could decide the outcome of the nation's hands-down strongest division.

But even taking into account the South Carolina-Georgia-Florida round-robin in the East, the single game most likely to produce the SEC's 2011 champion will be played between the Tide and Tigers on Nov. 5. Both teams will bring wicked defenses, explosive athletes, powerful running games (at least, if we're right about Spencer Ware) ... and potentially shaky quarterback situations that could derail either team's title dreams. It all collides head-on in Tuscaloosa, and whatever the result, the SEC season won't be remotely the same in its aftermath. -- JH

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84. MARCUS COKER, running back, Iowa. The breakout star of the 2010 Insight Bowl was true freshman tailback Marcus Coker, who ran for 219 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries in Iowa's 27-24 win over Missouri. Coker busted out several highlight-reel plays, including a 62-yard touchdown sprint and a 35-yard gain in which Coker plain ran over senior safety Jarrell Harrison at the point of attack.

Coker -- who probably would have redshirted were it not for a slew of injuries in front of him on the depth chart -- is now the unquestioned workhorse in the Iowa backfield after the departures of every other tailback with even one down of experience. He's clearly got the physical gifts to make it work (and a talented, veteran line in front of him), but will Coker's bruising style of play hold up through an entire season in the Big Ten? --AJ

83. DANNY O'BRIEN, quarterback, Maryland. When 2010's ACC Rookie of the Year takes the field for his sophomore campaign this fall, in some ways it will feel as new as last September when the Kernersville, NC native took the conference by storm. After leading the Terrapins within a game of an Atlantic Division title, head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired, and offensive coordinator James Franklin took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. O'Brien's favorite receiver, junior Torrey Smith, took his 1,055 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns to the NFL.

Now O'Brien returns with expectations to repeat last year's success in College Park. But this go-round he has a new head coach (Randy Edsall) and new offensive coordinator (Gary Crowton). Luckily, neither coach is lacking in experience, and there should be plenty of learning opportunities for the sophomore gunslinger. Now O'Brien must seize control of those opportunities to keep Maryland --as Terps fans expect -- in the Atlantic Division hunt. -- CP

82. DECLAN SULLIVAN, late student videographer, Notre Dame. Though Notre Dame's 2010 campaign finished on a high note on the field, the season had already been irreparably marred by the tragic October death of Declan Sullivan. Sullivan lost his life when the scissor lift he was on while filming an Irish practice toppled over in high winds. (At right, that's a picture of Oregon's D.J. Davis wearing Sullivan's photo on his handwarmer as a tribute.) Notre Dame was fined for the accident and has since taken steps to make sure it never happens again, filming practice by placing cameras at different angles around the field rather than putting students on top of lifts.

It's a practice that a lot of schools would be smart to adapt, and it's one example of how Sullivan's legacy -- we desperately hope -- impacts the 2011 season and beyond. Whether it's discontinuing the use of lifts, using better equipment to reduce the risk of injury, closer supervision of player workouts, even more regular medical check-ups for stressed-out coaches, college football must do a better job of ensuring the safety of those involved with it. The lesson from the Sullivan tragedy is that those in charge must be proactive in making the necessary changes; even if the number of deaths from lift incidents stops, forever, at one, that one is still far, far too many. -- TF

81. WILL LYLES, scouting service director, Houston, Texas. The man who runs Complete Scouting Services has become the face of one of the NCAA's latest, biggest targets: scouting services. These alleged "street agents" associated with different scouting services came under fire earlier this spring when it was revealed that Oregon paid Lyles $24,000 for his services before signing coveted recruit Lache Seatrunk. Since then, the public has slowly learned more and more about the scouting service industry.  

What they have learned is that Oregon is not the only school that uses them.  In fact, many schools pay scouting services for DVD's, measurements, and other information that may help in recruiting.  But the dollar amounts in some cases do not exactly fall in line with "standard prices."  Lyles is currently being investigated by the NCAA for his ties to Seastrunk, LaMichael James (also at Oregon), and Patrick Peterson (formerly of LSU).  If the NCAA decides that Lyles helped lead them to their respective schools, he would become a booster and thus a walking violation of NCAA rules. If (or when) the NCAA crackdown on scouting services takes its next step, it will be because of the spotlight on Lyles. -- CP

Check back tomorrow at Eye on CFB for Nos. 80-71 on the countdown, click here for Nos. 100-91, or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on the 100 ... and everything else college football.



Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Gamecocks' Johnson no fan of no-huddle

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We don't expect defensive coordinators to like the current trend of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses like those favored by Oregon, Oklahoma, and Auburn. But we also don't expect them to be, well, bitter about them, either, or suggest that the NCAA step in with rules changes to stop what's still a small minority of college offenses.

