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Tag:UCLA
Posted on: April 12, 2011 10:52 am
 

FCS scheduling still on the rise

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It won't surprise anyone to learn that paycheck games pitting BCS conference teams against FCS patsies -- or non-patsies, as the occasional James Madison/Appalachian State case may be -- are becoming more and more frequent.

But it might surprise some just how rapidly they're increasing, particularly in the domain of the formerly FCS-light Pac-12. Research by the Oregonian shows that such games have increased by a factor of nearly six out West:
Games between FBS and FCS teams have spiked 70 percent since a 2005 NCAA rule change made the games more attractive, according to analysis by The Oregonian. The matchups have increased nearly 600 percent in the Pacific-10 Conference and 358 percent in the Big Ten, even adjusting for conference expansion.
Look at that again: 600 percent. Why? You get one guess:
Athletic director Rob Mullens of Oregon, which plays FCS team Missouri State next fall, said he schedules the games for two main reasons: to have an extra home game and to combat skyrocketing prices for FBS nonconference teams making onetime visits.

"They'll want $900,000 or a million," Mullens said. "And we pay in the $400,000 range for an FCS opponent. That's a big difference."
Thanks to that economic reality (and, more immediately, Washington scheduling defending FCS champion Eastern Washington), only three FBS teams have still never stooped to an FCS game: Notre Dame, USC, and UCLA.

Kudos to them. But with the exception of schools that have doubled up on their FCS snacky-cakes ration, it's tough to be too harsh on the rest of FBS; when Eastern Washington costs substantially less than Eastern Michigan and your fans can't tell the difference, it doesn't make any sense to schedule the latter. Until the NCAA adds some kind of disincentive for scheduling the first FCS game as well as the second (which doesn't count towards bowl eligibility), don't expect the trend line to head in the other direction any time soon.
Posted on: April 8, 2011 11:26 am
 

Neuheisel 'forgets' to include Prince in 7-on-7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

If there's anything you'd have expected Rick Neuheisel to learn in his star-crossed, injury-plagued tenure at UCLA, it's that he needs to have as many quarterbacks prepared for action as he possibly can; you never know when whatever angry Norse god or gypsy curse that's been shredding Bruin ankles and ligaments the past few seasons will strike again. 

That goes double when one of those quarterbacks is Kevin Prince, the junior whose quarterbacking down the stretch of the 2009 season played a major role in propelling UCLA to a bowl game and represents one of the few stretches of competent quarterback play for the Bruins in recent memory. But from Neuheisel's management of the limited Prince and his other quarterbacks at yesterday's practice, you wouldn't know it (emphasis added):  

Prince, who was cleared to participate in 7-on-7 drills as he recovers from knee surgery, stood on the Spaulding Field sidelines on a frigid day, waiting, waiting, waiting.

But the reps went to junior Richard Brehaut and freshman Brett Hundley, as UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel forgot Prince was ready to go.

"To tell you the truth, I completely forgot that he was available to go today," Neuheisel said. "He came up, I looked at him and I said, `You've got to tell me, you've got to remind me.'

Just so we're clear on Neuheisel's logic, the responsibility of getting his most experienced, likely most talented option at quarterback involved in quarterbacking drills on the first day that quarterback is available falls on ... the quarterback.

One day of missed drills isn't going to make-or-break Prince's positioning in the Bruins' QB race, of course, much less make-or-break Neuheisel's make-or-break season on the UCLA sideline. But if Neuheisel wanted to prove how tight a ship he's running -- or maintain the best possible relationship with Prince, who admits "it's frustrating" -- missing a not-so-minor detail like which quarterbacks are ready to participate in practice isn't the way to do it.

Posted on: April 6, 2011 11:43 am
 

Pac-12 Network "a done deal"

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When last we heard from the San-Jose Mercury-News's Jon Wilner on the state of the Pac-12's new television agreements, a "Pac-12 Network" was something the newly-expanded league definitely wanted (for Olympic sports coverage as much as the heightened football profile) but hadn't fully committed to.

According to Wilner today, though, that status has changed:
I’ve also been told by a source familiar with the league’s business model that a Pac-12 Network is more than a negotiating ploy on Scott’s part (which is what some analysts and college sports officials believe).

The network is a done deal and will be launched in Aug. ‘12, in conjunction with the league’s broadcast partner.

The emphasis here is Wilner's; clearly, it's information he's willing to stand behind.

But as he points out, starting up such a network is one thing. Turning it into the money machine the Big Ten Network has become is another. A protracted subscriber-fee battle between the league and Time Warner Cable, the dominant cable provider in California, could become an even more bitter version of the infamous standoff between the Big Ten and Comcast in 2008.

