Tag:Justin Blackmon
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: July 11, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 5:27 pm
 

2011 Ray Guy watch list announced

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here are the five members of this year's 2011 Ray Guy Award watch list, as determined by the Augusta Sports Council:

Bryan Anger (Sr.), California
Drew Butler (Sr.), Georgia
Kyle Martens (Sr.), Rice
Quinn Sharp (Jr.), Oklahoma State
Dawson Zimmerman (Sr.), Clemson

Obviously, Drew Butler (yes, the son of former Dawg kicker Kevin Butler) is the big name here, as he won the award as a sophomore in 2009 (see right) and was a finalist again last season. But compared to some of the other names on the list, Butler was a little -- just a little -- disappointing in 2010.

His 44.5 yards per punt were only good for 17th in the nation. Fortunately, Butler so rarely committed a touchback or outkicked his coverage that the Bulldogs still averaged more than 40 yards net per punt, which ranked fourth in the NCAA. Butler also uncorked a 50-yard punt in every game but two last year: the last two games of the regular season against Auburn and Georgia Tech, both of whose defenses were so cruelly porous that they only generated two opportunities for Butler to punt each game. Give Butler three opportunities, and he's going 50 at least once.

Past that, Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp has a cannon of a leg, and he was second in the nation in punting average last year (the Cowboys were third in net punting average). With Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon both coming back in 2011, the Cowboys may not have a great deal of opportunities to punt this season, but as long as we're keeping track of punts by average yardage instead of total, Sharp should be fine.

One quibble, though, and I know this is just a watch list, but where the heck is UCLA punter Jeff Locke?

The senior is recovering from a hip injury that has kept him out of spring drills, so perhaps that's why he was left off the list. But a) UCLA expects him to be healthy for fall camp, and b) the man bombs. He has registered 34 touchbacks on kickoffs over the last two years; UCLA led the nation in net punting average last year; and Locke plays on a team with such a, shall we say, punt-intensive offense that he'll have loads of opportunities to show off his leg in 2011.

If his hip's working the way UCLA expects it to, he'll be a finalist for this award, when the list really matters.

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

More CFB 100
Related Links
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.



Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:46 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:44 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 40-31

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.

40. BRADY HOKE, head coach, Michigan. In the modern era of college football (a nebulous concept, but one defined here as "since the inception of the Heisman Trophy"), every Michigan head coach has stayed for at least nine years, with the exception of two: Gary Moeller, who coached for five years but resigned after an arrest for assault and battery in 1995, and Rich Rodriguez, who coached three years and was run out of town last January. Past them, Michigan has been a picture of stability over the years, and the concurrent success is no accident.

With that Rodriguez firing, though, the message from Michigan seems to be, "We'd like it if you stayed a while, but we'll tell you when to get comfortable." That's the power of high standards of success, and while Brady Hoke probably has a pass on getting results for the first year, he probably doesn't have that pass for two. Ohio State won't be reeling forever, after all, so this turnaround job that Hoke performed at San Diego State and Ball State prior to that needs to happen again, real quick. If Hoke makes progress down that road in 2011 -- and especially if he beats Ohio State -- he can start getting comfortable right away, and everything in Ann Arbor will be back to its normal, stable self. -- AJ

39. MATT BARKLEY AND ROBERT WOODS, dynamic quarterback/receiver tandem, USC. There's not a lot for USC fans to look forward to this year. They're out of the Pac-12 title race and can't go to a bowl game for the second straight season. But that's not a reason to stop watching, as the Trojans have one of the best quarterback/wide receiver duos in the country in Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. The latter was named Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year and was on just about every freshman All-American team after racking up a USC record for all-purpose yards. (And in case you didn't know, USC has had a few pretty good freshman play in their illustrious history.)

Then there's Barkley, the golden-haired signal caller who is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and someone many have pegged as a top 10 draft pick if he comes out after the season. Entering his third year as a starter, much is expected of him after posting 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year. The Barkley-to-Woods connection was among the best in the nation last year and should be one to watch as they hook up for more than a few touchdowns in year two. -- BF

38. BRANDON WEEDEN AND JUSTIN BLACKMON, equally dynamic quarterback/receiver tandom, Oklahoma State. For all Barkley's and Woods' succes, there wasn't a quarterback-wide receiver combination in the nation quite as devastating as Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon last season. The duo hooked up 111 times for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns, as both players seemingly emerged out of nowhere and became nationally recognized names. Blackmon then surprised a lot of people at Oklahoma State and around the country when he decided to come back to Stillwater for another season, and now the two are ready to perform an encore.

