Tag:Penn State
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 6:20 pm
 

CFB Coaching Changes One-Stop Shop

Posted by the Eye on College Football bloggers

Looking for one place with all the latest on the 2011 college football coaching changes, organized by conference and job? This is that place.

ACC

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT: Butch Davis, who lasted four seasons with the Tar Heels before he was fired by Chancellor Holden Thorp July 27, just days before the opening of training camp. Davis accumulated a 64-43 record and took UNC to three bowl games, but was dismissed when the NCAA discovered rampant violations within the football program.

IN: Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora, who took home the 2011 Conference USA title with an 11-2 record and compiled a 33-19 overall mark in Hattiesburg. His Golden Eagle offense set a school record for yards in his very first game and finished in the FBS top 20 in total offense three of his four years.

WHAT WE THINK: Fedora is about to offer the Tar Heels the most exciting, high-scoring offense Chapel Hill has seen in some time; his offenses both in his coordinating tenure at Oklahoma State and at USM have been far too explosive, far too consistently, to think his acumen won't translate to the ACC. But we're not sure this is quite a smash hire, since Fedora's teams often struggled as badly on defense as they succeeded on offense and regularly suffered stunning upset losses. Was a coach carrying a three-game losing streak to UAB the best Carolina could do?

BIG 12

KANSAS

OUT: Turner Gill, after serving only two years of the five-year $10 million contract he signed before the 2010 season. Gill only won 1 game in the Big 12, and lost 10 games total by 30 or more points.

IN: In the most stunning hire of the 2011 coaching carousel so far, Charlie Weis is your new Jayhawk head man. After making his mark as the offensive coordinator of Bill Belichick's great New England Patriots teams, Weis coached Notre Dame to a 35-27 mark over five turbulent seasons between 2005 and 2009. He spent the 2011 season as Florida's offensive coordinator, to mixed reviews.

WHAT WE THINK: Contrary to popular opinion, Weis hasn't been a total failure as a collegiate coach; when given the strong-armed passers necessary to run his preferred aerial pro-style schemes, his Irish offenses were among the nation's best. The question is whether Weis can ever find such a quarterback in Lawrence, or whether he can avoid the multiple other pitfalls -- poor development of fundamentals, questionable defensive schemes, lack of a running game -- that submarined his Notre Dame tenure. It seems like a longshot, but it's hard to blame a desperate Kansas program for taking a gamble this splashy.

TEXAS A&M

Out: Mike Sherman, who was fired following his fourth season with the Aggies, going 25-25 in his time at the school. He was done in by failed expectations after the Aggies began the season ranked in the top ten thanks to 19 returning starters on a team that finished the 2010 season strong.

IN: Houston's Kevin Sumlin began the Aggies' search as their No. 1 candidate, and he finished it as their No. 1 candidate. Sumlin's four years at the Cougar helm produced a 35-17 record and were arguably the best four-year stretch in school history, as UH won its first bowl game since 1980 and only missed the postseason once (that when Case Keenum went down with injury).

WHAT WE THINK: Sumlin has overseen explosive "Air Raid"-style offenses at every step of his career (including stops at A&M and Oklahoma before moving to Houston with then-head coach Art Briles). With coordinator Kliff Kingsbury in tow and loads of offensive talent in College Station, expect that to continue. But it'll take more than a great offense to win in the SEC, and Sumlin never got enough done on defense to even win a Conference USA title. The jury remains out on his potential at the SEC level.

BIG TEN

ILLINOIS

OUT: Ron Zook, who survived for seven years before a 6-game losing streak wiped out a 6-game winning streak in 2011 and led to his dismissal on November 28. Zook leaves with a 34-50 (18-38) record at Illinois, and a 57-64 overall head coaching record.

IN: Toledo head coach Tim Beckman has agreed to be the Illini's next head coach. After a successful string of assistant's jobs (including stops at Oklahoma State and Ohio State), Beckman took over a flailing Rocket program and took them to winning seasons and bowl berths in both 2010 and 2011.

WHAT WE THINK: There's no doubting the impressive work Beckman did at Toledo, where the formerly sad-sack Rockets were a handful of plays from winning 10 or even 11 games this season. (Of their four losses, three came by a total of 11 points.) His spread scheme -- and its reliance on a dual-threat QB -- seems a good fit for the Illini's personnel, too. But the porous Rocket defense was a disappointment, and how he'll recruit in Champaign is anyone's guess; this looks like a solid double than a home run. 

PENN STATE

OUT: Joe Paterno, after 46 years at the head of the Penn State program and over 60 years involved with the Nittany Lions in some respect. Paterno was fired in the wake of a scandal concerning the coverup of child sexual assault charges against former longtime PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

IN: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is expected to be hired by Penn State by the weekend, though he will remain the Patriots' OC until the end of their playoff run. 

WHAT WE THINK: The PSU search was doomed from the start by the circumstances surrounding the Sandusky scandal, up to and including the fact that the school does not have a permanent athletic director serving at this point. O'Brien is young and talented, but this may be a coaching task with odds too long for anyone that might want the job.

OHIO STATE

OUT: Jim Tressel, who was forced to resign after it was revealed he withheld knowledge of a widespread pattern of impermissible benefits going to his football players. Tressel had been with Ohio State for 10 years, going for a 94-22 record (106-22 before 12 wins from 2010 were vacated) and three BCS Championship Game appearances in that span. 

IN AND OUT: Luke Fickell, who had been the defensive line coach and Jim Tressel's assistant head coach, assumed the role of head coach for the football team in 2010 after Tressel's departure. Fickell was often erroneously referred to as the interim head coach; the "interim" tag was taken off his job title before the season started. Fickell guided the Buckeyes to a 6-6 record in 2011, including a 33-29 victory over highly-ranked Wisconsin, all while breaking in talented QB Braxton Miller as a true freshman.

IN: Urban Meyer, announced as the next head coach of Ohio State at a Monday press conference. Fickell will coach the team through whichever bowl game it attends, while Meyer will be focused on recruiting and building his next coaching staff. After the bowl, Meyer will assume the head coaching role while Fickell will join Meyer's staff in an as yet undetermined role. This is Meyer's first coaching gig since he resigned from Florida in December 2010, citing health concerns.

WHAT WE THINK: Concerns over his health and potential longevity in the job notwithstanding, any hire that brings aboard a coach who won two national titles in just six years at his last stop certainly meets the definition of a "home run." 

PAC-12

UCLA

OUT: Rick Neuheisel, forced out after four years at his alma mater, during which he compiled a 21-28 record. Neuheisel went 0-4 vs. archrivals USC, losing by a combined score of 134-28.
IN:
Former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawk head coach Jim L. Mora, the first Bruin head coach since 1949 to take the job without having been a former UCLA assistant or player. More spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons as an NFL Network analyst after compiling a 32-34 record with the Falcons and Seahawks.

WHAT WE THINK: Well, hiring a failed-but-energetic former NFL coach worked for the Bruins' crosstown rivals, didn't it? But Pete Carroll is the rare exception among a long string of pro coaches turned mediocre college head men, and Mora's total lack of experience in the amateur ranks -- his only season of college coaching came a grad assistant at Washington in 1984 -- doesn't seem to suggest he's going to buck the trend. But his charisma and NFL experience should make him a decent recruiter in the L.A. area; can he translate that to on-field success?
 

ARIZONA STATE

OUT: Dennis Erickson, fired following a loss to Cal that dropped the pre-season Pac-12 South favorites to 6-6. He went 31-30 five years at Arizona State with only one winning conference record.

IN: In a shocker, Pitt head coach Todd Graham, who left the Panthers for Tempe Dec. 14 after one 6-6 season. Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Graham spent four seasons as the head coach at Tulsa, going 36-17 and winning three divisional Conference USA titles. The Devils job will be Graham's fourth in six seasons.

