Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:08 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
It's hard to get more maligned than the Trojans were. They had their legs chopped off by the NCAA. There were plenty of doubters after back-to-back "down" years. There was no bowl at the end of the season and, to many outside of Heritage Hall, no hope. This team was loaded with enough highly recruited players that coach after coach kept calling USC the most talented team in the Pac-12 however. Still they sat at the lowest ranking in school history with an 8-2 record and couldn't even move up a spot in the polls despite teams losing ahead of them and a blow out win against Washington. It was like Rodney Dangerfield was the athletic director and Lane Kiffin was the head coach.
But this team, young and inexperienced in key spots, took the school's 'Fight On' motto and ran with it. Their losses were self-inflicted (turnovers against both Arizona State and Stanford did them in) but the wins and numbers put up were impressive. The offense is one of the best in the country led by Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and emerging star Marqise Lee. The defense is passable but improving. Yet they were a two touchdown underdog for the first time since 1998. The Trojans shocked the college football world Saturday night in Eugene, no doubt about it. Amid the chaos of a crazy week 12, USC emerged victorious and the players in cardinal and gold told everybody that their brief hiatus away from the top was over. The Trojans may not be conference champs and will sit at home with no bowl game to go to but they appear to be back, even if some insist they never left. Fight on indeed.
LOSER: Larry Scott
There was a chance the Pac-12 was in the BCS re-match discussion come Sunday morning but that ended as soon as it looked like Oregon's slow start would be too much to overcome. Thanks to Arizona State's loss to lowly Arizona, the Pac-12 South is rivaling the SEC East and ACC for mediocrity with USC ineligible. Two-loss Oregon will likely head to the Rose Bowl while one-loss Stanford's BCS chances (and millions of dollars for the conference coffers) will likely boil down to luck and some bowl committee betting on Andrew Luck. The team that can't go to a bowl has inflicted losses that hurt more than one team's perception. Then again, Scott isn't too much of a loser considering the cash that will soon flow to the league with the new media deals he deftly negotiated.
WINNER: The SEC
Let's face it, the fans on the West Coast are not best buddies with those in the Southeast section of the country. The SEC fans think the Pac-12 folks have no earthly idea what defense is while those with an ocean view think those with a gulf view have no idea what offense is. Oregon's loss ended any talk of an LSU rematch and shut the conference out of the title game discussion and partially out of the national picture. On the bright side, they're not the ACC, Big East or Big Ten.
LOSER: Oregon's swagger
The Pac-12 has been Oregon's playground the past few years. Back-to-back league titles (of the Pac-10 variety), a 19 game win streak in the conference, a trip to the Rose Bowl and national championship game. USC's dynasty was cool with the celebrities on the sidelines but the Ducks, they had a different kind of spotlight and a different kind of swagger. Uniforms? Most, um... unique in college football. The recruits love them. Offense? Check and check. If you were playing Oregon, better bring your A-game and you just might hang with them for the first half. The video production team was top-notch too, how could anyone not get pumped up after watching something like this:
The swagger that every Oregon player, every Duck fan, carried around with them after Saturday is still there. There is, without a doubt, a significant part of the luster taken off of the program after the loss to USC however. Boise State, Auburn and LSU proved they were beatable but the Trojans proved they were no longer to be feared afer going into Autzen and smacking the Ducks around for three quarters and holding on in the fourth. Another conference title and Rose Bowl berth likely await the men in green/yellow/black/silver/etc. come January but the recent loss meant a significant hit to Oregon's swagger.
WINNER: Pistol Rick
UCLA's final home game of the season was a must win for Rick Neuheisel if he was to show enough progress to keep his job. Not only did the Bruins get bowl eligble, but they kept their improbable run to a division title alive with a 45-6 win over Colorado. Style points helped too, outgaining the Buffaloes 553-229 and help run off three wins in four games. After last week's loss to Utah, who really knows if the program has turned the corner but for Neuheisel, who wants to win at his alma matter more than anyone else, a big win at the Rose Bowl will certainly go a long ways after the season.
LOSER: Jon Embree
Embree is a Colorado alum and desperately wanted to end the Buffs' 23 game road losing streak. Family bragging rights were up for grabs too as Embree's son, Taylor, was a wide receiver at UCLA and said the game meant "eternal bragging rights" earlier in the week. The younger Embree had just two catches for 13 yards but can always call out scoreboard whenever family arguments break out. Given the way Colorado played - putting a solid claim on being the conference bottom-dweller - there weren't many positive things the elder Embree could take home Saturday.