So, yes, consider us surprised by the vehemence with which South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson attacked the trend in a recent radio interview:
“One thing that has gotten into it that I’ve been pretty outspoken, that I really think is starting to deteriorate some of college football is the hurry up offenses ...

“[W]hat’s happening now with the rules is that you can snap it as soon as you want to or you can sit on it for 40 seconds, and there is no in-between ... The NFL cut it out with Buffalo in the 90’s, they kind of put some cold water on it a little bit with the Colts not too many years ago. What they realized is they’re taking the game of football and turning it into soccer or lacrosse. There’s nothing wrong with those sports, but that’s not football.”

"What it's about now is who can snap the football before the other team lines up. You can’t hardly get your players on and off the field. You can’t get your signals in and out. It’s become who has the best signal system or verbiage system ... It’s not about blocking, tackling, running, route running, throwing, and so forth. It’s something the college football world needs to look at.”

“It sounds like sour grapes right now, but there is not a balanced playing field.”
Please don't take this the wrong way, Mr. Johnson ... but yes, right now, it sounds like sour grapes.

Because while a good "signal system or verbiage system" paired with an up-tempo offense can make things very difficult on a defense when run correctly, it's hardly some kind of college football cure-all. For starters, there's the trade-off of a greater strain on the no-huddle team's own defense; the defenses opposite Gus Malzahn's attacks at both Auburn and Tulsa took huge statistical hits as soon as he arrived. There's the subtantial increase in conditioning work that must be done for those offenses to maintain their stamina late into games. There's the risk of multiple high-tempo three-and-outs putting the no-huddle team at a huge time-of-possession disadvantage.

And then -- despite Johnson's implication that a collection of players who weren't any good at "blocking, tackling, running," etc. could thrive as long as they had the right "verbiage system" -- you've still got to have the right personnel. While the tempo has no doubt helped, the overwhelming talents of players like Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and LaMichael James have all played a far greater role in the success of their respective offenses.

As for what the no-huddle looks like without those kinds of players, Vanderbilt installed the no-huddle before the 2009 season, and even brought in Malzahn's Tulsa colleague Herb Hand for 2010; the results were still 109th- and 110th-place finishes in total offense, even worse than the Commodores' usual efforts.

So we humbly suggest that if Johnon wants the no-huddle offensess on the Gamecocks' schedule stopped, he prepare his team to do so -- not an impossible task even against the best of them, as Mississippi State (17 points allowed to Auburn) and Cal (13 points allowed to Oregon) proved last year -- rather than hoping the NCAA descends from on high to do his work for him.

HT: Get the Picture, which quotes a 2004 story to show that it wasn't so long ago the rulebook agreed with Johnson.
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.




Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:45 pm
 

SEC dominates first round of NFL draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The SEC has been dominating the college football landscape for quite a while now, as the conference has been the home of the last five national champions. So it's not exactly surprising that during the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, more players who called the SEC home during their college career were taken than any other conference.

In fact, nearly a third of the players taken on Thursday night were SEC players. There were 32 picks, and 10 of them were from the SEC, including five of the first six picks. The only non-SEC player taken in the top six was Texas A&M's Von Miller, who went to the Denver Broncos with the second pick. Other than that there was a distinct SEC flavor, with the state of Alabama being able to lay claim as the best college football state in the country. Auburn saw Cam Newton go to Carolina with the first pick, while Nick Fairley went 13th to the Detroit Lions.  Then there was the Crimson Tide, who basically had their own table in the green room, and everyone who sat at it -- and even one player who didn't -- heard their name called on Thursday night.

Marcell Dareus (#3 Buffalo), Julio Jones (#6 Atlanta), James Carpenter (#25 Seattle) and Mark Ingram (#28 New Orleans) all gave Nick Saban some valuable face time on television last night. Elsewhere in the conference, Georgia's A.J. Green (#4 Cincinnati), LSU's Patrick Peterson (#5 Arizona), Florida's Mike Pouncey (#15 Miami) and Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod (#32 Green Bay) were drafted as well.

Here's a look at selections by conference in last night's first round (both Nebraska and Colorado still counted for the Big 12).

  1. SEC - 10
  2. Big 12 - 8
  3. Big 10 - 6
  4. Pac-12 - 3
  5. ACC - 3
  6. Big East - 1
  7. MAC - 1

That's it. While it was a great year for the Big 12, what's somewhat surprising about the eight players drafted from the conference is that Missouri had two, Colorado had two and Baylor had another two. Not exactly your classic Big 12 powers. In fact, Oklahoma and Texas combined for none of the picks last night. Which can be looked at two ways. You might say that it's because neither school produced any top talent last season. I prefer to think of it as neither school lost any of its top talent this year.

