Tag:Indiana
Posted on: August 10, 2011 7:43 pm
 

Who called Indiana the dirtiest team in Big Ten?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

At Big Ten Media Days, one enterprising reporter for AnnArbor.com conducted an informal survey of 10 football players who were present for interviews. The players were anonymous, so as to ensure honesty in the answers. The entire survey is worth reading, and there are some entertaining points -- especially when one unnamed player said of embattled Illinois coach Ron Zook, "I've heard he's just kind of funny, and not in a good way."

One question stuck out, however: the dirtiest team of all the Legends and Leaders.

Which is the dirtiest team in the Big Ten?

Indiana - 3 “I was out that game, but I saw what went on and our guys were saying it was bad out there.” Ohio State - 3 Wisconsin - 1 N/A 3

That's not really great news for Indiana or Ohio State, although the fact that three players didn't think there was a dirty team in the conference means we're probably not dealing with an epidemic of unsportsmanlike conduct on the Big Ten gridirons or anything. Moreover, both OSU and the Hoosiers have new head coaches this year, neither of whom should be asked to answer for accusations of dirty play under coaches past. That wouldn't be fair. However, the reporter might have given up a little too much information with that quote.

Out of the 36 players there, nine were on teams that didn't play Indiana last year, and three more were from Indiana. Of the remaining 24 players, only two -- Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen and Penn State LB Michael Mauti -- were out of action in their games against Indiana. Nielsen had just suffered a broken neck (a relatively mild one, obviously; his spinal cord was fine and he's back atop the depth chart), and Mauti was dealing with an injured shoulder from the previous week's contest against Ohio State.

We're not going to press the respective athletic departments about who said what or demand any more definitive answers than this; the survey was anonymous for a reason, and we'll respect that. However, we would like to hear from Iowa and Penn State fans as to whether the Indiana games last year seemed especially dirty. Did knees get wrenched, eyes gouged, hits enlatened? Help us solve the mystery once and for all.

(For the record, the jersey-pulling depicted above is considered legal.) 

Posted on: August 4, 2011 3:52 pm
 

Big Ten moving to nine conference games in 2017

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Big Ten conference season is going to be getting longer in a few years. Jim Delany announced Thursday that in 2017, the Big Ten is moving to a nine-game conference schedule. Yes, that means some teams get five home conference games a year, but fear not: the conference has a plan:

Three teams each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division will feature five conference home games during odd-numbered years, while the other three schools from each division will host five conference contests during even-numbered years. The 2017 schedule will include five conference home outings for Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska from the Legends Division and Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State from the Leaders Division. The 2018 schedule will feature five Big Ten home games for Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern of the Legends Division and Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin of the Leaders Division. 

The upshot of this is that unless there's a 13th regular season game about to be added (which seems unlikely right now), Big Ten teams are going to be left with three non-conference games to be filled. And being that college football programs still covet home games and bowl bids above all other things, those three non-conference games are probably going to be almost exclusively home dates against cupcakes. Those programs with regular non-conference rivalries (namely Iowa-Iowa State and Michigan-Notre Dame) are going to have to coordinate the schedules so that the road games don't come in years with the extra in-conference road game, otherwise that's only six games at home for the season -- a Big Ten athletic director's worst nightmare.

That all said, nine conference games is still nine conference games, and it's going to make the conference even more fiercely competitive. Say what you will about the Big Ten not being the SEC, but there really aren't that many cupcakes to be found. Between the regular season and the conference title game, whoever the Big Ten champion is will have had to face 10 Big Ten opponents to get there, and at least seven of them will have been teams other than Minnesota, Indiana, or Illinois. That's pretty rough. 

All in all, it's a bold move for the Big Ten. and if there's one thing I would change, it's the distribution of home and away games. While it evens out over time, the division races are going to be unfairly tilted toward the three teams given five home games. Penn State probably can't expect to win many division titles in odd-numbered years when it has five road games and Ohio State's over there with five home games. I'd rather see it alternate between entire divisions (Legends host the protected inter-divisional rivalry game in even-numbered years, Leaders host it in the odds), so at the very least divisional crowns are decided on more equal footing.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:15 pm
 

'Unofficial' Big Ten poll puts Nebraska at top

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Coming into this year's media gathering, the Big Ten decided not to hold its annual media poll with the usual preseason player of the year, predicted order of finish (heretofore limited to the top three finishers), and all of that. It seemed odd, but from the Big Ten's perspective, it wasn't exactly a vital aspect of the whole operation.

