Tag:Ryan Tannehill
Posted on: October 1, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 4:25 pm
 

Instant Analysis: Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38

Posted by Bryan Fischer

ARLINGTON, Texas --  At halftime of the Southwest Classic, Arkansas' athletic director and president exchanged commemorative footballs with their Texas A&M counterparts. It was symbolic and fitting, as the two former Southwest Conference rivals were playing their final non-conference game of the series.

A&M's move to the SEC was the predominant theme of the game coming into Saturday afternoon's game at Cowboys Stadium, with the exchange of footballs showing just how close the two schools will become in 2012. On the field, both teams did the same and showed how close they were in 2011. And how far they were from contenting for a conference title - Big 12 or SEC.

Texas A&M raced out to a 404-yard, 35 point first half led by Christine Michael's three touchdown runs, much like they did last week against Oklahoma State. And just as they did last week, when they blew a 17 point lead at halftime, the Aggies did it again. Only this time it was 18 points as they came up short of beating an SEC team for first time since 1995, losing to Arkansas 42-38. The Aggies have lost 6 straight to SEC teams.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson took a shot from an Aggie defender after nearly every play but turned in a gutsy, school record setting performance, throwing for 510 yards and three touchdowns to go with a crucial two-point conversion to tie the game late. It's hard to be more sore after playing Alabama's defense but he will have to hit the ice bath immediately upon arriving back in Fayetteville. His counterpart Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, was barely touched on the evening by an Arkansas defense that was missing several starters on the defensive line and secondary.

Make no bones about it, Texas A&M collapsed - again - and there's no excuse for this one. As their first unofficial, official SEC conference game, they were embarrassed. As the sign on the jumbotron said after Arkansas took the lead for the final time, 'Welcome to the SEC.'

Posted on: September 24, 2011 7:40 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 7:41 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oklahoma State 30 Texas A&M 29

Posted by Tom Fornelli

OKLAHOMA STATE WON. In a game that very much mirrored the 38-35 win for Oklahoma State over Texas A&M last season, the Cowboys came back from a 17-point deficit at halftime to win only the third matchup in Kyle Field history that featured two teams ranked in the top ten. Brandon Weeden threw 60 passes and finished the game with 437 yards and two touchdowns. Of Weeden's 437 yards and 47 completions, Josh Cooper, Justin Blackmon and Hubert Anyiam were on the receiving end of 31 of them for 336 yards.

HOW OKLAHOMA STATE WON. With a lot of help from the Aggies. After being stymied for the first 30 minutes on offense, and picking up only a field goal, the Cowboys came out and scored a quick touchdown on their first drive of the second half to cut the A&M lead to 20-10. Then the cavalcade of Aggie turnovers began, as Ryan Tannehill threw 2 interceptions and Kenric McNeal fumbled on three straight Texas A&M possessions. The Cowboys would use those turnovers to vault into the lead and never give it up.

WHEN OKLAHOMA STATE WON. It wasn't official until Ryan Tannehill's pass was deflected and picked off -- Tannehill's third interception of the game -- by James Thomas in the final minutes of the game. A few plays later Justin Blackmon was running out the back of the end zone -- without dropping the ball first, but more on that later -- to kill the clock and give two free points to the Aggies.

WHAT OKLAHOMA STATE WON. There is no game on Oklahoma State's schedule in any year that is bigger than its date with Oklahoma at the end of each season. With this win, the odds are pretty good that Bedlam will also serve as the de facto Big 12 championship game.

WHAT TEXAS A&M LOST. For the first 30 minutes of this game, Texas A&M was giving one of the most impressive performances I'd seen from any team in college football this season. On both offense and defense. Then halftime came and I don't know what happened in that Aggie locker room, because this was not the same team in the second half. Because of that, Texas A&M can likely say goodbye to any chance of leaving the Big 12 as the conference's defending champion.

THAT WAS CRAZY. So I saw Justin Blackmon drop two passes in this game that were catchable in my opinion. That alone is crazy enough as it is because I'm not sure Justin Blackmon drops anything. But then somethine stranger happened. Blackmon was about to waltz into the end zone for a touchdown that would have given Oklahoma State an 11-point lead, and then this happened. 



Image via Mocksession 
Posted on: September 6, 2011 7:16 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Big 12 Poll Reactions, Week 1

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Now that actual games have been played, the polls actually carry some kind of weight. Sure, the majority of schools in the country played lightweights this week, but at least we got to see them on a field actually playing football. It's a lot easier to judge the strength of a team that way -- and much more accurate -- than staring at a depth chart.

