Tag:Miami (Ohio)
Posted on: July 26, 2011 2:55 pm
 

MWC's Boise State among non-AQ favorites

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Several non-AQ conferences have held their preseason media days and polls, and it won't surprise anyone to learn that the Mountain West's edition has anointed newcomers Boise State the league favorites in their first MWC campaign.

The Broncos earned 28 out of a possible 31 first-place votes, with reigning champion TCU picking up three nods to finish second in their final MWC preseason poll before 2012's jump to the Big East. Air Force placed third, followed by San Diego State.

Personally, we'd have slid the Aztecs into the third slot* thanks in large part to Ronnie Hillman, the explosive sophomore running back who was named to the MWC's preseason all-conference team, also announced Tuesday. But it was the Broncos who predictbably dominated the list of honorees, earning a conference-high seven selections. In addition to Kellen Moore (who was named the preseason MWC Offensive Player of the Year), the Broncos were also saw less-household names like safety George Iloka, defensive end Shea McLellin and offensive tackle Nate Potter.

TCU
picked up four selections, including preseason Defesnive Player of the Year Tank Carder. No doubt the MWC itself is hoping the media have their predictions right; having the Broncos oust the Frogs in the two teams' only shared conference season would be a feather in the league's cap as TCU departs (and the MWC fights for a BCS automatic berth.

But as mentioned, the MWC isn't the only league that's been busy issuing its preseason polls. Checking in on two of their non-AQ brethren:

MAC: The Mid-American Conference held its Media Day Tuesday and announced the league's press had selected up-and-coming Toledo the league favorite for 2011. The Rockets return a league-high 18 starters in the third season of Tim Beckman's tenure, including dynamic receiver/returner Eric Page, a Biletnikoff Award Watch list member.

But the Rockets were far from a slam dunk choice, gaining only five of the 13 votes cast for MAC champion. Reigning divisional champions Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) each picked up three nods, with Ohio and Western Michigan each picking up a token vote. All in all, seven different teams earned votes as champions of one division or the other--promising a well-heated MAC race this fall.

SUN BELT: The SBC doesn't issue a media vote, but last week the league's coaches released their own picks for the 2011 Sun Belt standings, with an unfamiliar name at the top: FIU.

Behind co-preseason Offensive Player of the Year (and CBSSports.com College Football 100 member) T.Y. Hilton, the Golden Panthers usurped usual league overloards Troy, receiving five of the nine votes in the poll. And in maybe the quirkiest single vote in any of those polls mentioned in this post, someone is very high on Western Kentucky; despite going 2-10 last year (and 2-22 the past two seasons), the Hilltoppers received one first-place vote.

*Yes, despite the devastation in the SDSU receiving corps. Between a veteran line, Hillman, and senior QB Ryan Lindley, they'll be fine. 

Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Big Ten not spending enough on assistants?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

By now, anyone who follows college football has seen enough "BREAKING: Football coaches somehow earn lots of money in billion-dollar enterprise" headlines to last us a lifetime. So at a glance, this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article -- "Assistant coaches' salaries soar in college football" -- doesn't appear to be one we haven't read plenty of times before.

But there's one highly interesting nugget from the Post-Dispatch's math that's worth paying closer attention to:
The SEC paid its assistant coaches an average of $276,122 in 2010, according to figures compiled by St. Louis attorney and agent Bob Lattinville of the firm Stinson Morrison Hecker.
The Big 12 was second at $232,685 and the Big Ten a distant fourth, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, at $187,055. In each instance, the averages do not include salaries at private schools such as Baylor, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
It's no surprise to see the conferences of Gus Malzahn and the Manny Diaz-Bryan Harsin tag team topping the list, but ... the Big Ten? Fourth? Really?

They may not actually be a distant fourth, in fact -- Penn State probably pays better than the likes of Indiana, and Lattinville's salary-based figures don't appear to take into account Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's unusually structured $750,000 contract -- but it's baffling why the conference that distributes more money to its members than any other in the FBS should lag so badly behind anyone in coaching salaries. Some of that is Big Ten schools' insistence on spening their cash on crazy ideas like, say, men's soccer teams, but it's hard to see why the conference's highest-profile sport should be getting the short end of a stick this lucrative.