WHAT WE THINK: We know the Sun Devils had to be getting desperate; we know Graham's up-tempo offense should both fit in well in the Pac-12 and -- if successful -- help sell a few tickets; we know Graham still has those outstanding years at Tulsa on his resume. But scrape that away and you're left with ASU firing Erickson for going a disappointing 6-6 only to hire a coach who also went a disappointing 6-6, and this coach now comes with a dyed-in-the-wool reputation for job-hopping and back-stabbing. How was this a better choice than June Jones, again?

ARIZONA

OUT: Mike Stoops, fired Oct. 10, following a loss to previously winless Oregon State on the road. He left with a 41-50 record in eight seasons with the Wildcats.

IN: Rich Rodriguez, former Michigan and West Virginia head coach and CBS Sports analyst. Hired November 21, he compiled a 75-48 record at his previous two coaching stops and took the Mountaineers to two BCS bowls.

WHAT WE THINK: AD Greg Byrne took his time with the coaching search after dismissing Stoops but was able to zero in on RichRod after talking to several people in the college football world and local high school coaches. He brings a fast-paced, spread offense to a league full of them and should fit right in the Pac-12 despite his lack of West Coast ties. With facilities being upgraded and an engaging personality at head coach, the future is looking bright in Tuscon--if Rodriguez can hire a top-notch defensive coordinator.

WASHINGTON STATE

OUT: Paul Wulff,
dimissed Nov. 29 after posting the lowest win percentage of any coach in Cougar history at just 9-40 overall. Wulff failed to win more than two Pac-12 games in any of his four seasons.

IN: Mike Leach, who CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman reported accepted the job Wednesday. Leach brings an 84-43 record from 10 years spent as the head coach at Texas Tech, a decade which saw him produce some of the game's most explosive offenses (and porous defenses), earned him recognition as one of college football's brightest, most unique offensive minds, and garnered national coach of the year honors after his 11-1 season in 2008.

WHAT WE THINK: We're sympathetic for Wulff, who took over a smoldering asteroid crater of a program and little-by-little hauled it back to semi-respectability. But hiring Leach is a massive coup for athletic director Bill Moos, one that brings instant credibility to the program and should spark a huge renewal of energy in the Wazzu fanbase. Given how many other programs would have loved to have brought the pirate captain aboard, this is a smashing win for Moos and the Cougars.

SEC

OLE MISS

OUT: Houston Nutt, fired Nov. 7 after 2-6 overall and 0-6 SEC start. Lost final 14 SEC games and 16 of final 19 overall of four-year tenure.

IN: Per CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze has been offered and accepted the job. A former Rebel assistant under Ed Orgeron, Freeze took over as the Red Wolves' offensive coordinator in 2010 and was promoted to head coach in 2011, after which he led ASU to its first-ever Sun Belt championship and a 10-2 record.

WHAT WE THINK: Freeze was always the most natural fit for the job, a former Memphis high school coach who knows both the Rebel program and its local recruiting grounds inside and out. The dramatic improvement in the Red Wolves' offense on his watch suggests that the Rebels' most recent season of offensive misery should be behind them, too. So a quick return to respectability should be in order, but there's one question: can Freeze put together an SEC-caliber defense? 

BIG EAST

PITT

OUT:
Todd Graham, who accepted the Arizona State head coaching position Dec. 14, following one 6-6 season at the Panther helm.

IN: It's done: Pitt has hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Chryst has been one of the nation's hottest assistant coaches after guiding a Badger team with a grind-it-out reputation to back-to-back national top-5 finishes in scoring offense in 2010 and 2011. Chryst has no head coaching experience but has spent the last eight seasons as an OC at Oregon State and Wisconsin.

WHAT WE THINK: For all of Steve Pederson's past failures on the head coaching hiring front, this one looks like the furthest thing from a Steve Callahan or, well, Todd Graham. Chryst's offenses have always been supremely well-coached, rock-solid in their identity as a run-first-run-second attack, and hyper-efficient in the passing game. While finding the Badgers' caliber of offensive linemen won't be easy, Chryst should be able to unearth a Scott Tolzien or Nick Toon at Pitt without much trouble. If Chryst learned anything from Bret Bielema about hiring the right defensive staff, Graham's bolt job should leave Pitt better off in the end.

RUTGERS

OUT:
In arguably the biggest shocker on this list -- given its timing, a week before signing day -- Greg Schiano has left to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching position. Schiano leaves with a 68-67 record over 11 years with the Scarlet Knights and five straight bowl wins, a remarkable accomplishment given the program's downtrodden status when Schiano arrived.

IN: Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights' offensive line coach since 2005. Since Flood's arrival, Rutgers has endured just one losing season as his lines have consistently ranked among the best in the Big East.

WHAT WE THINK: Flood appears to be a natural leader -- the school wasted no time in naming him the interim coach following Schiano's departure -- and the connection he enjoys with his players is obvious both in their reaction to his hire and the team's late surge on the recruiting trail. But Flood is, to date, also a career assistant who hadn't even reached the coordinating level yet. Rutgers had few options given the circumstances and Flood was likely the best of those, but the jury is as badly out as it is for any of the season's new hires.

NON-BCS

AKRON

OUT: Rob Ianello, fired Nov. 27 (on the way to his mother's funeral, no less) after consecutive 1-11 seasons. Only 2011 win came over FCS VMI.

IN: None other than Terry Bowden, making his long-awaited return to Division I football after a 13-year absence. Bowden comes to Akron from North Alabama, where he led the D-II Lions to three straight playoff appearances, but is best known for his six-year tenure at Auburn, where he went 47-17-1 with one undefeated season.

WHAT WE THINK: Considering the depths to which the Zips sunk under Ianello -- they stand alone as the only FBS team to record one total win over FBS competition over the past two seasons -- they could have done a lot worse than Bowden, who brings instant name recognition and credibility (and a fine track record of program-resuscitation to boot). But Bowden's ties to the Midwest recruiting scene are tenuous at best, and he's been out of the FBS game a long time; former Zip assistant and current Wayne State head coach Paul Winters would have been the safer choice, even if Bowden may yet prove to be the better one. 

FLORIDA ATLANTIC

OUT: program patriarch and coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger, who announced his retirement in August after 11 seasons in Boca Raton. He is the only head coach in the Owls' brief football history.

IN: Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini will be the Owls' next head coach, as CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy reported Dec. 1. Pelini has no college head coaching experience but has overseen some of the nation's best defenses during his Lincoln tenure and -- based on his energetic sideline presence -- should have no lack of enthusiasm for the job.

WHAT WE THINK:  For a program with as little tradition and recent success as the Owls, hiring a nationally recognized name like Pelini is quite the coup. Pelini has been his brother Bo Pelini's right-hand man ever since Bo took over the Huskers and Carl should have little problem transitioning to the head coaching ranks. The lone issue: defense hasn't been the Owls' primary issue the past two (awful) seasons, and Pelini's almost exclusively a defensive coach. A solid offensive coordinating hire is a must.

MEMPHIS

OUT: Larry Porter, fired Nov. 27 after a 3-21 record over two seasons, 10 of those 21 losses coming by 35 or more points.

IN: Justin Fuente, co-offensive coordinator at TCU since 2009. The Frogs set school records in yards and points each of his first two seasons as play-caller, including the undefeated 2010 campaign, and have finished in the FBS top 12 in yards per-play all three years.

WHAT WE THINK: For being a program as downtrodden as Memphis, the Tigers' final two of Fuente and Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain was impressive in and of itself, with Fuente bringing the gaudier offensive resume and McElwain the bigger name-brand. Fuente's offensive track record and youthful energy should get Memphis out of the C-USA cellar at the minimum, but whether he'll recruit or defend well enough to do more remains to be seen.

