Posted on: November 7, 2010 9:39 am
Edited on: November 7, 2010 9:45 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Yes, Bowers is the type of the player that can alter a game - In the second half against N.C. State, Clemson's defensive line pinned their ears back and came after Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson like a pack of wild dogs. They were led by defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who took jumped ahead as the nation's sack leader with his 11th and 12th sack on the season. Bowers commanded much of the offensive line's attention, and the Tigers were able to force Wilson to throw several balls away, especially down the stretch. The Tigers offense tried desperately to give away Saturday's matchup with the Wolfpack, but the defense refused to let Clemson's division title hopes fizzle away completely.
2. ACC Atlantic is a game of Yahtzee! - After last week's upset of Florida State, the Atlantic Division race got flipped upside down with N.C. State, Maryland, and the Seminoles all carrying one-loss conference records into Week 10. None of the three teams were able to establish a lead on the division race on Saturday, all losing their conference contests. Now with the division leaders all having two conference losses, Clemson is back in the mix to return to the ACC Championship Game. The good news is that each team, for the most part, will get to prove their worth on the field in the final weeks of the season. Florida State faces Clemson and Maryland, N.C. State faces Maryland, Wake Forest, and North Carolina, and Clemson also travels to Winston-Salem to face the Demon Deacons. As of right now, I'm giving the edge to Florida State. The Seminoles look like they could easily handle the Terrapins, and with the schedule left that seems to be the opponent that could decide things in the division. Which of course means that Ralph Friedgen's crew COULD win the division, but the "eye-test," the "ear test," and "conventional wisdom" in general says that the Terrapins are likely not going to be competing for a BCS bowl berth in December.
3. North Carolina simply refuses to die - After the Tar Heels' 37-35 upset of Florida State on Saturday, North Carolina head coach Butch Davis appeared choked up as he spoke about the resiliency of this year's squad. After missing as many as 15 players due to suspensions and investigations, and six of those players being deemed ineligible for the year, North Carolina finds themselves bowl eligible for the third straight year under Butch Davis. Neither injuries nor suspensions have kept the Tar Heels from finding ways to win, with the entire squad buying into the "next man up" mentality. When Davis was forced to work his way down to the fourth string running back, sophomore Hunter Furr delivered three crucial rushes for 27 yards to help set up Casey Barth's game-winning field goal. There is a lot of ground between the Tar Heels and the division-leading Hokies, but Virginia Tech will be in Chapel Hill next week to try and lock up a spot in the ACC Championship Game. After seeing the product the Tar Heels put on the field in Tallahassee, that task could be more difficult than previously expected.
Posted on: November 4, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2010 3:03 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
Ever since the investigations of the North Carolina football program began this summer, head coach Butch Davis has been placed on a permanent hot seat. At the peak of the drama many believed that there was no chance that Davis would be the head coach of the Tar Heels in 2011, with some even believing he would be gone by season's end. But Davis did not crumble under the pressure, and faced each challenge one week at a time with a constantly evolving (and often depleted) depth chart. Instead of waiting on the results of the investigation, Davis decided to hold out any players who might later be deemed ineligible. While that led to many players missing games they did not need to miss, it also ensured (to the best of his ability) the integrity of the five wins the Tar Heels have accumulated so far this season.
Davis' confidence in the program has been mistaken by some as blind faith, but that blindness to the wrong doings within the program may be what saves his job. University Chancellor Holden Thorp spoke on the issue Thursday with the Board of Governors, and (for the moment) stood behind the Davis as the leader of the football program.
"There's no information to indicate that he participated in or knew of any wrongdoing," Thorp told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Mr. Baddour and I are not having meetings deciding his future. He's our football coach."
Now at 5-3 with a 2-2 conference record, the Tar Heels are two games out of first place in the Coastal Division. While a division title is not highly likely considering the opponents left on the schedule, it is not entirely out of reach. The Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee this weekend to face an angry Seminoles team looking to bounce back from a loss to N.C. State last Thursday. Things won't get any easier either, after that North Carolina will host Virginia Tech and N.C. State in back-to-back weeks. How the Tar Heels fare in this three week stretch of currently-ranked teams will determine if/where the Tar Heels go bowling. Their final contest of the season, against Duke in Durham, should be a one-win safety net. But you can't count on anything in late-season rivalry games, especially in the parity-filled ACC.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 4:15 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the 1995 title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that South Carolina would fail to score a point in the second half against Kentucky a week after knocking off the Tide? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week . Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.