LOSER: LeBron James
One of several NBA All-Stars at Autzen for the USC-Oregon Game, James and his fellow jobless companions watched most of the game from the Ducks sidelines. With a reputation for failing to close out games, naturally LeBron was a frequent (i.e. easy) target to make fun of on various social media platforms following the loss to the Trojans. It seems as though the man who took his talents to South Beach just can't win so he kind of has to be made a loser this weekend.
WINNER: West Coast Heisman hopes
Andrew Luck lost his grip on the lead for the Heisman Trophy last week but looked much sharper against Cal to help his stock rebound some. The big mover was Matt Barkley, who has the numbers to get to New York and now has the signature win to piggyback on. After this weekend, it seems like both signal-callers will at least make the trip East to lay their claim on college football's most prestigious award.
WINNER: Snow games
Utah has been welcomed to the Pac-12 with open arms and gone from the desert heat of Arizona to the perfect weather of Southern California to - this week against Washington State - the snowy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. The Utes came out with a close, 30-27 overtime win in a Palouse snow storm. The victory gave the Utes hope of making an appearance in the Pac-12 title game and it was fun to see a few photos from so that has to put snow games in the winners column.
LOSER: Pac-12 athletic directors
There's an opening at Arizona and Dennis Erickson's loss to the Wildcats likely means he's headed out of Tempe. Neuheisel's status is still TBD after the season and though there's progress on the Palouse, it's doubtful Paul Wulff keeps his job. That means the athletic directors around the Pac-12, flush with some new media deal cash, will have to go make some important hires. Already the rumor mill has placed Mike Bellotti, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach at a school out West and speculation is only bound to heat up more as the regular season winds down. There's going to be plenty of pressure to make the right hire and just as importantly for some ADs, go out on a limb and let a coach go. Going to be an interesting, stress-filled weeks for a few well paid people heading Pac-12 athletic departments.
Tags: ACC, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, BCS, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, Colorado, Dennis Erickson, Heisman Trophy, Heritage Hall, Jon Embree, Lane Kiffin, Lane Kiffin, Larry Scott, LeBron James, LSU, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Mike Bellotti, Mike Leach, NBA, NCAA, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-12, Paul Wulff, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rodney Dangerfield, Rose Bowl, SEC, Stanford, Taylor Embree, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 12 Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 12
Posted on: November 20, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:31 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WINS. On probation and disrespected, USC was going up to Eugene with nothing but house money to play with. Obviously they were talented - Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and the dynamic newcomer Marqise Lee especially - but they were significant underdogs against an Oregon team that had blown them out their previous two meetings. The Trojans hadn't won in the state of Oregon since 2005* and taken two brutal losses this year to the other top teams in the Pac-12.
USC jumped out to a big lead and held on late as Oregon rallied to within three but pulled off a monumental upset with far-reaching implications after Alejandro Maldonado missed a field goal of 37 yards to preserve a 38-35 win. Two streaks - 21 straight home wins and 19 straight conference victories - were snapped for the Ducks, as were their slim hopes of getting back to the national championship game.
WHY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. Marqise Lee had the best game a Trojan has had in years, finishing with eight catches for 187 yards and a touchdown and made play after play after play when the team needed it. Barkley was big as well, throwing for 323 yards and four touchdowns to get a signature win to hold his hat on in what could be his final year wearing the cardinal and gold. Monte Kiffin's defense also played its part, forcing two fumbles to prevent scores, blocking a punt and containing the Oregon speedsters all night to limit big plays.
WHEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. Coming out of the second half, Oregon went three and out, had their punt blocked and set USC up with a 1st and goal. But the Ducks' defense held the Trojans to just a field goal on the drive - and nearly picked off Barkley - then got a big return from De'Anthony Thomas on the ensuing kick return for a touchdown. It seemed like the momentum had completely flipped at that point, with the Autzen crowd coming alive and LaMichael James capped off a four play drive with a touchdown.
USC came back with an impressive answer on a five play, 76 yard drive in just over two minutes to keep the lead where it was. Monte Kiffin's defense got a stop and it was upset alert with a silent crowd up in Eugene after Barkley found Randal Telfer for a touchdown on the next series to give Oregon their biggest deficit since 2008. The Ducks came roaring back however, scoring 21 straight. It looked like things were headed for overtime with Oregon marching down the field after Barkley fumbled handing off to running back Marc Tyler. Some curious clock management by Chip Kelly left Maldonado with a 37 yard field goal and he missed it to preserve a 38-35 win.