Funny thing, though; just because the Big Ten isn't holding a poll doesn't mean it's not going to happen. So lo and behold, 24 beat writers from around the conference -- two per school -- got together and held their own poll anyway.

Here's the breakdown from the Detroit Free-Press, listed with the total amount of voting points (six for first, five for second, on down the line) with first-place votes in parenthesis.

LEGENDS

1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25

LEADERS

1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27

Title game matchups:
Nebraska over Wisconsin (10)
Wisconsin over Nebraska (7)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (3)
Nebraska over Ohio State (1)
Nebraska over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)

First of all, there are scant few surprises herein. Nebraska's the class of the conference, Wisconsin's next, and there's a pretty big dropoff after that. That said, whoever decided Michigan was going to win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke's first year -- the rebuilding period right after another rebuilding period -- should stop sending joke ballots and ruining it for the rest of the readers. Another demerit for whoever decided to put somebody below Minnesota, since the Gophers are just a mess right now.

As for the Leaders Divison, no surprises here, aside from a preposterous first-place vote for Penn State. Ohio State would be worth a look here if Terrelle Pryor were still on the five-game suspension, but with Joe Bauserman (or whoever else) under center, the Buckeyes are decidedly inferior to Wisconsin -- so long as Russell Wilson's healthy, anyway.

Speaking of quarterbacks -- this would be the year to celebrate them. The top three offensive players are all QBs, according to voters, and five of the 10 players who received votes were QBs. Here's the breakdown (again, with first-place votes parenthesized):

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
2. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (4) 26
3. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (2) 18
4. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (1) 16
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1) 14
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (2) 9
7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 4
8. James White, RB, Wisconsin 2
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State 2
10. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 1

Yes, that's two different Wisconsin tailbacks on the list, and at least one will likely be in the top five of voting at the end of the season. As for the leading vote-getter, it's worth pointing out that Robinson's most dangerous weapon is still his feet... and Michigan's planning on limiting his carries this season. Yes, that's a wise move for keeping Robinson healthy, but the more he's standing still in the pocket and throwing, the less he's playing to his strengths. He'll still make it work, in all likelihood, since it's Denard flippin' Robinson we're talking about here, but those gaudy numbers we saw last season may be coming down a bit. Just a bit.

In other voting, Jared Crick dominated defensive player of the year voting, and Bret Bielema was named the top coach in the Big Ten over close runners-up Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini, and Pat Fitzgerald (in that order). Crick is a fine choice, and the four coaches who led voting deserved to. One could make a good case for Pat Fitzgerald to be higher, but these are small quibbles; we're not talking about Ron Zook ending up in second place or anything.

Posted on: July 22, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 10:18 pm
 

Emmert's chance to shine doused by Ohio St. case

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Mark Emmert, you have lost our confidence in your ability to do the job.

The next time you speak, we won't be able to take you seriously thanks to news that Ohio State would not face additional charges of failure to monitor or lack of institutional control in the school's infraction case.

'It's all about what the NCAA can prove, not what we've read' is the company line. Well, you had a chance to prove things but you said you weren't going to try.

CBSSports.com took a thorough look at cheating in college football, spending nine days chronicling just how rampant the rule breaking has been over the years. The purpose was the examine the subject with an eye towards where the sport was headed in the near future.

Senior writer Dennis Dodd ended the series saying Ohio State would be a landmark case going forward.

"This is what NCAA president Mark Emmert has been advocating, a way to make the cheaters and liars think twice about cheating and lying," Dodd wrote.

The president failed, however, to send that message Friday. Emmert has called for tougher enforcement numerous times since taking office and here, in front of a primetime audience, was his Howard Beale moment.

He could have sent a message that he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. Instead, he lost what little confidence we had in "fixing" college athletics.

Dennis Thomas, the chairman of the Committee on Infractions, said on a conference call earlier this month that the committee "was not in the business of sending messages."

Sorry to say it, but the NCAA's enforcement staff and the Committee on Infractions are in the business of sending messages.

They sent one loud and clear: It's ok to cheat. Blame it on the coach if you get caught. No need to monitor emails either.