So let's take a look at where the teams of the Big 12 landed on the latest AP poll.

1. Oklahoma - Shocking update here. The team that started the year on the top of the poll went out, won a game rather easily, and stayed on top of the poll. Not that the Sooners don't deserve to be here, mind you. They went out and did exactly what you expect a team of this caliber to do against an inferior opponent on Saturday night. The offense did churn out 663 yards and 47 points after all, so it's rather hard to say that Oklahoma doesn't deserve this ranking. That being said, in a perfect world where preconceived notions didn't exist, you could argue that LSU deserves to be on top considering it demolished a fellow top five opponent on Saturday.

7. Texas A&M - It seems the voters were just as impressed as I was with the Aggies on Sunday night in their 46-14 win over SMU, as Texas A&M jumps up a spot from No. 8 to No. 7. I'll admit I had some doubts about Texas A&M being ranked so high coming into the season, but if Ryan Tannehill continues to play like he did against SMU all season, and that Aggies defense keeps on terrorizing quarterbacks, they'll be up here for a while.

9. Oklahoma State - The voters still think you're good, Oklahoma State. Even if you wore what might be the worst uniform combination of the hundred or so different ones you now have. It's just the voters weren't impressed enough with your win over Louisiana-Lafayette to justify moving you further up in the polls, and that's the right call in my opinion. Yes, the offense exploded for 61 points, but it does have to be somewhat concerning that you allowed 24 points to a Sun Belt school, doesn't it? How about the fact that Brandon Weeden managed to throw three interceptions against a Sun Belt defense as well? That won't fly against bigger opponents, and the Cowboys get a bigger test this week against Arizona.

20. Baylor - Hello, Baylor! While I've loved you for a few years now thanks to the turbo boosters located on Robert Griffin's shoulder and feet, it seems the rest of the world was introduced to your special brand of roller coaster football on Friday night. Will you be able to keep edging out 50-48 victories through the entire year? Probably not, but a victory over TCU is still something to be proud of, and this spot in the polls is well-deserved. Even if it does turn out to be short-lived.

21. Missouri - I thoroughly enjoyed having college football back last week, and the five straight days of games at my disposal, but there were a few hours on Saturday morning I didn't enjoy quite as much as the rest. Yes, Missouri won, but it was not a pretty victory. Nor did it come cheap as the Tigers not only lost two defensive starters, but a running back as well. The pollsters may have enough faith in you to allow you to stay at 21 this week, Mizzou, but personally I don't think you deserve this spot just yet. I had high hopes coming into the season, so it's up to you to restore my faith, James Franklin.

24. Texas - I'm sorry, Longhorns, but I didn't get to see your game on Saturday night because I'm part of the 98% of the country that doesn't get the Longhorn Network. So because of that fact, it'd be incredibly unfair of me to judge whether or not you belong in this spot just yet. That being said, you are Texas, and you won a game easily against Rice, so this is where you find yourself. Congratulations, you're behind Baylor.
Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 11:21 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Texas A&M 46 SMU 14

Posted by Tom Fornelli

TEXAS A&M WON. This game was a rather interesting one for Texas A&M as SMU was an opponent capable of giving the Aggies a headache to start the season. Well, Texas A&M won't be needing any Tylenol tonight. While the Mustangs hung around in the first half despite two turnovers that resulted in 14 Texas A&M points, the Aggies dominated the final 30 minutes. The Aggies used a balanced attack on offense and racked up 458 yards of total offense (212 rushing, 246 passing) while cruising to an easy victory. Ryan Tannehill looked very good, completing 21 of his 26 passes for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Cyrus Gray rushed for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. Ryan Swope had a nice opener as well, catching 8 passes for 109 yards and a score.

WHY TEXAS A&M WON. While the offense had itself a strong night, Texas A&M's defense was the true deciding factor. The Aggies were facing an SMU offense that returned its entire offensive line, its quarterback and it's top rusher and receiver from a team that averaged nearly 30 points a game last season and held it to 14 points. The Aggies also forced two turnovers early that got Kyle Padron pulled from the game, and had 7 sacks on the evening, including 3 from defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie. So much for dealing with the loss of Von Miller.

WHEN TEXAS A&M WON. The Mustangs were hanging tough despite turnovers and having their backup quarterback in the game, but when Christine Michael scored his second touchdown of the night a minute before halftime to make the score 33-14 it put an end to any realistic hopes that SMU might have had. It was the proverbial foot on the throat moment.