WHAT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. With just one more game left as they serve out their final year of a bowl ban, the Trojans didn't have much more than pride to play for Saturday night. They felt disrespected - the lowest ranking in school history with a 8-2 record - and determined to get back in the national conscious in a big way with their first win in the state of Oregon since 2005. Lane Kiffin's squad jumped out to the early lead and hung on just like so many others haven't. Everybody came into this game saying it was USC's bowl game (their third this season after Notre Dame and Stanford) and they won it to show quite a few people around the country what they're made of.
WHAT OREGON LOST. Given Kelly's persona and his continuous focus on the task at hand, you wonder if he got Phil Knight to pony up some cash to fly in Jim Mora to shout, "Rematch? You're talking about a rematch? You kidding me? Rematch? I just hope we win a game," over and over. That's all everybody was thinking about after beating Stanford, not USC but LSU. Despite an Oklahoma State loss that made a game against the Tigers more likely, Oregon couldn't put the game at hand away and now have to beat rival Oregon State to secure the Pac-12 championship game that looked like a lock at the beginning of the day.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Team Nike filled the sidelines as NBA All-Stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul all made their way down to Eugene to check out the football game. LeBron was even throwing the ball around during pre-game warm ups until politely being told by security to move back behind the lines. What's a jobless guy have to do to get some respect? Ducks fans might just be glad he wasn't suited up to play the 4th quarter. Or maybe he was.
Tags: Alejandro Maldonado, Bryan Fischer, Carmelo Anthony, Chip Kelly, Chris Bosh, De'Anthony Thomas, Dwayne Wade, Jim Mora, LaMichael James, LeBron James, LSU, Marc Tyler, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Monte Kiffin, NBA, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Phil Knight, Quick Hits, Quick Hits Week 12, Randal Telfer, Robert Woods, Stanford, USC, Week 12
Posted on: June 7, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:42 am
By the Eye on College Football bloggers
To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun.
We're now down to the nitty-gritty: Nos. 20-11 below, 10-3 tomorrow, then No. 2 Thursday and our No. 1 unveiled Friday. Stay tuned.
20. OLIVER LUCK, athletic director, West Virginia. Luck's influence on college football is two-fold. The first (and most important) has been his effect as the athletic director of West Virginia. Recently, his role as the face of this athletic department has become much more challenging due to the ongoing Bill Stewart/Dana Holgorsen soap opera. In the next few weeks, Luck will have to clean up a he-said/she-said that could end up defining West Virginia football -- and the entire "coach-in-waiting" strategy -- significantly for the near future. If Luck decides that Stewart was trying to convince reporters to dig up dirt on Holgorsen after his hiring in December, he may be faced with the decision of promoting Holgorsen early or -- as some have suggested i- bringing in an entirely new head coach. Somehow, Luck will have to find a way to juggle all of this responsibility while instituting the first year of beer sales at West Virginia athletic events. Despite a negative reaction from many fans, Luck is convinced that the selling beer at the games is going to be the best way to discourage binge drinking before the games and at halftime. It is not entirely uncommon for schools to make this decision, but the logic is often difficult to explain to fans who disapprove of alcohol at college events entirely.
Oliver is also the father of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. The overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck shocked the professional ranks with his decision to return to Stanford for (at least) another season. His return shakes up the entire Pac-12 race, and with Terrelle Pryor's off-field issues has made him the frontrunner for next year's Heisman Trophy. The decision for a college player to come back almost always is a family one, and while the elder Luck has kept himself out of his son's affairs for the most part, his influence on Andrew's decision has no doubt changed the football landscape for next season. -- CP
19. THE NFL LOCKOUT, potential season-dissolver, NFL. Think the NFL lockout isn't hugely important to the college game? Watch what happens if/when college games are the only games in town. Watch what happens when all the "Monday morning quarterbacks" are still talking about Saturday instead of Sunday. The fact is that college football is uniquely positioned to siphon tens of millions of football fans from the NFL, even if it's just on a temporary basis. And unlike college basketball and the NBA, where the pro version is a vastly superior product to the amateur version (sorry, but it's true), college football can be every bit as enjoyable as the NFL.
