Tag:Jim Harbaugh
Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:04 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 7:05 pm
 

PHOTO: Buckeye poster lists Michigan's majors

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We've already learned that Urban Meyer has reclaimed the "Team Up North" euphemism for his Buckeyes' hated rivals at Michigan, possibly in response to Brady Hoke's "Ohio" euphemism for the school and team its alumni will be quick to tell you is the Ohio State University. But it turns out Meyer is interested in getting in his jabs at the Wolverines in more ways than just avoiding the name.

This is a sign that appeared in the front of OSU's Woody Hayes Athletic Center last week:

Yes, that's a list of majors for Ohio State's football players on the left, and those for the "Team Up North" on the right, with the (alleged) number of Wolverines in General Studies (and Engineering, Biology, and Business at the bottom) having been highlighted. 

We are not going to wade into the merits of Meyer's argument, one we have zero doubt is already being waged by both Ohio State and Michigan fans in various corners of the Internet as we speak. More important from our perspective is that this is an argument Meyer wants to wage, too--that he is willing to tell visitors to the WHAC (which notably include both recruits and their parents) that the "Team Up North" isn't challenging its players academically. (Incidentally, Meyer wouldn't be the first coach to make this exact argument; former Wolverine great Jim Harbaugh did the same during his tenure at Stanford.) 

It's one thing to talk about a rival as the biggest game of the year, call them by a different name, or even talk a little smack about a winning streak. But to essentially call out another school's academic handling of its players in semi-public fashion is something else. We're neither condemning nor condoning the poster; as we said, we'll leave to that to the partisans on either side.

What we can say is that whether it's Meyer, Hoke, new Michigan signee Ondre Pipkins or anyone else on either side of the rivalry, the heat between the Wolverines and Buckeyes is rapidly approaching that of the Hayes-Schembecler glory years ... and as fans of spicy college football, that much, at least, we can endorse wholeheartedly.

Photo by Kevin Noon. HT: Eleven Warriors.

It's been a busy couple of days around Columbus and Ann Arbor; Gordon Gee and his magic mouth are at it again, the Wolverines just scored the biggest single recruiting weekend in the country this year, and Meyer's Gainesville home is for sale.    

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 5:04 pm
 

Stanford's Tarver hired as Raiders' D-coordinator

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Hiring Jim Harbaugh from Stanford worked out fairly well for the San Francisco 49ers, we'd say. So it's no surprise the Niners' Bay Area counterparts have gone to the same well to fill their defensive coordinator vacancy.

The Oakland Raiders announced Monday that they have hired Cardinal co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver as their own new DC. Tarver spent only one season in Palo Alto, having spent the previous six as the 49ers' outside linebackers coach.

The Raiders will no doubt be expecting that experience with the Niners to count for more than his time with the Cardinal. Despite his title, Tarver yielded defensive play-calling duties under David Shaw to fellow co-coordinator Derek Mason, making the 2012 season with the Raiders Tarver's first in full charge of the defense. And though the Cardinal's total defense numbers were impressive -- 2nd in the Pac-12, 28th nationally -- Stanford's hyperefficient, clock-draining offense had a lot to do with that; the Cardinal finished 59th in the FBS and 5th in the Pac-12 in yards allowed on a per-play basis.

All the same, nearly every coach to receive some kind of recent promotion on or from the Stanford staff has proven himself worthy and able, whether it's Harbaugh at San Francisco, his offensive coordinator Greg Roman, or Shaw with the Cardinal. So Tarver's promotion may be a win for both sides--the Raiders and new head coach Dennis Allen get some of that Stanford magic coaching dust and Tarver's NFL experience, and Shaw gets to keep plenty of defensive continuity with the retention of Mason.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:31 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 3:41 pm
 

National Signing Day Winners and Losers: Pac-12

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Breaking down who won and lost in the Pac-12 on National Signing Day.


