Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2011 3:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
1. The SEC is still the best conference in college football. Yes, the conference may have only gone 5-5 in bowl games this season, and it may have included a couple losses against a Conference USA team and a Big East team, but here is the stat that actually mattered: for the fifth straight year, the national champion calls the SEC home. Oh, and let's not just ignore the fact that a twelve team league had ten teams playing in bowl games to begin with. Fans of other conferences around the country may have been hoping the conference would get knocked down a peg this postseason, but prepare yourselves for plenty more "ESSSS EEEEEEE SEEEEEE" chants in 2011.
2. The 2010 season belonged to Cam Newton and Auburn. Whether the headlines were good or bad this season, the college football world seemed to revolve around a tiny town in eastern Alabama and the quarterback that caught a nation's eye. It's somewhat fitting that on the final drive of the season, the one that gave Auburn its national championship, the one player who put the team on his back for most of the season had to play a secondary role thanks to being banged up. For once, Cam Newton 's defense and his offense decided to carry him to the finish line. We don't know for sure what Cam Newton's future will hold, but odds are that Newton is bound for the NFL. How will Auburn fare next season without its Superman?
3. Alabama is still really good . Honestly, if college football did have a playoff system in place of the bowls, would any of you have been shocked to see Alabama make it to another title game? The Tide suffered three losses this season. They came at the hands of South Carolina , LSU and Auburn . When the worst loss of your season is against the SEC East champion, you didn't have a bad season. Then the Tide went out and put an exclamation point on the year by pasting Michigan State -- a team with one loss and ranked in the top ten -- by 42 points.
4. The SEC East should be better next season. While the SEC may have gone 5-5 as a whole during the bowl season, the SEC East was responsible for four of those losses. The good news for the division is that things should improve a bit next year, as Georgia and Tennessee aren't likely to suffer two losing seasons in a row, South Carolina will still have Marcus Lattimore and won't have Stephen Garcia , and Florida might actually have an offensive system suited for its quarterback. Well, if John Brantley stays. Plus, with all the key players that Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU will be losing to the NFL this spring, the West shouldn't be nearly as dominant.
Posted on: January 1, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2011 7:21 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Alabama dominates Michigan State from start to finish, bludgeoning the Spartans 49-7.
Offense: The Tide were entirely too physical for the Spartans from the get-go, with both members of the Mark Ingram-Trent Richardson tag team at running back punishing State tacklers of all varieties, particularly at the goal line. The Alabama offensive line mauled the Spartan defensive front, giving the backs huge lanes and quarterback Greg McElroy all day to throw. Julio Jones simply abused the defensive backs assigned to cover him (as shown). And McElroy showed off the precision that marked his 2009 national title run, completing 13 of his 17 passes for a whopping 12.9 yards per attempt.
Yes, that should about cover it. But somehow, given the degree of domination -- 265 first-half yards to Sparty's 67 and an easy touchdown on the first possession of the second half to push the lead to 35-0 -- it doesn't. GRADE: A
Defense: Just as overwhelming as the Tide offense. Led by a huge game from linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Nico Johnson, the Tide so limited what had been one of the Big Ten's best rushing attacks that the Spartans finished the day with -48 rushing yards. (Yes, that's right: 48 rushing yards fewer than no rushing yards at all.) The Tide pass rush did everything to poor pounded State quarterback Kirk Cousins (who left the game in the third quarter after a particularly brutal sack) but tap dance on his helmet. It took until the dying minutes of the third quarter (by which point 'Bama had already pulled many of their starters) for the Spartans to even crack triple digits in total offense. In all, a total whitewashing. GRADE: A
Coaching: The Tide came out focused and motivated, immediately applied the boot to Sparty's throat, and never removed it. Can't ask for anything more than that. GRADE: A
Offense: Cousins led a couple of nice first-half drives, one that reached the Alabama 32 and another the Tide 2. But he also had a major hand in submarining both those drives, throwing a Robert Lester interception to end the first and (following a crucial illegal substitution penalty that pushed the ball back to the 7) fumbling on yet another sack to end the second.