But you better check on that house 100 miles away.

Emmert has talked about openness and a better understanding. The organization invited several members of the national media to Indianapolis for what they called the "Enforcement Experience."

The aim of it, as Vice President for Enforcement Julie Roe Lach explained to compliance officers from across the country, was for a good number of positive pieces and to remind everybody that the NCAA and the Committee on Infractions are separate.

Last I checked though, the enforcement staff reports to the president. If Emmert wanted to push for a message, a simple walk down the hall could have resulted in serious charges against Ohio State.

According to interview transcripts, Jim Tressel mentioned an email tip to school compliance officers but failed to mention what was actually in the emails. The compliance office - or anyone else for that matter - failed to follow up on this. Yet the NCAA enforcement staff said the school "followed up on tips it received."

The school said they only found out about the emails in January "due to an unrelated legal matter." Ask Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany though and he'll tell you it was due to a FOIA request.

Appears no one, not even one of the most powerful people in the country, could get an accurate answer from the Buckeyes.

At one point in an interview, Tressel told the NCAA that Ohio State told him to get rid of documents so they wouldn't become public record.

The folks at Enron are very impressed.

If the committee can nail USC based on a two minute, thirty-two second phone call, they surely could nail Ohio State with all that.

Ohio State was lauded by many as having a large and well respected compliance office. Yet both the NCAA and Ohio State agreed in December that their education efforts were inadequate. That was the basis for allowing the so-called "Buckeye Five" to play in the Sugar Bowl.

So Ohio State didn't do a good job at rules education in December but by July, according to the case summary, the institution "provided education to football student-athletes and staff regarding extra benefits and preferential treatment."

That statement was contradicted by the enforcement staff five paragraphs later by the way.

"The institution took monitoring efforts designed to identify the sale or distribution of institutionally issued athletics awards, apparel apparel and equipment," but somehow didn't know Terrele Pryor was taking "whatever" he wanted out of the equipment room.

And let's not forget the school's treatment of their beloved "Senator."

"This is an individual that I have tremendous respect for," University president E. Gordon Gee said of Tressel on March 8. "He's had great success in working with young people and we applaud that. But I think equally importantly, he's had great success in building the character and reputation for this university, which I'm entirely grateful for. He's done so by example."

A few months later in the Buckeyes' self-report: "The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel."

At least the flip-flopping when they're backed into a corner is consistent.

There's still one more chance for the organization to say enough is enough. The committee could add a failure to monitor charge or lack of institutional control charge following Ohio State's August 12th meeting with them. The committee did it with Indiana in the Kelvin Sampson case but has rarely done so. It can also choose to punish the school harshly despite the two serious charges, as it did with Alabama several years ago in the Albert Means case. They can also cite the enforcement staff for doing a bad job, which they have also done on occasion.

"I fully expect that every NCAA member institution be held to the same high standards," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said after USC's appeal was denied.

But based on everything that's happened so far with Ohio State, does anyone expect them to? Athletic director Gene Smith was the recent chairman of the NCAA Men's Basketball committee. Gee was Emmert's boss years ago at Colorado.

And even if the committee did hold them to those same high standards set in the USC case?

"I'll be shocked and disappointed and on the offensive, Smith told The Columbus Dispatch. "If I don't agree, we'll do everything we can to battle it and go through the appeals process."

Don't worry Gene, you've already won. Sorry Mark, you didn't.

After all, actions, Mr. Emmert, speak louder than words.

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

Big Ten not spending enough on assistants?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 100-91

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the 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.

100. THE DOOLEY RULE, new NCAA regulation.
We don’t know when; we don’t know where. But we’re betting that at some point this season, college football’s new Dooley Rule -- which punishes offenses that commit a penalty in the last minute of either half with a 10-second runoff from the game clock -- makes a major impact on the outcome of a game. If it’s the right game, the rule could make a major impact on the outcome of college football’s entire season.

