Posted on: July 26, 2011 2:55 pm
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.
Tags: Air Force, Eric Page, FIU, George Iloka, Jerry Hinnen, Kellen Moore, Miami (Ohio), Mountain West Conference, Nate Potter, non-AQ, Norhtern Illinois, Ohio, Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Shea McLellin, Sun Belt, T.Y. Hilton, Tank Carder, Tim Beckman, Toledo, Troy, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan
Posted on: May 26, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
By the Eye on College Football bloggers
To celebrate the 100 99 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. Enjoy.
90. T.Y. HILTON, receiver/returner, FIU. Every so often, a player rises up from the lower rungs of college football to make a credible run at the Heisman Trophy: Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois, Steve McNair at Alcorn State, Gordie Lockbaum once upon a time at Holy Cross. And if that's happening this year, the smartest bet is on Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year and leader in all-purpose yardage.
But if Hilton does make a splash nationally, it won't be for his accolades, statistics, or even team success (though Hilton led his Golden Panthers to their first bowl berth and conference title last season, and could repeat the feat). It'll be for his electric playmaking, on full display in last year's Little Caesar's Bowl, when his 89-yard kickoff return for touchdown and 4th-and-17 conversion keyed a thrilling Panther comeback. Put a few more of those types of plays on SportsCenter (particularly in an early-season Friday night visit to Louisville), and the sky -- or more specifically, New York -- might be the limit. -- JH
89. LOGAN THOMAS, quarterback, Virginia Tech. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have won four conference championships and four Coastal Division titles. The league's expansion might have expected to highlight Florida State and Miami, but it has been the Hokies who have most often represented the conference on the national stage. But for the last four years of that run, the Hokies were had ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor. Now Taylor is gone, and it's Thomas who's set to take his place.
The redshirt sophomore has already impressed coaches and teammates with his performance in spring practice, and the hopes are high for his first season as the Hokies starter. Standing at 6-foot-6, Thomas often looked like the big brother as Taylor tutored him throughout last season. With quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain now assuming the play-calling duties, the offense will run through Thomas. Tech has many of the pieces in place to defend their ACC championship, but they'll need Thomas to settle in quickly to get it done. -- CP
88. AT&T PARK, temporary home stadium, Cal. For the first time since 1923, the California Golden Bears will play their home games somewhere other than California Memorial Stadium. As the university enters the final stages of their $321 million retrofit and renovation project, the Bears will play their home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco - home of the Giants. The setup for football won't be entirely foreign for the venue -- it's the home of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl -- but it will be an inconvenient trip for players, students and fans so used to their home games in Berkeley.
With four critical, winnable home games on their Pac-12 slate (highlighted by visits from USC and Utah), how well the Bears adapt to their new surroundings could well determine the trajectory of Jeff Tedford's Bears tenure. After four seasons with no fewer than four losses and no league finish higher than fourth, Tedford needs a big year to avoid a make-or-break 2012 season, and given the Bears' rigorous road schedule (at Oregon, at Stanford) that simply won't happen if Cal spits the bit at AT&T Park. The stadium could be Tedford's sanctuary; it could prove to be his house of horrors. -- CP
87. VICTOR ANDERSON, running back, Louisville. In 2008, Anderson rushed for 1,047 yards and 8 touchdowns, numbers good enough for him to be named the Big East Rookie of the Year. But nagging injuries over the last two seasons have prevented Anderson from recapturing that freshman form. Now, for the first time since that promising campaign, Anderson is 100 percent healthy.
Just in time, too, for Charlie Strong's second season as Cardinal head coach. With very little chance to prove himself in 2010, some believed that sophomore Jeremy Wright might replace the dominant Bilal Powell as the 'Ville's starting running back. But after one of his best springs since stepping on campus, Anderson has reclaimed the greater share of snaps in the Cardinals' backfield. There will be a lot of pressure for Strong to repeat the success of 2010, and he's already shown his affection for the rushing game. If the Cardinals are going back to the postseason again, they'll need 2008's Anderson (or better) in 2011. -- CP
86. CASE KEENUM'S KNEE, body part, Houston quarterback. The coronation of college football's newest passing king looked to be in serious jeopardy last fall when Keenum, a senior, suffered a season-ending ACL tear during an ill-advised attempt at a tackle against UCLA. Keenum had been on pace to set NCAA records in career yards and touchdowns before the injury, but there's no progress to be made there on the sidelines.