Of course, the lockout situation is still fluid, and there's certainly a possibility that pro football will be "back" well before the college football season starts. And yet, the antitrust lawsuit filed by Tom Brady and friends has a hearing that's scheduled for September 12... four days after the NFL's regular season is supposed to start. The NFL is gearing up for a long work stoppage; college football teams should take full advantage. That means courting the newly disenfranchised fans and filling as many stadiums as possible with them, even if it means dropping ticket prices. That means openly promoting celebrating the fact that college football is never going anywhere, never relocating to another city 1,000 miles away, never locking players out and threatening to cancel a season, and never treating fans half as poorly as the NFL is treating its own right now. -- AJ
18. VONTAZE BURFICT, linebacker/eater of souls, Arizona State. Burfict has developed a bit of a reputation for being a cheap shot artist. It's not exactly an unfair label, as any search of his name on YouTube will provide the evidence of his work. Yet, having a linebacker on your defense that plays with a chip on his shoulder isn't exactly a bad thing, especially when that chip complements the heap of talent that comes with it. Through his first two seasons with the Sun Devils, Burfict has made 151 tackles, leading Arizona State with 90 last season.
Entering the season, Arizona State seems to be a trendy pick in a lot of preseason top-25 polls, and Burfict is one of the reasons why. (Our colleague Dennis Dodd named him the national Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.) While Arizona State's defense was middle of the Pac last season, the rush defense was third best in the conference, and an even better Burfict could make for even better numbers this season. If the Sun Devils are going to live up to the preseason and make some real noise in the Pac-12, the defense is going to have to do its part. And that defense will be led by Vontaze Burfict. -- TF
17. BUTCH DAVIS, head coach, North Carolina. When Davis arrived in Chapel Hill, his charge was to make North Carolina football relevant on a national level. In 2010 North Carolina football has had as many headlines as all the perennial powers--just for many of the wrong reasons. In a year that has been filled with NCAA-related scandal, the Tar Heels are preparing to finally wrap up an investigation on impermissible benefits and academic impropriety that began last summer with Marvin Austin and Greg Little. Throughout this entire process, Davis has remained steady and confident in his team and his job. One year later, Davis has dodged all of the attacks and still stands as the head coach in Chapel Hill.
But despite promises to right the culture of wrongdoing, Davis continues to catch criticism for his ignorance. Defensive lineman Quintin Coples is already a topic of interest after being spotted at a DC-based NFL Draft Party. Considering the "sign-out sheet" that was going to help keep tabs on players, Coples' misstep in judgement reflects poorly on Davis and the program leadership.
But unlike other head coaches in charge of troubled programs, there has been no hard evidence to show any kind of cover-up by Davis. When a player's eligibility has been put in question, the school has pulled the player from the active roster and relied on a "next man up" mentality until NCAA clearance. Not only have Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour been cooperative with the NCAA, but North Carolina won their first bowl game since 2001. With no hard evidence yet to surface, Butch Davis continues to avoid the pressures of investigation with ignorance and wins. As long as both factors continue, Davis will be on the sideline in Chapel Hill. -- CP
16. JIM DELANY, commissioner, Big Ten. The man who stands atop college football's most prosperous conference is back again, and he's got quite a production to unveil this year. The new-look Big Ten has a slew of changes, and all of them--from newcomer Nebraska to the newly named trophies and division names--have Delany's fingerprints all over them. As such, the success or failure of these changes are going to be laid directly at Delany's feet, for better or worse. We're banking on "better."
15. MACK BROWN, head coach, Texas. Since becoming the head coach in Austin in 1998, Brown's teams have gone 133-34, won a national title, and earned two Big 12 championships and six division championships. Brown has won the Bear Bryant Award, Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, and has been the Big 12 coach of the year twice. That's a lot of notches in the belt, but those accolades don't mean much in Austin right now, as a lot of Longhorns fans can't see past 5-7, Texas' record last season. It's hard to believe that a coach who has had as much success at Texas as Brown has could be considered on the hot seat, but if Brown doesn't turn things around this season, he will be.
Brown made the changes he felt were needed after 2010, firing Greg Davis and hiring Bryan Harsin, but he also lost the man who was supposed to replace Brown himself, Will Muschamp, to Florida. So in 2011 Brown will not only have to lead Texas back to its winning ways, but do so with two new coordinators. If he can, Texas will be back in the national title picture. If not, there may even be a job opening in Austin this winter--one that would have a seismic impact on the rest of the college football world. -- TF
14. RUSSELL WILSON, quarterback, free agent. Wilson is worth paying attention to, first and foremost, because he's a quality quarterback whose addition could single-handedly change the fortunes of whatever team he happens to join. But his situation is also worth watching because -- like some sort of sci-fi superhero experiment -- Wilson is the first and possibly last of his kind. Never before has a player of Wilson's impeccable on- and off-field credentials been available as a no-strings-attached, one-year free agent. And judging by the SEC's decision last week to eliminate single-season transfers like Wilson's and Jeremiah Masoli's, one may never be available again.