That’s not necessarily likely, of course. Until namesake Derek Dooley’s Tennessee team lost last year’s Music City Bowl when North Carolina stopped the clock with its own penalty, the situation hadn’t yet seemed to occur in a high-profile college football game. (There’s a reason it took until 2011 for the rule to be put into place.) But now that it’s there, we think the odds are good that we’ll see it put into practice this fall … and that the losing coach will be sure to let us know about it. -- JH

99. JARED HASSIN, running back, Army. For the last nine years, Army has fallen short of toppling their Navy counterparts. Could 2011 be the year that the Black Knights finally get over the hump? If they do, it will likely be thanks to the efforts of Hassin. He broke out in a big way his sophomore season, racking up 1,013 yards and 9 touchdowns, helping lead Army to their first postseason appearance since 1996 and first bowl win since 1985.

Hassin was originally enrolled in the Air Force Academy before transferring back to Army (his original commitment) and sitting out 2009. It was an odd recruitment, especially for the son of an Army graduate. But regardless of the process, the lifelong Army football fan is now playing for the team he grew up loving. He is undisputedly one of the most important players on the Black Knights, and fans hope the 6-3, 235-pound back can flash the historic rivalry back to the late 80's and early 90's, when Army took 9 of 11 from the Midshipmen. -- CP

98. GUNNER KIEL, quarterback, Columbus (Ind.) East High School. The nation's top quarterback in the class of 2012 and number two overall prospect according to MaxPreps analyst Tom Lemming, Kiel holds a scholarship offer from just about every program in the country. The 6-foot-4, 210 pound signal-caller is ideal for just about any kind of system and has a good arm, throws the ball accurately and is a natural born leader on the field.

Kiel comes from a long line of quarterbacks - his uncle Blair played at Notre Dame and in the NFL and both of his brothers play the position in college - and the next in line might be the most talented out of all of them. His recruitment, as one would expect from a top prospect, is not being played out in the public as he is trying to keep things close to the vest. Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Alabama are a few of the schools making a strong push for his services but it will be well into the season (or after it) before he ends up making a decision; expect to hear plenty about it as 2011 progresses. -- BF

More CFB 100
Related Links

97. RYAN TANNEHILL, quarterback, Texas A&M. The Aggies had two different seasons in 2010: one B.T. (Before Tannehill) and one A.T. (After Tannehill). With Jerrod Johnson at quarterback, the Aggies were 3-3 on the season, and 0-3 in Big 12 play. Then Tannehill took over the reins against Kansas on Oct. 23 and Texas A&M didn't look back. The Aggies reeled off six straight wins, including games over Oklahoma, Nebraska and (the coup de gras) Texas. They wouldn't know defeat under Tannehill until the Cotton Bowl, where LSU won 41-24.

Still, Tannehill was a revelation. Not only was he able to run a rather potent Aggies offense, but he did so without the crippling turnovers that became a trademark of Texas A&M under Johnson. This season will be different for Tannehill, however. No longer is he the former tight end-turned-savior, but the quarterback who is supposed to make sure Texas A&M takes the next step--its first league title since 1998, and just their second Big 12 title ever. -- TF

96. GREG MATTISON, defensive coordinator, Michigan. One could certainly make the argument that it was the continuing ineptitude of former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson that cost former head coach Rich Rodriguez his job in Ann Arbor. After all, Robinson's latter year spearheading the Wolverine defense was, by far, the worst in points allowed in Michigan history; the former was the third-worst (and just for good measure, the second-worst season came in Rich-Rod's first season, with one-and-done Scott Shafer as DC). Yes, Michigan has an unusually stingy history of defense, but that's just the thing: Michigan fans have every reason to expect that stingy defense. That's just how it's done at Michigan.

It'll be up to Mattison, then, to keep Brady Hoke's seat cool, and he's got the pedigree to do it. Mattison is entering his 35th year of assistant coaching defense and his 16th as a defensive coordinator, and he's been a part of some very successful defenses (Florida's '06 BCS Championship team, for one). Fans shouldn't expect miracles and shutouts on Day 1 or even in Year 1, but they're going to need to see some sense this year that Michigan's old way of football is coming back. Getting the points per game allowed back under 27.5 for the first time since 2007 would be a good start. -- AJ

95. TYLER BRAY, quarterback, Tennessee. Give the sophomore gunslinger from California this: he doesn't lack for confidence. From the moment he stepped into Tennessee's starting lineup as a true freshman in midseason 2010, Bray carried himself with a swagger that paid big dividends in the Volunteers' season-ending, bowl-salvaging four-game winning streak--a streak in which Bray threw for 12 touchdowns and better than 1,200 yards. Behind four more Bray scoring strikes, the Vols nearly upset UNC in their bowl game (see above), raising expectations for even bigger things in 2011.