WHAT TEXAS A&M WON. Well, if the SWC were still around, the Aggies would have won a conference game. Instead the Aggies got to show everyone why they deserved to be ranked at #8 to start the season. It was exactly the type of performance you expect to see from a top ten team that is considered a candidate to win the Big 12.

WHAT SMU LOST. Stability at the quarterback position. Kyle Padron threw for 3,828 yards, 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for the Mustangs last season. He only threw 4 passes and had 2 interceptions before June Jones gave him the hook for J.J. McDermott, who played pretty well in his stead. Now the Mustangs have a question mark at a key position they thought they already had an answer to going into the night.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Nothing out of the ordinary really happened in this one, though I suppose the fact we had an entire game played this weekend without a lightning delay could be considered a bit of a novelty. Of course, the irony there is that the state of Texas is in the midst of a terrible drought and would more than welcome the rain that hit the midwest and east coast this weekend.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:58 am
 

Jerrod Johnson thanks Texas A&M through song

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Jerrod Johnson's career at Texas A&M probably didn't go quite how he was hoping it would. After a stellar season in 2009 that saw Johnson throw for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions, he appeared poised for stardom going into 2010. Stardom that never quite materialized after Johnson and the Aggies offense struggled through the first half of the season and Johnson was replaced by Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.

Well, Johnson holds no grudges against his old school. In fact, he wanted to make sure to thank Texas A&M for all it had done for him, and what better way to do that then through a song?



You know, normally I would post a song written by a player on this blog in order to make fun of them. I can't do that here. Johnson's song isn't exactly the type of music I normally find myself listening to -- JUSTIN BIEBER FOREVER!!1!! -- but I was able to listen to the whole thing and admit that it isn't terrible at all.
Posted on: August 16, 2011 12:10 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big 12 Team

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are my choices for the Preseason All-Big 12 team.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Landry Jones, Junior, Oklahoma

This is the rather obvious choice, as while there are some good quarterbacks in the Big 12, there's only one who plays for the team many see as a favorite to win the national title, and one whose name comes up in the Heisman Trophy discussion. That would be Landry Jones, and he deserves the hype. In his first two seasons with the Sooners, Jones has thrown for 7,916 yards, 64 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions. 

Also watch for: Though he didn't claim the starting job until half the season had passed, Ryan Tannehill was a big part of Texas A&M's strong finish in 2010. There's also the supremely talented Robert Griffin III at Baylor, and you can't forget about Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State.

RUNNING BACK

Cyrus Gray, Senior, Texas A&M

While the Aggies deployed a two-headed monster at running back last season, Cyrus Gray was the most productive of the bunch. Gray rushed for 1,133 yards in 2010 and had 12 touchdowns. I wouldn't count on seeing Gray's production drop off at all as he enters his final season in College Station.

Roy Finch, Sophomore, Oklahoma

Finch didn't get a lot of playing time last season, but now that DeMarco Murray has moved on, the speedy back is going to see a lot of action this season, and in an offense as potent as Oklahoma's, that means we're likely to see some big numbers from the little man.

Also watch for: Christine Michael was part of Texas A&M's dynamic duo with Cyrus Gray last season, and he's going to have a big role in 2011 as well. There's also Eric Stephens at Texas Tech who could open some eyes with Tommy Tuberville implementing a more balanced attack and five returning starters on the offensive line. There's also Bryce Brown at Kansas State, and if Brown can live up to all the hype he had coming out of high school, then he may end up being the best back in the entire conference. Texas will be hoping that Malcolm Brown can be the feature back it's been looking for as well.

WIDE RECEIVER

Justin Blackmon, Junior, Oklahoma State

It's going to be hard for Justin Blackmon to match his 2010 numbers in 2011, but the fact is that his production was so insane last year, that he won't have to. Take away 500 yards and 5 touchdowns from his total last year and Blackmon still finishes with 1,282 yards and 15 touchdowns. The craziest thing of all, however, is if he surpasses last year's numbers, nobody will be all that surprised either.

Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma

Broyles could have left for the NFL last year, but he decided to return for another season in Norman and Landry Jones couldn't be happier about it. Broyles is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with at least 14 touchdowns, and a third straight year with those numbers is likely on its way.

Also watch for: The Big 12 is not hurting for strong wide receivers. While Broyles and Blackmon will get the most attention, Kenny Stills and Josh Cooper are excellent second options for their respective squads. Then there's Kendall Wright at Baylor, Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller at Texas A&M, T.J. Moe at Missouri, and don't forget about Mike Davis at Texas.