That alone makes Wilson one of the year's biggest stories. But the impact he makes on the field could be just as key. Wilson has already visited Auburn (reportedly) and is due to visit Wisconsin soon (reportedly). Given the ample (if unproven) offensive talent that would surround Wilson in either location, both teams would suddenly see their expectations rise another rung up the ladder and would become dramatically more dangerous threats to the favorites in their respective divisions. Wilson's free agent adventure might still come to nothing (returning to football from the minor leagues means giving back a huge portion of his Colorado Rockies signing bonus), but until it reaches its conclusion, we're going to be riveted all the same. -- JH
13. TRENT RICHARDSON, running back, Alabama. There's no polite way to say it, so we'll just say it: the state of Alabama has dominated the sport of college football for the past two years. Each of the last two Heisman Trophies are sitting in Cotton State trophy cases. They just happen to be a stone's throw away from each of the last two BCS championship trophies, also in those same cases. In 2009, Alabama gave us the sport's most complete, dominant defense in years. In 2010, Auburn gave us the sport's most dynamic, polarizing player in years. So what are they going to do for an encore?
Thanks to Trent Richardson, they might just make it three-for-three on both the BCS title and Heisman Trophy fronts. Even as Mark Ingram took home the famous stiff-armer in 2009, Richardson was bullying his way into the backfield (as a true freshman) all the same; he finished the season with 144 carries, many of them coming in critical situations in the season-saving comeback against Auburn and the national title tilt against Texas (where he topped the 100-yard mark). After a productive 2010, Richardson now has the starter's job to himself, one of the best offensive lines in the country opening holes for him, and a defense on the other side of the ball that could be the equals of 2009 (and should give Richardson ample opportunity to close out nationally-televised wins). Deja vu all over again, for both Alabama the team, and Alabama the state? Definitely possible ... and possibly even likely. -- JH
12. CHIP KELLY, head coach, Oregon. Chip Kelly hasn't been a head coach for long but he's already accomplished quite a bit. He's taken a program with only recent success and turned the Ducks into the Pac-12's flagship program after a couple of off-years from USC. With back-to-back BCS bowls under his belt and a high flying offense that he gets the lion's share of credit for, it's no wonder he was recognized by Fast Company and several other organizations for his creativity and genius on and off the football field.
2011 will put Kelly's coaching abilities to the test, though, as the Ducks look to finish what they couldn't last season. Oregon has to replace several starters along the offensive and defensive lines but returns starting quarterback Darron Thomas and Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James at running back. This will be the first year for the Pac-12 and Kelly would like nothing more than to have his name on the inaugural trophy. His reputation has taken a hit this offseason after allegations regarding payments to Will Lyles for his scouting service, and the head coach would like nothing more than to put those things behind them--with the same quickness with which Kelly attacks everything he does. -- BF
11. MARK EMMERT, president, NCAA. Since taking over less than a year ago as the NCAA's new president, Mark Emmert has barely had time to catch his breath. He walked right into a widening agent scandal at North Carolina, had to deal with the fallout from the severe sanctions at USC, and handled the controversial reinstatement cases involving Kentucky basketball's Enes Kanter and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Needless to say, Emmert has had a lot on his plate ... and that's not even getting to the mess at Ohio State.