The question is whether or not they'll be able to. Blackmon may have snuck up on some teams last season, but you can be sure that he'll be the focus of a lot of opposing defense's film sessions this season. It also won't help that Dana Holgorsen is in Morgantown rather than Stillwater. So it won't be easy, but if these two can match -- or maybe even improve on -- the production they had last season, this might be the season in which the Cowboys finally break through for that elusive Big 12 title.

37. ISAIAH CROWELL, running back, Georgia. We gave the most important incoming freshman in the SEC -- and maybe the country -- his own special weekend breakout entry. Read it here.

36. GUS MALZAHN, offensive coordinator, Auburn. No matter how many times you read it, the list of losses from Auburn's national title teams remains staggering: the Heisman-winning quarterback, the nation's best defensive lineman, six other offensive starters including the top two receivers, seven other defensive starters including the top two linebackers. With all due respect to head coach Gene Chizik (and his smashing successes in the recruiting and team-building departments), nearly all the hope Auburn has of retaining its top-25 perch and position near the top of the SEC West standings rests in Malzahn and his spotless offensive track record. If anyone can take what's left at Auburn (which does include some highly-talented pieces, like running back Michael Dyer and potential breakout receiver Trovon Reed) and fashion an attack that can still keep SEC coordinators up at night, it's Malzahn.

Malzahn's influence can be felt outside of just his impact on the Plains, though. Even as some major programs (like Michigan and Florida) revert to more conservative, pro-style schemes, the runaway success of up-tempo spread offenses like Malzahn's and Chip Kelly's has encouraged teams like Pitt and West Virginia to follow their fast-paced lead. College football offenses seem to be gravitating towards those two opposite poles -- pounding pro-styles and lightning spreads -- and Malzahn's tremendous accomplishments are a major part of explaining the move towards the latter. -- JH

35. THE NCAA's 2011 CELEBRATION RULE, scourge of all that is fair and good in this world, NCAA rulebook. We know it's coming; it's only a matter of the who and where. From the moment a player heads towards a clear endzone, every head coach out there will have his heart skip a beat hoping his player won't do something stupid like ... celebrate? No, thanks to a new NCAA rule, fumbles near the end zone won't be the thing players, coaches and referees will be on the lookout for this season ... it'll be a celebration.

The rule -- actually passed last year but taking effect starting this season -- says that if an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is committed during live play (say, a high-step into the end zone), instead of 15 yards assessed on the extra point or kickoff, the touchdown will be negated. The points will be taken off the board and the ball will be placed 15 yards from the spot of the foul. Remember the Reggie Bush somersault into the end zone? Though already illegal, if this rule had been in effect before, Bush would have been left with nothing to celebrate in the first place. So here come the pins and needles as everyone, fans and coaches alike, hope an 18-year old won't celebrate. Should be a fun season ... unless it's not. -- BF

More CFB 100
Related Links
34. STEPHEN GARCIA, quarterback, South Carolina. Strange as it may sound, it's true: the Gamecocks are the legitimate SEC East preseason favorite. They have arguably the league's best running back in Marcus Lattimore. They have inarguably the league's best receiver in Alshon Jeffery. They have an experienced, well-coached defense that just added the nation's No. 1 overall recruit at defensive end. With massive advantages like those, you'd expect the fifth-year senior, third-year starting quarterback to be the final piece of a championship puzzle--and maybe not just a conference championship, either.

But the bad news -- or is it the good news? -- for Carolina is that that quarterback is Stephen Garcia. There's no doubt anymore; if Garcia behaves himself over the summer, he will be the Gamecocks' starting QB again this fall. That means he might uncork a whole season like his 17-of-20, three-touchdown masterpiece in Carolina's 35-21 2010 upset of No. 1 Alabama, and bring home the 'Cocks' first-ever SEC title. It also means he might get suspended the Saturday morning of the biggest game of the season or fumble four times in a loss to Vanderbilt. Because he represents the team's best chance of capitalizing on its best chance yet to claim a championship, Steve Spurrier and Co. will just have to take the good with the bad. How much of each Garcia gives them could (or maybe will) singlehandedly determine who represents the East in Atlanta. -- JH

33. THE ACC'S SEPTEMBER 17th, nonconference opportunity, ACC. When the ACC expanded in 2004-2005, the hope was that adding Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and a championship game would raise the football status of the supposed "basketball conference." But thanks to a poor bowl record and a total lack of national title contenders over the past decade, the conference has quickly become the butt of many college football jokes. The conference produces nearly as much NFL talent as the SEC, but with such little impact on the national scene, it's assumed the ACC just can't hang with the other BCS conferences.