WINNERS

Stanford's future backfield. We don't want to say anyone could succeed at quarterback or tailback behind a line featuring Andrus Peat, Kyle Murphy, and John Garnett. Dame Helen Mirren would fail, probably. We wouldn't like Bill Nye, the Science Guy's odds. Most 12-year-olds would struggle.

But when we're talking about an offensive line class David Shaw said "could be one of the best in college football historywithout hyperbole, it's hard to rule anyone out. And when it comes to players like potential 2012 quarterback starter Brett Nottingham or new running back signee Barry J. Sanderswe think the chances of success are so sky-high as to be nearly guaranteed. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck might be gone, but if the results of National Signing Day are any indication, the Cardinal as a program aren't going anywhere.

Players to watch: DT Aziz Shittu, RB Barry J. Sanders, OT Andrus Peat.

The checkbooks of future Pac-12 assistants. The conversions of five-star Shaq Thompson (pictured) and receiver Jordan Payton to Washington from Cal (even if the latter was only temporary) were already evidence enough for the impact of ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi's move from Berkeley to Seattle. The Huskies capping their late surge by stealing away USC commitment Pio Vatuvei and fending off a late challenge from the Trojans for quarterback Cyler Miles was just beating a dead horse, really.

Which is why any coach with bona fide West Coast recruiting connections is likely about to find himself a much hotter commodity than they were before Signing Day began. The Huskies aggressively pursued Topoi, doubled his salary at Cal with their new conference media money, and saw immediate, dramatic dividends. Topoi might have been the first coach to have his wallet fattened overnight by Larry Scott's TV negotiations, but with results like these, he won't be the last.

Washington players to watch: DB Shaq Thompson, ATH Jaydon Mickens, CB Brandon Beaver.

Jim L. MoraTo silence the doubters for good, Mora will have to win on the field as well as the recruiting trail. But there's little doubt that Mora has at least done the latterWith another high-profile Cal exile safely in the fold in Ellis McCarthy, the Bruins spent Signing Day polishing up an already impressive haul with a pair of blue-chip receivers in Payton and Javon Williams--an area of sore need with Nelson Rosario gone.

The Bruin brass appeared to be aiming to hire the next Pete Carroll when they took a chance on Mora, and though there's still a long way to go before the comparison is valid at the collegiate as well as pro level, this class is a heck of a step in that direction.

Players to watch: DT Ellis McCarthyATH Devin FullerDB Ishmael Adams.



LOSERS

Lane Kiffin's pied piper flute. Around mid-afternoon, this was shaping up to be a typical Signing Day for college football's most notorious late-game recruiter; sure, Vatuvei had gon to the Huskies, but Kiffin had also managed to pull both high-upside end Leonard Williams and No. 1 athlete Nelson Agholor (pictured) out of Florida despite each's various Sunshine State suitors. With Miles, Peat, Murphy, and Shittu all considering the Trojans and Murphy's late announcement rumored to be potentially affected by Peat's, another matching set of Signing Day coups appeared within reach.

Instead, the Cardinal swept the big linemen while Miles stuck with the Huskies. Those decisions didn't exactly make the Trojan class a disappointment--far from it, given that it finished 9th in the country while boasting just 16 (uniformly outstanding) recruits. But it does mark the first time that Kiffin wasn't able to simply snap his fingers on Signing Day and come away with a bushel of five-stars; it will be interesting to see if, in 2013, Kiffin doesn't leave things quite so late.

Players to watch: OL Zach Banner, WR Nelson Agholor, OL Jordan Simmons.

Cal. It's not that the Bears' class wasn't solid, maybe even better than solid; Tom Lemming ranked it 15th despite only having 17 signees, and the Bears did an excellent job of filling needs at both offensive line and wide receiver. It's that it was so close to being a game-changing, program-momentum-turning, spectacular class before Lupoi's defection took the air out of the sails. 

Tedford is right that the commitments at the Army All-American game from Thompson, McCarthy, and Payton didn't mean anything on the Bears' bottom line, but it's silly to think they didn't mean the Bears had a clearcut opportunity to sign all three (and others) they couldn't take advantage of. It's debatable, too, when that kind of opportunity will come again for Tedford.