Fortunately for Keenum, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility this January, meaning not only does he have another shot at setting those NCAA records, but he's 636 yards and three touchdowns closer. At this point, the biggest obstancle in Keenum's way is his own health. His rehab's on track so far, and he's going to be doing 7-on-7 drills with his receivers to get that all-important timing down, but how is he going to respond physically and mentally to this setback? Can he still set those records? Will his knee allow him to? -- AJ
85. LSU AT ALABAMA, potential Game of the Year, SEC. In a division where as many as four or five teams can have realistic dreams of a top-10 season and a trip to Atlanta, there's no shortage of "Game of the Year" candidates. Pair off any one of Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State -- a group featuring three of the last four national champions, a fourth team coming off a Sugar Bowl berth, and a fifth coached by a man with two national title rings himself -- and you're going to get not only a potential classic, but the game that could decide the outcome of the nation's hands-down strongest division.
But even taking into account the South Carolina-Georgia-Florida round-robin in the East, the single game most likely to produce the SEC's 2011 champion will be played between the Tide and Tigers on Nov. 5. Both teams will bring wicked defenses, explosive athletes, powerful running games (at least, if we're right about Spencer Ware) ... and potentially shaky quarterback situations that could derail either team's title dreams. It all collides head-on in Tuscaloosa, and whatever the result, the SEC season won't be remotely the same in its aftermath. -- JH
Coker -- who probably would have redshirted were it not for a slew of injuries in front of him on the depth chart -- is now the unquestioned workhorse in the Iowa backfield after the departures of every other tailback with even one down of experience. He's clearly got the physical gifts to make it work (and a talented, veteran line in front of him), but will Coker's bruising style of play hold up through an entire season in the Big Ten? --AJ
83. DANNY O'BRIEN, quarterback, Maryland. When 2010's ACC Rookie of the Year takes the field for his sophomore campaign this fall, in some ways it will feel as new as last September when the Kernersville, NC native took the conference by storm. After leading the Terrapins within a game of an Atlantic Division title, head coach Ralph Friedgen was fired, and offensive coordinator James Franklin took the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. O'Brien's favorite receiver, junior Torrey Smith, took his 1,055 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns to the NFL.
Now O'Brien returns with expectations to repeat last year's success in College Park. But this go-round he has a new head coach (Randy Edsall) and new offensive coordinator (Gary Crowton). Luckily, neither coach is lacking in experience, and there should be plenty of learning opportunities for the sophomore gunslinger. Now O'Brien must seize control of those opportunities to keep Maryland --as Terps fans expect -- in the Atlantic Division hunt. -- CP
82. DECLAN SULLIVAN, late student videographer, Notre Dame. Though Notre Dame's 2010 campaign finished on a high note on the field, the season had already been irreparably marred by the tragic October death of Declan Sullivan. Sullivan lost his life when the scissor lift he was on while filming an Irish practice toppled over in high winds. (At right, that's a picture of Oregon's D.J. Davis wearing Sullivan's photo on his handwarmer as a tribute.) Notre Dame was fined for the accident and has since taken steps to make sure it never happens again, filming practice by placing cameras at different angles around the field rather than putting students on top of lifts.
It's a practice that a lot of schools would be smart to adapt, and it's one example of how Sullivan's legacy -- we desperately hope -- impacts the 2011 season and beyond. Whether it's discontinuing the use of lifts, using better equipment to reduce the risk of injury, closer supervision of player workouts, even more regular medical check-ups for stressed-out coaches, college football must do a better job of ensuring the safety of those involved with it. The lesson from the Sullivan tragedy is that those in charge must be proactive in making the necessary changes; even if the number of deaths from lift incidents stops, forever, at one, that one is still far, far too many. -- TF
81. WILL LYLES, scouting service director, Houston, Texas. The man who runs Complete Scouting Services has become the face of one of the NCAA's latest, biggest targets: scouting services. These alleged "street agents" associated with different scouting services came under fire earlier this spring when it was revealed that Oregon paid Lyles $24,000 for his services before signing coveted recruit Lache Seatrunk. Since then, the public has slowly learned more and more about the scouting service industry.