If that's the biggest headline from Wilner's story, there's several more juicy details included, all of which are good news for Pac-12 fans and its member schools:
  • Thanks to the huge sums paid out to the Big 12 (by Fox Sports) and Texas (by ESPN for the forthcoming Longhorn Network), the estimates for the Pac-12's new deal have been ratcheted upwards. Commissioner Larry Scott will reportedly be asking for "a more lucrative contract than the $205 million annual deal the SEC signed with CBS and ESPN three years ago." A deal with dollar figures anywhere near that ballpark would increase each school's annual television cut by millions.
  • Though ESPN and Turner Broadcasting could bid for the league rights, the finalists are expected to be Fox Sports and Comcast. The league has allowed Fox's exclusive negotiating window to expire, presumably in order to see what Comcast (or a third party) would be willing to pony up. L.A.-based Fox may still the favorite, though, with their recent loss of Laker rights to Time Warner fueling the need to provide USC and UCLA games to the Los Angeles market.
  • Once the national broadcast "platform" is in place, the league is expected to schedule weekly Thursday or Friday night football games.
Though little of this is set in stone, one thing is clear: the days of Pac-12 football (and basketball) being the hardest power-conference action to find on the dial will be over soon.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Arizona State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Arizona State, who started spring practice on Tuesday. 

Spring Practice Question: Are Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict ready to step up and lead the Sun Devils?

Oh what a difference a year makes.

Coming out of spring practice a year ago, Arizona State was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10 and faced issues at just about every position group. Entering the spring this year, the Sun Devils are now considered the favorite to win a Pac-12 South title thanks to 18 returning starters from last year's squad that played top ten teams Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin tough.

"I thought last year we were really close, now I feel like we're here," head coach Dennis Erickson said at his pre-spring press conference. "Now we've got to do it on the field. Numbers wise, even though we've got a lot of seniors, we do have a lot of young guys playing. We're finally at a place, where if we have the success we think we're going to have next year, that we can plug guys in the year after that and the year after that and the year after that."

One starter returning is junior quarterback Brock Osweiler but it might be a bit of a stretch to actually call him a returning starter. Osweiler played in just five games last season but came on strong in two starts at the end of the year, a blow out of UCLA and an upset win at archrival Arizona.

"Yes, without a question, he is the guy," Erickson said. "Now who is two...that's kind of where we are going into spring football."

In addition to refining the 6-foot-7 quarterback's game this spring, finding a backup (important considering the revolving door at the position recently) is an unexpected challenge for Erickson and staff. Former starter Steven Threet had to retire due to concussions and Samson Szakacsy left the team to pursue other interests. Despite the vacancy at backup quarterback, Erickson still feels as though he has a talented group of quarterbacks with Osweiler, redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly and early enrollee Michael Bercovici.

"It's the best I've ever been around in college, or any place I have ever been, I've never had it that deep," Erickson said "Three of them are unproven, of course. But physical talent...from what you can see is pretty amazing."

Quite a statement for the fifth-year head coach to make considering some of his stops in college and the NFL, such as with the Miami Hurricanes and the San Francisco 49ers. All three quarterbacks have strong arms and can throw it anywhere on the field but Osweiler's maturity and experience have him firmly planted atop the depth chart. The lack of a quarterback battle has allowed him to focus less on beating another player and more on just being himself.

"It's a lot different," Osweiler told the Arizona Republic. "I'm a lot more comfortable. I've been in the offense for a year, and it's a little different. There's not exactly a quarterback competition, so it kind of takes that weight off you and just allows you to play."

Fans in Tempe are hoping that he can duplicate his numbers from the games against UCLA and Arizona, where he threw five touchdowns and no picks in helping the team reach the .500 mark on the year. With the expectation that Osweiler can successfully pilot the offense, Arizona State is undergoing a few minor tweaks this spring in order to help him get the ball in the hands of playmakers like running back Cameron Marshall.

"I think we'll add a few things. It might even be simpler than it's been," Erickson said. "I think one thing we can do right now is line up and run the football without having to trick people. I don't know if that's more complex or simpler. But we're not going to change a lot of things. I think that happens sometimes when you look at this offense is you have success and start putting too much in and they don't become as good."

On the other side of the ball, personal foul machine Vontaze Burfict is expected to - and we're not joking - take on a leadership role as an upperclassman this year. Though he has typically been known for a lack of self control on the field, the recent offseason program has given the talented middle linebacker a chance to help his team instead of hurt it.

"It's amazing his change in the last three months. Now, he doesn't miss workouts, ever," Erickson said. "He's a leader out there doing all sorts of stuff. He's in the best shape I've ever seen him in. He's a big time leader out there.

"The light just came on. I think the light came on at the end of last year. I think from the Stanford game on. I think having some success and winning, and saying maybe that gray-haired (coach) knows a little bit about what's going on."