After those, well, the Spartan offense's day would be best summed up by a montage of quarterbacks desperately scrambling back to cover a ball 10 yards behind them, State receivers dragged down 10 yards behind the line-of-scrimmage on futile end-arounds, and wobbly players of various positions limping off the field. It was U-G-L-Y past the point of alibi. GRADE: F+
Defense: With the kind of talent boasted by the Tide, when Alabama (and particularly McElroy) is on their game, there's not always a lot any defense can do. But the "tackling" display by the Spartans -- proud, always-energetic All-American middle linebacker Greg Jones mostly excepted -- would have been borderline-embarrassing if they'd been facing the New Orleans Saints. Alabama's first five possessions, not counting the run-out-the-clock situation at the end of the first half, covered an average of 69 yards and ended: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. That, folks, is not good. GRADE: F+
Coaching: Mark Dantonio and his crew did an excellent job with this team during the season and were facing a substantial talent deficit today, but his team was far too sloppy to hang with the likes of Alabama and showed zero fight after going in at the half down 28. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell did one of the best jobs in the country this year, but his attempts to use misdirection on slow-developing end-arounds and screens were never goign to work against a team with 'Bama's speed. GRADE: F
FINAL GRADE: Unless you were an Alabama fan or the sort who enjoys burning insects to death with a magnifying glass, this game was interesting for the 120 seconds or so Sparty drove inside the Tide 10 and a forgone-concluded utter slog for every minute thereafter. Grade: D-
Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1), Jan. 1, 1pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of defensive football, then this game may be your dream matchup. Now, on the surface, not many people seem to be giving Michigan State a chance in this game, and it's understandable. After all, Alabama is the defending national champ and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder following what it feels is a disappointing season. Nobody seems to be paying much attention to the fact that Michigan State has only one loss, and has been a very solid team all season. This one could turn out to be one of those New Year's Day shockers.
Keys to Victory for Alabama: I think the biggest key for Alabama in this game is that it wants to play in it. It's not crazy to think that the Tide might show some disinterest in this one. After all, this is a team that feels it's supposed to be getting ready to defend its title in ten days, or at least in a BCS bowl game. Not playing in Orlando in the "second-tier" Capital One Bowl.
Of course, on the flip side of that, this could be an angry team. One hell-bent on destroying the Spartans. If Alabama cares then I see no reason why it shouldn't pick up the victory. The Tide are more talented than Michigan State at just about every position. Plus, one of Alabama's weakness is it's pass protection and Michigan State hasn't had much of a pass rush all season. Still, that doesn't mean Alabama should fall into the trap of trying to throw all day. Yes, Julio Jones is a monster, but the secondary is probably the one aspect of this game in which Michigan State has an advantage on the Tide.
Instead we should get a healthy dose of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and seeing those two matchup against MSU's Greg Jones is something that every college football fan should enjoy.
Keys to Victory for Michigan State: The Spartans have used a balanced offense to find success all season, and that shouldn't change in this game if they want to pull off the upset. Yes, Alabama is tough against the run, but the Spartans have a few options at running back with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper and have the ability to wear the Tide down.
Also, just because the Spartans will be without B.J. Cunningham -- the teams leading receiver -- that doesn't mean they don't have options in the passing game. Plus the Tide will be without Mark Barron, which will only help matters. Kirk Cousins has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, and he'll still have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.
The X-factor could be the speedster Keshawn Martin. He's very dangerous in space, so look for the Spartans to try and find him some.
The Capital One Bowl is like: the movie 300. The Spartans will be playing the role of the Spartans, and Alabama is the giant Persian army marching in looking to crush everything and everyone in its path. All that's missing are the air-brushed abs and gratuitous nudity. Will these Spartans emerge victorious, or end up in a pile of bodies?
Posted on: December 31, 2010 12:46 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 12:47 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Mike Haywood came to Miami (Ohio) and quickly turned the program around, leading the Redhawks to a MAC title this season. Haywood then parlayed that success into a head coaching gig at Pitt, leaving Miami looking for a new head coach.
A new head coach it seems that its found.
The school announced on Friday through a press release that it had hired Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell to be its next head coach. Treadwell has been serving under Mark Dantonio in East Lansing since 2007, and also took over the program for a few weeks earlier this season after Dantonio suffered a heart attack in September.
Of course, it's not just his coaching experience that likely helped Treadwell land the job. Treadwell played football at Miami as a wide receiver from 1978-81, and also served as the school's wide receivers and running backs coach for two years under the late Randy Walker in 1992 and 1993.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 7:22 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's my appearance with Adam Aizer to discuss the Ohio State suspensions handed down today.
NOTE: That's a cross-section of a wheat germ on the left edge of the screen. I'm not weird enough to have anatomical diagrams in my office. Let's not focus on that.