Players to watch: QB Zach Kline, WR Bryce Treggs, OL Freddie Tagoloa  

Oregon State's secondary. Want another example of the impact of position coaches on current Pac-12 recruiting? Look no further than the Beaver defensive backfield, which saw no less than four players decommit after OSU secondary coach Keith Heyward -- like Lupoi -- defected to Washington. (One of them was highly regarded corner Devian Shelton, who did get Kiffined away to USC.) The Beavers recovered to still sign four defensive backs, but when even Mike Riley was admitting there were holes at corner that went unfilled, it's safe to say things didn't go as planned.

Players to watch: OL Isaac Seumalo, TE Caleb Smith, QB Brett VanderVeen  




Maxpreps photos by Gary Jones and Margaret Bowles.
Posted on: January 16, 2012 2:06 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 2:18 pm
 

Sumlin hire a sign of King's quest for equality


Posted by Bryan Fischer

When milestones are being broken and they lack notoriety, does that make them less of a milestone?

It's an intriguing question to ask on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with regards to the hiring of African-American head coaches in college football.

In the case of new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, perhaps it is best to see the arrival of yet another black coach - to the SEC no less - not as a milestone in itself but rather as a significant sign of progress with how far the sport has come. King's famous "I have a dream" speech 49 years ago called for racial equality along with an end to discrimination and, when looking at this hire, that seems to be truer now than it was just three or four years ago.

"I think it's significant progress," Sumlin said last week at the AFCA Coaches Convention about the lack of race being brought up with regards to his hire. "I can remember four or five years ago when I was hired at Houston, 'The first... the first... the first...' I said at the press conference that my hope five, six, seven years from now that it wouldn't even be a topic of discussion."

As Birmingham News columnist Jon Solomon notes, The Associated Press didn't mention Sumlin becoming the first black head football coach at Texas A&M until the 11th paragraph. While it's certainly possible Sumlin's hire might have brought up the discussion behind closed doors in College Station, there was no dwelling on his skin color when making the hire in public. Race was mentioned in passing because it wasn't a positive or negative in filling the job because Sumlin was judged on his merits as a head coach.

"They only talk about coaches two ways, moving on and getting hired or moving out and getting fired," he said with a chuckle. "When it gets to those deals now, race isn't part of the discussion."

Kentucky head coach Joke Phillips (above) played Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin in 2011 in the first ever meeting of two black coaches in the SEC. (US Presswire)
Sumlin will be the SEC's third black head coach when A&M moves to the league officially, joining Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. Last season he was one of 19 Division I (excluding historically black institutions) minority coaches, up from just 11 in 1996. Beyond just numbers increasing, more and more assistant coaches are getting looks at top jobs around the country and it's not limited to smaller schools. Stanford's David Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh and led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl while Franklin improbably took the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year with essentially the same squad that went 2-10 prior to his arrival.

That Sumlin moves from Conference USA to the nation's best league without much fanfare is much different from when Mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom and a positive sign that perceptions have changed just as reality has. Former Arkansas coordinator Garrick McGee took the head job at UAB to become the first black head coach at a major school in the state of Alabama, just as Sumlin became in the state of Texas. The moves are notable in their significance but also significant because they have not been noted with the attention they would have had not too long ago.

Unlike the NFL, where the Rooney Rule (instituted in 2003) has mandated teams interview minorities for openings, college hires have been left up to athletic directors and presidents' discretion. Though they are not forced to, many are giving some of the 479 black assistants in college football (as of the 2010-11 season) an interview without so much as a second thought about their race because of what they've accomplished on the field.

"I think any success I've had or can have helps the process," said Sumlin, proudly pointing out the SEC logo on his Texas A&M polo. "I think it's important that it is something that isn't being talked about. That is real progress."

Though the stark contrast between the number of black players in Division I (46%) and head coaches (less than 20%) remains a wide gulf, it is becoming less noticeable with each passing offseason. According to the NCAA, not only has there been increases in opportunities for coaches, but there has also been a broader distribution of those opportunities in other areas such as athletic administration and at the coordinator level.