Emmert has been criss-crossing the country lately, meeting with administrators, student-athletes and others to get a sense of what is going on in college athletics since he took over. He has a big year upcoming as he looks to finally make an imprint with a new NCAA legislative cycle. Emmert has constantly said the organization won't pay athletes under his watch but he has talked with the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and others about full cost of attendance scholarships, so that could be a significant push he makes this year. On top of that, he'll have to deal with an inquiry from the Department of Justice into why the organization doesn't run an FBS football playoff. With all that is on his plate, Emmert will continue to have a regular presence in the headlines. -- BF
The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31 and 30-21. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Tags: Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Auburn, Big 12, Big Ten, Bill Stewart, Bryan Harsin, Butch Davis, Cam Newton, CBSSports.com College Football 100, Chip Kelly, Colorado Rockies, Dana Holgorsen, Darron Thomas, Department of Justice, Dick Baddour, Enes Kanter, Florida, Greg Davis, Greg Little, Heisman Trophy, Jeremiah Masoli, Jim Delany, Jim Tressel, LaMichael James, Mack Brown, Mark Emmert, Mark Ingram, Marvin Austin, NBA, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL Draft, NFL lockout, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oliver Luck, Oregon, Pac-12, Quintin Coples, Russell Wilson, SEC, Stanford, Texas, Tom Brady, Trent Richardson, Vontaze Burfict, West Virginia, Will Muschamp, Wisconsin
Posted on: March 7, 2011 12:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
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 TCU , who began practice over the weekend.
Spring Practice Question: Do the Horned Frogs have the offensive firepower to slam the door in the Mountain West's face on their way out?
Remember how when NBA legends like Julius Erving would announce their retirement, their final season would be a long series of tearful goodbyes as the legend-in-question would be showered at each road venue with gifts and well-wishes? And you know how this is TCU's final season in the Mountain West, the conference it's won three times and helped shape into a national power on the cusp of an automatic BCS bid? Yeah, that season is going to be the complete opposite of that NBA thing.
Because the Mountain West has done all it can to skip the bouquets and send the Horned Frogs off to the Big East with a giant kick in the pants. Not only did the league unilaterally force TCU to forgo their biggest home game of the year in exchange for a brutal road game at Boise State, they ignored the Frogs' choice for a bye week in favor of giving them weeks off before New Mexico and UNLV ... two miserable teams the Frogs could have swept in a doubleheader the week after going to Boise if they had to. It's safe to say there's nothing the MWC wants more than to see TCU flail their way out of a league that spent the year proving it didn't need them; it's equally safe to say there's nothing Gary Patterson would like more than to say good-bye with the raised middle finger of a third straight conference championship.
But entering spring practice, the odds look much longer than they did in either 2009 or 2010. While part of that is the enhanced schedule -- even the Frogs' undefeated showdowns with Utah the past two seasons won't present nearly the challenge of taking on the Broncos on the blue turf -- the much larger part is facing down that schedule with so much lost on offense. Eight starters are gone from the unit that helped bring home a Rose Bowl title, a group headlined by four-year quarterback starter and career 10,000-yard passer Andy Dalton.
But the losses go much deeper than that. The Frogs' second-, third- and fourth-leading receivers are all departed, including top go-to possession wideout Jeremy Kerley and the reliable Jimmy Young. Bookend 6'6" tackles Marcus Cannon and Zach Roth have both graduated. In the interior of the line, the Frogs must replace 300-pound guard Josh Vernon and 308-pound All-American center Jake Kirkpatrick, only the 2010 Rimington Trophy winner.
The good news for TCU is that particularly at the skill positions, they seem positioned to weather the storm. Quarterbacking heir-to-the-throne Casey Pachall was one of Patterson's most highly-regarded recruits, has drawn rave reviews in practice, and should be more than ready as a redshirt sophomore. The tailback tag-team of juniors Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker -- who combined for 1,787 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010 -- returns intact. Top receiver Josh Boyce is back after a breakout redshirt freshman season that saw him average an eye-popping 19 yards per reception.
But there's only so much all that skill-position talent can do if the four new starters up front aren't up to the task. Spring camp should give Patterson and the TCU fans an excellent chance to gauge their progress across from one of the perennially best-coached defensive fronts in the country (not to mention Tank Carder). If the line shows potential, Pachall lives up to the hype, and some member of the Frog receiving corps steps up to provide some measure of balance across from Boyce, it won't be too early to start dreaming about yet another BCS season.
But if not? Boise's going to start licking their chops (to say nothing of teams like BYU, San Diego State, Baylor, etc.), and the MWC bigwigs can start their dreaming about having the last laugh.
Tags: Andy Dalton, Baylor, Big East, Boise State, BYU, Casey Pachall, Ed Wesley, Gary Patterson, Jake Kirkpatrick, Jeremy Kerley, Jimmy Young, Josh Boyce, Josh Vernon, Julius Erving, Marcus Cannon, Matthew Tucker, Mountain West, NBA, New Mexico, Rimington Trophy, Rose Bowl, San Diego State, Spring Practice Primer, Tank Carder, TCU, UNLV, Utah, Zach Roth