One aspect we didn't get to during the segment that I'd have liked to address further is these players' pro prospects. Everyone assumes this means Terrelle Pryor is now going to declare for the NFL draft, but there are two 2010 First Team All-Big Ten players facing this five-game suspension, and Pryor isn't one of them; that'd be RB Boom Herron and tackle Mike Adams. For those two players, it'd be hard to imagine what there is left to accomplish on the college stage regardless of how many games they're allowed to play in 2011. A five-game suspension awaiting them may just be another argument for a decision they were going to make anyway. Same might even go for DeVier Posey , though his numbers weren't terrific this season.
So if that's the case and some of these guys declare for the draft, then they're not really suspended for the first five games anymore -- especially if they had NFL dreams to act on anyway. It doesn't necessarily change the personnel for the first five games, but at the very least their replacements can spend the entire offseason preparing with the first team rather than splitting reps with the suspended players. That's primarily why I expressed some uncertainty as to how many players would be suspended for the Michigan State game; if they're off in the NFL instead, then they're not missing. That's all.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 6:56 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After earlier compiling a database of all 120 FBS head coaching salaries for the recently completed 2010 season, USA Today today released a look at the salaries of the nation's assistant coaches, all 907 of which are available for comparison here . Your highest-paid assistant: Texas ex-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at $900,000 per year. The lowest amongst coaches actually drawing a paycheck? Leon Lett -- you remember him ! -- who's being paid just $12,000 to coach defensive tackles at Louisiana-Monroe.
Inbetween on the scale are some 900 other coaches (not counting those working at private institutions whose salaries are not public information). Ignoring certain obvious choices (yes, Greg Davis was overpaid, yes, Dana Holgorsen was a bargain), looking only at 2010 results, and making allowances for coaches in their first year at a new school, here's three choices for the country's most underpaid and most overpaid assistant coaches:
MOST DUE FOR A RAISE
Don Treadwell ($235,250), offensive coordinator, Michigan State. Despite possessing few playmakers known to fans outside the Midwest, Treadwell guided the Spartans to a top-20 finish in yards per-play and offered his team an enivable balance with better than 2,000 yards rushing and 2,800 passing. He also took over for two games as interim head coach while Mark Dantonio dealt with a heart ailment, winning both. And he did all this for the cost of less than many SEC position coaches.
Jeff Casteel ($372,268), defensive coordinator, West Virginia. Casteel's not doing too badly for himself, salary-wise, but compared to what his fellow DCs are earning in the SEC, Big 12, etc., he's still a bargain. With virtually no nationally-recognized players and few star recruits, Casteel quietly put together the nation's third-ranked unit in total defense and third in scoring defense; the Mountaineers were the only defense in the country to allow 21 points or fewer in every game.
Tom Osborne ($220,000), special teams/tight ends coach, Oregon. Osborne put together arguably the best set of special teams units in the country, leading the Ducks to top 20 finishes in net punting and kickoff coverage, coaxing a 12-of-16 performance from his two kickers, and along with returner Cliff Harris creating the most dangerous punt return unit in the nation, one that racked up better than 18 yards per return and scored five game-changing touchdowns. The Ducks probably aren't in the national title game without him.
Honorable Mention: Manny Diaz ($260,000), defensive coordinator, Mississippi State; Pete Kwiatkowski ($259,520), defensive coordinator, Boise State; Al Borges ($205,000), offensive coordinator, San Diego State.
MOST DUE TO NOT RECEIVE A RAISE
Norm Chow ($640,000), offensive coordinator, UCLA. That figure includes a $250,000 retention bonus designed to keep Chow in Los Angeles, but maybe the Bruins would have been better off being spared paying the nation's eighth-highest assistant's salary for the nation's 109th-best offense.
Tyrone Nix ($500,000), defensive coordinator, Ole Miss. For Nix's salary, the Rebels could have had Gus Malzahn, who earned the exact same amount this season from Auburn. Malzahn will earn quite a bit more next year, obviously, but Nix won't after overseeing a defense that utterly collapsed in the embarrassing season-opening loss to Jacksonville State and went on to finish 105th in yards allowed per-play.
Stacy Searels ($301,200), offensive line coach, Georgia. Offensive line coaches do very well in the SEC, with several topping the $300,000 mark. If we ignore the low-hanging fruit that was Steve Addazio's season in Gainesville, none had a more disappointing season than Searels, whose Bulldog charges looked to have the makings of one of the nation's strongest ground games at the close of 2009 and entered 2010 with as much experience (and talent, arguably) as any line in the country. Instead the Dawgs finished 10th in the SEC in rushing and middle-of-the-pack in sacks allowed (despite ranking 9th in passes attempted) as Searels wound up forced to juggle his lineup late in the year. Searels has done outstanding work before and likely will again, but 2010 wasn't his best moment.
