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Tag:Vanderbilt
Posted on: January 14, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2011 3:20 pm
 

5 Up: Potential 2011 sleeper teams

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason Top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).

So earlier today we named five that are in his Top 25 that might slip out or could otherwise disappoint, and right now we'll name five more teams we think can crack that Top 25 next season. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Baylor - The good news for Baylor: dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III is back along with most of the offense, and while he loses starting tailback Jay Finley to graduation, Finley's backups Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi provide an intriguing balance of power and speed -- they both return. In addition, RG3 gets his top five receivers back (all of whom caught at least 40 passes this year), and three-year starting lineman Philip Baker will be the anchor at center for a mostly intact offensive line. Yes, Baylor still looks wretched at times on defense (53 points to Oklahoma and 55 to Oklahoma State aren't exactly solid efforts), so there's no telling whether the Bears' losses on that side of the ball are addition by subtraction or not, but one thing's for sure: there'll be points put up in Waco in 2011.

2. Illinois - This spot would likely go to fellow "Leader" Penn State if it weren't for the fact that PSU's replacing Evan Royster, two leading receivers, its two best offensive linemen, and there's really no telling who's starting at QB in 2011. Oh, and most of the Penn State defense -- including two of three starting LBs -- is graduating too. Contrast that with Illinois , who found a star quarterback in freshman Nathan Scheelhaase this year and returns four of five starting offensive linemen. The Illini won't miss early declarant Mikel LeShoure much with Jason Ford (who's basically a human truck) waiting to take over at tailback. The defense will definitely miss Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget on the interior, on the other hand; those guys were anchors of a stout rushing defense and their backups are unremarkable. Still, Illinois' 2011 schedule looks primed for some upsets, and nine wins is hardly out of the question. If Wilson and Liuget were returning, Illinois would probably be in Dodd's Top 25, but it's not as if no borderline-Top 25 team has ever exceeded expectations after losing two juniors to the NFL.

3. Utah - Everything's going to come crashing down once Utah joins a "real" conference, right? Maybe not. If QB Jordan Wynn recovers from December shoulder surgery in time for the season (which he should, but six months of rehab can turn into nine without the patient doing anything wrong), he'll be a third-year starter with a reasonable set of returning players. Senior wideout/returner Shaky Smithson is sure to be missed, but this is college football; so it goes. And while Utah's schedule looks daunting, it really could be worse; the Utes miss both Oregon and Stanford in inter-divisional play, and neither BYU nor Pitt should be as tough of matchups as they'd have been over the past couple years. In addition, the schedule's pretty top-heavy, and it's easily possible that Utah wins at least five of six down the stretch. Head coach Kyle Whittingham keeps proving predictions wrong by not bolting for a paycheck elsewhere, and now he's got a chance to lead his Utes into battle in a real conference and destroy the "mid-major" label that's been dogging the program -- even through multiple BCS bowl wins! -- once and for all.

4. Oregon State - Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 North, the Oregon State Beavers have a chance to make noise. Yes, Oregon and Stanford are the class of the division and should remain so for the near future, but don't sleep on the passing skills of QB Ryan Katz , especially now that he'll have his first full season as a starter under his belt. With the game slowing down for him and with Markus Wheaton and James Rodgers both returning at WR (to say nothing of Joe Halahuni coming back at TE), Katz should be able to more effectively use his NFL-caliber arm to put some points up in Corvallis. The offense will miss Jacquizz Rodgers desperately, and while deserved, his jump to the NFL will likely cost the Beavers a win or two. So while the defense struggled in 2010 and stands to lose several seniors, it may not matter in a Pac-12 with several struggling offenses and an OSU attack that should set 30+ points per game as a goal. Scheduling a road date at Wisconsin might not have been the wisest idea, though. Still, look for a push from Oregon State to hit that eight-win mark, which against a schedule like this could mean a spot in the Top 25 when it's all said and done.

5. Tennessee - Dodd ranks eight SEC teams in his Top 25 (26, really, but whatever). We're not sure all will end up ranked at the end of the 2011 season, but one thing seems clear: of the four teams he left out -- Kentucky , Ole Miss , Tennessee , and Vanderbilt -- Tennessee's the closest thing to a contender of the four. No, the SEC East shouldn't spend its entire season on fire like last year, where South Carolina took the division trophy in a five-loss season, but Florida 's going to be experiencing major upheaval and Georgia will be missing A.J. Green (again). With Tyler Bray coming off a successful freshman campaign and returning starting RB Tauren Poole and deep threat wideout Justin Hunter , we could see the Vols make some noise. On defense, the only major loss is leading tackler Nick Reveiz ; Herman Lathers made strides along with the rest of the defense down the stretch, and the secondary returns intact. If there's ever a time to make a run in the East, it's -- well, okay, it was 2010. 2011's not a bad opportunity for the Vols either, though.



Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:56 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

A late touchdown gave Central Florida its first bowl victory ever as the Golden Knights beat Georgia, 10-6.

Central Florida

Offense: Sometimes winning football is pretty. And sometimes it's what Central Florida did. UCF's freshman phenom quarterback Jeff Godfrey didn't exactly set the world on fire in today's game, going 16-29 for 117 yards (a paltry four yards per attempt) and throwing two interceptions -- including one on a truly lousy fade in the end zone in the second half. But when it came down to it, UCF put together a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, complete with several 3rd down conversions, and on that drive Godfrey was more like his 2010 self, as he led the C-USA in passing efficiency. The hero of the day was Latavius Murray , who scored the lone touchdown and rushed for over 100 yards on the day. Grade: C

Defense: Hard to argue with six points allowed. Georgia had been scoring at a clip of nearly 40 points per game after A.J. Green came back from suspension, and even in its losses after Green's return, Georgia scored nearly 30 points a game. Shutting the Dawgs down like this, then, was a Herculean task and never something one would expect from a Conference USA team. But here it is and here we are. Grade: A

Coaching: First bowl win and it comes on a fourth-quarter comeback against an SEC team? That's enough for an A in our book any day. Grade: A

Georgia

Offense: Aaron Murray (no relation to Latavius), Georgia's own freshman phenom quarterback, was just about as wretched as Godfrey; Murray was 21-38 for 198 yards and two of his own interceptions. More troubling was the fact that Murray was in gloves all day, and several of Murray's throws were well off-target and/or absolute ducks in the air. He got quite a bit of help from Green and Tavarres King at wideout, each of whom made some highlight-reel catches, but all in all the Georgia offense was as out of whack as Murray's throws all day long. Grade: D

Defense: Normally, allowing 241 yards, 3-10 3rd down conversions, and 10 points is more than enough to ensure victory. That's what Georgia did, and putting this loss on the defense's shoulders since the lone touchdown allowed came in the fourth quarter is pretty short-sighted. When taking the opponent into consideration -- no offense, Vanderbilt -- this was the best performance by the Bulldog defense all season long. Grade: A

Coaching: In the first quarter, Mark Richt's Bulldogs started a drive at their own 2-yard line. 95 -- 95! -- yards later, Georgia faced a 4th and inches at the UCF 3-yard line. A touchdown was nine feet away, and a first down was one foot away. Up went a field goal, and Georgia took a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs would not treaten to score a touchdown again until the very last drive, when Aaron Murray was forced to heave a pass into the end zone as time expired. Why Mark Richt didn't go for the touchdown in the first quarter is, frankly, a mystery. That's a statement of absolutely no faith in the offense by Richt, and his players responded with their worst offensive showing of the season. Grade: F-

Final Grade

Hey, we'll take any game that ends with the ball in the air and a win in the balance. Aaron Murray's Hail Mary would fall harmlessly to the turf, but still, the two teams used all of the 60 minutes in this struggle. Moreover, UCF's win only further proved that despite what the BCS conferences maintain at every step, the difference between AQ teams and non-AQ teams erodes further every year. That's scant consolation for Georgia fans who just watched their team drop a 10-6 decision to some C-USA school with no bowl tradition, but tradition's always been an overrated factor in college football anyway. Grade: B

Posted on: December 29, 2010 10:06 am
Edited on: December 29, 2010 10:06 am
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Military Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

The Basics: Maryland (8-4) takes on East Carolina (6-6) in the Military Bowl on Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

Why to watch: Well certainly you will want to tune in if you are a fan of Ralph Friedgen. The two-time ACC Coach of the Year will have the Maryland headset on one more time before having his contract terminated just after the new year. It has been a move that has confused many Maryland fans, especially after Friedgen helped orchestrate one of the biggest win-turnarounds in school history. But athletic director Kevin Anderson clearly has a different picture for the future of Maryland football, one that does not include the Fridge. East Carolina is glad to be bowling in their first year under head coach Ruffin McNeill. A former assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, McNeill brought a staff that likes to put big numbers up on the scoreboard. Plus, it is 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon - what else are you going to watch?

Keys to victory for Maryland: With offensive coordinator James Franklin on his way to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, it will be interesting to see if there is any effect on the Maryland offense. Much of freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien's development this season has been credited to Franklin, and now the Terps will try and get their third bowl win since 2006 without their primary play-caller.

