Posted on: September 13, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 6:50 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Look around you, you can't avoid conference realignment rumors. Local media, message boards, and national insiders everywhere are ruminating on the future of the FBS and how it will look in 2012, 2013, and beyond. But there is a college football season going on in 2011, and these teams can only control 60 minutes of football each week. So taking the current conference shifts out of the picture, we are proud to roll out the first edition of the CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings.
It was particularly important to preface these rankings with that clarification with the Big 12 sitting right below the mighty SEC at No. 2. While Texas A&M's exit and Oklahoma's Pac-12 flirtation have led some to consider the conference "dead," the 2011 league roster has shown up to play this season. Led by top-ranked Oklahoma, the conference currently boasts five teams in the AP poll with three of them among the top ten.
Every week for the rest of the college football season we'll rank these FBS conferences, taking into consideration their presence in the national rankings, non-conference performances, and depth. The Sun Belt Conference, for example, finds themselves in the cellar of these power rankings despite FIU's upset of Louisville last Friday. That's because outside of the Panthers and Troy, the conference has taken some beatings here in the first two weeks of play.
So without further adieu, the first set of 2011 Conference Power Rankings.
1. SEC - The best until proven otherwise. Five straight BCS National Championships combine with a pair of SEC West giants trading places in the top 3 of early 2011 polls. Alabama and LSU each look worthy of a title game spot at this point, and are joined by five more SEC teams in the current AP Top 25.
2. Big 12 - With Oklahoma leading the way in the polls, other Big 12 schools held their own in non-conference showdowns this past weekend. Oklahoma State gassed Arizona while Iowa State escaped in an overtime thriller over Iowa. Depth will be tested this weekend as Texas looks for revenge against UCLA and Kansas travels to Georgia Tech. Oh yeah, and rumor has it there's a scrimmage in Tallahassee between Oklahoma and Florida State that might be important.
3. Big Ten - Penn State was muted offensively by Alabama in Week 2, but Wisconsin's dismantling of Oregon State gave the conference a new frontrunner on the national scene. Ohio State got a scare from Toledo, but will have the chance to bounce back in a primetime road game against Miami. Big question marks for me among the ranked conference teams here lie with Nebraska and Michigan State, but each will have the opportunity to flex their muscles against some competition in Week 3. Michigan was able to represent the conference in the depth argument, and 2-0 Northwestern hits the road for a test against a winless Army team.
4. Pac-12 - Oregon reminded us how many points they can score, and Andrew Luck did Andrew Luck things in a cross-country visit to Duke in Week 2. USC's sanctions hold no bearing in these rankings, and I expect them to take care of Syracuse at home with very little trouble (though no promises about covering the spread - I know better than that). Arizona State has a chance to boost the standing of the conference with a road test against 2-0 Illinois, and Utah will try to provide some support to the conference's depth with a non-conference battle against BYU.
5. ACC - With only Florida State and Virginia Tech representing them in the rankings, the conference is struggling once again to command national respect. The ACC is looking to erase the stigma of losing on the big stage this weekend, with the Seminoles hosting Oklahoma while Miami welcomes Ohio State to town in South Beach. Maryland also gets a chance to show off their latest uniform combination against a ranked West Virginia team and Clemson will try to knock off Auburn in a rematch of 2010's 23-20 overtime thriller. This is the biggest week of the season for the conference as a whole, and it is imperative they show up on the big stage.
6. Mountain West Conference - With Boise State leading the way, the shifting MWC sits on top of their non-AQ counterparts. TCU was able to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the Baylor RGIII's, and a pair of 2-0 teams (San Diego State and Colorado State) will get a chance to showcase their talent against Pac-12 opponents this weekend. Boise State and TCU can't anchor the entire conference for long, so they will need to show up in these last opportunities against respectable non-conference opponents to hold onto No. 6.
7. Big East - After starting the season 8-0 in the first week of play, the Big East looked unimpressive as a whole in Week 2. Pittsburgh and Syracuse played down to their FCS competition, each escaping with a one-score victory. The eight team conference usually boasts parity as a strength of the league, but when a preseason title contender shows weakness (Pittsburgh) or defending champion drops an early non-conference matchup (Connecticut) the argument falls short.