Highly UnlikelyThe Tennessee Volunteers shock the world when they pull off an upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide in Knoxville on Saturday night. In his first start, Tyler Bray has far from an outstanding day, throwing for only 78 yards and a touchdown, but the Alabama offense can't stop tripping over its own feet. Greg McElroy fumbles three times, and throws four interceptions. To make matters worse, McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Julio Jones all have to leave the game with devastating knee injuries. After the game a shocked Nick Saban points out that "they just don't make ligaments like they used to."
Severly UnlikelyIt's halftime in Miami, and the North Carolina Tar Heels look to be en route to a huge win against the Hurricanes. They have a 24-0 lead thanks to four first half interceptions by Jacory Harris, and spirits in the locker room are high. Then a phone rings. Butch Davis answers it to be told that the NCAA has just suspended everybody on his team, and that he'll have to forfeit the game. Instead Davis recruits the North Carolina band to fill in for his team, and amazingly, they hold on to win the game 27-23. Three weeks later the loss is vacated when it's discovered that the tuba player accepted money from the New York Philharmonic.
Completely LudicrousFollowing Iowa 's narrow 27-24 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, the two teams meet on the field to shake hands. Bret Bielema goes out of his way to find Ricky Stanzi and congratulate him on his three-touchdown game. Upon finding Stanzi, the quarterback tells Bielema, "Thanks. That's how real Americans play the game." This infuriates Bielema, who views his brand of pounding large young men into the trenches until they drop dead to be the real American football. The two begin fighting, and have to be separated. Though after the dustup, still feeling patriotic, Stanzi pulls the American flag out from under his jersey -- next to his heart, of course -- and puts it on a sharpened flag pole he keeps in his sock. He then hurls the flag forty yards through the air like a javelin where it goes through Bielema's chest and plants into the ground. Stanzi is carried off the field to chants of "USA! USA! USA!"
Posted on: October 12, 2010 8:48 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Back when the news about Gary Wichard, John Blake, and the now-infamous Miami party first hit, it was only remarkable in that all the people involved went ahead with the whole deal because they assumed they'd get away with it. And being that Wichard's been in the business for decades, it's unlikely that this was his first foray into shady business.
And now that we've all seen the article penned by former agent John Luchs, we can see exactly why everyone thought it was a good idea: agents commit NCAA violations all the time. Luchs cops to giving cash or benefits to over 30 different college players over the course of seven years, and not once was he or the player in question ever disciplined in any respect.
And yet, Luchs doesn't have any remorse about his work as an agent, and that's probably smart; paying players is only damaging insofar as it's illegal, not because it actually has any debilitating effect on the player's ability to perform on the football.
Still, there's a case to be made for following the rules here; while Luchs lands high-caliber players and high draft picks all over the place, the level of NFL success was higher for the guys who refused Luchs' money; those players include Keyshawn Johnson, Dana Stubblefield, and Jonathan Ogden (though Ogden did accept some concert tickets, and that's definitely a story worth reading). Meanwhile, Luchs' most successful client who took money was probably either Tony Banks or Jamir Miller; other clients included high-round draft picks Ryan Leaf, Joel Steed, and Kanavis McGhee. Which, yeah.
The most damaging part of the story, in fact, is the part involving Gary Wichard, and that's even considering the fact that Luchs credits Wichard with telling him not to pay players. It's still bad, and here's why:
So, yes. John Blake is completely radioactive now, and while it's nice to hear Butch Davis tell people he regrets trusting John Blake, it's really a wonder that Davis even trusted him in the first place; Blake's either a genius at hiding his involvement with Wichard, or Davis ignored a lot of red flags in hiring the former Oklahoma head man.
Posted on: October 9, 2010 11:08 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A rumor broke out on some North Carolina message boards that the North Carolina systems Board of Governors (the one that governs all of the UNC campuses, not just Chapel Hill's) had instructed North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp to fire head coach Butch Davis. A rumor that, considering everything that's been going on with the North Carolina program, isn't hard to believe.
But don't, because according to the board's chairwoman Hannah Gage, it's not true.
"None of that happened. None, none, none," Gage told the Raleigh News & Observer . "I can assure that none of that happened. That hasn't been part of any discussion we've had."
Which makes sense seeing as the UNC system Board of Governors doesn't really involve itself with the athletics programs of the UNC schools, leaving those decisions to the individual schools.
Of course, considering everything that has taken place in Chapel Hill since Butch Davis took over the program, I can assure you that this won't be the last rumor you hear about him being canned. Eventually, one of them will be true.
Posted on: October 4, 2010 5:39 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
There are reports emerging late tonight that John Blake, the now-fired assistant coach to Butch Davis at North Carolina, contacted Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus on behalf of agent Gary Wichard.
Assuming all of this is true, two quick observations and one long one:
1. John Blake is now completely unemployable in D-I football.
2. Using an assistant coach at a Top 25, BCS-conference school as a runner is like the top alpha-male move an agent can make.