But Bray might have taken a little too much self-belief into spring, where he finished an up-and-down camp with a miserable 5-for-30 performance in the Orange-White Game. If he can harness his confidence and continue building on last year's impressive debut, the Vols could be major spoilers in a logjammed SEC East. If not, one of the nation's proudest programs could slip below .500 for the third time in four years. -- JH

94. JON EMBREE, head coach, Colorado. After a disastrous experience with an outsider as head coach in Dan Hawkins, Colorado turned to someone with a strong connection to the program in Embree, a former tight end and assistant coach for the Buffs. He's never been a head coach before but his fiery attitude and pledge to bring back several school traditions have already gotten players and alumni fired up for the upcoming season.

Embree has his work cut out for him though, with Colorado coming off a 5-7 season and transitioning to a new league, the Pac-12. He installed a pro-style offense during the spring and has his staff hitting the recruiting trail hard over the past few months to get word out about the program. The schedule is tough, hosting Oregon and going to both Ohio State and Stanford, but Embree has a senior quarterback in Tyler Hansen and a few solid pieces to build around. Expectations are rising in Boulder and while it might be too much to ask of Embree to turn everything around in his first year, he sure will make things more interesting up in the mountains. -- BF

93. SAVON HUGGINS, running back, Rutgers. Huggins enters his true freshman season with the Scarlet Knights with high expectations from the Rutgers fan base. At their spring game in April, Huggins drew about as much fanfare in his street clothes as the boys in pads. Huggins was one of the few big signing day steals for head coach Greg Schiano, and the Maxpreps No. 1-ranked running back should be an immediate upgrade for the Big East's worst rushing offense in 2010.

Fans are not the only ones anxiously awaiting Huggins' arrival. The coaching staff failed to identify any kind of order for the position in the post-spring depth chart. When Huggins suits up for fall camp, he will have as much of a chance to play as the three current backs on the chart. Hailing from nearby Jersey City, NJ, Huggins is the new face of Rutgers football. If he doesn't pan out into the star Schiano is hoping for, the 2006 Coach of the Year might find himself suddenly on a warmer seat in Piscataway. -- CP

92. QUALCOMM STADIUM, home field, San Diego State. Thanks to years of incompetence from its regular Aztec tenants, the former Jack Murphy Stadium's most prominent ties to college football have been the Holiday Bowl and (more recently) the Poinsettia Bowl. And those aren't insiginificant, particularly considering some of the classics that have been played in the Holiday.

But that should change this year. SDSU is poised for potentially their biggest season in school history, with senior quarterback Ryan Lindley and sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman forming the most dynamic QB-RB combo in the Mountain West. To win the conference the Aztecs will have to go through both TCU and Boise State, but wouldn't you know it--both MWC frontunners must visit Qualcomm this year, the Frogs Oct. 8 and Broncos Nov. 19. With two chances for the Aztecs, don't be surprised if "the Q" plays host to this year's version of Nevada-Boise, the upset that turns the non-AQ BCS chase on its head. -- JH

91. PAUL RHOADS, head coach, Iowa State. When Paul Rhoads took over as head coach at Iowa State in 2009, replacing Gene Chizik -- whatever happened to that guy? -- he was walking into a tough situation. The Cyclones had only won five games in the previous two seasons, but the man who grew up 20 miles outside Ames led the team to seven wins in 2009, including a win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Iowa State took a step back in 2010, but did get a huge win over Texas and narrowly lost to Nebraska in overtime.

In 2011, however, the time for moral victories has passed. While the Cyclones have won 12 games under Rhoads in his first two seasons, only six have come against conference opponents, four of them coming against former Big 12 North teams. Now the Cyclones will no longer have seasons in which they don't have to play Texas and Oklahoma, so winning in the conference won't be easy. Of course, it's not like anybody is expecting Iowa State to compete for the conference title every season, but if Iowa State wants to be better than a program that makes the occasional bowl appearance, Rhoads is going to have to do more than pull off the occasional shocker. -- TF

Check back tomorrow at Eye on College Football for Nos. 90-81 on the countdown, and follow us on Twitter.