8. Conference USA - Rice blocked a late field goal to knock off Purdue, Houston kept their high-powered offense rolling, and UCF pulled away late in an impressive 30-3 win over Boston College. At the same time, Memphis was very - well - Memphis in their 47-3 loss to Arkansas State and Southern Miss looked hardly like a division favorite in their loss to Marshall. But for a 12-team non-AQ conference being top-heavy is not a terrible thing. At least you have teams that can contend on a national stage to represent the league.
9. MAC - Temple is fielding one of their best teams in recent years, and head coach Steve Addazio will get a chance to show their full potential against Penn State. I also like what we've seen from Toledo and Ball State did upset Indiana in the opening week of play before falling 37-7 to a very talented South Florida team.
10. WAC - The depleted WAC can't quite hold their own in rankings like these without their former heavy-hitters. Nevada hasn't quite gotten back on track offensively since losing Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, and Fresno State has looked out of sync in a challenging start to the schedule. However New Mexico State will have a chance to give the conference some depth this weekend. After knocking off MInnesota on Saturday the Aggies will host the UTEP Miners of Conference USA on Saturday.
10. Sun Belt - As I mentioned earlier, outside of FIU and Troy the performances have not been very impressive out of the Sun Belt. That does not, and will not, change the powerful grassroots #Hilton4Heisman campaign for all-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton. The Panthers' wide receiver is averaging 275.5 all-purpose yards per game and outside of the farewell tour for FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger is the story in this conference.
Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.
Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Arizona State, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Chip Patterson, Clemson, FIU, Florida State, Fresno State, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Nevada, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pac-12, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rice, SEC, Steve Addazio, Syracuse, TCU, Temple, Texas, Troy, UCF, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.
It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.
Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.
One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.
The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.
This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.
“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”
Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.
On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.
The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.
For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.
The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.
Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.
Stat of the week
If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.
"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.
While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.
Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.
For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.
Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.
Other stats of note
- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.
- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.
- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.
- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.
- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.
- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.
- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.
- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.
- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.
- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.
- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.
At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.
- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.
- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.
My top 10 after week 2:
4. Boise State
5. Texas A&M
8. Florida State
9. Oklahoma State
10. South Carolina
Where we'll be this week
I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.
Across the goal line
There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.
In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.
As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.
I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.
Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.
What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.
That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.
It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.
A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.
I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.
Tags: Aaron Murray, ACC, Alabama, Alabama, Andre Heidarai, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, BCS, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Boston College, Brandon Weeden, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, BYU, Cal, Case McCoy, Chad Morris, Charlie Strong, Chip Kelly, Chris Polk, Chris Relf, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Coliseum, Colorado, Da'Rick Rogers, Dab Swinney, Darron Thomas, David Ash, De'Anthony Thomas, Denard Robinson, DeVonte Christopher, FCS, FIU, Garrett Gilbert, Gene Chizik, Hawaii, Iowa, Iowa State, Isaiah Crowell, Jake Stoneburner, Jim Harbaugh, Joe Bauserman, Joseph Randle, Justin Blackmon, Justin Hunter, Keith Price, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, Mack Brown, Manny Diaz, Marc Tyler, Marcus Lattimore, Mario Christobal, Mark Richt, Melvin Ingram, Miami, Michael Lev, Michigan, Mississippi State, NCAA, Nevada, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pac-10, Pac-12, Penn State, Peyton Manning, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Stephon Gilmore, Steve Spurrier, Sun Belt, Surveying the Field, T.Y. Hilton, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Toledo, Torin Harris, Tyler Bray, UCF, UConn, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Wafford, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 9, 2011 10:19 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 12:11 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FIU WON: There was no question which team had the best player on the field, and in the end, that player left no doubt about which was the best team on the field. Golden Panther All-American candidate T.Y. Hilton dominated the game, finishing with a school record 201 yards receiving (on just 7 receptions, a 28.7-yard average) and 268 all-purpose yards. His touchdown receptions of 74 and 83 yards broke open the game in the first half and the FIU defense held the Cards to just seven second-half points.
WHY FIU WON: Aside from Hilton's game-defining explosiveness, the Golden Panthers also benefited from Louisville's total inability to finish drives. The Cardinals outgained FIU 498-293 for the game but time and again crossed midfield only to come away empty-handed ... or worse, as was the case when Will Stein ended the Cards' first possession (and a 10-play drive) with a 74-yard pick-six that put FIU up 7-0 early.