It's so hard, in fact, we won't speculate on the reasons. But we don't have any problem stating this for the record: the Big Ten's stinginess is hurting it on the football field.

Contrast the decisions from some of the SEC's and Big Ten's best assistants from 2010. Malzahn was offered the head coaching job at Vandy and had some interest (at least) from Maryland; he turned them both down when Auburn stepped up with its gigantic raise. In the end, the only SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason was Steve Addazio, who'd basically been dumped out of his Florida gig already.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was busy guiding Michigan State into the national top 20 in yards per-play, winning multiple games as MSU's interim head coach during Mark Dantonio's health-related absence, and generally being the nation's most underpaid assistant as the Spartans won 11 games. He left East Lansing to take the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio). Dave Doeren capped years of outstanding work at Wisconsin by coordinating the defense that took the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl (and nearly won it); he left to become Jerry Kill's replacement at Northern Illinois. (PSU's Tom Bradley, one of Joe Paterno's longest tenured-assistants, also did some serious angling for the Temple job that went to Addazio, you'll recall.)

It's not just retention that's a problem, either. How much better would Michigan have been under Rich Rodriguez* if they'd made Jeff Casteel a Mattison-like offer-he-couldn't-refuse to tag along from West Virginia, instead of subjecting themselves to Greg "GERG" Robinson? Would Tim Brewster still be around if he'd been able to hire one legitimately great offensive coordinator instead of subjecting Adam Weber and Co. to a revolving door of schemes? Even the newcomers aren't immune--it's yet-to-be-determined, but one has to wonder if Nebraska couldn't have done better in replacing exiled OC Shawn Watson than promoting running backs coach Tim Beck (especially considering the Huskers' head coach's expertise is on the defensive side of the ball).

As the Post-Dispatch article points out, it's not like the conference has to look very far to see the value of paying top dollar for assistants. After a miserable 2009, Ron Zook was thisclose to being fired at Illinois. So he went out and hired two top-shelf coordinators at salaries commensurate with the SEC's; in fact, one of them (Bobby Petrino brother Paul Petrino) was an SEC coordinator. Result: a job-saving 7-6 campaign and, in 2011, likely the program's first back-to-back winning seasons in 20 years.

It feels awfully awkward to tell anyone to follow Ron Zook's example. But when it comes to assistant salaries, it's high time the Big Ten at-large did exactly that.

*Rodriguez actually got the defensive coordinating hire right the first time, when he plucked away current Syracuse DC Scott Shafer from Stanford; Shafer's been a success everywhere else he's been, and his work with the Orange last year--the only team in the country to finish in the top 20 in total defense while also finishing in the bottom 20 in time-of-possession--was nothing short of remarkable. But RichRod and Shafer didn't appear to see eye-to-eye, and in came Robinson after just one season. You'll forgive Wolverine fans if they spend the rest of the afternoon banging their heads against the closest wall.


Posted on: March 9, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: March 9, 2011 10:47 am
 

Miami (Ohio) wins awkwardly-timed coaching award

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not every day an entire team wins a coaching award, particularly for the coaching done by a coach who's no longer employed by that team (or any other). But yesterday was one of those days, as the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks were honored with the 2011 Lee Tressel Ohio College Coach of the Year Award, given by the Northeastern Ohio chapter of the National Football Foundation.

It's the kind of announcement that raises a whole host of questions. Fortunately, we're here to answer them:

They really gave a coaching award to an entire team? Yes, yes they did, and it makes a certain kind of sense when you consider that maybe no team in the FBS was better-coached last season than the Redhawks, who went from a miserable 1-11 in 2009 to a triumphant 10-4 in 2010. Add in Miami's MAC and GoDaddy.com Bowl championships, and there's no doubt the Redhawks' campaign represented the best in Ohio college coaching last year.

So why not honor the coach that made it happen? For the obvious reason, no doubt: that that coach was later arrested on ugly domestic violence charges and unceremoniously dumped from his new head gig at Pitt. Giving Mike Haywood a coaching award right about now would be almost as awkward as giving out some kind of coaching integrity award to Jim Tressel .

Speaking of ... I'm assuming Lee Tressel is related to Jim? Yes, it's Jim's father.

