Posted on: January 14, 2011 12:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Earlier today, our own Dennis Dodd posted his pre-preseason top 25 for the 2011 college football season. We here at the College Football Blog wouldn't dare disagree with our esteemed colleague's opinions ... but every year there's teams that vastly exceed the expectations of even the wisest prognosticators (like, say, Auburn in 2010) and some that disappoint despite some seemingly major advantages (like, say, Iowa in 2010).
So later today we'll name five more teams we think can crack Dodd's top 25 next season, and right now we'll name five that are in his top 25 that might slip out ... or, at least, fail to live up to where they're currently placed. Without further ado (and in no particular order):
1. Auburn (15). Slipping from first to 15th already seems like quite a slide, but the Tigers' losses are so major they could easily fall even further. The offensive line loses four starters representing approximately 200 collective career starts; Nick Fairley's departure is only the capper for an entire defensive tackle rotation that must be replaced; Auburn's two best linebackers are graduated, along with the best corner and best safety; and, oh yeah, that Cam Newton guy will be replaced by either a redshirt junior who's never started a game (Barrett Trotter) or a true freshman (Kiehl Frazier). The schedule also turns nasty, with this year's home dates against South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia all on the road. Gus Malzahn's continued presence means Auburn will have a fighting chance of getting back to eight or nine wins, but a bad break here or there could leave Gene Chizik's bunch outside the top 25 entirely.
2. Michigan State (9). The Spartans lived on the margins somewhat in 2010, needing big late comebacks to beat teams like Northwestern and Purdue while stumbling badly against more talented teams like Iowa and Alabama. And now Mark Dantonio loses three senior offensive linemen, soul-of-the-defense All-American linebacker Greg Jones, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took the vacant Miami (Ohio) head coaching position. For a team that may have already been not-quite-as-good as their record, those are big blows.
3. South Carolina (17). Their appearance on this list isn't necessarily about the Gamecocks themselves, though the losses of end Cliff Matthews on defense and guard Garrett Chisolm on offense will be larger than people think. It's about their SEC divisional rivals at Florida and Georgia bouncing back from subpar seasons, and a schedule that hands them tough road trips to Athens, Knoxville, Starkville, and Fayetteville. It's the sort of slate that likely has four losses on it lurking somewhere.
4. Northwestern (24). We love the plucky Wildcats as much as anyone, but the way the 'Cats were memorably run over at Wrigley by Illinois, it's hard to see them being physical enough to make that much headway in the new-and-improved Big Ten. Five of their seven 2010 wins came by a total of just 15 points, and for a quarterback whose underrated running skills are as much a part of his success as his throwing accuracy, Dan Persa's Achilles injury is a killer.
5. Oklahoma State (7). OK, so with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon back and the Big 12 South not yet back to its 2008 glory days, it's not likely for the Cowboys to slip all the way out of the top 25. But the Cowboys haven't always done well with the kind of expectations they'll be dealing with in 2011, the defense still needs major work, and without Kendall Hunter the Pokes will have to work to ensure the running game can keep opponents from simply blanketing the Weeden-to-Blackmon connection. But the biggest loss by far is Dana Holgorsen, without whom the 2009 Cowboy offense was shut out by Oklahoma even with weapons like Hunter and Zac Robinson around. If Mike Gundy doesn't find a quailty replacement, the Cowboys may wind up as 2011's most overrated team.
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Big 12, Big Ten, Brandon Weeden, Cam Newton, Cliff Matthews, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, Don Treadwell, Florida, Garrett Chisolm, Gene Chizik, Georgia, Greg Jones, Gus Malzahn, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter, Kiehl Frazier, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Nick Fairley, Northwestern, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, South Carolina, Zac Robinson
Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:06 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Okay, get the "you mean he'll be paid more to play" jokes out of the way now. In an announcement that should come as a shock to absolutely nobody who has paid an ounce of attention to college football this season, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is leaving school to enter the NFL draft. Auburn released a statement on Thursday night confirming the news.