Well, if the ACC is going to make a statement in 2011, September 17 is their chance. Most notably, it is the date of the aforementioned Florida State-Oklahoma showdown. But the Seminoles are only one of five ACC teams hosting a major non-conference showdown that day. Clemson welcomes defending champion Auburn to Death Valley for a rematch of last year's 27-24 overtime thriller. The Miami - Ohio State showdown in Coral Gables has much less star-power than before, but that might only benefit the Hurricanes. In addition, Maryland hosts West Virginia and Georgia Tech looks for redemption from last year's upset against Kansas. The Seminoles and Tigers may take a loss, but Miami, Maryland, and Georgia Tech all have shots to win their non-conference game. If the strongest argument against the ACC is how they stack up against non-conference opponents, the conference can silence those critics with a strong showing on the third Saturday in September. -- CP

32. TAYLOR MARTINEZ, quarterback, Nebraska. It takes a lot of self-confidence for a grown man to unironically adopt a nickname like "T-Magic," but fortunately for Nebraska fans, Taylor Martinez isn't lacking for that confidence--nor for freakish athleticism. The freshman quarterback conjured up memories of Eric Crouch and Tommie Frazier as he ran for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 1631 yards and 10 more TDs. That's even taking into consideration a right ankle injury that bothered Martinez throughout the second half of the season, keeping him out of two games and limiting him in others. A healthy, more experienced T-Magic for the entire 2011 campaign could be quite the weapon.

However, as both Martinez and Denard Robinson demonstrated just last year, football is not a sport that caters to the health of smaller quarterbacks with heavy rushing workloads. The defenses in the Big 12 are no picnic for opposing QBs, but they're even more physical in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the once-rocky relationship between Martinez and head coach Bo Pelini seems to have healed to some extent. Certainly, there aren't any reports of Martinez missing practices, and he had the chance to transfer this off-season but didn't. Once that first player-coach fight happens, contentment is usually relative and impermanent, but it seems like much more of a 2010 problem than a 2011 problem, and that's bad news for the rest of the Big Ten. -- AJ

31. BRYAN HARSIN, offensive coordinator, Texas. Earlier in the Top 100 we featured Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Well, if Gilbert is going to have a big impact on college football this season, odds are it will have a lot to do with his new coach, offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Okay, so technically Harsin is the co-offensive coordinator, but I really don't think Mack Brown fired Greg Davis and then brought Harsin in from Boise State so he could share play-calling duties with Major Applewhite. No, Harsin will be grooming one current Longhorn quarterback and one former Longhorn quarterback.

Because if there's anything that Harsin proved himself able to do in his time at Boise, it was produce good signal-callers. Harsin's biggest influence at Texas this year will be to help Gilbert increase his touchdown passes and significantly reduce the turnovers. Over the last three seasons at Boise State, Harsin helped Kellen Moore throw 99 touchdowns to only 19 interceptions. He also put together an offense that averaged about 43 points per game the last three years, and while the defenses in the Big 12 are a bit better than the ones Harsin saw in the WAC, if he can get within reach of numbers like that with the Longhorns in just one season, the rest of the college football world will likely cower in fear. -- TF

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 and 50-41. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 4/22

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.

FOUR LINKS

1.
Want a quarterback? Like Clemson's Tajh Boyd (pictured)? You might want to head to the state of Virginia, which despite its relatively small recruiting profile could produce starters at as many as seven different BCS programs, including potential national title contenders Alabama and Florida State. (The class of 2012 might tend more towards wideouts, though; both the Virginia-based members of Tom Lemming's top 100 are receivers.)

2. Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier is a funny guy. On why the Broncos are joining the Mountain West rather than the Pac-12: "We’ve applied for membership into the NFL. … The truth is schools must be invited into a conference. You don’t get to just join a conference like you can go and join Costco.” Of course, it was his less-amusing, more-serious remarks on the lack of a college football playoff that made headlines.