Also, the only way that East Carolina keeps the game close is in the event of a shoot-out. If Maryland's defense can come up with stops the way they did against NC State in the regular season finale, they can keep East Carolina's offense from putting up those basketball score numbers from the end of the season.

Keys to victory for East Carolina: The Pirates have to force Maryland to score by putting up points themselves. At this point in the season, it may be too late to ask the 118th ranked defense to make stops, so you might as well look to quarterback Dominique Davis to orchestrate some big-time touchdown drives. Davis was fourth in the nation in passing yards in 2010, but he will need one of his best performances of the season against the Maryland secondary.

If East Carolina's defense were to focus on one major goal - it should be to shut down Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith is obviously O'Brien's favorite target, particularly in big games. Shut Smith down, and at least you save yourself the chance of being burned for 224 receiving yards like NC State.

The Military Bowl is like: A really awkward family reunion. Maryland is going to trot out there with a departing coaching staff and an athletic director who seems far more fixated on finding a replacement than getting a bowl victory. The Terps will have to face Ruffin McNeill, a former assistant of current Maryland coaching candidate Mike Leach. ECU runs an offense with an obvious Texas Tech influence - are the Terps getting a quick look at the future of their own program? Probably not, but we will see how the next weeks transpire in College Park.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 9:30 pm
 

Gus Malzahn's name popping up in rumors again

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Poor Auburn fans.  They thought they were out of the woods.  Earlier this month offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was reportedly very close to accepting an offer to take the head coaching job at Vanderbilt before ultimately deciding to accept a raise and contract extension to stay at Auburn.  This caused Auburn fans to wipe the sweat off their brow, yell "War Eagle" and give each other high fives.

Start sweating again, Auburn fans.
Comcast SportsNet's Chick Hernandez reports that Maryland's athletic director Kevin Anderson and part of his search committee have met with several candidates for the position of Maryland's Head Football Coach.
Hernandez reports that the committee has met with Mike Leach, who Anderson mentioned in his press conference announcing Ralph Friedgen's buy-out, June Jones, the current head coach of SMU, and Gus Malzhan, the offensive coordinator at Auburn.  Both Jones and Malzhan are coaching their respective teams in upcoming bowl games.

Jones, who did interview with Maryland, has already turned down the chance to take the job.  According to his agent Leigh Steinberg, Jones is just TOO GOOD OF A HUMAN BEING to leave SMU right now, even though they offered an apparent pay raise.  Which means that Maryland's offer just wasn't enough.

Of course, to pry Malzahn away from Auburn, any offer Maryland makes will have to be considerable as well.  After all, that extension Malzahn signed will pay him seven figures.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see how GOOD OF A HUMAN BEING Malzahn is.
Posted on: December 19, 2010 11:59 pm
 

Report: Ralph Friedgen refuses to retire

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As reported earlier, Ralph Friedgen has been informed that he will not be returning to the Maryland Terrapins as head coach in 2011.   That leaves Friedgen with just a couple options: retire, or get fired. The only difference would be a matter of buyout terms and public civility.

Well, according to the Baltimore Sun, Friedgen's not in the mood to acquiesce; he's reportedly refusing to retire, which would appear to force Maryland's hand. A firing's always uglier than a retirement, even one that's forced, but if Maryland's dead-set on ending the Friedgen era then the ends'll justify whatever means are necessary.

Now, that supposedly means the Mike Leach era is at hand, and now the real question is what this does to Maryland's Military Bowl appearance on December 29. Does Maryland fire Friedgen as of December 30 and give him one last hurrah (along with his buyout)? Does Maryland fire him straight away and install defensive coordinator Don Brown as the interim head coach? Or, if the deal with Leach is as imminent as the Washington Post report suggests, is the Dread Pirate Leach crashing the Military Bowl?

And last, between Vanderbilt taking Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin (which likely started this whole Friedgen mess) and Florida hiring Will Muschamp from Texas, isn't it time to assume that declaring an assistant coach the "Head Coach In Waiting" isn't that wise of an idea? It makes the assistant that much more valuable without actually obligating him to a thing at his current school, it makes him a more attractive hire for a school trying to make a splash, and his inevitable departure creates even more havoc than if he were just, y'know, an assistant. It's probably safe to say Maryland and Texas didn't exactly think this cunning plan all the way through, and now here both schools are, surrounded by more questions about their programs' futures than they'd have imagined just two weeks ago.

Posted on: December 19, 2010 2:17 pm
 

Leach-to-Maryland speculation picks up steam

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

On its face, Maryland's ouster of Ralph Friedgen doesn't make a lot of sense. The Fridge had just engineered the FBS's second-biggest turnaround to finish a game out of the ACC Atlantic Divison title, there was no longer any hurry to clear his office out for coach-in-waiting James Franklin after Franklin took the Vanderbilt job, and you'd think being an alum and the guy who dragged the Terps out of their '90s doldrums would have earned Friedgen some slack.