"This decision was difficult for me and my family," Newton said in the release. "After talking to Coach Chizik and Coach Malzahn, I think it is best that I make that next step in my career and forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft. It was a very hard decision for me, especially after coming off the great season we had at Auburn. I'm blessed to have been around an excellent environment and have great teammates, coaches and support from the Auburn family.
"It's been a blessing for me to be a part of something so great. Any time you win games it's a big deal, but for this school to win a BCS National Championship, what a way to make people happy. Auburn is a special place that I can call home."
There was no reason for Newton to stick around Auburn. He's already won the Heisman Trophy and a BCS title, and with that whole NCAA investigation looming over his head, why would he bother dealing with another year of the allegations?
Of course, this does present a bit of a problem for Auburn. Without Newton around, the Tigers aren't going to be ranked number one to start next season, and they may not even be in the top ten. Especially when you consider that Auburn will likely be without its best defensive player next season as well. Nick Fairley will be making an announcement about his draft status on Friday, and you generally don't hold press conferences at your high school when you intend on returning to college for another season.
Posted on: January 11, 2011 2:04 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 3:10 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
This is uncomfortable, so let's just get it out of the way right now: Cam Newton did not win this game for Auburn. Oh, he made some good plays, and his overall numbers -- 20-34, 265 yards, 2 TD, INT, 22 rushes, 65 yards -- are certainly respectable. The fact is, though, that this game was only close because Newton missed two wide-open first-half touchdowns that could have blown the game open, and neither drive ended in points. Newton then injured his shoulder during the second half, and turned into a shell of his normal self. While he doesn't deserve a ton of scorn for his late fumble that let Oregon back into the game -- if a ball gets punched out from behind like that by someone you don't even see, well, what were you supposed to do? -- if Newton weren't running tentatively to begin with on account of that sore shoulder, does Casey Matthews still catch him from behind?
No, if anyone on the Auburn offense deserves praise, it's true freshman tailback Michael Dyer. Dyer put the team on his back in the second half, and finished with 143 yards (96 of which came in the second half) on 22 carries. Dyer wore Oregon's smallish defense down over the course of the game, and his roll over an Oregon defender on the last drive of the game led to a 37-yard gain that put Auburn in position to win the game. Again: he's a true freshman. That the SEC gets both him and Marcus Lattimore for two more years is, well, kind of unfair. Final Grade: B
Nick Fairley has a lot to learn about on-field maturity, but as a defensive tackle, he is an absolute nightmare to block. Fairley was instrumental in the Tigers' ability to control the line of scrimmage, registering three tackles for a loss, forcing numerous hurried throws, and opening up opportunities for his teammates when he drew double-teams. His draft stock skyrocketed today, even after a dumb (but not uncharacteristic) personal foul penalty for shoving LaMichael James in the facemask well after a play was dead.
Still, Oregon only rushed for 75 yards on 32 carries -- less than a quarter of the Ducks' rushing average coming into the game. It was the first time since last season's opener against Boise State that Oregon hadn't rushed for over 100 yards in a game. That is dominance. The 374 passing yards allowed? Not so dominant, of course, but Auburn spent the entire year getting shredded through the air and it never mattered. Same goes for tonight. Final Grade: B
Wes Bynum wasn't particularly challenged by his field goals, which is a good thing, and he put all his kickoffs to the goal line. Oregon got no free yards from poor kickoffs, and Auburn's punting was equally inhospitable -- Ryan Shoemaker put three punts inside the 20, had no touchbacks, and allowed only six punt return yards. In close games, details matter, and Auburn took care of the details on special teams tonight. Final Grade: A
For all the follies that usually surround collegiate game management, Gene Chizik did a very good job today. He let Gus Malzahn call an aggressive game without trying anything insane on offense, and none of his playcalls were worthy of scorn -- even that botched 4th and goal was a great call, and nobody was anywhere close to Eric Smith. Newton just failed to get the ball to him, for whatever reason. Speaking of Smith, though, his cheap shot on Dion Jordan that left the Duck bloodied near his eye was an outright disgrace, and he shouldn't have been allowed back on the field by the referees or by coaches. Smith would be injured early in the second half, rendering the point moot, but he shouldn't have been out there anymore in the first place. That's really the only gripe, though. Final Grade: A-