NEW MEXICO

OUT: Mike Locksley, fired Sept. 25, a day after a recruit was arrested and charged with DWI while driving a car registered to Locksley. He left with a 2-26 record at the Lobos' helm.

IN: Bob Davie, former Notre Dame head coach and longtime ESPN analyst. Hired November 16, Davie hasn't coached since 2001 but went 35-25 in his five years in South Bend.

WHAT WE THINK: The marriage of a program that desperately needs a burst of energy/enthusiasm and a 57 year-old coach who hasn't been on a sideline in a decade is an odd one. But Davie didn't rise to the Irish head coaching position by being an idiot, and his name recognition and classiness should bring some dignity back to a program stinging from a long string of embarrassments under Locksley. Could the Lobos really have done much better?

TULANE

OUT: Bob Toledo, who "mutually agreed" to resign Oct. 15 after four and a half years at the Green Wave helm, during which he compiled a 15-40 record.

IN: New Orleans Saints receivers coach Curtis Johnson is the choice. A New Orleans native and local high school graduate, Johnson has spent five seasons with the Saints after nine as a receivers coach at Miami, tutoring the likes of Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson.

WHAT WE THINK:
It's hard to imagine a candidate with closer ties to the New Orleans community or one with more immediate credibility on the local recruiting trail, and Johnson's Saints colleagues (including Sean Payton) have said he's ready for a head coaching position. But the track record of NFL assistants turned college head coaches who haven't had so much as a coordinator's job have a spotty track record, at best. Johnson could be the Green Wave's Doug Marrone ... or its Tim Brewster.

UAB

OUT: Neil Callaway, who "resigned" Nov. 27 after his first head coaching job produced an 18-42 record over five seasons.

IN: Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee is the choice after helping guide the Razorback offense to top-two finishes in the SEC in back-to-back seasons (not to mention a pair of 10-2 records). McGee is a finalist for this year's Broyles Award and enjoyed two productive years as the OC at Northwestern before joining Bobby Petrino's Razorback staff. 

WHAT WE THINK: Corralling an experienced, highly respected SEC-level coordinator is quite an accomplishment for a program with as little track record of success as UAB's--not to mention their major issues in facilities quality and fan support. We don't know if McGee will succeed or not (though the Blazers shouldn't lack for offense), but he's going to give the Blazers as much of a chance as any candidate in their pool. 

COLORADO STATE

OUT:
Per CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Steve Fairchild, who coached the Rams for four seasons but couldn't finish any better than 3-9 in any of his final three. After starting 3-1 this season, the Rams dropped their final eight, including a third straight "Border War" loss to Wyoming. 

IN:
Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who has overseen offensive improvement relative to the SEC all four of his seasons in Tuscalooa after one equally promising season as a play-caller at Fresno State. McElwain has never been a collegiate head coach.

WHAT WE THINK: McElwain's schemes aren't revolutionary and may not be quite as effective without Crimson Tide-type personnel, but that still shouldn't overshadow what he accomplished for Nick Saban--back-to-back years in the top 10 in yards per-play and three straight in the top 21 in scoring offense. Coordinators that do those those sorts of things for national championship-caliber squads typically go to much larger jobs than this one, making this a legitimate coup for the Rams.

FRESNO STATE

OUT: Pat Hill,
the dean of WAC coaches whose all-comers scheduling philosophy and BCS-level upsets arguably put Fresno football on the map. He leaves with a 112-80 overall record and 11 bowl appearances, but zero outright conference titles and a 4-9 record this season.

IN: Tim DeRuyter, current Texas A&M interim head coach and Aggie defensive coordinator, who officially took the job Dec. 14. After helping turning around previous defenses at stops like Ohio and Air Force, the California native spent two years taking the Aggies from 90th nationally in yards allowed per-play to back-to-back top-25 finishes in that statistic.

WHAT WE THINK: Though DeRuyter has often been mentioned as a bright up-and-coming coordinator since landing in College Station, he might still be underrated; A&M's up-tempo offense and the Big 12's regular shootouts have kept his total defense and scoring numbers artificially low. We like DeRuyter's first-time-head-coach energy and Cali connections as well as his 3-4 schemes, too; given Fresno's budget crunch, it's hard to imagine them having done any better than this.

HAWAII


OUT: Greg McMackin. The head coach since 2008, McMackin announced his retirement on Monday after four seasons in which his teams went 29-25 and made two bowl appearances. The team went 6-7 in 2011.

IN: Norm Chow, the Hawaii native who earned a deserved reputation as one of the college game's brightest offensive minds through years of helming devastating attacks at BYU and then USC. This is the 65-year-old's first college head coaching position.

WHAT WE THINK: If this was still 2003 or 2004, the Warriors would have just made one of the biggest, best hires of the season. But Chow's star has dimmed of late, with his UCLA tenure a total bust and Utah not seeing much in the way of results this season, either (110th in total offense). Still, Chow's certainly no dummy when it comes to offensive scheming, and in full command of his own offense at a place that's always enjoyed plenty of aerial success, the Warriors should still put up plenty of points. Chow's legendary status on the islands won't hurt recruiting, either. But at his age, how long can Chow handle the pressures of the job?

ARKANSAS STATE

OUT: The aformentioned Hugh Freeze, who took the Ole Miss head coaching position after one spectacular 10-2 season in Jonesboro, the only 10-win campaign in Sun Belt conference history.

IN: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn agreed to become the Red Wolves' new head coach Dec. 13, following a spectacular run as an assistant at Tulsa and then on the Plains that saw him turn the Golden Hurricane into the nation's No. 1 offense two years running and the Tigers into Heisman-winning national champions.

WHAT WE THINK: While the Auburn faithful are left wondering why Malzahn turned down a far more lucrative offer to coach Vanderbilt in 2010 only to bolt for a traditional Sun Belt also-ran in 2011, there's no question marks on ASU's end: they landed a native Arkansan who just-so-happens to be one of college football's brightest minds and hottest assistants, all for a salary reported to be nearly four times less than what Vandy would have paid him. It's not just a home run, it's a walk-off grand slam.

SOUTHERN MISS 

OUT: Larry Fedora, who (as you know if you read the first entry on this list) accepted the headcoaching position at North Carolina.

IN: Ellis Johnson, the just-turned-60-years-old defensive coordinator of South Carolina, named head coach Dec. 20. A former USM DC himself, Johnson has 29 years of coaching experience, including head coaching stints at Gardner-Webb and his alma mater the Citadel. 

WHAT WE THINK: With his experience recruiting in the state of Mississippi (Johnson also had a successful stint under Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State) and long track record of outstanding defenses, Johnson should fix the Eagles' persistent defensive woes sooner rather than later. But Johnson's earlier head coaching gigs were less than successful, his ideas about offense seem an oil-and-water mix with USM's established spread attack, and at his age there are inevitable questions about how much energy he'll bring to the position. A solid-but-not-spectacular hire.

TOLEDO

OUT: Tim Beckman, who has accepted the Illinois job after three outstanding seasons with the Rockets.

IN: Rocket offensive coordinator Matt Campbell has been promoted to the full head coaching position after guiding the Toledo offense to two top-15 finishes in total offense the past three years. At 32 years of age, Campbell replaces Fuente as the youngest FBS head coach.

WHAT WE THINK: Campbell had the trust and support of the Rocket players and fellow coaches, an insider's knowledge of both the program and (as an Ohio native) its recruiting grounds, all the offensive production you could want from an offensive-minded coach, and all the enthusiasm you'd expect from a 32-year-old on his first head coaching gig. The Rockets still have to repair some defensive issues to get over the hump and deliver a MAC title, but promoting Campbell looks like a no-brainer from here. 