From there Louisville put together drives of 29, 53, 25, and (in the fourth quarter) a backbreaking 76 yards -- with FIU stuffing runs on both 3rd- and 4th-and 1 after those 76 yards -- that resulted in a grand total of three points. The game was summed up by the Cards' follow-up drive to that failure, which began at midfield and featured an incredible scramble and completion by Stein to convert 3rd-and-13, setting his team up first-and-10 at the FIU 33 ... only for the Panthers' Tourek Williams to come up with a 13-yard sack on the very next play.
WHEN FIU WON: Three plays after that sack, Stein's desperation deep ball to Josh Chichester was broken up, and FIU took over up 14 points with just under 6 minutes to play. (At that point, Louisville had spent two drives running 21 plays, covering 84 yards, and eating up 10 minutes of clock ... and producing zero points.) Though not officially done until FIU recovered an onsides kick and forced the Cards to start their last-gasp drive inside their own 3, after that turnover on downs anything short of an Auburn-style miracle would result in an FIU win.
WHAT FIU WON: An impressive 2-0 start and the program's first-ever win over a BCS-conference program, for starters. But the unquestioned status of 2011 Sun Belt favorite, too, and for Hilton, maybe even some honest-to-goodness Heisman candidacy buzz.
WHAT LOUISVILLE LOST: Just about all the 2011 optimism lingering from Charlie Strong's encouraging 2010 debut. No doubt Strong's effective recruiting and solid defensive coaching will have the Cards competitive throughout the season and Big East title contenders in future campaigns. But this year's edition is too young on the offensive line and too shaky in the secondary to expect anything more than a low-level bowl appearance--a modest goal that after tonight's loss might still prove to be out of reach.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:05 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
For the first time since the conference's formation in 1991, every Big East team won on the opening weekend of the college football season. A lot of teams in FBS AQ conferences choose the opening to schedule an FCS or inferior team to ease into the schedule, but rarely can a conference kick off the season undefeated.
A majority of the Big East slate was similar to that formula, but the conference's undefeated record occurred as a result of thrilling victories over an ACC opponent (Wake Forest)and a ranked Notre Dame squad. The conference has been defending themselves against national criticism all offseason after finishing 2010 with no teams ranked in the Top 25. Now heading into Week 2 the Big East's 8-0 conference record will be tested against a much more difficult slate. If Week 1 was a celebration of the Big East's promising future, Week 2 might be more of a reality check.
There are four games on the Big East schedule which will threaten/end the league's undefeated streak:
1) Cincinnati at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. Saturday - After an embarrassing 4-8 campaign in Butch Jones' first season, the Bearcats put on a show jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead against Austin Peay. By the time the damage was done Cincinnati had more points than any FBS team, defeating their Ohio Valley Conference opponent 72-10. Traveling to Neyland Stadium to face the Vols will present a very different challenge, and possibly a different outcome for the Bearcats. Cincinnati's secondary was one of the worst in the nation a year ago, and they will quickly get one of their most difficult challenges on the schedule with Tyler Bray and the receiving duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. Don't be surprised to see a shootout in Knoxville here, but unless the Bearcats defense steps up and creates some turnovers I'd guess the Vols emerge victorious.
2) Rutgers at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m. Saturday - Last season the Scarlet Knights had a 10-0 lead over the winless Tar Heels before the Tar Heels battled back and eventually escaped New Jersey with a 17-13 win. But without Tom Savage under center to throw a late game interception, Scarlet Knights fans are hoping that Chas Dodd can exact revenge against their annual non-conference opponent. North Carolina also has a new quarterback this year in sophomore Bryn Renner. Renner set an ACC record in the Tar Heels' opener by completing 22 of his 23 passes, with an interception as his only incompletion. The Tar Heels offensive line kept Renner's jersey clean, and getting into the backfield will be a key for the Rutgers front line. The Scarlet Knights are not favored in this matchup, and a victory would be huge for another team trying to make up for an uncharacteristic 2010 season.
3) Florida International at Louisville, 7:00 p.m. Friday - FIU has been slowly climbing up the ranks of the Sun Belt Conference, and last season joined the perennially dominant Troy at the top of the final standings. All-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton will be a challenge to contain, especially after seeing Louisville give up 143 yards on the ground against Murray State. The Panthers will be hungry for the upset on the national stage Friday night, and the onus will be on the Louisville defense to match that speed and intensity for four quarters. On offense the Cardinals will have an advantage over the Panthers defense, but they cannot afford to turn the ball over four times like they did in the opener. This should be a very competitive game, and I would not be shocked if the Panthers pulled the upset.