Auburn is your 2011 BCS Champion, and it achieved that by playing a team game. The secondary got torched at times, but the defense stiffened up as a whole in the red zone. Auburn's gameplan evolved nicely over the course of the game, adjusting for Newton's aches on the fly without completely neutralizing him. The game was sloppy at times, and closer than it had any right to be, but it was also scintillating at its peaks and Auburn was obviously a big reason why. Congratulations to Newton, Fairley, and the rest of the perfectly imperfect Auburn Tigers for their national championship. Final Grade: B+
Tags: 2011 BCS Championship, Auburn, Auburn BCS Championship, Auburn BCS Grades, Auburn Championship, Auburn Cheap Shot, BCS Championship, BCS Championship Bowl Grades, BCS Championship Game Cheap Shot, BCS Championship Grades, Bowl Grades, Cam Newton, Casey Matthews, Dion Jordan, Eric Smith, Eric Smith Cheap Shot, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Michael Dyer, Nick Fairley, Oregon, Pac-10, Ryan Shemaker, SEC, South Carolina, Team Grades, Wes Bynum
Posted on: December 31, 2010 12:04 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
We're only two days removed from Ralph Friedgen's final game at Maryland, a 51-20 throttling of East Carolina in the Military Bowl, and it seems as though Maryland is on the verge of finding its next head coach. Mike Leach had been on campus both Wednesday and Thursday, looking around and interviewing with both athletic director Kevin Anderson and school president Wallace Loh.
While the Baltimore Sun say that no offer has been extended to Leach as of yet, according to the Washington Post the interviews "went well," and a report from College Football Talk says that an offer "could and should" be extended to Leach before the weekend is over, and he "appears to be the front runner" at the moment.
Which means that we may be only a few days away from everybody's favorite pirate returning to the sidelines.
Of course, Leach's name isn't the only one that has come up in connection with the Maryland job. While he may be considered the odds on favorite to land the gig at this point, names like Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Randy Edsall (is there a coaching vacancy in which Edsall's name doesn't come up?) are also considered candidates for the job.
Posted on: December 28, 2010 9:30 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Poor Auburn fans. They thought they were out of the woods. Earlier this month offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was reportedly very close to accepting an offer to take the head coaching job at Vanderbilt before ultimately deciding to accept a raise and contract extension to stay at Auburn. This caused Auburn fans to wipe the sweat off their brow, yell "War Eagle" and give each other high fives.
Start sweating again, Auburn fans.
Comcast SportsNet's Chick Hernandez reports that Maryland's athletic director Kevin Anderson and part of his search committee have met with several candidates for the position of Maryland's Head Football Coach.
Hernandez reports that the committee has met with Mike Leach, who Anderson mentioned in his press conference announcing Ralph Friedgen's buy-out, June Jones, the current head coach of SMU, and Gus Malzhan, the offensive coordinator at Auburn. Both Jones and Malzhan are coaching their respective teams in upcoming bowl games.
Jones, who did interview with Maryland, has already turned down the chance to take the job. According to his agent Leigh Steinberg, Jones is just TOO GOOD OF A HUMAN BEING to leave SMU right now, even though they offered an apparent pay raise. Which means that Maryland's offer just wasn't enough.
Of course, to pry Malzahn away from Auburn, any offer Maryland makes will have to be considerable as well. After all, that extension Malzahn signed will pay him seven figures. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how GOOD OF A HUMAN BEING Malzahn is.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 11:48 am
Edited on: December 14, 2010 12:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The time between the announcement that Will Muschamp had become the new Florida head coach and the rumor that he'd be bringing fellow Texas staff member and former Alabama offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along as his offensive coordinator was so small you'd have to measure it in nanoseconds.
But like so many other assumptions made during the coaching carousel's silly season, it turns out a gun was being jumped , as the Gainesville Sun is reporting that Applewhite has either decided to turn Muschamp down -- with the departure of Greg Davis at Texas, he could be in line for a promotion in Austin -- or Muschamp has decided to go in a different direction. Either way, Applewhite won't be coming to Gainesville.