HOUSTON

OUT: After four outstanding seasons, Kevin Sumlin, now the head coach at nearby Texas A&M.

IN: Popular associate head coach/inside receivers coach Tony Levine, promoted Dec. 21 after a brief spell as the Cougars' interim coach. Levine is in his fourth season in Houston and has also spent time as an assistant at Louisville and with the Carolina Panthers. 

WHAT WE THINK:
If it ain't broke, why fix it? Promoting Kevin Sumlin from the Cougar assistant ranks to old boss Art Briles's job worked like a charm last time Houston needed a head coach, so you can hardly fault the Cougar brass for going the same route again. Still, Levine hasn't held any title anywhere above the level of position coach; if he can't keep current UH offensive coordinator Jason Phillips in the fold, he may run into trouble.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Akron, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Bill Moos, Bob Davie, Bob Toledo, Boise State, Braxton Miller, Butch Davis, Butch Jones, Cal, Charlie Strong, Chicago Bears, Chris Hatcher, Chris Petersen, Cincinnati, Clemson, Coaching Carousel, Coaching Changes, Colorado State, Curtis Johnson, Dan Guerrero, Dan Mullen, Dennis Erickson, Doug Nussmaier, Eddie Gran, Everett Withers, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Wilson, Fresno State, Georgia Southern, Greg Byrne, Greg Schiano, Gus Malzahn, Holden Thorp, Houston, Houston Nutt, Howard Schnellenberger, Hugh Freeze, Illinois, Jason Phillips, Jeff Monken, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Leavitt, Jim McElwain, Jim McElwain, Jim Michalczik, Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno, John L. Smith, John Neal, Kansas, Kevin Sumlin, Kirby Smart, Lance Thompson, Larry Fedora, Larry Porter, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Fickell, Mark Hudspeth, Mark Stoops, Memphis, Miami, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Bellotti, Mike Haywood, Mike Leach, Mike Locksley, Mike London, Mike Martz, Mike Sherman, Mike Stoops, Mike Stoops, Mike Thomas, Mississippi State, Mountain West, Murray State, Neil Callaway, New Mexico, New Orleans Saints, Nick Saban, North Alabama, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oakland Raiders, Ohio State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Oregon State, Pat Fitzgerald, Pat Hill, Pat Narduzzi, Paul Winters, Paul Wulff, Penn State, Pitt, Randy Shannon, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Rob Ianello, Ron Zook, Sheahon Zenger, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Southern Miss, Syeve Fairchild, Tennessee, Terry Bowden, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tim Beckman, Todd Monken, Toledo, Tom Bradley, Tom Cable, Tommy Bowden, Tulane, Turner Gill, UAB, UCLA, UL-Lafayette, Urban Meyer, USC, Virginia, VMI, WAC, Washington State, Wayne State, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
 
Posted on: November 29, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Big Ten announces 2011 individual award winners

Posted by Adam Jacobi

On Monday evening, the Big Ten announced its full slate of conference award winners -- the first such slate since the Big Ten added the trophies in addition to expanding to 12 teams and two divisions.

Here's a breakdown of all the trophies handed out by the Big Ten:

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
ADAM SAYS: Wilson's resume this year is undeniably brilliant, and he's going to be in line for some national postseason recognition after finishing first nationally in passer efficiency. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, shouldered one of the conference's worst rushing attacks and still finished third in the Big Ten in efficiency and emerged as a solid ambassador for the program, conference, and sport. From a strictly on-field standpoint, Wilson deserves this award to himself, but the Big Ten named its divisions "Legends" and "Leaders"; surely it won't turn around and say its trophies should be restricted to strict on-field accomplishments, will it? All of which is to say, I'd rather the conference had thrown Cousins a bone and split this award between Wilson and him. Wilson would have been an even bigger snub than Cousins, but they're both highly deserving of recognition.

Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Marvin McNutt, Iowa
ADAM SAYS: McNutt basically rewrote Iowa's receiving record books, and he looked at times like the best player on either side of the ball for the Hawkeyes this year. That he was left off the list of 10 Biletnikoff finalists is a joke. Illinois' A.J. Jenkins was a strong contender here, but his inability to get into the end zone even once during the Illini's six-game slump seals his fate as an also-ran. 

Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
ADAM SAYS: Rex BurkheadMarcus Coker, and Silas Redd all had admirable efforts this year, but c'mon. Could this trophy possibly go to anybody else? With 1,622 rushing yards (1,870 total from scrimmage) and 34 total touchdowns, Ball is third on my list of 2011 Heisman candidates and far and away the best running back in the Big Ten this year. 

Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern
ADAM SAYS: 43 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns is a great year for a tight end (or superback, as it would be), and to do so in a season with three different quarterbacks seeing significant action is an even better accomplishment. Dunsmore was one of the three or four best TE in the nation this year and a deserving winner of the Kwalick-Clark Trophy.

Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: David Molk, Michigan
ADAM SAYS: If this award were given to entire offensive lines (which I would not mind), it would have to go to Wisconsin. At any rate, though, coming into the season, Ohio State's All-American Mike Brewster was the highest-profile center in the conference. It was Molk, however, who showed the most leadership and mashery over the course of the season. Hopefully, this award translates into All-American attention for Molk; he deserves it for the job Michigan did pushing the line of scrimmage forward on offense this year.

Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Devon Still, Penn State
ADAM SAYS: Illinois' terror at DE, Whitney Mercilus, would be the strongest contender for this award if Illinois hadn't collapsed down the stretch, but even that collapse is hardly on the aptly-named Mercilus; he led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles on the year (if Tyrann Mathieu is the honey badger for his six forced fumbles, what does that make Mercilus with nine? Galactus?). Devon Still was an absolute beast for Penn State, though, and his presence affected opposing game plans all season long. A split between Still and Mercilus would have been ideal.

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Lavonte David, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Lavonte David's been even better than I thought he'd be this year, and he was my top preseason linebacker in the conference. No-doubter here. Look for Wisconsin's Chris Borland to be the leading candidate for this award next year; the former Big Ten defensive freshman of the year was strong in his return from a torn ACL this season, and he's got two more years of eligibility.

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Purdue CB Ricardo Allen is the only guy who could make a decent case for being snubbed here, but Dennard turned this defense into an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. He deserves this award.

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: The fact that Maher was snubbed for Lou Groza consideration despite missing zero kicks from 50 yards and in this year is an absolute travesty the likes of which we haven't seen since... well, last year, when Nebraska kicker Alex Henery was also snubbed from Groza finalist consideration despite being pretty obviously the best kicker in college football. Maher's bona fides aren't as strong as Henery's, but he's still the best kicker in the Big Ten and should have been named a Groza finalist all the same.

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Oh, stop showing off, Nebraska.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 6:51 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 6:54 pm
 

PSU creates 6-man search committee for new coach

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It's been 45 years since Penn State last had to conduct a coaching search, so you'll have to excuse the school if it's a bit rusty when it comes to the process. So not surprisingly, it seems the school is approaching a type of safety in numbers approach to the process as acting athletic director Dave Joyner announced on Monday that the school has put together a six person search committee charged with finding a new head coach.

Joyner will head the committee and be joined by Linda Caldwell, Penn State’s faculty athletics representative; Charmelle Green, Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator; John Nichols, an emeritus professor who chairs the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics; Ira Lubert, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and Russ Rose, the Nittany Lions’ head volleyball coach.

Joyner said the committee will meet for the first time this week.

Former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who was first hired as head coach in 1966, was fired earlier this month in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at the school.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:49 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 13

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team(s) of the week: Everyone not in the SEC

Yeah, I said it again. Especially this week. Also note that the Pac-12 has three teams in the top 10, just as many as the SEC. Wisconsin at 15th in the AP poll also is a "no respect" team.