So the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation's timing could have been a little better, it seems like? It's certainly no fault of their own. But yes, given the events of yesterday evening, seeing the last name "Tressel" used synonymously with "great achievements in Ohio-based college coaching" feels a little ... awkward this morning. Doesn't it?

Of course, Haywood or no Haywood, "Tressel" on the plaque or no "Tressel" on the plaque, it's still a heck of an honor and one Miami richly deserved. Congratulations are in order. The Redhawks will simply hope that next time they receive it, it'll arrive with a bit simpler fanfare.



Posted on: January 26, 2011 5:43 pm
 

2011 returning starters: a first glance

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's never too early to start thinking about the next college football season, and that means it's never too early to ask the inevitable first question of any team going forward: How many starters do they have returning?

Fortunately, preview magazine maven Phil Steele has worked to provide a convenient answer to that query, releasing today a chart ranking all 120 FBS teams according to their offensive, defensive, and specialist starters returning.

There's plenty of time to delve far more deeply into college football's 2011 outlook, but a few immediate impressions after looking over the Steele chart:
  • SEC teams finish at both the top and bottom of the chart, with Vanderbilt leading the way behind all 11 2010 offensive starters remaining on the roster. But more notable is that after losing eight offensive starters, seven defensive, and both kickers, defending national champion Auburn comes in dead last, 120th out of 120. Gene Chizik will have his work cut out for him.

  • A couple of new head coaches in the Midwest step into very favorable situations. Brady Hoke will be able to draw upon nine returning starters on either side of the ball at Michigan and will only have to generate any kind of defensive pulse to be hailed as an improvement on Rich Rodriguez. But even he won't have it as cushy as Don Treadwell, who takes over the defending MAC champions at Miami (Ohio) and has 18 starters back to work with, good for 10th on the list.

  • A lot of early talk in the SEC West has focused on what LSU returns at the skill positions and what Alabama has lost, but behind nine returning defensive starters and both specialists, the Tide still boasts two more starters back than their Bayou Bengal rivals.

  • 2010 was almost certainly the high-water mark for the crumbling WAC. Not only is bellwether Boise State moving on to the Mountain West, but Nevada and Hawaii return just eight offensive starters between them.

  • Actually, it might have been the high-water mark for non-AQ teams in general. Gary Patterson's TCU seems as bulletproof as programs come these days, but having just four starters back on either side of the ball (placing them 119th on the chart, one spot ahead of Auburn) will be quite the challenge all the same.

  • You should go ahead and steel yourself against the Notre Dame hype flood now; the Irish ended the season on a four-game win streak, you'll recall, and have eight starters back on both offense and defense including surprise draft dodger Michael Floyd (pictured). 

  • Likewise, the offseason storyline for the ACC is already written: Florida State, with 18 starters back, will be expected to wrest the league overlord role away from Virginia Tech, with just 13.

Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Super Bowl rosters, broken down by conference

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Are you an NFL general manager or other team executive? Would you like your team to win its conference and go to the Super Bowl? You, sir, clearly need to start drafting players out of the conference where the real talent is: the mighty MAC.

That's the curious lesson imparted by the active rosters of this year's two Super Bowl participants, as the MAC is more heavily represented among thosee 106 players than any conference aside from the SEC and Big Ten. The complete breakdown of players' conference affiliation is as follows, per the active rosters of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers available here and here , respectively:
SEC: 18 (Steelers: R. Clark, R. Foster, A. Madison, Ma. Pouncey, C. Scott, M. Wallace, H. Ward; Packers: C. Clifton, M. Flynn, B. Goode, H. Green, Q. Johnson, D. Lee, P. Lee, T. Masthay, C. Peprah, S. Wells, J. Wynn)

Big Ten: 15 (Steelers: F. Adams, W. Allen, T. Essex, L. Foote, J. Kapinos, R. Mendenhall, A. Randle-El, M. Spaeth, L. Woodley; Packers: B. Bulaga, A. Hawk, R. Pickett, A. Quarless, M. Wilhelm, C. Woodson)

