Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:13 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 1:33 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
It looks like we're all going to miss out on what could have been one of the most awkward moments anybody could have hoped for this season. As you're well aware, there are plenty of Michigan fans out there who would like to see Rich Rodriguez fired and replaced by former Michigan quarterback and current Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. Michigan AD Dave Brandon has said repeatedly that he won't be making any decision on his head coach until after the bowl game, but he also hasn't exactly come to Rodriguez's defense either.
Which makes you wonder.
Still, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened at Thursday night's banquet to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Michigan's 1985 football team. One that had Harbaugh as a starting quarterback. Unfortunately, while the banquet is still taking place, Harbaugh will not be a part of it. He said as much during a conference call on Tuesday, saying that he can't make it because he'll be on a recruiting trip.
Which no doubt disappoints many Michigan fans and alumni. It would have been a great chance for Brandon to speak to Harbaugh and get a feel for what he wants to do, though Harbaugh has said that he doesn't plan on talking about any other jobs than the one he already has.
Of course, if I had a dollar every time a college football coach said he wasn't going to talk about another job, and then ended up accepting another job, I'd have at least enough money to take the woman to a fancy dinner at Burger King.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 9:27 am
Edited on: December 1, 2010 9:57 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
In the latest episode of As The Gruden Turns, Wednesday morning brings some clarification to Tuesday night's reports from Canesport.com. According to a story in the Miami Herald, a "high-level UM source" has indicated that Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt has traveled to Tampa to meet with Jon Gruden, a meeting expected to take place on Wednesday.
Two members of Miami's Board of Trustees have indicated to the Herald that Gruden is the top choice in the search to replace Randy Shannon, but they are concerned he might decide to wait for a job in the NFL. As suggested by Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Gruden was initially uninterested in the position. But he has since begun to entertain the possibility of returning to the college sideline. The purpose of Hocutt's trip was to determine whether Gruden would take the position if offered.
The Herald also clarified that while the aforementioned actions are being taken to work on Gruden, several trustees said the process had not reached the stage of "hammering out final details" as the Canesport.com report suggested. If Gruden says no to Hocutt, Miami has begun assembling their list of next-best options. That list is reported to include Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Connecticut's Randy Edsall, Utah's Kyle Whittingham, Arizona's Mike Stoops, and at least two other names.
Posted on: November 27, 2010 2:54 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2010 2:56 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Let the Rich Rodriguez is getting fired rumors begin. Well, okay, continue. No, that's not right either. Let's just pour some more gasoline on the raging inferno that has been Rich Rodriguez getting fired rumors.
Yes, the Wolverines have improved in each season under Rodriguez since his first year in Ann Arbor after taking over for Lloyd Carr. They've even reached bowl eligibility this season.
Still, improvement is nice, but not getting destroyed by Ohio State is better when you're the head coach at Michigan, and so far Rodriguez just hasn't proven himself capable of that. Through three seasons, Rodriguez is yet to pick up a victory against either of Michigan's two rivals, Ohio State or Michigan State.
It's one thing to get beaten by Ohio State, it's another to do so while seeing Michigan State earn a share of the Big Ten title.
So I don't think it would surprise anyone if Rodriguez is let go after the season, if not before whatever bowl game the Wolverines end up in. Dave Brandon may be the athletic director at Michigan right now, but he's not the one who hired Rodriguez.
Rich isn't his coach, and you have to think the man Brandon would have his eye on is out west in Palo Alto, California. That's where former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh has built one of the best programs in the country with Stanford, and has done so while having to recruit the smart kids, not just the talented ones.
What's odd in this situation is that the Michigan fans may want Rodriguez gone, and even Brandon may want Rodriguez gone, but I'm not sure they have that much say in the matter. No, I think it'll all come down to what Jim Harbaugh wants to do.
I have no doubt that Michigan will reach out to Harbaugh somehow, though it won't be publicly. If Harbaugh gives the indication that he'll leave Stanford and come home to Ann Arbor, then Rodriguez will be kicked out the door quicker than a Greg Robinson defense can give up a touchdown.
If Harbaugh says no, then I think Michigan sticks by Rodriguez for one more year. And waits to see if Harbaugh changes his mind.
Posted on: November 27, 2010 1:43 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
This game basically started out in the best way imaginable for Michigan. On defense, the much-maligned Wolverines held the Buckeyes to two three-and-outs on Ohio State's first two drives of the game. On offense, Michigan put together two quality drives.