What they have learned is that Oregon is not the only school that uses them. In fact, many schools pay scouting services for DVD's, measurements, and other information that may help in recruiting. But the dollar amounts in some cases do not exactly fall in line with "standard prices." Lyles is currently being investigated by the NCAA for his ties to Seastrunk, LaMichael James (also at Oregon), and Patrick Peterson (formerly of LSU). If the NCAA decides that Lyles helped lead them to their respective schools, he would become a booster and thus a walking violation of NCAA rules. If (or when) the NCAA crackdown on scouting services takes its next step, it will be because of the spotlight on Lyles. -- CP
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Alcorn State, Arkansas, AT&T Park, Auburn, Big East, Big Ten, Bilal Powell, Cal, California Memorial Stadium, Case Keenum, Case Keenum's knee, CBSSports.com College Football 100, Charlie Strong, Complete Scouting Services, Danny O'Brien, DeClaen Sullivan, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Garrett Wolfe, Gary Crowton, Georgia, Gordie Lockbaum, Holy Cross, Insight Bowl, James Franklin, Jarrell Harrison, Jeff Tedford, Jeremy Wright, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Lache Seastrunk, LaMichael James, Little Caesar's Bowl, Logan Thomas, Louisville, LSU, LSU, Marcus Coker, Maryland, Miami, Mike O'Cain, Mississippi State, Missouri, NCAA, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Ralph Friedgen, Randy Edsall, SEC, South Carolina, Spencer Ware, Stanford, Steve McNair, Sun Belt, T.Y. Hilton, Torrey Smith, Tyrod Taylor, UCLA, USC, Utah, Victor Anderson, Virginia Tech, Will Lyles
Posted on: December 27, 2010 3:59 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Florida International topped Toledo with a last-second field goal, capping a wild fourth quarter, 34-32.
Offense: It wasn't always easy to watch, especially with Wesley Carroll redefining inconsistency at quarterback. But T.Y. Hilton lived up to his considerable hype, playing a role in FIU's three consecutive second-half touchdowns (89-yard kickoff return TD, decoy on wildcat keeper TD, and TD reception) that gave the Golden Panthers their first lead of the game. Hilton was also the recepient of a hook-and-ladder on 4th and 17 on FIU's last drive, which helped set up the game-winning field goal. All in all, Carroll finished 16-27 for 140 yards, a score, and an interception, while Hilton contributed 210 all-purpose yards. Grade: B
Defense: FIU couldn't have completed its fourth-quarter comeback without forcing numerous turnovers, as it so did against Toledo. Toledo QB Terrance Owens was pressured into three second-half interceptions, and a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter nearly buried Toledo. And yet, Toledo was not buried, and the Rockets completed a late drive to take the lead, putting FIU under enormous pressure. It only set the stage for the dramatic final drive, of course, but still: FIU's defense didn't hold when it needed to the most. Grade: C
Coaching: Mario Cristobal did a fine job of not letting his players wilt, whether under the pressure of the program's first bowl game or of the 17-point deficit they found themselves in early in the second half. Some of that credit also goes to Hilton, of course, but Cristobal also did a great job getting the ball into Hilton's hands in a variety of ways -- including that late hook-and-ladder. I didn't agree with all of Cristobal's decisions over the course of the game, but all in all FIU at least stayed in position to win for the entire game, and that credit belongs to the coaches. Grade: B
Offense: Terrance Owens is something of an enigma at QB for the Rockets: wonderfully gifted in both athleticism and arm strength, but a liability in the pocket while under pressure. Owens' three second-half picks (most of which came with him standing still and a defender closing in) helped let the Golden Panthers back in the ballgame, and effectively negated the 304 yards of rushing the Rockets rolled up thanks to running back Adonis Thomas and company. Still, even with a -3 turnover ratio, the Rockets came thiiiiis close to winning the game, and the loss wasn't due to a failure on offense. Grade: B
Defense: During the time it took for Toledo gave up three straight touchdowns to relinquish the lead, the Rockets' defense only gave up 89 yards. Granted, that was still enough for the Golden Panthers' offense to get into the end zone twice, thanks to short fields, but there was also a three-and-out and a Myshan Veasley-Pettis interception in that mix too. And yet, we cannot endorse a defense that allows T.Y. Hilton -- the guy FIU has been trying to get the ball to all game long -- to take a hook-and-ladder for a first down on 4th and 17. How do you not see that one coming? Grade: B-
Coaching: It's hard to put this loss on Toledo head coach Tim Beckman ; after all, it's not as if he never thought to tell Owens to stop throwing passes off his back foot into triple coverage or told his players to ignore T.Y. Hilton. Just like with Cristobal, Beckman had his players in position to win for the entire game; the swings of chance on the field had more control over the final result than did any coaching decision on Beckman's part.