MAC: 13
(Steelers: C. Batch, A. Brown, J. Harrison, B. Roethlisberger (pictured back in his Miami (Ohio) days), S. Suisham; Packers: D. Briggs, T. Crabtree, J. Gordy, C. Jenkins, G. Jennings, T. Lang, J. Starks, F. Zombo)

ACC: 13 (Steelers: C. Butler, J. Dwyer, N. Eason, J. Farrior, K. Fox, B. McFadden, H. Miller, L. Timmons, G. Warren, J. Worilds; Packers: R. Francois, B. Raji, S. Shields)

Big 12: 8 (Steelers: C. Hampton, T. Hills, Z. Hood, J. Scott; Packers: G. Harrell, M. Crosby, B. Jackson, J. Nelson)

Conference USA: 7
(Steelers: B. Leftwich, D. Legursky, M. Moore, E. Sanders; Packers: A. Bigby, J. Sitton, C. Wilson)

Non-FBS: 7 (Steelers: I. Redman, A. Smith; Packers: N. Collins, E. Dietrich-Smith, D. Driver, J. Kuhn, N. McDonald)

Pac-10: 6 (Steelers: K. Lewis, T. Polamalu; Packers: D. Bishop, C. Matthews, D. Nance, A. Rodgers)

MWC: 5 (Steelers: C. Hoke, B. Keisel, C. Kemoeatu, S. Sylvester; Packers: B. Swain)

WAC: 5
(Packers: J. Bush, D. Colledge, K. Hall, J. Jones, T. Williams)

Big East: 4 (Steelers: W. Gay, R. Mundy; Packers: J. Spitz, B. Underwood)

Sun Belt: 4 (Steelers: D. Johnson, S. McLendon, I. Taylor; Packers: E. Walden)

Independent: 1
(Steelers: A. Battle)
(Note that affiliations are based on 2010 league alignment: Boise State in the WAC, Utah the MWC, Nebraska the Big 12, etc.)

Some bullet points to be made about the breakdown:
  • Kidding aside, the number of MAC players represented has to be something of a statistical fluke -- does any team in the league have as many as the Packers' eight? -- but it's worth noting that both teams rely heavily on players from outside the six BCS conferences. 34 percent of the Steelers' roster hails from non-AQ (or non-FBS) teams, with the Packers' number at 43 percent. An NFL team that doesn't bother scouting smaller conferences would, obviously, be missing out on a major source of talent.
  • That said, the two conferences best represented -- the SEC and Big Ten -- are exactly the two you'd expect based on the amount of money being spent within them and overall influence within college football.
  • As with the MAC's high numbers, the oddly low numbers for the Pac-12 and Big East are probably unfortunate circumstance. Nonetheless, those leagues probably would have liked to have been represented by more than only four and three teams, respectively.
  • Yes, it's interesting that non-FBS teams enjoy more representation than two BCS leagues and have only one player fewer than a Big 12 featuring programs like Texas and Oklahoma. But don't marvel too much; as with the number of successful pro players who weren't highly-ranked as recruits being a function (in large part) of how many more lower-ranked recruits there are, the sheer numbers of players attending the dozens of FCS and Division II schools ensure that some of them will always find their way to NFL stardom.




Posted on: January 20, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Coaching hires show Sun Belt still FBS's worst

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College football fans love to chatter about which of the 11 FBS conferences is best. They get much less excited to discuss which of them is worst, though for the few who do, this past bowl season provided some quality fodder when the two leagues generally considered the FBS's weakest -- the MAC and Sun Belt -- squared off in three different bowl games. The Sun Belt came out ahead 2-1, with Troy dominating Ohio and FIU winning a 34-32 barnburner over Toledo. (MAC champion Miami (Ohio) did cruise past Middle Tennessee State for the Midwestern league's victory in the MAC-SBC "Challenge.") Case closed?

Not even close. This week the College Football Blog reviewed all 22 (or 21, if you don't count Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia) new head coaching hires in our Headset Reset series , and that review turned up something interesting about the Sun Belt and the MAC: namely, that the MAC is making much stronger coaching hires.

First, look at the MAC's new coaches : two of them are coordinators from two of the 2010 Big Ten co-champions; one was the offensive coordinator and highest-ranking assistant for Urban Meyer's national-title winning program at Florida ; one was a longtime position coach and ace recruiter for Ohio State; and the "weakest" of the hires on paper, Ball State's Pete Lembo, is a 40-year-old coach with 10 years of successful head coaching experience on the FCS level already under his belt.