Spring Practice Primers
In addition to showing NFL scouts he has what it takes to play at the next level between the ears, the 6-foot-3, 240 pound linebacker has set a high bar for the season that goes beyond just a division title.

"I'm trying to get us to a national championship," Burfict said, "and to do that, I feel like I need to become more of a leader."

In addition to leading by example, Burfict will have to get used to playing behind two new defensive tackles following the departure of Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola. Oft-injured tackle Corey Adams is talented but needs to stay on the field and Will Sutton will return after being academically ineligible last season. Despite a few new parts on defense, all eyes this spring will be on how the new and improved Burfict plays.

"I don't know why he had that chip on his shoulder. Maybe it was immaturity," Erickson said. "But it's totally different now."

The head coach hopes spring practice is totally different from years past as well. In addition to seeing Osweiler and Burfict step up their roles on the team, Erickson understands how much this spring means for the future of the program.

"I mean this is my fifth year. I have been going at this for four years," he said. "For me, I think it's a very important season for this program, no question about it."

If the Sun Devils are going to take the leap this upcoming spring and lay the foundation for a run, they'll have to hope Osweiler and Burfict take the necessary leap as leaders. The talk is certainly encouraging and there's no doubt that Osweiler is top dog on offense and Burfict has a better head on his shoulders on defense. But if Arizona State wants to see success in the fall, the next few weeks of spring practice are all about seeing if the two can start walking the walk and not mearly talking the talk.

Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Brandon Willis is officially a Tar Heel, again

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Brandon Willis was originally a member of North Carolina's 2010 recruiting class, but only after originally committing to Tennessee and changing his mind when Lane Kiffin left for USC. After losing his mother while still in high school, Willis' father lost his job and found a new one in southern California. Not wanting to be separated from his father after losing his mother, Willis announced last August that he was leaving North Carolina to transfer to UCLA.

Then, seven days ago, Willis announced he was leaving UCLA. This time his grandmother is ailing, and once again Brandon is on the move. While it's been rumored for a week now, North Carolina made it official with a release on Monday saying that Willis was returning to Chapel Hill.

“Brandon lost his mother in high school and is very close with his grandmother, who lives in Burlington and is battling health issues,” head coach Butch Davis said in a statement. “He and his father wanted to move back to the East coast to be with her.  There were no hard feelings when Brandon originally left and when he inquired about the possibility of returning, we welcomed him back.”

Of course, since Willis transferred last season, he had to sit out the entire 2010 season. Now that he's transferring again, he may have to sit out a second straight year. North Carolina will submit a waiver to the NCAA asking to grant Willis immediate eligibility, and given the nature of his latest transfer, there's a chance that the NCAA will allow it.
Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Utah

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Utah, who began spring practice on Tuesday.

What are some of the issues Utah has to figure out before moving to the Pac-12?

When you look at teams going through transition this spring, most are referring to a quarterback change or having to deal with new coaching staff members. At Utah, "transition" is less about who's under center and more about a move to a whole different conference.

"It is a new era for Utah football and you can sense it," head coach Kyle Willingham told reporters after the Utes' first practice. "There is a lot of excitement about it and new challenges."

The move to a new league will come complete with a new offense thanks to distinguished alum and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Though he ran the Pistol offense while at UCLA with limited success, Chow is known best for producing high scoring offenses with top flight pro-style quarterbacks (see Palmer, Carson at USC and Rivers, Phillip at N.C. State). Last season's starter Jordan Wynn will miss spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery, which leaves all the reps to true freshman Tyler Shreve and sophomore Griff Robles. While spring offers the Utes a chance to see what the quarterback of the future looks like, they won't be able to see what the quarterback for next season looks like after Chow all but confirmed that Wynn would start in the fall.

"I told Jordan I'd go to the Heisman one more time and then I'll retire," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The backfield is also an area of concern. The team loses two of their leading rushers from last season in Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. Don't be surprised if early enrollee Harvey Langi makes a big push for playing time after several top programs recruited the big back out of high school. Paving the way in the new pro-style attack will be Boo Anderson, who moves from linebacker to fullback. Three of the five starters on the offensive line are back but there will be battles at both guard spots the Utes will need to lock down before all is said and done.

Oh and one of the best names in college football, wide receiver Shaky Smithson, departs after being a threat in the passing game and special teams. While it might seem like there's a lot of moving parts on offense, there are a few things Willingham doesn't have to worry about. Linebackers Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker return and safety Brian Belchen has bulked up a bit after moving to SAM linebacker. Not a surprise but Willingham thanks Star Lotulelei will be a star at defensive tackle and David Kruger and Derrick Shelby are returning starters at defensive end.

Previous Spring Primers
The front seven should be relatively well equipped for the move for the Pac-12 but the secondary will need to be straightened out over the next month with all four spots up for grabs. You can pencil in junior Conroy Black, who is the fastest player on the team and grabbed an interception last season in a decent amount of playing time. Outside of Black, there's several players who should compete for the other three spots.