4) Connecticut at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - The Huskies still haven't decided on a starting quarterback, or even a two-quarterback rotation. Running back Lyle McCombs looked strong in the absence of projected starter DJ Shoemate, rushing for 141 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Fordham. But Vanderbilt presents a very different caliber of opposition. That matchup will pit Commodores head coach James Franklin (former Maryland offensive coordinator) against his 2010 Maryland counterpart Don Brown, now the defensive coordinator at Connecticut. Franklin has stated that he's willing to take risks on offense, and Brown has been known for his aggressive blitzing schemes. While it certainly won't be a marquee matchup to steal headlines, this SEC-Big East showdown should at least be interesting for those involved. This game will probably come down until the fourth quarter, but I'm giving Vanderbilt the advantage due to Connecticut's uncertain personnel.
Tags: Austin Peay, Big East, Bryn Renner, Charlie Strong, Chas Dodd, Chip Patterson, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Da'Rick Rogers, DJ Shoemate, Don Brown, FIU, James Franklin, Justin Hunter, Lyle McCombs, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, T.Y. Hilton, Tennessee, Tyler Bray, Wake Forest
Posted on: September 7, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 11:42 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Louisville's offensive performance, particularly in the second half, was less than spectacular in their debut against Murray State on Thursday. Head coach Charlie Strong acknowledged that his team, while victorious, still had plenty of things to improve on heading into their matchup on Friday with Florida International.
"It's great to get a win. But we didn't play well in the second half, it was like a tale of two halves," Strong said in this week's Big East teleconference. "The first half we scored three out of first four drives, second half we couldn't move the ball at all. You know if's your first game, but you have to finish."
Not only did the Cardinals struggle moving the ball, they also turned it over to the Racers four times. Two of those turnovers came from quarterbacks Will Stein (fumble) and Teddy Bridgewater (interception). But Strong has not changed his stance on the quarterback position at all, and he will plan to use three different players under center on Friday.
Stein will once again get the start, with the touted-freshman Bridgewater seeing some action and Dominique Brown running the specialized "Wildcard" package. Stein's success came mostly in the first half, but he finished with 226 yards passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Bridgewater's college debut was short lived, and the freshman did not attempt another pass after his interception.
There is a lot of excitement about Bridgewater's ability, but Thursday confirmed many suspicions that the Miami-native still has some adjusting to do before stepping in as the leader of the offense. Luckily, Stein has proven he can be a productive starter for the Cardinals while their prized recruit gets acclimated to the college game.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
Yes, it's back.
234 days after Auburn defeated Oregon in Glendale, college football has returned. And did it ever.
At some point during Russell Wilson's return at Wisconsin, Baylor and TCU's shootout, Auburn's furious comeback or Texas A&M's blowout of SMU, one just had to take a deep breath, take in everything that was going on around the country and say, yes, the sport is back.
As Washington beat writer Bob Condotta summed up, "College football spent 9 months trying to drive everyone away and in about 18 hours has brought everyone back."
Three straight days worth of games (and one more tonight) couldn't have come at a better time either after, as Condotta alluded to, a rough offseason. Realignment and infractions were in most writers' computer clipboards just from all that went on. Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Miami, etc., were the schools being talked about in lieu of directional schools being beat up by state schools.
The newest addition to the great CBSSports.com crew, senior columnist Bruce Feldman, broke down The Big Picture from opening weekend and now it's time to dive into the details.
Stat of the week
Admission: I'm a passionate baseball fan. I write, live and breath college football for a living but to me, there's nothing like the intricacies of a baseball game. There's Vin Scully in the booth, phenom call-ups, the DH debate and John Sterling going as over the top as you can get on a home run call. The sport isn't for everyone though, and the biggest reason most point to is the pace of the games.
Turns out, the baseball players have come around to that point too. I've watched a ton of Red Sox-Yankees games over the years and still enjoy every pitch despite them routinely taking around four hours to play.
"It's brutal. I can't stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It's not baseball," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I don't even know how to describe it. If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting around and talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in the dirt? Four-hour games can't be fun for a fan, either?"
On Thursday, the opening day of college football, the Yankees and Red Sox played nine innings in four hours and 21 minutes. 4:21. Not one football game all week took longer than four hours during week one that wasn't extended due to weather. Heck, out of 1,526 games during the 2010 season, the average length of a game was 3:12.
Stats like this make me glad I cover football and am just a fan of baseball. The excessive TV timeouts in the college game might make some angry but do keep things in perspective: at least it's not baseball.