Overrated: Florida State

  Beating a mediocre-at-best Florida team seems to have the same effect that beating a good Florida team did. The Seminoles started the season highly ranked but have struggled most of the season in, it should be noted, a weak ACC. Also keep in mind that they just lost at home to Virginia, a team that was throttled by Virginia Tech. Maybe if they win a bowl game they can be ranked in the top 25 (coaches have them 24th, AP 25th) but not now.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  Going to miss putting Wolf in this spot once the final poll comes out. He has Arkansas 3rd and Georgia 7th on top of having Clemson ranked higher than anybody at 15 and Wisconsin lower than anybody at 21. The Badgers are just one spot ahead of Georgia Tech, which shouldn't be ranked on anybody's ballot. TCU is also three spots ahead of Baylor for an odd reason.

What were you thinking? Craig James, ESPN

  I understand why the hashtag #FireCraigJames is so popular on Twitter when looking at his AP ballot: Arkansas 3rd, Kansas State 8th (ahead of Oregon), Stanford 10th, Penn State 18th (higher than anybody), Missouri 21st, Texas 22nd, Notre Dame 23rd and BOISE STATE 24TH. 

Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 13



Posted by Bryan Fischer


There's just something about a few helpings of turkey and some good old fashioned hate for a rival football team.

As the season winds down and, in most cases, ends for teams that don't qualify for a bowl game or conference championship, rivalry week is when many schools put all the eggs in the basket to go into the offseason knowing they went out on a high note.

Because of that, there was no better scene in college football this weekend than Lexington, Kentucky.

Despite using a wide receiver at quarterback due to injuries, Kentucky still managed to pull off a win against Tennessee for the first time since 1984. On the whole, it was a disappointing year but the win over the Volunteers will give the team something positive to think about in the offseason. That AD Mitch Barnhart announced that head coach Joker Phillips would be back for sure next season also added to a historic day for the program.

The scene afterward was what college football was all about. Fans rushed the field to celebrate with players, everyone of whom had a gigantic smile on their face. That they attempted just six passes for 15 yards to win ugly didn't matter, a win is a win and this one meant more than the other four they had during the season.

Perhaps it was appropriate that the Wildcats wore black jerseys because it felt afterward like a funeral for Tennessee, who lost out on a chance to go to a bowl game with the loss. The Derek Dooley era is on shaky ground after barely beating Vanderbilt and, now, ending the streak over Kentucky. No doubt the slick-haired, orange pants wearing Dooley had to take over a difficult situation but it's still Tennessee. There are players there and the defense isn't too bad with Justin Wilcox running things but there has been zero consistency.

The losses are one thing for Dooley but the lack of wins might be the most concerning part if you're a Vols fan. He's never beaten a ranked team and has no signature victory that he can hold his hat on. You can understand why they're clamoring for his head in Knoxville.

It was a slightly different scene in College Station - except for the clamoring for the head coach's head part.

It was once again a second half to forget for Texas A&M, as they ended their final scheduled game with Texas by falling on their face. There was plenty of optimism coming in that the Aggies would get the last laugh before leaving for the SEC but it was the Longhorn players who had no problem starting up an "S-E-C!" chant following the victory.

"Sports can be really cruel," Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

After 118 meetings, it was pretty cruel for things to end that way. Kyle Field had erupted following Ryan Tannehill's pass to Jeff Fuller for a 16 yard touchdown to take the lead but was silent after Justin Tucker's 40 yard field goal sailed through the uprights.

"They played their hearts out tonight," Tucker said. "But sending them off to the SEC with a sour taste in their mouth feels pretty good."

Nothing like beating a rival.

Stat of the week

In 26 games among BCS AQ schools or ranked non-AQ schools on Saturday, just two were within seven points and the average margin of victory was 20 points.

Stats of week

- Alabama held Auburn to a 3-and-out on 7-of-10 drives and now has 72 3-and-outs in 143 opponent drives (50.3%)

- Since 2007, Tennessee and Kentucky are both 33-31. The Wildcats beat the Vols for the first time in 26 games, a span of 9,863 days. Tennessee finishes the year with consecutive losing records for the first time since 1910-11.

- Texas A&M was outscored 76-7 in the third quarter of their losses.

- Via the AP, Nebraska has nine or more wins for the 38th time in 42 seasons (90%).

 - LSU's secondary has scored as many touchdowns (6) as they've allowed.

Yard-by-yard

- Not sure if Trent Richardson helped win the Heisman with his career-high 203 yards in the Iron Bowl but he did nothing but bolster his resume. Remarkably the score at halftime was the same (24-7) as it was a year ago when some guy named Cam wiped out the deficit on the way to a championship. There would be no comeback from the Tigers this time thanks in large part to the suffocating Tide defense that allowed just 140 yards of offense. The lone bright spot for the home team was Onterio McCalebb's 83-yard kick return (the first ever in Iron Bowl history) that seemed to give the team some hope before Alabama quickly closed the door. All in all, a dominating effort for a team that has well over a month to prepare for their rematch with LSU.

- Impressive season for Louisville's Charlie Strong, who has done one of the best coaching jobs in the country by clinching at least a share of the Big East title with a win 34-24 over South Florida. Early losses, including one to FIU, seemed to show that the team was at least a year away from being in contention in the league but Strong righted the ship and freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has really come on as of late, passing for three touchdowns against USF. Amazingly, the win snapped a 16-game losing streak in the state of Florida during the regular season. That the Cardinals are in contention for a BCS bowl berth boggles the mind if you watched this team early in the year.

- You would not have expected Rex Burkhead to play against Iowa if you saw him on Monday when he had his foot in a walking boot. He shredded the boot by Saturday however and had no issues pounding away at the Hawkeyes defense, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-7 win. Surprisingly, his 38 carries were a school-record and came just a week after one of his worst games of his career against Michigan. It was just part of a punishing offensive attack against Iowa that gave the team an amazing 16 minute time of possession advantage. You can tell why Bo Pellini decided to keep things on the ground after Taylor Martinez tossed a few arm punts early in the game.

- Andrew Luck's final home game ended on a high note as he passed John Elway's school record for career touchdown passes and gave Heisman voters some more to think about. Beating a marquee opponent like Notre Dame on national television helps too, as the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime and never really lost control of the game.

- Down the road in Los Angeles, Matt Barkley made his case to be invited to New York. In what could have been his final game in cardinal and gold, he passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns on a record setting night to throttle UCLA 50-0. "One more year" chants were heard throughout the game but it was a heck of a way for USC to end their bowl ban and put an exclamation point on what has been a terrific season under Lane Kiffin. Things aren't too pretty for the other side as the Bruins were not only humiliated at the Coliseum, but likely will be blitzed just as bad in the Pac-12 Championship game. The "gap" between the two programs that Rick Neuheisel talked about being closed appeared to have never been wider than it was Saturday night.

- Tulsa was supposed to represent Houston's stiffest test of the season but the trip to Oklahoma proved to be anything but as the Cougars rolled in the second half to secure Conference USA hosting duties. As good as Case Keenum was at quarterback, Patrick Edwards was the star of the show, grabbing four touchdowns and 181 yards to break the conference career record for receiving yards. The Golden Hurricanes had been undefeated in league play but Keenum found Edwards on 4th down in the 3rd quarter and it was away they go. Houston converted several 4th downs and built up style points as Keenum threw for 457 yards and a ho-hum five touchdowns before being pulled. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Cougars defense, who held a normally high-scoring Tulsa attack to just 16 points.