In the case of Sumlin and others over the past few years, the best stat about them is that they are not talked about as one. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that is certainly something to note as a sign of progress and a true milestone in the sport.
 

Posted on: September 29, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:14 am
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 5


Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

Good news, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome: while we have yet to overtake her, we have crept ever closer to Woman this week in the standings. Woman is reeling from her first losing week of the season, and it has her shaken to the core. She's looking over her shoulder and she sees us drawing nearer. Her confidence is shaken. 

She knows it's only a matter of time before Man rises up and takes his rightful place atop the throne.

And that time is now.

Pitt vs. South Florida (-2 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All Times Eastern)

Man - Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of Big East football season? Of course there is, in fact, there are a lot of things more exciting. I'll still watch anyway, and since I had to suffer through 60 minutes of a Pitt game last weekend, I'm picking South Florida on principle. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "Skip Holtz's Bulls smacked Notre Dame around who, in turn, smacked Pitt around.  That should make this pick easy but a short week + travel for South Florida and Heinz Field + two embarrassing losses in a row + points for the Panthers makes me waver.  (By the way, am I the last person to realize the Holtz family are living the song 'SKIP to my LOU'?  Ewwww.)" Pick: Pitt

Machine - The Machine foresees a bad night for B.J. Daniels in Ketchup Stadium on Thursday night, as he throws 3 costly interceptions and the Panthers emerge victorious, 27-20. Pick: Pitt

Michigan (-20 1/2) vs. Minnesota - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This is a tough one to call. Not because I don't think Michigan is going to win, but because I'm not sure I trust Michigan's defense enough to give up nearly three touchdowns in the spread. Though I suppose that if Michigan could beat San Diego State by 21, then it should be able to handle Minnesota. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Ah, yes, that storied rivalry known as the Little Brown Jug Bowl. Word is, next year they're changing it to the 'Little Brown Change Dish You Made for Your Dad at Summer Camp'.Bowl." Pick: Michigan

Machine - It seems the Machine is more committed to making Denard Robinson a pocket passer than Brady Hoke is, as Robinson throws for over 300 yards while rushing for only 27. Michigan wins rather easily, but Minnesota covers the spread, 38-20. Pick: Minnesota

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The last meeting between these two teams before they're conference rivals once again. I picked Texas A&M to end its losing streak against Oklahoma State last week, and the Aggies let me down. I don't know if I'm ready to make that mistake again. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "'Welcome to the SEC, Aggies! Please accept these brass knuckles in your nether regions from Bobby Petrino.' 'Why, thank you, Razorbacks! Please enjoy our blood curdling practice cheers outside your hotel window at 3am.'" Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - You may want to reconsider the SEC, Aggies. The Machine tells us of a ritual sacrifice taking place in Dallas on Saturday morning, as Arkansas wins 42-21. Pick: Arkansas

Illinois (-6 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I was at the meeting between these two teams last season at Wrigley Field and I still remember Mikel LeShoure running wild on the Northwestern defense. I'm not a big fan of trusting Ron Zook with anything, but even if Dan Persa does play this weekend, he's going to have a bit of rust to shake off. Pick: Illinois

Woman - "Oh, Sweet Sioux, here we - yawn - go again.  With or without Persa, the Wildcats are a strong team with the extra bye week to prepare. And give me the points from a Ron Zook-coached team any day." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - The Machine believes in the Fighting Zooks, but it also knows that Pat Fitzgerald's teams always keep things close. Illinois wins 24-21. Pick: Northwestern

South Carolina (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last week's game against Vanderbilt, South Carolina had failed to cover in any of its first three games this season. Which makes that spread seem a bit large, because although I know Auburn isn't the same team this season, it's offense has still proved to be pretty potent. I'm going to go with Auburn to at least keep it interesting. Or, more accurately, I'm going with Stephen Garcia allowing Auburn to keep it interesting. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Seems like a mighty big line for an offense whose quarterback has thrown nearly as many picks as passes, until you realize he's up against a team who would have their hands full defensing this." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - Remember the Georgia Dome! South Carolina gets its revenge for the SEC title game last season, kicking the defending champs while they're down, 34-20. Pick: South Carolina