Are there a few things the Utes want to get worked out? Yes on both sides of the ball. But that's what spring football is all about, working out the kinks. The coaching staff believes that there's plenty of talent to compete week in and week out in a new conference and there is enough proven talent that will suit up this spring to back that up.

"They've played in big games against the Alabama's and teams so that will be nothing different," Chow told the Tribune. "The challenge will be the week to week competition in the Pac-12. That is different but we'll be ready."

Plenty of things to figure out beforehand though.

Posted on: March 3, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Hinnen's Favorite Stadiums

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In college football, more than any other sport, the stadiums can be just as memorable as the games played within them. So as CBS Sports takes a look at the best stadiums that college football has to offer, the bloggers here at Eye On College Football share their three favorite stadiums in the country.




1. Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif., capacity 92, 452). It's simple: if College Football Nation ever decided to name one stadium its Capitol building, there would really be only one choice. No venue boasts more college football history, reflects more college football history (remember that the Rose Bowl is the most famous of many imitators of the original Yale Bowl, arguably the most architecturally-influential stadium in all of football), or is more immediately synonymous with the college game. There's a reason that Super Bowls and World Cup finals stop by from time to time to borrow what the Rose Bowl gives college football on the regular.

If you'd agree with the statement that college football's biggest games are the ones played in its biggest bowls -- and why wouldn't you? -- the importance of the Rose Bowl becomes even more obvious. Because as great a game as the Sugar Bowl is, how much, really, does the Superdome add to it? The University of Phoenix Stadium to the Fiesta? The Orange Bowl isn't even played in the Orange Bowl any more. The Rose Bowl, on the other hand, is the Rose Bowl in very large part because it's played at the Rose Bowl. It's a stadium that deserves to host national championships, rather than one that simply does. And what higher compliment can you pay a college football venue than that?




2. Sanford Stadium (University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., capacity 92,746). It's impossible to make a list of college football's greatest stadiums without relying heavily on candidates from the SEC; it doesn't get any louder than in Florida Field or Jordan-Hare, there's no atmosphere more intense than at Bryant-Denny or Tiger Stadium, there's no venue more exhilarating than Neyland or the underrated Williams-Brice. 

But for this blogger's money, there's no more unique SEC stadium experience than that at Sanford. Whereas most of the classic SEC stadiums tower like concrete monoliths over their surrounding campuses, Sanford -- nestled into a former creek bed between gentle slopes on either side -- feels more integrated with what's already one of the most picturesque campuses in the South. Add in the mystique of the Hedges and the perennially rabid Dawg fans, and walking down to Sanford with 92,000 other fans for an evening kickoff is one of the special atmospheres in college football. It's splitting hairs picking one SEC stadium -- ask em again tomorrow and you'll get a different answer -- but this hair is split in Athen's favor.




3. Michigan Stadium (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., capacity 109,901). "The Big House" is, hands-down, the greatest optical illusion in football; viewed from the outside (particularly for those raised on the above-mentioned SEC sky-scrapers, and particularly before the recent renovations), the deep-set stadium appears nondescript, unintimidating even. But then you enter, and the rows and rows and rows just keep going and going and going. You look from one corner to its opposite and realize that even as the proverbial crow flies, it's a long, long way. You know you are in the largest football stadium ever built in America. And you are impressed.

Of course, that size has had its drawbacks; with that much wide-open space and a crowd whose less-than-rowdy reputation isn't entirely undeserved, the Big House hasn't always been the loudest venue for opposing teams. But the new luxury suite/press box structure has helped that problem, and a lively student section (silly third-down key waving excepted) does its part as well. The bottom line is that if you come away disappointed in a stadium that's as quintessentially college football as it is big -- and the Big House is both -- that's your problem.
Posted on: February 28, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Eye on CFB Recruiting Review, 2/28

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Monday, our weekly Recruiting Review recaps the past week's top headlines from our sister blog, Bryan Fischer's Eye on Recruiting . Enjoy:
  • Arizona State's underwhelming 2011 class received a much-needed late boost with a pair of late defensive back signings, one of them JUCO safety Kevin Ayers, brother of UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers.
  • Struggling already to keep up with football's Matthews clan? Sorry: there's another member on his way to Texas A&M , this time the youngest son of Bruce, offensive lineman Mike Matthews. Not to be outdone by their archrivals in Austin, the Aggies now have a whopping 14 commitments for the 2012 class.
  • The furor over oversigning has been reignited again after two South Carolina recruits were told the day before Signing Day the school would not be accepting their letters-of-intent.
One more reminder: if you don't want to wait for these Monday recaps, simply read Eye on Recruiting . You'll be glad you did.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com