The problem is that after those two drives the score was still 0-0. That's what happens when you have a coach who has absolutely no faith in his kicker and has to go for it on fourth down, which Michigan did on its opening drive and failed. The second drive ended with a Denard Robinson fumble that Ohio State recovered at it's own 10-yard line.
Terrelle Pryor led Ohio State to a field goal on the ensuing drive, and it's been all Pryor and the Buckeyes since. Michigan got itself back in the game with a Vincent Smith touchdown halfway through the second quarter, but Jordan Hall returned the ensuing kickoff back 85 yards for a touchdown, and the Buckeyes had a 10-point lead right back.
A few minutes later Pryor was hitting Devier Posey for a 33-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 17-point lead, which is where the lead now sits at halftime.
It also turns the heat on Rich Rodriguez's seat up that much higher. Bowl eligible or not, don't think for a second that if Michigan gets destroyed by the Buckeyes again that Rodriguez's job won't be in danger. Particularly with Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh leading Stanford to heights unknown out west.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:39 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2010 12:40 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The eight announced finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award (as given out by the Football Writers Association of America) didn't offer much in the way of surprise; six of the nominees come from the current top seven teams in the BCS standings and all eight coach for teams in the BCS top ten. They are, from highest-ranked to lowest:
Chip Kelly, Oregon
Gene Chizik, Auburn
Gary Patterson, TCU
Chris Peterson, Boise State
Jim Harbaugh, Stanford
Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
A victory over Alabama (and the lack of further allegations against Cam Newton ) would probably make Chizik the front-runner by a nose over Kelly, since his team entered this season with lower expectations and a far worse record in 2009. But Kelly's mastery of his light-speed spread-option offense and dominating season would make him a fine choice, as would any of the finalists. The FWAA can't go wrong.
If there's anything to complain about here, it's that all eight choices follow the "good or great team becomes or stays great" model. But there's something to be said about taking a mediocre or even bad program to (or back to) respectability. Here's three coaches who also deserve some recognition for their work in 2010:
Mario Cristobal, FIU. It's easy to forget just how miserable the Golden Panthers' program was when Cristobal arrived in 2007, with FIIU fresh off an 0-12 season, the infamous Orange Bowl brawl with Miami , and NCAA sanctions. Three seasons later FIU, picked to finish eighth in their conference, will win the Sun Belt and play in their first-ever bowl game if they can hold serve at home against Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State to end the season.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland . The only reason the Fridge is even still employed by the Terps is because the school couldn't afford his buyout at the end of 2009, and it was no surprise when Friedgen's team was pegged for dead last in the ACC Atlantic this offseason. Instead of tuning out their supposedly lame-duck coach, though, the Terps have surged back to a 7-4 season with a big win vs. rivals Navy and road victories at Virginia and bowl-bound Boston College , putting them in contention for the division title as recently as last week.
Mike Haywood, Miami (Ohio) . It's hard to believe that the 7-4 Redhawks could win the MAC East when you consider how supremely hopeless they were in 2009, when they failed to score a single point until their third game and finished 1-11. In the MAC. But Miami served notice in a valiant season-opening effort against Florida that Haywood had made the absolute most of the offseason, and if they can claim an eighth win they'll have their most victories since 2004.
Posted on: November 21, 2010 12:26 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Only three games in the Pac-10 this week, but we still learned a few things:
1. Stanford deserves a BCS bowl berth. The Cardinal caught a break in catching Cal in the "horrific" week of their solid/horrific yo-yo-routine; after the Bears put together such an impressive performance against Oregon last week, the proper bet regarding their performance this week was the house, on collapse .
But that still shouldn't take anything away from the kind of dominance Jim Harbaugh 's team has shown the past few weeks. The Cardinal simply annihilated Cal from the opening gun, watching Andrew Luck hit 16-of-20 without an interception and even embarrassing a Bear defender on a long run just for kicks ... holding the Bears scoreless through the first three quarters ... scoring on their first eight possessions, every one Luck directed ... leading 45-0. It was the sort of display usually reserved for beatdowns of bottom-rung FCS teams, and it all came in "The Game," Cal's biggest rivalry game of the year, on the road in Berkeley.