Kansas State vs. Baylor (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - At some point this year you're likely to see the "Robert Griffin For Heisman" bandwagon rolling through your town, and when you do see it, I'll be the guy driving it. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "I don't care what record Kansas State brings to this contest, until Robert Griffin III does something - anything - to prove otherwise, I'm doubling down on the amazing Baylor QB. A game I will not miss." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Not even the Machine is impervious to RG3, though it sees Griffin only being able to complete 70% of his passes this week. Baylor rolls 38-14. Pick: Baylor

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 6pm

Man - I understand that expecting a Clemson meltdown is the natural thing to do, but at the same time, this Clemson team has already survived contests against Florida State and Auburn. Virginia Tech hasn't played anybody yet, and while I think playing at home gives Tech the edge, I don't think it's going to come easy, either. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Virginia Tech should be stuffed on cupcakes by now and ready for some real football. Meanwhile, despite tougher opposition, I haven't been overwhelmed by Clemson's play and think the bubble will burst on Saturday. But I'm going to guess they'll cover." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It won't be very high-scoring, but the Machine sees an exciting game in our future. After a touchdown run by Andre Ellington gives Clemson a 21-20 lead with less than two minutes left, Logan Thomas leads a nice drive to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 23-21 victory. Pick: Clemson

Florida vs. Alabama (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - I haven't seen much of the Gators this season, but from what I'm told, John Brantley hasn't been completely terrible at all. Which is definitely a bonus for Florida. That being said, Brantley hasn't had to face this Alabama defense yet. I expect a tough, low-scoring battle in this one, but I feel like Trent Richardson will break through at some point, and it may be all Alabama needs. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Florida under Will Muschamp and his offensive coach Charlie Weis is strong in new, exciting ways, but I just can't seen them holding back Satan Saban and the Crimson juggernaut. Maybe next year." Pick: Alabama

Machine - I hope you like defense, because the Machine says there will be a lot of it in The Swamp on Saturday night. The Tide doesn't exactly roll as much as it drowns. Alabama wins 13-7. Pick: Alabama

Wisconsin (-9 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This seems like a trap. That spread just feels really big considering this game is between the two teams who are supposed to be the best in the Big Ten. Then you start thinking about how Nebraska has looked so far this season compared to Wisconsin, and it makes a bit more sense. That being said, who exactly has Wisconsin played? It's hard to make this call, but I think Taylor Martinez makes some key mistakes in a hostile environment on Saturday night and the Badgers capitalize. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Round One. Of course, this version is going to be played in the cacaphonous craziness that is Camp Randall, led by a Badgers team with a dominant defense and a sterling new QB. By January, Nebraska should have the kinks worked out but this week they will yield to a superior home team." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine says "If there's one Big Ten game you're going to watch this weekend, make it this one, because it's going to be crazy! Wisconsin holds off Nebraska 35-34." In other news, if your Playstation starts talking to you, it's probably time to turn it off or get some sleep. Pick: Nebraska

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - If Jim Harbuagh were still around, this one would be easy to pick. With David Shaw in charge, I'm just not as sure that Stanford won't slow things down a bit once this game is in hand late, and UCLA has been somewhat bi-polar this season, so I'm not sure which team to expect. Screw it, I'll go with Stanford. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Through some hard-hitting investigative journalism, I've procured copies of Stanford's playbook and UCLA's. So... yeah. Stanford wins but without star linebacker Shayne Skov, I think they won't quite cover." Pick: UCLA 

Machine - Andrew Luck is an unstoppable killing machine. He throws for 6 touchdowns and runs for another as Stanford obliterates the Bruins, 52-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 28-17 (4-6)
2. Man 27-18 (6-4)
3. Machine 23-22 (6-4)
Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:42 am
 