Contrast that with the Sun Belt's three choices: one a promotion from within the Arkansas State staff, one a potentially past-his-prime Florida position coach, the other the Mississippi State wide receivers coach.

All three of those hires could prove to be shrewd (it's not as if Dan McCarney and Mark Hudspeth don't have quality head coaching experience to draw on, and Hugh Freeze has been knocking on the door of his own head coaching gig for years). But if the MAC is to the Big Ten as the Sun Belt is to the SEC, then you'd have seen the SBC hiring the SEC equivalents of Don Treadwell or Dave Doeren (pictured at right), well-regarded college-first coordinators like Manny Diaz or John Chavis or Mike Bobo. That's not happening. In fact, the only 2010 SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason went to ... Temple.

(As an aside, this might also be an indication of the relative strength of the Big Ten and SEC; where SEC schools are willing to pay top dollar to retain their best assistants and keep them out of the clutches of smaller schools, the Big Ten watches the likes of Treadwell and Doeren walk away.)

The Sun Belt's bowl performance was nice. But until they show they can land the same caliber of coaching talent as their Midwestern counterparts (or, more easily, the WAC says its official goodbyes to Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii) they should continue to be regarded at the bottom of the FBS conference barrel.

Posted on: January 19, 2011 3:13 pm
 

Headset Reset: Five new faces in the MAC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

"Headset Reset " is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the five new head coaches in the MAC.

DON TREADWELL, Miami (Ohio) (pictured)

Why him? Because few assistant coaches in the country had a better 2010 than Treadwell, who turned a collection of average-looking talent into one of the Big Ten's most effective offenses at Michigan State and added a couple of victories as the Spartans' interim head coach to boot. For 2011, Treadwell needs to: capitalize on the momentum built by Mike Haywood's amazing 9-win turnaround in Oxford. A second straight MAC title isn't a necessity, but the pieces are in place for the kind of solid, winning season that would stamp the RedHawks as a contender for years to come. By 2014, Treadwell needs to have: won the MAC. With so much coaching turnover, there's a power vaccum at the top of the conference, and no reason Miami can't fill it. Chances Treadwell gets what he needs? Good-to-very good. Haywood left behind an excellent foundation and Treadwell's work in East Lansing suggests he's just the man to build upon it.

PETE LEMBO, Ball State

Why him? At just 40 years of age, Lembo already has 10 years of head coaching experience (all at the FCS level, no less) and just finished resuscitating a truly rotten Elon program. For 2011, Lembo needs to: just move the Cardinals in the right direction. Stan Parrish's dreadful two-season reign-of-error means Lembo has to get the program walking towards, say, not losing to Eastern Michigan before it runs towards bowls and league titles. By 2014, Lembo needs to have: put the Cardinals in position for a postseason berth; the Brady Hoke era showed it's far from impossible for the right coach. Chances Lembo gets what he needs? Not bad. BSU's not an easy gig, but Lembo's energy and FCS success mean he could be a sneakily good hire.

STEVE ADDAZIO, Temple

Why him? Not his efforts running the Florida offense, that's for sure, but his top-notch recruiting expertise, Northeast ties, and Urban Meyer -trained CEO skills won him the job all the same. For 2011, Addazio needs to: put together a coaching staff -- particularly at the coordinator positions -- that can take advantage of Addazio's good work on the recruiting trails. Maintaining Temple's perch near the top of the MAC East would be a nice signal that Al Golden's tenure wasn't a fluke, too. By 2014, Addazio needs to have: gotten the Owls back to a couple of bowl games; anything else would be a terrible waste of Golden's remarkable work. Chances Addazio gets what he needs? Better than you'd think. There's a reason Meyer tabbed Addazio as his replacement during his sabbatical; he's got the leadership skills necessary to head up a successful program ... if he can just find someone to call his plays for him.