Between this performance, the thumping of Arizona two weeks ago, and the 41-0 road whitewashing of Washington three weeks back, it's safe to rank Stanford alongside the likes of Auburn and Boise State as one of the hottest teams in the country and the hottest in the Pac-10 . Assuming they wrap up the season at 11-1, they'll deserve to have a shot at playing in one of the big-money BCS games rather than having to slink off the Holiday Bowl . That may or may not happen -- it'll be helpful if Auburn loses and opens up a slot in the BCS title game for a non-AQ team that will otherwise hog a spot in the Rose Bowl -- but there shouldn't be any "may or may not," not the way the Cardinal are playing.
2. Corvallis is USC's own personal house of horrors. You can't really argue that Oregon State 's Reser Stadium is a "tough place to play," not this year, not after the Beavers got trounced at home by Washington State last week. (Yes, that Washington State. Yes, that actually happened.) But apparently it doesn't matter how welcoming a host OSU might be for anyone else; they are always going to be at maximum hostility for USC .
In 2006, the Trojans were third-ranked and favored to return to the BCS title game for the third time in three years when they went to Corvallis; they turned the ball over four times and lost 33-31, snapping their 27-game Pac-10 winning streak. In 2008, USC had just defeated No. 5 Ohio State 35-3 and were the No. 1 team in the country; Jacquizz Rodgers exploded for 186 yards against one of the best defenses of college football's past decade and the Beavers won 27-21. Obviously the 2010 Trojans can't measure up to the '06 or '08 versions (who finished with a combined record of 23-2), but they had won three of their last four and beaten a good Arizona team on the road just last week. And, you know, Washington State.
No matter. Matt Barkley had his ankle bent into all kinds of incorrect directions ; Mitch Mustain went only 8-of-17 in relief; Rodgers went off for another 128 yards and a score; Beaver QB Ryan Katz recovered from a terrible week against Wazzu to hit 17-of-24 with two touchdowns and no picks; the Trojans lost the turnover battle 0-2 and only gained 255 total yards; and in the end, the Beavers crushed the Trojans 36-7 .
Corvallis: home sweet home to Wazzu, the worst place imaginable for the Trojans. Go figure.
3. UCLA's offense is ... well ... you know. We know the Bruins are struggling with quarterback issues and with a scheme conversion to the pistol that has been, to put it as politely as we possibly can, a work in progress.
But there's a point at which politeness isn't really appropriate anymore, and once you've scored zero points over the final three quarters and netted all of 163 yards (over 61 plays, an unbelievably terrible average gain of 2.67 yards per-play) against a team that entered the game ranked 109th in the FBS in total defense, that point has long since past. We've posted this portrait of UCLA's offense before, and after the stinkbomb the Bruins laid up in Seattle last Thursday, we feel we have no choice but to post it again:
It's a shame, because the Bruin defense -- which hounded Jake Locker into another "that guy is a first-rounder?!?" performance (10/21, 68 yards, 0 TD 1 INT) -- isn't great but is good enough to get UCLA to the postseason they desperately want . The offense, however, will be lucky to drag UCLA past their current four wins.
Posted on: November 10, 2010 11:58 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Ever since Minnesota fired Tim Brewster, the school's head has been in the clouds when considering who to hire to replace him. Names like Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, Jim Harbaugh, and somebody at the school has probably wondered about Bear Bryant too. The thing that all these coaches have in common -- well, not the late, great Mr. Bryant -- is that if they were to leave their current jobs to take over at Minnesota, they'd be taking a step backward. Which Minnesota just doesn't seem to get.
Which is why I was somewhat relieved to see the latest name to come up in the Gophers coaching search, because this one actually seems sensible. According to a report in the Pioneer Press, Brady Hoke of San Diego State is now on the list of "serious" coaching candidates. Which just makes sense, so kudos to you, Minnesota.
Hoke has experience in the Big Ten, spending eight years at Michigan as a defensive coach and is from Ohio. He also led Ball State to a 12-1 mark in 2008 before moving on to San Diego State. Now, in his second season there, Hoke has the Aztecs at 7-2 with a chance at a Mountain West title if they can pull off the upset of TCU this weekend.
In other words, he's a coach that has had to work his way up the ladder, and had success everywhere he's been. You don't think he'd be interested in coming back to the Big Ten -- most certainly a step forward for him -- and taking over the Minnesota job? The most important thing for Minnesota to consider, though, is that it's not the the only school who has likely taken notice of Hoke. Colorado has an opening right now, too, and it's likely going to turn its attention to Hoke soon as well.