QUICK HITS: No. 6 Stanford 37, Arizona 10

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

STANFORD WON: 
The Cardinal's first road test of the season -- no, Duke doesn't count, and don't pretend it does -- wound up more of an easily-passed pop quiz down the stretch. Andrew Luck led three consecutive touchdown drives of 80 yards or more in the second half, turning what had been a tight 16-10 game at the half into a laugher. Luck finished 20-of-31 for 325 yards, 2 touchdowns, and -- of course -- no interceptions, while tailback Stepfan Taylor racked up a career high 153 yards on 22 carries.

WHY STANFORD WON: As you might imagine from stats like those from Luck and Taylor, the Cardinal offense pretty much had its way with the Wildcat defense, particularly in the second half. When you've finished the evening with 567 total yards of offense and no turnovers, that's not a bad night's work.

But it wasn't just the Cardinals' skill position marvels ... and in fact, it was maybe less those marvels than the Cardinal offensive line, which led by All-American guard David DeCastro took over the game after halftime. Three times in the first half, the Cardinal took long drives deep into Wildcat territory only to come away with a Jordan Williamson field goal. In the second, with DeCastro and Co. exerting their will on a clearly tiring and undersized Arizona line, those long drives turned into touchdowns. And the game? It turned into a rout.

WHEN STANFORD WON: Despite a Williamson field goal with 1:22 left in the second quarter and Jaime Salazar's errant try from 45 yards at the halftime buzzer, the Wildcats still came out of the locker room with momentum after briefly looking like Stanford might run away and hide at 10-0. And tailback Keola Antolin capitalized on that momentum, rushing for 49 yards on two plays to set the Wildcats up at the Stanford 19.

But Nick Foles missed on a pair of passes and the Wildcats' old bugaboo -- the placekicking game -- reared its ugly head again. Salazar came on to try a 36-yarder that would cut the lead to 3, and from the middle of the field, no less. But he missed, and the "here we go again" body language from the Arizona sideline was unmistakable. By the time the Wildcats put together another drive featuring more than a single first down, they were down 30-10 and the game was well over.

WHAT STANFORD WON: Their Pac-12 opener, nothing to sneeze at, and on the road no less. But the comfortable nature of the victory showed that yes, the Cardinal are still going to be a championship-contending force to be reckoned with, Jim Harbaugh or no Jim Harbaugh.

WHAT ARIZONA LOST: Their second straight game, which given the competition -- Oklahoma State last week, Stanford this week -- isn't so bad. But to lose by 27 points at home even with Foles enjoying a productive night (24-of-33, 249 yards, no picks) can't provide a lot of encouragement for this coming Saturday's visit from Oregon.

Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.

It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.

Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.

One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.

The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.

This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.

“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”

Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.

On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.

The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.

For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.

The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.

Stat of the week

If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.

"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.

While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.

Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.

For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.

Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.

Other stats of note

- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.

- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.

- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.

- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.

- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.

Yard-by-yard

- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.

- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.

- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.

- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.

- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.

At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.

- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.

- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida State

9. Oklahoma State

10. South Carolina

Where we'll be this week

I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.

Across the goal line

There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.

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Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.

As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.

I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.

Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.

What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.

That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.

It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.

A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.

I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.

Posted on: August 22, 2011 6:39 pm
 

Roundtable: AP poll vs. Coaches

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Occasionally 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:

The preseason AP poll is out and there's a few differences-of-opinion between the media and the Coaches' Poll. Which of those opinions does the AP have right--or wrong?

Adam Jacobi: I'm still extremely leery of putting Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the top 10 (top nine, even, I suppose), but considering that this was the case in the coaches' poll too, I guess the Aggies and Cowboys are there to stay (until they lose).