3. We found out this week that both Auburn and Alabama are going to take a trip to the White House this year; the Tigers to see President Obama as national champions, of course, but Penn State announced that the Tide's Week 2 visit to Beaver Stadium will also be to a "White House." It will the first white-out for the Nittany Lions since 2009, but they maybe should have picked a different opponent, at least if the Tide's infamous 2008 throttling of Georgia during a "black-out" is in any way indicative.

4. The lead item in this Tulsa World post-spring notebook on Oklahoma concerns the Sooners trying to fill the Thanksgiving week hole in their schedule, but the most interesting item comes at the notebook's end, when we discover that Bob Stoops once hitchhiked "several hundred miles" to see Bob Seger in concert.

"I put the name of the city on some cardboard around my tennis racket," Stoops said, "and went out to the highway, held up the racket and hitched a ride to the concert." So if he ever chooses to kick against the wind for no apparent reason, you'll know why.

AND A CLOUD ...

Navy's spring game will air tonight on our own CBS Sports Network, with a few twists ... And speaking of the Midshipmen, Ken Niumatalolo has signed a long-term extension , though the non-release of details means we don't know for much or for how long ...The first wave of Ohio State Tatgate smack shirts is hitting store racks and Internet shopping carts ...  Colorado was the first school to go all-HD this spring when it comes to practice film, a move that's made post-practice film study much quicker and easier, the Buff coaches say ... Mike Slive reiterates that he expects the SEC to "do something more than we have done up to now" to curb oversigning ... Yes, Virginia, it is possible for a football program to attend the Humanitarian Bowl and turn a profit; Northern Illinois (somehow) just did it ... The go-to reporter for news on Chad Bumphis's ankle injury scare at Mississippi State was Chad Bumphis ... Every school keeps things simple during their spring games, but "simple" means something different at Boise State ... A look at which SEC schools are getting the biggest financial boost from their boosters ... All-American Big 12 receiver Justin Blackmon interviews All-American Big 12 receiver Ryan Broyles, and finds out Broyles' favorite XBox game is FIFA?!?


Posted on: March 4, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oklahoma State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Oklahoma State, who begins practice on Monday, March 7.

Can the Cowboys offense keep the same beat? It seems like every season is supposed to be the season for Oklahoma State. The year where everything comes together, and the Cowboys win the Big 12 South, get past Oklahoma and Texas, and head to a BCS bowl. Then, without fail, the Cowboys fail to meet those expectations.

That wasn't the case in 2010. Most people weren't entirely sure what to make of the Cowboys heading in to 2010, and they shocked the world by winning 11 games and tying for the Big 12 South. The Cowboys were a 47-41 loss to Oklahoma -- one of the most entertaining games of the season -- away from the final Big 12 Championship Game.

It was the most explosive offense in the Big 12, leading the conference with 75 plays of 20 yards or more and in points per game with 44.2. So since it was the offense that brought so much success to the school, it's vital that the offense maintains its performance in 2011 if Oklahoma State is finally going to win the smaller Big 12.

On the surface, this shouldn't be that difficult to do. After all, both quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon are back. Those two paired up 111 times in 2010 for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. Making things even better, all five of Oklahoma State's starters on the offensive line are back as well.

So this should all work out, right? The two biggest playmakers on offense are back, and so is the entire offensive line. Piece of cake!

Yes, well, the man who designed the offense those guys thrived in isn't. Dana Holgorsen has moved on to West Virginia, where he awaits a head coaching job. Replacing him in Stillwater is Todd Monken.

Monken comes to Oklahoma State from the NFL, where he spent last season as the quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this isn't his first time in Stillwater. Monken was the Cowboys passing-game coordinator and receivers coach from 2002 to 2004 under Les Miles. He then left with Miles to go to LSU for a few seasons before leaving for the Jaguars.

Can Monken maintain what Holgorsen started last season?

He certainly plans on trying, and it seems Monken is no fool. He saw how well the offense worked last season, and he knows all the key components are back, so he's said he has no plans on changing anything. He'll run the same system that Holgorsen ran.

The question is whether or not he can develop the same feel for it as Holgorsen had. So when spring practice begins for the Cowboys on Monday, it will be an odd situation.
Instead of watching the players and seeing how well they grasp the offense, everybody will be keeping their eye on the man now calling the plays. Practice isn't just for the players after all.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:19 pm
 

Heisman talk should talk about defense

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Pop quiz, hotshot: who had the higher (public )* vote total in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting, Stanford fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic or DaQuan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson ... combined?