- When Arkansas came into Baton Rouge, the Hogs represented the toughest passing attack LSU would see all season. Luckily the Tigers had the nation's best secondary and one player in particular - the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu is simply a playmaker whenever his team needs it most and you could tell Friday when he returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown that seemed to turn the tide just when it looked like Arkansas was making a game of it. The offense was pretty good too, with Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and even Jordan Jefferson (despite a boneheaded play or two) causing the Razorbacks defense issues. The 21 third quarter points - keyed in part by Mathieu - might have pushed LSU ahead but it was the rushing attack in the 4th quarter that turned a solid win into a blowout. It's no surprise that plenty of people invoked the name Billy Cannon after the game considering that the last time there was a top-three match up in Death Valley, Cannon returned a punt for a score against Ole Miss. Of course it was Mathieu doing the honors this time as the Tigers kept their record perfect on the road to Atlanta and on to New Orleans.

- If you had to say a team was due before the year was up, Colorado was a good choice. The Buffaloes, despite their record, had a pretty decent offense but just couldn't perform on defense or on the road. Although Utah was at home and playing for a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead and managed to hang on to beat the Utes 17-14. Normally reliable field goal kicker Coleman Petersen missed the final kick with seconds left to go 0-3 on the day and diminish Utah's hopes of a solid debut season in a BCS conference. What was billed as the start of a new rivalry between new conference foes turned out to be a historic win for Colorado, as the team ended a 23-game road losing streak. Utah was hampered by the loss of running back John White but there was no question that they should have won this game but a few breaks went the way of CU. Before the season head coach Jon Embree talked about putting up bricks to build a wall of success that the program had done in its glory days and on a chilly Friday afternoon, he added one more thanks to the upset on the road.

- The Countdown Clock on the Columbus Dispatch's website was probably already setup to change following Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Things were closer than expected in the Wolverines 40-34 win at the Big House, a testament to just how hard the Buckeyes fought to keep their streak alive. Braxton Miller was great until his final play, an interception to seal the game, and out-played his counterpart Denard Robinson for much of the afternoon. UM got the last laugh when the gun sounded by ending a streak that had gone nearly 3,000 days but if there was one take away from the annual rivalry game, it's that Miller should be fun to watch in Urban Meyer's offense.

- Most impressive victory this weekend might have been Wisconsin throttling Penn State 45-7. The Nittany Lions have the best defense in the Big Ten but they were ran over by Montee Ball, who scored four touchdowns and has a chance at setting the NCAA single-season record. The rematch with Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl just got a little more interesting.

- If you haven't been able to watch Luke Kuechly play linebacker at Boston College, you missed out on one of the hardest working players in the game. Don't worry, he'll probably be a 10+ year vet in the NFL so there should be plenty of chances to see him in the future though. Surprisingly, Kuechly didn't reach the double-digit tackles plateau for the first time since his freshman year but he did run back an interception for a touchdown and made life tough for Miami in a 24-17 upset. The talented 'backer also became the school's all-time tackles leader and showed why he could be a potential first round pick if he decides to leave school early. On the flip side, Jacory Harris - after perhaps his best season - reverted to the Harris of old by tossing four interceptions in his final college game. While there were not many people watching (in the stands or on TV), the result was overshadowed by the news of the day as Miami announced head coach Al Golden had agreed to a four-year extension that would keep in in Coral Gables until 2020.

- In a/the Backyard Brawl, all rules are off. The intense series between Pitt and West Virginia faced an uncertain future with both moving to different conferences but on the field in 2011 the two had no problem giving everybody a compelling game. The Panthers had jumped out to a 17-7 half-time lead but were simply shut down by a swarming Mountaineers defense in the second half that kept things close enough that the sputtering WVU offense could eventually cash-in a game-winning touchdown. It was a wild ending in a series full of them but Dana Holgorsen's squad managed to pull things out. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had a rough night, being sacked 10 (!) times, four of which came on a crazy final drive.

- If you want to know why Dennis Erickson was shown the door at Arizona State, look no further than the late night showdown against an improving California team. It was in many ways it was young (Bears) against and the old (Sun Devils). Erickson's squad was trying to salvage the season and his job, Jeff Tedford's group was trying to build upon the second half of their season. It was a defense-optional shootout like the Pac-10 days of old but Cal managed to force four turnovers that likely ended up as the deciding factor. Credit to Tedford who helped his cause while Erickson killed his, this was a fun game but defense - surprisingly - decided things and that ended up in Cal's favor.

- In terms of surprises, Virginia Tech shutting out a hot Virginia team at home might be highly ranked on the list. It was the Cavaliers first home shutout loss since 1984 and they had zero ground game to speak of (30 yards on 26 carries). It was likely the Hokies best win of the season to date and continued a strong run by quarterback Logan Thomas.

Tweet of the week

"USC card stunts say "We run LA." Based on how poorly the city is run, I would not brag about that.

- Chris Huston, The Hesiman Pundit

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. USC

6. Oregon

7. Boise State

8. Arkansas

9. Houston

10. Virginia Tech


Where we'll be this week

I draw the early assignment and will head up Eugene for the Pac-12 Championship game with Oregon and UCLA on Friday. Eye on College Football bloggers Chip Patterson and Adam Jacobi will head to the ACC and Big Ten Championships respectively. Brett McMurphy makes the trip to see Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while Dennis Dodd joins Tony Barnhart in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.

Leaning this way

Georgia vs. LSU

Do the Bulldogs have a chance? No, not really. Even if they did, it appears the Tigers are locked into a trip to the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans either way. Les Miles' secondary already took care of the best quarterback in the SEC West last week and will do pretty much the same to the best quarterback in the SEC East down in Atlanta.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State

Don't let the loss to Iowa State fool you, Oklahoma State is still a very good team and their opportunistic defense should enjoy playing Landry Jones on the road. The Sooners haven't really been the same team they were earlier in the season thanks to several injuries - their top running back and wide receiver among them - and they've had their troubles at Boone Pickens Stadium before. Expect it to be close but ultimately the Cowboys will win the game and the Big 12.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

These teams are so evenly matched that it took a hail mary for the Spartans to beat the Badgers the first time. That pass isn't something that Wisconsin players forgot about and have a chance to avenge it for a trip to the Rose Bowl. The offense has been rolling the past couple of weeks behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson so look for them to do some damage against Michigan State the second time around.


Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:47 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 6:19 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Adam Jacobi

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Wisconsin's lust for revenge

The two heart-breaking losses Wisconsin absorbed in the middle of what was supposed to be a special season have never really let the Badgers go. Oh, the Badgers got over them, to be sure; they won their next four Big Ten games by an average score of 44-14, and of those only the 28-17 win over Illinois was even halfway competitive. And yet, Wisconsin has struggled in vain to so much as crack the Top 15 of the polls, as its only win against a ranked opponent all year was a 48-17 dismantling of then-No. 8 Nebraska in Week 5. That's it.

Or, that was it until Saturday, anyway, when Wisconsin officially ended Penn State's conference title aspirations (and the Nittany Lions' stint in the Top 25) with a 45-7 shellacking. Wisconsin's now the (sigh) Leaders Division winner and all set for the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday. And wouldn't you know it, Michigan State -- the team that dealt Wisconsin its first, most crushing loss will be waiting in Indianapolis for the Badgers.

And there's probably no team Bret Bielema and his Badgers would rather face.

The first meeting of the two teams was an outright classic, with Wisconsin going up 14-0 early before a Montee Ball injury derailed the Badgers' offense to the point that MSU was able to open up a 31-17 lead. But it wasn't until a deflected Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins found its way into the arms of Keith Nichol and Nichol twisted the ball across the plane while being tackled that the Spartans could sew up the victory. It was as slim a margin of victory could be in regulation, and it doomed Wisconsin's highest aspirations for the season. What more could you ask for after a game like that than a rematch? And if there must be a rematch, why not do it with everything in the Big Ten on the line? This week should be great.  