3. This should never happen.
Obviously it's not much of an intellectual feat to decide that this revelation is bad for college football, but the when we've gotten to the point that an agent asking an assistant coach -- regardless of whether they're prior acquaintances -- to act as a runner for a player and the coach accepts, then we're past some sort of rubicon. That would mean that both the agent and the coach had decided that to engage in this activity was in their best interests, and that the reward outweighed the risk. Furthermore, Dareus did accept over $1,700 from Wichard, leading to his two-game suspension, so evidently Dareus agreed about those best interests.
Perhaps it's a failure on the NCAA's part that these type of deals go on. Someone like Dareus would face significant punishment if he came forward to the NCAA about the nature of his involvement with people like Blake and Wichard once he accepted an illegal benefit -- regardless of whether he knew at the time it was inappropriate. At that point, it becomes in Dareus' best interests to hide this fact, not report it. With the benefit of retroactive immunity as a whistleblower, however, he can report the details of Wichard's and Blake's dealings to the NCAA without fearing the severe punishment that would normally await him.
Obviously, this would have to go hand-in-hand with an equally punitive measure against agents; recall that Wichard had to think this was all a good idea too, and that's because he doesn't face any serious professional repercussions over this mess. Sure, he's going to have some negative publicity, but Wichard still gets to be other players' agent. His agent's license (which is to say, his livelihood) isn't seriously at risk here, and as long as he and his peers are treated more favorably by the appropriate authorities than their potential clients, this type of silliness will continue unabated.
And yes, this new arrangement would sort of encourage a high-profile player to momentarily abuse this position of trust by the NCAA, but not only would it significantly discourage this strange courtship from being instigated in the first place, it's also time that the NCAA started empowering its most high-profile athletes to help protect its cherished amateurism, not assuming they're undermining it at every step of the way.
Posted on: October 1, 2010 2:42 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
It's been generally accepted fact since the revelations about North Carolina assistant John Blake and his monetary involvement with agents that Butch Davis is, in all likelihood, the most fired man in college football. Fired-er than Tim Brewster. Fired-er than Dan Hawkins*. FI. YERD.
All of that is apparently news to Davis' employers, however, who reiterated their support for Davis in an interview with the Daily Tarheel:
This type of talk goes far above the usual type of rhetoric involved in votes of confidence; Baddour and Winston are unequivocally handing the job to Davis, no more questions asked, for 2011 and beyond. There's no other way to interpret their quotes without assuming the administrators are being so deliberately misleading that a new football coach would have no reason to want to work for them.
So if Davis' job really is safe, in retrospect, it shouldn't be all that surprising; the LSU brass who came thisclose to hiring Davis twice over the last 11 years still talk fondly about him, even knowing what turmoil the UNC program was in at the time. So if Davis has this essentially universal support among administrators who've had the opportunity to interact with him, it stands to reason that he's got one more chance, and UNC wants him to have that chance in Chapel Hill. But man, if he (or any single one of his assistant coaches) messes up again, man...
*Doesn't "Brewster Davis Hawkins" sound like a competing ad agency to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? Is that just me? Fine.
Posted on: September 30, 2010 6:17 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2010 6:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The more we learn about what's gone on in Chapel Hill with the North Carolina football program and their connections with agents, the more obvious it becomes that at some point the NCAA is going to drop a sledgehammer on the Tar Heels. We don't know what the punishment will be, but it may end up being very similar to the "death penalty" the NCAA gave SMU in 1987. After the smoke clears to reveal the rubble left behind, Butch Davis isn't going to be left standing.
He'll be gone. Maybe he should be already, and there are plenty of people who are already calling for Davis to resign from his position, but it's not going to happen. When meeting with the media on Thursday Davis was asked if he felt it was in the best interest of North Carolins for him to resigh as head coach and he said "no."
He also had a message for those who feel he should.
"I'd like for them to understand that we're doing everything we can to [be] a class program, to win football games the right way, to graduate players, and that we're going to do better. Anything that I can do, I'm absolutely willing to take a look at our program … and anything we need to do, whether it be from an academic standpoint, looking into the backgrounds of coaches, we're going to do that."That's all well and good, but the fact of the matter is, you still let this happen. If somebody burns down their house playing with matches, they learn a valuable lesson about not playing with matches, but it still doesn't change the fact that they've burned the house to the ground.
As a head coach of a football team, I have no doubt in my mind that at some point Davis has talked to his players about taking responsibility for their actions on the field. If you make a mistake, you hurt the entire team.
It's too bad Davis isn't taking the same approach with his own life. Instead he just stands there, match in hand, pretending he doesn't know what happened.