TIGHT END

Michael Egnew, Senior, Missouri

Egnew is listed as a tight end, but realistically, he plays more like a wide receiver. Egnew caught 90 passes for 762 yards last year with five touchdowns, and he should see plenty of balls coming his way again this year as James Franklin looks to fill Blaine Gabbert's shoes.

Also watch for: While wide receiver catch most of the balls in the Big 12, there are some solid tight ends. Keep an eye on Oklahoma's James Hanna, Nehemiah Nicks with Texas A&M and Tim Biere at Kansas.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Ben Habern, Junior, Oklahoma

After redshirting in 2008, Habern has started 24 games at center for the Sooners over the last two seasons. He led Oklahoma with 123 knockdowns in 2010, including 16 against Colorado and was an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team last season.

Guard, Lonnie Edwards, Senior, Texas Tech

Edwards is a key part of the Texas Tech offensive line that returns every starter this season. He'll play an even larger role this season as Texas Tech will likely run more than we've seen in the past. The 6-foot-4 320 pounder has started 23 games in Lubbock and was an All-Big 12 second team selection in 2010.

Guard, Lane Taylor, Junior, Oklahoma State

Taylor is the most experience member of the Oklahoma State offensive line, as he was the only returning starter in 2010. He's made 24 consecutive starts for the Cowboys, and aside from keeping Brandon Weeden off his back, Taylor was an first team academic Big 12 selection as well.

Tackle, Levy Adcock, Senior, Oklahoma State

They don't come much bigger than Adcock, and the 6-foot-6 322-pound tackle used his size awfully well in 2010. Adcock was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by both the coaches and the AP last season (a unanimous selection by the AP) after winning the starting job in August last year and never letting it go.

Tackle, Kelechi Osemele, Senior, Iowa State

Oh wait, they do come bigger than Adcock. Osemele checks in at 6-foot-6 and 347 pounds. Osemele got his start playing both guard and tackle in 2008 but moved to left tackle full time in 2009 and hasn't moved since, starting 30 straight games. This will be a name you hear called early in the NFL draft next spring.

Also watch for: Offensive lineman may spend most of their time living in anonymity and working as a unit, but Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma State's Grant Garner are a couple other names you should get familiar with. Missouri's Elvis Fisher definitely would have made the list if not for his season-ending knee injury.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Frank Alexander, Senior, Oklahoma

Alexander only started in nine games for the Sooners last season, but still managed to finish second on the team in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (7). In other words, he spends a lot of his time in backfields disrupting plays before they even get a chance to start.

DE Brad Madison, Junior, Missouri

Madison had a break out season in 2010 and proved to be one of the top playmakers on Missouri's defensive line. Madison ended the season leading the Tigers defense in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (11).  He was named to the All-Big 12 second team for his efforts, and now that he'll be replacing Aldon Smith his name is one that many opposing quarterbacks will have drilled into their brains as they prepare to face Missouri.

DT Kheeston Randall, Senior, Texas

An anchor on the defensive line for the Longhorns, Randall was an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 last season. This year I believe he'll be moving up the ladder and having an even bigger impact.  Randall finished second on the team with 13 tackles for loss in 2010, and also had a big impact on special teams, blocking two kicks.

DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, Senior, Texas A&M

In Texas A&M's 3-4 defense, Jerod-Eddie sees a lot of time at defensive end, but he's a defensive tackle in purpose. Think of Marcell Dareus at Alabama last season.  While Jerod-Eddie doesn't spend a lot of time in the backfield blowing up plays, he uses his size and strength to stuff the run at the point of attack and allow Aggie linebackers to flow freely to the ball.

Also watch for: Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis only started the final four games for the Sooners last season, but he was incredibly productive in those four games. Starting all season could see him put up some ridiculous numbers. Jacqueis Smith of Missouri combines with Madison to give the Tigers a big push on the edges.

LINEBACKERS

Jake Knott, Junior, Iowa State

There weren't many plays run against the Iowa State defense last season in which Jake Knott wasn't in on the tackle. He led the conference with 130 tackles last season and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection because of it. He'll be bringing that same nose for the football back to the Iowa State defense this season, and though he broke his arm in spring camp, he should be good to go when the season starts.

Garrick Williams, Senior, Texas A&M

Williams tallied 112 tackles in 2010, and now that Michael Hodges and Von Miller are no longer in College Station, he'll be playing an even larger role in 2011. I'm not sure Williams will be able to completely fill Von Miller's shoes in the Aggie defense, but he may end up being just as important to the defense as Miller was.