LOSER: The so, so, so fired Ron Zook

Ron Zook's Illinois squad just put the finishing touches on a 6-6 campaign, one that would probably be a little more palatable if it hadn't finished in six straight losses where a formerly formidable offense just plain cratered. The last effort that'll likely be on Ron Zook's resume is a 27-7 throttling at the hands of a Minnesota program that hadn't beaten a Big Ten opponent by that many points since it beat Indiana 63-26... in 2006, when Glen Mason was still at the helm. We'll have more on the Gopher revival in a bit, but suffice it to say that Zook is going to be fired very, very soon. 

There's no up side for this Illinois team's collapse. Nathan Scheelhaase has gone from a future first-team All-Big Ten quarterback to a potential second-team quarterback for the Illini in 2012. A.J. Jenkins scored zero touchdowns in the last six games after a scintillating first half of the season. The Illinois rush defense -- ranked second in the Big Ten -- ceded 248 yards to Minnesota, which was a season high for the Gophers. Whitney Mercilus was a terror all year long, racking up 9.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles, but now there's almost no chance he'll be back in 2012. So what is there to look forward to with this team in 2012 regardless of who's coach? And the fact that such a question is being asked in a coach's seventh year in a program probably means he won't be around for an eighth.

WINNER: Michigan Men (even when they're not)

Much was made about Brady Hoke's ties to the Michigan program when he was hired after the 2010 season, with the phrase "Michigan Man" bandied about liberally. And to be sure, that's exactly what Hoke is -- right down to his insistence on calling Ohio State "Ohio" and never wearing red.

But when it came to hiring coordinators, Hoke wasn't dumb enough to limit himself to fellow Michigan Men. Offensive coordinator Al Borges is, if anything, a "Chico State Man," graduating from there in 1981 and spending the next 30 years bouncing around various schools as offensive coordinator (usually on the west coast, and never at Michigan). Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spent five years at Michigan back in the '90s, sure, but he also spent more time than that at Notre Dame. -- and did so more recently than his first Michigan stint. Is Mattison a Michigan Man? A Notre Dame Man? Both? He couldn't be both, could he? Anyway, all told, only three of Hoke's nine assistants have any prior ties to the program.

And yet, the difference in quality between last year's team and this year's is inestimable. The Michigan defense has gone from putrid to passable in just one season, and while it's not a championship-caliber unit just yet, it is good enough to get the Wolverines to 10-2 in the regular season and in immediate division contention -- back where the Big Ten figured Michigan would be when these division lines were drawn in the first place. And oh yes, there is that 40-34 victory over Ohio State that the Wolverines clawed for this year, their first over OSU in almost a decade.

LOSER: Will Hagerup

Welp, guess I'm just gonna punt this here ball away, just gonna do my job as punteWHAT AWWW HAMBURGERS OHHHHH NOOOOO

WINNER: Montee Ball's Heisman campaign

Montee Ball's probably not going to win the Heisman this year. That honor will probably go to someone in the trio of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, or Trent Richardson. But at the very least, Ball probably bought* himself a ticket today with a 156-yard, four touchdown effort that pushed his season numbers to 248 carries, 1622 yards, 29 rushing touchdowns, 17 catches, 248 receiving yards, and five more receiving touchdowns. He also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Russell Wilson against Indiana (which doesn't count for Ball in total touchdowns, only Wilson), a sure sign that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was very bored that day.

So that makes 34 total touchdowns on the season for Ball, a mark that only Barry Sanders has bested with his other-worldly 39 scores in 1988 (which doesn't even count his five touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl, as bowl games weren't counted in official statistics back then). And Ball isn't just pushing scores in from a yard out, either; nine of his 25 rushing touchdowns have come from more than five yards out, and his 6.75-yard rushing average was fourth in the FBS among 1000-yard rushers coming into Saturday's action. Ball isn't a touchdown machine, he's an everything machine, and now that it's been him front and center in Wisconsin's push to Indianapolis, voters are likely to take notice.

*Metaphorically speaking, NCAA! We never meant to imply that Ball or anybody around him has ever so much has handled a dollar bill. We understand that the sanctity of this game can only be achieved if everybody involved is dead broke and rejects capitalism outright, and we assure you that Ball has not been tainted by the immoral slime of legal tender. They're student-athletes, not money-recipient-athletes. We get it. 

LOSER: The "Heroes Game"


What seemed like an intriguing new rivalry -- Iowa vs. Nebraska, every year, with the Missouri River set to be the most hotly contested border waterway since the Rhine. Whereas the French had the mighty but tragically immobile Maginot Line to protect themselves, though, Iowa's line just plain couldn't stop anyone coming right up the middle, either on Saturday or all year long. Rex Burkhead set a Nebraska record with 38 carries, and his 160 yards and a touchdown wore down the Iowa defense to the point of surrender. 20-7 was the final, and it really wasn't that close.

Next year's game might be more competitive simply because it's in Iowa City, but the 2012 Hawkeyes probably won't be any better than this year's iteration, and if this rivalry starts off lopsided it'll be hard to get the fanbases worked into the lather necessary for a lasting rivalry. Nebraska's never going to get tired of 13-point wins that are more one-sided than the final score indicates, of course, but the Huskers aren't really going to care about beating Iowa until they can't take it for granted anymore.

WINNER: Jerry Kill, eh?

It looks like everything Jerry Kill's been telling his team since he inherited it last December might yet be sinking in. After a 1-6 (0-3) start to the season where none of the Gophers' conference losses were even competitive, Minnesota turned the boat around in a big way with a 22-21 comeback win over Iowa. After that, Minnesota looked like a different team, hanging tough with Michigan State and Northwestern in losses and at the very least losing to Wisconsin by a smaller margin than Penn State just did. And now, the Gophers have closed the season out with the aforementioned 27-7 drubbing of listless Illinois. MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards, threw for 85 more, and accounted for all three of the Gopher's touchdowns in the victory without turning the ball over.

This Gopher team has a long way to go in order to start hanging with its Legends Division rivals on a weekly basis. The lines are a mess, there's a dearth of experience on both sides of the ball, and Kill isn't drawing high-quality recruits yet. He's got a complete overhaul on his hands, and those don't happen in a year at a school like Minnesota. But there's two ways to overhaul a program: spend four years recruiting "your" players into the system, or change the program's culture so substantially that the old coach's players buy in and become "your" players. Kill seems to be on that path, and that bodes well. Doesn't seem like something we thought we'd be saying just a couple months ago, when Kill was talking about needing to "babysit" his players and losing every game by 30 or so, but here we are.

LOSER: Michigan's classless fans

Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!

We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?



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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech has answered an embarrassing home loss with an impressive win streak and wound up in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson was not as embarrassing as James Madison in 2010, but the effect was the same in regards to the outlook on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in that game, completing 15 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and an interception. But the bounce-back 38-35 win over Miami triggered the current ACC tear that has the Hokies back in Charlotte defending the title. Thomas bounced back completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns - including the game-winning score with 56 seconds remaining. Ever since then Virginia Tech has not been shaken from their path to the title game, including big road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday against Virginia.

The 38-0 shutout felt like a "final product" for Virginia Tech's season. While not every conference win came easily, such as escaping from Duke with a 14-10 victory thanks to three missed Blue Devils' field goals, every win has highlighted at least one impressive strength of the 2011 Virginia Tech squad. Saturday's victory against the surging Cavaliers displayed a suffocating defense that held Virginia 30 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. There was also David Wilson's 153 yards rushing, Thomas' three combined touchdowns, and enough "wow" plays from the Hokies wide receivers to keep any secondary honest against the run. With Clemson dropping three of their last four games in the regular season, it seems as though these teams are moving in opposite directions. How each team remembers their season will be decided when they face off for the ACC Championship under the lights next Saturday.