Posted on: May 12, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 8:05 pm
 

NCAA owes it to itself to support NFL owners

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As the days, weeks, and months creep by and the NFL labor situation gets no closer to resolution, diehard NFL fans find themselves in a predicament: what is there to do if there's no pro football? Do they breathe a sigh of relief and count the money they'll end up saving? Do they take up other activities, recommit themselves to family life on weekends, and put sports in general on the back burner? Or do they stare at an upcoming autumn devoid of football, freak out, and find the nearest college team to support until pro ball comes back?

If the NCAA is wise, it'll bank on the last scenario -- that NFL fans are really football fans. Then, it'll throw its full-throated support behind the NFL owners, who are currently fighting tooth-and-nail to protect the lockout they've placed on the players ... and reap the glorious benefits. Let's face it, no business for the NFL is good business for college football, and there are several college programs in particular that stand to benefit immensely from a protracted work stoppage in the pro ranks.

The Miami Hurricanes have a new coach and, um, plenty of seats for displaced NFL fans. Colorado has a new coach and a new conference with new rivals. Minnesota's got a new coach and a two-year-old stadium that makes the Metrodome look like... well, the Metrodome was already terrible, but TCF Bank Stadium is still a major plus for the Gophers. Those are three prime opportunities for athletic departments to encourage new fans to "help us start a new chapter in our future." Think Dolphins, Vikings, and Broncos fans aren't going to notice that opportunity? Especially if college tickets are half as expensive and there are ten times as many gorgeous young women at the tailgates?

The Houston Cougars should have Case Keenum back to finish his quest to break the NCAA passing records. He's just the next step in Houston's tradition of great college quarterbacks (David Klingler, Andre Ware, and to-a-somewhat-lesser-extent-but-he-
was-still-pretty-darned-good Kevin Kolb), and it would be insane for the Cougars not to publicize his assault on the record books on a weekly basis. Besides, no offense to the Texans, but the Cougars are the local team with more football tradition anyway.

Northwestern has billed itself as "Chicago's college football team" recently. That seems a little unfair to the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who are alumni of other major universities, but if the Chicago Bears are sitting at home on Sundays, Northwestern turns into the city's ONLY football team. Similarly, the idea of Indiana actually selling out its Memorial Stadium on a regular basis seems like far less of a pipe dream if Lucas Oil Stadium's sitting empty on weekends. Purdue would be happy to accommodate some of those Colts fans too.

The impact of a large influx of fans, if even for a game or two, is not insignificant. 10,000 extra tickets sold for $25 a pop equals a quarter-million dollars in extra ticket revenue alone, to say nothing of concessions, merchandise, and parking fees. That's something some teams can accomplish in one game. And that's just immediate money in. There's also the inroads made with fans, particularly younger ones. Making entreaties to families and younger adults means that the college football program can start cultivating long-lasting fan relationships -- and new donors. The alumni associations can always use the help, after all.

So, athletic directors and college coaches. Line up shoulder-to-shoulder behind the NFL's owners, and stand tall in their support. Then take, take, take from them. College football will be stronger for it.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Draft reaches and steals

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We're not NFL scouts. But we have watched most of the players taken in last weekend's draft for the past three or four years (or, in one particular high-profile case, one year). Based on what we saw during their college careers, which players do we believe were "steals" for the team that selected them? Which were "reaches" which went earlier than they should have?

Tom Fornelli: I'll start with the reach because this is an easy answer to me: the very first player taken, Cam Newton.

This is not a dig on Newton personally, or the player he was at Auburn last season. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a single quarterback in this draft class that I felt was worth a first-round pick. Yes, there were a lot of quarterbacks in this class who were good college quarterbacks, but as we have seen through many examples before, being a good college quarterback doesn't make you an good NFL quarterback. And for me, with the first overall pick -- when I have the opportunity to pick anybody I want, and have that person help my team immediately -- Newton is not the player I'd pick. I'm not saying that I don't believe it's possible that Cam can develop into a good NFL quarterback one day, but I do feel the odds of Newton becoming a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback are pretty slim. And if I'm going to take a quarterback with the first pick of the draft, he needs to give me the impression that he has that kind of potential.