Other stats of note
- SEC teams scored 63 touchdowns, 22 through the air, five on defense and five through returns.
- Florida running back Jeff Demps broke the 2,000 yard rushing mark for his career while his teammate Chris Rainey (left) scored a touchdown receiving, rushing and via a punt return. He was the first Gator to ever score in those three ways in one game.
- Arkansas's Joe Adams managed to return two punt returns for touchdowns against Missouri State.
- The 53 pass attempts from by Oregon's Darron Thomas were the most by a Ducks quarterback since Kellen Clemons on October 9, 2004.
- North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner had a great debut for the Tar Heels, going 22-23 for a 95.7% completion percentage. That's an ACC record and is the second best mark in NCAA history behind Tennessee's Tee Martin at 95.8%.
- USC's Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes and Matt Barkley threw a school-record 34 completions.
- Kellen Moore has 102 career touchdown passes against just 20 interceptions after his game in the Georgia Dome. According to Tony Barnhart, 10 of those interceptions came in his first year.
- UCLA hadn't lost in the state of Texas in 34 years (to Houston) before falling to the Cougars on Saturday. They also hadn't lost to a team from Texas since Houston beat them at the Rose Bowl in 1979. More than the record books though, Rick Neuheisel badly needed a win for this year's record.
- Oregon State true freshman Malcolm Agnew is the nation's leading rusher after a 223 yard performance... but his team still lost to an average FCS team this weekend.
- No surprise to see FIU's T.Y. Hilton turn in another great all-around performance, racking up a nation's-best 283 all-purpose yards against North Texas.
- Amazingly, Oregon-LSU was only the seventh time two ranked Pac-12 and SEC teams met on the field in the last 10 years. The SEC has a 4-3 edge after the Tigers took care of business in Arlington.
The NCAA is following Miami
The NCAA taking a road trip to see Miami tonight…. NCAA.com that is.
The site is wrapping up a five game, five state, five day road trip to kick off the season and is taking a behind the scenes look at several programs along the way. They were in Charlotte, N.C. to check in on student-athlete Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a win over ECU. The were soaked after rain storms shortened West Virginia's victory over Marshall. Tonight they'll be in College Park to see Maryland and Miami play.
While the trip is noble, there's a tinge of irony that the NCAA is taking their talents to see the team from South Beach play. Either way, check it out here.
I'm not sure which of the 16 different uniform combinations Maryland is using Monday night either but maybe they can figure out a way to wear the all white ones despite it being a home game. After all, seems like this would be their only chance since you certainly can't wear (all) white after Labor Day.
Don't forget about these guys
- Notre Dame was as sloppy as the field they played on and there's not much else to say beyond that. Yes it was rainy, yes it was the first game of the year but all that shouldn't matter for the Irish - looking to finally live up to expectations and be a top 10 team this year. There's still plenty of time for them to get it together but their lack of fundamentals and now very real quarterback controversy will be something Brian Kelly will have to figure out quickly. On the bright side, Michael Floyd (right) had 12 catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns.
- Auburn is a young team and they're going to take some lumps given their difficult schedule. Let's get that statement out of the way. They can - and should - be better than what everybody is saying they'll be but still, it was a bit shocking to see the Tigers on the brink of a loss at Jordan Hare Stadium to Utah State. It will take some time for this young team to gel and get caught up to the pace of the game. Auburn got a very real wake up call that Cam Newton wasn't taking the snap, now it's time to see how they'll respond.
"We are a long way off from being able to win very many games right now," head coach Gene Chizik said.
Aggies true freshman Chuckie Keeton was the star of the show if you look beyond the box score (21-30, 213 yards) thanks to the tremendous poise he had in his first game ever at the collegiate level. He'll be one to keep an eye on in the future.
- If you were a Michigan fan who managed to stay dry at the Big House, you had to be somewhat encouraged at the progress your defense made. Yes there's nowhere to go but up from last year but Greg Mattison looked like he had the team being much more aggressive. The players still aren't the caliber they once were but there are some bright spots, such as linebacker Brandon Herron.
- It's hard to read too much into Alabama's game against Kent State other than that their defense is nasty (90 total yards allowed) and they have an unfair advantage with Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson in the backfield. It appears AJ McCarron has the edge at quarterback but both him and Phillip Sims tossed two interceptions. The real test comes when both go into a hostile Happy Valley to take on Penn State. That's when Nick Saban will truly find out which is his "guy."