DAVE DOEREN, Northern Illinois

Why him? NIU can't ask for a whole lot more than a long-time successful Big Ten defensive coordinator fresh off a visit to the Rose Bowl. For 2011, Doeren needs to: win the MAC? Those are high expectations for a first-time head coach, but the Huskies were the league's best team in 2010 and their offense returns almost entirely intact. By 2014, Doeren needs to have: won the MAC, no question mark. With the offensive talent left behind by Jerry Kill and Doeren's defensive acumen, the Huskies should find a way to finish what they started in 2010. Chances Doeren gets what he needs? Solid; none of the other new MAC coaches steps into a situation quite this friendly, and Doeren's defensive pedigree is promising.

DARRELL HAZELL, Kent State

Why him? No one the Golden Flashes could have hired knows the Ohio recruiting scene better than the longtime Buckeye receivers coach and recruiting ace. For 2011, Hazell needs to: find a difference-maker or two. KSU's been close to getting over the bowl hump, going 5-7 each of the past two seasons; if Hazell can recruit just a handful of actual play-makers, he could get them there in short order. By 2014, Hazell needs to have: reached the postseason. It would be a huge milestone for woebegone program that's had just two winning seasons since 1977, and has never played in a bowl as an FBS program. Chances Hazell gets what he needs? Like Addazio, it'll depend on who Hazell can hire for his staff, since he has no coordinating experience. But the talent level in Kent should definitely rise on his watch.

Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:29 pm
 

5 Down: Potential 2011 disappointments

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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

So later today we'll name five more teams we think can crack Dodd's top 25 next season, and right now we'll name five that are in his top 25 that might slip out ... or, at least, fail to live up to where they're currently placed. Without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Auburn (15). Slipping from first to 15th already seems like quite a slide, but the Tigers' losses are so major they could easily fall even further. The offensive line loses four starters representing approximately 200 collective career starts; Nick Fairley's departure is only the capper for an entire defensive tackle rotation that must be replaced; Auburn's two best linebackers are graduated, along with the best corner and best safety; and, oh yeah, that Cam Newton guy will be replaced by either a redshirt junior who's never started a game (Barrett Trotter) or a true freshman (Kiehl Frazier). The schedule also turns nasty, with this year's home dates against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all on the road. Gus Malzahn's continued presence means Auburn will have a fighting chance of getting back to eight or nine wins, but a bad break here or there could leave Gene Chizik's bunch outside the top 25 entirely.

2. Michigan State (9). The Spartans lived on the margins somewhat in 2010, needing big late comebacks to beat teams like Northwestern and Purdue while stumbling badly against more talented teams like Iowa and Alabama. And now Mark Dantonio loses three senior offensive linemen, soul-of-the-defense All-American linebacker Greg Jones, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took the vacant Miami (Ohio) head coaching position. For a team that may have already been not-quite-as-good as their record, those are big blows.

3. South Carolina (17). Their appearance on this list isn't necessarily about the Gamecocks themselves, though the losses of end Cliff Matthews on defense and guard Garrett Chisolm on offense will be larger than people think. It's about their SEC divisional rivals at Florida and Georgia bouncing back from subpar seasons, and a schedule that hands them tough road trips to Athens, Knoxville, Starkville, and Fayetteville. It's the sort of slate that likely has four losses on it lurking somewhere.

4. Northwestern (24). We love the plucky Wildcats as much as anyone, but the way the 'Cats were memorably run over at Wrigley by Illinois, it's hard to see them being physical enough to make that much headway in the new-and-improved Big Ten. Five of their seven 2010 wins came by a total of just 15 points, and for a quarterback whose underrated running skills are as much a part of his success as his throwing accuracy, Dan Persa's Achilles injury is a killer.

5. Oklahoma State (7). OK, so with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back and the Big 12 South not yet back to its 2008 glory days, it's not likely for the Cowboys to slip all the way out of the top 25. But the Cowboys haven't always done well with the kind of expectations they'll be dealing with in 2011, the defense still needs major work, and without Kendall Hunter the Pokes will have to work to ensure the running game can keep opponents from simply blanketing the Weeden-to-Blackmon connection. But the biggest loss by far is Dana Holgorsen, without whom the 2009 Cowboy offense was shut out by Oklahoma even with weapons like Hunter and Zac Robinson around. If Mike Gundy doesn't find a quailty replacement, the Cowboys may wind up as 2011's most overrated team.

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