One decision, however, that seems to have backfired was the last two-point conversion. After Owens took in a keeper to bring Toledo within one point with 1:14 left in the game, Beckman decided to go for two points, a decision that seems to have been vindicated by the successful conversion by WR Eric Page . And yet, if Toledo kicks the extra point, this game probably goes to overtime; recall, if you will, that FIU's big play came on 4th down, a play that calls for a punt in a tie game and not an insane trick play. Indeed, by giving his team a one-point lead with 74 seconds left, Beckman essentially gave FIU a daunting but plausible challenge: get into field goal range with that 1:14 or lose the game. Thus, the wild ending. It seems wiser to go for two at the end of regulation only when there's not enough time for the other team to put together a decent-sized drive; 1:14, quite demonstrably, was enough such time. Grade: C
It would be downright ungrateful to give anything less than a stellar grade to a game that features 66 points, five fourth-down attempts, and three lead changes in the last 7:34 -- including two in the last 75 seconds. Sure, the first half was a snoozer, and the turnovers were more the product of poor decision-making than some brilliant defensive work, but this is the type of 60-minute insanity we'd been hoping for all bowl season long. If this is the best bowl of the year, we're all in trouble, but it's at least the best so far. Grade: B+/A-
Posted on: December 16, 2010 10:49 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Why You Should Watch: The easy answer is that if you want to wash down your day-after-Christmas leftovers with college football, the Golden Panthers of FIU and Rockets of Toledo are your only option. So you'll watch them in front of a three-quarters empty Ford Field and like it, buster. But given the dramatic steps forward taken by these two programs under their current coaches -- Mario Cristobal, in his fourth year and first bowl game at FIU, and Tim Beckman, in his second year in Toledo -- this is also a chance to say you saw them before they got hired away by some wealthier school.
Also: electric FIU receiver/returner/jack-of-all-trade
s T.Y. Hilton is, to use the technical term, totally sweet.
Keys to Victory for FIU: Statistically, the Panthers are one of those teams that do just about everything well rather than any one thing really well. They did finish first in the Sun Belt in rushing, total and scoring defense, though (and second in pass defense), boasting a senior first-team all-conference performer in the line (end Jarvis Wilson, team leader in both sacks and tackles-for-loss), linebackers (Toronto Smith) and secondary (corner Anthony Gaitor). And still, for all of that, it was the Panther offense that led the way to the Sun Belt title. Behind conference Player of the Year Hilton and his 1,094 yards-from-scrimmage, and the tailback tandem of Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary (1,376 combined yards, Mallary 5.67 yards per-carry), FIU scored an average of 37.5 points in their six conference wins.
In a game that looks as even on paper as this one, big plays could prove the difference, and n players like Hilton, Mallary, and Wilson, they have the athletes that can make them. If they do, and quarterback Wesley Carroll can avoid making big plays for Toledo (he threw 13 interceptions this season), FIU should have the edge.
Keys to Victory for Toledo: Unlike the Panthers, there's no question on which side of the ball the Rockets' bread is buttered; there's a solid linebacking tandem here in senior Archie Donald and sophomore Dan Molls (267 combined tackles), but when you've finished seventh in the MAC in total defense, even with nonconference games factored out , defense is not your strength.
What is the Rockets' strength is a balanced offense that doesn't beat itself. With original starter Austin Dantin out with a separated shoulder (whether he'll be available for the bowl is unclear), freshman Terrance Owens took over down the stretch and led the Rockets to a 3-1 record with an 11-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Taking handoffs will be second-team All-MAC tailback Adonis Thomas, who totaled 905 yards and averaged an impressive 5.99 yards per attempt. But the unquestioned star of the Rocket attack is receiver Eric Page, named first team all-conference after racking up 1,081 yards and eight scores.
Page was also named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year after returning three kickoffs for touchdowns. (Between Page and Hilton, you'll really want to watch kickoffs in this game.) His good work and the sticky fingers of the Rocket defense (their 19 interceptions tied for fifth in the country) could tilt the field position battle in Toledo's favor, and if they do, the Owens-Thomas-Page triplets are good enough to take advantage. They'll have to, to keep up with the yards and points the defense will likely concede.
The Little Caesar's Bowl is like: a fireworks show. Maybe Toledo vs. FIU looks about as interesting as a blank black sky, but with guys like Hilton and Page around and a defense as boom-or-bust as the turnover-dependent Rockets involved, if you watch long enough you're sure to see some thrilling explosions.