Dishonorable Mention: Chuck Long and Carl Torbush ($350,000 each), offensive and defensive coordinators, Kansas ; Nick Holt ($650,000), defensive coordinator, Washington; Greg Robinson ($277,100), defensive coordinator, Michigan.
Tags: Al Borges, Boise State, Carl Torbush, Chuck Long, Don Treadwell, Florida, Georgia, Greg Robinson, Jeff Casteel, Kansas, Manny Diaz, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nick Holt, Norm Chow, Ole Miss, Oregon, Pete Kwiatkowski, San Diego State, SEC, Stacy Searels, Steve Addazio, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Nix, UCLA, Washington, West Virginia
Posted on: December 22, 2010 1:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Some of the stories that have emerged over the past few days about teams struggling to sell their allotment of bowl tickets aren't surprising, quite honestly. How many FIU fans are going to want to leave Miami for a late-December trip to Detroit ? What percentage of the fanbase at Tulsa -- one of the smallest schools in all Division I -- are going to have the means to fly to Hawaii ?
But you might think that things would be different on the top rungs of the bowl ladder. You'd think wrong, as the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl are each finding out. We mentioned last week that UConn was looking at a major financial shortfall, and that hasn't changed; the Huskies have still sold only approximately 4,500 of their 17,500 tickets and are on the hook for at least $1.4 million in unsold ticket costs alone. Stanford, meanwhile, isn't much better off , according to San Jose Mercury-News columnist Mark Purdy (emphasis added):
Why should the Cardinal football team and its loyal followers be forced to schlep way across the country to Miami for the Orange Bowl in two weeks? As of late last week, Stanford had sold less than half of its 17,500-ticket allotment for that game. Isn't it stupid that the team can't play in a big bowl much closer to home?Purdy's column makes clear that he and the Pac-10 would have much preferred to see the the Cardinal in the Rose Bowl over TCU (and no doubt the Rose itself agrees), but he doesn't ask the question from the opposite perspective: isn't it stupid the Orange Bowl can't invite a big school closer to home? Why do they have to take a team representing a private academic institution from the West Coast whose fanbase is mostly apathetic even in the best of times when teams like LSU or even Michigan State could provide a lot more attendance bang for the invitation's buck?
In Stanford's case, it's because of a BCS bylaw that requires any team in the BCS rankings top-four to receive an automatic BCS berth; in UConn's, it's because the Big East champion is also admitted auotmatically, no questions asked. If Purdy thinks the agreement that sent TCU to Pasadena at Stanford's expense is unfair (and that's debatable, since the other BCS bowls have each been saddled with non-AQ teams before and will be again; why should the Rose be excepted?), how fair is it that the bowls are forced into inviting schools they know will leave them with attendance issues?
It's a little fair, sure, because there's no question that at 11-1, Stanford has done more to deserve a BCS berth than, say, 9-3 Alabama. But it's high time the NCAA started examining a way to free teams from the burden of ticket guarantees -- since it is unfair for a team like FIU, caught between an invitation they can't afford to turn down for the sake of their program and a guarantee they can't afford to accept on the financial ledger -- and if they might start with either limiting or eliminating those guarantees, they can definitely continue by loosening bowl tie-ins and doing away with the BCS's automatic bid. If bowls can take teams that will actually fill seats, they won't have to charge the schools that don't when those seats go empty.
Posted on: December 21, 2010 12:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
There's a part of me that feels sorry for Michigan State this season. Like Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans went 11-1 this season and picked up a share of the Big Ten title. Unlike Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans aren't going to a BCS bowl game this season thanks to a big loss against an Iowa team that stumbled down the stretch.
Instead they'll be going to the Capital One Bowl where they get to face Alabama. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but when you win a share of the Big Ten title, you expect a bit more. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the hits keep on coming now that the regular season is over. The team's leading receiver B.J. Cunningham broke his foot during practice on Saturday and won't be able to play in the game.
"B.J. Cunningham is a great competitor and he's extremely disappointed to be out for the Capital One Bowl game against Alabama," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a release from the school.
"B.J. had another outstanding season, and I know that he'll work hard during his rehab and set himself up for a big senior year."
Cunningham had 50 catches and 9 touchdowns this season, both of which led the Spartans. The good news for Michigan State is that they have a couple of talented receivers behind Cunningham in Mark Dell and Keshawn Martin, but when you're going against a defense like Alabama's, you want as much talent on your side as you can get.
So not having Cunningham available will only make a tall task that much taller.