There's a reason a lot of people think Oklahoma will start the year at #1 after all.

Then there was the Big 10, who had six picks, but it should be noted that all six players drafted from the Big Ten last night were lineman, whether offensive or defensive. Surprise! The Big Ten didn't have any top talent at the "skill" positions. Still, if you're a skilled defensive lineman in high school right now, there are worse places for you to play than the Big Ten, as Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, and Iowa all sent members of the defensive line to the NFL last night.

Then, in other not-so-surprising news, we see that the Big East had only one player taken in the first round last night. The same amount as the MAC, which was the only non-BCS conference to be noticed last night, as Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson went to the Jets with the 30th selection. The one Big East player to be taken was Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin to Kansas City at 26, which came as a bit of a surprise as most grades on Baldwin saw him as being an early to mid-second round pick.

Of course, this isn't the end of the NFL Draft by any means. There are still three days and six rounds left to get through, and who knows what the numbers will look like by Sunday night? More importantly, the true measuring stick of the conferences success on the pro level won't be known for years. It's not the amount of players you funnel into the league, it's the players who last on the next level and succeed that really tell the story.

Though that's not going to stop the "S-E-C!" chants.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Who's No. 1?

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:

With a few scattered exceptions, spring practice is in the books. As we enter summer and start looking at the 2011 season in earnest, let's start that looking at the top: who deserves to be the preseason No. 1?

Tom Fornelli: If I were forced to choose a number one team at gunpoint like I am now, I would have to agree with most people and go with Oklahoma. 

The Big 12 just got a little easier to navigate now that Nebraska is gone and there's no longer a conference championship game to get through. Texas is coming off of a down year, and while I think they'll be improved in 2011, I think last year showed that the Longhorns aren't ready to compete for a national title again right away.

Which leaves Oklahoma, returning both Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles on offense, without much resistance in the Big 12. Yes, there's Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but I don't see Oklahoma State making a key defensive stop when it needs one against the Sooners. As for the Aggies, I just don't trust Mike Sherman yet. So I don't think it's insane to believe that the Sooners are going to get through the season without a loss in 2011. That's enough to make them my extremely premature preseason No. 1.

Adam Jacobi: I agree with Tom. OU doesn't have everybody back, but they have enough to navigate a pretty lackluster Big 12 Which Is Now Actually 10. Look out for Alabama too, because Trent Richardson is going to have an absolutely monster year. But we'll need to see how the quarterback situation shakes out before tossing out terms like "top-ranked" to describe that team.

Bryan Fischer:  I think it's easy to peg Oklahoma as the pre-season No. 1, but that doesn't mean I'd pencil - and I do mean pencil - them in at the top. The Sooners do return their quarterback in Jones, a dynamic threat at receiver in Broyles and a great defensive leader in linebacker Travis Lewis. Their schedule does set up well for them, outside of a dangerous trip to Tallahassee to take on a Florida State team they beat 47-17 last year. 

That said, I have to go with Alabama. Let's face it: the champion at the end of the year usually comes from the SEC, so that's a good place to start. The Crimson Tide have to break in a new quarterback but I think the schedule will allow them to ease into things, with the big road game at Penn State teaching them to handle a hostile crowd. Plus, either guy gets to hand off to the best running back in the country in Richardson. The defense should be great again and they get both LSU and Arkansas at home.

AJ: I suppose this necessitates the question of by "No. 1," whether we're choosing the best team in Week 1 or the most likely team to run the table. Because I'm feeling OU more for the former and UA for the latter. But it's a good philosophical question regardless. Thoughts?

Chip Patterson:  I think that this far out from the regular season, you have to define "No. 1" as the team most prepared to win the title right now. In my eyes, that is Oklahoma. 

However, I would agree that Alabama - and also LSU - could find themselves in another SEC West dogfight should Florida State knock off Oklahoma in Tallahassee. Florida State is far from the team that got worked in Norman a year ago, returning 18 starters from a team that beat SEC East champion South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. If Oklahoma slips to the Seminoles early in the season, then the Bayou Bengals' trip to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 becomes another one of those marquee SEC regular season bloodbaths which have become an annual event the last couple seasons. 

But until they slip and fall, the Sooners look most prepared to run the table right now - and they are my No. 1.