As for the steal, there were a few players who I thought were really good picks for teams in later rounds. There was Green Bay getting Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, Da'Quan Bowers slipping to Tampa Bay in the second, and Ahmad Black going to Tampa as well in the fifth round. The biggest steal to me of all, though, was Baltimore picking up Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss late in the fourth round. In my opinion, Doss may turn out to be one of the most dependable receivers in what was a very deep class this season. He does not have the size and wow factor that guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones have, nor is he a burner, but he's got great hands and he's a very polished route runner. He's the type of receiver who isn't going to end up in the Hall of Fame, but should pick up a lot of big first downs, make some plays and be dependable for a lot of years. I watch Doss, and I see a player that can be what Hines Ward has been to Pittsburgh for so many years. To get that kind of player in the fourth round is the definition of a steal.

Adam Jacobi: I think to a large degree, Tom's right. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were no first-round QBs in this class, because guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and even Newton have all shown a great deal of potential. But let's be honest: this wasn't really a great draft class to begin with. I thought there were only 15-20 first round-caliber guys on the board. But the first round is still 32 picks, no matter what, and I don't think there were 32 better draft picks to make before you got to Newton (or any other quarterback).

That said, yes, Cam Newton was a reach. Right now, Carolina is not a team that has the tools to let a quarterback succeed. They have needs all over the place, and if all they do is give up on Jimmy Clausen after one year so they can plug in Cam Newton instead ... well, they're still a team that doesn't have the tools to let the quarterback succeed. (It's like the Detroit Lions drafting Chuck Long and Andre Ware as first-rounders 20-25 years ago. You really think their failures had nothing to do with the crappy players surrounding them?) I'm of the philosophy that the No. 1 overall pick should be spent on a player with the best odds of making a high-level contribution immediately and repeatedly. That means wide receivers and all but the most experienced, productive quarterbacks are out, as are safeties, guards and centers. That's why I would have preferred to see a guy like Texas A&M's Von Miller go first.

As for steals, I'm going to say Nick Fairley dropping all the way to Detroit, where he can be paired with Ndamukong Suh on the interior defensive line. There isn't an NFC North team left that isn't going to have to dramatically retool its blocking strategy now because of that setup, and even that might not be enough to avoid a franchise quarterback getting broken in half this season. How in the world does Fairley fall to No. 13, past Christian Ponder, the real reach of the first round? Fairley didn't dominate the NFL combine, but you know what? Freakish combine measurements don't really matter for defensive tackles. It's whether they can shed blocks reliably and repeatedly at the next level, and based on the way Fairley performed not only during the season but especially in Auburn's biggest games, he's got the ability to do that. If there's a character concern, you know what? Let the rest of the locker room take care of that. That's where the veteran teammates are supposed to step in, not the scouts.

Outside of the first round, I really like the Sam Acho pick in the fourth round by the Cardinals. At 6'2" and 260, Acho's sort of an OLB/DE tweener as size goes, and he's going to be playing OLB in the Cards' 3-4 system after lining up at end at Texas. But he's fast and disruptive, and was plenty productive with the Longhorns, so he could definitely end up being a James Harrison- type terror for the Cardinals in a year or two.

TF: Not to get too far off the subject, but Adam brought up something that drives me crazy when it comes to the NFL and the way teams draft. All too often it seems like NFL teams become enamored with how a player performs in the combine while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. That's the reason Ponder got taken so early; without linemen closing in on him, he's really good at throwing a football. But it seems like they forget about what these players did while they were actually on a football field.

For instance, look at Acho. NFL teams see his size and they're not entirely sure what to do with him. They don't seem to pay as much attention to the fact that Acho was a kid that did his job on the field at Texas and did it well. He made plays. It's why I think Tampa got a steal in Florida's Black. For the last few years, Black was one of my favorite players to watch because he just had that knack for making things happen. However, all NFL scouts seemed to see was that he didn't have top-notch speed. Nevermind the fact that he played in the SEC -- which I believe is the home of that ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED -- and played well.

Jerry Hinnen: I agree that the draft over-rewards potential and underrates production, which is why I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL team reached for the occasionally erratic run-first quarterback out of the gimmicky option offense, and stole the rifle-armed pocket statue with a former NFL play-caller for a coach. But as the draft day fates of Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett illustrate, there's a first time for everything.