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

Since starting the season 8-0 and reaching the Top 5 in the BCS standings, things have slowly come undone for Clemson's dream season. Saturday's 34-13 loss against South Carolina exhibited more of the same problems from the recent weeks: inability to protect the quarterback, mental mistakes on defense, and costly turnovers. After lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard for most of the season, the Tigers have just two touchdowns in their last two games combined. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney said this loss was "the lowest of the lows" and he never expected that kind of performance.

But the challenge for Swinney and his staff is to find a way to turn around the Tigers before Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Clemson has had the luxury of being able to lose three of their last four games while still giving themselves the opportunity to play for their first conference title since 1991. Virginia Tech has won seven straight games since losing to Clemson at home earlier in the season, and the Hokies will have revenge on their mind in Charlotte. Swinney's young team has proven to be incredibly dangerous when they are playing smart, and filled with liabilities with they are not. Now there is a big week of preparation ahead for Clemson after another head-scratching loss.

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

After NC State's uninspired showing in a 14-10 loss at Boston College, things looked bleak for the Wolfpack's postseason hopes. Reaching bowl eligibility would require wins against Clemson and Maryland in the final two weeks of the season, with the Tigers leading the Atlantic Division and Maryland an annual thorn in NC State's side. They started the march by jumping out to a 24-3 lead against a stunned Clemson squad, using ferocious defensive pressure to force four turnovers and hang on for a 37-13 victory.

But the Top 10 upset would not be worth nothing without taking care of business against Maryland. Trailing 41-14 early in the third quarter, it looked as though Maryland would throw a wrench in NC State's postseason plans for the second year in a row. But the Wolfpack simply refused to end their season in that manner. The 42 unanswered points marked the biggest comeback in school history as Mike Glennon led the way with 306 yards passing and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Tom O'Brien has not taken NC State to consecutive postseasons since his arrival in Raleigh, and winning five of their final seven games has taken a lot of the heat off his seat.

LOSER: Randy Edsall

A mind-numbingly frustrating season filled with suspensions, transfers, and injuries ended in the worst way possible with NC State's 56-41 win over the Terps on Saturday. Maryland blowing a 41-14 third quarter lead to the Wolfpack left the first-year head coach shaking his head with few explanations after the game, even though there were plenty of questions.  The loss leaves Maryland with a 2-10 record, their second such finish in the last three years.

Reports have been flying for weeks that Edsall was losing (or had lost) the support of the locker room, and allowing the Wolfpack to mount their biggest comeback in school history showed very little fight left in the Terps. Edsall has the support of the administration, and acknowledges there have been some difficulties with the transition. But Saturday's embarrassment was the worst - although strangely appropriate - finish to a rocky 2011 season for Maryland.

WINNER: Al Golden

Al Golden has tackled, dodged, avoided, and yet also answered hundreds of questions regarding his future at Miami since August. It's not every day that a first-year coach gets asked so many questions about wanting to leave, but Golden's set of circumstances gave media members plenty of reasons to speculate. But despite an ongoing NCAA inquiry and a timely (or untimely) job opening at his alma mater, Al Golden is committed to Miami. Maybe more importantly - Miami is committed to Al Golden.

The school announced during Friday's 28-14 loss to Boston College that Golden had agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that would keep him at Miami until 2020. Golden's comments in the official release were similar to his explanations from the entire season: his family loves South Florida, he is working on building a program, and he believes in the support from the administration. So now what? Now Golden can stop answering questions about Penn State and if he wants to leave after taking a job with no knowledge of NCAA issues. Now Golden can start the grind necessary to build the program he wants. Now, he hits the recruiting trail.

The first-year Hurricanes coach has made claims of signing "30 new kids" in the upcoming recruiting class. Such a splash would be huge for the program, particularly considering the NCAA issues likely to come. But while the school has self-imposed a ban on the 2011 postseason, Golden has been assured there will be no self-imposed scholarship penalty in the near future. Without a postseason to plan for, now Golden hits the road to get his "30 kids."

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

Randy Shannon's 2008 recruiting class was considered one of the best in recent Hurricanes history. The class was ranked in the Top 5 nationally pretty much across the board, and highlighted by some of the top talent in the Miami area. On Saturday some of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, played their final game in a Miami uniform. Because of the self-imposed postseason penalty, that group finishes with a 29-22 record with no bowl wins in their time as a Hurricane. The class was supposed to bring Shannon the success that Coral Gables had not seen since the move to the ACC. Four years later, the Hurricanes have still yet to finish better than tied for second place in the Coastal Division.

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

The Florida State defense has received plenty of deserved praise for their dominating performances this season. But while the Seminoles entered the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally for total defense and scoring defense, they rank near the bottom of the ACC in interceptions gained. After picking off just nine passes in 11 games, Florida State picked off Florida four times in the 21-7 rivalry win. All three Seminole touchdowns came directly after Florida interceptions, with Terrance Parks 29 yard pick six sealing the win in Gainesville.

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

Jim Grobe deserves a lot of credit for turning around Wake Forest from a 1-7 team in conference play to ACC division contenders. The 6-6 finish is an improvement considering they were picked to finish last in the ACC again this year, but they did themselves no favors in the eyes of bowl committees with a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Senior Day. Wake Forest turned in an unimpressive effort against their SEC rivals in front of a meager announced attendance of 28,020. But the letdown against the Commodores also hurt Wake Forest's momentum heading into the postseason.

When competing with other teams in the conference for preferable bowl bids, losing four of your final five games is a fast way to make your team appear less attractive. Hats off to the Demon Deacons on their first postseason appearance since 2008, but they did themselves no favor on location with their finish.

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Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:34 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 45, Penn State 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WON. Penn State's vaunted defense was no match for Montee Ball and the Wisconsin rushing game, and the Badgers rolled to a 45-7 victory to clinch the Leaders Division title and an invitation to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, and made significant progress toward the NCAA record for most total touchdowns in a season; the record set by Barry Sanders is 39, and Ball now has 34 with two games left to play.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: The Badgers obviously have a high-powered offense, one that doesn't make many mistakes, so it was going to be crucial for Penn State's defense to force Wisconsin into punts and turnovers, while the Penn State offense was going to have to limit its own mistakes and focus on ball control and long drives. That clearly didn't happen. Penn State turned the ball over four times while Wisconsin only lost one fumble late in garbage time, and Wisconsin scored 24 points off turnovers as it cruised to victory.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: Penn State had forced punts on two of the first four Badger possessions (three, actually, if we're counting the punt in the second drive; Penn State committed a penalty on the play and Wisconsin turned the drive into a touchdown), and Wisconsin's lead was a somewhat precarious 14-7, when a Penn State punt pinned Wisconsin back at its own 17 midway through the second quarter. Wisconsin answered with a scintillating touchdown drive marked by two long Russell Wilson scrambles to push the lead to 21-7, and when fullback Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff and gave Wisconsin the ball 31 yards away from the end zone with two minutes left in the half, it wasn't too difficult to figure out how this game was going to end.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Just as expected at the beginning of the season, Wisconsin will represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship. Of course, the route there has been a little different than expected, and the Badgers' ranking at No. 15 is beneath the standards set by the program and its preseason No. 9 status. But there's some redemption to be had here, at the very least, and if Wisconsin exacts its revenge on Michigan State in the Big Ten title game then shines in the bowl game, it's reasonable to think the Badgers could still climb back into the Top 10.

WHAT PENN STATE LOST: For the first time since Week 6, Penn State is not the front-runner for the Leaders Division title. Unfortunately, the season is also now over, so Penn State is hereby thrown to the mercy of bowl selection committees having lost two of its last three. Obviously these are less than ideal circumstances for Penn State off the field, and if those circumstances are going to have any effect on Penn State's bowl bid, it's going to be a negative effect. So we'll see what all that means for the Penn State postseason, and whether the PSU athletic department even feels like going through the process in the first place.  
 
 
 
 
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