Keenan Robinson, Senior, Texas

Robinson was all over the place for the Longhorns in 2010. He finished the season with 113 tackles, 2 for a loss, and also had 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Oh, and he's also a standout on special teams. He is literally all over the field on defense, and he's poised for another big season in 2011.

Also watch for: It was hard to pick just three linebackers in this conference, as there are plenty of other good options. Names like A.J. Klein (Iowa State), Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Caleb Lavey (Oklahoma State), Emmanuel Acho (Texas), Sean Porter (Texas A&M), Zaviar Gooden (Missouri) and Huldon Tharp (Kansas) are some of those options. Also, if it weren't for an injury that is going to keep him out for eight weeks, Oklahoma's Travis Lewis would have been an easy selection to the team. However, due to that injury, Lewis' replacement Corey Nelson is another name to watch out for.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Jamell Fleming, Senior, Oklahoma

Big 12 quarterbacks will test Jamell Fleming at their own risk in 2011. In his first full season as a starter last year Fleming had 5 interceptions, and proved himself quite the playmaker in the Oklahoma secondary. He's also not afraid to create some contact, tallying 71 tackles with 8.5 for a loss.  He's a very good player in what may be the best secondary the Big 12 has.

CB Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M

Judie finished second in the Big 12 in interceptions last season behind Fleming with 4.  He also broke up 4 passes and made 57 tackles for the Aggies. His impact is also felt on special teams, as he proved to be one of the most explosive kick returners in the conference last season, averaging over 30 yards a return with 2 touchdowns.

S Markelle Martin, Senior, Oklahoma State

This is not a man that wide receivers want to have a rendevous with over the middle of the football field, as Martin can bring the wood with the best of them.  What makes Martin more dangerous, though, is that he improved his coverage skills in 2010 and picked off three passes. He's the type of safety that can separate you from the ball physically, or just take it away from you in the air.

S Tony Jefferson, Sophomore, Oklahoma

2010 may have been Jefferson's first season of college ball, but you couldn't tell by watching him play. The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year started 9 games for the Sooners in 2010 and finished the season with 65 tackles (7 for a loss) with 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes broken up. I expect those numbers to improve in 2011 as this kid is only beginning to tap into his potential.

Also watch for: Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst could have been on my first team and given the Sooners secondary three of the four spots, but just because he didn't doesn't mean he's somebody quarterbacks should test too often. Keep your eyes on Blake Gideon (Texas), Trent Hunter (Texas A&M), Leonard Johnson (Iowa State) and Prince Kent (Baylor) too.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Grant Ressel, Senior, Missouri

P Quinn Sharp, Junior, Oklahoma State

KR Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M

PR Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma

Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: Big 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The preseason coaches poll was released on Thursday morning, and while I'm not a big fan of polls in the preseason, at the moment I'm thrilled to see them. It's just a reminder of how close we are to the beginning of the season and now fans across the country finally have a reason to put a chip on their shoulder -- "My school gets no respect!" -- or feel an unearned sense of entitlement.

After persusing the poll, it's obvious that the Big 12 should puff its chest out a little bit. The last year has been filled with news of the conference losing teams, and even the last few weeks have stoked the fires of schools feeling like they're getting the short end of the stick in the Big 12 when compared to Texas, but the Big 12 has something that no other conference in the land can claim right now.

Three teams ranked in the top ten.

Let's take a look at who is ranked, who isn't, and whether or not they're in the right place.

#1 Oklahoma - I don't think it's shocking at all to find Oklahoma opening the season on top of the poll, as many predicted this is what would happen, and there's a good reason for it. Oklahoma finished 2010 ranked sixth, and unlike the five teams that were ranked ahead of them at the time, all the major players are back in Norman. Landry Jones will be getting a lot of Heisman hype as the offense should continue to put up a lot of points, and the Sooners defense should be one of the best units in the land. The real question here is whether or not Oklahoma can stay atop the polls. The preseason #1 doesn't have the greatest track record, and the Sooners have a tough schedule that includes road games against #5 Florida State and #8 Oklahoma State. Home dates against #9 Texas A&M, #21 Missouri and the annual battle with #24 Texas won't be a cakewalk either.

#8 Oklahoma State -  A top ten spot is well-deserved for the Cowboys based on what they did in 2010. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon lit the air on fire last season as Oklahoma State finished second in the nation in passing yards per game and third in points per game. Both of those gentlemen are back, so the offense will be fine. What will really determine whether or not the Cowboys are deserving of this ranking and will finish the year in the top 10 is the defense. Offense alone can get you into the top ten, but you need a strong defense to stay there. We'll find out soon enough when Oklahoma State plays an early game against Arizona, and considering that the Cowboys play #9 Texas A&M, #24 Texas and Missouri all on the road this season, holding on to this spot or moving up is not going to be easy.