It didn't make much sense ... until the whispers surfaced throughout Friday and Saturday that Mike Leach was likely to become the next man-in-charge in College Park. Those whispers gained even more credence Sunday when the Washington Post reported that an attempt to sign Leach was all but a certainty:
Maryland is expected to try to hire former Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach as head football coach once the school announces Ralph Friedgen’s departure after a 10-year tenure, according to three sources familiar with the situation.

There is mutual interest between Leach and Maryland, according to three sources, two of whom are close to Maryland and one of whom is close to Leach. Leach is said to be very interested in the job. He has a strong relationship with Kevin Plank , a former Maryland football player who sits on the school’s board of trustees and whose apparel company, Under Armour, is the outfitter for the school’s athletic teams.
With all due respect to the good work Friedgen did with the shambles of a program he inherited 10 years ago, if the Terps legitimately have the choice between the Fridge and Leach -- and Leach's willingness to lobby for nearly any job that came open this fall suggests they do -- then it's not really much of a choice. Maryland and Texas Tech are schools with roughly similar historical profiles, though Tech's presence in the rugged Big 12 South rather than the ACC means Leach arguably had something of the harder job; from 2002 to 2009 Leach never failed to win fewer than eight games, while Friedgen only reached that benchmark three seasons in the last seven.

There's also this, from the Post report:
Season ticket sales have declined for five straight seasons. The school fell more than $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections in each of the past two seasons. And only once this season – despite a successful 8-4 record – did Maryland fill Byrd Stadium to 75 percent capacity.
If the Terps now have the cash to buy out Friedgen they didn't a year ago, and they're not scared away by the Leach-Tech lawsuit still due to have its day in court, it wouldn't make much sense not to make this move. We're not yet in the stage where it's "just a matter of time" (the notoriously unshy Leach has yet to publicly announce his interest), but at this point it's hard to find any indications it won't happen sooner rather than later.

Posted on: December 17, 2010 12:07 pm
 

Finally, Franklin announced as Vanderbilt coach

Posted by Chip Patterson

After several days many whispers and numerous pump fakes, Vanderbilt has announced their next head football coach.  On Friday morning, the school announced that Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin would take over the Commodores.  For Vanderbilt, the hire comes after a brief flirtation with Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who ultimately decided to stay with the Tigers.  While Malzahn would have been a fantastic hire, Franklin is still a pretty good one for Vandy.

At Maryland, Franklin helped the Terps with one of the biggest win turnaround in school history.  With freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien, the Terps rebounded from last season's 2-10 to finish 8-4 and come within one game of winning the ACC Atlantic Division.  Franklin is set to be introduced to the media in a press conference later today.


Posted on: December 16, 2010 12:29 pm
 

Trooper Taylor sues school over son's braids

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Since polishing off South Carolina to win the SEC Championship Game and claim their berth in the national title game, the coaching staff at Auburn has stayed in the headlines. Unfortunately, it's been for reasons other than their coaching prowess: Gene Chizik's hitting the incentives jackpot , Gus Malzahn's hot-and-heavy flirtation with the Vanderbilt head coaching job, and now assistant head coach Trooper Taylor is in the news for suing his son's school over his hairstyle :

Taylor’s son Blaise Taylor , a 9th-grader who refused to remove his braids, has been prevented from playing for the junior varsity basketball team because of his hairstyle. Blaise refused to change it, saying braids were important to him as a connection to his role models.

On Friday in Montgomery, the Taylors filed a federal lawsuit alleging head basketball coach Frank Tolbert’s grooming policy is racially discriminatory since it singles out a hairstyle almost exclusively worn by black players while allowing white players to wear unkempt hair.

With the Auburn City Schools board standing by Tolbert (who is black), the suit is expected to be heard in court on Dec. 21.

Whether any of this -- Taylor's suit, Malzahn's Vandy discussions, even Cam Newton's Heisman win and subsequent media victory lap -- has any impact on the actual football to be played in Glenale is highly, highly debatable; with 25 days still to go until Jan. 10 and virtually all of the Tigers' planning and preparation still ahead of them, there's still plenty of time for Auburn to put any and all distractions behind them and focus on the task at hand.

Nonetheless, if we're wondering which team's head coach is happier with his team's break from the practice grind, we're betting Oregon coach Chip Kelly will take the relative calm around Eugene over the relative hubbub that seems to be surrounding Chizik's program at the moment.

 



 
 
 
 
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