Jerry Hinnen: Adam's question is one that it would be nice for the mainstream polls to answer for us with some kind of stated policy, as opposed to their current "Do What You Feel" preseason approach. My take is that it's more fair to start the season with (as Chip says) the best team at the top regardless of schedule, then adjust as the season results pour in.  But it's much more fun to try and predict who'll wind up standing atop the mountain when all is said and done.

So that's what I'll do, and I'll also predict "Alabama." I don't expect the Tide to run the table against the strongest single division in college football (even with Auburn taking a step back, there's still LSU, underrated Arkansas and ever-improving Mississippi State plus an Iron Bowl on the road), but after two years with a BCS national title game matching up undefeated opponents, we're overdue for at least one one-loss team to make the championship tilt. And once an SEC team gets that far, it's been the safest of bets -- to-date -- to take that final step to the crystal football.

Two final points to wrap things up:

1. At the very least, we've got a consensus on who the top two teams are. Our colleague Dennis Dodd named LSU his early-early No. 1,  but after seeing Jordan Jefferson continue to flail in the Tigers' spring game, it's hard to see them coming out of Tuscaloosa with a win. And behind those three, is there anyone else we'd feel comfortable naming as a contender? Oregon has suffered major defensive losses; Ohio State could face the entire season without Jim Tressel; Stanford and Oklahoma State and Nebraska have all undergone substantial offensive coaching overhauls; and at the mid-major level, TCU and Boise State were (probably) both better a year ago.

In fact, it might be Florida State that's better positioned to make a run than any of those teams. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Even if the overall nonconference slate is more cupcake-laden than ever, we have not one but two games in September -- LSU hosting Oregon and the aforementioned Sooners-Seminoles clash -- matching up legitimate top-10 teams with national title aspirations. That's two more than most years, so you won't hear any complaints about 2011's non-league scheduling from me.

Posted on: April 25, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 11:24 pm
 

Miss. St. WR breaks jaw in altercation

Posted by Tom Fornelli

How did you spend your holiday weekend? Personally I just hung around the house and watched a whole lot of sports. Which is a much different story than the one Mississippi State wide receiver Chris Smith would tell you if he wasn't having so much trouble talking right now. It seems Smith found himself in the middle of some kind of "altercation" this weekend, and he has himself a broken jaw to show for it.

Smith, a rising junior, will undergo surgery Tuesday in Columbus and is not expected to miss workouts or fall practice, a team spokesman confirms. The altercation occurred Saturday, MSU coach Dan Mullen said when reached by telephone Monday night. Details surrounding the altercation were not immediately known. A request seeking a possible police report from the Meridian Police Department was not fulfilled Monday evening.

“We’re still investigating all the events around what happened,” Mullen said.

I see a whole lot of milkshakes in Smith's future, which seems pretty awesome until you remember he has a broken jaw.

Smith didn't get a lot of playing time in 2010, though he did finish the season strong for the Bulldogs and is expected to get more playing time in 2011. After not doing much of anything all year, Smith caught 13 passes for 165 yards in Mississippi State's final three games.

Posted on: April 23, 2011 10:12 pm
 

Site challenges Cam Newton to lie detector test

Posted by Tom Fornelli

At the moment, Cam Newton is busy worrying about his future in the NFL. He's working out for numerous pro teams who are trying to get an idea of how the kid who dominated college football last season will perform in the professional game. Of course, no matter how he performs in the NFL, odds are that Newton is going to get a nice contract before he ever steps foot on an NFL field.

Though if Cam would like a shot at earning $1 million before that, it seems that somebody is giving him a chance.

A website has been created at camnewtonliedetector.com that challenges the former Auburn quarterback to take a lie detector. According to the site, if Cam Newton can answer "no" to four simple questions and pass the test, the site owner will give him $1 million. What are the questions?

- Prior to signing with Auburn, were you aware your father was “shopping” you to Mississippi State or any other school?

- Did you tell Dan or Meghan Mullen that you signed with Auburn because of the money because you truly believed Auburn had paid for your commitment?

- Did anyone on the Auburn coaching staff/athletic department instruct you how to answer questions from the NCAA by lying or avoiding the truth?

- Did you or your family ever receive any impermissible benefits from Auburn?

I would just like to point out right here and now that I can answer no to all four of these questions and pass any kind of lie detector you would like to subject me to. Can I get $1 million? I'll even let you shoot video of me taking the test and post it on the internet. I'm that confident.

Of course, you do have to wonder if the person challenging Newton to the test actually has the funds to pay Newton the money if he passes. You also have to challenge that person's sanity. I'm just not sure I'm willing to risk that much money in case Newton did pass the test, no matter how confident I was that he wouldn't.

I mean, it's just college football, folks. I love the game too, but not that much.

 
 
 
 
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