#9 Texas A&M - Based on how things finished for the Aggies last season, I get the hype. I truly do. Still, that doesn't mean I'm fully convinced the Aggies are a top ten team in 2011. Ryan Tannehill was a revelation for the Aggies after taking over for Jerrod Johnson, but will he be able to match his performance again now that teams will be ready for him? Can the defense replace Von Miller without a drop off? Those are pretty big questions to answer, and when you throw in a game against #14 Arkansas to go with the conference slate, and it's not insane to think this is a team that finishes the year closer to the 15-20 range than the top ten.

#21 Missouri - Missouri loses a bit from its 2010 squad on both sides of the ball, but this placing feels right. It won't be easy to replace Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, but nobody thought it would be easy to replace Chase Daniel either, and Gary Pinkel has proven that he knows how to find quarterbacks. Can James Franklin be that guy? We'll find out early when he Tigers go on the road to face Arizona State on the second Saturday of the season, but if the defense that allowed only 16.1 points per game last season can put up an encore performance, that would be a big help. I would be worried about road games against #1 Oklahoma and #9 Texas A&M though.

#24 Texas - You're going to hear a lot of folks saying that this is a reputation spot for Texas and nothing else. Those saying it will be correct, too, because there's no way you can say that Texas earned this spot with its play last season. That being said, I think it's entirely possible that when the dust settles on 2011, Texas will be ranked higher than this. Hell, the Longhorns may be the second-highest ranked team in the conference. I'm of the opinion that 2010 was an aberration and I don't think the offense can be as detrimental in 2011 as it was in 2010. Plus this is still a fantastic defense, and one that will keep Texas in every game, so if the Longhorns can win 8 or 9 games that reputation that got them to #24 in the preseason poll will only help push them up further as the year goes on.
Posted on: June 6, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:43 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 30-21

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

30. LAMICHAEL JAMES, running back, Oregon. Granted, it was just Oregon's spring game. But Duck fans had to like the fact that LaMichael James had only three carries (lest he gets hurt) and that one of them went for a touchdown--your simple, run-of-the-mill, back-and-forth 67-yard "scamper" as the Oregon media described it. The run was almost par-for-the-course for the reigning Doak Walker Award winner, but that's the thing about James: when you're a threat to score just about every time you touch the ball, 67-yard touchdowns happen sometimes.

On top of setting his sights on a host of Oregon and Pac-12 rushing records this season, James hopes to help lead Oregon back to the BCS championship game and finish what the team came so close to doing last year. The Ducks have to replace several offensive linemen, but that might not be a big issue for James, who can hit the tiniest of holes in split-seconds. Speed is the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back's greatest asset, considering he moonlights on Oregon's track team and anchors the 4x100 relay team (among other things). James will leave the track behind soon though, moving on to playing a game of "catch me if you can" and blowing past defenses come fall. A second trip to New York as a Heisman finalist -- and possibly more -- seems likely. -- BF

29. LUKE KUECHLY, linebacker, Boston College. The ACC has produced several dominating defenders in the last couple of years, but few have demanded the attention from day one like Kuechly. Tapped to replace Mark Herzlich in the BC linebacking unit in 2009, Kuechly stepped in and set an NCAA freshman record with 158 tackles on the season. When the two were on the field together in 2010, Kuechly led the nation with 183 tackles and was named a unanimous All-American by pretty much anyone with a publication.

Entering his junior year the expectations are as high as ever for Kuechly. He is widely considered a first-round draft pick in 2012, but will need another impressive season to cement that status. The good news for Eagles fans is that head coach Frank Spaziani and the rest of the staff believe that Kuechly has done nothing but improve. But with a much younger defense alongside him in the huddle in 2011, Kuechly will need to provide more than individual statistics to help Boston College get back to the postseason. The good news is the mere presence of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound playmaker on the field is a tactical advantage, with the opposition always having to keep an eye on No. 40. Considering the potential for Kuechly in 2011, it won't just be the opposition--we'll all have our eyes on No. 40 this fall. -- CP

28. BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, title tilt, Indianapolis. For years and years, the Big Ten stood apart from the rest of FBS college football in one very unfortunate aspect: it was the only conference that did not employ either a full round-robin conference schedule or a conference championship game. In other words, only in the Big Ten could two teams potentially go undefeated in conference play (or otherwise tie for the conference championship) and have no way to break the tie on the field. In fact, that's not just a pointless what-if; it actually happened in 2002, when Iowa and Ohio State both ran the table in Big Ten play. Iowa had one blemish on its non-conference record and OSU didn't, so the Buckeyes went to the BCS Title Game and won. But Big Ten fans had (and still have) the right to feel cheated out of what would have been an excellent conference championship game.