Let me first say this about Kaepernick: as a college quarterback, he was under appreciated, having accumulated an incredible 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing over his four years at Nevada, the only quarterback in FBS history to do so. In 2011, he joined Tim Tebow and Newton as the only players in FBS history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Kaepernick was, simply, one of the most exciting, most fun, best college football players of his era.

But having watched him ever since he exploded onto the scene against Boise State in 2007's overtime classic, I can't say I ever saw him as a blue-chip NFL prospect. Kaepernick was always a substantially greater threat on the hoof than in the pocket, where his awkward throwing motion and come-and-go accuracy led to outings like his 12-for-23, 149-yard, two-interception clunker to open the 2009 season at Notre Dame, or the 14-for-26, 159-yard, four-turnover debacle at Hawaii that led to the Wolf Pack's only loss of 2011. The greatest strengths of Kaepernick's unique skill set -- his ball-fake jujitsu within the pistol, his surprising speed and agility as a ball-carrier, his ability to throw outside the pocket -- won't do much to make an already difficult transition from the pistol to an NFL offense any easier. Jim Harbaugh's right pinky knows more about quarterbacking in the NFL than I ever will, obviously, but I remain stunned Kaepernick went as a high second-rounder rather than a late-round flyer. (Which brings me to an aside in response to Tom: we can debate Newton all day, but if Kaepernick is the 36th overall pick, Newton -- in a different class athletically, more polished as a passer, proven in SEC competition -- is something akin to the negative-17th pick.)

But where Kaepernick never struck me as meant for NFL stardom (or even starterdom), Mallett is the sort of prospect whose very double-helixes probably unwind to spell out "PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK" under the microscope. 6'7", possessor of likely the strongest arm in college football, with his two years under former NFL head coach Bobby Petrino yielding better than 7,400 passing yards, better than 9 yards an attempt, and a 62-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Mallett couldn't have looked the part of a future NFL signal-caller any better either on the field or on paper. But of course he looked like something else in the headlines and gossip factories, thanks to those pesky drug admissions and work ethic rumors. But the facts are that Mallett was arrested just once at Arkansas (for public intoxication), was never suspended, and by all accounts enjoyed the respect of his teammates. Yes, he's a character risk, but so were plenty of players who went in the first and second rounds.

Were I in a quarterback-needy NFL team's shoes, I'd worry more about his penchant for forcing the spectacular throw when the easy one would do--but that's not the kind of worry that would have caused me to pass him up twice.

AJ: I can't say New England taking Mallett is a steal. He's on a spectrum where the high end is Drew Bledsoe and the low is Ryan Leaf, and nowhere in-between is a Super Bowl ring.

Chip Patterson: I'm not sure if it was one of the biggest "steals" of the draft, but seeing how highly rated Robert Quinn was on many boards, the Rams had to have been happy to grab him at No. 14. Quinn just got things going at North Carolina before he was suspended for his junior season during the NCAA investigation of the football program; he'd finished second in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting as a sophomore in 2009, just two years after battling back from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Quinn continued to impress throughout different stages of the process, but according to reports he was not cleared by several team doctors. Many teams were likely on the edge about Quinn because of the off-field activity at North Carolina, and may have just needed one more reason to bypass the budding defensive end. Battling back from brain surgery to all-conference honors seems more like a positive intangible than a negative one to me, but I'm not the one making the million dollar moves. (Yet.)

My colleagues have covered a fair share of the quarterbacks, so I'll point out the very next pick in the draft: Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins didn't want this pick, and in fact they tried desperately to trade down. Pouncey addresses a need and will likely be an immediate starter, but there's little about Pouncey's performance at Florida that makes him seem like a No. 15 pick. He was the highest drafted center since 1993, the kind of accolade that's usually placed on a uniquely talented individual. Pouncey will help the Dolphins' running game, especially with his experience as a pulling guard, but he does not stand out to me as a "unique talent." The Dolphins didn't make a huge mistake by drafting him, but it just doesn't seem like the best talent for the pick.

JH: See, I tend to think the point of a mid-first-round pick is to simply not make that "huge mistake," so I thought drafting a solid future pro (if not a future Pro Bowler) like Pouncey was a smart move. But looking back over this discussion, we're clearly all haters of one stripe or another.

 
 
 
 
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