Posted on: November 6, 2010 11:56 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2010 1:21 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
1. The biggest game of the league's season was played back on Oct. 2. And Oregon won it, 52-31 over Stanford . By this point, with the Ducks at least two games up on the rest of the league (and three on everyone but the Cardinal as soon as they dispose of Arizona ) and second-place Stanford two games up on everyone trailing them , there's absolutely no question who the best two teams in the conference are. Not that the league's schedule-makers could have forseen the Ducks' and Cardinal's dominance, but after a few seaosns with massive (and massively hyped) late-season showdowns with Rose Bowl berths on the line, this season whatever attention the Pac-10 garner will come exclusively from Oregon's run at Glendale.
2. Speaking of which, Oregon is the nation's best second-half team. We'd seen this movie before, against Tennessee , against Stanford, against USC: the Ducks look vaguely sluggish for 30 minutes or slightly more, and just as it appears they might be in genuine trouble, they floor it. Today's edition : a scoreless first quarter, couple of turnovers, an 18-13 lead early third quarter ... and three Duck touchdowns before the period is up, with two more just for fun in the fourth to end the game on 35-3 run. Your final: 53-16. Chip Kelly says he wants to wear his opponents out and crush them down the stretch, and whaddya know, that's what his teams do.
It won't be surprising if Cal or Oregon State take an early lead with the Ducks on the road, won't be a total shock if they carry an edge into the break, or even if they're up after 45 minutes. But we're long past the point where we can expect any team remaining on Oregon's schedule to play them even over the full 60 minutes.
3. Maybe Cal isn't schizophrenic. Maybe they just hate the road. The Bears went up to the Palouse today and nearly handed Paul Wulff his first Pac-10 win in his three seasons at Wazzu , falling behind 10-7 at the half and leading only 14-13 entering the fourth quarter before squeaking by 20-13 . New starting quarterback Brock Mansion didn't make anyone forget the injured Kevin Riley , hitting only 12-of-24 with a pair of picks against the league's worst defense.
Truthfully, we already knew Cal was terrible on the road; the win snapped a six-game losing streak away from Berkeley. But even "six-game losing streak" doesn't quite say "terrible on the road" the way "seven-point win over Washington State" does.
4. Stanford's defense is maybe the league's most underreported story. The Cardinal defense in 2009: 403 yards allowed per-game, 90th in the country. The Cardinal defense in 2010: 330 yards allowed per-game, 30th in the country. And that was before they held Arizona to just three first-half points and no touchdowns until the Stanford offense had already built a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter.
No question that between the likes of Andrew Luck and Chris Owusu and Stepfan Taylor and Jim Harbaugh 's precision pro-style attack, the Cardinal is an offense-first team. But the difference between last year's 8-5 Sun Bowl team and this year's potential 11-1 BCS at-large selection is almost entirely the work first-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has done with his starless unit.
5. Oregon State is just another team. The early read on the Beavers was that after near-impossible assignments at Boise State and TCU but a vindication win at Arizona, Mike Riley 's team was better than their record, as they usually are in mid-October.
But after losing in overtime at Washington (losers at home to Arizona State and big losers at home to Stanford and Nebraska ) and now 17-14 at previously-reeling, 3-5 UCLA , it's time to acknowledge that the Beavers aren't top-25 material. In fact, at 4-4 and with games still to come against the Ducks, Cardinal, and Trojans, they may not even be bowl material.
6. Matt Barkley is in a slump. USC escaped Arizona State's upset bid 34-33 late Saturday thanks to some huge plays in the field goal department -- a blocked extra point returned for two Trojan points, a game-winning Joe Houston field goal, a wayward Sun Devil attempt with 90 seconds to play -- but the Trojans won't survive their grueling late-season stretch (starting with next week's visit to Arizona) without better play from their sophomore quarterbacking prodigy. Barkley threw three touchdowns against the Sun Devils, but also threw a pair of interceptions and settled for a mediocre average of 5.8 yards per-pass. Barkley has only dipped below the 7 yards-per-attempt mark three times this season, but it's happened each of the last two weeks. Those two games also account for half of his eight picks for the year. Where's the gunslinger who carpet-bombed Cal and nearly took down Stanford in Palo Alto?