No more, no more, as the Big Ten is going to be invading Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome every December from now until 2015, settling the age-old controversy on whether being a Legend or Leader is better (more on that in a little bit). Purists are understandably chafed that the Big Ten--the conference that couldn't get more arctic or physical without literally employing polar bears as offensive linemen--is deciding its conference championship in a dome, but watching a game in horrible weather is miserable, and misery in the name of purity is still misery. It's good to see Jim Delany's still got something of a heart. -- AJ

27. THE SMURF TURF, home field, Boise State. It's rare for the actual field to be a school's most recognizable feature, but that's certainly the case for the love-it-or-hate-it blue turf at Boise State's Bronco Stadium. The only blue artificial turf in the world, it's rumored (though not confirmed, alas) that migrating birds sometimes mistake it for a giant lake and try to land on it. Like the birds that may or may not land flat on their face, opposing teams seem to nose-dive when they play on the turf, going 2-77 against the Broncos there since 1999.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the home team is perfect in conference games, going 40-0 on the Smurf Turf during WAC play. This is Boise State's first year in the Mountain West and they aim to keep that mark going, but it won't be easy. Looming large on the schedule is a game against departing MWC power TCU in the middle of November. The Horned Frogs aren't expected to be quite as good as they were last year (or in the teams' 2009 Fiesta Bowl meeting) but they do figure to be the Broncos' biggest road block to another BCS game -- and possibly even the national title game -- if they get by Georgia in their opener. With plenty of returning starters back from last year's 12-1 squad, don't be surprised if Boise proves unbeatable on the blue turf once again. -- BF

26. MIKE SHERMAN, head coach, Texas A&M. When Sherman was hired at College Station before the 2008 season, replacing Dennis Franchione, it wasn't exactly the kind of move that had Aggie fans celebrating impending national championships. A 10-15 mark through his first two seasons didn't help matters, and Sherman found himself on the hot seat even after signing a seven-year deal. That seat only got warmer when the Aggies started off the 2010 season 3-3 ... and then a funny thing happened. Sherman finally pulled the plug on Jerrod Johnson and went with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and after that all Texas A&M could do was win. The team finished the year 9-4 after losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, but by then the Aggies had already picked up their first share of the Big 12 South title since 1998.

So it's safe to say that Sherman's seat has cooled considerably in 2011. Of course, while he may not have come to College Station with the highest of expectations, now that Aggie fans have a taste for winning again, Sherman's biggest task will be to keep that momentum going. To do that he's going to have to make sure his defense continues to improve. After finishing dead last in 2008 and 2009 in the Big 12 in points-against, the Aggies rocketed up to second in the conference last season, allowing only 20.3 points per-game. If Sherman can continue leading the Aggies to improvement on both sides of the ball, as he did last season, the Longhorns won't be the only team from Texas to worry about in the Big 12 championship race. -- TF

25. MANTI TE'O, linebacker, Notre Dame. During his time in South Bend, Charlie Weis seemed to have a lot of success recruiting offensive players. On the defensive side of the ball, while Weis brought in some solid players, the game-changing playmakers you need to win were never seemed to be among them. That is, until Weis went to Hawai'i and landed Manti Te'o. Weis may be gone, but the "Hawaiian Hitman" remains and Brian Kelly is thrilled to have him. The biggest factor in Notre Dame's strong finish in 2010 was a defense that shut down opposing offenses, and Te'o was the driving force in that unit.

Through his first two seasons Te'o has racked up 192 tackles (129 of them in 2010) and 14 tackles-for-loss. Te'o can be counted on to fly to the ball on every play, and while he's not as polished in pass coverage, he can stuff the run with the best linebackers in the country. What should scare offensive coordinators this year is that with the stockpile of talent Notre Dame has built on its defensive line the last few years, Te'o should be free to seek and destroy all season long. And if that's the case, it may not be long until Notre Dame is back on a BCS stage -- with Te'o the face of its success -- and college football fans are forced to hate the Irish again instead of just laughing at them. -- TF

24. LES MILES'S COJONES, coaching decision-makers, LSU. Since Les Miles took over for Nick Saban at the Bayou Bengal helm in 2005, it's no secret that LSU has won its fair share of thrillers. But it's not just the selective memory of the charmed 2007 run talking; over Miles's six seasons, LSU has gone a stunning 22-9 in games decided by seven points or less. Since we're talking about games potentially decided by a single bounce of the ball, most teams' records in these situations naturally yo-yo back and forth year-to-year--look at Iowa's rise-and-fall over the past few seasons, for instance. But not LSU. Aside from a 2-2 mark in 2008, Miles has finished above .500 in this category ever year of his Baton Rouge tenure.