- Memo to Bob Stoops: walk-on transfer Dominique Whaley needs a scholarship. It's the least Oklahoma's head coach can do after Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners opener against Tulsa. It's the Sooners bye week, perhaps Stoops can find the cash lying around for a full-ride.
- A so-so debut for Missouri quarterback James Franklin on Saturday. There were positives and negatives for Blaine Gabbert's replacement as he seemed about a half-step behind where he should have been in the passing game, failing to hit open receivers at times. Third down conversions (3 of 13) is one area that has to be concerning but certainly his skills running the ball have to be somewhat exciting to Tigers fans but there will have to be a bit of polishing going on before they take on the big boys like Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
- No surprise to see LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu named as SEC player of the week. He was all over Cowboys Stadium for the Tigers and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he recovered/forced a muff punt and scooped and scored.
The AP and coaches polls don't come out until Tuesday with a game being played on Monday. Here's Dennis Dodd's latest power poll top 10 however.
1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU, 3. Boise State, 4. Alabama, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Florida State, 8. Stanford, 9. Texas A&M, 10. Nebraska.
Not a big disagreement with that group, but perhaps the Cardinal is a bit undervalued at number eight.
Links for later
- With plenty of time to talk about conference realignment before the games begin again, be sure to check out Dallas Mavericks owner - and Indiana alum - Mark Cuban's thoughts on what Big 12 schools should do. Namely, just say no.
- The video of the week comes out of Lubbock, as Texas Tech's head coach Tommy Tuberville gets the Red Raider fans fired up in this pre-game intro. It didn't work as well as the second half intro, as Tech pulled away 50-10.
- A precision attack from Kellen Moore and his receivers picked apart Georgia's defense. Here's how they did it.
- Good column from Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, who gets Al Golden to open up and share his view of the scandal that has engulfed his program.
- Is The Longhorn Network the sticking point for Texas going to the Pac-16? Yes, but it appears they can get out of it if they want.
Where We'll Be This Week
Looking ahead, Dennis Dodd will be on-hand to see Joe Paterno can try and pull of a massive upset as Alabama travels to Penn State. Tony Barnhart will be seeing if Georgia can bounce back and save Mark Richt's job as the Bulldogs take on South Carolina while Brett McMurphy travels to Ann Arbor for the big night game between Michigan and Notre Dame. Gregg Doyel is going to see one independent take on a possible future independent as BYU travels to play Texas. Finally, myself and Bruce Feldman will carpool to the Coliseum and witness the first ever Pac-12 conference game between Utah and USC.
Across the goal line
Finally, let's not forget how the first day of Oh-thank-goodness-college-football-
is back ended for most of us. I'm really not sure why a game between two commonwealth schools would be played in the state of Tennessee in the first place, but it was. I understand wins in the state are hard to come by, but just how bad was the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game?
The highlight of the night was pretty much Hilltoppers linebacker (and first-team All-Namer) Andrew Jackson telling the nation, "They supposed to be in the SEC?" Of course his team was down at the time but you understood why he chose to make the remarks.
Wildcats' punter Ryan Tydlacka said afterwards, "I'm kind of exhausted." If your punter says he's exhausted after a game, it better be because he ran more than two fake punts, not because he averaged 47 yards on seven punts.
But it was football. The game we love so, so much has returned.
And good, bad, ugly or Kentucky, we'll take it.
Tags: ACC, AJ McCarron, Al Golden, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big House, Blaine Gabbert, Bob Stoops, Brandon Herron, Brian Kelly, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryn Renner, Cam Newton, Chris Rainey, Chuckie Keeton, Cowboys Stadium, Dallas Mavericks, Darron Thomas, Dominique Whaley, ECU, Eddie Lacy, FCS, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Georgia Dome, Greg Mattison, Houston, Indiana, James Franklin, Jeff Demps, Joe Adams, John Sterling, Jordan Hare Stadium, Kellen Clemons, Kellen Moore, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Malcolm Agnew, Mark Cuban, Mark Teixeria, Marshall, Maryland, Matt Barkley, Miami, Miami, Michael Floyd, Michigan, Missouri, Missouri State, NCAA, Nebraska, Nick Saban, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-16, Penn State, Phillip Sims, Red Sox, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Woods, Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, T.Y. Hilton, TCU, Tee Martin, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, The Longhorn Network, Tommy Tuberville, Tony Barnhart, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UCLA, USC, Utah State, Vin Scully, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin, Yankees
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