The AP left Penn State out of the Top 25, and though the Nittany Lions are really 27th instead of 25th (i.e. not that big of a difference), I'm perfectly fine with that. I don't see their candidacy for the Top 25 lasting past the Alabama game, or reinvigorating itself at very many other points in the season. JoePa is notorious for slow-playing his quarterback situations--remember when Daryll Clark wasn't named starter until a week or two before the '08 season, then won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?--but I'm completely unsold on both Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin at this point, and thus unsold on PSU too. I find it interesting that Arkansas only dropped from 14th in the coaches' poll to 15th in the AP after Knile Davis went down. I think the actual impact of his injury is going to be much more substantial. Agree?
Tom Fornelli: I'm not as surprised by Arkansas only dropping a spot, because I believe in our own Brett McMurphy's ballot he said that the Knile Davis injury occurred after ballots had to be sent in. Had the injury happened a few days earlier, I believe Arkansas would have found itself closer to 20th.

AJ: Facts are for weenies, Tom.

TF: I do agree with your sentiments on Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. While I'm more confident in Oklahoma State, I'm just not sure that either is a top 10 team at the moment, and if the preseason poll is supposed to be an educated guess on how things will look at the end of the season, then I am really hesitant about boththose teams being in the top ten. One of them, maybe. But both? No.

Another team that I feel is ranked too high right now is Florida State. I understand that the Seminoles got back on the right track last season under Jimbo Fisher, but this is still a team that lost four games last season and sent its starting quarterback off to the NFL. I'm not knocking E.J. Manuel or anything, but a four-loss team with a new quarterback suddenly vaults into the top six in both polls? Am I the only one who thinks this doesn't make sense?

Chip Patterson: I think voters are remembering the way Florida State finished their season (an impressive performance in a 44-33 loss to Virginia Tech without Ponder, and knocking off the SEC runner-up in the Chick Fil-A Bowl) rather than looking at the team that lost back-to-back games to N.C. State and North Carolina.  The Seminoles have their eyes set on returning to the top five, and arguably have their best team since 2005.  Ponder's health issues have had Manuel on constant stand-by over the last two seasons, and the junior has a 4-2 record as a starter.  The Seminoles have a pair of scrimmages on the schedule before facing top-ranked Oklahomain Tallahassee on Sept. 17.  I expect that game will reveal a lot about both teams, and the outcome could shift the landscape in the hunt for the national title.

But to the question at hand: how bout them 'Neers? After the Big East was shut out of the coaches' version, West Virginia snuck into the AP poll to keep the conference from being absent in all four of the final 2010 and preseason 2011 polls. With Dana Holgorsen at the controls, it's entirely deserved.  But unfortunately, WVU was in the same position last year and dropped from the polls after losing to LSU in September. The Bayou Bengals visit Morgantown on Sept. 24 this year, so we'll see if the Mountaineers can get revenge with their new homefield advantage.

Jerry Hinnen: Though FSU looks a hair too high to me, I'm more interested in who the AP jumped over them: Boise State. The coaches were more skeptical about the Broncos, placing them No. 7, behind both the 'Noles and Stanford.The AP bumped them up to fifth, just behind the consensus top four.

And that's the right call. Because of the torrent of hype for what was expected to be Chris Petersen's best team last year, the popular conception of the Broncos seems to be that their national title window has passed. And that probably was Petersen's best team, given the strength it wielded at receiver and corner that doesn't return this year. But with Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, a stack of gifted linemen, and one of the nations's stingiest run defenses, this year's Broncos could still give last year's a run for their money.  Plus, here's the kicker: the schedule sets up even better for a chance at a crystal football than it did last year. Potential SEC East champ Georgia could give the Broncos the high-profile scalp they need to force their way into the conversation, with TCU another possible 10-win victim to boost the profile. There doesn't appear to be any road ambush waiting a la Nevada last year, either, unless San Diego State is better than we're expecting.

Bottom line: if the Broncos get past Georgia, this is a team that should finish much closer to (as in, ahead of) the AP's ranking than the coaches'--and yes, finish higher than either FSU or Andrew Luck's Cardinal, who may feel the loss of both Jim Harbaugh and top-notch defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more keenly than most expect.


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