The majority of observers (including many within his own LSU fanbase) have chalked this up to blind luck, and sometimes--as in Tennessee's 13-players-on-the-field penalty that saved the Tigers from themselves last season--they're right. But Miles also hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for the ballsy, go-for-broke, correct decisions that have often turned the tide in such games. While it's easy to note how fortunate Miles was when last year's botched fake field goal pitch against Florida bounced straight into his kicker's arms, it overlooks the fact that playing for a game-winning touchdown is by far the superior choice to settling for a long-distance field goal that would only tie the game even if good. If Miles ignores the criticism and continues to let his cojones do his thinking for him, expect another year of success for the Tigers in the dying minutes--and given how much talent his team will wield, potentially another run at a crystal football. -- JH

23. TODD MONKEN, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State. Last season the Cowboy offense averaged 44.9 points and 537.6 yards per game. That, to keep the superlatives to a minimum, is rather good. Then Dana Holgorsen left Stillwater to become the head coach-in-waiting at West Virginia, and Monken was hired to replace him. Those are some high-octane shoes for Monken to fill, especially considering he hasn't been a play-caller since 2004, when he was working a previous stint in Stillwater for Les Miles. Since then, Monken followed Miles to LSU for a couple of years and then went on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So there's going to be an adjustment period, but the good news is that Oklahoma State still plans to run the same system it ran under Holgorsen. Unfortunately Monken won't have the same command of the playbook right off the bat that Holgorsen did, but he does at least have Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to help cover him. Still, if Monken doesn't get the handle of things quick enough, Oklahoma State's top-10 season could already be "over" (and the immense potential of another year of the Weeden-Blackmon connection "wasted") by the time things are firing on all cylinders.-- TF

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22. "LEGENDS" AND "LEADERS," division names, Big Ten. One of the most dramatic changes in college football this year is the realignment of the Big Ten to a 12-team, two-division conference. Not only does that bring the aforementioned Big Ten Championship Game into existence, but it also introduces new and different conference tensions into play. Michigan and Nebraska as hated rivals? It sure could happen. Ohio State being more concerned with Wisconsin than the Wolverines? If a division title's on the line, absolutely.

But good lord, those names. It's one thing to deal with them over the course of an off-season, when they only come up once a month or so or whatever. Imagine what happens when they become part of the daily conversation. The derision will be deafening. Newscasters won't want to use them. Every time there's a slow moment in a football game, odds are pretty good that some bored color commentator is going to roll his eyes and casually call the division names stupid, and fans will laugh along with them. The Big Ten should be celebrating a brand new era and all of everything else that goes along with Nebraska's entry into the conference, and now instead it's going to have to defend the indefensible "LEGENDS" and "LEADERS" constantly. It's not too late to scrap them and just go with an admittedly imperfect-but-close-enough East-West nomenclature, right? Yeah, it's boring, but boring is good. It lets the on-field product speak for itself, and Big Ten football certainly can do that, right, Mr. Delany? Right? -- AJ

21. URBAN MEYER, television analyst/coaching free agent, ESPN. As we knew already and as Meyer spelled out for us just a few days ago, the most successful head coach of college football's previous decade won't be coaching anywhere in 2011. He'll be living the good life as a talking head at the "Worldwide Leader," offering what we hope will be pointed analysis and sharp X's-and-O's from one of the sport's shrewdest coaches.

But the shadow he'll cast over the college football coaching market will reach far longer than anything he does as a TV analyst. By specifically saying he won't be coaching "this fall," Meyer has all but announced he'll be looking for a new gig for next fall--meaning his name will be dropped into every conversation about currently vacant jobs (ahem), jobs that become vacant during the season, and even jobs that seem like they might become vacant if Meyer would show an interest. Like a prized NBA free agent, Meyer's influence is sure to be felt keenly in the narrative of the 2011 season ... even if he's not on the sidelines for a minute of it. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41 and 40-31. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
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