If that's despite overtures from Muschamp, the Gators might be receiving a blessing the disguise. Though Florida has enough raw offensive talent that virtually anyone who isn't Steve Addazio could turn them into a functional attack, Gator fans spoiled by the Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow years likely won't settle for "functional," and unless Muschamp's defense is truly terrifying, "functional" won't win the championships the Gators have become accustomed to, either. Applewhite already has a long and promising career as a position coach, but his turn at the Tide's wheel was anything but revelatory, as Alabama limped in at 75th in total offense that season and (by most accounts out of Tuscaloosa) was only saved from demotion by his move to a lower-rung position in Austin.
Though Applewhite may have learned enough from his one season as a play-caller and his last couple of years under Mack Brown to succeed in his next attempt in the coordinator's chair, there's no question he'd be something of an unknown quantity. This being Florida, the Gators likely don't have to settle for an unknown quantity. Though Dana Holgorsen may be looking elsewhere and Auburn has probably wrapped up Gus Malzahn for at least this offseason, Muschamp should just about have his pick of the rest of the nation's OC's. Applewhite may, in fact, be a good choice ... but from here, it still seems the Gators can do better.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 10:55 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We'll forgive you if you want to take this Washington Post report concerning the vacant Vanderbilt head coaching position with enough salt to make the Morton girl jealous, what with their last effort -- you know, the one that said the Commodores only had to iron out the details before Gus Malzahn took the job -- not exactly standing as a beacon of journalism.
All the same, there's no doubt a reporter writing under a blog named "Terrapins Insider" has better sources on the Maryland end than the Vandy end, and so it's best to pay attention when he writes this:
This would make a lot of sense for Vandy: Franklin was by all accounts their second choice all along, and if he's not bothered by the school's preference for Malzahn -- and why would he, given that he can now demand a salary at least in the same ballpark as the 'Dores blockbuster offer to Malzahn, reportedly in the neighborhood of a guaranteed $15 million over five years -- there's no reason to start the search over again elsewhere.
It also makes a lot of sense for Franklin, who no doubt had little interest in remaining behind Ralph Friedgen for another year in College Park and will be bagging a hefty raise in the process. Put both sides together, and there's no reason to think the WaPo is crying wolf at us again.
Franklin's departure also probably signals the end of the coach-in-waiting trend for good; with two high-profile desertions out of the coaching on-deck circle this week coming on the heels of last offseason's acrimonious Bobby Bowden departure and the NCAA's restrictions on the coach-in-waiting's recruiting efforts, at this point the potential boost to staff continuity doesn't appear to be worth the headaches that come with it.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 2:10 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 5:01 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
UPDATE: Auburn has confirmed that Malzahn will be staying at the school, and he's gotten himself a raise and a contract extension to boot.
It looks like there is more to life than money after all.
After reports surfaced over the weekend that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had accepted an offer that would pay him $3 million a year to be the new head coach at Vanderbilt -- reports that later became the offer has been made but Malzahn hadn't accepted anything -- it looks like Malzahn will be staying at Auburn for at least another season.
However, after contacting the Auburn athletic department, the school could neither confirm or deny that this report is accurate.
Obviously, if the report is correct, this is a bit of a blow to Vanderbilt, who seemed to think that Malzahn was coming. Or, at the least, was really hoping he would come. Instead the Commodores will have to turn their attention elsewhere, perhaps to Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin.
On the flip side, this is good news for Auburn and Gene Chizik. Not having Cam Newton in 2011 would be a big enough obstacle to overcome, and losing the mastermind behind the Auburn offensive attack would have only made things worse. Of course, just because Malzahn has turned down Vanderbilt, that doesn't mean it's a certainty he'll be back at Auburn next season. After all, there are other coaching vacancies out there, and it's obvious that becoming a head coach is Malzahn's ultimate goal.
The question at this point becomes does the Pitt job hold any appeal to him, or will he prefer to stay at Auburn for another season and see what opens up next year.