Since we're asking the question in the first place, you can probably guess that the answer is Marecic, who collected three first-place votes and 16 points, while arguably the three best defenders in the country totaled just one confirmed second-place nod and a smattering of third-place votes. This post isn't about Marecic (though we would like to take a moment to condemn his attention-seeking supporters like David Whitley , who decided that thanks to Cam Newton, they were justified turning the voting for "most outstanding" into a holier-than-thou morality play), since the question that needs answering isn't Why did Marecic get so much support? but Why do even the best defenders in college football get so little Heisman love?

It appeared things might be changing in 2009, when Ndamukong Suh finished fourth , coming as close as any defensive player since Charles Woodson to claiming the award. But after a year in which even a Lombardi Award- winner playing for the national champions couldn't get more than a few token mentions, it appears that defenders aren't actually any closer to full Heisman citizenship.

That point was driven home by the 2011 Heisman watch list released today by popular Heisman-tracking site Heisman Pundit. No one will argue that superstars like Andrew Luck or LaMichael James don't deserve their status as front-runners, or that superb skill-position talents like Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon haven't earned their spots on the list. But of the 22 players mentioned by Heisman Pundit, every one is a running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Given the Heisman's track record, yes, those are probably the 22 most likely candidates for the coming season, but shouldn't the conversation surrounding the game's "most outstanding" player at least consider those guys on the other side of the ball?

So in that spirit, we offer five defensive players that deserve to enter 2011 as part of the Heisman talk, our own defense-only "Watch List":

Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: The senior ably filled Suh's shoes as the central anchor for one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, and will likely begin this fall bearing "the country's best defensive tackle" billing.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron's already been dotting All-American teams for two seasons, and as the highest-profile player on a loaded Tide defense that should keep Nick Saban and Co. in national title contention throughout the season, he'll have plenty of opportunity to put his name in the Heisman hat.

Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Barron, Carder (pictured) should benefit from being the best, most-recognized player on a defense itself widely recognized as one of the nation's best; his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl defeat of Wisconsin won't hurt him, either.

Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: The only defender to ever win the Heisman did so not only blanketing receivers at corner, but returning punts and kickoffs for highlight reel-touchdowns; if Harris can continue doing the same for Oregon as the Ducks win a third straight Pac-12 title, he'll draw his fair share of attention.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A wildcard, but if the Fighting Irish (and specifically, the Fighting Irish defense) take the quantum leap forward many expect, the former five-star recruit and budding star could find himself the media-friendly face of the Irish's latest "Return to Glory."

Honorable mention: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma; Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall; Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College.

*The Heisman only makes official the ballot totals for the top 10 vote-getters, but the site StiffArmTrophy.com compiles all available public votes, including (in this case) those few cast for Peterson, Bowers, or Fairley.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 6:39 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 3:36 pm
 

OK State hires Todd Monken as new O-coordinator

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Not many coaches left behind bigger shoes to fill this offseason than Dana Holgorsen, the man behind the Oklahoma State offense ranked No. 3 in the country last season. Now we know the man who's going to do his best to fill them.

The Cowboys and head coach Mike Gundy announced today that that man is Jacksonville Jaguars assistant coach Todd Monken, who had coached the Jaguar wideouts for the previous four seasons and had just been promoted to the team's quarterback coaching position for 2011. Monken has experience in Stillwater, having coached receivers for Les Miles from 2002 to 2004 before moving with Miles to LSU.

While Monken's position coaching resume (and Big 12 and SEC experience) is impressive, he's only spent two years as a coordinator at the college level, running the Eastern Michigan attack all the way back in 1998 and 1999. Going 12 years between calling plays might mean that Monken will have to knock some of the rust off. Monken also comes to OSU without a single firm offensive identity; as he says in this Q&A , he's worked in several different offensive systems and is "flexible" above anything else.

But the good news for Cowboys fans is that if Gundy believes Monken can adapt to the Cowboy's trademark spread and help keep it humming, there's an excellent chance he'll do just that. Gundy's track record as a hirer of offensive coordinators is outstanding, with Larry Fedora and Holgorsen both moving onto head coaching jobs after smashingly successful tenures in Stillwater. Between Gundy's expertise, Monken's experience, and weapons like Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys shouldn't see too big a slip on offense ... no matter how big Holgorsen's shoes might be.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com